days smear when you're on a liveaboard. the dive-eat-sleep holding pattern is nothing less than vicious on even the sharpest of memories. i theorize that it has quite a bit to do with those nasty little "oh I'll just rest my eyes for ten minutes" naps that tend to occur for me between dives two and three. upon waking, it's as though the day has somehow reset itself, but instead of nursing a luscious coffee in an attempt to kickstart into consciousness, i somehow manage to hastily squeeze all the right parts into all the right gear and plunge into the shimmering blue. i wouldn't be able to tell you the day of the week, but i can ID a hypselodoris bulockii without missing a fin pivot.
goooood morning! waaaaakey-wakey!
daddy is still ill. his decision to remain in the cabin is unsurprising. he proclaims that he will take it dive-by-dive, but mom and i doubt.
toast and strawberry jam for pre-breakfast. also the shitty brewed coffee. i grumpily wonder if all american coffee is this way, and i have just managed to blissfully forget.
DIVE ONE: SOUTHEAST POINT KOH SURIN ()
AZ mike announces during the dive briefing that we are entering the territory of the Smokin' Mokens, "sea gypsies" that apparently live up to their moniker. we might see them expertly navigating these waters. (but we do not.)
this is a chilly dive, and mom and i want to quit but stick it out like real troopers. visability is kinda crappo. we play with the scores of glass fish that hang out around some coralheads - if you can hold your bubbles, they will approach quite closely.
the highlight of the dive came at the very end - two black ribbon eels chillin' like villains in their sand hovel.
breakfast is a marvel, as per the usual. i discover the banana bread's unbalanced sweetness is equilibrated through topping it with a slice of cheese.
per dad's request, mom inquires into the possibility of msg ("pong-shu-rot") in the food as dear daddles feels it may be the cause of his migraines. AZ mike says he will look into it.
i bring daddy a plate with toast and bacon and ham. he barely squints his peepers open to say g'marnin. pobrecillo.
we veg, but our vegging sits nicely on an undercurrent of anticipation. we are heading towards richelieu rock, famed as thailand's best dive site. the Indian Ocean Fishes book we have been referencing includes a plethora of photos credited to the area, including a spectacular shot of a whaleshark and turtle pair (good goddamn). we are jazzed.
dad is still out for the count, and is now thinking he likely will remain so for the rest of the day. bummer, but definitely the right course of action - gotta get well.
DIVE TWO: RICHELIEU ROCK (½)
the dive briefing informs us of the possibility of strong currents, which we should be cool about. kim tells us that the rock is such a fantastic site for marine life because it is the only significant bottom feature in the area, so all the fishes/corals/critters are attracted to it.
kim, Dedicated Fanatic of the Small and Often Overlooked, rapidly locates a brilliant yellow seahorse hidden deep among the splotches of sea fans and anemones.
we also see harlequin shrimp, which absolutely look as unbelievable in person as they do in all the photos.
the best for us, though, came near the end: while floating leisurely along a wall, we see a quick flash of shifting colors and textures, then a languidly floawing shape. it could only be octopus. we hover and take note of each other. the octo decides we are o-kay, and permits us to further gaze while it shapeshifts. we're happily enchanted when a long metal pokey stick decisively invades my line of sight from above. i glance upwards and see a garish wetsuit - some dandy from another dive boat feels it is his time to take octophotos, regardless of our clear current claim on the space. i shrug, but mom gets violent and decks the guy. blood is everywhe- okay, she gives him a little push and looks indignant. he finally scoots off to flash further fish, and we resume our scientific observation.
lunch is sketti in bolongese sauce, plus magnificently greasy fried chicken. also salad, but who cares? we receive word of the cook's response: "MSG? Cannot! No have!" and dad, appeased, packs it in with the rest of us.
i sleep, and soon a new day dawns. it is afternoon and we are still at
DIVE THREE: RICHELIEU ROCK (½)
this time mom and i make a grocery list with kim of the creatures supposedly on the rock that we haven't seen yet (and would like to). topping the list is the elusive pineapplefish, of which just one has been consistantly spotted in this area. we are gung- and heave-ho, into the water.
huge schools of fishes swirl around the rock as we descend. thailand diving definitely distinguishes itself through both Abundance and Variety of life.
kim locates a few more precious seahorses, plus scads of boxfish, the juveniles of which are unbearably cute.
we catch a few glimpses of the brilliant orange tomato clownfish, a special find since it lives only in the andaman sea.
about midway through the dive, kim burrows his head into a crevice, then motions for us to do the same. ah-HA! the pineapplefish hangs nearly motionless within. it appears to be doing nothing whatsoever; the word that comes to mind is "listless." it's great to see it - we check it off the mental grocery list - but we aren't sure why it is here, especially with no pineappley friends to play with. if only saporot had been able to make it out of bed.
we are up, we are down, we are all around, and then - we are in the company of a cuttlefish. this is my first ever of the species, and i am delighted. when i was a wee lass of twelve, i wrote a research essay on cephalopods, a large section of which was dedicated to our cuttley buddies. ever since that early age, i'd been looking forward to a future which included frequent interaction with cephalopods of all sorts, but particularly the cuttlefish, because how awesome would that be?? as it turns out, the answer is, VERY. this one was nursing eggs she had laid within a hole in a boulder. after a meeting of the minds not dissimilar from that with the octopus, she decided that we were pretty alright after all, and let us watch for a good long while. gorgeous.
we were surprised when kim gave us the sign for ascent - time gets away from you on excellent dives.
two type of eggrolls for the afternoon snack today. i ovaltine it.
daddles has roused a bit from his feverdreams, so we play cribbage. i whoop on him but gloat very little (i am a lady).
because we've delayed the earlier dives a bit in order to avoid coinciding our dive times with those of other boats, the previously scheduled sunset dive at tachai reef has become a night dive at tachai reef. being a creature of darkness, i am pleased as punch. everyone else hems and haws a bit, but most of us eventually gather up sufficient spirit and grab a torch.
DIVE FOUR: TACHAI REEF (½)
after battling unrelenting currents and diver-on-diver violence at richelieu, tachai comes as a blessed relief. it is as relaxed a dive as one could ever hope for. no pressure of trying to locate "the big thing" in the area, and kim quickly steers us away from the other groups, leaving us quite alone in the murky waters. i love it.
the best thing was a family of three blackspotted pufferfish we noted slowly circling a coral patch. evening was just beginning to blanket the ocean floor, and these little guys were running low on steam. they're already pretty poor swimmers, what with their absurd series of fins, and they circle and circle until finding a perch, then seemingly just shut down on the spot, out in the open. the large majority of fish locate a hidey-hole of some variety each night, but these dudes just plop down wherever, i guess knowing they have a pretty darn good defense mechanism should something unfriendly visit in the night.
we thoroughly toy with the bioluminescence on our safety stop.
dinner is an array of thai food; everyone scarfs the cashew chicken in particular. the pineapples in the dish are just like candy.
i snuggle into bed with mom and dad for a spell, but eventually decide i need a pillow, so head back to my own quarters to conk out.