Day 2. Dive #3. 18 metres under water. About 17 minutes into the dive. Suddenly I hear sound of bubbles behind me. After about a minute I realised my tank is leaking from busted o-ring. I checked the gauge and see 120 bar (60%) left in the tank. At the rate of the leak, there should be enough for me to go up to 5 metres, do the 3 minutes safety stop and abort the dive. I went to my dive buddy to alert her, and see if the leak can be contained but no luck. As we are ascending, somehow we shot up to the surface as I was unable to control it. Not good. I was concerned about decompression sickness, especially after what happened in Fiji the week before. I came out alright, skipped a dive, but I went back to the water the same day for Dive #5 of the day which was a night dive. Lesson learned. When that happened, fully deflate the BCD to control ascend!
That was one of the highlights of the week of liveaboard with The Spirit of Freedom out of Cairns. I was plagued with issues as I arrived in Cairns from Fiji. The infection from stepping on sea urchins was getting worse that I was trying to seek medical attention but couldn’t do it on time before the deadline to get on the boat. My skins were shedding from the sunburn. I got lots of marks on my feet from allergic reaction (I think it’s the coconut crab contra simvastatin). The first couple of hours on the boat was uncomfortable given the sea conditions (and I don’t usually get sea sick!) that I have to skip the second dive on the first day. So when the diving incident happened, I thought, for a short while, that things are getting worse! Everything goes north from there. The infection miraculously self-healed on Day 3 (awesome) and I went on every single dive for the rest of the trip to clock a total 24 dives in 7 days!
Liveaboard is very different from cruise boat like the one I did in Fiji. There’s nothing else to do. You just dive. Here’s what schedule of a day look like:
0630 – first breakfast (yoghurt, fruit salad, cereals)
0700 – dive #1
0830 – second breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausage, etc)
1000 – dive #2
1200 – lunch
1330 – dive #3
1500 – snacks
1600 – dive #4
1730 – dinner
1830 – dive #5 (night dive)
It’s quite intense. In total, there’s a maximum 26 dives over 7 days, with 2 days of 2 dives, 3 days of 4 dives and 2 days of 5 dives. This is my first proper liveaboard and I never thought of doing 5 a day! I thought 3 is plenty and was planning to do only 2 per day for the last couple of days. But with nothing else to do, you’re really conditioned to maximise and I did. It’s also lots of food and eating, but as I learned early on, diving balances the food real well and I think I’m at least weight neutral if not deficit from the trip.
The crew at The Spirit of Freedom run very good show. It was overall a very good trip. I’m glad that I did the whole 7 days trip so that I can see as much as possible in one go. The highlights were the potato cod and shark feedings. On top of those, in general it’s just great corals (duh!), good visibility and lots of fish. I also got to learn more about underwater photography from a dive instructor.
I finally get to learn how to create videos, so here’s the first one I did. It highlights how vicious sharks are, after all they are wild animals and the principle of survival of the fittest applies. However, you can see how they don’t bother human at all even during the feeding time (and presumably not every shark got the food). The potato cod, the main fish I wanna meet in this trip, is cool, gentle and calm when around you, but they can be aggressive as you see them joining the party during the shark feed.
To round up, here’s a selection of photos from the trip. Two days later, I dive the famous Yongala Wreck and clocked dive #100. Unfortunately it was somewhat anticlimactic with mediocre dive given the low visibility. Aside from seeing supersized cods and trevallies and a guitar shark, we didn’t see much else. I was hoping to see the gigantic Queensland Grouper (they said it’s as big as a small car) but it wasn’t there!