The Liveaboard Life

Sunset from the dive deck.

Sunset from the dive deck.

This week I thought I had nothing to say; we are resting up after a trip. By all accounts it was another routine week of diving on the boat, albeit a pretty busy trip. But pouring over the photos I quickly remembered that being on a live aboard means there is no such thing as an ordinary day. The diving is nonstop and every day presents new challenges and adventures.

The handful of photos I managed to take between diving, filling tanks, and organizing the dive schedule remind me how lucky we are to be leading such an exciting and unusual life. Some days we wake up at sea with our first dive scheduled for 5am and the fourth and last dive getting in the water at 4pm, and other days we are anchored in port waiting for the next group to arrive, anticipating the fun and insanity that will ensue.

This past trip was filled with beautiful sunsets off the dive deck, coconuts on the dock, deliriously fun dives, and divers that kept us laughing and partying late into the night.

Can you spot the crab?

Can you spot the crab?

Feeding the local goats on Havelock. They are serious coconut fiends.

Feeding the local goats on Havelock. They are serious coconut fiends.

Fishermen heading to market in Havelock.

Fishermen heading to market in Havelock.

Lovely little shrimps at 'Vivek's Wreck,' just outside Port Blair

Lovely little shrimps at ‘Vivek’s Wreck,’ just outside Port Blair

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On the ferry out to Neil Island to find some new dive sites.

On the ferry out to Neil Island to find some new dive sites.

A beautiful pufferfish with some big ole chompers.

A beautiful pufferfish with some big ole chompers.

Sunset dive at Vivek's Wreck, Port Blair.

Sunset dive at Vivek’s Wreck, Port Blair.

Many hours were spent filling tanks on the dive deck.

Many hours were spent filling tanks on the dive deck.

I’m on a Boat, Andamans Edition

North Bay near Port Blair, Andaman Islands. We went looking for new divesites near the capital and were pleasantly surprised to find some nice easy reef diving.

North Bay near Port Blair, Andaman Islands. We went looking for new divesites near the capital and were pleasantly surprised to find some nice easy reef diving.

Castaways on Sir Hugh Rose Island, Andamans.

Castaways on Sir Hugh Rose Island, Andamans.

As you read this, we are cruising in the Indian Ocean around the Andaman Islands on a diving liveaboard. We’re on an enormous boat with a lovely sundeck and a great diving platform. I promise we aren’t suffering too much on this portion of our trip 🙂 We’ll be on the boat until December, diving and assisting with PADI courses.

It’s difficult to describe the Andamans without falling into the usual tropical island trap of ’emerald,’ ‘turquoise,’ and other hyperbolic gemological adjectives that never really suffice. But let me make my own feeble attempt. These islands are tiny, lush spits of land surrounded by cruise-commercial white sand beaches and electric blue waters.

In 2004 the tsunami came through and damaged many of the coral reefs that circle the 500 plus islands. Zev and I keep reminding ourselves that unlike most coral damage we’re used to seeing, this is the result of a natural disaster and not man made destruction (dynamite fishing, boats anchoring on reefs, global warming). The reefs are staging an aggressive recovery; soft and hard coral has begun to regrow and there are some really vibrant patches of reef.

The diving here is good and we are looking forward to visiting the more remote islands where the diving is supposed to be truly spectacular.

A tiny tiny nudibranch or 'sea slug.'

A tiny tiny nudibranch or ‘sea slug.’

Another nudi, great colors.

Another ‘nudi,’ great colors.

One of my favorite sea creatures, the octopus! Found at the Wall dive site, Havelock.

One of my favorite sea creatures, the octopus! Found at the Wall dive site, Havelock.

One Year Travel-versary

November 5th, 2012 - leaving New York into the unknown!

November 5th, 2012 – leaving New York into the unknown!

November 5th, 2012 we boarded a flight to Beijing with a one way ticket in hand. In that first dingy hostel we meekly explained our half hatched idea to other travelers. I remember one particular couple listened to our story with a mix of pity and scorn as they sipped their green tea over breakfast. Their response amounted ‘mmm, this is your first week, you said?’

After that, we decided to keep our insanity to ourselves and not admit to anyone else that we were total newbs, shaking in our brand spanking new backpacks. Now that our travel flip flops have acquired that special pong of long term travel, and our hair has adopted the nondescript mousey shag of people living outside the conventions of ‘presentability,’ we feel the boldness of our roadie clout and dispense advice like we know what the hell we were talking about. We have dreamed bigger and crazier, and our adventures have taken on a new patina of insanity.

Some of our favorite moments thus far:

November 5th, 2013 - no looking back now!

November 5th, 2013 – no looking back now!

Things are getting messy

Packing up for the first time was a bit chaotic.

Packing up for the first time was a bit chaotic.

I have a disgusting travel habit: I am messy. Like, seriously messy. It’s gross, and anyone who’s seen my ‘Don’t go in there’ door-blocking dance, can attest to the fact that I am appropriately embarrassed about it.

Staying in hotel rooms for a night or two at a time seems to make it worse. All of our worldly possessions are crammed in tiny backpacks, like miniature pressurized treasure chests just waiting to pop.

When I arrive at a hotel room, the first thing I do is sling down all my bags in the darkest corner, and quickly walk away. After which point they seem to explode with the reverberating force of an IED. My overstuffed bathroom bag sends out glittery shrapnel of earrings and bobby pins. Within seconds potions and lotions of varying pedigree, veracity and origin are scattered across the cramped room. After 10 minutes the room looks like a cross between a voodoo snake oil peddler’s den and the bathroom of a squatter with an unsavory addiction to the Bloomingdales beauty counter.

After a day or two in the hotel, dirty laundry begins to seep into crevices, like that dense fluffy mold filling the crannies on a piece of expired Wonderbread. To uproot these scraps of clothing is a futile and repetitive exercise. Entropy is the name of the game. I play it well.

In the best case scenario, we are only staying in the hotel room for a day or two and soon enough it’s time to reassemble the puzzle pieces of my backpack. Each item has a tidy little home in my backpack, secured in a stuff sack or travel pouch. This is the sort of organization that I hope reflects my true travel style.

Unfortunately, in many places we end of staying hunkered down in a room for 4 or 5 days. Nearing the end of a stay like that, the room takes on a gruesome pallor, with a few long forgotten banana peels lingering on the desk and spent water bottles wandering across the floor like tumbleweeds. Housekeeping becomes my mortal enemy. I live in fear of the look on their face, should they get a peep of the place I’ve made my own. When they rap on the door, I open the door just a millimeter and blast them back with ‘nothankyougoaway!,’ slamming the door shut again before they can get a word in.

My dominant fear is that this unattractive habit will follow me home. In ‘real life’ (not backpacker land) I’m a very organized person. I make lists, I fold my laundry while it’s still hot out of the dryer, and I generally don’t live like a slob. But on the road, the rules are different.