Saying Goodbye to the Andamans

Sunset, Chitya Tapu on South Andaman

Sunset, Chitya Tapu on South Andaman

Cinque Island, Andamans

Cinque Island, Andamans

While we’re very sad to say goodbye to the islands, we are so looking forward to traveling around mainland India for the month of December and then coming back home to New York City. Beginning in January, we’ll be settling back into the pace of normal life and desperately trying not to freeze our buns off.

I realized that we haven’t properly told you guys what the heck we were doing out on the boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean and how we ended up there.

Wellllll, way back in May we finished our Divemaster course in Bali and started thinking about ways we could keep diving without killing our budget. A short but incredible diving trip in Komodo National Park helped us realize that paying for fun diving is not a feasible way to maintain our diving habit, financially speaking.

A few weeks later we serendipitously stumbled across an old college friend and former roommate of Zev’s who mentioned that someone was starting the first scuba diving liveaboard to be based out of India. We took one look at their website and were sold. A few emails and one Skype conversation later, we had tickets booked to the Andaman Islands.

Since the first week in October, we’ve been on the boat assisting with scuba diving courses and completing a few certifications ourselves.

The ambient noises of a constantly running kitchen, engine room, and dive operation became the sounds of home to us. The pressure cooker whistles and looping 15-song playlist of Bollywood hits emanating from the kitchen alerted us to upcoming meals, and the faint but constant rumble of the engines and generators soothed us to sleep each night. Keeping the boat clean and running and its inhabitants fed and entertained kept life onboard always humming with activity. The crew made the (not so) little ship feel like home. They kept the boat in tip top shape and were a hysterical hard working bunch. Spending time with them was one of the highlights of our time on the boat.

Our cruise director, an affable retired businessman with a booming voice and a silver ponytail coiling down his back, led the guests with gusto through early morning dive briefings, mid-afternoon naps on the sun deck, and evening cocktails and carousing. The head divemaster was the quiet but imminently wise and experienced Yoda of the dive team; when he spoke, we listened. Two local guys from the Andamans were our surface support while diving. The first, who gained the nickname “chotu” (Hindi for “shorty”) was the youngest and greenest guy on the boat and became notorious for hiding from the harsh sun under an umbrella. The other had spent his whole life fishing and swimming around the Andamans. When we weren’t on trips with guests, he would send us diving at his favorite local snorkeling spots provided we take photos of what we saw.

From the chef who was also a welder and artist, to the captain who had killer Michael Jackson dance moves, the crew was really a hoot.  They became our family for our two months on the boat, and they will certainly be what we miss the most.

The guests brought an infusion of excitement to the boat and made the hard work worthwhile. The divers ranged from students whose nervous hands I held through the first dive jitters, to professional divers with elaborate photography set-ups that resembled something straight out of the NASA Mars Rover expedition. One raucous trip consisted entirely of people in the film industry who showed up to every dive, dinner, and cocktail hour with a camera (or 6) in hand, ready to get the perfect shot at a moment’s notice. Another group arrived onboard with suitcases full of nuts, Indian snacks, and even chorizos out of fear the boat wouldn’t have their particular brand of post-dive munchy. Yet another memorable voyage found us scheduling dives between breaks in the gale force winds and pouring rain of a passing cyclone.

We’ve left the Andamans for good and are heading for the west coast of India. Our first stop is Mumbai, a city that I fell in love with when I visited as a gap year student way back in 2005. It beats with the frenetic pace of a metropolis but retains a tremendous amount of history and charm.

Neil Island, Andamans

Neil Island, Andamans

Most of the gang.

Most of the gang.

Advertisements

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

IMG_2907 IMG_2897

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.

Divemasters in Training!

As some of you may have noticed via facebook/instagram, we’ve been spending a lot of time underwater lately. We went on a few dives around Bali in January and February, and when we returned to Bali in April, were determined to figure out a way to do more. So we decided to start a Divemaster course, the first professional level PADI course.

Zev and I are nearly finished with our Divermaster course in Sanur!

It has been 6 weeks of early mornings, early bedtimes and diving diving diving til we drop. So far, we’re hanging tough and relishing every minute of the program. I love diving and the interesting people we meet never fail to keep us entertained!

The ocean is our office these days:

Underwater Selfies FTW

Underwater Selfies FTW

Handstands on sunken ships, +10

Handstands on sunken ships, +10

An old car sunk in a fishing boat.

An old car sunk in a fishing boat.

IMG_0356 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stuff from around the web:

Oh boy, it might be corny but I really wanna see this new movie, Before Midnight. The trailer is so good.

I just discovered a blog, Dinner: A Love Story, and I lurvvvv these ‘100 Rules of Dinner’.

Food52 gives their ‘Advice for Future Food Writers,’ aka ‘good luck, it’s nearly impossible.’