Location: Ile Forchue

This fine day in the French West Indies started with the usual wake-up time. Immediately after breakfast, Margaret, Tessa, Matt, and Kyle met in the chart house to start planning for tomorrow. Why are those four plotting, planning, and scheming, I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you, these four are to be responsible for the student-led passage occurring tomorrow. Margaret is acting as Skipper, Tessa as Bosun, Kyle as our navigator, and Matt as our engineer. They have carefully decided on every aspect of tomorrow, from timings, the course, checking weather forecasts, creating standing orders, deciding if we are to have watch teams and engine checks to name a few. They are ultimately responsible for getting Ocean Star and all of us to Statia, so if you are curious as to why tomorrow’s blog is being sent from the middle of the Atlantic, you already know the answer.

This morning we said goodbye to all the superyachts docked, moored, and anchored in Gustavia as we left our few days of luxury to return to more deserted beautiful anchorages that we are used to onboard. Ocean Star pulled out of the anchorage into the rolling swell as I summoned everyone down below for a rare underway lecture. Everyone had their PFD’s nearby in the case for a quick exit on deck for seasickness. Fortunately for me, today’s lecture included presentations by Claire, Tessa, and Jules. Even more fortunate for me is by the time I got up to give our actual Oceanography lecture, the rest of the staff had navigated us to our next anchorage in Ile Forchue, meaning I had the calm of the bay to finish the class.

The rescue divers dropped into the salon in the afternoon to learn about emergency O2 with Tina and how to administer it. During this time, Margaret was mentally and preparing for her afternoon. The Discover Scuba Diving section of her Divemaster course. One could periodically spot her sitting on the line lockers making notes about her briefing, setting up all the equipment, and preparing as many nifty tricks (tying a line into the water for us all to hold on to) to make the afternoon as smooth as possible. This part of her course more accurately entails taking three members of staff on their “first-ever dive.” Having heard previous stories of how these dives quite often go, Margaret was doing an excellent job at keeping her composure in the build-up to this afternoon. Not only are staff going on their first dives, but we are also going on them in character. So today’s leading roles are;

Dimitri (Steve) – Brother of Josef. Russian (speaks English, just). Has extremely old-fashioned valuesbest Man to Josef’s seven weddings.

Josef (Alex) – Brother of Dimitri. Physicist (despite never graduating High School). Has equally as old-fashioned views as Dimitri. He believes one button done upon his shirt is enough. He is played by the most versatile, talented actor of them all, myself.

Marie Claire Victoire Bataille (Carolyn) – Only speaks French and believes wearing rain gear will keep her dry in the ocean. Will go to great lengths to remove plastic from the ocean. Has no idea what’s going on. Insists she is referred to by her full name.

Margaret (Margaret) – Herself.

With the leading cast introduced, the curtains dropped, and Margaret was introduced to the worst possible combination of divers that one could possibly imagine having at once. She greeted us on the deck and began her briefing with some chat about possible past dive experiences and why we were all there doing our first dive. Extremely quickly, she realized how uncooperative the three of us were going to be all afternoon. Much to her credit, she went and hired the assistance of Miranda to translate the entire briefing into and from French just for Marie Claire Victoire Bataille. A special mention to Miranda for enduring the pain of seeing the three of us playing these heinous characters.

As the briefing went on, any opportunity presented itself was jumped on by at least one of us. This started with the chauvinistic behavior (unfortunately still encountered today, especially in the dive industry) by Dimitri and Josef, which she handled with extreme quality. Next, when asking about wetsuits, Marie Claire Victoire Bataille simply got up and left to put her “wetsuit” (rain gear) on, while Dimitri got into his wetsuit inside out with the lovely orange lining acting as the outer layer today. Obviously, when told about his mistake, he insisted that he was, in fact, correct and Margaret was wrong. As a piece of rubbish floated past, Marie Claire Victoire Bataille, in all her glory in saving the planet, propelled herself off the boat to collect said rubbish. As the briefing continued, a turtle surfaced nearby, inspiring Dimitri and Josef to throw themselves into the water to get a closer look.

The dive was getting closer, and the more excited we all got. Once again, this was not very much appreciated as Dimitri could hardly contain it and once again launched himself in prematurely, with the full kit this time. Once the entire group was in and rearing to go, we descended to explore the bountiful seagrass beds underneath the boat. Underwater the chaos and silliness continued. Regs were swapped, kits removed, fins taken off to run on the seafloor. It only took 7 minutes for Margaret to cancel the dive. In fairness to her, she did suggest that Marie Claire Victoire Bataille goes diving with a French instructor and that Dimitri and Josef return when a male instructor is present. However, we couldn’t let her off that easily.

As the group headed to the surface, Josef (as earlier planned) split from the group to become an unresponsive missing diver for a rescue scenario. Margaret surfaces and becomes part of the cast, playing the near-panicking divemaster alerting the rescue divers to the occurring incident. They did a stellar job in getting the required snorkelers out looking for Josef that was promptly followed by the divers. As they brought Josef to the surface, the sight of his unresponsive brother caused Dimitri to jump in the water to try and help. In jumping from the boat, much to the rescue divers horror, he also became unresponsive, creating a second victim for them to rescue. Marie Claire Victoire Bataille was in no way helpful to the rescue divers as she to became an active panicked diver at the surface. Even with three events occurring simultaneously, the rescue group managed to handle the scenario with skill and panache.

This eventful day was topped off by arguably the toughest challenge of them all… Steves Marine biology exam 3.