Monday, May 2, 2011

Welcome to Gulag Dream Catcher 2

Last Monday we left our island and went to the airport to await our dive boat pick up. We were met by an unhappy man who we assumed was just someone who that morning had missed his breakfast, been abandoned by his wife and children and had then been sent to the airport to collect us - but as it turned out – he was our first Dive Master – Grumpy.
Grumpy took us and two lovely Italians to Gulag Dream Catcher 2  where we were to serve our one week sentence.
Now let me say at the outset that we had a wonderful time. We always do. Cate and I are as happy as clams together wherever we are - and we make the best of every situation.
Our cabin was brilliant. It was on the main the main deck with air conditioning and panoramic views.
But our time aboard the Dream Catcher was something which we had not previously encountered on what purported to be a ‘luxury’ dive boat.
Our companions were the two Italians, two Dutch, two Swiss and six Germans. The crew were Grumpy and Grouchy the Dive Masters, Captain Inscrutable and the Grinch, the Dhoni driver – and a horde of very friendly and mightily helpful staff. (The Dhoni is the small boat that takes you from the Gulag to the dive sites).
The trip started with a long lecture from Grumpy who told us the very, many things we could not do. These included not trampling our bath towels onto the bathroom floors, not sliding around the wooden saloon floors on the lounge cushions and not setting fire to the boat. We had not planned on doing any of these things so it was not going to cramp our style at all.
He also warned us that the water in the showers was likely to change from cold to scalding hot very quickly without warning and that the boat was made entirely of wood and was a veritable tinder box. To circumvent problems with these issues we left the shower door open and did not have any campfires in the bedroom.
In case of fire he said that we should assemble on the rear boat deck and he warned us that the staff may be nervous and unsure of what to do. This piece of information did not give us much comfort but we were confident that we could handle any emergency and were prepared to jump over the side with a staff member under each arm. 
The diving briefing was much less comforting and he let us understand that we were entirely on our own. There had apparently been a South African a week previously who had suffered decompression sickness because of his own stupidity and this had made Captain Inscrutable, Grouchy, Grumpy, and the Grinch very unhappy indeed. There was more than this and a dark cloud hung over the boat - but we could not find out what the problem was. 
He spent some time laboring the point about how dangerous diving can be and how really, really disappointed he was that after 13 years this was the first time something like this had happened to him. And it was not his fault! For some time I thought he was going to call the whole thing off and take us back to the airport - but after some moments of introspection and a few deeps sighs - he persevered.
But -  we were left in no doubt the we were to make no mistakes. Grumpy and Grouchy were not going to check anything. We were to ensure that we checked each other’s gear and air and stuck with each other like glue - and if we got bent or died it was our fault.
We had signed a piece of paper to this effect – but you can never dive anywhere unless you admit full responsibility for you own death before the event - so this was nothing new.
So, Cate and I, who had not dived for 3 years and had new types of gear which we had never ever used before – had to undergo a steep learning curve under the baleful glares of the unhappy trio on the Dhoni. 
We got no special assistance, no gear check, no separate dive guide as we had asked and paid for, no large tank for the first four dives as I had asked and paid for and no weight check.
In fact for the whole trip I was incorrectly weighted and porpoised around like a – well – porpoise - and could never get it right. I was admonished on more than one occasion but it never occurred to either Grouchy or Grumpy to help me get my weight right.
We sweated and flustered and struggled with our gear. How does this work again? Oh shit! I had to do this up before turning the air on. Whoops! That goes round the other way.  WTF is this? Oh yes now I remember! Pant! Pant! Sweat! Quick get your fins on! This is insane!
Anyway – the moment finally arrived - we were on our own – natural selection – the survival of the fittest. Darwin at his finest.
We took deep breaths before trusting in the sporadic and doubtful goodness - and hopefully benign neglect of the Fuckup Fairy – hoping that she was doing something else at the time - and leapt into the deep blue sea.  
We survived. My ribs were fine getting into the water and did not implode and puncture my lungs when I descended to 20 meters.
And the Fuckup Fairy did not intervene until the surface.
Tomorrow: How I tried to assassinate a German and how we made our escape from the Dream Smasher. 

PS: The 'Merlin reporting from Paris blog' was written by my daughter Melissa who lives there with her delicious cat Merlin. 


  1. *phew* Big sigh of relief here!
    All of a sudden I don't feel so sorry anymore about myself, me who luxuriated in front of computer screens and let spring take hold around Vienna, while you had to fight with Grumpinator! ;-) Happy you two are back! Now all you need to do is steel yourself for Helga or go fight with the Herr Obers at a Kaffeehaus, your choice. Bon courage! :-)

  2. Love this one! We've always had good luck with dive masters for the most part but have had one or two just like this. Happy diving and congrats on being a blog of note!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, but it sounds like living the ordeal was not so much fun. Can hardly wait to hear how you assassinate a German!

  4. I'm feeling a little seasick just reading this.

  5. Sounds like you had a wonderful time Badger. Did you see any birds?

  6. Merisi: I was not actually all that tough. All we really missed was the coffee.

    TNDW: These are the first bad ones we have ever encountered. There is always a first time.

    Studio at the farm: It was only an attempted assassination!

    Wanderlust: Calm as a millpond! Only rough place was on the boat.

    Maalie: Francesca the Italian girl is a Hottie. She has given me her email address.

  7. I just found this blog randomly but I love reading your stuff! it sucks that they didn't give you what you wanted/asked for but its also slightly comical to read :)

    good stuff!

  8. whatalindsey: We survived - no one could ask for more - thanks for your comments.