Liveaboard Diving: Scuba Diving The Liveaboard Way
It’s just after five in the morning when Scarlett Johansson suddenly leans towards me and starts knocking her fist rhythmically against the table of the exclusive Parisian restaurant we’re dining on.
She does this a couple of times before speaking. “Good morning”, she says, in an unexpectedly masculine voice.
The shock of this rouses me, and I look around. I am in fact not in a fancy Parisian restaurant, but in my bunk, in my cabin, onboard a boat in the Red Sea. But it is in fact five in the morning.
On the other bunk, my cabin mate is stirring. I get up and open the door, where our saloon manager is waiting, patiently, with two cups of coffee. The sun has just cleared the horizon, and my day has started.
We’ve been on the boat for two days now, and the rhythm of the early morning starts has yet to completely agree with me. I sip my coffee as I get dressed. “Dressed” being a big word for what I do, as I simply throw on some swim trunks and a robe before heading for the aft deck for the morning briefing.
We’re diving Brothers Islands today, having arrived at Big Brother after sailing all night. The goal of the first dive here is the south part of the reef. At this location, there is a large plateau where sharks are often seen.
After the brief, we head down to the dive deck. Large and spacious, we each have a dedicated place that we keep all week. Here, our tanks are strapped to the bench, BCD and regs in place. We grab our wet suits of the racks on the side and get dressed. On the dive platform, a large area almost at water level at very aft of the ship, we grab our fins and put them on before doing a giant stride entry. At just after 5.30 AM.
There’s a small current as we head for the plateau. The liveaboard ships are moored along the island, so we count mooring lines so we know when we’re back at our ship on the return.
The dive goes well, but the sharks decide to not make an appearance this time. We return to the boat, making our safety stop along the reef and as we swim towards the ship. We surface, climb the ladder to the dive platform, where a divemaster checks us off on a clipboard.
This is one of three checks to make sure everyone is returned from the dive. The second check is a small tag we each wear on our BCD’s, with a number on it, corresponding to our place on the dive deck. These are to be picked up from and returned to a board on the wall of dive deck.
Finally, there are our places themselves. If a place is empty of kit, the diver is probably still in the water. This allows the staff to quickly determine if there are still divers in the water before closing a dive down.
After the morning dive, there’s breakfast. Which is, as always, hearty. Freshly made omelets and other egg dishes, bread, cheese, pancakes, coffee, tea, juice, bread and more greets us in the dining hall. After breakfast we head for the sun deck for an hour’s sleep before the next dive.
There’s a simple rhythm to a liveaboard. Three or four times a day, the crew rings the bell on the dive deck. When they do, touch your hair, they tell us. If it’s wet, you just went diving, so it’s meal time. If it’s dry, you just had a meal and its time to dive again.
Add to this the fact that you have a maximum of 50 paces between your bed and the dive platform, and the whole thing starts making sense.
The Reachable Diving on Liveaboard
And while many places in the Red Sea can be done better by liveaboard than by day boat, some places are just completely off limits to anything but liveaboards. Brothers Islands included. It’s too far south, and too far from shore to be within reach of day boats.
On a good day, we do four dives, one before breakfast, one before lunch, a mid-afternoon dive, and a night dive right before dinner. After each dive, the crew meets us on the dive deck with cold drinks (for day dives) or hot chocolate (for night dives). When the dive site is too far from the liveaboard, we are sent out with Zodiacs, and often picked up by them as well.
The ringing of the bell takes stirs me from my sleep on the sundeck. No Scarlett this time. Just large schools of sharks swimming in perfect formation. I head for the aft deck for the briefing, thinking about the hardship of a diver’s life.
On the trip described above, I travelled with Blue 0Two’s M/Y Blue Voyager. And we did see sharks on Big Brother.