I wise biologist once told me, “Always trust your native guide”. He told me this, however, at a time when I was powerless to act on his example of wearing a wetsuit because A) I was 13 and didn’t own a wetsuit. B) I was not told the day before I might be going into water cold enough to need a wetsuit, and C) The subject hadn’t even come up until he started putting his on at the beach. My native guide, at present, is instructor and dive guide James Simms of the Arizona Dive shop, Subic Bay. We are sitting and relaxing at Cheap Charlie’s Bar enjoying the company of fellow divers and basking in the afterglow of many good days underwater. The weather has been an ideal combination of sunny days and calm, perfect for being on, or under, the water. My daughter has been asking me for several days now about coming out on the boat for the day while we dive, and I have arranged for her to join us tomorrow.
James makes a very astute observation when I tell him this is planned. He suggests Ivy Joy wait until the day after when we will be diving from is the shop’s bigger boat, Trident 1, instead of the narrow, traditional style Philippine Banka boat, Trident 2. The Banka style has wide outriggers set on either side of a slim, canoe-like hull. It is a stable boat to dive from, but the long narrow design makes it a little short on space and harder to move around in. Jame’s recommendation makes good sense, but Ivy Joy has already been told about the trip, and she has reminded me at every opportunity today, “Dad, we going out with you tomorrow, me an Nicel!”.
The next morning the girls are up early, dressed in jeans and collared shirts that may be better suited for the mall than the Banka, but excited for the day. We travel by trike to the Arizona Resort and head to the beach to board Trident 2. The first thing we notice as we push off from the shallows is the breeze. As the Banka attempts to maneuver past the line of floats marking the swimming area, and we are being pushed by a lively breeze that was non-existent my first week here.
We start the short trip to our first dive site, the wreck of a Douglas Skyraider aircraft in 118’ of water. The ride is bouncy with the breeze stronger away from the beach. As we arrive at the site and slow down, the Banka is rolling on wind-blown waves. We begin preparing to dive, Nicel Ann does not look very comfortable. My dive buddy Tony may be feeling worse as well. We gear up with the narrow hull pitching and rolling, three divers and a divemaster. We roll in, and Tony immediately gets a blast of wind driven salt water in his mouth. Already not feeling 100% from the pitching boat, he decides this is a dive best not done and swims back to the ladder. The three of us remaining swimming to the marker and begin our decent. At 30’ down I realize that I am working much harder than I should to descend. A quick check in my vest pockets reveals the cause in that someone has taken the weights out of my BC , and I’m light about 4 pounds from my normal weight. I fin down, hoping the depth will help me shed enough buoyancy to comfortably dive. At the wreck and I am barely neutral, and float up slightly on each inhalation. I swim the Skyraider from tail to nose then decide on an early ascent before the reducing air pressure in my aluminum cylinder causes a problematic increase in my buoyancy. I take a few pictures at the nose of the wreck and signal the divemaster my intention and head back to the surface. On top the wind is brisk and the bay covered with white caps. I climb onboard and we talk about the next dive, and if there should be one. I am reflecting on the wisdom of James’s words as I watch Nicel Ann sit quietly in the pitching boat. We recover the last two divers and discuss what is next. Mike, our trusted divemaster and guide for the day, decides on the shallow wreck of a Japanese patrol boat not too far away in a protected cove. We head in that direction, with Nicel Ann still not looking so good, but Ivy Joy smiling despite the occasionally spray coming into the boat over the rail. Once inside the bay, conditions improve considerably, calm water, and no wind. Nicel Ann is looking better, my Tony has washed the salt water down with plenty of fresh, and I have add the missing 4 pounds of weight to my BCD from the spares kept on the boat. The Japanese patrol boat is a beautiful shallow wreck that is abundant with life. In the calm waters we glide bow to stern and back, enjoying the variety and volume of animals that inhabit the wreck. While we dive the girls and boat crew relax on the Banka. After a long leisurely dive we climb back aboard and prepare for the ride home. As we round the point leaving the protection of the cove, the wind and the chop of the hits us head on. Sheets of of water slice down the side of the Banka and throw heavy spray onboard. I position myself as best I can to block the water from Ivy Joy and Nicel Ann from the water. After spending an hour plus on the bottom, I am pretty chilled to begin with, but I am doing my best to catch the spray and shield the girls. Behind me Mike and Tony have given the girls fins to hold up to protect their faces from the water. Ivy Joy is wet, but smiling brightly. I am remembering the old days working on a fishing boat off Cape Cod during the winter season, when the waves would break on the rail and throw cold water across the deck. In this case, the water is tropical, and the spray is feels warm compared to the wind. We move across the bay with the divers doing their best to act as shields against the wind blown waves. Mike and Tony as well are holding up fins in an effort to shield the girls as best they can. Finally we pull close to shore, and in the lee of the land. We slip past the floating bar and the Banka is nose up on the beach. Ivy Joy is still smiling. She has gone through the whole day barely phased, bright and cheerful, through waves of ocean spray, vomiting divers, and a pitching banka. I can only think that my daughter is a rock star. Once we hit the beach, instead of walking up to the bow ladder and stepping onto the beach, she vaults over the side into waist deep water, soaking her jeans. So much for all that work keeping her dry. Somewhere above me I know my parents are watching this and getting a good laugh. They could never keep me out of the water long if I was close to it. Nicel Ann is smiling as well as we move onto the beach. Lunch, some sunshine, and a nap is in my future, and life is good.