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Big Presence, and the Three stooges search

Today Susan went on the boat as well. She goes every so often if she feels like it and this way she gets a free lunch to boot. We entered the dive shop and sat down on the sofa, being careful not to sit down too hard. Another diver flopped down on the couch and broke it, so now one must sit with care to avoid getting a nail in the butt. The interns were chatting and setting things up when suddenly the sun was blotted out by something moving around outside the shop. I think the first thought anyone had was how the creature coming through the door would dive, since we didn’t have anything nearly big enough to fit him. The man was at least 6′ 6″ and probably weighed over 300 pounds. He had a “presence” unmatched by any man I’ve seen before. We figure he was the size of three men. He got into the “baht bus” and sat down before Gary told him to sit up front. Once Homberg had moved, we had space for 3 more people. Homberg only wanted to snorkel and this was fine by all on the boat.

His voice was unnaturally deep and low as he spoke in heavily accented English. He told Gary where he wanted to go. “Fine by me mate, I’ve got no problem with that,” came the reply.

Where is Homberg going? Anywhere Homberg wants to go. Where is Homberg? Wherever he wants to be. His arms were as big as anyone’s thighs. His legs were as big as my torso. He did have an enjoyable snorkel though, and will be back on the boat tomorrow.

One group who did not have a good snorkel was Tong and Bella, the husband and daughter of Lek, who runs the little restaurant all the interns eat at. The two off them were wearing life jackets and were being accompanied by Ali, another intern who was not. They had jumped off the boat and were working their way along the main coral line in the bay. The dive boat had left to take some other divers to a shipwreck.

Meanwhile, your’s truly was on a search for a missing anchor that was somewhere outside the little bay, in about 15 meters of water. With his two buddies, you really had the three stooges trying to lay down some grid lines to control their search. We three were also searching for a bit of coral that was supposed to be out there, but owing to its depth, was almost never visited. It was unconnected to the well known coral lines further in the bay. The problem, was we found the coral, and it was right in the middle of our search grid. To avoid damaging it, we decided to reel in the lines and switch to a lineless search pattern.

On the surface, the three snorklers got caught up in a ripping tidal current and were being swept out to see. Bella and Tong did not have fins on, so it was impossible for them to swim into the current, or even towards land. They were at the mercy of an uncaring current.

Underwater, we finished winding in the line, but due to the strong current, we had used up half of our air. We started to head into the bay. It would be very difficult for us to swim on the surface, but we were barely moving on the bottom. Recalling my earlier experiences with strong current, I removed my fins, strapped them to my chest, then using all fours, dug into the sand and started crawling forward. Another buddy soon began to drag himself forward using his arms while the third guy kept kicking madly. We were at least making progress.

Tong and Lek were being towed in by Ali, but she was having a very challenging time. She didn’t have the aid of a life jacket, and Bella kept climbing onto her. Tong was extremely worried regarding the situation. If they got swept around the point, the boat might not see them when it returned. She was kicking as hard as she could towards shore.

Back on the bottom, I started laughing uncontrollably at our predicament. Here were three divers who were now dragging themselves along in the ripping current. It was quite comical really. I motioned to my buddies to change heading but only one of them saw the signal. Within seconds, the third buddy had disappeared into the murk, and was quite possibly lost forever. I rushed to buddy #1 and grabbed him to get him to stop. Then rushed back on the reciprocal to see #2 spinning around looking for us. Now together I signalled for us to stay closer. After a few more minutes, we reached a known point. #2 was running critically low on air, since his finning was less efficient then pulling himself along. We decided to surface, and found ourselves just a few meters away from mooring line our boat would be using when it returned.

We could see a couple of life jackets bobbing about 400 meters away as well as a third snorkeler who didn’t have one. (We didn’t know who they were at this point.) We knew it would nearly impossible for a snorkeler to fight the current, and further more, if they were inexperienced customers they wouldn’t know that the boat would come pick them up. I was worried they might panic. I said left instructions with my buddies that the boat would probably need to come get us and then set off for the snorkelers.

Drawing closer, I realized who the snorkelers were. By the time I got to them, Ali had managed to get Tong and Bella to the rocky point, but at this point Tong was trapped on a large rock, and Ali was several meters away with his daughter. I reached Tong and dragged him towards the other two. Once here, Tong proceeded to climb up the sharp, jagged rock and then dragged Bella up after him. Ali and I tried to convince him that it would be better to wait here and then swim out to sea where the boat would pick us up. He was having none of that. His goal was to walk along the rocks, barefoot, reach the beach some 400 meters away, and then buy a beer. He clearly was not a happy camper. Ali went after them, but with my heavy scuba gear I was unable to follow up the rocky shore. So I clawed myself from rock to rock, avoiding the sea urchins and made it around the point and into the bay. After a bit of a swim I made it to the shallower area where I took off my fins again and walked along the bottom. We all reached the beach, but Ali and Tong got a few cuts from the rocks. Tong ran off to go buy beer. I am not sure if he had money in his bathing suit or if he was able to talk the vendor into giving him 3 beers, but when Tong returned he had 3 cans. He slammed one down before we suited up and swam back to the boat. I towed Tong back and Ali took Bella. Bella is 8 I think and it was interesting to see her reaction to the experience. Tong was a bit shaky but Bella was happily splashing and kicking on the way back to the boat.

I think Tong finished the other two beers when he got back to the boat, but he did go snorkeling again after lunch. I told him to avoid getting swept away. Another guy said that Tong didn’t understand me since his English wasn’t that good; I think Tong knew exactly what I said.

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