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Jun 7, 2013

Episode 155: A Week at Sea with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions

The thirty-five knot wind howled across the top deck of the 25 year old twin engine catamaran of Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, as the rapidly drying wetsuits and dive gear flapped violently from the temporary clothesline.

We'd been at sea for 7 days, serving passengers from three continents who'd come to see what the Great Barrier Reef had to offer. Instead of paying the $3200+ ticket price, I'd blindly applied for one of the three volunteer positions hoping that there would be enough time for diving and shooting some footage of the reef's famous sea life.
Managing to get in eleven dives in 7 days was one thing, but finding time to keep camera and light batteries charged, video equipment prepped while being a good little bitch for 4 bosses (most of whom were young enough to be my children) proved challenging, and I had to run to keep up.

A sharp knife at 6 am in the galley for fruit platters, fruit salad and cut oranges for our eager passengers. Volunteer number 2: Ben from California, was already suitably jaded after a week of washing pots, but he'd established an amusing, mutually abusive rapport with the surly young cook called Levi, who was churning out 3 meals a day for three weeks without a day off.
Levi confided that "it's painful having to train new volunteers every two weeks, but it's better than doing your own dishes..." (picture of crew)

I thought it was ironic that these kids were all doing it "for the lifestyle" not for the relatively low pay.
Maybe it was their tiredness from the previous week's seas that had been rough enough to toss you right out of your bunk, but they didn't seem like an entirely happy bunch compared to other crews I've been around. Maybe the good lifestyle kicks in when the wind drops....

Most of my volunteered time was spent on the dive deck helping divers on the ladder, putting lines in the water, coiling ropes, and dealing with the endless supply of wet towels. Whenever the deck frenzy abated, the trip director would send me to the kitchen to help Ben from California to fight back the endless supply of dirty pots. Often, on the way to the galley I would get hijacked by the Host to do something else..... The volunteer position I held was called "Dive Swing". Apply for this job at your own peril.

The trip director allowed me the time to do a solo diver course, taught by the video pro on the boat, Julia Sumerling, who also happened to be an old friend of mine who'd photographed my old comedy group back in the eighties:
The Como String Quartet, circa 1988
Julia managed to compose some nice shots while I was doing her solo course.
More shots here: Facebook
Engine problems prevented amateur guitarist Captain Peter from setting a course to Osprey Reef, which was very disappointing for some passengers, but they kept it to themselves mostly.  Of some consolation: the passengers did have a bit of a snorkel with the Minke Whales (I was on lookout duty)
Day seven's gear collection and deck cleanup was easy compared to the duties that would follow during the next morning at the dock.
I'd been warned by several fellow crew members that it would be the toughest day with some pretty nasty jobs. The low point was being sent down the garbage chute to throw juicy black bags to the first mate on deck. At this point, I'd already collected and bleached each of the 18 toilet brushes from the cabins.
I wish I'd been a scuba diver and done this stuff when I was 18 (instead of 10 hours a day of viola!)

Now it's back to reality. Pitching a documentary to the TV stations this month. Grown up stuff....
 I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

 Meantime, here's a look at the Cod Feed (shot on a Spirit of Freedom trip)
More info on Spirit of Freedom

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