Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Depths

"Can you make out that thin white line there on the shore?" our dive instructor asked.

We squinted across the waves while our boat rocked in the breeze. "Yeah, I think so."

"That's Tom Hanks' house," he told us.

"Really?" I was a little incredulous. But apparently Mr. Hanks had the house built last year, and the family spent seven weeks there this summer, including some time spent diving with his sons and your truly, our dive instructor, Gary, from Blue Island Divers, the only dive school on Antiparos. And it seemed that we were about to dive in one of the same spots the famous actor had tried.

It was our second stop of the day, between two tiny, rocky island between Antiparos and Paros, both uninhabited, but one with a tiny white chapel perched on the shore. Weddings have been held there, no doubt due to its impossibly scenic location, with the wedding party being transported by boat for the ceremony. While windy on the surface (typical for the Cycladic Islands), once submerged the water is calm and clear. How clear? I'd guess at least fifty feet, probably more. Even without the help of contact lenses or glasses, I was awed by the world of craggy orange rocks carpeted in delicate white and green seaweed, dotted with plush purple sponges, sea cucumbers, and the occasional urchin or seastar. We found a shy octopus at home in his tiny rock cave, doing his best to blend in with the scenery, and a moray eel peeked its small head out from its hole hesitantly as we swam our way around the island with the chapel. Small fish, including wrasse and pork fish, swam to and fro in the aquamarine sea.

It was Michael's and my first time diving together. The previous time we'd tried, about four years ago in Kauai, a cold had prevented him from doing anything more than snorkeling. This time, we both made it below, although I had a momentary panic attack when I first entered the water. I couldn't seem to get a good grip on the regulator with my mouth, I lost a fin, and my mask was taking in water. Back when I first learned to dive I found myself facing unexpected fears when it came to breathing underwater, and in a split second I felt those old fears come flooding back. But with a different pair of fins, kindly lent me by Leonie, our boat mate who was spending today's trip at the surface due to an especially sore back, and the realization that I simply needed to tighten my mask, my fears evaporated and I was floating down into the magical blue world below.

"Oh, yeah," I thought to myself. "This is why I like diving!"

"Maybe we should have done six dives," Michael told me when we were back at our apartment, washing up. I could tell he was enamoured, having had his first chance to dive in warm water.

I smiled. Six dives? Maybe. But right now I still have two more to look forward to tomorrow, and I can hardly wait.

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