Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jan Dive Trip to Mindoro "Distressed Sea Creature" Day 2`

January Dive Trip to Mindoro

Sunday, Jan 16, 2011

Big disappointment in the morning—after hitting the wine and then the hay sometime after midnight last night we awoke to hugely violent seas. The waves were already fierce at 8 am, and even now 12 hours later they are still that way, only higher and more destructive since the tide is so high. It’s a wonder the jetty doesn’t collapse under the surging gigantic swells constantly blasting into it.

Don noticed towards the end of our dive yesterday that the high pressure fitting in my console was leaking significantly. We made a mental note to check it out first thing today. The pressure gauge fits tightly into the housing and only with the two of us struggling with it did we manage to extract it enough to gain access to the faulty hardware. He tried tightening the locking nuts with a couple of wrenches and at first it seemed like that fixed it; but then, after we pushed it back into the over-tight plastic holder we discovered again a constant stream of bubbles pouring out into the bucket full of water we used to test it. We pulled the gauge back out of the housing and then he pulled out the union with a needle-nose explaining that it was supposed to have two tiny O-ring seals fitted into a groove at each end. Right off the bat we noticed that there was only one seal, while the other end was missing a seal in its groove. That means the brand new, straight-off-the-shelf regulator had been manufactured with but one rubber O-ring. (But wait, not true, the regulator was bought used on sale at the PX on Honolulu; so there you go.) Don was puzzled how it had taken so long for it to spring a leak, why it hadn’t done it immediately (Even if it WAS a rental in its previous life).

He modified the plan for the day to try one more time to get the outboard motor running, after which we’d take the malfunctioning high pressure hose to a dive shop in Sabang to try and find the little seal for it.

But first, he grabbed his tools and headed back out to the boat, now bobbing vigorously at its moorings on the slack water side of the resort’s breakwater. We had discussed it on the drive from Pampanga—he wanted to try and see if cleaning the 3 magneto contacts that supply voltage to the sparkplugs would do the trick. As he worked, the weather got worse and worse—there was no rain thank goodness, but the wind progressively picked up from the southeast which drove the breakers ever higher and higher. What a change from the day before when the water had been smooth and quiet without even a ripple to mar the surface.

If he is anything Don is tenacious. He spent six hours plugging away again at trying to get that engine running, and for a while, it seemed he had succeeded. I was reading a paperback about The Battle of Stalingrad on our entrance porch that faces the cove. Suddenly, my head jerked up when the motor roared to life. I was sure it would be a false promise, but surprisingly it continued to hum and roar each time the throttle was turned. In fact, it ran quite well for about five minutes before suddenly cutting out again. For sure now our backyard mechanic claims to know that the problem is in the electronic ignition module.

But finally, close to the end of daylight, once again admitting defeat, Don replaced the cowling looking worn out and beaten, declaring that he was all in. He hoped that maybe we can find a place locally that might have the module he needs to get the motor running, and decided to ask in Sabang when we went there next to try and find a seal for my pressure gage.

The five of us loaded up into his CRV for the ride over the hill. Parking the car in the rock-studded muddy field that passes as Sabang's town parking lot we picked our way through puddles and up the shabby street to the town's "main street." Turning right we followed it toward the unfinished pier then turned left up the narrow lane that is dive shop row to The White Tip Dive Shop. Alas, it is closed on Sundays.

We reversed course to see if Captain Gregg’s might be open, and although the shop was closed a female attendant and a European manager were friendly and helpful. The sweet tempered lady attendant went into the closed shop to find the seal while the tall manager with his European accented English and closely cut hair provided us with a tank to use to check our repair. For less than a dollar we walked out of there with not only a tightly sealed pressure gauge but with information on who to talk to about where a person might be able to find a part for an outboard motor. I’ll never say anything bad about Captain Gregg’s again. (Yeah, RIGHT!)

My wife had already fried up some chicken for my dinner but I decided we should go ahead and eat with Don and his lady to save him having to drive us back over the hill when he had already decided to have dinner in Sabang tonight—that way we saved him a trip back and forth over the super steep hill.

We ate right there in the Captain Gregg’s restaurant. It can get loud on occasion, depending on who else happens to be eating there, and for a minute or two it got really raucous when a group of Asian tourists, probably Koreans, came in and began to scream at each other in what I suppose was their form of ebullient conversation. We all turned and looked at them as one since none of us could hear each other anymore and the six men, noticing our irritation, quieted down. That was pretty cool; usually they’ll just ignore those kinds of nonverbal disapprovals. After that, the meal was good and so was the savoir faire.

So, we never did get into the water today unfortunately. It was probably just as well we didn’t. The conditions are not the safest for scuba, not to mention the visibility is probably pretty bad as well with all the silt being churned up. Its so bad that huge uprooted banana trees and twenty foot tree limbs were carried in and tossed up against the seawall.

The dive assistant noticed some kind of distressed sea creature that had also been dragged up into the relative quiet behind the breakwater pier. He captured it in a plastic basin so we could check it out. One of the locals claimed that it was a jellyfish, but I knew there was no way it could be. It was bright orange with eye stalks on the top of its flat head looking all the world like retractable horns; in the cramped basin it appeared to be flat like a stingray only without the tail and stinger; it also had a patch of curlicues that looked like orange feelers or tentacles on its topside. Neither Don nor I have ever seen anything like it. I asked all the hotel workers if any of them planned on eating it and if not let’s toss it back into the sea in case it might survive. The fellow who captured it took it out on the pier and asked where I wanted him to toss it back in. I made a poor decision and pointed out to the end of it. He released it and we watched the thing try to fly with its fluttery round wings but the huge waves simply buffeted it and turned it up down and all around. I should have told him to let it go back into the calmer water on the northwest side of the jetty. Dang it.

It occurred to me watching the waves break ever higher against and over the pier that it would be neat to get some pictures of us standing out there while the pounding towers of spray immersed us. I had my step daughter hold the camera on us in movie mode to capture us getting soaked. It was exciting. I wouldn’t go out there now at 10 pm though; the waves are even higher and fiercer than ever.

Hopefully, tomorrow will bring calmer weather and allow us to get at least one dive in. Don is telling me now though that he plans on trying one more thing with the motor, so fingers crossed.

(Unfortunately, there are no photos to go with this post. I had several hundred photos in my Cybershot and made a huge mistake in not downloading the memory card every day or two. It filled up and then corrupted. We lost ALL the photos. We were just sick about it.)

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