back up in Cairns

Cairns Travel Blog

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I arrived back up in Cairns, and made my way to the hostel owned by the same company as Reef Encounter.  I was told it would be a few days until I'd be back on as hostie, and met another girl who was waiting to get back on as well.  Her name was Gabi, from Austria.  Gabi and I started exchanging stories about our time on board.  It turns out Gabi had gotten friendly with the dive instructor as well.  She showed me a crew ballcap he had given her, I laughed as I pulled out mine.  An instant bond was forged.

We decided that while we waited to get back on board, we'd go out to a horse farm for a few days, we got a discount on the excursion since we were crew.  Well, this was mainly Gabi's idea, since it had been quite awhile since I'd been on a horse (and I don't think I've been on since then!).  My horse was steering me into every bush and tree along that path!  I decided the second day that I'd just veg out in the hammock instead of going for a ride.  There was a beautiful swimming hole nearby that we went too, as well. 

Finally time to get back on board, and back to diving!  Reef Encounter never docked.  Instead, a sister boat, Compass, which did day excursions, would meet up with it out on the reef, and the passengers who were going to spend a night or two on board would get ferried over in the skiff.  So as we pulled up in sight of Reef Encounter, Gabi and I were sitting side by side on the top deck, wearing our matching caps.  'Hi, Steve!', we shouted, laughing.  Only short of words for a moment, he quickly returned the grin and greeted us with 'Double trouble!'. 

Life on the boat was fun.  We had a wonderful crew.  Gabi and I always teamed up with Hels (Helen) as our cook (she had a paid position), and on our days off, we were replaced by two Swedish guys and the American cook, Mike.  Hels was from England, and the three of us really hit it off.  Then there was Steve, of course, as well as a few other instructors that rotated days, and a divemaster/deckhand from Scotland named Ian, the captain (their rotation schedule was different, so somedays we were with Evan, other times with Albie, and I think there was a third as well, but my memory fails me on the name).  Occasionally Skip, the mechanic would be on board as well.   Guests would normally come on for one or two nights.  Gabi and I were responsible for cleaning the cabins and heads, and for helping out in the galley.  In our free time, we'd go diving, or suntan up above the wheelhouse.  Usually Hels could join us as well.  And we loved to play!  We'd had food fights in the galley, and then just jump over the rail into the ocean to clean up.  And up on our tanning spot, the occasional bikini top would get flung over the edge- one time as I was headed down to the back deck to grab a set of gear to retrieve Hels' top, which I had tossed, up comes one of the dive crew wearing it!

And the diving was amazing.  Gabi and I usually headed down together, and whenever she led, we'd get so lost, it was always a long swim back to the boat!  Steve taught us our advanced course: how Gabi ever passed the navigation dive is beyond me (I think the first time we went down, she had the compass upside down!).  We'd go on the occasional night dive, coming back up to a starfilled sky.  And even under water, we played.  We'd do somersaults, take our fins off and dance on the bottom, and of course, try to pull down the swimsuit of any unsuspecting crew who happened to pass.

Even though we weren't paid, we weren't spending much money.  On board, everything was covered (well, we were supposed to buy our beers, but somehow they never put ours down).  And back on land, we could stay at the hostel free.  There was a popular bar/restaurant called Samuels, and they let all dive crew eat there free, and usually shouted us a few pitchers as well. 

A paid position  came up on another boat, as dishpig (galleyhand), and I tried it for awhile, but the atmosphere was so different.  I could still get in for the occasional dive, but  I missed the comraderie from Reef Encounter.  Sometimes we'd moore at the same reef, so one time I swam over for a visit, and then got a lift back in the skiff.  I had mentioned to the divemaster on deckwatch where I was headed, but boy did the captain rake me over the coals!  I wasn't allowed to dive for a few days (fate worse than death!).  By that time, I'd had enough.  I quit, and went back over to Reef Encounter to be poor and happy.

We celebrated Christmas out on the boat.  The three of us were running around in Santa hats, we had picked up little gifts for all the crew.  

A paid position as hostess was coming up on the dayboat.  I decided I'd fly out to visit Perth for a couple weeks, as I'd be coming back to a paying job.

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photo by: Katie_Kate