Day 61: Utila

Utila Travel Blog

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gearing up for another dive
 

And so we swapped the Bay Island College of Diving for Utila Water Sports. Our new teacher was Tim, an American. We received a new theory book, and had to sit through a new set of videos, but fortunately the material was less boring than the standard open water course.

Furthermore, there was no exam involved, just a series of tests after each theory chapter.




Today we had the two 'compulsory' dives. The first one was to perfect neutral buoyancy and optimise the weights you carry on your weight belt. I was quite good at this, but Ken kept sinking like a stone.

Utila
It was so bad that after a while Tim even took us back to the surface to discuss it with Ken. It turned out Ken was really trying, but he was simply too heavily loaded. In the end he tried it without a weight belt, which worked much better. Tim had never seen this before - a normal person needs about 2.5 pounds to compensate for the buoyancy of the air tank and the equipment. Ken on the other hand is so densely built that he didn't need more than a pound on his weight belt (although he was struggling to stay down at some of the longer and more shallow dives). Tim explained to us how a normal person can stay more or less afloat in salt water, however, if Time would jump in the water without a wetsuit and diving equipment he would sink like a rock.


The second dive was navigational training.

Utila
By using a compass and several navigation techniques we swam several rounds in a deep section where we had very little visibility or points of recognition (we couldn't even see the bottom for most of the dive). It didn't always go so well, especially since underwater even the simplest things become a lot more difficult. You had to turn the rim on the compass, but just how much was 250 minus 120 again?

At the end of the dive Tim led us along the bottom, past several pieces of nice coral, from where we would have to find our way back. He had promised us a beer if we could make it back to the boat. An easy bet since almost nobody ever finds their way back on the very first navigational dive. I was leading with the compass, and had tried to remember the way over here. However, on the way back all the coral looked a lot different all of a sudden, and I didn't really feel like we were heading in the right direction, until I recognised one of the coral trees and found myself directly underneath our boat.

Honduran coast in the distance, seen from Utila


Tim admitted that he had not expected that we would make it back, but he held his end of the bargain and back at the diving school (which unfortunately didn't have an onsite bar) he bought a tray of beers for us and the rest of the staff at the diving school.


Tomorrow we don't dive until after lunch, and there is nothing left to read or study, so tonight Ken and I could finally go out and explore the nightlife of Utila.

We had dinner at the place which is seen as the place where it all happens: Cross Creek. This is a restaurant slash bar slash hostel slash diving school, and probably the last place on earth where I ever want to do a diving course. This diving school is used mostly by young backpackers, who can do a full PADI Open Water for an absurd 99 dollars, while in between they continue to party and drink.

an little private island near Utila
Sometimes this goes well, sometimes this goes wrong. There is only one hyperbaric chamber on the island (not entirely surprising at the BICD) and this hyperbaric chamber treats more people for decompression sickness than anywhere in the world. So many that PADI representatives have visited Utila several times to investigate just why so many people suffer from decompression sickness here, and whether or not the diving schools meet all criteria. Their conclusion was that the diving schools in itself were fine, but there was simply too much partying on the island and the main causes of decompression sickness on Utila are alcohol and dehydration.

You can't blame the diving school for having a bar and restaurant of course, and it is people's own responsibility to prevent over-consumption of alcohol. But when you are out partying it is very difficult to remember all those boring theory lessons though.

Utila

However, what I had heard about decompression sickness during my classes, and especially what I had heard about the treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, were enough for me to make sure that I will *never* drink too much alcohol the night before a dive, and that I will always take plenty of water before and after a dive.


But as said, we didn't have a dive until 2 in the afternoon tomorrow, so it was ok to drink a little more than our usual two drinks. After a couple of hours at Cross Creek we went to another pub, where we hung out until closing time.

Just as we were about to leave we bumped into one of the instructors at the BICD. His name is Luis, but everybody calls him LuLu. Born and raised on Utila, and a total nutcase.

He was with two American soldiers, who are stationed in Honduras. A girl, Missy, and a guy with the nickname 'Fish out of water'. I can't remember where he got the nickname.

Lulu managed to convince us to join them back to Cross Creek, and we travelled there on Lulu's quad bike.

Just imagine, a quad bike, with no less than 5 people on it, racing through the narrow streets of a sleepy island town. Lulu was driving, Missy sat behind him on the saddle, Fish and I sat sideways on the luggage rack at the back and Ken sat on the handle-bar. Despite the not insignificant alcohol consumption Lulu drove astonishingly gentle and straight.


Cross Creek had already closed and was rather empty, but Lulu knew of a beach party where we could go. Way out of town there was indeed a beach party, with a huge campfire, a DJ, coolers with beer and a concrete basketball court that served as a dance floor. Missy, Fish, Ken and I were the only white people.

There were about 10 young local girls dancing on the dance floor, while the local guys were just hanging around on the beach, drinking beers and playing football. We felt the equation was all wrong, so Fish, Ken and myself jumped on the dance floor to correct this. Somehow the local girls were not impressed by three in their eyes old, balding and especially drunk tourists. Strange, we ourselves didn't think our dancing techniques were any worse than those of the local Hondurans.


We managed to stay out until 2 AM, after which Fish brought us back to the village on Lulu's quad bike (Lulu and Missy had 'disappeared' from the party).

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gearing up for another dive
gearing up for another dive
Utila
Utila
Utila
Utila
Honduran coast in the distance, se…
Honduran coast in the distance, s…
an little private island near Utila
an little private island near Utila
Utila
Utila
Utila
photo by: Yoshu