First of all, my apologies for being absent for such a long while. It’s been quite hectic in this first month. Today it’s been one month since I’ve arrived on this fantastic island and that’s reason enough to make time to write something!
My first dives this year on Pico were quite interesting ones. The day of my arrival Pico Sport was called by a Dutch sailing vessel, the Chronos, that was cruising around the central islands of the Azores. The day before, they had lost one of their anchors and we were asked if we could help them out with this. They had GPS coördinates for us and they said it’d be somewhere around 30-40 metres. We went out on the Maisha, one of the RHIB’s and on the way to the site we crossed paths with the Chronos and we told them we were going for their anchor. Since they had additional diving gear on board and could tell us more exactly than their shared GPS location where it’d be, they joined for the search. As we were approaching the GPS coördinates, they seemed to be dropping anchor hundreds of metres from us! We went over and asked what coördinates were right, but apparently we’d been given wrong ones – we didn’t stand a chance with the ones we had…
Pascal, Luke and I got ready for the dive and followed their anchor line to the bottom. Luckily for our search efforts the depth was only 25m, which gave us a lot more time to check the surroundings. Within minutes we located the anchor and attached a buoy to it. After a short dive while they were preparing a proper lifting line topside, we came up and were given the lifting line. Descending into the Atlantic Ocean once again, we followed the line that we attached. But we ended up at 35m with a loose end and the ocean floor was nowhere to be seen yet! The wind had picked up quite a bit and we had been drifting, causing this thin line to break due to the forces. We decided to give it another go, but then letting the Chronos drop anchor again. This time, they were right on target, with their lost anchor just several metres away and we could directly attach the lifting line. Success!
In the following days more staff arrived and we got news that one instructor couple had cancelled less than a week before arriving. As they were candidates to take over the dive center manager’s position, this position now had no-one that was in for it. This was a huge opportunity for me, perfectly timed with my career change! I had some talks with different people around and spoke with Frank, the owner of Pico Sport. We agreed that I’d show him what I was capable of and then we’d make it official. As dive center manager, I would be responsible for hiring staff, managing them and making sure all the dives are scheduled, the equipment stays in working order, some backoffice work is done and everyone is happy. Because of the cancellation of the instructors, I started immediately looking for extra staff for the season, as we only had a couple of weeks left to sort this out. And of course making sure everyone in the staff gets to know all the goings at Pico Sport and all is ready for the high season. The first customers already started coming in and the operation was starting to run, showing where it still needs some optimisation.
Besides being promoted to manager, June also held another challenge for me. This whole month I’m safety diver for a underwater film crew for a documentary – sorry, I can’t tell anymore details yet to prevent scooping! – which takes up a lót of my time. Everyday that the weather allows, we leave port between 05:30 and 06:30, come back for a short lunchbreak around 13:00 and go out again from 17:00 until 21:00. It’s a really great experience I’m getting with this, as I’m getting to see all that is involved in underwater cinematography and I am really learning from the pro’s this way, which is awesome! The long days are easily worth it. On the afternoon breaks and bad weather days I try to get in some extra sleep and work on managing the divecenter. The latter is quite challenging as I’m away most of the time so I don’t get to talk with the staff a lot. With regards to this, I can’t wait to be back in the normal job again, but still, I love getting this opportunity.
The diving here is amazing. Even the ‘easy’ dive sites are wonderful. Having done several shore and boat dives and also two night dives, I can say it’s full of life and the scenery is amazingly diverse. I’ll write some more about this later but now already make you want more with these photos! We did try getting the sharks in with chum for the first shark dive of the season, but unfortunately they didn’t bite (hah!) yet. It was just staring in the blue…
My first month on the island, I have been able to go out and explore the surroundings of Madalena by bike twice. In short: it’s fascinatingly beautiful. The scenery changes every kilometer, the clouds around the mountain look entirely different when you away for a minute and the roads are quite good quality for being such a remote place. There’s one big challenge in cycling here though. With my 53/39 chainrings and 11-28 cogs the steep slopes can be quite painful at times! Well, for the cyclists, it’s rule #5: Harden the f*ck up!
As this safety diver job is nearing the end, I hope I’ll be able to free up some more time to write stories and keep this blog active and actual!