Cairns, AU – Wednesday, Mar 12th, 2014

Today is the first day of diving and I’m very excited. I’ve been looking forward to this during my entire trip. The weather is a little cloudy with some rain. TUSA has a mini bus that they will pick you up for $12 at your lodging. I get picked up at at 7:25am. It’s the small mini bus where I transfer to the floor then to the seat. We arrive at Marlin Marina and there’s a ramp down to the loading platform. It’s not too step but will change with the tide. Once to the boat, I had help bumping up the walkway to the boat. I then transfer to the steps and bump myself up 5 steps then transfer back to my chair. I have help from Will getting over the frame of the boat door to the inside lounge area. I transfer to one of the bench seats and they store my chair in the staff closet. For safety reasons they do not want my chair in the aisle. We fill out the paperwork and the boat leaves at 8:00am. Ben gives a safety briefing while the boat is leaving the dock. During the briefing Ben strongly suggests taking motion sickness tablets, most people don’t listen to his warning. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get to the dive site. The boat ride is a little choppy and a bunch of people are on the stern of the boat throwing up. The boat has seating capacity to accommodate 120 guests but TUSA limits the boat to 60 guests. The boat carries both snorkelers and scuba divers. During the boat ride the dive master does a dive briefing on the first dive site. About 20 minutes before reaching the dive site the divers start getting their gear ready and wet suits on. Will carries me back to the area to get ready. I have a new wetsuit and new regulator I’ll be using for the first time. I have to use more weight than normal because my wetsuit is a 5/3, 5mm in the chest and 3mm in the arms and legs. I use to dive with a 3/2 but I get too cold so I got a thicker wetsuit. I do not wear a snorkel when I dive, even though you are suppose to, because it gets in the way. TUSA requires you to have a snorkel on when you dive. Our first dive site is Hastings Reef – The Fishbowl. After having help to get my wetsuit on Will carries me down the 5 steps to sit on the platform. He then carries my BCD (buoyancy compensator device) down and helps me put it on. I drop in the water and I’m ready for my first dive on The Great Barrier Reef. Will is our dive guide for the day and my dad is my dive buddy. The first dive is good but I use too much of the air in my tank, I only come up with 750 psi. There was a slight current at the end of the dive. We see a white tip reef shark about 15 minutes into our first dive. The dive lasts 43 minutes and we go to a depth of 46 feet. Yes, the snorkel kept getting in the way.  The visibility is only about 30 feet because of a recent cyclone. After surfacing, we take my BCD off in the water and Will picks me up and carries me to where I was sitting before. After about a 20 minute rest we dive The Fish Bowl again but this time we go left. We see a few giant clams and I felt more comfortable on this dive. I have not been diving since Indonesia in May 2011. Villi, another dive master, carries me up to my seat. It’s lunch time and the lounge area is a “dry area” so I stay where I am and Villi makes me a make shift table to eat on. Lunch is buffet style and Villi brings me a plate with chicken, ham, pasta salad, salad and bread. After lunch we move to our next dive site Saxon Reef – Magic Wall. I get in the water the same way. It is another good dive and seeing a barramundi cod. After getting out of the water, drying off and changing Will carries back in to the lounge area for a beer on the ride back to Cairns. After everyone exits the boat, Will and Villi carry me off the boat.

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We head back to our respective lodging to get cleaned up and I meet mom and dad at Fetta’s Greek restaurant. It is accessible off Grafton Street between Gilligan’s and The Northern Greenhouse. I was able to make it up the ramp to the restaurant but it is very short and too steep. They do have an accessible bathroom but you need to get a key from a worker. We meet a group from TUSA at Gilligan’s after dinner for bingo. Mom and dad leave after about an hour and I hang out with Will and the TUSA group for a few hours.

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