Tuesday Travels: Diving in Le Cap d'Agde

My frog grew up in La Ciotat, right on the Mediterranean Sea, and the neighbor to the better-known village of Cassis. The frog loves the water– so much in fact, he has been diving in unchartered waters for well over twenty years. He is a moniteur fédéral-- basically a pro diver. He’s also my dive instructor. Could be a big mistake. Could be a way to tighten the link between us. Put it this way: a little positive reinforcement goes a long way, or you better tell me what I'm doing right before you launch into a diatribe of what I'm doing wrong.

THAT, my dear frog, is a hint. I know you read my blog. And I love you.

In any relationship, it’s important to embrace your partner’s passions. You’re able to share experiences together, to live for the moment, to take adventures together. Admittedly, I was a reluctant diver at first. I suffered panic attacks to the point where my bottle of air was depleted in twenty minutes. But slowly, and surely, fear left my system.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Last year, I received my niveau 1, or open water diving license, which means I can dive with a moniteur for twenty meters (sixty feet).

This year, I’m working on obtaining my PE-40- diving 40 meters (120 feet), and this past weekend, we had an outing with the frog’s diving club to train. The water? 15 or 16 degrees (60 F). Cold as ice, but not too bad when you’re wearing a surf-shorty under your 6mm wetsuit, gloves, and booties.

The crazy little things we do for love.

It all looks tranquil enough at the dock.

Suit up.

I'm smiling. But I'm not. But I am. Oh, I don't know.
I'm just rolling with the tides.

Here we go. Yay?

I DO love diving. Well, now. But this weekend had me questioning my decision to continue with the sport. I also questioned my sanity. 'Cause  I be cray-cray.  Four days. Eight dives. Cold water. Choppy sea. And nearly ZERO visibility.

Day One:

Dive one: 10-meter dive (31 feet for 30 minutes). One-meter (three feet) of visibility.  It was okay. But where the hell are the pretty fishies? We performed a few “tasks”- taking our masks off, putting them back on, pretending we had run out of air (sharing the spare regulator), and using our parachutes to signal our climb.

Dive two: 9.5-meter dive (twenty-four minutes). No visibility. Maybe five inches at best? Did you see the fish? Maybe it was a squirrel? A squirrel of the sea?

Day Two:

Dive one: 21-meter dive (63 feet for 20 minutes). One foot of visibility. We descended by the anchor, where Jean-Luc attached a string. The other diver and I followed the string, otherwise known as le fil d’ariane. Saw a couple of fish--when they were five inches from my face. Why, hello.

Dive two: 11-meter dive (33-feet, 25 minutes). Better visibility. I saw two crabs. Humping. I didn't interrupt them.

Day Three:

Dive one: 10-meter dive (30-feet, 28 minutes). Tried a nitrox bottle. (34% oxygen/66% air) Saw a brown fish. Blah!

This next dive sucked. Big time. It’s also the reason I’m referring to Jean-Luc as “the frog” (again) in this post. Like, dude, where’s the romance? Are you trying to get rid of me?

Dive two: 8-meter dive (5 minutes). No visibility. ZERO. It was so bad the frog lost me and the other diver. I saw his flippers disappear into darkness. I waited for him to return. Alone. In a sand storm. I panicked at first, yes. Then I got mad, muttering every curse word under the sun, hard to do with a regulator in your mouth. I counted for ten seconds, as instructed. I paddled a couple of feet. Still nothing. Then, I said, “What the hell am I doing? I want out! Like now.” My inside voice said, "I'm going to kill the frog. And it will be a painful death." Slowly, I finned my way to the surface (alone) and made my way back to the boat. Don’t worry. I was trained for this kind of situation.

Jean-Luc popped to the surface a couple of minutes later, the other lost diver following suit.

"Want to come back in?" asked Jean-Luc.

Uh. Hell no. Was he crazy? Not my idea of a good time. And I didn't want to lose whatever passion I had left for the sport.


 Day Four made up for everything...

Day Four:

Dive one: 23-meter dive (21 minutes). No visibility at first. ZERO. I grabbed onto the handle of Jean-Luc’s air bottle so I wouldn’t lose him. Again. The other diver held onto the spare regulator. We were like little fish, hanging onto the frog. For five minutes, we saw nothing but blurry shapes and blackness. Then, all of a sudden, the sea opened up. Woo-hoo! We had at least four meters (12 feet) of visibility and the creatures of the sea performed a little show. IT WAS FANTASTIC! The coral was purple. Tiny, spiny lobster peeked out from rocks. Beautiful Angel fish! Black fish with Flamenco- style dress tails! Bring it on!

Dive two: 10-meters dive (40 minutes). Simply awesome. Octopuses inking. Jellyfish a blinking. And beautiful Mediterranean fish galore. (Some ugly ones, too, but who am I to pass judgment...)

Unfortunately, due to the mostly nasty dive conditions, I wasn’t able to obtain my PE-40, as we needed to dive at least 35-feet. But there’s always next time. Watch out Spain! Here I come. I’ll be in your waters at the end of June. Damn straight. I'm doing it again. As the frog put it, "If you can handle adverse conditions, just think how easy and enjoyable it will be with the good."

My inner chant goes somewhat like this: Maldives! Australia! Thailand! Bora Bora! Seychelles! And so on...

I want to dive with dolphins, swim with turtles and manta rays and whales, while discovering the this magnificent under water world of ours...in crystal clear waters. Yep. One day I hope to check these dreams off my bucket list. Until then, though, I'm still in training.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Lunch on the beach. Yep. Very beautiful...and soothing for frazzled nerves.

An apéro!

We stayed at a "camping site" called Mer et Soleil, where you can rent 'bungalows'
or a patch of land to pitch your tent or park your camping car. Sure, it's a mobile home.
Off season, our little two bedroom was 60 euro/night. In season? Triple the cost.

The fully equipped kitchen (save for an oven) helps the budget!

Mer et Soleil is a five-star camping resort, complete with a pool...

and nightly entertainment.

Yeah. Quite interesting. Let's scare the kids? Nah, the kids loved this guy. Girl? Whatever. 

All in all, it was an excellent long weekend. The bad conditions just prepared me to be a better diver.

I feel a song coming on.

"At first I was afraid...I was petrified...Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side..."

But I SURVIVED! I survived. Hey, hey!

And, damn it, if I'm not proud of myself.


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