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Scuba Diving in Negril Jamaica October 9, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
Tags: , , , , ,

In 1990 I took a transfer to downtown Toronto. Being a somewhat tentative assignment my wife elected to stay in London until we were certain that it was the right move. Except for a couple of weekends where she visited, I would drive 2 hours home every Friday evening and return early Monday morning. I was also at last completing my degree at the University of Western Ontario in London and would drive home mid-week to attend class and drive back the following morning. It was a difficult year to say the least.

So we decided to take our first self-funded beach holiday to Sandals Resort in Negril, Jamaica, at the end of my first term. I still had an exam to do, so I took my textbook with me to study in the evenings. It is a wonderful spot with a beautiful beach and sparkling tropical water. Diving was included in the price so upon my arrival on that Saturday afternoon in December I enquired at the desk about going. I was told that I’d have to wait until Monday as there was no diving on Sunday. On Monday, I was told to wait until the afternoon as in the morning I’d have to do a test to show that I could dive. One gets used to being told to wait in Jamaica, and in many other parts of the Caribbean.

So on Monday morning, December 17th, the day after Jean Bertrand Arastide was elected President of Haiti, ending 30 years of military rule, we gathered at the pool for our test. It consisted of donning dive gear at the bottom of the pool in about 6 feet of water. No problem. Once the regulator is in your mouth you can take your time, and I’d done this same exercise in the pool portion of my open water course.

I dived that afternoon at a spot they called Cosmo Reef with buddy Kevin Paas. The maximum depth of the dive was 30 feet, which is typical for afternoon dives at resorts. The dive sites were all close to the beach so they were five or ten minutes by boat maximum. The water was smooth and the air temperature was 30C (86F), under sunny skies.

On Tuesday I did both dives, to Kingfisher reef with a maximum depth of 97 feet, and then back to Cosmo reef in the afternoon. It was on this first dive I did my first ever safety stop, although as I listed the bottom time as 34 minutes it might well be called a mandatory decompression stop. I wasn’t bothering with tables then and nobody had dive computers – we’d just dive the profile that our guide took us on. This is not something I recommend – you should always calculate and observe your no decompression limits as a recreational diver. The guide’s nickname was “Pointer” and he seemed to breathe no air. On Wednesday Bloody Bay reef we were at 90 feet for 30 minutes and he came up with 2100 PSI. The best I could do was 1500, which I still think is pretty good. On one dive one of the guests went through his air too quickly so instead of bringing everyone up like most guides would do he just grabbed the guy, gave him his octo, and continued with the dive.

The Bloody Bay Reef dive was to an airplane, I noted it was a Beechcraft Bonanza, with American tail number. They said it crashed while on a drug smuggling flight. After the dive, we rented a small motorbike, a Honda 200 twin, for a day and drove around the south coast, over the mountains into Montego Bay, and back along the north coast to the resort. The brakes were bad, most of the lights didn’t work and the road signs left a lot to be desired, like the stop sign with branches growing over it at a T intersection. We were on the embankment at the other side of that intersection before I could get the thing stopped. The town of Montego Bay didn’t have much to recommend itself, although it had a duty free shop where I bought a Tag Heuer dive watch which I still wear. My wife heard that the next day a couple at the resort who had talked to us about our excursion were both injured in a motorcycle accident.

On the way back from from Montego Bay I had to stop at an intersection to figure out which way to go. It was getting dark, and with the bad lights on the bike I was in a hurry. A guy came sprinting right up to us on the bike and my wife jumped a couple of feet into the air. He smiled and tried to reassure her it was OK and held out the biggest joint I’d ever seen. I told him no thanks and got directions to Negril from him.

On the two days before we left, December 20 and 21, I went on both the morning and the afternoon dives. The weather had warmed up to 35C (95F) and I actually started writing down fish I’d observed, although all I managed to identify were Moray Eels and Barracuda. We visited Treasure Reef, Sand Club Reef, and the Gallery.

My wife and I still have fond memories of that trip, with the perfect weather for the entire week, 8 warm water dives and excellent food. When I first arrived we noticed how slowly the Jamaicans walked as they went about their jobs. By the end of the week they were passing us by.

Shortly after we returned to Canada I had a meeting with the Ontario Air Ambulance Service about a computer acquisition. They told me that the number one reason for medevacs out of the Caribbean was motorcycle accidents, with scuba diving accidents a distant second. Since then I decided that it’s not worth the risk to rent motorcycles in unfamiliar areas. Diving on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. I’ll do that as much as I can.



1. deepstop - October 18, 2008

This video, taken in 2005, is on the “deep plane”, which sounds like the one described in the above post. The plane has no tail, and I know there was one when I dived it, because I read the tail number (starting with N, meaning US registry), but 14 years is a long time under the sea.
You can see clearly that the prop is the variable pitch type, meaning the plane was something more than your basic bug-crusher. My opinion at the time of the dive was that it was a Beechcraft Bonanza, but it’s hard to tell from the video.


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