I tucked my dive bag under one of the benches along the side of the boat to keep it safely out of the way during the trip. The 36-foot Munson had been custom made for my stepfather, Ray Russo, back in his treasure-hunting days. Despite years of hard use in every ocean on earth, the boat still gleamed like new. Ray made sure of it.
Ray and his long-term dive buddy, Gus Simmons, were sitting in the twin captain’s chairs waiting for me to finish loading up. I carried my scuba tanks on board and stowed them in the tank rack before going back for my photography equipment. “All set, Ray,” I said when I had put everything away.
Ray smiled at me. “Is that all you’re bringing, Fin? You sure you don’t need any more stuff—another camera, a change of dive skin, some lip gloss?” He and Gus both laughed.
“Women never travel light, do they, Gus?” Ray said. “What is all that stuff?”
Gus chuckled. “Looks like standard gear to me, boss. Just an awful lot of it.” Today, Ray and Gus would be diving with no gear at all except a mask and an aluminum nose plug, training to freedive to 330 feet.
Down that deep, it’s dark. It’s cold. And it’s lonely.
Not to mention dangerous.
Ray shifted the boat into gear, and we were off. The day was typical for the Cayman Islands—sunny and warm, with a light breeze—a perfect day for diving. We moored on the rim of a fifty-foot-deep reef with a drop off that went more than two miles down. The Caribbean’s gentle wavelets sparkled as they lapped against the Maddy’s gleaming white hull.
Ray used a small portable winch to lower a heavy metal plate on a guide rope marked with florescent tape at 10-meter increments. They would use the rope as a visual scale while they practiced. Apnea diving could be tricky. Nitrogen narcosis—rapture of the deep—could mess with your mind, making you forget which way was up.