I, The Fortuitous Diver

Once in a while I will come out with weird words, some that could probably have made Wifey fall for me, some she’d laugh at. She’d laugh at me whenever I use terms such as, “I’m negotiating a bend right now”, or, “I’m cross with you”. Fortuitous is what I am when it comes to diving. Nevermind its meaning; this posting may sound like it is filled with grandiloquence but, really, I do not converse like that in real life. Let that be a denouement for that paragraph.

It was July 1982 when my family traveled to Kuantan, where we stayed at the former Merlin Hotel, Teluk Chempedak for one night before making our way to the Tanjung Gelang Naval Base to board the Marine Police’s PZ-class fast patrol boat, KPD Lang Kuik (PZ4 – now in the inventory of the Coast Guard) for Pulau Tioman. As we passed Pulau Tulai, I remember sitting in the Captain’s seat listening to my Walkman; and the song that played was Christopher Cross’ “Sailing.”

When the PZ had longsided at the Merlin Tioman jetty (now the Berjaya Tioman jetty at Tekek), the captain of the PZ, then DSP Michael Lee, asked me if I knew how to swim. I told him I was a school-swimmer (I swam for the state a month later, and became a lifeguard at year’s end). So, he told me that he’d be taking me scuba-diving later that evening. I seriously thought that that was a form of badinage, since despite his reputation, he seemed like an affable person.

My father left in a PSC-class speedboat (nicknamed ‘Trojan’) for a fishing trip, while I, wearing a t-shirt and swimming trunks, donned a J-valve tank with nothing more than a harness, one second stage, a depth gauge and no air gauge nor a BCD, and off Michael Lee and I went…diving. A quick instruction above water on how to equalise and what toggle to yank should I suddenly run out of air, and we descended on the west side of Pulau Renggis, going down to 80 feet (about 24 meters). We speared two large Trevallies, bumped into a couple of Blacktip Reef Sharks that followed us throughout the dive. That was when I also bumped into what I now know as the Green Sea Turtle that I hitched a ride on by holding onto the edge of its shell. Of course, I wouldn’t do either activity anymore: Tioman is now a gazetted marine park, and I don’t ride on turtles anymore.

Doing a decompression stop at 4.5 meters
Doing a decompression stop at 4.5 meters

I did three dives on that trip, returning to Kuantan, and subsequently KL, the next day. I never dived again until 1992 when I was in the military, and carried on diving until 1995, stopping when I left the service. I only pursued scuba-diving as a hobby back in 2005.

So, that, my friends, was how I became a fortuitous diver.

Ready to dive