The next two weeks were nothing short of amazing! I got to do my work experience aboard Mike Ball Dive Expeditions' "Spoilsport". Everything on this liveaboard boat has been designed and redesigned for diving.
The boat was launched in the 80s, and it does show a little, but it's been through enough refits to keep it up to date. One of the things I saw on board that made me laugh was that the tenders are called "Achilles"...like Achilles' Tender? <LOL Smilie> Everything from the compressors to the ladders to even the hangers used to hang up the wetsuits appears to be custom made for diving.
My first week was spent opposite 2 other volunteers, Jason and Kelsie. Jason filled the roll of "Swing Volunteer" and Kelsie was in the kitchen. She got to do more diving since there's less to do in the kitchen on a dive boat than on the dive deck. That's what I did, Dive Deck Volunteer. In Queensland, if you're not paid, you have to be called a Volunteer for legal reasons. There's also only a short list of things they can have us do, so it wasn't as much of the right kind of dive experience as it was a chance to observe while I did the peon work. I was responsible for making sure the guests had towels, helped them set up their gear, and performed lookout duties. Lookout was 1 person who was assigned to the upper deck to look for people who got lost on the dive site and surfaced at the wrong place. And for those of you reading this to get a better idea of what you can and can't do while volunteering on Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, no, you can't do lookout in your swimsuit. <Sad panda> Another thing all of the crew were responsible for was the dishes. This is an enjoyable part of the gig because every position is in the kitchen cleaning up...it reminded me of the A/V gigs I used to work for where we all just joked around but got our work done. It was one of the more enjoyable parts of the experience.
The most enjoyable part, however, was the diving. This is why I wanted to do the Mike Ball Dive Expeditions work experience option rather than going to Lady Elliot or Heron Island. The other two are a different kind of work, and the diving is good, but nothing like the Great Barrier Reef...especially with access to Osprey Reef. When we were setting up our gear, I asked the Trip Director Nick if I could sidemount for my dives since I had just finished my training and wanted to get some experience dives in. He pointed me in the direction of 2 8L tanks, but they were already set up with his gear so I set up 2 12L tanks. This is what I used for the first few days. On turnover day, he freed up the tanks so I could use those for the rest of my time. It was really nice to get some experience with 2 small aluminum tanks rather than the steel tanks Abyss uses; Just for something different. Check out the photo album below for just some of the many shots I got. Video to come.
I have to say, my experience on Mike Ball Dive Expeditions was mixed. The first week (all 7 days of it) was amazing. Nick, Trevor, Froya, Nathan, and Ricky were all great. They treated Jason, Kelsie, and I like members of the crew. It felt like what I expected the work experience to be. The second week, a different crew signed on. Nathan and Nick were still there, but Nick wasn't trip director...a girl named Shona took over. This was her first time in the role of Trip Director, and imo, she needs some work on her supervisory skills. She and the Housekeeping crew member, Siana, were quite condescending. If I had the money for the flight from Lizard Island back to Cairns, and the money to stay in Cairns until my flight back to Sydney I would have taken it. Fortunately, Nick took over Trip Director for the second part of the week and made it bearable.
Overall, these two weeks were a LOT of hard work, but a LOT of fun. I would love to take a trip on Mike Ball Dive Expeditions as a guest...even if in a budget room. Outside of your room, you get the exact same service. There was no talk amongst crew that one person was in a premium room and one was in a budget room (like there is on Royal Caribbean).
Next up, my final weeks at Abyss,