Got up Early today. Actually walking out of my hotel at 6:45am. Spare me all your tales of how early the rest of you get up to work your normal person hours, I haven’t seen 6:45am this many days in a row since I was last diving in a foreign country. On the other hand, I haven’t been to bed at 9pm this many days in a row since grade school. So I guess it evens out.
Playa isn’t in high season right now and they don’t really cater to divers who get up that early so I discovered it’s almost impossible to get a cup of coffee at that hour. Not good. As an aside, while I’ve enjoyed Playa I probably wouldn’t come back except to dive. I prefer my third world beach towns to have about 50% more ragged broke backpackers because then there will be about 300% more coffee shops, used book stores and breakfast places where you can order one banana pancake. In short I need a little more color and enthusiasm and a little less bleached blond hair over prada sunglasses and a disdainful expression.
But the cenotes were worth the whole trip. And I like Mexico, overall. It’s fun to be somewhere non-stateside where I understand the language and have some idea of the culture.
Anyway, I took a ferry across the bay to dive Cozumel. It’s a legendary dive spot, so I’m not sure what I expected but I thought it would be a nice finish to this trip. The diving’s nice. Pretty reefs, much better than the diving in Playa. But the bottom line is that I really prefer a little excitement and adventure in my diving/life so I prefer wreck and cave diving and the sighting of giant creatures to pretty reefs that look like giant aquariums. When I’ve seen my 12th angel fish I tend to tune out and hope a shark swims by. It did get me thinking about the kind of environment I want for my dive master certification but that can be a subject for another post because this one is about Sergio. I mean, now it is. Starting… now.
Sergio is the craggy Mexican divemaster in his late 60’s running a sketchy little dive operation out of Cozumel, the kind with broken cement stairs leading down to the boat and equipment that looks like it’s survived WWII. We won’t get into safety concerns because it’s scary and there’s no one regulating that kind of thing but suffice it to say that shops like his are the main reason I feel I should own my own gear. Heaven knows who was last in all this stuff and how (if) it was cleaned. Anyway… That’s the part we’re not getting into cuz we’re talking about Sergio.
We get on the boat and head out to parts unknown where I’m always hoping there might actually be dragons and about 10 minutes in, Sergio pulls out his camera.
Garth and TJ, this part is for you.
Sergio has a pretty Canon camera in a housing that he made himself out of a discarded aluminum air tank. He cut off about 8” at the top curved part, sliced off the air output to make it flat and then he created an epoxy mold and poured himself a polycarbonite lens for the front of the housing. He welded handles to the side and mounted dive flashlights on top of them (probably attached with zip ties cuz I know he used grocery store bags and rubber bands around the lights to diffuse them). The back opening looks like something taken from one of those clear glass pasta jars with the lids that lock down with metal hooks (and probably was) and inside underneath the camera he stuck a panty liner to cushion the camera and absorb any water and humidity.
I have pictures, don’t worry.
It’s the most brilliant, cool looking homemade housing I’ve ever seen. And it’s orange. I almost asked him to make me one.
After I ask him all these questions and take a bunch of pictures (Kaitlyn, are you a cop??), he gets into all kinds of other stories. I’ll condense for you. Sergio got a mechanical engineering degree in France and spent several years in various engineering fields before retiring to Mexico and opening a dive shop. This is apparently my week for diver engineers. In his spare time, he:
1. Has built his house with a cistern on the roof that collects rainwater. He filters it down through his house water systems – using it for bathing, washing dishes etc. The waste water filters down into his basement where it is segregated by the type of waste it contains and treated with enzymes to neutralize the organic materials and make it suitable for watering his garden. This keeps him completely off the city’s water grid and he says he never runs out of water. His next plan is solar panels to get him off the city’s electric grid.
2. For the past decade, he’s also catalogued the temperature of the ocean on a daily basis and graphed it out so he knows what the average temperature will be on any given day. Any abrupt departure from these temperatures mean he can predict hurricanes. He has also spent the last decade cataloguing coral growth in his dive spots and knows where it’s healthy and where it needs help.
When the city of Playa built a rainwater channel to dump it into the ocean, Sergio went to the mayor and told him he was an idiot for wasting all that water. The mayor wasn’t happy.
Sergio also spoke fluent English and German on the boat, making him fluent in at least 4 languages. When the world ends, I’ll be setting up a tent in the remains of his back yard and hoping he takes me with him.
Alternately, I hope he gets on Survivor cuz he’d go all the way to the finish line.