When I added scuba diving to the list I was thinking about doing it in England somewhere. However, a good friend of mine, Mark Harris, made me an offer I just couldn’t resist. A trip to Italy to scuba dive in the Mediterranean. Mark is a qualified Rescue Diver and said that he and a good friend of his, Vincenzo, would take me scuba diving. But it was not just me it was the whole family, my wife Lisa, son Matthew and daughters Amy and Ellie that had been invited. So, on the 29th July, with tickets purchased and bags packed we set of to Italy. We arrived and, on exiting the arrival terminal, was hit by a wave of heat. Excellent! Bring on the sun, considering the bad weather we left back in the Uk I was so glad to feel the sun on my face again.
Mark and his friend Mike Jackson had driven down to Italy on the Wednesday from the UK. Mike had come along to help Mark get me around and I can’t thank Mike enough for his assistance and the friendship that we struck up. It’s a small world because one of Mikes good friend is my daughters God Father and someone who I’ve known for over 20 years.
We were only there for 5 days but but we crammed in so much. The food was terrific, real Italian food, not touristy food. The scenary was breathtaking, especially from Mark’s veranda at his house, looking out down into the valley. We were 3000 feet above sea level so we were going from one extreme to the other, below the sea!
On the Saturday, the day after we arrived, we all went down to the beach so that we could just relax and chill out. The diving wasn’t going to happen until the Monday so we had plenty of time to take in the lovely beaches. Ellie was happy to sit on the beach and play in the sand but Matthew and Amy were in the sea before we’d got settled!
The beach on which we were staying had an old wheelchair that they lent out to people with disabilities so I decided that this would be a great opportunity to use it and get in the sea. I haven’t swam in the sea for over 30 years so this was one thing that I added to my list.
Getting to the seas edge wasn’t that easy and I needed some man handling to move the chair through the sand and pebbles but eventually I was at the waters edge and it didn’t take me long to get in the water. I couldn’t belive how warm it was. Our local swimming pool is colder than the sea!
I didn’t want to just swim around near the beach I needed to go out where I couldn’t touch the seabed any more, to tread water and swim around. As I swam around I mentally ticked it off the list. I was very pleased.
Mark had arranged for my eldest two, Matthew and Amy to have a go at some scuba diving which they were very excited about. So, Monday morning both my two were getting kitted up. Mark had also arranged for Mike to have a go but he wasn’t too sure if he could do it. I told him that he may regret it if he didn’t at least have a go. He was a little reluctant but eventually he kitted up and got in the boat. I must admit I did badger him quite a bit but he thanks me later for doing it.
I decided to go out on the boat with them even though my diving session was later in the day. We’d arrange my diving session with Vincenzo and it would have been unfair to cancel that session so I waited my turn. For now it was my two kids, Mike, Mark and four other guide divers. Matthew was the first to go in and he did it in style! Sitting on the side of the boat with his air tank on his back and regulator in his mouth he fell back into the sea just like a professional. It didn’t take him long to get to the bottom with his own instructor and explore the ocean floor. Mark later said that he was a natural. I was so proud.
Amy sat on the side of the boat and after watching all the equipment being put on Matthew started to get a little nervous. Once Matthew was in the water they started to put the tank and the rest of the gear onto Amy but then she got very nervous. She looked at me and I could see that she wasn’t ready for this. I held her hand and told her that’s it’s ok, she’d be safe but when I saw tears I told her that she didn’t have to do if she didn’t want to. The gentleman handling the boat, a big Italian who spoke only a little English, was ready to get Amy in the water but I got him to take off the equipment. We then suggested to Amy that she got in the sea and just float around on the surface with her instructor just to get a feel for it which she agreed to. The big Italian picked up Amy and placed her, gently, in the water and the instructor placed a regulator in her mouth and goggles on her so that she could look down into the water. At this point I decided that as I was there I would get in too. I grabbed a pair of goggles and a snorkel and stripped off to my trunks and went it. I swam over to Amy and told her how easy it was for her as she had a tank of air where as I just had a tube! She smiled and was feeling a little more comfortable but still didn’t want to go down to the bottom. I was just as proud of Amy as I was of Matthew because she had a go. She got in the water and tried it out. Maybe next time she’ll go to the bottom for a look around.
Mike, after giving him plenty of encouragement did decided to go in and it took him a little while to adjust but he did it and got to the ocean floor. The grin on his face when he come up was brilliant. You could see he enjoyed it.
In the afternoon we travelled a couple of miles down the coast to where I was going to be diving. I was being taken out to where we were to dive from the beach using a very clever wheelchair that was made to go in the sea. So, kitted up with wet suit, air tanks, goggles, flippers and regulator I was taken out to a spot and we began to dive. However, it wasn’t has exciting as the diving that had taken place in the morning. During the night there was a heavy downfall of rain in the mountains and we were diving right next to the river outlet from the mountains. As a results when we got under the surface we couldn’t see a thing. Even with Mark right in front of me visibility wasn’t very good at all. We got down to around a metre and we couldn’t see anything at all. I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to go to the bottom of the sea bed and explore but I did get to 5 metres and in my book that’s scuba diving. However, I have had an invitation to go back and so next year that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
A big thank you our host and friend Mark Harris who made all this possible and to Mike Jackson for driving me around in style.