I started my scuba diving lessons yesterday. First, let me share some context of scuba diving in Grand Turk… The Turks and Caicos is the home of the world’s third largest coral reef (behind Australia and Belize). Thescubaguide.com rates Grand Turk one of the world’s top ten dive sites “Located along the southern tip of the Bahamas, Grand Turk stays sheltered from heavy currents and visibility is excellent year-round for scuba diving. Grand Turk is a summer gathering place for gentle manta rays and inquisitive scuba divers. Grand Turk is surrounded by walls covered in sponges and corals starting at 25 feet and rising to 30 feet and plunging 7000 feet straight down.” Scuba Diving magazine published a good article that covers Grand Turk diving in more detail.
I bought the book on Ebay a month ago, and managed to get through all the written tests in the first day. Then I did my first “confined water” test by the beach by Bohio (a hotel / restaurant / bar / dive shop on Pillory Beach, Grand Turk with some of the best food on the island). We covered some basic stuff I had previously covered at a resort course in Maui. Then, we took the boat 250 yards to a dive site on the wall called Finbar’s.It really was amazing down there. Yes, it looked like the pictures I saw in the books, but being there is certainly a different experience than looking at pictures in a book. The approach to the wall a fine white sand bottom 25 feet down spotted with clumps of coral heads. As we moved closer to the wall, the sand diappeared as the entire bottom became completely covered in an otherworldly landscape of shapes and colors. Aside from the wide variety of living coral, I also saw a couple of large Nassau Groupers, a Hawksbill turtle, Spotted Moray, a trumpetfish, a trunkfish, and a bunch of other cool sea life [note: these or not actual images from the dive, but pictures of the animlas I found on the net].
The dive site, Finbar’s is named after the island’s first lawmaker, Finbar Dempsey. Incidentally, the latest issue of the magazine, Times of the Islands, featured a nice story about Finbar. It chronicles how he arrived in Grand Turk in 1965 from Ireland. Being the only legal entity on the islands, he engaged in a variety of activities ranging from magistrate, Supreme Court judge, government legal advisor, legislative draftsperson, registrar of companies, registrar of deeds, registrar of births, deaths and marriages, land commissioner, and coroner. In the article, he recounts some interesting anecdotes, including:
- When people got into trouble for minor offenses such as being drunk and disorderly or “drinking too much rum and getting into a fight at the bar,” instead of imposing jail sentence or fine that would put their family in debt, he “bound them to the peace … [and] impose a short sentence but suspend it, conditional on their good behavior. If they came up before me again they were sentenced for that particular offense and they would have to serve the suspended sentence consecutively. Half of Grand Turk and South Caicos were bound to the peace but it was effective. Men would walk away rather that get into a fight at a bar and it was certainly better than sitting in the sun all day breaking rocks at the prison.”
- Often times, he didn’t have to sentence repeat offenders, as they would do that job for him. When they came before him, he would say ” ‘What am I going to do with you?’ Without batting an eyelid the offender would recommend their own sentence. ‘Give me two months your honour!’ “
Nancy and I had the pleasure of meeting Finbar Dempsey on our first trip to Grand Turk while investigating a piece of property for sale here. After forty years in Grand Turk, he remained an affable gentleman whose years on the island seemed to help him age gracefully.
I am looking forward to my next dive, and hoping my time on the island treats me as well as it did Finbar.