Liveaboard culture is a kind of culture, too. For those of you who don’t know what a liveaboard is, it’s a hotel-like ship. Liveaboards host divers from around the world who come to eat, sleep, and dive for extended periods of time.
It’s a lifestyle completely separate from anything I’ve seen on land. While living on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, for extended periods of time; you start to do things differently —there are customs, foods, and arts completely unique to life on the water. For example, if you’ve never heard of Fisherman’s Friends cough drops, they’re one of the only things that can save you from seasickness out at sea (besides Dramamine). I came to know the culture when working on the Kangaroo Explorer liveaboard vessel as the hostess.
We were stationed two miles from land, in the middle of the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef. Liveaboard days started early; at about 5:45 am. We started in the dining room for the first breakfast; which was always longer shelf-life food like cereal, oatmeal, and coffee. At first light came the first dive and afterward, soggy clients made their way back into the living room for a second Australian breakfast prepared by the chef: scrambled eggs, sausage, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, french toast, pancakes. Just as the passengers started lifting the food to their mouths, the plates would shift; the boat engine revved, making its way to another part of the reef. Upon arrival to the new site, clients geared up for dive #3 at a new spot. Climbing back onto the boat and completely exhausted, they were invited to nap and rest until lunch at 12pm.
Lunch items were usually pasta, pizza, curry, salad, beets; it was a good rotation, but if you’re on the boat for long enough, you can easily get bored. We started experimenting. We’d put salad on the pizza and roll it up into a burrito, for example. Viola! A Pizza Salad Burrito. Or we’d throw canned kalamata olives into the curry. Not sure what we called that. The fact that the food was different was more important than how it tasted. To be fair, the chef on board was incredible; he just had access to limited resources. If we were accidentally out of something, the chef would rack his brain and recipe book to find something that could work instead. One night, all we had was cheese, rice, and breadcrumbs so he made giant fried cheese balls. I believe the technical term is Arancini.
Clients were invited to dive before dinner; the meal plan was similar to lunch, but a little extra special. One night we had a BYO (build your own) burger bar; complete with veggie burgers. We had all of the Australian toppings: beets, canned pineapple, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion. I can’t explain how good they were, so I’ll show you this video of our staff’s faces enjoying their first bites.
After dinner, all of the brave clients would gather for a night dive. With flashlights in hand, we’d jump off the back deck and vanish into the darkness. From the top deck, staff supervised and counted the submerged lights to make sure that no one had wandered off alone, into the dark abyss. It was like the ocean came alive under the light of the moon. Sometimes, the chef would drop frozen meat off the back of the boat. We’d sit at the bottom of the ocean, cover our flashlights, and stare towards the surface, into the light of the full moon; we saw dark, shark-like figures dodging in & out just above us. If you illuminated a small fish, another larger fish would almost inevitably appear out of the darkness and devour it. The water around your body would tremble and vibrate just a bit, sometimes, echoing off of God knows what’s fins. We celebrated surviving the night dive with dessert. By 9 pm, everyone was fast asleep.
The end of my night was my favorite; we’d sneak chocolate chips from the chef’s fridge and wander up to the library on the top of the boat. We’d gather all of the blankets and pillows we could, and gather around to watch Game of Thrones. Of course, no one ever stayed up for more than an hour. And on the stormy nights, the TV would sway back and forth; nearly flying off its hinges. It only made the experience better, more unique.
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