Boats: This team was responsible for getting kits set up for each of the 2 boats. The kits included things like emergency 02 and first aid kit, and extra set of dive equipment, water, sunscreen and vinegar, rope, dive flag, flares, etc. Then they took these kits, along with 14 life vests and 4 flotation rings to the edge of communal to be carried to the boats by the entire team. They also make sure there are two fuel pods ready for each boat. At the end of the day they undue everything and put it back where it belongs. They also fill the fuel pods for the next day.
Communal: This team cleans the entire communal area. They sweep sand that has collected in the open part of communal, wipe down the tables and chairs, take out the garbage and handle the recycling, and fill/refills the rinse buckets for dishes before each meal. They also clean the two communal toilets and fill the flush buckets.
Grounds: This team rakes the sand from communal down to the beach, and all of the pathways to the the huts. This is done to kill the sand fly eggs apparently. They also are in charge of keeping all of the drinking water filled throughout communal.
Kitchen: This team is responsible for cooking throughout the day. Breakfast isn't so bad because its dictated what is to be served each day. Oatmeal on Mondays and Thursdays, cold cereal with room temperature milk (remember, no refrigeration) on Tuesdays, pancakes on Wednesdays, and eggs on Friday. The other meals are yours to figure out. We are provided mainly fresh veggies of all sorts, rice, pasta, dry beans, and a bunch of spices. It's amazing how creative some people can get. Of course, by the end of the week we are usually running low on the veggies, so those people have to get very creative. This team is also responsible for cleaning after each meal, and cleaning the entire kitchen at the end of the day. For me, this was the worst job because you tend to get stuck in the kitchen all day. Plus, I'm not very creative when it comes to cooking.
Each day started at 7AM with duties. I usually got up at 6:30 so I could start my day slowly. We had 30 minutes to finish our duties, which was sometimes difficult with only 3-4 people doing it. I'm sure it was probably much easier for the volunteers when the huts were full. Also, in the mornings one volunteer goes on a bird watching walk with one of the staff members, and together they record all the different species they see. I did this 2 or 3 times during my stay, and it was a really interesting and relaxing way to start the morning. Plus you get to get out of morning duties so that's always a win. At 7:30AM breakfast was served, and we all ate together. 8AM the staff called for boat push. This included bringing down all the gear prepped by the Boat team, lifting and turning our 2 flat bottomed dive boats and pushing them towards the water. Then we returned to communal where you either started getting ready for your first dive if you were on one of the morning boats, start prepping for lunch if you were on kitchen, or fill tanks from the compressor if it needed to be done. Or if you're really lucky you actually get to study the coral or fish you have learn in order to begin research diving. There was always something to keep busy with.
The first boat of the day usually went out by 8:30AM, another at 10:30AM, another at 1:30PM, and the last around 3:30PM. Each boat held 6 divers and a captain, so just about everyone got 2 dives a day, weather permitting. Between the morning and afternoon dives, usually at 12:30 we all sat down together again for lunch. Some days the boats were delayed for additional duties, such as filling the tinaco once or twice a week, which I explained in my last post and is accomplished by assembly line, passing buckets from the well to the cistern on the roof of communal, or once a week when we spent an extra hour cleaning the kitchen. On those days we removed everything from the kitchen, cleaned everything head to toe, fumigated the kitchen with bug spray and then after about 20 minutes, put everything back. We also did a beach clean once a week, usually on Thursdays or Fridays. For an hour we would walk the beach picking up and recording every little piece of trash we saw. I'll get more into this in a separate post.
There are also people assigned to man the radio every time the boats go out. Each captain carries a radio and lets the office know when it is leaving, when it has arrived at the dive site, when the divers are down and when they are all back on the boat, and when they get back and are anchored at the beach. As well as any outrageous sightings or problems encountered. Records of this are kept by whoever is manning the radio in the office. Written records are kept of just about everything that goes on on base, so people are also assigned jobs such as science officers, recording data that comes back from the dives. This can be data from coral watches, research dives, or sightings of turtles, sharks, rays or other larger animals. There is also someone put in charge of equipment and other one-off duties around base, such as composting, recycling, compressing, and so on.
At the end of the day, usually around 5:30PM, the last of the boats return and everyone has to get into the water to push the boats back to shore. We all stand in two parallel lines about chest deep in the water, the captain then drives the boat between us and we race in the grab it and push it back to shore where staff members are waiting with the rollers. This is where the hard work begins. Getting the boat onto the rollers and then pushing it up a sloped beach was really difficult. It takes everyone's full strength. Again, maybe this is easier when they have a full group of volunteers, but with our 12-13 volunteers it was a struggle just about every day. That doesn't mean that it wasn't made fun at times. The staff members were usually doing something goofy, or someone would fall flat into the sand, and of course make everyone burst with laughter. And lets face it, when everyone is feeling like their pushing with everything they have and the boat doesn't budge, you kind of need that bit of comic relief. On Friday's after boat push we also clean and rinse the boats.
After boat push we get about 30 minutes, where most people rush to shower before dinner is served at 6:30. After, or sometimes during dinner, staff presents a board laying out the following days schedule, which usually includes a little lesson or goofy personal list. In the evenings we studies, took knowledge tests, sat through a presentation, or just relaxed with a few beers. By around 9:30 most people were ready for bed.
Except on Fridays. Friday was party night. It was also the night that staff cooks a meal with actual meat and cheese, and provides coolers of ice so that we could drink cold beers! After dinner we put on some music and clear the tables and party through the night. Each of these nights usually had a theme, so we would dress up and act like idiots. It was a good time :)
On weekends we could leave base for some AC, wifi, and decent shower, usually to Tulum or Playa. I stayed on base a couple of weekends just to get some quiet time, since everyone usually left for the weekend aside from a couple of staff members. Those weekends were kind of nice, but there were plenty of others when I got away for some adventures. Again, I'll get into those in another post.
So that pretty much covers he day to day. Don't worry, I'll go more into detail on a few of these things in future posts. The good stuff it yet to come!