Harder Better Faster Stronger…..

are MY GUNS!! Who knew that building a mooring buoy would be such a great work out!

Before I go into a little bit of detail about that, I would like to commend my fellow volunteers. Lizzie had an amazing beach clean-up day a couple of weeks ago, educating everyone who turned up and even managed to get them involved in a ‘rubbish’ quiz, sorry mind the pun and a stonking amount of trash was collected among the community. It was so great to see kids working alongside the police who helped out on the day! Well done Lizzie! My second congrats goes to the wonderful Sam who managed to get about 200 of the snorkelling banceros i.e. guides and the fishermen’s association together for two days of Information Education and Communication seminars focusing on their marine ecosystems. These were done over two days and it was an absolute delight to have witnessed and helped her out on one of these days. She did a fantastic job and managed to build a wonderful rapport with everyone she spoke to , it was a really positive experience for everyone involved!

Now, a bit of context for you: I’m writing this up from crazy, cold and busy London town. So much has happened since my last blog. Firstly, I finished my Dive Masters finally! That included an equipment exchange as the last challenge which I had been terrified about for weeks but was great fun in the end!

Corey and I at the end of the DM course

I got a “pad” in Sabang that we all used as a base when we were over there; me more than the others as my project was over there. Talking of which:

The mooring buoy project:

The block is in place after 5 weeks of starting the project. It was the most amazing experience that I could have had in this area as well as the most challenging. I spent the first 2 weeks scouting out the local stakeholders and having lengthy chats about the project with them with generally overwhelmingly positive responses. I researched mooring buoy designs and talked to the banca owners and captains about what type they needed. Sourcing the materials was a bit of a problem especially on a very tight budget, however that was soon thrown out of the window as it was impossible to build a useful structure for so cheap. The majority of materials came from one hardware shop in the center of town where the staff knew me by name and thought that I was a complete nutter. So no difference from usual then.

The boys at Sea Rider building the frame for the centre of the cement block

The next step was transport of materials along the beach which included loading all of the materials on a small speedboat over to the dive centre who agreed to help with the project. Overall the building of the block’s mould and then final structure was great fun but problems cropped up in so many different places along the way. I felt that I had really connected with a huge amount of people there who thought I was absolutely crazy, as I was intent on working as hard as anyone else who was going to build the structure and thus everyone saw me carrying and mixing cement as well as sawing and carrying lumber through town.  People where extremely interested in how the whole project was going to be carried out and the reasons for implementing it in the first place but there was definitely a sense of negativity from a few of the foreigners and locals in the area. I believe this was mainly due to the fact that I had decided not to build the structure in the traditional way that they did it here and there was a sense of fear from everyone who couldn’t “think outside of the box”. My biggest problem was that I had started to trust their opinions and allowed the small and slowly expanding thought of doubt and failure about the whole thing, take over. I wish i had trusted my instincts more along the way but it’s all great experience and practice makes perfect I’m sure! In the end with hard graft from 3 or 4 local dive centres, all of the volunteers and all of the staff from one dive centre the block was built on land.  Perfect time for my body to give up obviously, as I then was very ill for the next 5 days which meant that I sadly had to hand the project over to the more than capable and extremely positive mind of JJ. It was wonderful to hear about his experience over the days he had spent putting the block in place and the numbers of people that got involved in the end to sink the block.  The Barangay Captain and all of his men, 26 in total, got in the water and helped to push the block out before it was floated into place. This must’ve been an amazing thing to watch as all of the locals then felt more attached to the project and offered their assistance to the project in any way. I walked through town and was stopped along the way to have my hand shaken, random builders had started yelling from the rafters to congratulate me and shop front owners wished me good luck and farewell.

Attaching the empty drums at low tide which acted as floats to lift the whole structure for positioning

On the day I left, the block was successfully sunk in the exact location intended and no one was injured in the process!! I wish I could’ve been there; I had never been so proud and relieved when I had heard the news! This must’ve shocked a lot of people who downright blanked the possibility of success. Now for all the final touches, line and float additions and a monitoring system to be put in place and it’ll be done! I am so thankful to the ZEP for allowing me to undertake such a project. If i had to build another mooring, I would definitely not build it the same way as this one but I would certainly not shy away but grab the beast by the horns and jump right in once again. I LOVE a challenge!

I was also lucky enough to be around for Simon’s day: Ambassador training day. This was one of the most rewarding parts to the whole 10 weeks of being in the area. Working with 11 of our friends who are also the most enthusiastic and passionately environmentally friendly dive guides in the area to leave them with the same sense of ownership and pride as we have in the Green Fins program. Simon did an awesome job with training them on the local threats to their ecosystem from the diving industry and how they can help in the area.

Simon and the Ambassadors

It was a huge success and the first of its kind of program for Green Fins and key to its success in the future on the ground in each area. I also managed to in the afternoon of this final day, to go on the most amazing fun dive I’ve ever done to Canyons dive site with my instructor. This whole trip was full of experiences that I will never forget with both local people and foreigners who have really inspired me to grab life by the horns, to trust my instincts and to not shy away from any challenges.

So…. Where and What am I building next??? …..GAME ON!

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