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A “Mermaids Tale” from the Bahamas

(DiverWire) In the middle of a beautiful Bahamian August, Blackbeard Cruises’ Morning Star live-aboard vessel pulled away from the shore of New Providence with twenty-two passengers and a small crew. Before long, nothing but water and the curve of the earth stretched in every direction. The passengers ranged widely in diving experience, from newly initiated divers to those with thousands of dives under their weight belt. The sixty-five-foot liveaboard sloop has been on the open seas for almost thirty years. There’s a good chance this ship has never seen a group quite like the one that unsteadily wandered its deck that day.

A professional team of photographers, models, and “mermaids” were among the ship’s passengers. They brought on board an array of photo gear, props, and shiny silicone tails. The trip was an excuse for them to create underwater and topside images with the picturesque scenery. The recreational divers, salty crew members, and production team seemed like a motley bunch at first — but by the end of the week, crew and passengers alike rated it among their top diving trips.

Living in the tight quarters aboard the Morning Star is similar to camping on the ocean. Sharing the small spaces on the no-frills ship has unexpected perks; passengers form close bonds not only on adventures, but also through routines like sharing delicious home-cooked meals in the main cabin. “It’s really lovely to be like this big family with everyone around you, and to be able to go up anytime and look out at the ocean and jump in whenever we stop,” says author Carolyn Turgeon of her recent experience.

Captain Mike “Red” Salmon and his crew went out of their way to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves. Initial dives were done at shallower reefs, and the crew worked up to deeper water dives. A few of the passengers, like Sora Atanossian, signed up for the trip in order to have fun with underwater modeling and mermaiding. Atanossian got her scuba certification for the trip, but didn’t expect to do much diving. Along with the dive enthusiasts, everyone soon swam with sharks, whirled through the Washing Machine drift-dive, and gazed over breathtaking walls into open blue ocean. “A little life-changing, a little enlightening, a little terrifying,” says Atanossian of her adventures, “All of the above, but overall, very good.”

The crew performed duties that were unusual for them as well. They handled unwieldy mermaid tails, located pristine sand bars and grottos for shoots, and motored dinghies filled with people and equipment. Dive instructor Sam Puyenbroek says, “It was so much fun. It felt like work but I wanted to help.” She admits that she had no idea what to expect when she first found out about the unusual interests of some of the passengers. By the end of the trip however, Puyenbroek and the ship’s cook Molly McKernan donned mermaid tails themselves and joined in on the fun.

The passengers aboard the Morning Star hardly came in contact with anyone else during the trip. There was no TV, no internet, and not a single bar of cell phone reception. The shower sat abandoned most of the time. The nearest medical help and hyberbaric chamber were miles away. The outside world drifted away with the passage of the ship, and a sense of community formed. Everyone learned from and relied on each other.

Though the warm Atlantic waters were what brought the group together to begin with, the bonding of disparate people and resulting sense of community are what really made the trip special.