WITH ALL DUE RESPECT to the much-quoted and often-misquoted Kenneth Grahame, there really is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in dive-boats.
Well, that is except when the messing takes on more relevance than the dream-like state of complete pleasure to which Rat referred. “Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it,” he expounds in The Wind in the Willows. “Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all…”
However, there comes a time when you realise that you are actually pretty miffed that your dream-of-a-lifetime liveaboard has turned into a total, utter nightmare.
And the worst of it? There is really sod-all you can do, because by the time you discover all the things that are wrong, it’s too late.
You’re off in the middle of nowhere, and all that's left to you is to plan all the stories on which you will soon be dining out.

The one where the engine broke…
It was the day before the Millennium. The cruise had long been planned to sail us away into the tropics, where we would sit under the stars and toast the future after the perfect pre-midnight dive. But things were not going according to plan.
Most of the previous night we had lain awake, listening to the boat engine cough and splutter, wondering whether we were moving or not. Dawn arrived and we emerged warily on deck to be told that the engine had blown up.
As we watched thick, dark smoke trickle from below decks we were pleased – no, annoyed – no, pleased, to hear that we were being put on the next flight out.

The one where the crew left us behind…
It’s a given that you have to trust your dive-crew with every inch of your life. You go down into a beautiful other world, enjoy a fabulous hour and then ascend knowing that there will be a friendly person waiting for you.
Except for the time when we came up and said:?“Oh hell! Where’s the RIB? Where’s the boat?”
An hour later and there was still no boat, no matter which way we looked as we bobbed about on a choppy sea.
Two hours later and panic set in, but fortunately a fisherman in his tiny outrigger rescued us.
This has happened to us only once, but we have been on another boat when the crew left their own divemaster behind. Equal amounts of panic, little trust left.

The one where the crew stopped working…
…among other things. First the air-con stopped working, and then some of the kitchen equipment went down.
As we hadn’t left port, you would have thought things would have been fixed, but no. It was late at night, and off we sailed.
When we woke up, it was to find that our 16-passenger boat had 22 passengers on it. Really? The owners had brought all their pals and proceeded to spend the week on the top deck, smoking and drinking, and not actually working.
There were insufficient tanks and kit, the compressor played up and all we were told was to chill, we were on holiday. Yes, quite.

…and the one where there was no boat!
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned, that you should never book a boat without a good reputation.
We had planned this trip six months ahead of departure, aware that the vessel was still being built. And two days before we were due to fly, it still wasn’t, so we were bumped to a rotting wooden hulk with cabins so small you couldn’t stand up in them, and only one loo and shower between 12 people and the crew.
Next thing, they tried to kill the husband, who is seriously allergic to nuts. No matter that they were told every day, no matter that I tested everything first (as I do), some bright spark sprinkled powdered cashews on the pasta.
One sudden-onset case of anaphylactic shock while eight hours' sail from shore later, and we swore never to board a boat without adrenaline again.
For clarity, I must add that we didn’t know that the allergy was death-defyingly bad at this point, but we do now.
And just to round things up, I also have to add that the day after this, they ran out of beer. Totally unforgivable.

Saving this one till last…
Ah, and what about the one where the captain stood the boat on its bow? Did you even know that this was possible?
The anchor got caught on some rocks and the boat was stuck, seriously stuck for
a whole day. The dive-guides went down and fiddled; the crew tried all sorts of manoeuvres.
The divers thought: “Who cares, damned good diving here!” But a resolution was needed, and as we were eating lunch, we heard the engine roar into life.
The boat shunted forward swiftly, did a sudden reverse (thank you, Father Jack, for decades of jokes) and woo-hoo, the boat goes almost completely perpendicular!
Table-settings fly, divers slide off chairs and along the floor, food turns into rubbish and voilà, the boat is free. It took only about 10 seconds and it was one of the funniest moments ever. OK, perhaps a little dodgy, but it still makes us laugh.
Suffice to say that the majority of these liveaboards no longer operate, so we pay homage to all the relevant powers. And, in the end, if we had the choice we would never dive any other way.
Nothing makes us happier than when we emerge from our cabin at dawn, grab a freshly brewed coffee and wait until a smile peeks above the deck with “hey, are you guys doing the pre-breakfast dive?”
Is the Pope Catholic? I think It’s time to get going.