Like any job, when you work on a dive boat you come into contact with allsorts of people: some you like, some you loathe. We had a big German guy in his mid 50s on the boat who fell into the former category. Erwin is a larger-than-life character, very animated and very funny; he told the farthest-fetched travel stories of anyone I've ever met, but I loved listening to them. Every good tale-teller embellishes the story a little; I'm no different...if it gets a bigger laugh, I'll talk it up a bit.
We discussed South America, and everywhere I'd been...he'd been somewhere better or crazier. With some people this can be annoying, but Erwin just likes to entertain. He's big and burly, with wild grey curly hair and piercing blue eyes; owns more dive gear than a Japanese and a Korean put together; wears ridiculously gaudy bandannas between dives which he somehow gets away with. I liked him immediately.
"I've been to South America 20 times" he declared, and loudly began to tell of how he never travels there without a gun, apparently buying one as soon as he lands. The girls on the boat were wowed, I merely chuckled to myself. He continued, and regaled us with how he'd bought a gun, but had no ammunition. On passing a police station, he got chatting to an officer outside, who he bribed to sell him as many rounds for his snub-nosed .38 he could carry. The police sold him their whole supply. Honestly.
"I was once robbed on a train" he began, a few minutes later. A man had asked if he could open the window next to Erwin, and he did so. Suddenly the man grabbed Erwin's camera bag and hurled it out of the carriage window. He punched the man into semi-consciousness, bade his companions farewell and marched the culprit to the doors before leaping off the fast-moving train into the forest. Dusting himself off and then grabbing him at gun-point, he demanded to be taken to the robbers' lair. An hour later he burst into the house with his hostage, to be met with four rather surprised bad men sitting around a table full of tourists' stolen valuables. Retrieving his camera and other goodies as compensation, he backed out of the house and made his way back to the tracks to catch the next passing train. Honestly.
I didn't believe a word of half of these tales, but they weren't half entertaining when he told them, I assure you. If I ever own my own dive shop, he can come and dive for free.
Another guy on the boat of similar age, an Aussie from Perth, wasn't quite in the loathed category...but he did get right on my tits at times. I mean, I know I talk a lot...especially in the wee small hours of a Sunday morning, but this guy could talk all the legs off a donkey...never mind the hind ones. And it was just verbal diarrhoea; talking for the sake of it...and all in a monotone drawl, which made it all the more painful.
We headed into Coron Bay one morning, and passed another dive boat sitting above the Kogyo. "That boat's from Puerto Galera (it had Puerto Galera painted on the bow). The Rags II, it's called (it had Rags II painted on the side)." I nodded affirnatively. "It's a liveaboard (since Puerto is a few hundred miles away from Coron, they hadn't travelled all the previous day for a morning dive before heading home). I've been on it." Oh. "Great chef. A Filipino (here...in the Philippines?) Yeah. Been on it twice. Reckon they'll be diving here all day. I've been to Puerto Galera. (I assume that's how you managed to catch the aforementioned boat) Dived there." I extracted myself as quickly and diplomatically as I could (ie. just got up and walked off, pretending to get water). I came back and sat a few feet away from where he was now engaging another diver in conversation. He pointed as we passed the boat "That boat's from Puerto Galera...it's a liveaboard..." I took the iPod out of my bag.
I'd moaned (yes, I know) about the guy a few days before. Miro, being very mild-mannered, had said the guy was OK, and I felt bad for saying anything. One of the girls diving with us said he was probably just lonely. Fast-forward a few days. Miro: "God...that guy just talks and talks..." Girl: "Yes, and about absolutely nothing...he's driving me mad."