We happened to be riding the ferry with the mayor of a neighboring town – a nice young guy with slicked back hair who looked a lot like Gavin Newsome, San Francisco’s mayor.
Gavin took a look at our clue and told us the “World of Ocean” in the clue was referring to Ocean World, one of Manly’s main attractions, and “7 miles from Sydney and 1000 miles from care” was a reference to Manly itself, which is where we were headed.
“Ocean World is not far from the dock,” Gavin said. “When you get off the ferry, you’re going to want to take a left and head down the beach. It’s a quick run up the coast. You can’t miss it.”
“Great, more running,” Zev said.
“Get used to it,” I told him. “It’s a race.”
“Don’t remind me.”
Thankfully, this run was quicker than the one to the ship. We found the cluebox right where the Mayor had said it would be – right by the entrance to Ocean World.
Race Rules stated that we each needed to do 5 Roadblocks by the time the last leg rolled around, assuming we made it that far. We had decided beforehand that I’d start things off, especially if it was a swimming challenge, which it sounded like this was.
“You do it,” Zev said.
“I’ll do it,” I announced as I ripped open the rest of the clue.
I was to head into Ocean World and SCUBA dive in a shark tank, where I would have to look for a compass.
As I scrambled to the changing area, we saw teams from the 1st plane just leaving the challenge, which was good news – we weren’t far behind.
I quickly changed into my wetsuit and climbed down into a shallow wading pool, where an instructor was waiting to give me a crash course in SCUBA diving. I had never done it before, mostly out of fear. There was no time for that now.
The teacher was nice and reassuring, which put me at ease, which is exactly where I needed to be to deal with the initial shock of an extended period of underwater breathing. It does not come naturally – to me anyway – and was not easy to get used to.
I realized pretty quickly that that staying calm and focusing on my breathing was the key. If you don’t stay calm, you might quickly find yourself panicking, and panic leads to more panic, which is not a good path to go down when you’re underwater with sharks all around you.
So as I lowered myself into the main tank I put the sharks and stingrays out of my mind and thought only about the in… out…. of my breathing, and my search for this compass I was supposed to be looking for, which I was told I would know when I saw.
It took a few seconds to get my bearings.
I let myself sink to the bottom and started to explore the sand on the floor of the tank with my fingers, thinking the compass was probably small and might be buried… but the sand looked like as though it had already been combed-through by everyone else.
I decided to find a place in the tank that others might not have wanted to check out for whatever reason. In general on The Race, it pays to go the way your gut tells you not to. “They” know what your gut is going to do before you do, and they count on it.
I need unexplored territory. But where?
I stopped and looked around. There was a tunnel running down the middle of the tank that looked tough and uninviting to climb over.
I moved to the tunnel and found that a net had been laid over one part to make it easier to climb, so I reached up, grabbed hold, and started to make my way over it.
After a slight struggle, I was on the other side.
I made my way towards the far end, into a dark, nearly pitch-black corner, which felt exactly like the less-explored area I was looking for.
Sure enough, there in the corner, leaning up against a wall, was a big, golden compass.
I thought about celebrating, but I was using my mouth for breathing, so I couldn’t yell like I wanted to just yet.
Don’t drown. This isn’t the time.
I grabbed the compass, tucked it under my arm, and starting making my way back across the tunnel, trying not to let my excitement interrupt my air intake.
It was a little tough to get back over the tunnel with the heavy compass in my hands, but I managed by tossing it out in front of me in the water a little and chasing it up and over the glass. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Zev through the window below me pumping his fist, and I answered with one of my own – but I had to check myself.
Stay focused on the breathing. In… out… and ignore the sharks.
When I surfaced back in the instruction pool, I finally let out the yell of excitement that had been building inside of me. A lot of things were going through me – I was pumped to have found the compass, happy to have successfully SCUBA dove for the first time, and just generally thrilled to be back on The Race again and living in the moment.
“Yeah!” I shouted again.
It was understandable. I hadn’t been far from that myself when I first went under.
“Just breathe,” I told her, giving her a reassuring rub on the back. “That’s the most important thing.”
I’m not sure she heard me, but I didn’t stick around to find out. I climbed out of the tank and moved to the changing room, ready to move on.