'Best friend' is a pretty worthless phrase, but for lack of a better phrase, John is my best friend on the island. He's 67 years old, one of the owners of the dive shop, and he has more than 5,000 dives under his belt, including a few dicey ones where he could've lost his life (e.g. stranded alone three miles out to sea). He's also a former Navy diver whose job used to be to travel via helicopter to the middle of the ocean, where he'd recover missiles from the ocean. Apparently something about the electronics in the missiles used to attract schools of hammerhead sharks, hundreds of them circling the missile that he'd need to recover using nothing more than snorkeling gear. What he'd do is ask the helicopter pilot to dip the rotor into the water, scare off the sharks, and then he'd get into the water to recover the rocket.
And that's only one of maybe 100 similarly awesome stories that John shared with me, usually casually, and if you weren't paying attention you might miss it. He's a pretty quiet guy. You've gotta drag it out of him, but he is always willing to share, and where I learned the most from John was on the topic of diver safety. (He's also a genius when it comes to dive equipment, and especially servicing dive equipment.) We ate dinner together daily, literally every day, for about a month, and during that time he never ran out of stories, tips, and encouragement. I feel fortunate to have shared so much time with John.
My only regret is that we've never gone diving together. He doesn't really dive anymore. It's been nearly a year, he said. One of these days I'm going to convince John to get back in the water.