Simon Plank is a keen diver, and when he met Marnie Starr through a John Lewis work trip and discovered she was a dive instructor who had spent a few years working in the Red Sea, it was a match made in heaven. Five years on from their first meeting at Nemo33 in Belgium, he decided it was time to pop the question – and in true diver-form, concluded it could only be done underwater!
With a John Lewis Partnership Venture Club trip to the Maldives, on the Blue O Two liveaboard Blue Voyager, on the cards for early 2018, it seemed the perfect moment, especially as Simon had friends Richard Steven and Hayley Eaude on board – who together run Black Manta Photography – to capture the moment.
Simon explained: “I visited Marnie’s brother to ask permission for her hand in marriage back in November 2017, and he had a friend who owns a jewellers, so I contacted them to make a bespoke ring with a theme of bubbles – I was very impressed and pleased with what they came up with.
“That was the easy bit! There were so many potential problems with proposing underwater which resulted in several sleepless nights. Should I take the ring underwater or buy a much-cheaper version? Knowing Marnie’s attention to detail, I knew I wouldn’t get away with a cheap ring so I decided to take the real one.
“Security at both airports would be a problem as my carry-on bag always gets checked as I carry a lot of camera equipment with me, so twice I had to subtly remove the ring from pocket to hand luggage without Marnie noticing.
“When I got on the liveaboard I asked the guides where would be the best site to do an underwater proposal – they suggested the third dive on day three, as it was fairly shallow (12m) and not much current. Day three arrived and Marnie wasn’t sure if she could dive as she was having problems with her ears! Luckily for me, she did complete the dives. I smuggled the ring (in box, the jewellers gave me two!) into my dive gear, but forgot to write the question on the dive slate! Thankfully, Richard did this for me underwater. The plan was to do it halfway through the dive, however it was at this point I lost Richard and Hayley! They reappeared, Richard handed me the slate and gave me a nod of encouragement and I went for it. Hayley went to get Marnie by signalling that she had found a turtle, the irony being just after Marnie signalled ‘yes’ to the proposal, a turtle did actually turn up and photobomb the video!”
Marnie said: “I had no idea it was happening and can’t believe he organised everything without me knowing. I was totally taken by surprise! We then had a underwater kiss, as I realised I’d been shaking my head in disbelief and thought he might think that was a ‘no’ – the trials and tribulations of not being able to talk underwater!
“That evening on the boat Simon had arranged with the crew to have the champagne chilling. Blue O Two provided bubbles for everyone to share in the celebration and to toast our engagement (with 25 of us on the boat, that was a lot of bubbles!).
She added: “No plans for the big day yet – but we certainly have a idea of honeymoon destination now!”