Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Move over Jacques!

Sunday started early as I had to be at the Dive Centre by 6:30am to pack the gear ready for day two. Funnily enough there was no leaving committee today… can’t blame them really… I’d managed okay the day before and came back safe and sane enough!

We were tagging onto a charter trip so would be going a bit farther a field for our next two dives. We arrived at the wharf and as we were unpacking a lady came and introduced herself saying she was going out on the charter. I thought that it would be nice to have some female company aboard and got quite a surprise when 3 more women arrived with dive gear! With only one guy booked on the charter the guys were outnumbered – something that has only happened to my instructor on one other trip!! It gave me quite a lot of confidence to have so many other female divers aboard.

We had a smooth trip out to Sail Rock. We saw several boil-ups where the gannets were working schools of fish that were being worked from below by dolphins. Some of the dolphins accompanied us for a while until they couldn’t resist the easy pickings any longer! We started gearing up as we got closer to Sail Rock so that we could jump in as soon as we could. The others all took off in various directions as we jumped in to complete weight removal and BCD removal at the surface. The water seemed extra cold as we jumped in and my heart started racing… first we had to remove and replace our weight belt, my hands were frozen and I had problems hanging onto the 14 kilos of led in the belt. Eventually I got it back around me but had problems again getting it done up tight enough… then we had to Remove and replace our BCDs … remember the problems I had in the pool? Add to that the extra 2 kilos in my weight belt, colder water, waves and a current… I really thought I wasn’t going to make it … I starting feeling a bit panicky and taking in water which did not help! Eventually I got into it, I asked the instructor if we would have to do it again – “Yep” ... I felt my heart sink… crap…. By this stage I felt exhausted and frightened, but worse than that, my confidence had taken a knock and I was starting to feel quite worried about the dive… Still, I wasn’t giving up yet… I may have wanted to cry but I still wanted to master this. In a way it didn’t help that Sail Rock itself seemed so foreboding up close… a massive pillar of rock rising straight up from the deep, the water was dark, cold and murky when we first started to descend. The current sucked at your energy… it was hard work just staying in the same place… how the hell were we going to manage down below? We worked our way down the anchor line, Phil seemed to be having trouble equalising and we waited a couple of times as he got comfortable. I looked around as we descended but all I could see was the green murky water, I was suspended in soup… when we got down to twelve metres our instructor signalled for us to follow him and we headed off into nothingness. All of a sudden we came up to the rock, a sheer wall, even under the water. Wow… even though the visibility wasn’t great we saw loads of different sea life, it was fascinating to see these things alive right in front of you instead of in a book or on TV. This was for real, you could reach out and touch these (if you were game enough). At one point the instructor pointed out something that looked like bunches of many white, gelatinous fingers attached to some kelp and swaying in the current… he told us later these were octopus eggs. We stopped for a few minutes to show that we could clear our masks and then do fin pivots by manually inflating our BCDs (blowing them up between breaths). Once that was out of the way we spent the rest of our air swimming down the wall to around 18 metres and working our way along and up. Very cool! When we got back to the surface it was still a bit choppy and I was surprised at how tired I felt… and we still had to make it back to the boat which was above us in the current…. Crap! I got a bit of a tow from my instructor as we worked our way along the rock until we were opposite the boat then swam back across the current… Phew!! I found it strange to feel so tired… despite the thrashing about to get our BCDs on at the beginning I didn’t think it had been that strenuous. Phil pointed out it was probably because there had been a bit of current… I had forgotten about that, you don’t have the same sense of the water motion when you are under it. We were treated to some warm soup as the skipper prepared for the next leg of the trip and spotted some seals lounging about on the rocks.

The trip across to the Hen and Chicken Islands was spent listening to the other women talking about their dive experiences. One woman was preparing to get her Divemaster ticket and have just returned from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia having done a 6 day, live-aboard dive trip. Two of the others had spent time diving in Thailand… very interesting to listen to… and inspiring! Maybe next time we stopover in Malaysia… well…slow down … I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself…

Our next stop was at Hen Island and by this time I had discovered that the only skills we had to demonstrate this dive was mask removal and replacement and a hover (suspended in the water without swimming and using lung control to maintain position off the bottom). HALLELUJAH!!! No BCD removal!!! I had spent the 10 minutes prior to arriving doing my happy dance!! Woooo hoooo!!! I couldn’t wait to get in…. this time we descended without a visual guide… no anchor rope, no wall… just sinking through the blue-green… what a bizarre feeling, nothing above, nothing below… eventually I made out the bottom and we “landed”. We got straight into the class tasks and then we went exploring… this was more like it! What a buzz! It was a really interesting bottom with lots of huge boulders and crevices… it was like fairyland and I was floating through it…. I had to try it…. I pointed my head downwards and did a sommersault… wheeeeeee!!! Ha-ha! It was all I could do to not laugh!! The instructor came towards me… I think he was worried I’d had an embolism… I gave him big a double handed okay signal and felt as though the grin was going to split my face open…. He nodded and okayed back….. This is more like it!! This is what everyone has told me about!! Wheeeeeeee!!! We were having a really good look around, no current so the going was pretty easy. I made a note to keep checking my gauges and looking for my buddy. At one point I looked back and couldn’t see Phil… What!! He was there a second ago!! I turned back in the direction we had come from and spotted a massive flurry or bubbles coming up from behind a rock… when I got there I found him grappling with a crayfish… Ha!! Got him… good on ya mate! I looked around for our instructor who had also doubled back. I snorted to myself… no laughing remember! Way to go Phil! We started heading off again when I got a tug on my fins… it was Phil… and his crayfish! He was making sure I’d seen it before letting it go again so that there would be no doubt when we got to the surface – he was assuring he had a witness!! The rest of the dive was great. We found a big nest of crays nestled into a crack in the rock… there must have been at least a dozen of them in there! Mmmmm! I got in a couple more somersaults …Wheeeeeee…. just so I could tell Tommy I’d done it… and because it was a cool feeling to be so weightless! Wheeee! Ha-ha!

Back at the surface I was buzzing…. I’d done it! I’d passed! I felt as though I’d been through trials of fire and survived! What a rush! From now on diving would be just that… and, God willing… I’ll never have to do another emergency procedure again!! Awesome!! Bring it on!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jumping in the deep end....

The alarm went off at 6:30 on Saturday morning so I got out of bed, turned on the jug and fired some bread in the toaster. I’d packed everything the night before so was pretty organised and didn’t have to race about… I wanted to keep the stress level at a minimum! The most surprising thing was Tommy getting up at that time of the day to see me off… Aaaaaww! What a love!!

I got to the dive centre by 7:30 to meet the instructor. We loaded up the tanks and gear and we were off. We were meeting Phil at Leigh and Heather would be doing her open water dives in Rarotonga so there would be just the two of us which would keep things pretty relaxed. We were going out on the dive charter boat Divercity and had the whole boat to ourselves… again, this kept the stress levels low! We togged up as the boat motored out from the wharf. As we were only a small group we wouldn’t be going very far which was all the same to us…

Our first dive was an orientation and to make sure we were comfortable in the sea. Bracing!! The water temp was 15Degrees and for a moment I regretted not wearing gloves but it didn’t take long before the water in the wetsuits warmed up and it got a lot more comfortable. Down we went…. Just like in the pool…. But deeper! Our instructor took us for a swim around pointing out various features, creatures and crayfish! At one point we were going up over a rock and all of a sudden I started heading for the surface… oh crap… I tried releasing air from the BCD but it didn’t seem to be working… double crap! I could see the fins of the others heading off as I continued to rise … I reached around to bang on my tank to alert them but a combination of my short arms and nothing solid to hit against the tank made that useless… so I tried clapping my hands but their fins were disappearing and I had arrived at the surface… Bugger! I could see the bubbles of the others and considered going back down but we had been taught that if we lost a buddy we should look for a minute and then surface, hopefully to find your buddy there. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before they realised I was gone but figured it wouldn’t be long and that I should just stay put until they surfaced. After a minute or two they popped up, I got a lesson in how to dump air from the BCD using the emergency exhaust and then we went back down for some more exploration until air started getting low. Then it was back to the surface to practise some skills like swapping from snorkel to reg, tired diver tows, cramp removal etc before getting back on the boat. We swapped our tanks over to full ones and were treated to a cup of soup.

Dive two involved a lot more lesson work, the first of which was probably the worst, a controlled emergency swimming ascent (CESA) which involved heading to the bottom and once comfortable taking a deep breath then without inhaling again (and exhaling all the way) kicking like mad to get to the surface. I got about 2 feet from the surface when I ran out of air to breathe out so had to kick like mad to get to the top…. Damn! Suck at that air!! I was worried that my lack of bubbles at the end would mean the instructor would think I’d taken a breath and wouldn’t pass me…. Please don’t make me do that again!! PLEASE!! Anyway, he said that I’d done it okay and it was on to the rest of the skills… Alternate air source use, regulator recovery, compass use underwater and at the surface, mask clearing, and fin pivots. I enjoy the fin pivots and other buoyancy control exercises as there is no rush to complete them and you get time to slow yourself down and have a look around. It was while I was doing this I discovered that laughing underwater is not advisable… as I was lying there doing my fin pivots a wee cod swam right up to my mask and peered in… I watched him and he watched me for a minute then it was like he cocked his head and gave me a look as if to say “What the @#$%^%$ are YOU?” … I couldn’t help myself and snorted out a chuckle which quickly filled my nose with water and made me splutter and cough into my regulator. The resulting bubbles scared the fish off and I learnt another valuable lesson... laughing underwater is hazardous to your health! We got to have a good look around, more crayfish, loads of interesting, weird and wonderful stuff to look at!! Awesome!!

The trip back is all a bit of a blur, between the sea air and all the mental and physical exertion I was exhausted... and I had yet to relay it all to Tommy who would want to know all about it!! Poor boy has been concerned that this has been the worst birthday present ever... I'd better relieve him of that notion!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Scuba rodeo... ride 'em!!

Tuesday was our last session in the pool so we covered off the skills that we had left to go over including removing all our scuba gear at the bottom of the pool and then putting it all back on again. Interesting exercise but we need to know this in case we ever get tangled in something... often the best solution is to remove it all in order to get loose again. This wasn’t too bad to achieve... not as hard as doing it at the surface!

On the surface you had to remove the unit without letting go... you still have weights on so letting go of the BCD and tank was not a good idea if you wanted to remain at the surface! No pressure (yeah right) but I was hanging onto that sucker with a death grip! You then had to let enough air out of the BCD so that you could manoeuvre it easily under the water and through your legs so that the jacket was behind you and you were sitting at the bottom of the tank, riding it so to speak. Then it was a simple matter of reaching back slipping your arms through the arm holes and sliding forward, off of the tank and ... voila... you’re in... hmmm... sounds simple doesn’t it?

Well I think I got a rogue tank! My first attempt I nearly got it, one arm through... yeah! ... then reach back with the other... whoooaa... whoa! Easy now... wooo-woooo-WHOOAA!! Splash!! DON'T LET GO!!! Kick-kick-splutter... hanging on with for dear life... Have another go. The second attempt the tank was onto me already and bucked me off in three seconds flat. By this time I was tired, cold and starting to cramp up from all that kicking to stay at the surface. I took a moment to rest and work the cramp out, the others in the class had completed this by then and were off out of the pool... Sheesh!! Okay... I have to do this... It’s the last task so I’m gonna do this if it kills me!! Well... not literally... Righto, the instructor checked the air in my BCD and let some more out. This of course made it a lot less buoyant and, as it turned out, a lot more compliant. Still I wasn’t going to muck about because I didn’t fancy being bucked off again!! Kick-kick-kick, wrangle that sucker... flip shove... Alright... I’m on! One arm... two arms, slide forward... lean back, velcro up, click the belly strap in, pull down the chest cords... I’m in!!! Yeeeehaw!! Another box ticked which of course meant I could get it off again and get out of the pool... Yes!

Thursday was the exam... I felt fairly confident about it. To pass you had to score 75% so we had to get 38 of the 50 questions right... no worries! Most of it was pretty much common sense and all throughout the course the instructor had continued to emphasis the important points both in and out of the water. I finished up with a score of 49 so was pretty chuffed with myself. I got a run-down from the instructor on what the plan was for the open water dives, what to bring, what time to meet and I was off!! Woohoo! Open water... here I come!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Everythings gonna be alright

Well... after the trauma of Tuesday and the absolute terror I suppose it was understandable that I was somewhat nervous about my next dive lesson on Thursday evening. I tried my best to keep all distressed thoughts out and to not think about it. By about 3 in the afternoon however my stomach had started to churn. I got home, took some rescue remedy and concentrated on quelling the uprising trepidation.
The theory part of the lesson took a bit longer because we were going over dive profile and calculating times and pressure groups etc from the dive tables. Eventually though it was time to gear up. I downed another dose of rescue remedy, suited up and headed for the pool. We assembled the tanks, BCDs and regulators then got all that on and went throught the predive buddy check (BWRAF... BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Final ok... OR... Bruce Willis Ruins All Films). Then in was time to enter the pool... Giant Stride ... splash!

A quick warm up around the pool snorkling... no signs of panic... good... thats good... Then practising various tired diver tows in case we ever need to assist getting a tired or incapacitated diver back to the boat or shore... no sweat... Then there was the cramp removal and assisting a buddy with cramp... again... No sweat!

Our instructor then explained we'd be going up and down to practice descents and ascents and also to do various activities on the bottom... okay... I can do this... remember to control my breathing.

The first thing to achieve was a fin pivot where we had to control our buoyancy with our breathe and BCD and prove we could remain neutrally buoyant. We did this using the auto fill on the BCD then again filling it ourselves by blowing into it... Once we did that it was off to swim around using these skills to keep us off the bottom... wow! this is cool! I feel so light and no resistance when I swim... look at me I'm doing this.... breathe in, go up, breathe out, go down... yippee!! We got the signal to head back to the top... Shit hot... that was easy! What's next?

Next we were practising using an alternate air source, something we had already tried, but this time we had to show we could swim with a buddy whilst doing this. To make the exercise more real our instructor was going to turn our air off... Excuse me? turn the air - the stuff I need to survive - OFF?? Oh crap! Okay, lets get this over with! It all went pretty well. My air was turned off, I signalled "Out of air" to my buddy then got hold of the alternate and went to put it in my mouth... that's when the instructor intervened and ripped it out off my hands!! Hey Fecker!! Give it back! I need that ... I need air... ohshit I need to breathe!! GIVE IT... oh... whoops I had it up the wrong way! He let me have it back and I plugged in as quick as I could ffffffffffffffffft.... aaaaaaaaaaah...... fffffffffft.... AMEN! So I came close to having a panic but got through it in the end.... I'm on a roll! Bring it on!

The next exercise was a bit more daunting. Whilst, apparently, it is unusual to have a gear failure we had to learn how to breathe from a free flowing regulator. This meant holding the mouthpiece at the corner of your mouth whilst holding the "purge" on (to simmulate the freeflow) and "sipping at bubbles" we were told, as if that was the most natural thing in the world to be doing. Alright for the instructor... he's done it a zillion times! Oh well we need to get all the boxes ticked to become certified and I figured I'd been through too much to let something as "simple" as sipping from random bubbles for 30 seconds on the bottom of the dive pool stop me! You'll be surprised how fast 30 seconds passes the instructor said... Yeah right! We were to practise on the platform until we felt comfortable. I put my head under, assumed the position and... sipped.... fff..fft... Woohooo! I got some! Not much but some! Try again... sippy, sip-sip... exhale... sippysip, gurgle splutter cough cough cough!! Oh crap! Try again... Sip, sip, aaaaah.... sipsippy.... aaah, sipsplutter... Doh! How the hell am I going to get through this? It was about then that I realised I wasn't holding the purge down hard enough so I wasn't getting full free flow. Lets, give this another shot... Sipwoooooosh... Wow!! The air practically blasts into your cheek and you just have to be careful not to breathe any water with it. After a few successful practise runs and everyone comfortable (or in my case just wanting to get this over with). We went back down to the bottom and one by one went through the drill while the instructor timed us. As I watched the others I was amazed at how long they were able to take exhaling and it seemed they they only had to take a couple of goes at sippysipping! I had figured I had a smaller lung capacity but could there be that much difference? Oh well... no point dwelling on that now because it's my turn now.... mouthpiece out... exhale, aaaaaaaaahhhh! Okay, sippysip, sip, sip... aaaaaaahhh.... sippysip... aaaaah.... sipsipsip, aah oh man... how much longer? sipsipspluttersip... the instructor signalled 3-2-1. Plug in... ffffffffffffft... AAAAAAHHH! I did it!! The instructor gave me the OK. Yeah!! If I can do that I can do anything! Yay Me!! Back up to topside.

The last thing we had to do in the pool that night was practise an emergency ascent... in case you air runs out and your buddy isn't close by (bad buddy!). All these emergency procedures must make you wonder (as I did) why anyone would ever take up such a dangerous pastime, one that required so much emergency training... well, according to the instructor you very rarely need to use any of these skills, but you need to know them just in case you are unlucky enough to get into a sticky situation. Better you should know how to deal with it than panic and drown... I have to say I would tend to agree... having no air in your tank is no time to decide to take a dive course!! So, to practise the emergencey ascent we had to swim without inhaling across the pool... well two thirds of the way... in comparison to the others this was a breeze! No problemo!! Hot diggety-dog!

I was soooo proud of myself at he end of the night! I could barely contain the relief at not having to deal with "The Terror" again! The sense of achievement was enormous, I had broken through the barrier and I was sooooo glad I had given it another shot!! As I was leaving my instructor said "You were doing well with your descents this weekend, you seemed alot more relaxed". I told him how close I had come to not returning but that I was glad I had and he gave me a hug... I bet you he knew that all along.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Forever blowing bubbles...

If I'd known just how hard doing a dive course would be I would never have started!! Here was me thinking "How bad can it be? Sure I'll be underwater but they teach you to breathe! All the floating about... It'll be great!".

Oh dear, how wrong was I?

Tonight was our second night in the pool... and I was still terrified! I had so underestimated the power of our inbuilt survival mechanism.... Instinct.

I had thought I was really relaxed tonight when we were setting up our gear and getting ready to get in the pool. In fact I was quite looking forward to it, after all what were the chances I'd have again have so many unexpected things happen that seemed so frightening my first time in the pool? And anyway I now knew what it felt like to be breathing below the surface... it was no longer completely new and so the fear of the unknown would be gone.

We'd talked through all the theory, discussed the homework and completed the test for the session. Even getting the wetsuit on did not seem to be such a struggle tonight... this was going to be a piece of cake! We assembled all the gear and practised the buddy pre-dive check then learnt to back roll over the edge of the pool... my entry was a bit inelegant but otherwise it was all good. We snorkled around the pool to warm up... That's when it began... About half way around the pool... I don't know if it's the water over my ears, having the mask on, or the "darth vader" sound effects breathing through a snorkle or regulator, or maybe I was still subconciously scared shitless... but the terror started creeping in. Whatever it was that triggered it, it started very quietly and insidiously - undermining my newfound confidence at an alarming rate... and I was not even doing something I considered "scary".

There was no logic to it, we were in a controlled environment with a trained instructor supervising our every move... even if something did go wrong it could hardly go dangerously wrong!! I think my fear was compounded by the fact I just hadn’t expected to be so scared again... I was scared that I was scared!! Jeez – how illogical is that? What a wuss!!

Anyways... I'd worked myself into such a state that when it was my turn to remove my mask for a minute under water I shook my head and gave the "trouble" signal. The next person took their turn while I contemplated standing up and just getting out, never to return... yeah... I could do that... and then the instructor came back and signalled to me that it was my turn... Feck... I figured I didn't want to make a scene so ripped my mask off and fought down the waves of panic. One minute under with your eyes closed (because of my contacts lenses) is a looooonnnnng time!! I got the tap on my arm that signalled I could put my mask back on and then we all surfaced... Crap... How could I run away after getting through that... I’ll wait until I get home then tell Tom I can’t do this anymore and then never go back!! Yeah... that's a better plan! Then I'll not have to deal with disappointing the class and the instructor, I'd never have to face them again... yeah... that's what I'll do... assuming I survive this lesson that is

The rest of the night was a roller coaster of dread with each new manouvre we were told to try, panic when it was my turn to execute the move and elation when I got through it to find I'd survived one more ordeal.

By the end of the night we were in the bottom of the pool and I was trying to use the time to get myself more relaxed... I was finally able to stop swimming in circles like a demented goldfish and I sat at the bottom for a bit looking up at the surface watching the bubbles. It's quite an amazing thing to be looking at the surface of the water from underneath... very different from the view topside. The colours and the light give it all quite a magical quality. I suddenly realised that my jaw was no longer clenched down on the regulator mouthpiece and was surprised by a quiet wee thought that popped into my head "Hmmmm... Yeah... I can see there’s a certain attraction in this".

...That’s when I knew I would be going back for the next lesson.

(...Still cried like a baby when I got home though. Excitement, terror, elation, tension, relief... After such an emotional roller coaster I think I was entitled to releasing my stress valve!!)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Turtles breathe through their butts....

... one of the infinate wee pieces of information you get glean from the emails that circulate... a fascinating peice of information don't you think?

So.... how was my first foray underwater for my dive course?

Oh Lordy... it was a bit... scratch that... it was exceptionally traumatic!!

First there was trying to get into the wetsuit... Cripes, that was a workout in itself. The only other female on the course slipped into hers like an eel in comparison to my pushing and prodding... a crow bar would have come in handy!! My... ummm... wide... legs meant the suit I had was a large... you wouldn’t know it but apparently if you wear a large you must be 15 ft tall... not 5ft4!! Gak!! Okay, so I exaggerate a little but you try moving about in a suit that is at least a foot too long in the legs!! When I got to the pool our instructor looked at me critically and said... "hmmm it seems to fit okay in some places... but others....?"
I thought he was referring to the crotch being halfway to my knees but he was more concerned about my "Bulky ankles"... like I said there was a lot more suit than I had legs!

It was the first time in the pool with all the gear on. They have a platform on the side where you practice stuff like clearing your mask and using each others regulators etc before we go deep. First our instructor had to put loads and loads of extra weights in me because every time I tried to kneel on the bottom I popped back up to the top like a cork. Then while the other 2 on the course were practising something I fell over of my knees and over onto my back... oh god... it was all like......

shit I’ve fallen over, under the water I can see the surface, aaarrrggghhh, I can’t get up, ok, ok don’t panic you can still breathe remember <> aaarrgghhh... I still can’t get up... aaargh!! Panic panic... NOOO! DON'T PANIC!! BREATHE!!!... what do I do?... ok... keep breathing... that's a good start! Someone will have to help me up... Breathe... breathe... Breathe... oh now the instructor is signalling to see if I’m okay... what’s the signal for "help me"?? Oh shit I cant remember... I can’t remember... and they sure as hell haven’t taught me the signal for... "Oh god I’m stuck on my back like some sort of deformed weeble-who-wobbled-and-DID-fall-down and I’m fucking terrified!!!"

I can laugh about it now but in the moment I was nearly shitting myself (except that the wetsuit was not mine so I had to restrain my bodily functions in that regard). After practising on the platform for about and hour and a half we went out into the middle to descend to the bottom. I was still feeling a bit shaky from the turtle incident (and it doesn’t help to hear turtles breathe out their butt... because I only LOOKED like a stranded turtle!! Butt breathing was NOT an option for me). I went down about 2 feet and AAAAAH!!! Wicked vicious cramp in my calf muscle... owie owie owow!! Managed to remember to signal I was going back up again... so felt as though I had progressed a little since my previous... er... misfortune accident. The instructor massaged (read "squeezed the livin’ shit out of") my leg then said "Right now? Okay lets go... if it happens again on the bottom point to your leg and I’ll massage it again"... HUH???... WHAT!!! You mean I have to stay underwater while I’m in major pain? Waaah I want my mummy!!

Once I’d been down for a minute or two (without the cramp returning) I started to relax a bit... (mental note... the regulator stays in your mouth without you having to bite down on it like a pitbull with lockjaw) ... okay... breathe... floaty... breathe... maybe this wouldn’t be so bad... floaty-float float...breathe... Ha!! I think I'm getting the hang of this... hang on... oh no!... Oh crap what’s that?... My flipper has fallen off! Here we go again!! Okay breathe, relax... there’s no way I’m going to get that back on underwater with all this gear on... not without doing the turtle thing and lying on the bottom... and how much fun will that be? Okay, for now lets just try and recover it and worry about getting it back on later... Kick (the remaining flipper)... zoom in a circle... Kick... zoom in a circle... Kick... (you get the idea...)
The instructor was busy watching the chap in our class practice clearing his mask... in the finish the other girl in my class saw my predicament and helped me out…. So I gave her a big doubled handed "OK" signal because thankyou is not in the sign vocabulary.

After that I managed to get through the further practice runs of "losing" the regulator and retrieving it as well as filling and clearing my mask without losing my shit yet again... So I guess some of the lesson had stuck to my brain! But I have to admit I was really quite relieved when we got the signal to ascend... If I say so myself I think I managed to ascend really well... but in hindsight I probably just didn't want to have to do a repeat perfomance if I mucked it up... I guess I was ready to get the hell out of there!!

I am hoping like hell that this is not someone telling me "Diving is not for you" and at this stage am putting it down to being so nervous. Hell, there is so much to remember... a bit like when you learn to drive... you have to know where everything is, how it works, when to use it, the signals and protocols, the check of gauges, watch the mirrors, watch out for others, look in the mirrors, not bunnyhop and look like a dick (Heh!)... except when you learn to drive a car you do not rely on tank with a hose attached to provide you with the vitals of life!!

Anyhow, I am pretty confident that it can only get better... And have my fingers crossed that all the scary things have already happened (bad things only happen in 3's - don't they?)... from here on it’ll be a piece of cake, a doddle, easy peasy... PLEASE GOD!!!