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.