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!!

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