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!!