Tales from a new diver…21 dives later (Part 1) 30 June 2008

new diverI miss the Beautiful Bonaire reefs already. I guess you can tell, since I did TWENTY-ONE DIVES on my very first six-day trip, I like scuba!

Background: As some of you may know, I dived in 2000 in Hawaii with Lester, and while he had found *his* sport, it spooked me. And while he has since become Master-Diver certified and finished over 350 dives, I kept saying “not yet, not yet…I’ll go up in the mountains and you can go down in the ocean.” But an amazing invitation came along last year, to go diving for a month in Indonesia this August with two other couples, and he asked me if I would consider trying it again. Taking a deep breath, I said yes!

So, to prepare for getting my Open Water certification, I did two evening classroom sessions (scoring 100 on the written reviews!) and SIX separate pool sessions, all with my superb instructor, Ellie. I felt ready. Then literally as soon as we arrived in Bonaire, on Saturday evening, we did our first open water dive. The first one was not scary, but a little nerve-wracking. I remember wanting to stay *really* close to Ellie, and being startled to realize I was 35 feet deep so quickly, over the reef angling down at about 75-80%. Looking back (at my dive log book), I am delighted at how *much* we saw on those very first dives… 2 turtles, scorpion fish, spotted moray eels, an eagle ray!, French angels, queen angels, flounder, trumpetfish, smooth trunkfish (below), trunkfish ‘sexy’ damsels (swimming frantically to protect their eggs on a rock face), butterfly fish, and Ellie’s favorite, tiny yellow-headed jawfish wearing delicate bridal veils, and more I cannot remember…all right off the dock on Buddy Reef. We did all the same skills we practiced in the pool – cramp removal, tired diver tows, snorkel/regulator exchange, buoyancy practice, surface swim with compass, underwater navigation, removing and replacing all gear, and most important, ‘controlled emergency swimming ascent’. So I got officially certified!

Now back at home, my hands are nut-brown (below the crooked line on my wrist where my dive skin stopped – how convenient – the reverse of a cyclist’s tan!), and sore. I would never have imagined that as a result of a dive trip. I have always teased Lester for being tired and moving slowly when he comes home after a dive trip, assuming that he really wasn’t working that hard…you know – just floating around in the water? But I now admit, it is a LOT of work. It took me 3 days after the trip to feel sort of ‘normal’ again. He says he thinks the residual nitrogen takes awhile to dissipate. And I guess my hands are sore from constantly lifting the 30+ pound tanks 15-25 times a day, using the analyzer, turning the air valve on and off, and lugging around all that other heavy equipment, then rinsing off every last piece and hanging it all up after multiple dives each day – geez! Yes, a LOT of work.

Neutral buoyancy…riiiiiiiight!

Even floating at ‘neutral buoyancy’ under water can be a lot of work, if you are new at it. On Monday afternoon (Day 3), after finishing my four Open Water dives on Sunday and then 3 more boat dives, we did my first walk-in shore dives. Except there was no ‘walking in’ on this first one! ‘Oil Slick Leap’ involves a drop of what looked like 15 FEET!! (but was really only about 10 feet) into the water from a cliff (yes, with all that equipment on). The ‘leap’ wasn’t so bad – I actually did my ‘giant stride’ (the proper term and technique – NO jumping or leaping is involved actually) from the ‘women’s tee’ at about 8 feet; shame on me!

For this dive I had switched to my heavier shore booties for the very first time, which have lots of neoprene and rubber, so are much more buoyant. Even after 30 minutes in the water, I could not seem to get control of my feet/fins – they kept flopping all over the place underwater, mostly above me – what a hoot! (…though at the time I was *quite* frustrated and a little anxious, because I could NOT get comfortable in the water.) Us!But I had also added two more pounds of weight (trying it to see if it would help me stay down when my air was almost gone), so between that LEAP and being distracted by the current and the coral landscape and so many dive companions and especially my **floating feet**, I didn’t realize that I just wasn’t buoyant enough during the first half of the dive. When I figured that out, I was fine.

Here is my ***favorite*** dive buddy, in his new, black pirate do-rag! —————–>>>