Sunday, July 10, 2011

All Wet/Sea of Memories II

Night diving is not my forte’. The ocean is dark enough in California with a mere 30’ of visibility underwater on a GOOD day. I like to know what is swimming next to me, or more importantly, behind me, if at all possible. We did carry underwater flashlights, but honestly the only thing it illuminated for me was that I do NOT like night diving!
The only benefit to night diving (as far as I am concerned) is lobster hunting. Lobsters come out at night, as opposed to staying in their little ‘caves’ where they tend to co-habitate with Moray eels. Believe me, you don’t want to reach in after a lobster and come back with one of those attached to your arm. They are like legless pitbulls on steroids.
If any of my friends or family want to dive at night and lobster hunt, I will gladly melt the butter and wait up for them.

Our qualifying night dive was at 80', which is two+ atmospheres of pressure, There were several divers. Because of the darkness, I was kicked in the head several times by big old flippers and I don’t even know WHO kicked me. It wasn’t much fun. The instructor wrote a couple of things on a board for us to respond to and that was pretty much it. I just wanted OUT of the water.

Next we headed to Morro Bay to do a ‘rescue’ scenerio on a ‘beach dive’. There are reasons I don’t like beach diving. Sand in your shorts is one thing, but a wet suit full of it is quite another! We were split up into teams and one half was to go out and float face down, ‘unconscious’ while the other half swam out to rescue them and swim them back, all the while giving mouth to mouth.

My husband was the victim…so they say. (Don’t believe it)  I swam a ways  out to rescue him, got him flipped over onto his back, and struggled to drag him back to shore while respirating him, only to find that my $100 facemask AND my snorkel were now somewhere at the bottom of a muddy and zero visibility Morro Bay. I seriously thought about swimming him back out and leaving him where I found him, because his snarky attitude already told me it wasn’t a good trade.

Somewhere in between all this we took a dive weekend with our friends again. We went out hunting abalone this time. The guys brought their spear guns for fishing, as it was easy to limit-out on sheephead bass, which are an excellent eating fish. I didn’t like diving with spear hunters, mostly because all the fish tend to leave the vicinity. I like to sightsee.

The ‘boys’ went their direction and we went ours. I had my ‘ab’ bar and a sack. I forget how many abalone were the limit. It was 8 or 4, or something like that. We lucked out and dropped right down on a huge bed of abalones. My friend grabbed the bar and started popping abby’s off, right and left, and sticking them in my sack. I think there were 13 of them in there, and it was getting difficult to swim with all the weight. I wondered when she was going to stop, as I was certain we had more than our allotted share. She seemed crazed and I remembered the look she gave me on our qualifying dive and began to suspect she was trying to drown me.  Abalone is a big muscle. They attach themselves to large rocks and just sit there and breath. You have to be quick to get the bar under their ‘foot’ and pop them loose before they clamp down, or there is no getting them off. I grabbed my bar, and with my lightening reflexes, I watched my ab slam down on it. I wrestled and struggled awhile and I finally added the ab bar to my list of scuba equipment that is still, to this day, at the bottom of the sea. When we got back up on the deck, my friend showed her husband the results of our abalone hunting. He ranted and whined, miffed that HE didn’t get to find his own, so... she threw 4 of them back overboard and told him to "go get 'em." I don’t think that was the response he expected.

We had our own equipment, new BC’s and I got a new ‘ladies’ slim-line tank. It’s much narrower than regular tanks, and not quite as heavy. We had another qualifying dive coming up on Wednesday, so Tuesday I got all our stuff out on the bed and got ready to pack it in our dive bags. I put my tank on the vest and went to slip it over my back when “WHAM” a searing pain shot through me like I had been pierced by a bayonet. Things did not improve over the next few minutes and when the family found me laying on the floor, wearing pajamas and a diving vest, it was decided I better make a quick trip to the chiropractor. I had a pretty much open account with him as something was always in the wrong place.

He x-rayed my back and found a badly bulged disc. He put ice on it and clued me that I would be looking at probably at least a couple of weeks of bedrest, with regular appointments for therapy. Insisting I HAD to make this dive, he kept me 8 hours alternative ice and heat, and the next day they threw my tanks and BCvest in the water and I suited up there. The weightlessness of the ocean and the atmospheric pressure of the dive did more towards healing my back than the two weeks of rest ever could. It was a good decision.

When scuba diving, you must log your dives, the depth of your dive and the length of the dive underwater, in case you absorb too much nitrogen in your body and have to make a decompression stop. Otherwise you get the bends which is horribly, terribly, awfully painful, or so I hear. I prefer to err on the side of caution. Yes, I really do. I know you probably don’t believe me, but its true. In spite of all the accidents and injuries I have incurred, I would not have survived if I wasn’t cautious.

Father’s Day rolled around and being the nice family that we were, me and the boys, (I hear my English teacher sister correcting that…the boys and “I”) got their dad a brand new wetsuit. It was sharp looking, and nifty.
Our next dive I had a new regulator and depth gauge. We made our first dive at only about 35 ft. It was beautiful, there were all kinds of neat little silvery fish, an octopus, several ‘sea cucumbers’ which are kind of well…offensive looking. There were a couple of spider-crabs which gave me the willies, and some really nice, large turban shells on the bottom. You know all those cute little shells you find on the beach? Well, at the bottom of the ocean they are NOT little and according to my experience, they are also rarely vacant. I used to collect them for my kids. Once, when getting back on board with my shell, a little tiny octopus came slithering out of it and landed in the palm of my hand. He looked like a little cartoon. I felt bad so I dropped him back in the water. His name was “Squishy” Sadly, a school of sheephead found him. Poor little guy.

Anyway, our second dive that day I was sure, was much deeper. We descended until it was fairly dark, and my ex wanted to take the lead. I always felt a lot more nervous when I was behind, since you don’t have rearview mirrors when you dive and no one would notice if I disappeared. There wasn’t a great deal of trust here. After all, he did know my friend and I believe he could be bought. It became increasingly darker in the kelp forest and I checked my depth gauge…it said 30’. Surprised, as I thought it felt more like 60’,I shrugged to myself and continued on, legs waving rhythmically as we cruised through the water. Out of the kelp it became brilliantly light. Suddenly, my ex did an about-face and kicking furiously, ZOOM! He darted past me and was out of sight.
Panicked now, I could only imagine what he’d seen that elicited that kind of a violent reaction. There are many great whites off the coast of California, since they enacted the harbor seal protection act. There have been various attacks on humans, which are rarely reported. I was certain he’d seen one and left me to be an appetizer. I saw nothing but also turned and began kicking furiously, heading for what seemed the safety of the kelp forest.

I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized, I wasn’t moving. My legs were pumping like pistons but I wasn’t getting ANYWHERE! I visualized one of my fins in the mouth of a leviathon and I resigned myself to my fate, which is probably a good thing, because sometimes apathy makes you think a bit more clearly. I realized that nothing had a hold of me and as I twisted myself around and looked back, I realized the reason I wasn’t going anywhere was because my feet and flippers were OUT OF THE WATER! I looked at my depth gauge again and it still said 30’. I righted myself, only to see a bunch of folks on board the boat already, waving and laughing. Checking my gauge once more, I saw that I had forgotten to reset it to zero, and the tab that reads where the deepest point of my last dive was still at 30’. I also saw that my tank was about empty, because…as I mentioned previously, panicking makes you suck all the oxygen out of your tank.

Swimming back to the boat over the top of the kelp beds wasn’t much fun, but it was a lesson learned. That was also when my new ‘slimline’ tank decided  it didn’t properly fit my BC and came off, attempting to drag my regulator and depth gauge back down to the bottom with it. I got to ‘rescue’ my tank, and swim back with it, while respirating myself, this time.

My partner explained his quick turn around and departure. His new wet suit was too buoyant and he didn’t have enough weight on his belt. As we got shallower, he had to dive deeper because the suit was sucking him toward the surface.

The experience had an impact on my diving. Later that day, they set up a scenerio for our last test before being certified as a Rescue diver. We were to play ‘dive master’ in hypothetical situations and coordinate rescues. This is the scenerio they gave me, and how it played out:

Instructor: “You are dive master, there is a diver 100 yd out who is the victim of a shark attack. All other divers are underwater. How are you going to coordinate the rescue?

Me: “Uh..uhm…we’ll drive the boat over next to him and pick him up.

Instructor: “You can’t do that, you have to swim out and rescue him”

Me: “NO, I don’t. Then there would be TWO people eaten by a Great White and they will still have to drive the boat up next to him. He’s probably already gone because you have been here arguing with me. Now we just have to drive by and gaff him.”

Instructor: “You aren’t going to jump in the water?”

Me: “Nope.”

I failed. I think my ex got some ridiculous, easy scenerio, such as someone throwing up chowder or something. I’m pretty sure it was rigged.

Cont. sometime later, eventually

No comments:

Post a Comment