January 28th, 2011


PADI (scuba) Open Water Certification day 2

Today was the first of two days of "open water dives" I need to do in order to complete my PADI open water diver certificate. I had some wonderful shooting pains in my bad ankle first thing; it's like some piece of it (a tendon? a ligament?) wraps around the bone and doesn't want to go back to where it belongs. It only happened twice, though, and not after I'd left the dive center, so yay for that but boo for my shitty ankle in general.

We were picked up at the hotel by the folks from Big Blue; I was really glad I was running around like crazy on Wednesday trying to fnish getting this set up, as the result was that upon arrival at the hotel I had a message saying the driver would be there at 8 AM the next day - and he was. J decided to go for a "intro to scuba" thing (not the "scuba diver certiifcate" I'd suggested, which meant he didn't have any more things to do after he'd finished his one dive), so we both wound up heading to the same dive site together after our equipment fittings and orientation. My instructor was "Walid," who's a master instructor or some such; I was, to my later relief, the only student. We went over what I'd learned in my class for a while; some of the things I hadn't done, like learning how to figure out how to properly weight yourself. I seemed to remember a fair bit, but there was clearly a lot further to go.

The skills for the first dive were: remove and replace breathing regulator (emptying the water out of it before you breathe); remove the regulator, toss it over your shoulder, and "recapture" it using a sweep; "pivot" (achieve neutral bouyancy so you go up as you inhale and go down as you exhale) in 6 meters or so of water. My problems were that I was using my arms too much, messing up my bouyancy; I kept swimming sideways when I was on the surface; and I wasn't getting into the right position when I was letting air out of my floatation device (I needed to be pointing up so the bubbles came out of it easily). I was also struggling (thinking) about how to get the right amount of air in my floatation device; oddly, as you go lower, you have to add more air so that it counteracts the greater pressure of the water. Boy, gosh, doesn't that all sound so simple, only what was happening as I started was that I was bouncing around in the water desperately trying to maintain my balance as I failed to get my flippers on, then I was freaking out about my mask again and failing to get into a calm headspace. Waves were making a lot of difference (and really, the water was calm, but just being pushed around was really different than being in a pool), but I had another irritating mask problem. This time it didn't seem to sit on my face right, and I felt like it was being blown around when I exhaled. My instructor was saying I was actually doing a good job of breathing well and mostly holding my position well when I was swimming, and I was getting panicky for no reason at all. He said the cure for feeling panicky was to just get swimming, as it gets you distracted and also gets you out of the surf and into the quieter water. He was holding onto my arm for rather a lot of this, and I did really get caught up in the "ooh ahh" of it all when we went through a school of very tiny yellowy-orange fish. I saw, over the course of the day, trigger fish, parrot fish, a black angel fish (I think), a puffer fish (not sure what kind), and lots of other things including loads of beautiful coral (fan, brain, purple, etc). But, unfortunately, I got cold again; not what I wanted.

We surfaced and I felt kind of out of breath and chilly, and even though it's probably fairly warm here it took me forever to warm up after the dive. My stomach felt very empty and I tried to put a little food in it but then it turned out that, er, it appeared to be a lot more nausea rather than hunger. In fact, based on my overall reaction, I seemd to be dealing with a huge blast of adrenaline that had left me chilly, ill, and a little light headed. I think we sat there for an hour while I continued to contemplate just calling it done and waving bye-bye to my 160 euros (as I thought at least three times the first time out). J was just hanging out on a couch under an umbrella in a surf-side restaurant (Bedouinsons) and was happy to sip my unfinished banana shake while I went back in; he'd got a nose bleed on his trial dive (in his mask, yuck) so he wasn't in a rush to do anything much else.

On my second dive I had to redo my other skills as "for reals" for the test part for the certificate, but with some other more active (and new) things. First, I had to show I could blow out a snorkel tube (had lots of practice doing that in real life so easy); then switching between snorkel tube, regulator, and tube again (cleaning the water out of both of them before each try). Then it was "tired diver" exercises, consisting of the tow (which I had done before) and the "push" (with their fins on your shoulders, in both cases first task is to ask them to "inflate your BCD!"). Then we were scheduled for "emergency ascent, share your air, share my air" but I really just got confused about what we were trying to accomplish as we sat under water holding onto a rope attached to a surface bouy; was he saying I was supposed to give him my air, or was he still going over the steps of the emergency ascent (the "CESAR," controlled emergency something something, you have to do it on one breath of air then inflate your BCD at the surface using your breath instead of a tank)? He got frustrated that I'd got confused, but my head was just packed and I didn't really know if we were doing things in order or not. And then after we finally did this one I did the "water in mask when you're deep underwater;" he didn't like how I was letting water into the mask (he preferred from the top instead of the bottom), pulled it so a BUNCH of water got in (eyes ow!) and while I was trying to clear out seemingly gallons of water, I wound up breathing some in. Poor, poor job, me, but I just wasn't expecting what he was doing and it upset my mental picture of what was going on enough that I got a snortful of seawater. I managed to cough myself out without surfacing, which was probably good, but damn I had a good time not just heading for the surface and where my head thought safety was.

After this disaster (I failed that part of the test and have to redo it tomorrow, I will have to ask him to please not touch my mask) we had another swimaround, working on controlling my bouyancy, seeing pretty fishies, and trying to get my head together. I was also getting cold again and keeping my arms crossed over my chest not because it was his recommended position (I prefer to swim with my arms straight down to my crotch) but because I was trying to conserve heat. We then went back to this sandy bank and did the "three minute wait" thing (guesture: flat hand with three fingers pointing up to it from below, kind of like a table), then did "other person out of air, give them your extra regulator" followed by "pretend you're out of air, borrow your buddy's regulator." We then made it back to shore where Jason had just ordered some fresh (and far too salty given what I'd just swallowed) tahini, and after I'd done the "close your tanks" exercise, Walid said he'd clean the gear off at the dive center if I wanted to just leave it as his car was showing up in about 5 minutes. And really, I was more than happy to let him do so (despite feeling like I was lazing out on my duties), as I was just exhausted and wanted only to eat and sit in the sun for a long time.

Oddly the first dive was all of about 40 minutes and I suspect the second one was similarly short. When we made it back to the hotel, we dug into the buffet, showered, and then I collapsed and slept for at least an hour, only really emerging at sunset. Tomorrow I only have four skills (plus one make up) to practice during my two dives, which will take place near the Blue Hole (it's famous). J will come with us and do snorkeling. I'm hoping it's all painless and that I'm mentally in better feather than I was today. I can only think of one of them, which is "remove your mask underwater," doubtlessly something I'm really going to enjoy based on my most recent experience getting shit out of my mask, but, well, at least I know I can work through it this time if I inadvertently get water in my lungs again - which I'd really NOT like to do given it will mean I've failed the certification. Pick up tomorrow is at 9, which means I'll feel like I've slept in.