One of the other instructors who I work with, Fernando, has also become a very good friend. He is also cave certified and although he has much more extensive experience of cave diving than I do, its been around the same period of time for both of us since the last cave dive.
The slow season is now upon us. We went from the hectic roller coaster of July/ early August, with 10-15 divers a day as well as tons of certifications to barely a couple every day at the pool. We're meeting to work out a pared down schedule which will mean we each only work 3 days a week, although I intend to work a few shifts in the dive shop.
Fernando and I got to talking on one of these slow mornings about cave diving. We've had these talks before and always decide to go but we never quite get round to it. This time I think we just might. He is in the process of getting his gear all set up and going to the mainland to pick up some equipment he has there, but I have everything all together. I also have a set of doubles that I bought off Hans when he left Playa which had yet used. Fernando and his friends did a lot of cave diving and I am concious that I will not be up to their experience level so today I decided to hop into my doubles and take myself for a test dive in the Ocean.
At first it was a little rocky (literally). Not as bad as the first time I put on a set of doubles, but I was very concious that my fin stroke was making my body seasaw through the water. I remembered that I hate my fins (I wear a full foot fin normally, but have paddle fins & booties for cave). They were pretty cheap (DEEP SEA) and they are an aweful fit. They really hurt the top of my foot. If I were really to get into cave diving I would have to buy a new pair of fins. I loved my old TUSA fins - they broke, but I would really like to replace them.
Of course, with double tanks, you have lots of air. I planned to dive on Villa Blanca Reef where I work, as I know it very well and its only around 20-30 feet deep. My plan was to spend the first hour playing around with my bouyancy/ trim and taking pictures with my camera. I then planned to do valve drills and run a line, like I would into a cave, with a primary, secondary and other tie off. I figured on being in the water for around 2 hours. My major limiting factor was most likely to be my bladder, as air supply and no decompression limits were unlikely to become problems.
That morning I'd been watching the latest Shrek movie. In particular the part where, Shrek is granted his wish of being a scarey Ogre again for one day. He tears around scaring people, knocking things over and playing in the mud, and the music playing in the background is 'On Top of the World' by the Carpenters. This is just about how I felt during my dive. I was able to stop and look at all of the creatures I see on my daily tous of the reef, pick up shells and look inside, and just enjoy not thinking about anybody else but me. Almost an hour had gone by before I stopped to look at the time - I also realized that for that whole hour I had done nothing but think about what I was doing right then and there. By this time my trim had become much more even. I made my way back to the area where I had planned to do my line drills. Reached down for my very expensive and extremely sexy Halceon reel and found that it was not there. 'HUmn' I thought, I was sure I'd attached it to my harness before I got in. Oh well, its probably on the bench. I went ahead and did my line drills using my spool. I did a couple of drills shutting down the right and left posts on my manifold (for people who dont dive - when you dive in double tanks its important, in an emergency, involving a tank malfunction that you can isolate and shut down the offending tank quickly and save your air supply in the ramaining tank). Easy peasy - its so easy to do valve drills in a wet suit after the torture of struggling through them in a dry suit with 7mm gloves on!!! Its difficult to do a share air drill on your own, but I practiced pulling my reg out of my mouth, slipping the long hose over my head and presenting it to an imaginary diver in frount of me, while switching to my back up.
When I got back to the dock, my husband informed me that my beloved reel was nowhere to be seen. Although I'd had to end the dive due to a rather pressing need to go to the bathroom I decided to go back. My desire to get out of the water to go to the bathroom necessitated a quick search. I followed my own dive plan out and turned back with no sign og the reel. I was just making peace with the situation (you never use that reel, you could always use your big, ugly, NJ wreck reel, of all of the valuable things I have this is one of the least useful etc..), when something made me turn my head to the left. There she was!! with her little pink bobble, which stops the line slipping through the bit on top. When I collected it I saw the hole where I'd stoped to photograph a lion fish - she must have slipped of her clip then. I was very happy and made it back to the dock having spent just 20 mins in the search and managing not to pee in my wet suit.
When I got out of the water my husband noticed that one of my back up lights had exploded - a small loss in comparison to my reel:)
So it was a nice dive and I feel much more prepared to go for an easy cave dive next week. We're planning to dive Aerlito and stay on the mainline - nice and simple. I think Fernando has it in his head that we might do a decompression dive as well, once we get out equipment all together - in the open water. I will be pleased to flex my decompression diving muscles again as well. My plan is to leave my dry suit in NJ sometime soon and dive the next time I am in NY for work. Maybe I'll invest in a small storage space. Oh I did have a wonderful day of diving today. Made me miss my old cave buddy Michele Carvale and Jose, Fernando and Hans.