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Advanced Open Water: Success!

After several reschedules of the class, on October 24, 25 and 26 I finished up my Advanced Open Water checkout dives. I cannot even express how excited I am to have completed this milestone. I finally feel like I really get how diving in the Pacific Northwest can be so addictive. There’s so much awesome stuff down there, even when the viz is not great. And really, being warm for me is key to getting out there. All five of the dives I had the right gear on to come out of the water and be warm. That alone is a HUGE win.

I decided to use these dives to not only work on my checkout skills, but to practice being a good buddy. When we’re on vacation with a dive master, I’m a serious tourist under water. I stop and look at all the things because I am a Noticer. I see more nudibranchs and tiny interesting creatures than anyone else on the dive, but I’m also easily left behind because the group moves on while I’m watching something walk. So for the class, I was super diligent about making sure that all the buddy touchpoints were hit and that I tried to be in good buddy formation. It wasn’t easy – my designated buddy had just been Open Water certified and was still getting the hang of being under water at all. This made it harder to keep checked in, but also underscored how much I’ve learned and how much better I am at this now than even 10 dives ago.

October 24 Mukilteo T-Dock

Dive 29: Navigation

Some early drama on this dive – we bought dry gloves but had no good instructions on how to install them. I could feel the water seeping in through one while we were standing around with folks getting fins on. I tell you what, I will never go back to fins without springs. Those are the best invention ever for making the shore to dive transition speed up. But honestly, I’m glad it took so long for the others because otherwise I would have been freezing. Fortunately I had support staff (my husband) on hand to help with a quick seal change out and had backup gloves with me. Save-A-Dive kits really do work, and fallbacks for new gear should absolutely be included.

The drama and effort of getting that changed out set me to breathing hard by the time I got back in the water, but I just waited and relaxed a bit and then it was cake. Our instructor added a couple of pounds to me and explained that the light weights I was hoping for were not only slowing my initial descent and making it harder, but also causing the corking at the end of the dive that I have seen while trying to dial in my tropical dive weight.

There was really nothing to see on this dive since it was all shallow and churned up by us starting and stopping our work. Lots of tiny little segments at the surface and shallow diving just showed off the rocky bottom.

Dive 30: Peak Performance Buoyancy

For PPB we went down to the Geodome and swam through the components, controlling our buoyancy at differing depths. This was really hard considering I’m still getting used to the drysuit, but fantastic experience. I am so glad we did the dive there instead of down at Alki where there’s very little to work with to practice precision. Also, kelp crabs are fun to watch when they’re doing their thing.

I just want to emphasize again that I came out of both dives warm, and had no issue getting on my glove either time. I left feeling AMAZING. I did, however, eat a ton and then take a nap for two hours.

October 25 Mukilteo

Dive 31: Deep

We didn’t go terribly deep during this dive. I was hoping for the full 100 feet, but that just didn’t happen. It was tough to get organized and the silt was pretty bad at shallow depths. But this site always clears out about 30 feet or so, the rivers just make the top layer a mess. It was pretty interesting how quickly the water temperature changed, and I was able to practice more on my buoyancy. Having all 6 of us together turned out to be a mess as we were to crowded together and kept bumping around.

Dive 32: Naturalist

Again, all 6 of the students and 2 instructors. I kept a bit apart this time and it was less painful with everyone else around. Didn’t get to see as much, but it was easy and quick.

October 26 Mukilteo

Dive 33: Night

Oh, the night dive. After 2 days of diving, working all day and then sitting in traffic we went diving. My husband cam along, which was fun. We both got to suit up together for the first time since spring. I had forgotten how slow the husband is to get ready, so that’s a good thing to know for the future. There may be some additional things that I can do for him to speed up the process of getting in the water.

We finally got in, down past the crappy silty layer, and headed back out to the Geodome. There was enough current and my short F2 fins weren’t really up to the job so I was working really hard to keep up. It turns out that I’m fine with night diving, but working hard means I suck down air too fast and it messes with my brain. The rest of the group managed to completely circle the Geodome before I got half way to the turn that would have let me coast the back side. So I did the smart thing and turned around to meet them instead of fighting my way along the path they’d taken. I realized that the level of effort/oxygen was messing with me and spent the rest of the time being very mindful of my mental state.

We were poking around looking at things when I suddenly realized my right fin had taken off. I used my light exactly the right way (later confirmed by our instructor) and got his attention to show him my exposed boot. It took longer than I like to admit for me to figure out he was trying to get me to kneel in place so he could go look for it. So the group hung out while he’ tried to rescue my fin. There was a little hermit crab making his way somewhere Very Important while we waited, but the current had eaten my fin. Swimming with just one fin and a diver assist is a very weird experience. But we made it back up and in to shore without any additional drama. And I’m now the proud owner of long split fins for better local diving.

  • Gear
    • drysuit
    • steel short tank
    • heavy duty neoprene hood and gloves
    • F2 fins
    • 28 pounds (4 on the back)
    • Ziegler Ranger BC
    • molded mouthpiece (still loving it)
    • tights, polypropylene socks, wool socks and polypropylene pants
    • 2 layers of polypropylene shirts, my heated shirt (which I never turned on), long sleeve tshirt
    • flannel undergarment
  • Dive 1
    • 54F
    • Max depth: 20 feet
    • 20 minutes
  • Surface Interval: 1:13
  • Dive 2
    • 55F
    • Max depth: 66 feet
    • 23 minutes
  • Dive 3
    • 54F
    • Max depth: 76 feet
    • 24 minutes
  • Surface Interval: 1:02
  • Dive 4
    • Max depth: 58 feet
    • 19 minutes
  • Dive 5
    • 55 F
    • Max depth: 54 feet
    • 23 minutes
Crossposted from Journey to the Center, comment here or there with OpenID.

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Congrats! And doing your advanced in dry suits is extra tough so bonus points to you!

I lost a fin on the entry to diving the Thistlegorm in Egypt. There were currents so the DM was super insistent on descending the second we hit the water. He was sort of scary so even though my fin flopped off I just went down and did the entire wreck dive, at 32 meters with current, with one fin. The video is hilarious - all these super relaxed divers then I go by flapping around with one fin.

Oh wow, that sounds like a crazy challenge! I can't imagine being able to maneuver in those conditions with just one fin.

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