Monday, January 29, 2007

Diving in Holland!

Well it took long enough! When I returned home from vacation, 6 weeks ago, getting into the water to dive in Holland was on the top of my to-do list. Thankfully, after many false starts with cancelled dives, no ride, and inconvenient clubs I think I have found my new dive club, and a regular way to get wet.

Wet? Well, dry actually. IMHO, entering the water here in January absolutely requires a dry suit. And even then the environment and conditions still make it a challenge to 'dive and survive'.

Yesterday's dive will be one of my more memorable ones! The bad dives always are. *pause* No, not "bad". Let's say, very "educational". Because after many many dives in lovely warm water it's a real and true challenge to jump into cold mud.

At the surface, I and my two dive buddies swam out to deeper water. When the time came to descend, we were all about 1 metre apart from each other. But under the surface the visibility was significantly less than 1 metre. Staying together was an incredible challenge in itself! I had to surface twice just to find the other divers.

Once down a few feet the conditions quickly changed to night. This meant diving with lights which thankfully makes it easier to find each other. Follow the dim glow.

But no matter how hard I tried, following was not something I was able to do well. After about 10 minutes I realized there was too much air in my dry suit. I changed from a horizontal to a vertical position to vent the excess. And in doing so I once again lost my buddies. But far worse, the bottom's shades of night were rapidly changing to hints of daylight and then bright light. I was ascending! The air in my suit expanded as I rose, pulling me up. All the while I was grabbing the air vent in my suit, trying to slow myself down.

As I passed 5 metres depth my computer reminded me to make a safety stop. Ha! At 3 metres it let me know I had missed stopping. And when I breached the surface I realized that I wouldn't be going back down for a third attempt. One rapid ascent after a short time diving won't hurt you. Two might. So after ascending quickly from 12m depth to the surface, I was done for the day.

My dive buddies joined me at the surface and I let them know I was calling my dive there and swimming back to the shore.

I think what I learned yesterday is truly valuable stuff. First and foremost, cold cold water and low visibility are a challenge, and they should be approached with respect. Secondly, I learned that my calculations of weight requirements are terrible. I made a good scientific estimate of the amount of lead I would need, and got it totally wrong. The extra effort of swimming to stay down quickly tired me out and made controlling my ascent nearly impossible. And lastly, I need ankle weights. Dry suits trap air in your legs & feet and can thus leave you upside down in the water. Ankle weights help hold your feet down and prevent the problem from occurring.

All in all it was a great day! The preparation, anticipation, travel, camaraderie, and the diving were great. But I'm also thankful I made my mistakes when few people were there to see them! Low visibility takes getting used to, cold water takes getting used to, low light/darkness takes getting used to. Put the three of them together (for the first time in a while) and any diver should expect a steep learning curve.

I'll go out with the club again next weekend. And hopefully with more success and far more comfort and confidence. In the mean time, may all your "educational experiences" happen in the safety of shallow water!


quilldancer said...

Hey, Morgan -- steep learning curves are a good thing. They keep us humble -- and help us grow wisdom. You'll have a better dive next time because you'll be better prepared.

narcosis in paradise said...

Morgan, I would suggest that when using you dry suit you should only have a small amount of air in it ( just enough so the squeeze doesn't leave welts ) always be aware of the depth you are at (11m vent your suit completely) use the BC for bouyancy control. I only add enough air to the dry suit to be comfortable, even at 16m I don't have any air in there, below that I do seem to get a bit more squeeze that one can reasonably tolerate. Try this method and let me know how you make out. :-) W