Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunday's Dive

For the second weekend in a row, the weather in Holland was perfect! Summer is upon us, and this past Sunday I and 3 friends took advantage of it and blew bubbles.

Adam, Carlos, Tobias and I arrived at the parking lot at Vinkeveense Plas at 2pm. Perfect timing to find a spot left empty by early morning divers. By 3pm the spots were all gone again as a second wave of divers and sunbathers moved in. But by then we were almost suited up and in the water.

My computer recorded 15:35 as the time we finally dunked our heads and stayed down. Adam had already been cooling in the water for 20 minutes. Tobi was busy arranging his equipment until that last moment. And Carlos was just happy he made it into the rented wetsuit. It was a tight squeeze, but it kept it warm (and almost dry) throughout our dive.

We started by walking down the stairs into the water and dawning masks and fins. From that point, it's 330 degrees magnetic to meet up with the first rope that leads around the dive park. We paired up and I watched the compass as well as Carlos and Tobias while we swam to the sunken bus.

I love the bus. It's great training for becoming comfortable with small spaces and confined openings. The windows and doors have been removed, and three large holes take half the roof. Inside, seats have been removed, except for the drivers seat which is occupied by a manikin. Beside the "driver" stands a large garden gnome, looking unusually cheery for such a dark dirty place. In case the gnome isn't incongruent enough, on the dash sits an old VHS VCR.

We left the bus and went east to the skiff. Half barge, half boat, this sunken treasure is a step darker and tighter inside than the bus. A step more fun to be inside. Although as the leader of our group I didn't think it was appropriate to duck inside.

A specific goal of our dive was to spend a bit of time in the colder, darker waters below the thermocline. So I turned away from the ropes and sunken toys and brought the group into deeper water. At about 11m the thermocline, a stratified division between water at different temperatures, became visible. A ghostly line of silt hovers just above the line that divides the two layers of water. During summer months, the denser cold water doesn't rise and mix with the sun-heated water above it.

Not only can you see it, but the moment you pass below a thermocline you can feel it on every bit of exposed skin. For me that was my hands, my face beyond the mask, and my entire head. In seconds the temperature changed from 19C to 13C.

We hung out and enjoyed the refreshing darkness. For both Carlos and Tobi is was the first time they'd dove in properly "cold" water. It's a shock at first. But you quickly realize that while some bits of skin are cold, your body is kept warm by the suit. Intrepid divers are rewarded for their tolerance of the cold by clearer waters and better visibility. The diminished daylight, due to all the silt in the warmer water above, adds an interesting touch. My light was useful, although not necessary.

Two minutes was about all it took for the "experience". We turned around and swam upwards and towards the ropes again. Passing back through the thermocline is like stepping into a shower. The water feels so warm it instantly relaxes and comforts. And above the suspended line of silt the sun returns. It is a definite point above you in the sky, rather than a diffuse glow.

We ended up near the giant drain pipe. Nearly 2m wide, round, and 5m long, the concrete sewer pipe is a great "swim through cave". No entanglement worries or true dangers, it helps divers build their confidence and skills by swimming the length of it without touching the sides.

Carlos and I enjoyed swimming through the giant pipe.

But then it was time to head back. We weren't far from the exit and following the ropes back past the skiff and bus makes it so easy to pop up in just the right place. Navigation is one of the skills I hope to soon teach to Tobias and Ingrid for their Advanced OW Course. At this dive site students can not only practice compass work, but clearly and immediate see it's value in becoming a better diver.

Popping up at the stairs, we'd spent 41 minutes in the water and had been to a depth of 13.5m. Our summer weather was fading quickly, being replaced by clouds and rain, but our spirits were sunny! Packing was surprisingly organized (given the logistics of 4 divers, two cars, and wet gear) and then we headed up the road to Het Duikerje (the little diver) cafe were we ate heartily and signed each others' log books.

An incredible way to spend a Sunday afternoon!


quilly said...

Why is it called a wet suit if it's meant to keep one dry?

J. D. said...

(chuckles).....Quilly, you're so silly:-)

Hi Morgan...This answers my e-mail of today. Thanks for all the details...Love, Mom

I Dive At Night said...

Quilly, that's not too silly of a question. Most people don't understand that wetsuits do NOT keep you dry. You do get wet inside them, but it's a very limited amount of water which quickly heats up and stays comfortable.

I have a dry suit, which keeps my body completely dry. Only my head and hands get wet.

And to keep it complicated, Carlos was wearing a "semi-dry wetsuit".

The real question is why didn't OC explain this???

Minka said...

Wow...I love dreading this. It was so passionately written. You really like diving and you seem very confident doing so. I´ll sign up for a lesson!

I never knew about the thermocline until now, that must be quite something beautiful to behold.
You just be careful out there, but enjoy!

I Dive At Night said...

Minka, Loving dreading it is a great sign! I think the best part of beginning scuba is overcoming the all-too-natural fear. Then once that thrill wears off, there's more and more and more.

Pina Coladas only after the lesson, not before.