The sure-to-be-epic trip to Thailand is still 4 months away and I have encountered some serious diving withdrawals lately. I’ve been plagued with dreams of dolphins and currents and gearing up. Its been driving me crazy!! I haven’t even seen the bottom of a pool let alone open water since our trip to the Caribbean last January. Last January! Basically…I’ve been going nuts. This is a problem. Problems need solutions. And I’ve got a great one in mind… back to the fabulous Blue Angel Resort in Cozumel Mexico for a quick 1 week fix! The sea is guaranteed to cure what ails me.
A few months ago this little gem started floating its way around Facebook and it hasn’t been far from my mind since.
We committed to making this work just a few days ago and have it all booked now. Leaving in 4 days! You can read more about the Blue Angel Resort in several of my other posts (here and here). Its where it all started for me…as a diver and also with Warren. Ergo, it has a special place in my heart! The people are warm and friendly, the diving is fantastic and it always feels a bit like coming home.
What will be different this time around is that I’m not doing any training. In fact, this will be the very first time I’ve ever gone diving somewhere and not come home with at least a few new cert cards. I’ll be taking a more personal approach to my own learning and growth as a diver on this trip. There won’t be any PADI course requirements directing me, or instructors evaluating me. So instead I’ve spent some time thinking about what areas I want to improve, what I want to be more confident with, and what gaps in my skills I should tackle this upcoming week. I’ve chosen 5 things to work on:
1) Learn to use my safety sausage, with confidence.
It looks like this: I carry it around with me underwater and when I’m ready to ascend I take my reg out of my mouth, blow into the inflator and up it goes, signaling my position to any boats above and attached to me by a line and reel. Sounds easy right? Not so much. First of all, I don’t really like taking my reg out of my mouth because it tends to free flow on me (spits out air too quickly). Also I find I need a big breath of air to fill up the sausage (at least partly as the air I put in it will continue to expand on its way up to the surface) and when I take one I start to rise in the water, and then the sausage pulls me up as well. Controlling my buoyancy while doing this is a skill I have yet to master. I’ve launched it a few times, but I’ve never really gotten enough air into it that its full when it reaches the surface, and I’ve not yet felt comfortable doing it either. The other challenge is just managing to hold my reg, hold the sausage inflator, and hold the reel in a way that as soon as there’s air in there it can spin freely and not take me with it. Its a lot for just 2 hands! I am not at all looking forward to working on this skill, and I highly suspect Warren will take this post to heart and refuse to launch his own on our dives too. Sigh. Its just one of those things I’ve got to get the hang of though.
2) Gain more experience and be more comfortable on deep dives.
Even with an advanced and deep diver certification, I still find myself more anxious below about 70-80 feet than on other dives. I enjoy them less, I worry more, and I’m hoping this is one of those things that goes away with experience. I tend to get caught up in watching my air consumption, focused on getting from point A to B with enough air and no decompression time left to make a safe ascent instead of just maintaining an awareness of those things and enjoying the dive. There are no skills to practice here, its just all in my head. I’ll focus on keeping my breathing slow and steady – it always leads to calm. I’ll try not to check my gauges obsessively too.
3) Rely less on Warren to navigate.
I’m a lucky girl, my dive buddy is a Master Scuba Diver Instructor. I’m always in competent, experienced hands while underwater. This does sometimes lead to complacency on my part though. I pay less attention than I should to what direction we’re going, to noting landmarks and other navigational aides, because I know that Warren is already doing it and I trust him completely. I have no excuse for this, and I have my navigation specialty so I know I have the skills. I probably won’t make much progress with this goal in Cozumel since its all drift diving (no need to find your way back to the boat, it just follows you from the surface) and I’m so familiar with the shore dive now that finding my way around there is a piece of cake. But it is something I want to stay aware of and that is certainly a step in the right direction.
4) Practice underwater photography in a current.
Taking pictures in Cozumel is HARD! Its impossible to stay still with the current (and often surge too) pushing you around and very few of my subjects stop to pose for me either. This is practice makes perfect, but I also plan on hitting up Warren and Kari for some tips too! Those two take some great pictures! On the last trip I got pretty good at controlling my buoyancy while using my camera, and also recovered from the initial damage it did to my air consumption. This time I’d love to work on getting better quality shots.
5) Step up in the buddy check department.
Don’t get me wrong here, I always check my gear. But I’ve been a bit lax in checking my buddy’s gear, of going through the set BWRAF system (I’m actually embarrassed to admit this). BWRAF is PADI’s acronym for the buddy check, to be completed in full before each and every dive. B-BCD, W-weights, R-releases, A-air, F-final ok. I do this on myself all the time, but its been awhile since I’ve done it with my buddy. Some of this might be related to trusting my buddy…he’s an instructor after all, he knows what he’s doing. And I’m familiar with what equipment he’s using. Maybe its also being rushed when the time comes to gear up and roll off the boat so everyone stays together to descend. Could be I’m just being lazy. All of the above. Either way, its not good enough. I had the opportunity to act as shore support for some open water certifications in Jasper this summer and I spent a ton of time helping the students run through the checks, getting them into the habit of doing them, and of doing them thoroughly. Honestly, I felt like a hypocrite. I am determined to do better, to be better, and to dive safer. Its not that big of an inconvenience, and if I’m too rushed before a dive to run through it properly then that’s a bad way to start a dive anyways.
Stay tuned for the follow up post on how I made out. If all goes really well you’ll see some better underwater pictures too!