Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

Dive Cert Day 2

December 11, 2008

After collapsing from the day one certification activities highlighted in the last post, I was quite pleased to wake up… yeah, I was tempted to just put a ‘period’ right there and stop.  But, I need to add “…and still have control over most of my muscle groups.”  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I. Hurt.  I was sore in places I didn’t know could be sore.  I was shuffling around getting ready for the morning like a man 20 years older than me.  But, ultimately, I got ready for the second (and last) day.

Day 2 dives were to be done at another spring close to the first we dove at – – Devil’s Den.  Still not sure how it got its name, but it was a very interesting place.  Sort of like a big bubble with just a 15 foot hole at the top for light to get into the chamber (okay, they did have electric lights down there as well, to brighten things up some).  Entry into the dive site was through a narrow, low-ceiling cave.  Even though it was like a cave, I didn’t have that sense of claustrophobia I’d had the day prior.  And the water was beautifully clear.  Two full flights of steps to go up and down with the equipment.  But these steps were more consistently spaced, so it wasn’t quite so painful climbing them.

dd7a

The first dive of the day was yet another repetition of all the emergency skills we need to survive underwater.  Yes, the water was still on the chilly side, but the fact that I was closing in certification seemed to warm me up (a much better method than the one I mentioned last post). 

I was still buddy-ed up with Mega-Marine-Man for my checkout.  I was a bit surprised…happily so…to learn that his butt was kicked by the day prior as well.  Not remotely near as much as mine was, but to hear that he was affected by the day made my aches and pains seem less.  Either because of that…or maybe he’d just drank heavily the night before…he was much more subdued and running at my speed for skills demonstrations.  Made it less stressful.

As we worked our way down into the water to the dive platform, I was amazed to see catfish swimming lazily nearby.  Big ones.  Now, I know that things appear bigger in water (hmmm…that gives me an idea for dating….), but these guys were big.  The smallest cat I saw was about a bit more than a foot long.  The biggest?  My guess it was pushing three feet long.

Working through the skills demonstrations, we had to practice something new…underwater navigation.  Having worked with compasses for my flying, I thought I was comfortable with their use.  But, in this new environment, I think my path looked like the path of a drunken snail with severe vertigo. 

A key point missed in the last post was the condition of the bottom of each spring.  The Blue Grotto had fine silt throughout most of its bottom.  We were cautioned to avoid kicking it up because it would hamper water visibility.  And, of course, every one of the students had a moment or seven where the silt was accidentally kicked up.  Water visibility was never really bad, but always not great due to the silt in the water.  However!  The majority of the bottom of the Devil’s Den was just rock.  Because of that, the visibility was wondrous.  Had there been more light, we likely could have seen all the way across the spring. 

dd7b

I was getting more jazzed about how fun this scuba stuff will be.  And more so because, at the end of the first of two dives for the day, the instructor informed us that we were effectively done.  After numerous repetitions of survival skills and the added navigation skill, he was confident in our abilities.  The last dive of the day would be on our own.  What a rush of adrenalin that news was.  All the more so because I would have my first full buddy dive with Dear Friend, who had come along to get some dive time and brush up skills. 

The last dive was wonderful.  The spring had limited places where we could get in trouble.  The water was clear and not too cold.  There were things to see and do. 

Aside from sight seeing the catfish, we started learning how to be buddy divers together.  I was very pleased (and a bit relieved) to find that Dear Friend was ‘just my speed’ for where we went, how fast we swam, and how deep we dove.  We have some procedures to practice together… for example, I let myself drift about 5 feet above her at one point as we swam lazily around the spring.  Then I noticed her looking for something, turning this way and that… oops.  Yeah, she was looking for me.  There wasn’t a problem, she just wanted to make sure, as buddies are supposed to, we kept an eye on each other.  That operating in three dimensions thing will take some getting used to as we maintain contact.  But I also saw a lot of compatibility.  There are a couple ‘mini’-caves that an over curious diver could go wander off into (and we were warned about them ahead of time).  All are blocked off and have warning signs.  Dear Friend pointed out one that had a (hopefully) fake skull at its entrance.  No worries.  While both of us share a sense of adventure, it is easily tempered by a sense of survival.  I think we’re going to dive well together.

…and I’ll keep saying it…

This is DEFINITELY going to be fun. 

(and pictures are coming…)

 

Cert Dive Day 1

December 8, 2008

Mid-Florida weather – Mostly cloudy, 72 degrees Fahrenheit, with 100% humidity under the water.

The certification dives are done and I am an officially official scuba diver.  Well, okay, i’m not a card carrying scuba diver yet, but that will come.  But still wanted to share the events over a couple of posts…

The first day of open water certification dives was at a spring called the Blue Grotto about smack dab in the middle of the state.  Before the dives, I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be diving the coral reefs of the Florida Keys or one of the coasts.  I was ready for adventure and sparkly colored fish!  The dive instructors said it was fresh, clear water (and, they added, actually used as a source for bottled water) with some basic brown fish and a turtle or two. 

yep it is blue

yep it is blue

Up to now, my training had been done in an enclosed building with a warm pool where our equipment could be put on right next to where we would have class…

Uhhh… utterly major slight difference here at the spring.

At the Blue Grotto, we had to gear up at some picnic tables some 30 yards/metres away from the water.  Okay, not so bad.  With my 18 pound weight belt, 30-some pound scuba tank, and 25-some pounds of various other equipment, that’d be like carrying a couple big bags of kitty litter into the house from the van.  Oo…wait… I can’t don’t carry two bags at one time.  Maybe this will be a tad more difficult.  So I told myself, “Buck up, little camper, this is an adventure you want!  You can do this.”

Off I go and… Ummm… who put the two-and-a-half flights of stairs in my way?  And the second flight are made of stone and irregularly spaced.  Ow.  This is getting more difficult.

Carefully choosing my steps to avoid falling and breaking something important (on me, heck with the equipment!), I finally made it to the dock.  Admittedly, I was sucking wind already, but this was gonna be fun (you do remember me saying that a few times before, yes?).

Into the water…DAMN, that’s cold!  I thought this was Florida, Land of Bath Water Warm Springs.  Glad I have a wet suit on, but that first dip of the head under water was a bit bracing. 

I was assigned a dive buddy I’d not met before.  He recently left the Marines and was very gung ho and fearless about the certification dives.  When it was time to descend, we were supposed to “…gently lower yourself by releasing buoyant air so that you land softly on a dive platform 15 feet down…”.  My buddy?  A second and a half and he’d already abandoned me, waiting impatiently on the platform as I struggled with that “gently” and “softly” part.  No graceful merman was i.  it was all flailing arms and legs trying to make sure I got there where…

I couldn’t stay there… I kept floating up off the platform.  Come to find out that having a wet suit (which we didn’t train in and can be quite buoyant) and, as Silverstar so eloquently pointed out, my natural avoirdupois, I didn’t have enough weight in my weight belt.  Already exhausted from climbing down stairs and flailing my way to the bottom, I resurfaced to put yet another 6 pounds of weights on.  Still not quite enough, I nonetheless declared victory.

This dive (and the two following) were massive repetitions of the basic scuba survival skills – – clearing your mask of water, retrieving lost breathing regulators, stealing your buddies regulator, turning off the instructors air, and the like.  But the one skill they neglected to train us for… when each dive was done, we had to re-climb those two-and-a-half flights of stairs with all our gear.  Bastards!  I’m still waiting for the weightless joy of diving with colorful fish, but find myself schlepping 75 pounds of gear up the steps…

But, did it again two more times… 

Things learned on the dives?

           If you get cold, pee can warm you up quite nicely in the wet suit.  I didn’t do it at first, thinking it gross, but when the instructors started recommending it…

          The pool is no substitute for diving in a real site.  There is a stress of being in an unknown and potentially dangerous (if mistreated) new location.

          Although I never thought I was claustrophobic, this dive revealed a bit of that to me.  Part of the spring is a cave-like environment.  I found that as soon as I lost sight of the sky and could only see darkness above me, I freaked a bit.  Yeah, I was able to make myself calm, but it surprised me nonetheless.

from the edge of the cave

from the edge of the cave

          I need a buddy who goes the same speed as me.  I don’t want to hold anyone back… nor feel held back.  When my raging lunatic Marine buddy went charging off a couple times, it was a lonely feeling.

And the biggest thing learned?  Three cert dives hauling scuba gear up and down stairs is exhausting.  Got back to the motel around 6 pm (1800) and, beer and chips in hand, became comatose until declaring victory and falling asleep less than 3 hours later.  And slept like a rock for the next 9 hours, waking only in time to get ready for the next day’s cert dives which will be the next post (and, yeah, more pictures later)…

Still?  Yeah… great fun!  But – – –

I’d sort of recommend not drinking any water bottled in Florida for a few weeks…

Last Scuba Class

December 2, 2008

Finished the coursework for scuba this weekend.  Yep, those of you who certified are likely raising eyebrows at how quickly it went.  This was one of the advantages to only having only two students.  If they had the typical class size (10-15), I would not yet be done.  The instructor is required to get through a specific list of skills.  Each skill must be verbalized by the instructor, demonstrated by the instructor, then observed as each student individually shows they can actually accomplish the skill.  Do overs are often required.  Doing so twice instead of ten times is just quicker.

Classes are just the coursework, part book study (more on this in a bit) and part the water skills (sounds kinky).  To actually be certified and get your scuba card, you have to dive in ‘open water’, not the pool.  Open water has a definition I’m not clear on, but diving in a quarry counts.  And, as was so accurately pointed out by my readers, Ohio tends to be a tad chilly in December.  But, being the always-looking-out-for-a-buck astute business people they are at the dive school, excursions are offered in the winter to warmer climes to finish the actual certification.  Such an opportunity was available this coming weekend. 

Even at my decrepit tender age of mumblety-one, I continue to learn stuff about myself.  As I did with getting my commercial pilot’s license, I am confirming here—When I start a training task, I like to get it finished quickly.  Sort of antithesis to my professional ability to procrastinate, but still.  I’m not sure if that’s to hurry getting the certificate so I can use it… or to hurry to get the damn training (and attendant stress of ‘passing’) behind me.  So I asked the instructors if they could finish up the coursework in time for me to go on the certification trip… “Sure, if you’re willing to stay an extra hour…”.  Done deal. 

The book study part was first in this last day of training.  And <foreboding music swells> the FINAL EXAM.  Now, as mentioned before, I stress myself out a bit with tests.  The instructors tried to calm any fears by saying the final test would be questions directly from the books homework test questions.  This is a good thing.  Well, I say ‘good thing’, though I had trouble with some of those questions because they were obtuse… for example, “<blank> and <blank> are essential to safe diving” – – Cheese and Crackers?  Bathing Suits and Water?  Gin and Tonic?  Then, I checked with Dear Friend* who had taken the test a few years back.  She told me that she studied, but not obsessively, and got an 88%.  This worried me (being the worrier) because Dear Friend is one smart cookie**.  So, if she studied and got an 88, I felt I needed to REALLY study to match that. 

So I studied, though not as “REALLY” as I would have liked (there’s that old procrastinator again).

…and got a 94%!!  Easily resisted the urge to text Dear Friend to do the annoying text dance of victory.  Easily, because it was much more fun to do it in person (yeah, I can be a twit)!

Then, into the pool.  We had to squeeze three training sessions into the next couple hours.  Water skills were repetitively and redundantly duplicated over and over to ensure we learned them.  Problems?  A few… 

           One skill was replacing a removed weight belt.  You’re supposed to go horizontal in the water with the weight belt at your right hip, then do a roll to wrap it around yourself.  Sounds simple.  Me?  Not so simple.  First, I had trouble staying horizontal.  Not sure if there’s lead in my feet or what, but they tended to sink me to the vertical quickly.  And I had to do the skill like they wanted (task masters!), so repeated until I could stay horizontal.  Next, I had directional challenges and death rolled the wrong direction, leaving the belt on me backwards and continuing to roll like a spastic alligator in a death roll.  Had to repeat that skill quite a few times, leaving me sucking air.

          Another skill is the “buddy breathing”… simulate being out of air and have to share the regulator mouthpiece with your buddy.  With equipment nowadays, there’s a backup regulator to breathe from, so you’re not swapping it back and forth.  But, for simplicity, they teach you to share your primary with your buddy.  I had to actively resist the urge to playfully flee when my buddy reached for my mouthpiece.  Figured the instructors would look unkindly at me deserting my buddy.  Then, started thinking about the fact that I have no clue where this kid’s mouth has been, what disease he might be harboring, or what other foul stuff may go on.  Yeah, this is all about survival, but in training mode my mind wandered… not a pleasant journey.

Problems conquered, the instructors cleared me through the training and signed off my form!  Now it’s off on the certification trip (so, dear reader(s?), I will be out of touch for the weekend).  Things there, I’m sure, will go well and then I’ll be certified and ready to really SCUBA… more to come on this weekend’s adventure, but for now I’ll repeat what is becoming more of a reality for me – –

This is gonna be FUN!

 =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

*Dear Friend may deny it, but she stresses over tests as well, so I felt she’d be a good indicator of how I should approach my studying.

 **…or has many people, me included, totally  fooled on this.

 

First Scuba

November 28, 2008

Had my second scuba class.  And my first actual dive with actual (not pretend!) scuba gear. 

The classroom homework?  Nailed it… sort of… [blush].  In true GnuKid fashion, I hit my “procrastination mode” and put off doing the homework until the afternoon just before class.  A mistake, to be sure.  With a few interruptions for phone calls and my ever popular past time of “Just Wandering About”, I found myself scurrying to finish before I had to pack up my gear and leave for the class. 

But done I was.  Yes…*

After reviewing the homework questions in class (where our instructor had the wonderful habit of answering future questions as he explained the current one…), we headed out to the pool to use scuba gear for the first time.

Seeing as how my life will depend on this stuff, I paid rapt attention to the long list of stuff to do to get the equipment ready and oper… ooo, look, a penny!  Now what was he saying?

Was tickled to see Dear Friend stop by to watch the lesson.  But, given we’ll be dive buddies, with me partly responsible for her safety, I’m sure she was there to make sure I paid atten… hey, look at the size of that hairball in the water!

Finally in the water, I had to learn the necessary hand signals for communicating under water.**  Then we went through some of the basic survival techniques—like clearing your goggles, finding a lost breathing regulator***, and ordering a mai tai from underwater.

I had three basic scuba equipment problems

First, my goggles kept fogging up.  Yep, I did use some de-fog stuff.  Something about being lots of water about while diving that makes this one problematic.  The instructor said to just keep applying the de-fog and it’ll resolve itself.

Second, the mouthpiece (and we’re not even going to, yet, discuss the fact that I was using a communal mouthpiece) didn’t fit well and was cutting into my gums a bit.  This one can be fixed by finding and buying one of several alternatives out there.

And the third and biggie… the damn weight belt kept slipping and pulling my bathing suit down with it!  I’d yank the belt up higher and tighten it only to have it slip down further and take my suit even lower!  Shared that with the instructor, who said to be patient and I’d figure out the best fit to counter that.  Then I looked into the seats next to the pool to see Dear Friend giggling herself silly at my predicament.  Well, hell, she’s the one who’ll have to look at the result, so I’m not too worried.****

At the end of the lesson, having survived the multiple attempts by the instructor to find a way to leave me sputtering water out of my lungs at pool side, they let us…just…scuba…

Now, there’s not really a thing to look at in a pool, but I could already feel the joy and peacefulness of scuba diving.  And think in anticipation of actually diving somewhere where there IS something to look at…

reef2559

I’ve said it before and will say it more…

This is going to be fun!

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

*when did I start writing like Yoda talks?

**after the lesson, Dear Friend was commiserating with the instructor and trying to figure out what the international hand signal was for ‘nagging’, as she’d likely be using that quite a bit with me when I stop keeping trac… wow, did you see the size of that paint chip that fell in the pool?

***and did I bother to ask just how a breathing regulator would get lost in the first place?  [sigh]

****remember what I said last post —  Paybacks, Dear Friend, paybacks…

Snorkel

November 23, 2008

Showing up at the first day of scuba class and not knowing what the heck is going on*, I walked into class expecting to swim.  Before going, I questioned Dear Friend who had gone through the class two years prior…”No problem, just show up and be ready to scuba!  You’ll have great fun!”

I walk in to find out that, not only do we not swim yet, but the first hour-plus a classroom lesson, I had homework due! 

Crap.  Not a good way to start.

Next thing I noticed was that there were only two students…myself and a 15-year-old who I automatically hated because he’d already done the homework…little bastard.  Having only two students can be a good thing or a bad thing…

Good thing is that you get a lot of personalized attention from the instructor in helping you learn the fine art of scuba diving.

Bad thing is that you get a lot of personalized attention from the instructor in pointing out all the mistakes—including not doing your homework—in the fine art of scuba diving.

Oh well…

To make things more fun, there are two… count ‘em… two instructors in the class for the two students.  Actually, the other instructor is getting his qualification to instruct on his own and has to teach classes while observed by a certificated instructor.  Again, lots of personalized attention. 

After going through two chapters of lessons, the instructor says, “Let’s swim!” 

Now we’re talking!

We head on out to the pool where the instructor announces… “Okay, first we do 200 yards of laps and tread water for 10 minutes.”  Huh?**  My visions of floating peacefully underwater with scuba gear drift away like the random band aids and hair chunks left in the pool by the last group. 

Now, I do like the water, but I’m not a strong swimmer.  Carefully eyeing the wall to find the nearest defibrillator unit, I ask the instructor and the 15-year-old if they’ve brought books, because this will take awhile. 

But, I finished the laps (“Pick an apple, put it in your pocket, pick an apple, put it in your pocket…”) without my heart or lungs exploding*** and, after noisily sucking air for a few minutes, went to the deep end of the pool to tread water.  This went amazingly well since I could basically float most of the time. 

Now, expecting to get my first scuba experience, I was a bit disappointed that we spent the remainder of the time learning how to snorkel… breathing through a tube sticking out of the water.  But, a necessary prerequisite skill to scuba, so we made some fun out of it.

We ended up with a quick lesson on how to exit the water.  The instructor taught us the “Beach the Whale” method… work up some speed and head to the side of the pool.  Have enough speed that you can basically propel yourself, stomach first, onto the pool side.  Yep, it did make us look a bit like Shamu at SeaWorld.

shamu 

Although I had a slightly depressing day otherwise, I found myself quite exhilarated by the experience.  I could see new adventures poised in front of me for the taking.  I could see new and exotic places to visit.  I could see my pocketbook dwindling.  But…

This is going to be fun!

`\`\`\`\`\`\`

*actually, of late, a too common definition of my mental state

 **confronting Dear Friend on this oversight of sharing knowledge on what to expect, I merely got a wicked chuckle from her and a “Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that…”.  Paybacks, Dear Friend, paybacks…

 ***and, amazingly, only a half lap behind the 15-year-old… I rock! (as in “…sink like a…”)

Sanity Questioned

November 20, 2008

So, here I am, just recovering from an extremely stressful 10 days a few weeks ago. As a friend pointed out: “I believe you experienced all of life’s major traumas in a single week: death, divorce, moving, change of job and illness…”

Well, as both my drunken devoted readers…okay, okay, the three of you…have likely noticed, I’m not posting as much of late. A big part of that is that I’m still recovering in shell shock from all the stuff at the beginning of the month. I’m still a bit stressed by those things and some other stuff in life (but, then, aren’t we all battling our own stress demons?).

So…what does a guy with stress and a constrained budget need in his life? Well, hell yeah… a brand new hobby full of danger and costing lots of money! I started SCUBA lessons…

Can I afford it now? Not really. I’m already starting to juggle my ‘new, not-so-improved bachelor’ budget with the foreknowledge that alimony—and lots of it—is likely a given in my future. But that’s what ‘credit’ is for, yes?

Is there some stress involved? Well, yeah, submitting yourself to rely on breathing technology you don’t fully understand, maintained by people you’ve never met, while immersed in a non-breathable environment is one stressor. Having to learn lots of new stuff is also a stressor… like how to wrestle the breathing regulator from your dive buddy’s mouth when your equipment fails at 60 feet depth so you can breath… or how to ignore said dive buddy clamoring to regain control of that breathing regulator while they slowly lose consciousness… these are difficult things to learn and master!

Why SCUBA? Well, it’s been something that’s long been on my list of things to do (ooo, there’s a post idea there), ever since watching Lloyd Bridges in “Sea Hunt”. That interest was re-sparked a couple years ago when my Dear Friend took lessons and incessantly repeated regaled me with stories of peaceful reverence she felt as she was taking her SCUBA lessons. Dear Friend also keeps reminding me she needs a dive buddy—not only to share diving adventures in exotic places, but someone that she has a pretty even chance of winning the wrestling match over that breathing regulator. I’m just her guy! And now just seemed to be a good time…for no real good reason…to, along with a new life, new condo, and new credit rating, start on my list of things to do before I slip this mortal coil…

More soon (given my track record of late, I refuse to say “More tomorrow…”) on the SCUBA adventures on a depleted checkbook!

GnuKid Disappears

June 4, 2008

For awhile anyway. ..

The Girl Child is an adventurer at heart. Much like her Grandma, she views the world as a toy to be played with often and everywhere. And, admittedly, like my Mom, the Girl Child is also a source of learning for me on how to better live life.

So for her recent adventure, the Girl Child is finishing up her semester abroad in Switzerland*. She has been actively bugging me to come over to visit. Between work, finances, and ‘other’ issues**, I’ve been hesitant to agree. But, I finally gave in and we started talking plans.

Girl Child then sets down a ground rule… we can’t go anywhere that she’s already been in Europe.

Now, let’s go back to that “Girl Child is an adventurer at heart” thing. On spring break and most every weekend, she has been almost everywhere in Europe already! Even being pick-pocketed in Istanbul*** didn’t discourage her wanderlust.

So…after reviewing the extremely shortened list of options, I chose Scotland as my adventure spot. I’m a mutt, with about a third being Scottish. As such, I’d sort of like to see my ancestral homeland…well, a third of my ancestry, anyway. And I hear tell that they have a strange and wondrous liquid called “Scotch” that I’d like to try in a native glass… or seven… teen…

Anyway, I’m off to gallivant about Scotland, leaving the Wilds of Ohio, and have an adventure. I won’t e-see you all until the middle of next week (unless I can peek out if I can get access to the Girl Child’s laptop when we’re not touring, walking, gawking, sleeping, eating…).

See you back here soon, riding the range of the Wilds of Ohio!

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*I don’t remember having such wonderful opportunities for doing this kind of stuff when I was a kid. [grump] I feel cheated.

**I’m sure you’ll be seeing blogs on the ’other’ issues down the road… be patient.

***Ouch…