Posts Tagged ‘scuba follies’

Scuba Dive Options

January 5, 2009

I think I found a place NOT to go for a future scuba adventure.

Was invited over to a friend’s house last week just to hang out a bit.  Her brother was visiting.  My friend, trying to get conversation going and knowing her brother scuba dives, pointed out that I just recently got my certification.   I asked where he went diving last and was quite intrigued to hear it was in the Philippines. 

Ah-ha!  A fellow world adventurer!  Well, okay, he’s actually BEEN world adventuring while for me it’s only been on my “ things to do, but haven’t yet” list.

Going into the whine about only seeing brown fish with fat brown lips and brown plants on my cert dives, I was envisioning a Filipino tropical paradise of brightly colored fish, coral reefs of exquisite delicate design, and warm, clear waters.

Well, I guess ‘warm waters’ is as far as he would admit was there.  Seems the Filipinos engage in a practice called “dynamite fishing”.  Common in the Philippines, and according to Wikipedia – –

Commercial dynamite or, more commonly, homemade bombs constructed using a glass bottle with layers of powdered potassium nitrate and pebbles or an ammonium nitrate and kerosene mixture are often employed. Such devices, though, may explode prematurely without warning, and have been known to injure or kill the person using them, or innocent bystanders.

The underwater shockwaves make the fish’s gas bladder explode and stun them. A small part of them come to float at surface, but most part sunk to the sea floor. The explosions indiscriminately kill large numbers of fish and other marine organisms in the vicinity and can damage or destroy the physical environment, including extensive damage to coral reefs.

The end result being that the coral reef is permanently scarred and damaged and the fish are a lot more rare than you’d expect. 

holy crap!

holy crap!




…guess i’m getting to be a cranky conservationist liberal as I grow older…

…not to mention the back of the brain fear that while I’m diving, some Filipino decides that it’s supper time and – – well, I’m sure you don’t want to envision MY gas bladder exploding…

So, nope, not diving the Philippines. 

And the search goes on for scuba adventure.*

 And, still, despite this minor setback?

 … this is gonna be fun!


*And, yeah, I AM looking…long term…at options suggested by all y’all – – South Africa, Mexico, Australia, Galapagos… saving the pennies!


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.


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. 


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…