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Me diving

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Mexico 2019: Mayan Blue

Today was the last day of diving for Kevin, Karl, and Bobby.  So we told them they had to pick where to go.  And Karl and Bobby deferred to Kevin.  Kevin wanted to go back to Tortuga to find the tortoise shell.  But after showing some pictures of a few other options, including Pet Cemetery, we started talking about going there.  We eventually "decided" to go there (though there was a huge amount of waffling so the decision never felt too final).  We had heard that the price to get in there was much higher than in the past, either $60 or $80 for a double stage dive (yes, they apparently charge by the tank) and that they might require a guide to get in there.  We decided we were willing to pay a bunch of money to get in, but definitely not willing to hire a guide. Anyway, we drove out there and the guys who were tending the site told us very politely that we could only dive if we had a waiver that we needed to get all the way back at the highway entrance (15 minutes or so back over the bumpy dirt road).  We asked if we could see the site, and they wouldn't let us.  They also told us it would be $40 for doubles and $20 per extra tank.  I was pretty unexcited to pay $80 when they wouldn't even let us look at the site beforehand.

We drove back out to the shop at the highway entrance, and by that point we had all independently come to the conclusion that we didn't want to dive there.  So there was a bunch of discussion of Tortuga or this or that and then Kevin threw Mayan Blue into the mix.  I'd been making noise about going to Mayan Blue earlier in the trip (I've never dived it) but that was somehow dismissed.  So I voted for that, and somehow we ended up deciding to go there.  We drove to the Naharon entrance and paid 250 pesos to go to Mayan Blue, and then drove across the street.  When we got to the parking lot, it was pretty full.  We walked down to the water and found Danny setting with some students laying some bottles on the platform.  He was teaching a Cave 2 class.  There was at least one other team gearing up to go for a dive at that point.

Kevin had a scan of the Mayan Blue map on his phone so we could look at the map and come up with a plan.  We were originally planning to go up the A tunnel and then maybe take the connector over to the B tunnel.  Rob was watching Danny's briefing and looking at his little hand-drawn map of the relevant portions of the cave.  When Danny finished briefing, Rob asked him about the distances to various parts of the cave.  Then Danny started to recommend going up A tunnel and to the little loop about 4 minutes into the cave, and then take a jump off of that, and ...  Then somehow the topic of stages came up and when we told Danny we were planning on taking two stages, he suggested a different dive entirely, which was pretty similar to the dive that Kevin was planning -- B tunnel to E tunnel to F tunnel.  Danny promised that there would be lots of nice photo opportunities there.  We decided to do that, and then when we got back to the basin, we could head over to A tunnel and just go up to the little loop and check that out.

It was horrendously hot and humid today.  In the morning, when we were getting gear together at ZG (probably around 8:30), Bobby told me that his phone said it was 84 degrees but "feels like 99".  Bleh.  So I tried to be as efficient about getting dressed/geared up as possible.  Since we had originally been planning to dive at Pet Cemetery, we didn't bring O2.  That was a bit of a fail, but meant that bottles could be carried to the water in one trip.  Rob had managed to park in the one spot without any shade, so I found a shady spot to get into my drysuit and once I was ready, I walked to the water and waited for Rob.  The entry into the water is very civilized; for once, a set of wooden steps that aren't half broken or completely covered in slipper algae!  Since we were going into the same tunnel as Kevin, Karl, and Bobby, we decided to share a reel.  We each dropped cookies on the reel so it would be very clear when it could be pulled.  Not each team, but each diver.  So by the time I got down there (following Rob) there was a nice little line of cookies.  I was carrying a reel, to be used when we went to A tunnel afterward, so I dropped that as my cookie.  Then I realized it was marked with Rob's initials, so I dropped my own cookie for good measure :)

The tunnel drops below the halocline pretty quickly, which is nice (especially for Rob, who is most interested in photographing the saltwater passages), though it seemed like we were right in the halocline for a while.  Eventually we settled below the halocline, and from there, it was bright white tunnels and blue water.  The tunnels weren't consistently super decorated, but there were periodically spots that were very decorated.  So we stopped for pictures in those spots.  Danny told us that the line would turn 90 degrees to the left around 800' and then like 50 feet later would be the jump to the E tunnel.  So when I saw a hard left turn, I was looking closely for the jump and then of course since the other team took the jump, it was impossible to miss.  Rob asked me to install the jump.  I looked at the line we were on and the line we were going to and decided it was very close.  So I pulled out my baby spool (which has, I don't know, like 20 feet of line on it) and started to install it.  Then I decided that to be polite, I should give Kevin's line a wide berth.  So I went out to the right and around a big rock, and put in a tie and then turned back toward the jump line and started to swim toward it, and then I ran out of line :(  I looked backed to figure out if I could make it with this spool if I took a different path.  I was not spooling up and getting another spool out!  Eventually Rob and I moved the placements and ties and I managed to get the spool *just* to the jump.  Phew.

By the time we were finished with that, I was close enough to needing to switch off of my stage that I figured I should just do it there.  The line was very tight so I didn't dare to do a double wrap of my bolt snap, after breaking the line at Tortuga.  So I dropped a cookie next to the bolt snap to ensure it didn't drift off along the line :)  After a couple of minutes, we passed through a very decorated little area that the line went through, which was kind of perfect for setting up shots where I was swimming through a "doorway" with speleothems all around me.  Just past that, I could see the other team had dropped their bottles.  As I swam out from the decorated area, the line was suddenly snaking limply along the bottom.  And it ended.  The line had broken.  Rob pulled out a spool and asked me to make a loop on the close end, while he worked on the far end.  He had connected the two lines and then one of them was a little caught on his strobe arm, so he gave it a tug to free it and the line broke again, further out from where we were!  So at that point Rob just re-ran all of the line in the room back to the next sturdy tie-off.  I noticed that there were a lot of other spots where the line was repaired during our dive.

After all of the fun was finished with that, we continued on, stopping for pictures here and there, until we got to a T, where the other team's bottles were piled up on the near side.  (We had dropped our bottles a few minutes earlier, which I'll blame on the line repair shenanigans, but Rob would probably blame on my hooverliness).  We went to the right, and continued on for another 5 or 10 minutes.  We got to this jump to the left that was like 18 inches from the line and was super decorated right where the jump was.  The jump line immediately ran through a nice stalactite doorway.  I was about 100psi from turning it, so I suggested to Rob that we go up there and get some pictures in the area right there and then turn it.  Instead of installing a spool to cover the 18 inches, Rob used a long double ender to turn the jump into a T :)  We went up there for some pictures and it pretty quickly started raining down percolation :(  But I think Rob got some nice pictures before that happened.

As we were heading out, we passed the other team.  Apparently they'd gone the other way at the T, and were now heading up our way on a re-calc.  We did the same thing when we got back to the T.  In the other direction, we pretty quickly headed up a slope that took us back into the freshwater, and where the arrows were pointing the other way -- because this was a connector to A tunnel, which was now the closest exit.  We quickly came back down the slope back into the saltwater, and a minute or two later, I thumbed the dive.  Nothing too eventful happened on the way out.  When we were very close to the beginning, we passed the other team again, installing a jump to the right, which went kind of down a chute.  Bobby was waiting to go down the chute.  Rob asked if I wanted to check it out, but since there looked to be a line to get in there, I decided to pass.  Very shortly after that, we made it back to the reel, pulled our cookies and dropped reel, and headed up slowly to 20 feet.

At this point I magically came up with a deco time (using my usual rules for 60 feet and 80 feet, and averaging that, then doubling it to come up with a backgas deco time) and then tried to figure out how much of that deco we needed to do at 20 feet before we came up to 10 feet in the basin and swam over to the A tunnel.  I somewhat arbitrarily decided 15 minutes should be good.  We never do deco at 10 feet, but I think that deco schedules that use the 10 foot stop spend more time at 10 feet than 20 feet.  We then swam over to the A tunnel, and Rob installed the reef.  After he made his primary tie I gave him a super unclear hand signal that was meant to ask him to make a tie at the next tree branch over so I had somewhere to drop my stages.  Apparently he thought I was critiquing his primary tie and telling him to make more wraps.  So he made more wraps, which did the job, because I used those to clip my bottles to :)

It was a sort of long but not at all tricky path to run the reel to the mainline.  From there, Danny told us it would be 4 minutes to the jump that we should take.  We made it in more like 3 minutes and Rob put the jump in.  I'm pretty sure he ran the jump line down through a path that it was not meant to be run, so we ended up tying into the jump line not at the end.  Rob started swimming in a direction that I was pretty sure would take us to the end, so I told him to go the other way, since I could see the line running for a while in that direction.  It also seemed like the right direction based on the map.  So he did that, and that was the right way to go.  We were now in the saltwater, and this area was pretty immediately decorated and pretty.  So in terms of very quickly getting to a pretty, decorated passage at Mayan Blue, I can see why Danny recommended this to us.  We swam for about 7 minutes and then I thumbed it on gas.  We headed back out and as I was picking up my bottles at the primary tie and doodling with some other gear, I saw several divers just up the slope from me.  I thought that they were waiting to enter and thought it was very rude of me to be doodling with my gear while they waited.  So I tried to move out of their way and then realized it was Kevin, Karl, and Bobby, and Kevin was videoing us cleaning up our gear :P

We found a spot in 20' and did 8 minutes more deco there before slowly ascending.  Kevin had taken our empty bottles when they left, so I didn't even have bottles to clean up.  By this point, my spring straps would digging into both of my heels and I was so happy to get those puppies off of my feet.  Ahhhh.  After resting on the surface for a bit, I headed up the stairs and to the parking lot.  After a bit of waffling on the best (coolest) way to collect my gear, I decided to stay in my suit and go for a swim before pulling bottles.  That worked out well, as I got all of my gear back to the car before I started to melt too much in my suit!

After cleaning everything up, we headed to Tulum for some lunch at Don Cafeto's followed by gelato!

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