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Me diving

Friday, May 29, 2009

Allison: Tech 2, Day 1

The dreaded day was finally here. We met at 7:15 and headed to the Winn Dixie for breakfast and lunch supplies (I was disappointed to find that they didn't have small bottles of skim milk, so I was stuck with 2%), and then to Blue Grotto. Blue Grotto was super close, so of course we ended up super early. So we ate our breakfast while we waited. Not long after we arrived, the guy came and opened the gate, so we headed in. I went to the bathroom and when I came back, Dean had materialized and was chatting with the boys. We filled out the paperwork and watched a little introductory video (which reminded us quite a few times that we should kneel and stand on the platforms, but nowhere else).

Then we headed over to the water and claimed one of the little pavilions with picnic benches on it. We did some intros and such. When we had to say why we were taking the class, Rob and Kevin totally lied and omitted the fact that they are deep freaks. I omitted the fact that I had been dragged kicking and screaming by Rob and Kevin :P Dean gave us a little overview of bottle juggling, showed us a little demo, but told us that we should try different techniques and see what works best for us. Then he briefed us on the plan for the morning. We were going to do three dives (with a debrief on the surface between each, but staying in the water the whole time) -- the first was a scenario dive with two bottles, the second we did some valve and S-drills followed by bottle rotations, and on the third, we did what we termed the "super rotation", where we did all of the bottle manipulations you would do on a real dive, in that order (onto stage, off of stage, onto 70', rotate, off of 70', onto 20', off of 20').

We started the painful task of analyzing all of the bottles, and then schlepping them down to the water. There was a nice civilized set of stairs down to the water. Then we got geared up. It was crazy hot in the drysuits, plus I was feeling the usual excessive pre-class nervousness. On the walk down to the water I decided that I am never again taking a GUE class. It's not worth the stress that it causes me. It was a relief to get into the water, which was a very pleasant 70 degrees. I'm not going to go into the play by play on the scenario dive, since I think that is sort of the instructor's intellectual property. But I will say that the dive ended with both of the boys losing their masks. So I had to bring them up, plus by that point, we had 5 masks in our hands (and one on my face), since Dean basically failed every mask that came out. We also found that the blue masking tape we used to label our bottles was not very good. I wonder if it was because of the humidity on the surface.

The next two dives were pretty uneventful, except that I felt like a total spaz with the three bottles. We didn't drop any bottles, but I didn't think my rotations looked very pretty. There was also a fair amount of finning around (at least on my part), although we were pretty good about resetting back to where we started, and keeping the team in a nice circle. The super rotations took forever. After the 4th one, we got into a brief argument about whether we had done three or four of them. It was just so monotonous. But still we managed not to drop any bottles :) Near the end of that dive, I realized that I was having trouble keeping my head back because there was a ton of gas in my wing (in hindsight, this should have been obvious from the beginning, because when I went to vent my wing a ton of gas would come out since it was bursting at the seams). So after we were finished with the third dive, and ready to leave the water, we went down to do a quick weight check. I couldn't believe it when I took my entire 6 pound weight belt off and was neutral. Oops. It was nice to be able to dive without a weight belt (which I can never do, but both of the boys do at home).

We humped the tanks up the stairs and over to the fill station, and left our tanks to be filled. Then we ate some lunch (Team Kitty shared a team sandwich), and had a little lecture on O2. In the morning, Dean had alluded to the fact that if we sucked too much at bottle rotations, we would have to do more in the afternoon, but otherwise we would move on to rescue techniques. So we were pretty happy to hear that we were going to practice rescue techniques and not do more bottle rotations in the afternoon. We went over how to rescue a toxing/unconscious diver. I told Dean that I had trouble reaching around a big diver, so I couldn't imagine doing it with bottles. He showed us a technique that was a little different than how Beto does it, which looked like it would make it easier to do if you don't have Gumby arms. For the second dive, I wore gloves. I had been planning on wearing gloves, and even brought my dry gloves, but then after diving gloveless at Ginnie, it was just too tempting. So for dive 1, I went gloveless, which of course resulted in totally trashing my hands from boltsnap manipulation (which I had told Kevin a million times was the reason to wear gloves even if the water was warm). Also, I kept banging my hand against the dry glove ring on my suit sleeve, which left some serious bruises on my hand.

After retrieving our newly-filled tanks, we got back into the water. The plan was to each practice swimming around and ascending with a mock unresponsive diver (each taking turns being the unresponsive diver). I went first. It went pretty well. The technique that Dean showed us made it quite a bit easier to get my arms around Rob, but the consequence was that Rob eventually went vertical (which Dean warned us would happen). I think if you have a lot of gear, this is the way to go, but I think it a bit easier to maneuver using Beto's technique (which keeps the diver horizontal). Obviously it depends on the circumstances which one would work better, but hopefully I will never have to use either! When I was swimming Rob around, I felt like we were barely moving, but when it was my turn to play the dummy, it seemed like Kevin was really motoring! He was also testing how far he could push my head back without snapping my neck :) I was relieved when he finally let me go.

Next we did the infamous 9 bottle drill. I get the impression that not all instructors do this one. Stories of this are pretty much the reason I decided we should put 30/30 in our stage bottles :) The basic idea is that everyone passes all of their bottles to one guy. Each person gets a turn taking all 9 bottles. We didn't do the drill exactly as it was supposed to be done (due to a misunderstanding during the briefing), but we got the basic gist of each of us ending up with all of the bottles once. It was good that Rob went first, because I got to watch how he did it, to get some ideas. I went last. By the time I had 6 bottles, I was actually pretty impressed with how easy it was to maneuver. I had 4 bottles on the leash, and at that point, I was able to stash them all between my legs and back kick, etc. as usual. Then Kevin gave me the last 3. Dean had mentioned that it was "not exactly cheating" to hand over an entire leash at once. So I took the whole leash. I don't know if this made things easier or harder, but I was completely unable to get that puppy clipped to my hip D-ring. I kept trying and just couldn't fit everything back there. I was swimming around in circles, unable to back kick with the three bottles hanging in my hand. Finally I gave up and told Kevin to clip it for me. Once he did, I was much less spazzy, but I still couldn't completely back kick. Basically I could back kick with my right leg, but not my left. So I would have to kick forward into the right position and then swivel around with my right leg. Afterwards, Kevin let me in on a little secret -- it helps if you pump some gas into your left leg, so that side of your body is not so weighed down.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of that drill was. I suspect it was mostly for Dean's amusement. In any case, he seemed satisfied enough with our performance (or satisfied that we know the extent to which we sucked, anyway). After that, we had some line and bags to clean up, plus we recovered all of the bits of blue tape that had falled off of our tanks. Then we scurried out of the water to get out of there before close. The people who run Blue Grotto are not very nice. They held Kevin's credit card hostage to insure that we left before close. Kevin had left his card with them to keep open a gas tab (in case we wanted to get a gas fill before we left, which we did, but they refused because I guess they are lazy), but when he went to close the tab, they refused to give it back until we left. Needless to say, Kevin was none too pleased.

Dean gave us the option of either breaking for dinner or finishing up some lecture right away. We decided to finish up lecture so we could have a more leisurely meal afterwards. We headed back to the motel and did lecture in Dean's room. There is a lot of overlap between the material for Tech 2 and Tech 1. Dean's lecture style can be pretty much summed up as follows. He asks you some questions to determine if you already know what he is about to teach, and if you do, he doesn't make you sit through something you already know. I think we all appreciated that. He quizzed us a little on tank factor math and gas consumption calculations, and then continued on to talk about variable ascent rates. Quite frankly I find the 10 ft/minute, 5 ft/minute thing confusing. I will just stick with the 1 and 2 minute stops that I learned before. We also watched a little bit of video just to see how we looked. Dean did not really focus too much on the video review. At the end of the day, he told us we would be meeting at 40 Fathoms Grotto the next day, which meaned we did well enough to move on to ascents.

Once we were finished, we headed over to the Winn Dixie to get some duct tape to better label our bottles. We asked one of the cashiers for a dinner recommendation, and they suggested a place down the street called Billy Jacks. So we headed over to check it out. It was a hit. Rob was happy because they had hushpuppies. I was happy because they had baked potatoes and baked apples (the ribs were good too, but by this point I was already starting to feel a bit over-meated). The staff there were all very friendly too. Actually I found that pretty much everyone we encountered on our trip (other than the Blue Grotto people) were exceedingly friendly. I think people in the south are just way friendlier than people in California.

I was delighted to find that Ted had sent us a couple of pictures of Liz playing with the cats. I missed my kitties!

I was so tired that I went to sleep without showering. This is pretty much unheard of for me after diving, but especially considering the heat and humidity. Poor Rob.

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