It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Madison Blue

To finish our whirlwind tour of caves in the greater High Springs area, we headed to Madison Blue on Sunday. Rumor was the flow was down and the viz was good. I guess we picked a good time to visit. There was some misinformation surrounding how long of a drive it was from High Springs, but it turned out to only be about an hour and twenty minutes. Rob was kind enough to get up a little early and go to EE for fills while I stayed in bed. We ended up getting to Madison around 11 I think. There were quite a few other divers there, and they all seemed to be carrying their side-mount tanks down to the water. We walked down and took a look at the basin, which looked quite lovely. We chatted a little with some of the divers next to us, and then started to get geared up. I noticed when I got back from the bathroom, Rob had put a battery in my canister for me and closed it up. How nice. I got into my suit and I had one arm in it, when I thought to check that all of my lights were working. Nope. The little wire coming out of the can lid had pulled out of the connector. This happened a few weeks ago, and Frank fixed it, but I was planning on dropping my light off at Light Monkey on the way out of town to get it really fixed, since everytime it gets "fixed" the wire gets a little shorter and thus easier to get pulled out of the connector next time. I informed Rob that he had broken my light while putting a battery in :) Well I don't know if I wouldn't have broken it, but I knew it was fragile and thus was treating it as such. Rob started scurrying around and asked the guys next to us if they had some tools. They produced a couple of useful tools from their toolkit. I don't precisely remember what tools he had at this point, but it seemed a bit like trying to fix a can light with an emery board and a toothpick (which I could do, because I am a gear expert, but Rob I'm not so sure about). While Rob was working on it, another guy came over (who must have overheard) and said he had a soldering iron if that would be helpful. No way! He brought his very impressive tool box over, which included a butane soldering iron and pretty much every other tool you might possibly need. Best dive toolkit ever. Then he and Rob fixed my light, which I was super grateful for. There was a while where they were huddled over the soldering iron trying to protect it from the wind so the flame didn't blow out before it got hot. I really should have taken a picture of that!

After that, we got geared up and headed into the water. I picked the wrong staircase to walk down (the one on the right as you enter) so when I got to the bottom it wasn't shallow enough to stand and put fins on. So I did my best impression of a drowning cat and eventually just asked Rob to put my fins on for me. Very hard core, I know. I ran the reel to the mainline, which is maybe a body-length into the overhead. Rob apparently estimated it to be more like in open water, and made fun of me for running the reel (strange, since Rob is always encouraging me to "practice" running the reel and such). I was sure if I didn't run the reel to the mainline that I would get some serious shit from him for that; I'm still not convinced I wouldn't have. I think he was just testing me when he asked why I ran the reel.

There was what I would call minor flow. There were some areas where the flow picked up a bit, and I did pull and glide for some of it, because I am lazy, but it probably wasn't really necessary. The water is very blue, so I can see why it is named so. And the cavern zone is pretty (when you are looking out, that is). There are a lot of those smooth sculpted looking rock formations that remind me of either sheet coral or mammal skulls. I think those look neat. There were a few flatter wider areas, separated by more round tunnely passages. After a few hundred feet, we came to a plastic figurine which I thought was a dragon tied to the line (actually on the way in, I thought it was a dinosaur and on the way out, I revised that to a dragon). But I guess it's Godzilla, since this is apparently where you jump to go to "Godzilla Room". At about 500 feet, we came to what I would call a breakdown room, but that might be the wrong term, since I am cave-retarded. When you get to the "top" there is a little ledge above, and a vertical crack/hole which goes up quite a ways. I guess Rob saw it and was curious so he went up to check it out while I stayed on the line, and yep, it goes up quite a distance. Then he sent me up to look at it. It was pretty silty up there; I guess no one else is silly enough to go look at it. A little beyond 800', there was this crazy little z-shaped passage which I was not at all graceful at getting through -- it is called the "half hitch" which I didn't know at the time, but I saw a line marker with "HH" on it just past it. I asked Rob about this and he filled me in on the meaning, since he is a studier of cave maps, and is thus down with the lingo. On the way out, I was no more graceful, and thinking this would be quite "fun" with more flow.

After that, the flow seemed to pick up a bit, around the 1100' mark. Still nothing too significant, but I did catch Rob pulling once or twice, so I felt like it was okay for me to be lazy and pull too. We passed a jump spool with a cookie on the line that said "Poor scooter skills". I didn't get it. I asked Rob about it afterward, and then a few days later, he sent me to this thread. Man, cave divers can be so catty (and to ask for your cookie back!) Teehee. We also passed a couple of scientific instruments of some sort in two different spots in the cave. We did back-to-back dives and on the second dive we made it beyond the half hitch, but obviously not quite as far. Everything was pretty much the same, except someone had installed the jump on godzilla. On the way out from the second dive, I got the hero cam out and video'd on the way out of the cavern zone. We doodled about in the basin for a bit, and when we surfaced, it was raining :( After we got back to the car, we discussed a second dive and decided to punt. We were hungry and didn't have much to eat, because we forgot to get food before we left civilization, and everything on the way from civilization to Madison Blue was closed (Sunday, I guess?). So we headed out and stopped in Lake City for lunch (breakfast for me, I love biscuits) at Bob Evans. Hehe.

We made it back to EE in time to ditch our tanks, boohoo. Since we had a late lunch, we weren't hungry until fairly late, and we found out the hard way that nothing is open late on Sunday in rural Florida. So we got pizza at Villagio in Newberry which was quite tasty.

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