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Me diving

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cave 2, Day 5: Back at Ginnie

We got up early and headed out of Marianna a bit before 8. On the way back to High Springs, we took our final exam. David told us the night before that we could take the test as a team, but then for some reason he changed his mind. I think he was worried Rob was going to eat bon bons while Antonio and I slaved away on the exam, because that would be totally like Rob. He gave us one last chance to ask any questions after he made this announcement, and I confessed that I don't know anything about cave geology. He told me some more stuff about that, which of course was utterly useless to the test. We eventually made it back to High Springs. We swung by EE, to pickup some gear and decided to grab lunch at the Station Bakery and Cafe, which is basically across the street. I'd never been there before, but Rob mentions it every now and then. Man, I can't believe I waited this long to check it out -- it's a great lunch spot! And they have some very tasty looking cakes and pastries. And ice cream too. Okay, next time I'm just going to skip lunch and go straight to dessert. Plus I finally found out where I can buy a goat around these parts.

Once we finished lunch, we headed to Ginnie Springs for a couple of dives. When David was explaining to us why he wanted to go back to Ginnie for the last day, he said something along the lines of there being a super cool dive that we could do. The super cool dive was a circuit that started out a lot like the circuit from the first day, but instead of jumping back to the mainline, we would go up the "mud tunnel" and when that ended, we'd jump back onto a line that was heading back toward to the mainline, near the maple leaf. I was not that excited about having to schlep a stage through the flow at Ginnie. I was even less thrilled that it was my turn to lead. I didn't think that schlepping a stage would magically transform my mediocre line running skills into anything better :) Before I even had a chance to whimper about this, David said that since Rob felt he had been "robbed" of his chance to lead on the downstream dive at Hole in the Wall, he could lead this dive. I thought this was a nice way of David acknowledging that I am a flow wimp and that making me run the line with a stage bottle through the flow would be mean. On the previous day, my light had crapped out (all on its own) prematurely. I thought it could be the battery -- I had two batteries I was alternating between and one of them I knew the burn time on, but the other I didn't have any good (recent) data points. So Antonio loaned me his spare light (his wife's light actually). I figured I could use it for one dive and use my light with the known good battery on the second dive.

We were entering through the eye again. As we approached the entrance, another team was coming out, so we stood aside waiting for them. I tucked against the wall of the eye and put a finger down to hold myself there against the flow. When I put my finger down on the rock, a turtle came barreling out of this little nook next to my hand. Oops! I felt bad to have spooked the turtle, but I was actually quite delighted by the close turtle encounter, since I love the Ginnie turtles! As I spun around watching the turtle, I could hear regulator laughing behind me, which I think was probably David. We finally got to enter and dropped our O2 bottles on the line. Then we headed down the restriction. When I got to the section after the little 50 foot room, where you come around the corner and get pummeled by the flow, the boys were stopped ahead of me. I didn't know what was going on, so I just tried to hold myself on some of the little rocks on the bottom, so I didn't get blown back up the chute. Just then, my light failed. I couldn't imagine that David was failing my light right now, so I reached back and flipped the switch (twice) and it didn't come back on. I pulled out a backup light and signaled the guys. David asked me to flip the switch on the light and I was kind of like "don't you think I already tried that?" :) I guess he wanted to see the light's behavior in hopes of debugging it on the surface without getting out of the water. After that, David swam up ahead and took the reel and tied it into the mainline, and then we headed out. We got to the surface and after a bit of troubleshooting, gave up on getting the light to work. David sent Rob to retrieve my light from the car. I was perfectly happy to hang out in the water while Rob did that :)

After swapping lights, we headed back in, for another pummeling. We jumped to the right at the park bench, and dropped our stages there. The first section after that was quite familiar, but then we got to the mud tunnel. It is small and muddy. The entire time we were swimming through it, I was feeling super paranoid about silting it out, which made the whole thing rather unpleasant. Probably breathing 32% didn't help with that, but I really think it was the class paranoia that made it quite bad. We didn't make it to the end of the tunnel by the time that I called it on gas. I actually thought we had, because Rob stopped ahead, and I thought perhaps he was getting out a spool to put the jump in. But it turns out he just stopped because there was a small area he needed to negotiate. On the way out, David told us to pull the spools, but not until we'd already passed over one. But then I was wondering if Rob had pulled the first one and I just hadn't noticed it. So I was a bit confused by this. It turned out he had not, but it would be easy to pull that one on a subsequent dive. Anyhoo, there were eventually an assortment of failures on the way out. After we surfaced, we each did an unconscious diver rescue from the bottom of the eye. I felt surprisingly unspazzy when I did mine, other than one moment when I almost swam Antonio into the wall and had to push off with my hand :) Afterward Rob told me that my unconscious diver rescue looked good and he might make me demonstrate it in the future. High praise coming from Rob :)

For the next dive, since we weren't going to complete the circuit, we were given the option of skipping the stage and just doing a backgas dive. That sounded peachy to me, so that's what we did. So the plan was to head up the mainline, run a spool to the jump where we abandoned the spool on the last dive, then go retrieve that spool from the mud tunnel. Once that was all cleaned up, we would continue up the mainline and jump to the left at the "roller coaster". I had to lead the dive, sigh. I mentioned that I like being in the back, because I can watch where the people in front go in the gallery. Because no matter how high up I am, I'm never as high as I should be! This is obvious when someone in front of me is higher than me :) But I still got stuck leading. David knew that I thought the mud tunnel was creepy as hell, so I think that's why he wanted me to have to swim in it to retrieve the spool. He's mean. After switching tanks and such, we headed in. At least I didn't have to run the reel :) At some point in the gallery, David actually took the lead so I could see the right place to go at one point. Very helpful. We continued up the main line and at some point, I got to a spot that I recognized, but then didn't recognize at the same time. It was a spot where the line sort of goes down a hill, which I have a very clear picture of in my head. But it didn't look right. The line was running on the other side of a little spit of rock hanging down from the ceiling, which I didn't remember at all. After swimming past that spit of rock, I turned around and looked back down the line, to figure out what was going on. Meanwhile, Rob signaled to me that the jump we were looking for was right there. David swam over and pulled the line back to the side of the tunnel we were on -- ahh, that looks more familiar :) I tied into the line and headed over to the Expressway tunnel. Then I followed the line into the mud tunnel. David followed me and after I pulled the spool, he told me to slow down. I gave him this look like "I just want to get out of here, dude" :) and tried to slow down. After cleaning everything up, we headed back up the mainline. Just as I was approaching the jump we were to take, I checked my gas and realized it wasn't worth putting the jump in, and I thumbed it. I am a bit miffed about how we only made it to 750 feet on thirds when we routinely make it to the maple leaf on 2/9th, but I guess I was screwing around with those spools for longer than I realize.

Before the dive, David told us that we would do a lights out exit, so when he told us to turn out our lights, just turn them out and don't go to a backup. He asked us if we remembered how to cross the line in touch contact, and we told him that we had each practiced it on Sunday. He seemed surprised, or possibly impressed. Since this was basically the one skill that was new to me in C1, it seemed obvious to practice it before the class :) So, we knew a lights out exit was coming, and could assume it would be a gas-sharing lights out exit, and we were not disappointed. Rob and Antonio ended up sharing gas, and then part way out, I switched Rob onto my long hose. Going through the lips sharing gas was quite amusing. It actually wasn't as bad as I expected. We still had some light at that point at least. Eventually we went lights out. In Cave 1, David told us some scary stories of students rolling off posts while sharing gas. So I was very paranoid about rolling off my left post. There was a lot of clanking against the ceiling as we went through the restriction. Every time I clanked, I did a flow check, and on several occasions, my post had rolled off a turn. So it's easy to imagine how it could eventually roll off completely if one didn't do flow checks. Aside from being terrified of rolling my post off and falling a bit behind on venting my drysuit once, I actually thought it was kind of fun going through there lights out :) However, it was still a relief to make it to the little room at 30 feet. When we got there and got our bottles, Rob made a little motion with the reg he was breathing (my long hose) which made me think he was going to go onto his bottle and I briefly spazzed out for a moment, trying to stop him. But of course that isn't what he was about to do anyway :) It was getting dark out by this point, so even in that room it was really dark. We made our way out into the open water and did our 20 foot stop there. Since Rob and I were planning to dive at Ginnie again over the weekend, we just left the reel in to retrieve another day. When we got to the surface, David told us that looked good, or something like that. I was shocked.

We had plans to meet for dinner with Chris and Doug's C1 class that was going on this week, as well as a few other people. When we got out of the water, we were running a bit behind, so we quickly got packed up to go. David asked if we'd be available to meet in the morning for some final wrap-up. Rob asked if that meant we had to wait until tomorrow to find out if we passed. David said "no, you'll find out tonight". I took that to mean that David was going to torture us and wait to tell us until the last possible moment, which is exactly what he did. He finally gave us the news as we were leaving from dinner, after whipping out some GUE cards at the other end of the table during dessert, and fanning them about teasingly.

We walked back to EE, where we had left our cars, and unloaded a bunch of gear before heading out. As we were driving down Main St, we picked up a police escort, who followed us all the way back to the Country Inn, and parked behind our car. When we got out, he said that he noticed we were milling about outside of a closed business after hours and thought we were robbing the place. Well he didn't say it in quite those words, but that was the idea. Rob told him what we were up to and I proudly tried to show him my brand-spankin'-new cave card, hehehe. He told me that wasn't necessary, and Rob told him that I was so excited about it, I just wanted to show it off. I think Officer Barbrady was amused. Man, we can't get out of High Springs without a brush with the law, but at least this time we didn't owe any money :)

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