It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Long Weekend in FL: Peacock to Waterhole

On Saturday we went to Peacock.  I don't remember whose idea it was to do Waterhole, but it was a dive we'd wanted to do, since David told us it was really nice.  We did not know precisely where the jump was (in terms of number of feet), but there is that board near the path to the spring, which has a map on it.  And that had some sort of numbers on it.  I don't remember the details of the map, but it led me to believe that the jump was somewhere (slightly) before 850 feet.  So the plan was to head up the peanut tunnel and over to Waterhole, and then possibly further up the peanut tunnel on the way out (because I'm a "compulsive recalculator" or so Rob tells me).  Ted and Kevin were diving at Peacock also, and we got there in time to watch young Ted on his first foray down the walkway into the water at Peacock :)

We got in the water and I ran a spool to the Peanut line.  I was diving my wimpy 10W light, and in the bright light of open water, I couldn't see the spot.  So I looked at the light head to check if it was on, and saw water in the light head.  Hmm, that's not right.  I shut it off, showed it to Rob, and he thumbed it.  We surfaced and found that the ring on the light head was loose.  After opening it, dumping the water out, and drying it as best we could, and putting it back together (and actually screwing the ring on tightly), the light worked.  Freshwater is nice like that.  So we headed back in, and headed up the Peanut line as planned.  The beginning of the dive was pretty usual -- everything was how I left it the last time I dove there :)  Around 800 feet, my ears perked up and my whiskers started to twitch in attention, as I looked for the jump.  I couldn't clearly remember the jump from when I have dived the peanut line before.  I was a bit worried when we crossed the 900 foot arrow,  but then shortly after that, we saw the jump.  I guess that map we looked at was not quite right.  Subsequent web research indicates that the jump is nominally at 950 feet.  We installed the jump, and left our stage bottles at the jump.  I was under the impression that this tunnel is kind of small, which is why we left our bottles there.

The first bit of this line did not seem all that different than the mainline.  But at some point, it transformed into looking like no other part of Peacock that I've been in before.  For some reason, it seemed more like blue water with light walls, versus the green water with brown walls that I typically think of at Peacock.  If there is one thing I would saw about this line, that's what it would be.  But it was also just a fun line to go down, with the cave alternating from low, wide areas, to tall narrower areas (which were my favorite) and little underpasses and twists and turns connecting all of those.  There was also some nice lighter colored clay.  The tunnel wasn't really small in the way that I had somehow imagined it would be, but it was definitely very delicate, so leaving our stage bottles at the jump was probably a good call.  It eventually started to look like we were near an opening, because there was lots of black-brown organic material on the bottom.  Then it started to get shallower.  I knew nothing about the opening here, so we decided to surface and see for ourselves.  Shortly after the line started to ramp up, there was a big obviously line trap.  I don't know if "line trap" is even the correct term.  To me, line trap implies that the line *could* end up running in a way that would make it difficult or impossible to follow in no viz.  But in this case, it already was running that way.  The line ran under a big boulder.  The line disappeared under the boulder, and then maybe 4 or 5 feet later (I would estimate it to be a bit less than my wing-span), the line popped out again.  I noted its presence, decided that I could reach across the boulder and find the other side, and kept on going.  I suppose Rob did the same thing.  As we approached the surface, the viz got worse, and we found a tangled web of tree branches just below the surface, where the line ended.  I popped to the surface, then Rob appeared shortly after me, having installed a spool from the end of the line to the surface.  I made fun of him for installing a spool for that last 2 feet, but in hindsight, it was a pretty smart thing to do.

The surface was not worth visiting.  It was basically just a crappy little mudhole, that smelled like sulfur and had lots of tree branches in it.  After a minute or two, we agreed to head back in.  I went first (I'm not sure why, since I led on the way in).  The viz below us was terrible, I guess in the process of bumping against all the tree branches, we had knocked crap down in the water below us.  I followed Rob's spool to the start of the line, and somehow in the process, I had thread myself through tree branches in such a way that I was wedged in.  I was stuck in the tree branches, no more than 3 feet below the surface.  I had a bit of a Ted moment at this point.  Ted has this story about getting turtled in doubles at the Breakwater once.  I think in the story, he didn't have a reg in his mouth, and possibly there was no mask on his face either.  Anyway, in this story, Ted says that he had this thought go through his mind "I am NOT drowning in 6 inches of water at the Breakwater".  I had some similar thoughts about being stuck in the tree branches in 3 feet of water :)  I wriggled around a bit, and then let a little gas out of my wing, which made me slip a little and then I was freed.  I decided to return to the surface to regroup, and found Rob was already reeling his spool down, so I told him to come back up with me.  This all transpired in maybe 20 seconds.  So it really wasn't as dramatic as it seems :)  When we got to the surface, I told Rob what happened, and that he should give me a minute to get out of the way before he starts to cleanup the spool again.

Then I disappeared again, and this time I managed to not get tangled in the branches.  I was heading down the line, in touch contact, because the viz was spectacularly bad at this point.  I know I was in "open water", but since I was facing down, I could see only a few feet in front of me, wherever my light was pointing.  So I was inching down along the line, trying to avoid any tree branches.  I'd made it to about 10 feet, and I saw rock sloping down in front/above me, and I guess I put my hand out because I almost ran into it.  And then, at the least convenient possible moment, my light died.  I considered that I could have knocked the light off when I maneuvered to avoid the rock, but I really didn't have a hand free to figure that out.  So I looped my arm around the line and managed to get a scout light on, and then continued down the line, with the light still clipped to me, but in my hand.  I figured when I got to the bottom, I would deal with cleaning up my primary.  So I continued down, until the line suddenly disappeared under that boulder.  Oy.  I couldn't see the line come out on the other side, because the viz had deteriorated so much.  I figured I would need to tie a spool in and search around for the other side of the line, but step 1 was cleaning up my primary light (still on my hand), so I did that.  By the time I'd done that, Rob appeared, and I pointed out the problem.  He told me to stay on the line, and then he held onto my ankle (or maybe my fin), while searching around for the line.  I guess his wingspan plus my length was enough, because a moment later, he let go of my leg, and then kept giving me an okay.  Which I returned.  Then he returned it.  Then I returned it.  I was kind of like... is that an "I found the line okay?" or an "are you okay okay?"  But after trading okays back and forth a few times, I figured it could only be the former, and I swam toward him and saw the line.  We continued along until the water cleared (which it did as soon as we weren't under the icky hole), then I decided to fiddle with my light, to see if it would miraculously come back to life.  But alas it did not, so I exited on my backup.

The exit was uneventful and expedient.  When we got back to our bottles, I lamented the fact that we had *so much* more gas, but couldn't head further up the line as planned.  Stupid light.  I suppose that is what I get for hastily fixing a lighthead that is full of water on the surface before the dive.  After the dive, we took it apart and let everything dry and the light was fine.  I guess that's one more plus on the side of freshwater diving :)  I don't think it the light would have been as forgiving in the ocean!

So I suppose the lesson for today is not to swim over a line trap.  And surfacing at Waterhole isn't worth the effort.

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