It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekend at the Mill Pond: Jackson Blue

We flew into Jacksonville as usual, and headed to High Springs to raid our storage unit and stop at EE.  Then we headed directly up to the Mill Pond, with a quick stop for lunch along the way, and got to Marianna around 1:30.  We have always thought that going to the Mill Pond for a short trip would not work, since all of our gear is in High Springs.  But since we have the time difference working in our favor, and you can dive at JB until whenever, it actually worked out fine.  When we got to the motel where we were staying, they informed me that they didn’t have a regular room on the first floor, as requested, so they would give us a suite instead… with a heart-shaped Jacuzzi, hahaha!

We all met up at Edd’s (that would be Kevin, Don, and Keith).  Kevin and Don had already dived in the morning, so Don was sitting this one out.  We looked at the map and started to discuss options.  Keith was basically calling out suggestions, which meant nothing to me.  When I asked him to explain this on the map, it became apparent that all of his suggestions involved insane navigation.  I had just flown in on a redeye, I didn’t feel like doing a dive with 15 Ts.  So I suggested that he and Rob could do something insane, and Kevin and I could do something simple.  You know, keep it to 4 Ts.  I’ve only been past the first T before (went left).  After discussing with Kevin and Keith, we had a plan.  We would go right at the first pair of Ts, and then left at the second pair, and then just up the mainline from there.  Kevin kept talking about the trash room, which had no meaning to me, but whatever.

When we got to Jackson Blue, it was crowded, but not insanely crowded, with locals swimming there.  It was a bit later in the day and a bit less hot than the last time we went in the summer.   Also, the new pavilion for divers was operational, which makes a huge difference!  We began the long painful process of setting up bottles and then dragging bottles and scooters to the water.  Don helped us, which sped things up.  As I was going through my gear bag, to pick out which spools to bring, I found four fins.  Rob, Rob, Allison, Ted.  Hmm, that doesn’t seem right.  Apparently the last users of Ted and my fins mixed them up when they put them away.  Rob and I just counted four fins in the bag before leaving the storage unit.  Hmph.  Ted and I have the same size fin, but his spring straps are a size bigger (or maybe half a size, since I think they are different brands).  I figured I’d just get in the water in my suit and see how it worked.  Keith also had a spare pair that seemed possibly workable, so I took them both to the water and tried them out.  Ted’s fin was the winner.  It’s a good thing Ted has girlish feet.

We flopped around in the shallow water for a bit, until we were sufficiently cool, and then got out to get geared up.  There is a little set of steps to get into the water near the diver pavilion, but the steps are a little tall for my liking (at least when going down in doubles).  Kevin walked down the rocks instead, which didn’t seem entirely civilized to me.  So I enlisted the help of a local to give me a hand down, and all was well.  We got all of our gear clipped on, and we headed in.  Rob and Keith went first.  It was pretty stirred up in the basin, just from all of the people there, but once we were in the cavern, it was very clear.  I haven’t been to JB since the collapse at the first chute, so I wasn’t sure how that would be.  I don’t think I remember it well enough to have noticed much of a difference.  It was a bit tricky to negotiate with a scooter, but I seem to recall it being a bit tricky to negotiate before.  The flow was not too high, but it was still very nice to scooter through the pebbly areas between the first chute and the first breakdown room; I have not-very-fond memories of not-very-effectively trying to pull and glide through there before.

Rob supervises gear setup
For the first 15 minutes of the dive, I felt like a total mess on the scooter.  I wasn’t having any particular problems, but there was just a ton of stop and go.  First it was trying to speed match, then it was something else, getting up and down around the breakdown rooms, etc.  It seemed like we were barely making any progress.  I just felt like I had fallen out of practice driving a Gavin, which I guess should not come as too much of a surprise.  We dropped our first stages right before the first T, which I knew was very early to be dropping them.  But it just took us so long to get there!  But after that, things got a lot smoother, even though through some areas, we were off the trigger pushing the scooter, particularly between the second set of Ts.  Since I haven’t been very far into JB before, I saw a lot more different kinds of passive than I have seen before.  The passages between both sets of Ts were fun, with a bit more twisting and turning compared to the earlier sections that are, well, kind of boring in those gravelly areas.

When we came out of the second loop (not sure what to call it when the line splits into two and then comes back together… there must be a word for that), I saw a stoplight.  Kevin had told me there would be a stoplight, and I had no idea what he meant, but once I saw it, I got it.  Very random.  So I knew this was the beginning of the “trash room”, which I suppose is so named because there is a lot of trash in the room.  Beer cans, etc.  I don’t know why they’ve all ended up here.  When Kevin told me I would see “trash mounds” off to the side, I thought this was a euphemism for some kind of structure or pile of (natural) debris.  But no, he meant it quite literally.

Aside from the trash, the bottom composition is quite pretty in this area, especially once you get a bit further in.  It reminded me of sand dunes, or a desert scene, because there are these creamy-colored sculpted “mounds”.  It is very bright and blue back there, somewhat in contrast to the earlier areas of the mainline.  We eventually got to a point where we dropped our scooters, based on time.  Kevin asked if I wanted to just go up and back in that room a little, but I said no, I want to keep going.  So we kicked along for a bit longer, and pretty quickly passed Rob and Keith’s scooter/stage drop, and then not long later, we passed a jump they had installed.  So we had the mainline all to ourselves :P  One last notable area was a section where it got a bit narrower and if you looked up, you could see a little crack, maybe big enough to call a passage, above a ledge above us.  I am sure if I’d been with Rob, he would have tried to go up there, but we just flipped over and took a look.  That was a neat little passage.  I’m sure I haven’t described it very well.

Eventually I turned it, on time, and because it was about time to drop stages, so I figured if we weren’t going to keep going much further, what was the point of switching off and dropping them?  On the way out, I noticed even more trash in the trash room than I had on the way in.  We had discussed the possibility of, after exiting back to the first T, dropping scooters and swimming up the other side of the T.  But I decided to pass on that; I was pretty cold, most likely because there was quite a bit of water gushing up my left arm.  The seal was seated fine, so I thought it must have either been a hole in the seal, or a leak where the seal meets the suit (I suspected the latter, because I knew the seal was peeling back, but hadn’t gotten around the fixing it).  So we made our way out (in way faster time than the way in, since I had gotten the hang of driving a Gavin again), and didn’t have too much deco to do when we got back to our bottles.  But it was a really cold deco.

We got out of the water, and found all of the swimmers gone, and a couple of divers who had just shown up to dive.  We lined up our bottles and scooters and got out of the water.   I was convinced at this point that my seal had been leaking where it was glued to the suit, so I did a quick inspection of that, and it looked okay.  Then I checked to see just how much of a leak it had been… I was completely soggy from the wrist up, but water was not pouring out of the seal or anything.  So I started to get out of my suit and my seal instantly exploded.  Doh!  In a not-possibly-fixable manner.  I’m guessing it had a hole in it or something, or maybe it had just started to disintegrate; it had a rather gummy feel to it.  I doubt there was anyway I could have removed it from my hand without damaging it.  So I was pretty pissed, but figured we would find a way to fix this, even if it meant driving back down to High Springs and diving there for the next few days.  Eventually Keith and Rob reappeared, and we cleaned up all of the gear.

I was pretty hopeful that Keith would have a spare seal in his truck, but after searching the truck, he came up empty  (and I thought Keith had everything in his truck!).  We headed to dinner (BBQ) and discussed what to do.  It sounded unlikely that Edd would have a seal for me (since apparently he has Pinnacle suits, and their seals don’t fit on DUI suits?).  We called up Meredith, who would be joining us on Sunday, and it sounded like her boots would be too small for my feet (I thought  that one of Meredith’s suits was otherwise likely to fit).  So Keith offered to drive home and fix it for me overnight.  What a sweetheart.  I am so lucky to have such nice (and handy) dive buddies.  The plan was that he would drive back the next day and meet us for an afternoon dive.

No comments: