Some of you will remember that I completed part one of my open water SCUBA certification back in February as part of an effort to start checking things off of my bucket list. After six weeks of lessons , we still needed to actually go driving in something a bit bigger than a high school pool. We're required to complete these four open water dives before we can get our certification cards. For that reason alone, I found myself shivering on the shore of Lake George in the rain on the first weekend of July. At 7am, fifteen of us were milling around trying to remember how to set up our gear, find a safe dry spot to stash some sweats, and dreading the initial shock of getting into the water.
|Hearthstone Campground, Lake George|
I had forgotten my weight belt. I remembered every one of my lead weights but forgot the thick strip of nylon that allowed me to sink below surface and had to ask my instructor for a spare. At that point, I was really wondering if the whole SCUBA certification was worth it. A couple hours later we took advantage of a break and the rain to suit up and start our first dive. SCUBA gear is deceptively heavy. The weightlessness of neutral buoyancy is awesome but hauling everything necessary to maintain neutral buoyancy in the water column and live to tell the tell takes work. After the waddle to the shoreline and balancing act to secure mask and fins, I was anxious to get on with the dive and feel less like an overweight penguin. What I wasn’t ready for was the chill of 55°F water. Instant chill.
|Prepping for a dive|
One of the hardest things about that day was waiting the necessary amount of time before I could take a hot shower. Exposing yourself to hot water too quickly after diving can cause the residual nitrogen in your blood to be released too quickly causing the bends. We were told that we could take “warm” showers but I didn’t trust myself to have that kind of control when I was that cold. I bided my time by eating piping hot soup and watch shows about tropical coral reefs for several hours. Finally I was able to drain the hot water tank and raise my core temperature back to normal.
Sunday morning came far too early and dreary. As I made my way north to Lake George, my
ears blocked due to some minute change in altitude. When I arrived at our dive site they were
still blocked. Not good. Until my ears cleared I couldn’t dive for fear
of rupturing my eardrum or worse. There
were five other students who were nursing discomfort from the previous day
too. Three other students plus me were
out of the water for at least the third dive,
I settled in to watch at least the first dive from land and quickly
became bored. There was a family of
ducks that could keep my attention for a few minutes at a time. Most of my time was spent watching everyone
else’s bubbles raise to the surface.
Have I ever mentioned that patience isn’t my strong suite? I immediately
went to work at getting my ear cleared.
|Navigating back to shore|
|Certified Open Water Diver - only partially frozen|
I think I’ll focus on warm water diving next.