Monday, May 27, 2013

Scuba Diving Whitecliff

It was a great day with a mix of sun and clouds.  Not too hot.  I met Mike, the Master Diver, at Rowand Reef and we drove in our separate vehicles to Whitecliff. I've this new dry suit that I've only tested in a swimming pool. After years of scuba diving with a suit (other than my bathing suit) it's taking a little getting used to the change in buoyancy.  The swimming pool is fresh water and I'd need more weights in salt water.
There were at least 50 other divers at Whitecliff. I'd done my original drysuit training here. I'd also done my first night dive and the grid and compass training.  Visibility can often be a problem and were heard it was today but that wouldn't affect my equipment check. I signed up for a weekend dive in Barkley Sound so want to be equipment problem free when I'm out there.  My Hubb had all it's seals re conditioned as well so it was going to be a test of this at 100 feet pressure as well.
Mike is great fun. A young guy who also works Fire Rescue.  There are some advantages to being an older man.  Well bred young men are more helpful and solicitous.  When he offered to lift my tank for me to get on I wasn't complaining.  Gearing up is a bitch.  All this gear.  When finally suited up and geared up I felt like Colonel Chris Hatfield. I was ready for any environment and looked around for the guys from Bare Naked Lady to join in a fitting song with.
It's a bit of trek down to the beach from the parking lot.  Mike had us go right in, stopping only a moment to put on dive hood and goggles.  Then I was in the water with  my BCG inflated and struggling to get my fins on.  "Can I help you with those,"  Mike asked.  Sure.  It feels a bit like having a mother help you put on your shoes to go to kindergarden but why not.  Mike's line, "That's what dive buddies are for."  He had let me help him zip up his suit probably just to make me feel a bit useful.
We swam out to the deeper water then.  We'd gone over our PADI hand signals in the parking lot so I knew to go down but when I pressed the button to let the air out of my BCG I didn't descend.  Mike had extra weights but neither he nor I could get them out of the pocket in his pack. TThe gloves keep one's fingers warm but aren't good for fishing in pockets for slippery balls of lead.  This necessitated a swim ashore. Tide was going out and I had weights on my ankles.  I'm out of shape.  Rolling the ATV a year and half ago with all the injuries and the excuse to lie around eating and watching tv hasn't helped. I 've been getting more active the last 6 months, swimming 20 length of the pool each week, hiking with Gilbert, but those weights on my ankles were killers. I couldn't swim on my back because my feet just went straight down so I swam on my side with some successful.  A long surface swim.  Exhausted I stumbled coming out of the water and Mike kindly helped the old guy up.
In this struggle for decorum I lost my old mask and snorkel.  Ashore I sat, wondering if I was getting too old for scuba diving.  Mike meanwhile ran back to his car for more weights.  Firemen. He at least had the courtesy to leave his tank but I don't doubt he'd have been able to run up the hill after that swim with his tank on.  I was glad to sit on the beach in the sun watching the other divers.  God was good too. A girl came out of the water and couldn't stand.  Her buddies had to help her get her tank off as she knelt in the water.  I told her she shouldn't have watched my entrance. It's not the way it's supposed to be done.  Pay attention to these other guys. She stood up after that laughing.  There's no doubt this is all a whole lot of fun.
Mike stuff more weights into my Hubb pockets.  And off we went again. This time it was letter perfect.  I pressed the button and descended smoothly.  There wasn't much visibility, maybe 6 to 10 feet, but just enough so I didn't lose Mike. He had a light and I'd forgotten mine. I'd left my dive computer and light on the boat having intended to leave from there but not going there in the morning at all just picking up the major part of my gear from the storage locker. I really must get a checklist for this.
I loved the glorious white anemones at the bottom. Great mushrooms looking things on stocks. There were crabs and greeling fish and a big cod.  I love fish. Seeing fish I'm back as a kid who raised tropical fish but now I'm inside the tank.  
I'd forgotten to bring socks so my feet were cold.  Having used up air originally trying to descend and swimming ashore I was glad it was a short dive. I signalled to mike when I was at 1500 and we headed back.  At 1000 I let him know and but as I was beginning to ascend air in my suit pooled in my feet and I shot up to the surface feet first for the last 10 feet . When we'd begun our ascent we were already at about 30 feet.  My exit from the water at the end though wasn't elegant.  Mike said that my ankle weights were probably a good idea. I'd taken them off after the surface swim.  Now I'll wear them again unless there's any surface swimming planned or at least I'll know to take them off for that.
A harbour seal was sunning itself on a rock beside us.  The sun was glorious.  I was really happy.  I'm always happy to be alive after a dive.  It's not at all dangerous but it somehow makes one feel how wonderful it is in one's own domain. I'm sure the space astronauts feel the same when they come inside from outer space.  I'd just been 20 minutes in the original domain.  Amazing to that we all came from the sea so there's that revitalization that comes with returning to land.  I'd been down there with the fishes and a part of that world but now I was climbing up the beach without the sprawling tripping previous exit.
All round a terrific time.  We were scheduled for 2 dives but I told Mike I only wanted one, simply because my feet were cold and secretly I was tired.  Enough for a day.  I could have done another dive but the gearing up would have been more exhausting. Just hauling my tired as up to the hose on the side of the hill was enough .The cold fresh water on my face was spectacular.  Mike offered to carry my weight belt when his keen fireman eye saw that it was that or have to carry the whole of me over his shoulder. What a wuss I am.  I accepted the offer gladly. 35 lbs was all I needed lightened to ascend the hill to my truck looking very dignified indeed.  Pulling the weight belt ass backwards hauling it like a snake across the grass must have caused Mike some embarrassment. There's a whole lot of these master divers around making it the safest place to dive in all BC.  Mike's amazing with his Fire Rescue skills and all his dive skills and his willingness to accept that maybe one day when he was twice his age he'd look as happily tired as I did.
What a day!  I was out of my gear and shaking hands with Mike before heading back to Burnaby for the excited reuniting with Gilbert who had guarded the home while I was away.
I'm that much fitter and a whole lot less anxious.  A lot of of the tiredness is fear. I was admittedly a little concerned about testing new gear at 100 feet.  My friend Tom told me that parachute packers are required to use the parachutes every 100 packings to maintain the high standards there. I knew I was going to be a guinea pig for my gear and I don't like being a guinea pig.  Once I was under water swimming alongside Mike I was in the heaven that scuba diving is. It's so exhilarating to be weightless and moving along in this underwater paradise with fish looking me right in the eye inches away from my face mask.  I love it.  Another dive.  And I'm even getting used to the dry suit. It's a whole lot better in the tropics but then my friend who skied in a bikini once said that was her favourite day snow skiing on the mountain.  I'll wear socks the next time because I didn't even like having cold feet, physically.  The felt suit I wore inside the dry suit kept the rest of me totally warm but I have to remember some thermal socks for inside the boots.  No water gets in the whole outfit.  Amazing.  Once I was stripped down I just got into my street clothing.  I like that a whole lot better than the neoprene suit I had before.
A great dive. Thank you Mike.  Thank you Rowand Reef, Granville Island, Vancouver.

1 comment:

Scuba Diving Equipment said...

Nice experience with scuba diving, thanks for sharing this interesting story with us.