13 February 2017


I had lofty goals of blogging at least once a week this year. That was my plan. Not a resolution, exactly, just a plan. 

(My other plan for the year, signing up for and using digit, is thus far a success. I have finally begun to train digit on the fact that I want it to save more than $0.17 at a time by forcing it to save $10 or $100 at a time. If you want to try digit, by the way, let me know. I have a referral code. It is addicting.)

So anyway, blogging. I was going to do it. I was going to do it regularly.

Then I realized that if I want to scuba dive in Mexico at the end of February, I should get certified now. I figured this out the day before the first of five Tuesday night classes that culminated in open water dives last weekend. This means that I had class from 6:30 - 10:30 every Tuesday night, and also homework. 

I loved, loved, loved the scuba classes. I got all excited every week when I knew that I was going to get to go underwater that night. 

On the first pool night (which was actually the second class, because our first pool night got canceled due to the apocalypse snow), we had to swim 400 yards. I started off slow, because 8 laps is a lot of laps. By my return on the first lap, I had switched to the time-honored swim stroke of the women in my family: the side stroke. By the third lap, I was way out ahead of the other two students. Tortoise and hare, people. It pays to be the tortoise.

On the second pool night, we had to take off our masks and sit underwater without them for a minute, then put them back on. People panic over this, mostly because you just about have to keep your eyes closed lest the chlorine destroy them. It didn't bother me at all. I knelt sightless underwater for a minute, just enjoying the feeling of being underwater. I knew that the regulator wasn't going to fail me - I could breathe - and I knew that the surface was up there if I needed it. (I would worry if I were in 50 feet of water without my buddy, but this was not that situation.)

At the end of the class, we drove up to Other PNW State for the open water sessions. J. came along, because he's a diver, and the dive shop said there are usually other people up there diving.

To dive in 36 degree water, you need a serious wetsuit. Actually, you need more than just a wetsuit. You need a 7mm farmer john (a sleeveless wetsuit) covered by a 7 mm shorts/long-sleeve combo. You also need 5mm gloves, hood, and boots. And you will still be cold just about every second you aren't moving. (For comparison, in Honduras I dove in a 3mm shortie - shorts and short sleeves.) 

It's really pretty down there. The sea anemones stand a foot or two off the ground, orange and white, faces turned into the current. There are tiny jellyfish the size of a baby's cupped hand floating through the water, opening and closing slowly. Schools of fish swim between you and the sky.

By Saturday night, after three dives and a lot of standing around in and out of the water, I was chilled through. There was no reprieve out of the water, with the wind blowing on the wet neoprene, except the few minutes when we could stand directly in front of the propane heater. Sitting in the hot tub and taking a hot shower in the evening did not raise my body temperature back to normal. I went to bed still cold. 

I guess it probably didn't help that I was in the worst days of a cold. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck - and that was before I doped myself up with Sudafed and Afrin and ibuprofen to get my congestion to the point where my ears would not explode with the underwater pressure, and then jumped into freezing water.

Sunday morning before the final dive, standing out in the 33 degree air in a still-wet wetsuit, my hands were so cold they burned. J. had to run inside and get a bottle of hot water to pour into my gloves before I could move them enough to get my gear on. My instructor's regulator was frozen, spewing air in free flow when he tested it. 

When we dove, I had an extra 3 lb weight on one side of my BCD (the diving vest) to make up for the different air tank I was using, so I kept tipping to one side. I couldn't get warm. The water was so murky that I just followed the orange fins of the instructor. All I could think was, "Is this over yet?" I'm usually pretty good with air, but I tore through it trying to stay warm and not give up. 

And then we were out of the water, and we were certified, and I took another hot shower and put on layers of clothes and slept in the car most of the way home. 

So I'm good to dive in Mexico next week. I'm guessing that will be a little more pleasant than the frigid waters of the sound.

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