Saturday, November 8, 2008

I'm a scuba wienie!


While we were in Florida, our group (Rick, Stacy, Jesse, Mary Ann, Bryan and I) planned to do some scuba diving in the Atlantic. The first day, we dove at Key Largo. When we arrived at the dive shop, the staff there informed us that there were four foot swells and asked if we still wanted to go out. Without hesitation we said yes. After all, it had been well over a year since my last dive, and I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to get some practice. How bad could it be? It's fine once you get in, right?

Is that a look of trepidation on my face?

The dive shop took us out on a big boat with a few other divers. Our ride on the rough water to the dive site should have given me warning. I was feeling pretty woozy by the time we arrived at our first dive site and anxious to get in and under! It wasn't so bad once we got in the water and down about 30 feet to the coral, but getting out and back into the boat wasn't so much fun. As you are trying to get back on the boat, the waves are beating you up. You're trying to hold on to the tie line for dear life while carefully removing your fins so that you don't drop and lose them. Add to the commotion the fact that the boat is bouncing up and down on four foot swells.

I was absolutely exhausted by the end of our two tank dive, and I told my dive buddy that if our second day of diving had rough water like that, I was probably going to skip it. And what do you know? On our next day of diving at Key West, conditions were even worse. I think the swells were twice as big. I might be exaggerating. Maybe they were only six feet swells. It was certainly raining more, and the wind was blowing a lot harder.

We had chartered a small boat for our second dive. As we were boating out to our first dive site, a wreck, the boat ride was jarring on those very rough waves. Our captain and dive master said, "We should probably turn back, but that's kind of hard to do once you're two-thirds of the way." In my mind, I thought, if you're leading me to my death, we should definitely turn back! Someone in our group, maybe Stacy or Mary Ann, wondered rhetorically out loud why there weren't any other dive boats out. The captain ignored her. As I was bracing myself against the pounding of the water, I was also bracing myself for the inevitability that I was going to be getting into that water. As much as yesterday's experience told me I did not want to get in the water, I knew that I would try to be brave for the sake of my diving buddies.

Once we were at the dive site, our captain got the boat tied to a rope anchored securely 90 feet below. Shackled like that, the boat was then a slave to the pounding waves, wind and rain. It was decided that Stacy and I get in the water first. We were instructed to roll into the water, swim to the back of the boat and hold on to a tie line to wait for the others to be put in one at a time. We did the first step successfully but holding on to the tie line and waiting for everyone else turned out to be a colossal challenge. In my mind, holding on to that rope was like holding on to the tail of an angry Tyrannosaurus Rex. As the boat was jumping up and down on the water, T-Rex's tail yanked us all over the place. It felt like my arm was going to separate from the socket. At some point, I must have let go of the rope, because after messing with my regulator and BC, trying to keep my head above water so that I didn't use too much air at the surface, I looked up at Stacy and realized that I was starting to drift away.

That was my initial moment of panic, and I let out an audible whimper and stretched out my arms desperately for Stacy to grab hold of me. Fortunately, Stacy has long arms....or maybe the true story is that I hadn't really drifted that far away. But it was enough to cause me panic!

Stacy pulled me in, and I forced myself not to get absent-minded and let go of that rope again. In the meantime, Rick had gotten in the water, and he was making his way to the front of the boat to the tie line that would take us to the wreck 90 feet below. Rick seemed to be having success maneuvering to the tie line in spite of the boat that was crashing down seemingly over his head (he later referred to it as the washing machine). But for me, it was back to Tyrannosaurus Rex, clinging to that rope and trying to breathe without consuming too much air. The dive captain told me to air up my BC to give me more float, so I did. Then my BC was too tight! I thought it was a bit small for me when we tried our rentals on back at the dock, but everyone said it fit perfectly. So, my BC was now constricting my lung capacity, I was being tossed and yanked, and finally, I was convinced I was going to die.

I gave the wave of distress. I don't think anyone believed me at first. The captain kept asking over and over again, "Do you want to get in the boat? Are you sure?" I affirmed vigorously. With regret for time lost perhaps, he instructed me to swim to the ladder, where he pulled me back safely into the boat. By now, Stacy, who had also been suffering with the tail of the angry Tyrannosaurus Rex, was exhausted and decided she, too, wanted back in the boat. She didn't think she'd have enough air or energy to complete the dive in an enjoyable fashion. So, our dive captain assisted her back into the boat as well.

Before we even got to the dive site, I think Mary Ann had made up her mind that she wasn't going to get in. Bryan and Jesse made it into the water, successfully maneuvered their way to the line in spite of T-Rex and the washing machine, and joined Rick who had wisely descended twenty feet to wait for them. The dive captain followed them down the tie line to the wreck at the bottom of the ocean.

While they were exploring the wreck, we on the surface were certainly not getting our money's worth. Stacy was leaned over one side of the boat, and Mary Ann was hunched over the other side of the boat. The fish were getting treats from both of them. I chose to plant myself in the middle of the boat on the highest seat, in the captain's seat, and struggled to keep my breakfast on those choleric waters.

There are so many things I learned that day on the water. Foremost, I learned that it's important to know your limits. I'm a scuba wienie! Before that dive, I only had 8 dives under my belt, and half of those were with a dive instructor. And, I already knew that the first day's dive conditions were too taxing on me. I should have obeyed my inner scuba wienie.

That said, can you believe the surfer in this photo survived a ride on a 41 foot wave?!?! Read the story here.

3 Comments:

Blogger Nanay said...

I came from the Island. This kind of water need to stay away, it twirls around in a circle down deep like tornado. my daughter is very smart. good thing you decided to get back on the boat. this kind of water will take you to death for sure. Oh! thank you Lord for Saving my Baby. I love you a lot, my prayers always with you. after I see the water I,m Crying, even the boat will go down deep in the water for sure.

Missing you, Mom

November 8, 2008 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Nanay said...

Jackie,

Don't ever, ever mess with Mother Nature:). You need to be smart and listen to that inner voice. It's usually right.

Craig

November 8, 2008 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

No worries, Mom and Craig. Lesson learned!

November 8, 2008 at 12:48 PM  

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