This is a personal project I decided I needed to do so I could keep up with the complete idiots that want to dive in COLD water… So, apparently that makes me an idiot… 🙂 … again…
To everyone thinking of taking the “Dry Suit” course… make sure you know what you are getting yourself into…:) It’s called COLD WATER on purpose…
July 13, 2017
It all started when Karl put a “BUG” in my ear for a trip to The Channel Islands near Santa Barbara, CA to see the Kelp Gardens, big critters and other things (a Great White?). Apparently too cold to dive in a wetsuit… Of course I’ve been tempted before, you know, after diving in Lake Superior and Wazee but I always managed to survive in a wetsuit (or two) even if I almost went into hypothermia in most of the dives and even though I had two wetsuits but I digress.
So, I signed up for Air Down There’s July Drysuit Course.
Hold on… backup a bit. Karl showed up a couple of Sundays before the class was scheduled to start to bring over my “new” drysuit (his old one) so I could try it out. It fit! So I began to bring my dive gear up from storage to begin to assemble what I need for the class. Lot’s of gear including weights and of course, the drysuit.
On Thursday “the boss” was kind enough to let me off early so I could get home and double check all of my gear then pack it into the car for the ride down to the YWCA in St Paul. I left early as the road construction on Snelling backs up everything during rush-hour. I made the trip in about 40 minutes (used to be a 20 minute ride…). I was first to arrive so I unloaded my gear and moved it near the pool area. One of the YWCA employees was kind enough to open a gate so I could bring my gear into an area outside of the pool area to await the rest of the group. I fiddled with my phone and caught up on emails while I waited.
One of the students (Alicia I think) showed up next so I helped her in with her gear. Scott (the instructor for the pool class) showed up just as we were unloading Alicia’s gear. Then the other student (name to follow) showed up so I helped her in with her gear while Scott assembled his gear for the class. We all sat outside (warm & humid in the pool area) for the classroom portion of the class where Scot asked questions and basically found out how much of the homework we were familiar with. Then we all proceeded into the pool area to get ready for the pool portion of the class which consisted of proper suit-up procedures along with a double safety check with our buddy. This went fairly well although the girls were less experienced in setting up their tanks, BCDs and regulators so Scott had to go through a “mini” refresher course on assembling the gear. Next we checked each other’s drysuit to insure all was “buttoned down” for the big entry into the pool. Once we were dressed and checked we got into the pool and pulled our tanks in behind us. We suited up and finished by putting fins and masks on.
Scott walked us through the steps we were to take in the exercises for the pool portion of the course. Basically we had to demonstrate we were weighted properly, had buoyancy control and could navigate with the new gear. I had no problem with everything until I got to the “fins up” test where we had to go to the bottom of the pool and point head down, add air to our suits and somersault to a heads-up position before breaking the surface. Well, I had an epic fail! Luckily Scott was kind and gave me another shot and I did better but I can tell you this maneuver was the hardest thing I would encounter during all class activities. I’ll be minimizing my “fins up” position in future dives with a wet suit. All in all a good experience…
We finished up with a class review of our exercises, loaded up our gear and were on our way before 9 PM. A good night for learning.
July 15, 2017
Up early as usual making coffee and catching up on the usual email routine. I worked until about 10 AM, showered, loaded the car and off I went to Air Down There for a tank refill then off to Square Lake for our Open Water training.
I arrived just after noon to a campground FULL of people all trying to stay cool on this almost 90 degree day. I met up with Karl and Daniel as they were just coming in from their first dive of the day. They had reserved a picnic table earlier so I hung out with them until Karen (our instructor for this segment) showed up. I think she was already there but might have had an earlier class so I didn’t see her until Karl pointed her out to me.She finished up with her earlier class and strolled over to greet the guys and introduce herself to me. She was under the impression the class was supposed to start at 1 PM so she wondered where the girls were (remember the other 2) until I informed her the class was scheduled for 1:30 PM so we had a little wait. But they showed up with time to spare so we started our orientation in preparation to hitting the water.
We finished our orientation and suited up for the first dive.There were only a few divers in the water but tons of “beach civilians” swimming all around so we decided to submerge shallow and make our way out to the first platform. We had no problem once submerged so we made it to the first platform without a hitch. The object at the first platform was to show our buoyancy control as well as our ability to hover at dept (about 15 feet), I had no problems with either. Once completed we moved on to the next platform for the “air hose” test where we had to disconnect the air hose from our drysuit and reconnect it. Once done we had to show we could do a 3 minute safety stop (which meant we had to hover just above the platform) No problems however I’m sure it will be more difficult for the hose disconnect routine if I have gloves on (no hood or gloves this trip, too warm… 70 degrees at the surface and 55 degrees below the thermocline with an air temperature approaching 90 degrees.)
Once completed we surfaced for the BCD and weight belt tests where you had to remove and replace your BCD then demonstrate you can take off your weights and reconnect them. I had integrated as well as Karl’s weight belt so I fiddled with both and got it done. No problem. Once we all accomplished our tasks we stayed on the surface but didn’t head back to shore as there were just too many swimmers near the shore.
We decided to start our second checkout dive at the second platform and head for the other two platforms to check them out and practice our new skills. This was more fun and less work so I played along side Karen and the girls when I discovered the thermocline had a visible layer. In fact, if you go below the layer you can’t see your buddies so I bobbed above and below the layer just to get a feel for it. The water temperature difference was amazing, I wasn’t below the layer long enough to get my computer to give me an accurate reading but I was informed by Karl that the water temperature below the thermocline got as low as 53 degrees in some areas. And man could you feel the difference. The suit worked great at keeping my core warm but you’d have to have a hood and gloves to stay in this water for any length of time… We found the other two platforms and headed back to shore. All in all a fun dive.
One more experience I didn’t remember even though I was told, as I approached shore I noticed I was getting a little light. I immediately thought my BCD was filling up again as it has a slow leak in the intake valve but that wasn’t it. I couldn’t figure it out until I surfaced and remembered that the tank gets lighter as it gets empty. Around four to six pounds actually so that’s why I felt light… I’ll have to remember this little tidbit on a “real” dive. Could be trouble at the safety stop…
We headed back to the shore for the dismount and load gear routine. The girls were in a hurry as they wanted to get their gear back to ADT before they closed so off they went. I hung around and exchanged dive stories with Karen for a bit then cleaned up, changed and headed over to Phil’s Tara Hideaway for dinner with Mary and Beth. I kept the girls waiting for almost 30 minutes… Sorry…
And that’s the end of a great day and a great class. I think I passed…