Well, it's official....as of about 12 noon on Sunday, June 27, 2010, I became a certified open water diver. After years of dreams and wishes, after many stops and starts, after lots of excuses of why I was putting off getting my c-card (scuba speak for open water certification card), I convinced myself that I didn't need to wait for a buddy to train with me. I found a good school/instructor, signed up, and on Saturday, June 19, I drove to Hartwell for my first class. We did about 4 hours of book work on Saturday, followed by about 4 hours of pool work, learning the basic scuba skills. On Sunday, June 20, we did a review, followed by more hours in the pool.
For the next week, I worried and fretted about heading up to a HUGE, chilly, cloudy, dark lake and actually getting in and going under water, while relying on a tank and some hose for breathing air (it is NOT oxygen....it is actually dried, cleaned breathing air, which is a 79%nitrogen/21% oxygen mix). By the time I reached the shores of Lake Jocassee, I'd just decided I was going diving, come what may.
We parked the truck and trailer, unpacked our gear, and set out to assemble our rigs. BC strap over tank (air nozzle facing BC), measure and tighten....loosen and remove booger plug from 1st stage, set on tank nozzle, with reg and octo to the right, inflator hose and gauges to the left....tighten 1st stage onto tank....test regulator - air flows easily through exhaust on exhale, none leaks in on inhale....clip octo, gauges onto BC, plug inflator hose into BC....open air nozzle on tank, test reg and octo on inhale and exhale, check pressure in tank - 3000psi....boots - check....fins - check....mask and snorkel - check. Buddies are assigned, and Pete runs through our pre-dive briefing. We pray. Three dives: 15 minutes at 15 feet, everyone does regulator removal, reg recovery, buddy breathing (giving and receiving), swim around platform, ascend using safe ascent procedures, simulate buddy breathing ascent. Ten minutes on surface. 15 minutes at 25 feet, more swimming, mask clearing skills (my biggest worry...take mask off, put it back on, clear water out of mask, all while breathing normally through the regulator - in 25 feet of 65degree water), safe ascent. Ten minutes on surface. 15 minutes at 30 feet, work on bouyancy, keep an eye on your buddy, swim, safe ascent. I've done it. I've completed three honest-to-goodness dives! We hike back up the ramp, through the parking lot, back to the truck, all the while with our rigs on our backs. I estimated about 50lbs, but a divemaster buddy of mine said what we were carrying was probably closer to 70lbs. Either way, the walk back sure felt longer than the walk in. We disassembled our rigs, and put everything back where they belonged. Written test was given, and then we all headed home (or in my case, to my cousins' house in SC).
Sunday, we started an hour earlier. Assemble, pre-dive, pray. Three dives: 15 minutes at 25 feet, water sure seems colder today than it did yesterday. Ten minutes on surface. 25 minutes at 44 feet, visiting the skeletons - unfortunately, I hit 41 feet, and couldn't get any lower. Air pockets in my BC were holding me up, as the team disappeared below me. I started to panic. Breathe, Laura, breathe. DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH! Jeremy, my Belgian buddy, noticed my plight (good boy, Jeremy), and started to swim up to me. Another attempt to drop down below 41ft, no luck, we decided to surface. We waited for the rest of the class, and then finished cruising along at a respectable depth before leaving the lake for an extended surface interval. We'll attempt the skeletons on the next dive. After 69 minutes on the surface, we strap on fresh tanks, and hit the water for an extended dive along the rocky shoreline, watching schools of bream, and the occasional catfish. I was still a little shaky after previous dive, so I elected to stay above 40ft, while half the class went back to the skeletons. The rest of us cruised along, gazing at the rock formations, sunken trees, and other sights in the murky blue lake. 35 minutes later, we surfaced, and our weekend of checkout dives came to an end.
It was all over. I'd done it. I was - I am, at long last, a scuba diver.
After all the gear was stored, dive logs were completed, and we were all preparing to head our separate ways, Pete (realizing I was still thinking about my panic episode) asked if I was planning on diving again.
Sure, I got nervous. I couldn't see my group, it was the deepest I'd ever gone, and it was DARK, with visibility at only about 10 ft. I'd fully expected to start panicking on dive one. It didn't happen until dive 5. I panicked, recovered, and continued. So, will I dive again?
There is no other way to say it: HELL YES!!!!!