Saturday 20 March 2010

Got My Advanced Open Water

I headed off to Bute for a weekend of diving and exploring the strange and eccentric (but charming) pubs of Rothesay. I'll be cycling there this summer, so pub research was important.

It was great fun but cold. One of our trainee divemasters has just acquired a drysuit. We have had to open the equivalent of a swearbox where every time she says "drysuit" or "warm", she has to put in 20p.

It was somewhat cold in Bute.

6 degree C water temp, which feels as cold as it sounds. I have to say that I tip my hat to the manufacturers of my semidry suit*, which did its thing with remarkable insulating properties. Even so, I can reeeally see the appeal of a drysuit. Though, at around £400-£600 for the suit plus the undersuit plus the training to use it safely this might be a while coming for me.

I did the standard deep and navigation dives, plus a night dive, peak performance buoyancy dive and underwater photography dive. Great fun! The navigation dive was interesting because the visibility was AWFUL - it really was a case of "follow that compass"! Never have I been so glad to see the bright green fin of Singing Chief Instructor the... chief instructor. (Single fin. His other one is black so that he can't get mixed up with anyone else. Singing Chief Instructor, henceforth known as SCI because I can't be bothered to keep typing it out, is awesome.)

Interestingly enough, the deep dive was not my deepest dive ever, at 21m. That was a 23m dive I logged in the Maldives. Let me assure you that if you're thinking "23m in warm clear tropical water is way different to 21m in dark, murky, cold British waters", you are entirely right. Depth does not scare me in itself, but it was cold. It's traditional to make a diver on their first deep dive perform a task at depth such as writing their name and address on an underwater slate. This is so that you can see the slowing-down effects of nitrogen narcosis ("the narcs"**) at depth. By the end of it I was thinking "I really hope SCI doesn't make me write my name on the slate - so far no nitrogen narcosis, but my fingers have stopped working".

More on the other dives and the entertaining pubs of Bute shortly. Also probably some photos of crabs.

But, YAY, for being back diving! Yes!

* Semidry suit. Essentially a very thick wetsuit with a certain amount of marketing guff attached. Basically it keeps you warm like a wet suit, by trapping water next to your body, which heats up. A semidry, unlike a normal wet suit, has rubber seals at the neck, wrists and ankles, so that the warm water stays in and doesn't wash in and out of the suit. Surprisingly comfortable if fitted properly. Also they make you feel like a superhero in your brightly-coloured skintight suit, as you pull it on and fasten up your black boots, ready for your next adventure...

This is somewhat spoiled by the fact that you have to strategically plan a pee ten minutes in advance.

** The narcs = "nitrogen narcosis", caused by breathing air (which has nitrogen in, as we all know) under pressure at depth. No-one quite knows how it happens. Essentially the deeper you go, the more thick-headed you can become, like being drunk. This can be a major problem if you need to react quickly to a problem. It is, fortunately, relatively easy to solve - you ascend slowly until the symptoms resolve - and doesn't leave permanent effects. Not to be confused with the bends, on which more shortly.

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