Monday 29 October 2012

Malta Day 1 – Accidents and Emergencies, Part the Third

Spot the octopus!
We pored over the excellent dive book, planning our dive on the Tugboat Rozi, just off Cirkewwa Point. In my case, with a slight residual anxiety, although the BCD problem had been solved swiftly by one of the divemasters. C took one look at the valve, unscrewed it, fished out the rubber seal and gave it a clean. He then screwed the valve back together and popped down to Suzie’s pool to test it out. Result: one working BCD. I was happy about this, but was also somewhat mindful of the fact that a dive to a wreck which sits at 35m on the seabed isn’t a good place to lose buoyancy. Still, I had faith in C.

Just as well, since I was slightly nervous about this. I’ve recently been getting the scuba yips about diving deep, legacy of a unfortunate incident in the Farne Islands where I overbreathed my reg at 21m and nearly had a panic attack. My best guess is that I’m a little sensitive to the extra work and noise of breathing through the reg at depth. Even with the breathing resistance dialled down, air at 30m is four times as dense as air at the surface, creating extra resistance, and I think it’s that which gives me the yips. 

On the other hand, part of me really, really wanted to do the dive and prove I could do it (and that the ‘Deep Diver’ speciality card I hold isn’t just there to prop up a wobbly table). Malta is where you go to see wrecks, and I really wanted to see this one. And so, along with everyone else, I kitted up and trudged to the entrance point by the lighthouse. As I strapped on my fins and attempted to rinse out my mask in a nearby rock pool without having the tide snatch it out of my hands, I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a fair way down”. 

Never mind. I stuck the reg in my mouth, inflated the BCD, took a few breath, and giant-strode off the edge to join the others. A quick exchange of hand-signals, and we breathed out, deflated our jackets, and sunk into the sea. At four metres, I tested the BCD with a quick puff of air to slow my descent, turned my head, and watched in happiness as the air failed to stream out of the valve. I kicked forward, then paused, and found myself hanging effortlessly in the water column. 

Problem solved. I set off after the others, keeping pace with my buddy and staying shallow to maximise bottom time. En route, I took a white balance reading from my slate; the camera worked just fine. Five minutes in, the wreck loomed slowly out of the blue, surrounded by fish. 

This was what I’m come to Malta for!

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