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Boot Cousteau

Well that was bloody awful. But I feel excellent!

So last September I did a PADI course in Turkey; passed the theory no problem but didn't finish the practical. I managed some but not enough to complete my Open Water Diver qualification, though the examiner told me that if I did finish within a year of the exam, the marks would be held for me. Otherwise I would need to do both theory and practical again. Didn't want to do that, hence finding myself at Wraysbury Lake yesterday.

Wraysbury village is old, very small and very cute. There's not much to it apart from the lake, which is a major place for training divers. There are supposed to be some fish, a few crayfish and some eels in the lake. I didn't see them. I didn't see anything much because the dragonfly sparkling surface belied rubbish underwater conditions, declared the worst ever at Wraysbury by our instructors. The water was full of sediment, clouded brown and yellow; beneath the white buoys hung ropes that led to platforms about 5 metres down. In theory, the ropes would be a reference point, except that it was impossible to see them. If you stretched out your arm in front of your face, you couldn't see your hand at the end of it. If you tumbled, you'd get nowhere trying to find 'up' from the passing illusions of sunlight. You followed your bubbles instead. It was murky and cold as we sat on the platforms below the surface waiting for our exercises to begin.

To understand my varying debacles, a very brief explanation of scuba contraptions may help. There's the mask,fins, snorkel,wet suit and cylinder of course. At the top of the cylinder, one attaches a strange looking device called a regulator with four tubes; one is your primary air source connecting you to the air in the cylinder, another is an alternate air source for times when a companion may need to share your air, a third is the gauge telling you how much air you have, and a fourth connects the air from your cylinder to a jacket called a Buoyancy Control Device, worn over your suit.

Using the buttons on the fourth tube, you control how much air goes into the BCD, inflating it to go up and deflating it to go down. In terms of controlling where you are in the water, it can help, but the real work is supposed to come from your breathing; Inhale for up, exhale for down, bit of tweaking of the BCD, and you should be able to control where you are in the water. One of the tests for doing this is called a fin pivot, where you lie on your front on the bottom, put a little air in your BCD and then, using your breath, you pivot up towards the vertical and down to the horizontal, and up and down and up and down...so far so good.

Except our instructor had decided that instead of using the inflator/deflator buttons, we were to put air into the BCD orally. This meant taking a breath, removing the primary air source from my mouth, blowing the air into a gap in the BCD, pressing the deflate button at the same time, then replacing my air source in my mouth and carrying on with the pivot. The platform was the same colour as the rest of the water, so it was almost impossible to realise, until I lay down, that my head was sticking off it. It occurred to me, as I slowly bobbed like the world's least efficient giant stapler, that if my BCD had stopped working to the extent it needed me to manually inflate it, in a situation where all I could see were the depths of a sulphurgrit abyss while getting cold cramps, underwater ballet would be the last thing on my mind.

Then came the interesting moment, when my cylinder decided to slip off; fortunately I was at the surface, but wherever one is, the next thing that happened is a definite avoid; one of the instructors yanked my air supply clean out of my mouth. The instinctive, some might say, appropriate response to anyone who does this is to punch their face and get your air supply back. I just yelled 'What are you doing?' And grabbed it off him. Later, he apologised for attempting to kill me. In the flurry of trying to sort out the cylinder, he had just grabbed the wrong tube.

Stretching my hand out, I touched something sloping in front of me, and approached what seemed like a bank of crumbling matter. Checking my hands, they were covered in rust. I found myself staring at an old black cab sunk down among the weeds, and began to wonder if I should hail it and get back to London before my instructor discovered just how off course I was. And he was surprised to say the least.'But you did get back to the platform, right?' He said. Well of course I did. But not using the compass. With that thing I'd probably still be down there, floating in the reeds like Moses.

Despite all this, I passed, and I'm happy!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 29th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC)
Congratulations. And a story well told.
Jul. 30th, 2013 07:25 am (UTC)
Thank you Romney! I trust all is well with you ?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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