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November 10, 2007

Another advanced class and the Haunted Night Dive 2007

The weekend of October 27th and 28th was all a blur for me! We had done our annual Haunted Night Dive Halloween underwater decorations at Loch Low Minn quarry, and at the same time I was teaching an Advanced class there. So Saturday morning we loaded the truck with our dive gear and set off to get some bagels, a few groceries, fuel, and then drive on down there to the quarry.

We got a dozen of my favorite Cinnamon Crunch bagels at Panera's bakery, then headed for the highway. As we turned onto it, I heard a WSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH sound coming from the bed of the truck. Bummer! One of the tanks' valve had opened up in the turn!

Fortunately, the dive shop was only less than half a mile away, so going back there was no big deal. The tank, however had completely drained by the time we got there. Of course, it was one of mine! Brad was there at the shop, so we left it for him to fill with 38% Nitrox. My students would be at the shop in a few hours, so he'd ask Dean to bring the filled tank to me. We stopped at the grocery store for beer and dry ice, filled up the truck, and then finally began the 45-minute drive down to Loch Low Minn.

We got to the quarry around 11:30am. My helpers were already there, so there was no time to waste. We unloaded and assembled gear, organized and sorted underwater decorations, then donned our gear began a frenzy of underwater prop preparations and installations.

As for the class, one of my more challenging students, Buck, showed up two hours early, cigarette in hand and looking non-too-fresh. He wanted to know what he could do to help and did his best to entertain each of us with his stories, but we finally managed to get underwater and start our work, while Buck remained at the shore.

I scurried around underwater placing props, repositioning props, and tying cylumes in pumpkins, etc., until it was time for my students to get there. I got out long enough to brief them on what we were going to be doing for the NAUI Advanced class.

They all geared up, got in the water, and we began with the skills they were required to master for the class. First we worked on buoyancy, then did the surface air consumption calculation (SAC) dive. It's good to do the SAC dive second because it allows students to fine-tunes potential buoyancy issues. This time, the SAC dive was a 20 minute stay at 35 feet, followed by a safety stop.

Buck apparently heard the beat of a different drummer and did the majority of his SAC dive well below 40 feet, possibly assuming the dive plan didn't apply to him and deeper was better. Good thing I didn't take them over "the pit" -- the deepest part of the quarry! I reminded them all that the depth of a dive is agreed on, and not where the bottom is. I asked Buck what he'd do if he was diving the South Wall at Grand Cayman where the Cayman Trench was SIX THOUSAND feet deep!!!? I am not sure he understood. Go figure. I don't think it's too much to ask of a student to follow basic instructions. I will never compromise safety, and those who do not understand that will not dive.

My friend Rhonda then arrived to do the night dive with us. That will finish up the requirements for her own NAUI Advanced Diver certification. So, my dive master Dewey, five students, and I all prepare for the night dive. By now, 25 or 30 people are all planning on entering the water within five minutes or so of each other, some for their night dive training, others to see the underwater Halloween decorations, and others both.

So off we go, Dewey leading my flock with Rhonda as his dive buddy, then Carol and Buck, then Aric and Dean, followed up by me. I count divers and come up one short. It's Buck.

"I can't get down!" he yells, wearing a 7mm wetsuit, a steel-95 tank, and 20 pounds of weight. I go get him and tell him to calm down, relax, cross his feet, let the air out of his BC, and he starts going down like an anchor -- not a rock -- an ANCHOR. Except there's one thing keeping him. He's now all tangled up in the line that's attached to the 15-foot hang bar under the dock. He looks like a dolphin in a tuna net. He's screaming "I'm tangled up in a line!!!" So I tell him to chill out and stay still! One tug and he's free, but by this time I have no clue as to where all my other students and Dewey are. I make Buck follow me. I swim towards the shine of the flashlights below, and lo and behold, there they are. Somehow, surprise, I lose Buck in the group, but gain Carol.

So now Dewey has Rhonda, Buck, Aric, and Dean, and I have Carol. We were not all meant to stay together, but I knew they were all in good hands with Dewey and Rhonda. So Carol and I take off over the pit where we had heard the paddlefish were hanging out. No such luck, but we still had fun!

Everyone loved the Halloween decorations. The skeleton wearing a tank, BC, and mask was great. Beside it was a severed leg wearing a dive boot and fin ... Nessie had been busy eating divers! Unfortunately, I totally forgot the camera and its underwater housing! Nothing underwater would have looked good at all anyway. The visibility was HORRIBLE.

Back on land, we shot some funny videos though. Dewey had my skeleton mask and hands on, along with his dive gear. Rhonda came up and took off her mask, Carol asked her how her dive was, Rhonda got really excited about it and started telling about the fish and all. Dewey came up behind her and Carol began screaming. Dewey grabbed Rhonda and pulled her backwards into the water.

I told them I wouldn't be doing the Haunted Dive project next year as it is just too much work. But I will be donating all the props and will offer my services as a consultant for next year's event.

After all the students got out, I asked Dewey if he wanted to go back for a while with me and he said it would be his pleasure. So away we went! Half an hour later we still hadn't seen any paddlefish, at 50 feet deep and, believe me, we TRIED to find them!! I felt fine afterwards, and was probably the most energetic of our group at the end of the night.

To give you an idea of what it's like for an instructor with some extra project duty, here's my dive profile for the day:

#1 - 40 feet for 75 minutes
45 minute surface interval
#2 - 40 feet for 45 minutes
30 minute surface interval
#3 - 50 feet for 30 minutes
15 minute surface interval
#4 - 40 feet for 45 minutes
60 minute surface interval
#5 - 40 feet for 60 minutes
15 minute surface interval
#6 - 50 feet for 30 minutes

Now do you understand why my body is so tired, even with 38% Nitrox? I'm finding out I'm not a spring chicken anymore!

After the dive, Ted started a fire, lit the grill, and it was time to cook dinner and relax. Rhonda had brought the most incredible steaks, twice baked potatoes and salad. I brought okra, at her request. There were lots of people hanging out and visiting all four campfires, but after all the diving, soon everyone in our group wanted to go to sleep. Rhonda and I shared a cabin, as did Ted and Dewey.

I had a gut feeling none of us would be fit for diving the next day, so I planned the second part of the certification dives for the following Saturday. So after we all got up, had bagels for breakfast, loaded up our gear, talked to Quarry owners Rick and Stacy for a few minutes, we drove back home. I unloaded the dive gear, took a long hot bath, slept in the tub, did laundry, slept for three hours, and then watched two of my favorite shows on TV. A long weekend of diving was over.

Posted by Carol at November 10, 2007 07:20 PM