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"Gettin' Schooled" (long)

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by LeFlaneur, Jun 28, 2004.

  1. LeFlaneur

    LeFlaneur Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Washington, DC
    Hi all,

    I feel like sharing a recent experience and maybe others can learn from my mistakes. It is long but I’ll try to make it interesting.

    Last weekend I participated in a “fun dive” in a local quarry. I am your standard PADI OW novice, having done the basic training in warm, clear Caribbean water. There were many things for which I was not prepared.

    Things didn’t start off well. The dive shop rented me a computer that had a crack in the plastic cover. When I questioned it, the employee said it didn’t matter. I should have asked for another. Next, I showed up 15 minutes early ready to put my gear on. Everyone else (who knew the drill from previous times) showed up 10 minutes late ready to go. I went from being early to playing catch up.

    One fun discovery: I’ve never dived with gloves before, and I blocked the power inflator’s exhaust with my hand. That took a couple minutes to figure out.

    I was mentally unprepared for the conditions. It was much colder water than I’d ever experienced but that was not a problem for me. However, the lack of visibility was. It was like swimming in a sewer. The combination of the mud and the crack in the cover made my computer very tough to read. I was afraid of losing the others while trying to get a clear reading so I just followed the group like a lost puppy.

    With the initial confusion and jangled nerves I used up my air double-time. We were supposed to signal when we reached 1000psi, but at that moment, we hit a complete “white out.” By the time I got the divemaster’s attention I was down to 700psi. He immediately handed me his Octo and we shared air for the next 10 minutes until it was nearly time to ascend.

    After the dive I apologized to everyone. They were perfectly nice about the fact that I was basically a liability and claimed it was the one of the murkiest days they’d experienced. I don’t know how much time and money I’m going to spend swimming in mud holes look at rotting rowboats and old tires. But the truth is my general abilities were sub-par. I’d say more training is in order to get my navigation skills, buoyancy and confidence up. It was a perfect illustration that OW is not enough for anything but shallow clear water dives…and probably not even that.

    On the positive side, I’m happy with my regulator recovery and air sharing during a real-life situation. At least I had been prepared for that, which, given all my other errors was the most important thing to get right.

    And the final lesson: when you try to avoid looking like a dumb newbie, you always end up looking like a really dumb newbie.
  2. Mako Mark

    Mako Mark Dive Charter

    Hey, thanks for sharing that was a good post about what sounds like a bad day.

    Here are some comments that might help.

    Ususally this would get you roasted over coals (or at least your instructor) on this board, but because I got here first, and you are a newbie, you should know that this is not seen as an acceptable way to finish the dive. The alternative air source is an emergency piece of equipment and once on it, you should ascend and end the dive.

    this type of cold water diving is a little more demanding and in my opinion less rewarding than the pretty coral reef stuff that you find in the tropics. I would tend to agree with you and say, save your money for trips to the sun.

    This is a GREAT quote... I am going to use it, pretending that you know what you are doing or that you are in control of things is a lot more likely to cause you grief, than asking the "dumb" question. I always tell my divers that there is no such thing as a dumb question. Just some one that sdidnt ask the question..... and thats dumb.

    Thanks for your post and dont let your cold water experience taint diving for you you take your time and do what you feel comfortable with.

  3. pasley

    pasley Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Lakewood, CA
    With 700 PSI remaining, I could certainly understand remaining within arms reach of the DM, buy why share air off his OCTO at this early stage, you are not out of air? I have seen and heard of this being done before. Could someone enlighten me as to the advantages?

    Thanks for sharing your story.
  4. DeputyDan

    DeputyDan Great White

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: North Carolina
    In doing certification dives, my instructor insisted - demanded - threatened (not really) that we do our dives in the cold dark and dreary quarry.

    He stated that after this any warm water diving we did (the Keys, etc) would be much easier (at least from a mental point of view).

    My experience says that he was right.

    Going back to that dreary quarry in July to do Stress & Rescue............
  5. herman

    herman Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh,North Carolina
    Welcome to the world of quarry diving.
    Before you give up on quarries all together, consider this. You were diving in some of the worst conditions you can have at shallow depths, new diver/cold/dark and a little beyond your skills and/or comfort zone. All these things are not necessarly bad thing if you handle them correctly. Unless you drove a long way, the cost of quarry diving is low but huge in value. Look at what you got. You got experience in very bad conditions that test your confidence and force you to improve your skills. If you learn to dive in these conditions with confidence and skill then diving most other places is easy. Anyone can navigate when you have 200 ft vis, it takes a whole lot more skill to navigate across a quarry where you can only see 10 ft or so. The skills that you build in these conditions make handling other bad conditions a lot easier. If you can confidently head our across a near 0 vis quarry, a free flow at 100 ft in gin clear water is nothing to handle. Use the poor conditions at the quarry to help you improve.
    Last, all quarries are not as bad as the one you were in. You may want to take to drive to Lake Rawlings VA. It's not too far from DC and the vis is normally in the 35-40 range. A lot of us from this board go there from time to time.
    I have always believed the money spent diving the quarry was well worth it for the training value.
  6. LeFlaneur

    LeFlaneur Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Washington, DC
    Thanks for going easy on me.

    It could be that our dive leader had two tanks and knew that he could safely get me back without surfacing and that, given the unbelievalby crappy conditions he dediced it was better to keep me in tow (and it probably only seemed like ten minutes) and make sure everyone else was accounted for.

    I see this as a very positive experience acutally. I got smacked around came out a bit wiser. My thoughts echo what Herman wrote: I don't think ever quarry dive for fun, but I think I'll do further training in less than stellar conditions for the very reasons he stated. In fact I'm looking for weekend courses that train in Lake Rawlings.
  7. Ber Rabbit

    Ber Rabbit Floppy Ear Mod ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ohio
    Welcome to the world of the quarry diver. If you're going to move from warm water experience to diving cold water it's a good idea to get with an instructor or experienced buddy for information before the dive. Gotta watch those buddies though especially if they do a lot of cold water diving. "Not that cold" might mean 55 degree water which could be warm to a cold water diver but it's going to blow a warm water diver's mind.

    Want to hear something funny from this cold water diver's point of view? I'm perfectly comfortable in 60 degree water in a 1/4 inch wetsuit but I get COLD in the same suit in warmer water. I dive that suit in temp's from 40 degrees to 80 degrees and the colder water doesn't seem as cold as the warmer water does. I've given up on diving a 3mm suit in warm water (75-80 degrees) I freeze my tail off even with a 3mm shortie over a full 3mm suit while wearing a 1/4 inch hood.

    It's all a state of mind really. Warm water is nice but I've been diving cold for so long I'd rather be in the quarry or lake than the ocean. While cold water diving isn't for everyone it's a good way to brush up on your skills as you've noticed. If you can do it while you're freezing you can probably do it anywhere. Not all cold water has bad visibility and quarries have good and bad days.

    Generalizing that OW isn't good for that type of diving is unfair. My students are trained to deal with the challenges of the cold water dive site and then they are certified in cold, often murky water. Warm, clear water training is probably not going to prepare you for cold water diving but the instructors who do most of their diving and certifying in cold water have a whole bunch of tips and tricks to make these dives enjoyable.

    Glad you posted, your experience can be a valuable learning tool for other divers both new and old who are planning to hit the cold water sites.
    Ber :lilbunny:
  8. zboss

    zboss Solo Diver

    but you DID learn a lot about diving in that one short dive. Yes - it IS colder, and thus you use a lot more air. Yes... you DO need to make sure your equipment is in better working condition (not your fault)... and YES the vis can suck some times.

    But - I don't dive in the quarry because I like looking at rotting sailboats (it's OK though)... but I do it to keep my skills honed, to discuss diving with like-minded people, and to keep busy in between caribbean dives.

    If there is one thing I would suggest - just go dive in that Quarry more. Your skills will get much better fast - after you have improved you skills notably, then go take some more classes. You will get more out of them then.
  9. garyfotodiver

    garyfotodiver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chicago, but dive in FL. Not true anymore, as I di
    I'm doing my first cold water dive in a looong time next month. I hooked up with an experienced instructor in Racine, WI. I made it very clear about my concerns and lack of recent experience. He said we would take things easy on the first dive.

    At the end of the day, assuming I have recertified in CPR and First Aid, I will have completed all the requirements for SSI Stress/Rescue Diver.

    So, Mr. LeFlaneur, I feel for you. Don't give up on quarry diving. Besides, you are only a couple hours from Ocean City.
  10. Windminstrel

    Windminstrel Angel Fish

    I hear you folks talking about "cold water diving" as a significantly different style of diving. I'm in New England, and my checkout dive was 54 degrees on the surface (only 6 dives ago). How is cold water diving different than warm water? Will I be at a loss when I dive in warm water, now that "cold" water is comfortable to me? Or is starting out in cold water a benefit for when I dive warm?

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