Saturday, 1 June 2013

SCUBA Day 1 - a small disaster!

Upon arrival at the Big Blue 2 resort, we were ushered along with 12 others into the classroom and were told what was happening today; morning was classroom, so we had more videos to watch and were going through sections 1,2 and 5 in our workbooks. The afternoon was then 3 hours in the pool learning tasks, how to use and put together our apparatus and passing various safety/emergency tests.

We were then split into groups and for some reason me and Devyn ended up split off from each other. This was all ok, up until I found out we would be separated for the entire course - we thought we'd just be separate for the lessons! So I told our instructor, Donnie, that me and Devyn had been travelling together and were super nervous and he assured me that he'd get us back together. It helped that a girl in my class had been split from her group who was in Devyn's, so it made it easy; she'd swap with Devyn. So we were reunited again, sigh. Our group then included us, 3 guys from Holland, and our instructors; Donnie from Australia and John from California. John was a legend, bit of a joker, and Donnie was really nice and ended up being super understanding and supportive later on in the day.

So first we were shown the last two videos in the course, which were all about staying safe etc. Then came the classroom session, first Donnie went through chapter 1, which was things like Boyles Law, introduction to diving etc and we signed our homework sheets off to say we'd completed them, and then John went through sections 2 and 5. Again, signing off our homework sheets once we'd checked everything was correct. We then took an hours break for lunch and while we waited for our lunch watched the very last video, though no one took a blind bit of attention to this one, we were all too busy doing tonights homework - sections 3, 4 and 6 so we didn't have to do it when we got home. Me and Devyn had taken to doing a section each and then sharing answers.

It was then pool time! I was getting quite nervous at this point, as now it was becoming real that we'd have to be ready in 3 hrs to do our first ocean dive tomorrow. I was not feeling it all afternoon! Me and Devyn both said it wasn't what we expected and we didn't feel like it was enough time to then do a 12 metre dive the next day, but Devyn did managed to complete her pool session, I on the other hand, didn't...

We began by collecting our fins, I being small didn't fit into any of their sizes, the kids size was too small, the 4-5's were too big, so for now I just chose the 4-5's but I did not feel confident swimming in them, they felt weird! We then had to jump in the pool and our first tasks was a swim test and a float test. Swim 250 metres (15 laps) and float for 10 minutes. I'm not a strong swimmer but I managed to complete it, coming last but hey, it's not a race right? lol

We were then told to head out into the - where our equipment was waiting for us. First we had to take off the safety cap from our oxygen tank, test the air (me and Devyn couldn't even unscrew it!), then we had to put our BC jacket on over the oxygen tank and fix it to it. Next came the regulators (alternate air source pipe and regulator - primary air pipe), which we fixed onto the air supply. We then had to hold our pressure gauge against the oxygen tank so the glass wouldn't break while we turned the air fully on. We then tested the regulator and alternate air source whilst checking the pressure gauge/oxygen levels so that we knew it was all working properly. Next we inflated and deflated the BC vest, checking it worked. We then had to take everything apart and put it back together again without any assistance. Task 1 - complete with ease!

Once we'd completed this, we put together our weight belts, and put them on. Me and Devyn both had 6 weights each as we'd be more likely to float than the guys with just 4 weights. It was then time to put on and adjust our equipment, do a final buddy check (where you check that your buddy's equipment is on properly and safe to use), then it was into the pool we go! By the way - all this kit was fricking heavy!! It felt like I had 5 of my rucksacks on my back.

In the pool we put on our fins and masks and went to the shallow end. The main task to begin with was being familiar with snorkels, so we had to do two dives, holding our breath with our snorkel in and then clearing it of water either on the way up or once on the surface. Task - complete, though I did insist on not going first! lol. Next up was simply learning how to breathe with the regulator under water. This was a lot harder than both of us anticipated, within the first few seconds we both came up to surface with full-blown panic attacks. I've never really had one before so it startled me at first and I almost blubbed my eyes out but John was quick to come to our rescue, calming us down and getting us back under. After that though my nerves began to ease and I slowed my breathing down and began to trust this equipment to breathe for me!

Our first few tasks were; taking our regulator (the thing you breathe through), out of our mouths, blowing bubbles/constantly breathing (as the one rule in diving is to NEVER hold your breath), and then to put it back in our mouths, clearing it of water using the hard blow method and by pressing the button on it. Task - completed. Next was clearing our masks of water while under water, using your nose; at half full, full and then taking the whole mask off and putting it on again. This was particularly difficult for me, I could only just about grasp the half full clearing, so we decided I'd come back to this, one on one, later, which is the joys of doing SSI over the PADI course, you don't have to keep doing it and getting stressed until you pass, you can take a break, do something else, and come back later. Our next task was giving our buddy our air. So in the case that you or your buddy run out of air, you have to learn how to communicate with them using hand signals to show you are out of air, then you (if your buddy is out of air), have to take your regulator out of your mouth and give it to them, then you have to pull out your secondary air source and breathe through that. Then as there is no way you can continue that dive, you then signal your ascent, grab each others hands so you don't drift apart and make your way to the surface - task, completed with ease!

It was then time for a quick break and so we had to learn how to inflate and deflate our BC jackets manually (using our mouths) and then learn the correct way to take all our equipment off while still in the water. After our break, it was time to take ourselves to the deep end, 3 metres down to complete some other tasks, after we'd put our equipment back on again in the water, I found this rather hard - sitting on my BC jacket to get it on with the air canister still attached was impossible! So...this is where it all began to deteriorate...

The main thing that we had to learn whilst in the deep end, was how to slowly descend and ascend, while equalising (you have to equalise with every metre you descend/ascend). Equalising is where you have to blow out the pressure in your ears, kind of like when you clear your ears in an airplane. So we descended and began to do our bouyancy tasks - where you learn to control movement underwater with your breathing, so lying on the swimming pool floor and making your body pulse up and down with your breathing, learning to float under the water, learning to manually inflate your BC jacket whilst underwater, etc. All this was going well - I'd managed to equalise going down, I'd managed to get all the tasks right, I'd managed to even clear my mask of water, when during one of the tasks where we had to inflate our BC jackets a tiny bit at a time until we were just floating in the water - I somehow shot right up to the surface super fast, which screwed my ears up as I didn't have a chance to equalise!

Donnie came up to check I was ok and to see what had gone wrong and it was all ok, or so I thought, until we began to descend again, I kept trying to equalise, using all the different methods theyd taught us - shaking your head, blowing out your nose, yawning, clearing your throat etc, but my ears were so blocked they were screaming in pain. I came up to surface after giving it a few attempts and Donnie came up to see what was happening and we both decided that it was best to sit out for a bit until the others had completed all their tasks and then hopefully we could come back to do my tasks after, one on one. During this sit out time I got frustrated with myself and a little emotional and decided diving just probably wasn't for me, but various dive instructors came up to talk me out of quitting before Donnie came over to try again. I agreed to trying again and we had hand signals for 'it's bearable' and for 'it's very painful'. As we were going down, one ear was fine, but the other wasn't, I managed to get to the bottom but after a couple of seconds down when I thought it was ok, my ear started screaming in pain again. So I signalled that it hurt too much and we both ascended.

So then it was time to decide what I wanted to do, rules are rules and if you can't equalise in the pool or finish the pool tasks, you can't dive the next day. By now the pool session had ended, it was 5pm and no way I could give it any time to try again. So my options were to quit and get back half my money, to try again in the next couple of days or when I return to Koh Tao later in June, or to get half my money back and get a referral to show what I'd completed so that I could continue my course elsewhere if I wanted. I decided to think about it overnight and tell them tomorrow morning. Devyn had passed her pool session but we both came to the conclusion it wasn't what we had expected!

That evening we met up with some of the guys we were rooming with and had food and then had an early night. Chandler went out again and being bummed after today I just had a quiet one in as did Devyn as she had a test and her first 2 dives tomorrow!

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