Sunday, 30 June 2013

SSI Advanced Diving day 1 - Mermaid AS-Levels!

Me and Becca went for breakfast at 9.30am and then were shrotly joined by some of the members from her Open Water group. When 10am came around we vered off into our separate groups, there were around 5 or 6 groups heading out on the Advanced course. Becca was planning on joining my group so we could be together with John but after a bit of umming and arring she decided she'd feel better and more confident with the group she already knew and her open water instructor Ernesto, so after speaking to John she re-joined her group. So my group was Tashya, Saraah, Ben and Alice, who was assisting our group. We all instantly bonded so it was great and Tashya and Saraah were so much fun so I knew we'd all have a fab time. It was a shame Becca wouldn't be with me in the group but she would be on the same boat so we'd still get to see each other and see how our dives went!

So first of all John talked us through what the Advanced course entailed. There are 5 dives and a morning of brief 'theory'. There's a Navigation Dive; learning how to use compasses underwater and taking your recipricol heading so you know how to get back to the boat, a Perfect Buoyancy skills dive; where you have to perfect your buoyancy and learn how to go upside down and know which way is up, a Night Dive (which I was a little nervous about), where you only have a torch for light, a Deep Dive; where we'd get to dive down to 30 metres and see some cool pressure tricks and a Wreck Dive; when we'd get to see our first shipwreck! It all sounded very exciting!

Today we were doing the 'theory' and the first 3 dives, Navigation, Buoyancy and the Night dive, so we'd be super tired by the end of the day. First John told us what we'd have to learn to use; the Dive Log computer and the Compass - both were heavy clumpy wrist watches that we had to wear on every dive. The theory involved learning how to use these - not really theory eh? First he showed us the Dive Log computer which is a very intelligent piece of equipment - we joked it could even tell you the meaning of life, and seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if it did! It can tell you your Depth, Bottom Time (how long you are underwater for). It can tell you your NDL - No Decompression Limit, which is how long you are allowed underwater before you are at risk of decompression sickness or The Bends. You can plan your dive according to the depth you want to dive to, it tells you how fast you are ascending and if it's too fast, how far you are descending, it tells you when you need to do a 3 minute safety stop at 5 metres, literally, it does everything you'd ever need it to do, and more! It will literally save your life in the diving world, as long as you stick to what it advises you to do, as John says; Plan your dive and Dive your plan! It's all you need to stay safe.

So John taught us how to plan our dive, how to use the Dive Mode, and where everything was on the screen so we knew what we were looking at. Next came the compass navigation skills, which took everyone a long time to get our heads around! He showed us how to set our heading and our recipricol heading to find our way to the boat, he showed us how to use the compass to make a square, and how to navigate which way was north. We went down onto the sand to test all this out and after a few attempts and further explanations, we pretty much understood (for now!). We had to make a sqaure using the compass on our own etc.

Then we just waited around for the 1pm boat. We had an hour for lunch and gathered back together before the boat was due to head out. Once we'd cleared the longtail and were on our dive boat - it was time to get serious! Well, we had an awesome time really! John gathered us together for a briefing and told us that we'd be doing our Buoyancy dive first, at Mango Bay. He told us to keep an eye on our Dive Log Computers and to use them, we'd also throughout the day, all be learning how to set up the orange blob to start our ascent. We'd be using the dive computer for everything we were doing today so it was time to learn! So we kitted up - bit of a tight squeeze for the amount of us on the boat and we had to do it all ourselves, no more checking up on us or help from the instructors as we were now advanced divers - and jumped off the boat, then descended.

Once down we all gathered on the ocean bed and really got to work on our buoyancy. John told us he wanted us to start using our BC inflate and deflate buttons - now we were open water divers, we no longer had to manually inflate, so we could use those buttons as much as we wanted - yea! So we did the buoyancy tasks we learnt in open water, but had to really get them right. No arms, no legs kicking, no hitting the seabed or going up to fast, we had to make the most of our breathing to get it right, and also our BC inflation. John then stuck a knife in the sand and we each, several times, had to turn ourselves upside down, using buoyancy to keep us just above the knife, then come back down and figure out where/which way is up. You had to swim up to the knife, then once in position kick one leg up, and follow it with the other until you were upside down. I did it once but couldn't really get it again, the next few times I felt John lifting my legs up, so obviously I hadn't quite got upside down!!

After spending a lot of time on the floating, we then put our newly perfected skills to use and swam around the coral. John took us on routes where we'd have to go up and down using our buoyancy skills and we all completed it pretty well! It was then time to ascend and use our computers to tell us our rate of ascent and our 3 min safety stop. John then got one person in each buddy team (Ben was my buddy throughout), to set up the ascent orange blob. We then waited at 5 metres til our computers said go and ascended to the top. Buoyancy Dive - complete!

Once back on the boat a load of storm clouds had gathered and it started to rain, which of course created high tides! So we had to change our dive site from Twins (where it would have been perfect to test our navigation skills), to Japanese Gardens, where there were tons of boats so John didn't feel confident enough to let us go off on our own. Instead we kicked over to the rocks, set our heading and recipricol heading, descended, using our dive computers all the time, and he got us instead to navigate a perfect square underwater. He signed the degrees we needed to turn/navigate to (which was hard enough just understanding the numbers he was signing) and then we had to set our north arrow between the lines and follow the arrow! The girls were in front first and so me and Ben basically just followed. Then it was our turn up front for the next 3 goes as the girls were a little uncertain...and against all odds - considering we both were shite at navigating on the sand...NAILED IT! We were totally awesome navigators and buddies!

It was then time to ascend using our computors again once we'd made our way back to the boat using our Nav's and that was the end of our afternoon dives!! We then just went back onto the boat, completely knackered and left everything out and set-up, ready for our night dive. We headed back to shore and had an hour to eat dinner and get ready before we were to set out for our night dive. I was feeling slightly more confident about it now after the success of the last two dives. I went back to the room to put my contacts in so I could hopefully see a little better especially as it was at night! At 6pm we boared the longtail and set out to the dive boat once more for our final dive of the day - NIGHT DIVE TIME!!

We were headed to Red Rock for this dive, and John told us we'd still be using our computers but wouldn't need our compass, this one was just a pure fun dive! So we kitted up and were handed our torches. We had particular instructions on how to use them - when we entered the water we had to shine the light on our heads as our 'ok' and until we were descending. We had to illuminate any hand signals, we weren't supposed to dart the light around too quick as it would mean we're in destress, don't shine it in peoples eyes, and upon ascent, instead of using the orange blob, we all had to kick to the surface shining our torches up towards the surface. John also told us that he'd tell us when to invert our torches to our bodies so we could see the glow-in-the-dark shrimp.

Once in the water we kicked over to the rocks and started our descent, it was still a little light outside as we wanted to be down before it got too dark. It then very quickly got pitch black, but after a few minutes your eyes adjusted to it and you could see as far as your torch. We had to keep tight knit with our buddies and keep up with John, if we got lost then we were to start our ascent using our computers, we were not to continue the dive alone. Me and Ben were at the back of the troup so we had 3 people to keep lookout for so it was easier to not get lost. Alice unfortunately couldn't come down with us as something happened to her mask so she had to go back up. We then just swam around, over and under and between rocks and coral beds, it was quite scary at times as you wouldn't know a rock or coral was there until you were literally a couple of inches away from it! At one point John took us into a cave and you could tell we were all thinking the same thing, how the hell do we get out of here?! In the end as it was so narrow, I swam under Ben and he swam over me to get out together so we didn't lose each other or kick anyone. It was also super cool seeing all the other groups down there and just seeing lots of torch lights illuminate the ocean. It truely was a unique experience! I was a little nervous for the first few minutes, but then soon became used to the lack of light and was even swimming right up close to things to see them, I surprised even myself! We also saw the glow-in-the-dark shrimp which was awesome! But, as always, it was over way too quickly and we started our ascent, illuminating the surface with our torches. So that was day one over with. Booooo! I wanted to do it all again.

We got back onto the boat, put away our kit and once back on shore, washed it all and handed it in ready for our early morning dives tomorrow. We were starting at 6.30am so it was an early night for us all! I just went back, went to 7/11 with Saraah and Tash for some celebratory chocolate snacks, showered, and skyped the parents before hitting the sack. Mermaid AS-Levels passed, now it was the all important A-Levels tomorrow!

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