Much like our dive profile from the previous day; our third day of Fundamentals was going to have some ups and downs, and some awesome ah ha’s. Mer met us at the Dive house for video review early in the morning and we definitely had some cringe worthy moments. However Mer did a great job showing us that we also had made some progress even though it may not have felt like it at the time. After video review we followed Mer and Stretch back to Blue Grotto. Neither Tina or I had slept very well. We were both experiencing a strange feeling of floating out of the bed as we were trying to sleep. It was so odd because neither of us talked about it until the morning and we were both super tired. Tina was saying something about feeling like she would floating all night and I said “Thats crazy me too!” with a shocked expression. So I think because we had struggled trying to do skills and having hyper focus on just everything from the previous day we both got some weird vertigo almost like we’d been out to sea and had sea legs. Anyway we arrived at Blue Grotto pretty early and I was definitely feeling a little bummed about my performance the day before. Stretch and Mer, as always were very helpful and chipper.
During our gear assembly Mer told us that we needed to start thinking about a team name. She has her students pick a GUE team name that represents them. We kicked some ideas around but never really settled on anything. We finally got geared up and met Mer and Stretch down at the water. For our first dive we did more S-drills and basic 5 and since it was apparent from the day before that I was struggling with the ascents and basic depth changes we also did some circuits from the shallow platform to the deep platform. Mer was watching me trying to figure out what I was not doing correctly. I feel like Tina was doing much better then I was with the ascents. I think Mer also adjusted our tanks and moved weight around some. Virgil of course was very interested in watching us and at one point during an S-Drill he decided to swim between Tina and I. Mer had to keep gently shewing him away and it was rather comical. We also kept noticing that we had the hardest time staying on the shallow platform. It was like we were sliding off of it but we were in “trim” a few feet about it. We ended the dive after about 30 mins as per our dive plan and I missed the 10ft stop again.
We took a little break at the surface to discuss some things and we told Mer that we must be getting vertigo because anytime we try to do S drills or basic 5 on the platform we were feeling like we were being pushed off of it Mer said: “It’s all in your heads” and I said something like: “Maybe we are just not used to diving in clear water and we are fidgeting our way off the platform”. Because we had plenty of gas left in our single LP85’s we did our GUE EDGE and went down for a second dive. Mer ran us through more drills and kicks. At one point I glanced over at Stretch and he looked like he was suspended from wires just hanging in the water while he filmed us flailing around. Tina and I were trying to stay in formation and we got blown off the platform again and I was just disgusted with my self. Suddenly Mer motions me over to the edge of the platform and tells me to grab a small piece of PVC pipe. I did and then I noticed that this pipe had a bunch of small water jets used to clear the platform of silt. “Ahhhhh Haaaa!” I said loudly in my regulator. So that’s why we can’t stay on the platform. We were literally being blown off. I pointed at my head and said “It’s not in my head!”, which sounded more like mumbling underwater. I showed Tina the jets and she sort of had the same expression on her face that I must have had. Mer didn’t notice it earlier because she was always just high enough to be out of the flow. With this realization we moved to another platform and proceeded to do our S-drills there. From there we had a little easier time with the S-Drills and basic 5. And Mer decided that we should do some more ascent practice. She had us go back and forth between the deep and shallow platforms a few times. I started to feel more comfortable with the depth changes, managing the wing and the drysuit without losing control and at this point it was time to end the dive.
We started from the deep platform and began our ascent. But I had built up the giant wall in my head about ascents. I felt like I was holding a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment. So as soon as we began the ascent I got anxious and started being more hyper focused on the ascent rather then just letting it happen. However this ascent actually went better then the previous few attempts. I didn’t really hit the 20 or the 10 but I was actually able to stop at 15 without losing it. I still kept feeling like I was being dragged up by my feet but some progress was being made. You can see in the dive profile what looks to be the resemblance of stops on the ascent finally, unfortunately none of them were at the right depth.
Tina needed to take a bio break so she climbed out of the water trying to make peace with the she-p. In the mean time, Mer wanted to give me a crash course in the drysuit control because she could see me getting flustered as I got air in my feet. And since I still had a bunch of air in my tank, she and I did a really short dive to the shallow platform to do some drills. She told me that she can fill her suit up until her legs are puffy and still keep control of it. She demonstrated how to kick down while dumping the wing until she had control of the dry suit. I tried the same thing but completely missed the point of dumping the wing, and just tried to kick down. It worked but it wasn’t pretty. I got the point though. I’ve never taken a formal drysuit class mainly because the classes offered around me teach to only use the drysuit as primary buoyancy. And for this reason I’ve avoided learning it that way because GUE doesn’t recommend that method of diving dry. After a few attempts at the “inverted kick like hell down and roll technique” We ended the dive and I kinda actually made about a 10 second stop at 10ft.
Once we returned to the surface Tina was still trying to make peace with the She-P, I told her to start thinking of gently babbling mountain streams and water falls. After a few more minutes we saw Tina walking back over to her gear with a smile on her face. She had success and I think that may have been her first ever while fully plummed into the drysuit.
For the last dive of the day we did our GUE EDGE adding in the modified valve drill proving that we could reach it for when we try it at depth. Now for single tanks the valve drill is only just having the ability to manipulate it. We never actually close it down. But in the event of a roll off, one should be able to quickly open the valve by them selves. Once we finished the GUE EDGE it was time to start the dive. We descended and did our descent drill by stopping at 15ft for 30 seconds until hitting the platform. Mer started us off with some more kick practice then we did some more valve drills.
Next was the ascent-descent work. I could see it in Mer’s eyes; she was going to get me to stop at the 10 foot mark if it was the last thing we did that day. Up and down we went. I lost count as we started from the deep platform and ascended up to 10ft. Each time I was making the 20 and 10 ft stops. I could hardly believe it. The light bulb clicked and I started to realize that I needed to dump the wing earlier and stop worrying so much about the drysuit. My excitement was building each time I made a stop. We did this for a half an hour until it was finally time to go all the way to the surface. Mer gave the thumbs up signal. Tina and I got into the triangle formation with Mer and away we went. Tina was deco captain and my heart was racing as we eased into the 20ft stop. We made a short intermediate stop at 15ft and then we slowly glided into the 10ft stop. We held that for what seemed like forever and I remember glancing across at Tina who was looking solid as a rock calling deco, and I could barely keep the regulator in my mouth because I was smiling so much. Finally we made a nice soft final ascent to the surface. We all broke the surface of the water together and I inflated my BC. A huge grin was on my face and I think I told Mer that I wanted to hug her or something. This was the first time I have ever felt in control while in trim position on the ascent. It was beautiful. After months of frustration trying to learn to dive dry and make safe controlled ascents, I finally did it right for once. That dive right there was worth every penny I paid for the training.
We all climbed out of the water and quickly got out of our gear. We still had lectures and our test to do at EE and Tina and I wanted to go grocery shopping to get a frozen pizza afterwards. Not to mention we were going to meet our third team member later that evening. The hour drive back to EE was full of discussion about the days events and we were both glad to be out of the water for the day. We arrived Back at EE at about 4pm and the lecture was short and sweet.
We finally arrived back at the house probably close to 7pm. We were absolutely exhausted as we cooked and ate a pizza. Tina crashed shortly after dinner and I stayed up to update my dive log and clean gear. At about 9pm our third team member named Braxton arrived with Mer. Braxton is a younger guy in his 20’s with dark ginger hair. He was living in South Florida and was going for a tech pass. He had a ton of ocean diving experience and would certainly be the strongest member of our new team. Mer wanted to give us some experience working with a third team member and having Braxton on our team seemed like an awesome opportunity for us. So we talked for about an hour and before I called it a day.