Tina and I had been working hard all week and Mer was gracious to give us an open ended schedule. We pretty much agreed that it would take what it took to do the class and at this point we were just happy to be learning and growing as divers. As with fundies, we grew so much in just a short amount of time, and our confidence that we could do this was there. GUE instructors are masters at doing this for students. To think back on what i struggled with on day 1 vs what i was able to do on day 5 and 6 is mind boggling.
Anyway on this day we were to be diving the Devils eye. This is the other cave entrance at Ginnie and it offers some unique challenges. I think both Tina and I were pretty excited from the day before and really couldn’t wait to get back into the water. Both of us had torn up our fingers quite bit from the day before. “Ginnie Fingers” as it’s known, and you know you aren’t doing the pull and glide correctly if you get them. Basically the tips of your fingers get worn off from pulling on the abrasive limestone in the cave. And you don’t want to be ordering french fries for dinner if you have them. Be gentle with the cave. Really I think the worst of it for me was getting into the ear. I found that I could easily pick the good solid spots in the cave to grab, but the flow in the ear kicked my ass. Most of that is where you have your body.
So here we were on day 7 of cave class and it was Christmas eve 2016. Mer, myself and Tina were the first team into the water and we did some surface skills that we needed to work on, and of course our dive plan. I believe Tina ran the reel the first time into the eye since I did the ear the day before. Mer wanted us each to experience the “Sense of exploration” of seeing a new to us cave. She briefed us on tips for where to set the primary and secondary tie offs. We also got some tips on how to run the reel down to the gold line. It’s funny because in my head I had pictured something totally different as she described it during our briefing. It’s just not something you can imagine until you see it first hand.
Tina started our first dive in the eye and she did a good job running the reel. The whole week we had been taking our time just getting into the caves and it’s never been about getting in as far as we could. Some of this was that jaw dropping over stimulation of the amazing sights, and some was just pure new cave diverness. The thing I love about the eye is the pure white limestone that flows down a stair stepped waterfall like formation. It’s just beautiful. And there is a place above the waterfall where you can chill out on deco. It reminds me of a garage. The eye is named the eye because the cave flows into an almost perfectly round hole that drops to a sandy bottom at about 20ft deep. You enter the cave system through a fairly low slot at the bottom of the hole on the left as you face the river. Next you move down a series of slopes until you meet the gold line at about 60 feet.
We discovered that diving the eye, as beautiful as it is, takes much longer to get to the gallery and further. The flow out of the eye gets bottlenecked into a narrow passage and it’s something that you can pick your way through if you know what your doing to avoid the high flow. Or if you are a new diver like we were, you’d probably be working up quite a sweat just kicking your ass off. Never the less the eye is a spectacular way to get into the cave system.
Once into the cave we did some of our skills that we needed to do. Tina and I were confident at this point and we were having so much fun the skills were really just another layer of the experience. We didn’t get very far into the system. I want to think maybe just past the lips, which is ok.
We did two dives in the Eye and before our second dive we did some surface/open water skills which were actually pretty fun. I think we did diver recovery where we swim with the diver. I had trouble with this in the past but throughout the week we had been so hell bent on fine tuning our buoyancy that this time this skill was a breeze. Tina and I each took turns swimming each other and playing the toxing diver/victim. You know your buoyancy has come a long way when you can do all your skills in 7 feet of water.
We did another mid water skill with was really fun but you get to do that when you do your own cave class so I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Anyway after that, Mer looked at us and said “You’ve earned an experience dive” I think Tina and I both looked baffled like is this a joke? Nope, we had completed the requirements for the class and our next dive was just to be a fun dive with Mer. Since we had limited gas we didn’t make it very far into the system but none the less it was our first post class cave dive (kinda). We finished the dive with out incident and did a nice slow min deco ascent to the surface. Of course we were excited as can be that we had just passed GUE Cave 1.
That evening we wrapped up the remaining things at EE, turned in our extra tanks, and paid our tab. Mer, Tina and I went out to dinner a bit later and just relaxed. There was a difference now compared to fundies I really felt like a GUE diver.
The following morning we had the option to go dive little river but we were absolute shattered tired. It’s a lot of diving in such short amount of time. So this time we drove home to Orlando and not Texas. What a difference a year makes.