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Saturday, March 19, 2016

My re-initiation into the water

My re-initiation into the water
by Jennifer Van Well

Earth Day: April 19th 2015I wanted to share my story of my re-initiation into the water. I was Open Water Certified in December of 2006 in a class in college and had very few scuba adventures after certification. My most recent dive was in June of 2008 which was done at Catalina Island in California. That means yes, almost 7 years since I had gone diving. I moved to Florida in Feb of 2015 and decided I wanted to dive more. Therefore, I joined the Down Under Dive Club and signed up for my first dive, the Earth Day dive on April 19th 2015.

I rented a full set of gear, bought a wetsuit and strapped on my fins and mask and jumped on the boat with 5 other members of the Down Under Dive club. I was excited and nervous. I tried to follow along with everyone as they were preparing their tanks for the first dive. I slide my BCD over my tank and start fiddling with the first stage trying to figure out how it went on the tank. Nicely, one of the dive club members, you know who you are ;), told meā€¦ "You have that on backwards". Embarrassed, I started to realize that maybe I should have taken a refresher course. I get the tank all situated and strap on my BCD and sit down and calm myself. I slip on the mask and fins and start feeling a little more confident.

I, of course, was the only one on "Air" therefore I had a different timeline than everyone else. Since it was rental gear I didn't pay much attention to what types of gauges I had, assuming that I would have a time keeping device. Before we jumped into the water, I realized I didn't have anything. Luckily, the dive master on the boat from Jupiter Dive Center had an extra watch that he let me borrow! Thanks for that too!! Again, embarrassed and feeling unprepared my stress level elevated again. It was finally time for us to jump in and start our first dive.

descendingOne by one, we all jumped into the water. One by one they all went down. I raise my BCD deflator and wait to descendā€¦ Nothing happens. I start panicking, my heart rate rises and my pulse quickens. I start hyperventilating. I can't go down, I don't understand it, I need more weight. I think back to my training so many years before. I calm myself down, put the regulator in my mouth and breathe deeply and stop panicking. I wave the boat over, and tell the boat swain that I need more weight and that I can't seem to sink. He smiles kindly, says, "I think you just need to flip over and swim down, I think you are kicking your feet, but I will give you more weight if you want it." I say, "Yes please! Another 2 pounds should be fine". I put the 2 additional pounds in my BCD pockets, take a deep breath turn and descend. As soon as I started descending it all came back to me. Checking my gauges looking around and enjoying the beauty of the ocean, I remembered why I wanted to get the certification in the first place. I look around; I see the group and start swimming toward them. I enjoy the coral pulsing with life and the fish darting around. It all seemed so natural once I was able to get under water. My time to ascend came too quickly. I signaled to my buddy that I was going up and started my normal ascent and sadly watched the other divers continue the dive as I floated up. I did my normal safety stop and ascended to the surface. I inflated my BCD and leaned back to wait for the boat. He was right there. He asked me what was wrong, I said "I am on Air", he looked at me confused, I said, "it was my time, I only have Air". He pulled over and picked me up, and said, the other guys still have like 20 minutes, go ahead and get comfortable. This was when I decided it was time to get Nitrox certified!

Jennifer Van Well and the aft viewThe second dive of the day went a LOT smoother. I was able to descend immediately and finally started thinking about why I was actually on this particular dive. It was to aid in cleaning up the reef for Earth day. This is when I decided it was a bad idea to go on this type of dive without a dive knifeā€¦ I start winding up what seems like an infinite length of fishing line. I carefully unwrapped it from the coral and other snags it was caught on and continued making a giant ball. I get to a point where I can't unwrap it. I wave to another diver who thankfully was prepared with a knife and we remove the debris from the bottom. As we are going about this cleaning I see a HUGE Loggerhead turtle. Next thing I see is the huge turtle bump one of the divers. She turned quickly to see the turtle swim by. It was awesome! The dive was beautiful and I was happy to be doing this hobby once more.

Obviously there are a few take-aways from my experience hereā€¦ the major one is that it is a good idea to really know your gear, even if it is rental gear. The second, it is a good idea to get a refresher course to remind yourself what you are supposed to do! And third, make sure you have all the equipment you need for a dive so that you do not inconvenience a fellow diver at the last minute.

Thank you Down Under Dive Club for getting me back in the water and accepting me into your circle. I hope to dive with you all again soon!

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