As of late, I have gotten the SCUBA bug. I've had this bug before, but this is a little different. First, I lack a regular dive buddy. Iver is my best bet, but his life doesn't allow for a lot of diving all together. Second, I still lack some of the regular equipment most divers have. For example, I've been renting a wetsuit for the last five years (it really is time for that wetsuit I've been eyeing for a while).
Its coming up on good diving weather, and I'm already looking to join up with a Dive Club in Mendocino in April. But, as it stands right now, I'm kind of in a holding pattern until after the China trip.
In the meantime, however, I'm looking to create a little something I should have done a long time ago: A Dive Log. It seems every diver should have a dive log. And its something I have never done. I'm not really sure why... Lazy, most likely. So now, a few years later, I'm looking to create it.....
Lets go back to Summer, 2006.....
Albion. Summer. I'm down at Albion with D and the Bear, camping with Janine and Iver. This trip is mainly an abalone harvest. However, SCUBA is something Iver and his brother Eric, and cousin Mike like to do, and he wants to introduce me to the sport.
Apprehension is a good word to describe how I felt about this. What did I really know about diving? Its a sport. People do it. You could die. That about sums up my knowledge of the sport at the time. But what the heck, I'll try nearly anything once (except skydiving, I won't do that. Ever.).
So we made our way to Dark Gulch on a pleasant August morning. Now, for anyone who is familiar with this area, its a fairly protected cove, south of Mendocino, north of Albion. The Heritage House Inn overlooks the cove on the north side. To get to Dark Gulch, one must take a small path between the Heritage House property and some private property. Then one must hike down a rickety set of wooden stairs. Then one must walk across an even ricketier bridge that crosses a small stream. Then One must traverse the rocky bedding that leads to the sandy beach.
I should point out this is not particularly tough unless you are carrying a lead weight belt, fins, BC, mask and snorkel, air tank, and you are wrapped in a ridiculous amount of neoprene. Then this little walk becomes a trecherous journey. By the time we got to the beach, I was dripping in sweat and my feet were killing me (I was wearing a pretty skimpy pair of dive boots at the time).
Once we reached the beach, it was time for a shakedown on dive equipment. My "instructor" is a medical professional whom I honestly was trusting with my life, and would do so at any given time. Everyone there were accomplished divers, and I felt like I was in good hands.
So we talked about gear. First and foremost, the BC, one of the most important parts of a diver's arsenal of gear. Its a life saver, literally, and nearly everything attaches to it. Then the air tank, and connected regulator and octopus. Mask, snorkel, fins. It all sounds so simple when you break it down like this. In reality, though, its not. We could talk about the bends. We could talk about air embolisms. But who wants to know about that right now? I did. The bends has to do with nitrogen building up in the blood stream, then expanding as pressure decreases, and causing severe pain and in some cases, even death. Air embolisms are when your lungs explode due to the air in your lungs expanding too fast. In this case, death is almost certain. However, Iver told me these things wouldn't be problem as long as I remained calm and followed his lead.
OK, lets go.
I donned my gear for the first time, and clumsily made my way into the Pacific Ocean. On my first dive I was a little spoiled. It was a sunny day, the surf was minimal, and entry into the water was as easy as could be. We swam out to where the depth was about 20-25 feet down. I was instructed to put in my regulator and simply lay face down in the water and get a feel for breathing with the regulator in. What a strange feeling. All my life I was accustomed to holding my breath under water. Here, holding your breath equates to an explosion of the lungs. So you breathe. You breathe normally. I lay there on the surface for a couple of minutes, simply looking down and breathing.
The water was so clear. I could see straight to the bottom. I could see the kelp stalks rooted to the rocky ocean floor. I could see the various kinds of algae growing on the rocks themselves. I could see abalone attached to rocks all over the place. I could see god rays filtering through the water, alighting on the ocean floor. It was an amazing sight, one I think I'll never forget.
After this initial few minutes of getting used to the idea of breathing under water, it was time to let the air out of our BCs and descend. This was it. The moment of truth. Descending, according to Iver, was the easy part. Simply let the air out of your vest and sink. The only think to do was pop your ears often as pressure increases. Easy enough. And so we sank.
And my perception of this place we call Planet Earth changed forever.