I spent all of last weekend on Catalina Island diving my brains out at Casino Point. I’m hoping to take the IE at the end of July and one of the requirements of the test is that you have 100 dives under your belt. At 77 with less than a month and a half to go, I was starting to get nervous. After this weekend, I knocked out 11 of my remaining dives bringing that number down to only 12 left; a much more achievable number of dives.
Now I’ve been Nitrox certified since 2006, but never really had the chance to explore its benefits. Since my certifying dive I’d only used a nitrox mix once, on a pre-work morning dive. I definitely felt much better after that dive, and noticed the absence of the usual 2:00pm crash I typically get after an AM air dive. With this in mind I decided that I wanted to dive the weekend on Nitrox. Not only would it allow us more dives with less nitrogen build up, but in theory we would also feel less wrecked after this serious bout of diving. Upon arriving on Catalina we discovered one small hitch in the perfect nitrox diving plan. The dive site is about a half mile walk from Scuba Luv where you can get your nitrox fills. There is a great little container shack right at Casino Point, but unfortunately they only have air. So we were looking at approximately a 10 minute walk each way whenever we wanted a fill. Dragging a couple tanks on a dolly adds to the annoyance. Now I know, a half mile is really not that bad, but it’s dodging tourists and over a slightly uneven brick surface while clad in your 7mm wetsuit and sloshy booties. We decided to tough it out, and were lucky enough that the lady at Scuba Luv was able to put one of the 2 tanks we rented on the truck that was coming out a little later. This was nice because that morning we were already loaded down with all of our dive gear. We dove all day Saturday, completing 6 dives with Nitrox.
Sunday however, we were feeling a bit lazy, and didn’t want to have to make the trek back and forth from the shop, so we opted to use air and just get tanks from the Catalina Diver Supply container right at the site. The plus side was we now only had a 100 ft walk from our gear. However I was AMAZED at the difference. We did our first dive on nitrox (finishing off half a tank we had left over from the shorter night dive on Saturday), then dove 4 dives on air. After the first two I could easily feel the difference.
So, let me say, the nitrox was worth it. On Saturday, we dove six dives (ranging in length from 23-52 minutes and depths of 25-70ft) and at the end of the day I still felt great. I was tired sure, but mostly that was the fact that I had been up since 4:45 and working on about 5 hours of sleep. The pain really was only having to trek back and forth with tanks. On Sunday, we did five dives (1 on nitrox and 4 on air) and I was tired after two, and just about dead after the 4th on air. I had to take a quick cat nap during our lunch time surface interval (after dive #3) and was having trouble staying awake to make conversation with Richard on the ferry back home. At one point I just told him that I had to shut my eyes or I wouldn’t be able to drive home from Long Beach!
All in all, if I have the opportunity, and am doing more than 1 or 2 dives, I will definitely be using nitrox. Not really for the added bottom time, but purely becasue I felt SO much better at the end of the day, even after just a few dives!
(Note: a full write up of the weekend with photos and video is coming…I just have to find the time to get through all my media!)