At the beginning of February I went back out to dive the rigs on the Sundiver Express through LA Dive and Ride. The trip was a blast and we encountered midsummer-like calm weather. The ocean was flat as a pancake, the sun was shining and the water was very clear! To top off the great day of diving, we were visited by a school of young Mola Mola on the first dive. I counted up to 10 at one point, and while somewhat skitterish, they hung around just off the rigs for the entire dive. One the second dive, the sea lions were as curious as ever, cruising down to the divers and zooming around as we waited during our safety stop. All in all, a great day of diving!
Last weekend was a blur of Scuba related ‘manageable’ chaos. My schedule went from an empty weekend, with the possibility of taking of the DM spot on Sunday for a friend who has been unable to dive these last couple of weeks, to full out non stop teaching with several “all in one day referrals” on saturday and three Advanced Open Water dives with two students on the boat Sunday. I was fairly nervous going into the weekend, I had 6 students on my plate for the referrals, which consist of accomplishing all the Confined Water skills and classroom quiz within one day. It’s a long day, and requires both planning, and having a group that can stay focused to be able to get through everything.
As it turned out I gained a seventh student last minute, and we got a slightly late start in the morning. The pool work started slowly, and we didn’t get quite as far as I would like in the morning pool session, which left me a little stressed. However, after burning through a quick lunch and quiz and a couple gear exchanges at the shop, we regrouped at the pool to blaze through the rest of the skill sets. My students were awesome. They hung in there to the very end, which ended up being 6:00pm…basically an hour after we are ‘supposed’ to be finished at the pool. They were patient while I worked with one student for a few minutes to help her overcome an inability to clear her mask, which with several tries and the switch of mask type she was able to accomplish with ease. Finally they all finished every skill, and were feeling comfortable in the pool when we crawled out exhausted, but excited to be done!
The day was over for the students, but far from it for me. I hurried back to the shop, to drop off some gear and tanks. I needed to quickly wrap up all the paperwork for my referrals, as most of them wanted to return their rental gear and pick up the paperwork on Sunday (no reason to make them have an extra trip!), then I needed to grab a fresh tank and additional gear for my Advanced dives. I ended up trying to put together a set of rental gear with no idea of sizes for a guy who was coming down from the North and needed gear, unable to get ahold of him I was basically putting together a range of gear from what we had available. Luckily, (just after I finished gathering it all up) he called and said he had decided to rent gear in Santa Barbara, so didn’t need it from us anymore, but asked if I could bring a tank for him and his son…not a problem. So, now a little prior to 9:00p, I had re-packed my equipment for the weekend, grabbed a short shower, and loaded my car with 3 tanks, and some spare equipment just in case. It was off for the 2 hour drive to Santa Barbara with a stop to pick up Jessica and Bryan and all their gear. You should know, I own a Honda Fit…and thus far my car his lived up to its name. We FIT, 5 tanks, 3 full sets of gear in our giant Scuba gear bags, a fourth half set of two bcd’s and a regulators, my sleeping bag, three backpacks, who even knows how many pounds of weight…including the extra weight I brought for my class and the “emergency someone forgot weight” situation. Add in the three of us, and my little baby was feeling the burden! However, she handled everything well and we cruised up to SB with minimal traffic. I missed dinner on Saturday due to all the running around, but was so exhausted that I didn’t care. We helped with some of the waiver organizatioin, sorted out a few bunk issues (the joys of a full boat!) and I promptly passed out in my bunk around midnight.
Sunday’s weather was perfect and warm (which was great because in the mad dash to get out of the house I managed to forget a towel!). The ocean was calm, but unfortunately the viz was less than ideal. To make things even better, I managed to miss a step on the way up from the bunks on an early morning bathroom run and scraped up my shin quite painfully. I had two Advanced Open Water Students and on the docket for the day was the Navigation Dive, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Search and Recovery. Having never taught any of these I was feeling a little overwhelmed, hoping that I’d be able to pull it off. Navigation was easy. The less than stellar visibility meant that my divers really had to use their navigation skills because each time they swam away from me for the out and back and the square, I would disappear. However they came back every time, with the final “just for fun” larger square I had them do since we had some extra time they almost missed me…but a quick glance to the right as I watched them swim by they realized they were off by just a bit and recorrected. I had a great dive, sitting on the sand watching them disappear, then getting bombarded by several sea lions that kept swimming by, stopping briefly to check me out then moving on. Peak Performance Buoyance went well, we found a small plate in the sand and I distracted them from fully focusing on thier hoover by passing it around fin to fin to fin…it was quite fun, and we all stayed neutral while doing it which was great. Finally it was time for search and recovery…I had been most nervous for this, feeling a little unprepared (I hadn’t tied those knots in a few months…could I remember how?!) Having practiced in my bunk before going to bed, I realized that I still remembered how, and the rest was easy. I sent them off in a U pattern to find the plate from the previous dive, while I hid a heavy weight belt in the opposite direction. They succeeded in finding the plate on turn 4, and then we did an expanding square to find the weight belt. I really enjoyed being the “observer” watching thier square expand around and around. I could tell they were feeling like they might not find the weight belt, their heads started turning more frequently, but I knew they were coming upon it with the next turn of the square. After seeing it they swam over and took turns tying off the lift bag. Once secured they worked perfectly as a team to make it neutral and surface safely.
It was a busy day and I was sure glad to see my bed by the time I got home, but I felt so good of all that had been accomplished, especially the 7 Referrals.