Sunday, July 28, 2013

Certified! Dive #5

Picture on the dock after the day was over
My first dive as a certified diver was dive #5 in my log book.  The instructors told us to go have fun and surface when we hit 800 psi (we ended up surfacing at 1000 psi and were the last group to come up...)

We were told to plan a dive, and then go do it.  Well, there isn't much to see in the quarry, the deepest we ever got in the class was 25 feet, and we mostly stayed around 15 (so the whole checkout dive was just a safety stop!) and the quarry isn't really even big enough that you can get lost; you might just surface a good swim away from the dock. So we set the following plan: let's dive for 20 minutes, and then we'll check in and see if we want to keep diving longer.

So Anna and I go down to dive and swim around a bit.  But at one point, after about 5 minutes, we float up and find ourselves on the surface. Oops. Anyhow, we kind of mention to each other that we felt like we weren't getting anywhere (we started in really shallow water) and because it was so shallow (5-10 feet deep) we were just mucking up the bottom and the visibility was like 1 foot...  So we agree to snorkel out to the platform, descend next to it (not on it), so we are at least 15 feet deep, and try again.

This time, we descend (free descent, not on the line, but next to the platform) and go under water. We notice the computers start adding time to the previous dive, not logging a new one (but also didn't count the time on the surface- nifty).  We just swim around, trying to turn right every once in a while, since we noticed we both tend to vear left.  We tried to stay around 15-20 feet, and I know this is going to sound stupid, but it was really hard- because we kept running into little hills in the ground.  You'd be floating along with good buoyancy and then all the sudden the ground was there and you'd be in the grass kicking up much.  Needless to say, despite our best efforts, if we didn't want to dive at 5-10 feet (and end up floating to the surface)  our visibility sucked because we couldn't stay out of the mud.  I tried the little ankle circle frog kicks the DM told me about the day before, but those sure didn't get me anywhere.

Dive finished*
We muddle around, see a fish or 5 or 6, and are just aimless.  Quite honestly- this dive was horrible. There was nothing to see, and dirt and grass everywhere.  When our clocks read 20 minutes, we agreed to swim a bit more, at 25 minutes, I thumbed up and she said okay.  We went to 13 feet and did a 3 minute safety stop.  I was somewhat impressed with us, as this was with no line, and I managed to stay between 11 and 15 feet (bottom was probably 20), with probably 80% of the time at 13 feet.  3 minutes feels like a long time when you are trying to stay in one place.

We surfaced, found out we were nearly at the dock (um, I think we had intended to go the other way...) but also we were the last group in the water!  We were at 1000 psi, so I think everyone quit early? No one else really seemed to be an air hog, and I think Anna thought they really expected us to dive until we had 800 left, so she was a little worried about surfacing early.

So the dive sucked, but it was kind of fun we got to do it on our own.  Kevin had originally planned that we'd try to go up 2-3 times a month until the quarry gets too cold, just to practice; but having done that, I don't think so.  It's like $50 in gas, $120 in rental gear for the both of us, and 30 minutes under water seems like a lifetime.  Once a month is probably going to be enough for me... (but I do think it is important to keep we definitely have to go.) There are a few other places to dive around here, one that is a lot closer- but when we asked the instructors they told us this was definitely the best.  EEK!

Now we just have to wait until December.  Cozumel here we come!

*Notice the backwards mask. I HATE having my mask on when I'm in the air. I feel like I am suffocating. But they have this ridiculous thing about your mask being on your forehead meaning you are a panicked diver, and give you a really hard time about it, so I turn it around instead.  I actually read about it on scubaboard and started doing it my second pool session, and then at OW I noticed a few of the instructors do it too, and by the end of the weekend, almost all of the divers were. I've been a panicked diver multiple times in the pool and my mask was never neatly placed on my forehead with me floating calmly waiting for what comes next! I tossed that thing off my face as fast as I could.  Also, the thrashing to stay above water (because in irrational panic you forget about the handy inflator button), and hyperventilating were probably better clues that I was panicking...

OW Checkout dives day 2: Dives 3 and 4

So today was Day 2 of certification dives.  How do people do this for a week vacation? I woke up EXHAUSTED.

Today we left the shop at 8:00 and drove up to the quarry. Different people in the van, and mostly tired ones, so no conversation today, just napping.

Get to the quarry and we got our gear unloaded and then put together, and then we went to the parking lot to learn about using a compass.  What I learned was that there is a 'lumber line' (it's called a lubber line) and that once you set your course you NEVER move the bezzle (which would make it impossible to following a course other than a straight line. I think he meant 'today, never move the bezzle...) Also, when you follow a course to someone's car that you can see, pretty much anyone can get there.  They should have put little Xs on the ground or something that you can't just visually walk to.  Still, it was a nice flashback to orienteering in Girl Scouts (before they kicked our troop out of the Camporee for being too good- true story- they told us it wasn't fair we always won.)

So then we put our gear on and do a giant stride into the water. I seriously have an issue.  I jumped in, my mask didn't flood, I didn't tip over, nothing. The regulator is in my mouth, I can breathe, the BCD is inflated- I can float.  I signal OK to the instructor, swim to the DM to get a weight check and break down.  WTH? It wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday- no almost crying, just a feeling of panic and stress. But while I'm having this sort-of panic attack I'm also thinking "why are you doing this, nothing is wrong!"  I don't understand. This alone makes me think I should get a private DM the first day we dive in Cozumel, just because I need a moment to calm down in the water before descending, and I don't think you usually do that.  So he does my weight check and tells me I'm fine.

Today's dives only had a few skills, so they were really short- like 10 minutes under water. The water was MUCH warmer, maybe 70 degrees, and on the platform visibility might have been 5-7 feet; it was better conditions than yesterday.

We started with some surface exercises. We swam a straightline with our compass.  I vear left when I swim, so you really have to watch the compass! And then we removed and replaced our weight pockets.

Dive 1:
To start we did the fin tip bouyancy exercise by orally inflating the BCD (so you take your regulator out of your mouth, breath air into the BCD, put the regulator back in- a few times). Again I had the weight issue that I couldn't stay down, so after two breaths I actually flipped over sideways and my fins went above my head. Not really a big deal, as you just turn over, but not really what the skill is supposed to be.  I think maybe my BCD was slightly off centered on my tank so my trim was bad. I put the equipment together, so that's my fault.

Then we flooded and cleared our mask. That was fine, but the instructor signaled OK at me (meaning he thought I was done) way before I thought I was done. I just get a bit of water under my nose and think I'm still filled with water. It takes forever of me blowing really hard out of my nose to move it out of my airway...

Then we did a CESA (controlled emergency swimming ascent).  Kevin got yelled at for swimming too fast, so I made sure not to rise too fast- but I went too slow. I took a breath about 4 inches before I got to the surface (my hand was above water).  That meant I had to do it again, and the instructor told me I wasn't kicking at all (not true).  So the second time I did it just fine. We did these from like 20 feet. I'm pretty sure I'd die if I had to do it from 60 feet. Note to self: don't run out of air.

Dive 2:
We descended this time without using the line, just to the middle of the platform, where we hovered, not landed on the platform.  Since my biggest problem has been getting down and staying on the platform, I killed this one! Woo! Hovering!

Second skill was to kneel on the platform and remove our mask and put it back on and clear it.  I did this in the pool with NO issues at all. Confident.  My buddy took a long time to clear her mask, and again, I was having trouble staying on the platform. I think these two things (but probably more the fact I couldn't kneel) gave me a lot of anxiety. The kneeling thing is stupid, because if your mask ever came off you wouldn't be kneeling, but I've never had to deal with water in my nose because of the weird way I hold my breath when I swim, but I can't do that with a regulator in my mouth. Since I kept tipping over I was really really worried it would happen when my mask was off. Again, stupid since the instructor is holding onto you (due to horrible visibility we did almost every skill with them holding us).  So the instructor comes over and tells me to take my mask off.  I take a deep breath, put my hand on my mask and mask strap. And don't take it off.  I shake my head, and give him a 'hold on' signal, take a deep breath, get ready to do it- and don't.  After about 5 tries, just shaking my head no, he points at my compass and we do the next skill.

The next skill is to swim a straight line under water. I don't do great at it, but the whole time I can tell I am off course and trying to get back on, so at least I know where I'm supposed to be going- I just can't seem to swim straight, so it takes a lot of adjustment. I do manage to find my way back to the platform though.  Navigation was a good skill to do in the quarry, because if the water was Carribean clear, wouldn't you just look and say 'hey- there's the platform, swim that way" where here, you can't see it until you are like 5 feet from it.

So we get back to the platform and he gives me the thumbs up symbol to finish the dive.  I point at my mask, knowing if I don't do that skill, I won't pass the class (I think they would have just taken me back down and tried again).  So this time. I take a deep breath, take the mask off, put the mask on, check that my nose is in the right place (mistake I made once in class), and clear it.  No problem at all. (In fact, when we get to the surface the instructor was wondering what the heck was wrong with me, as when I did the skill he said I was one of the fastest to do it; so why would I refuse to do a skill I'm good at?  Yeah, I'd like to know that answer...)

So then he makes the "pair up with buddy" signal, but since she did her compass nav with a different instructor, she is nowhere to be seen.  I shrug my shoulders and he makes a "look around" sign.  Um, if she isn't within 5 feet of me, there is nowhere to look!  So I look around for awhile, then I look at my computer for the dive time, look some more, and then signal to him that I've looked for 1 minute and can't find her and thumb to go up.  He agrees, we go up, do a 3 minute safety stop, while holding the line (what's the point of that as a skill? Anyone can do a stop holding a line!) and surface.

I think it was a surprise to both of us that my buddy was not on the surface either...  After a few minutes she and the other instructor surface like 50 yards away.  Apparently her first compass swim didn't go so well. So they were surfacing to take a new heading, and then went back underwater and she was able to navigate to the platform.

After that- we're certified divers!!!!  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scuba checkout dives: Day 1: Dive 2

After dive 1 was complete we waited on the surface for all the other groups to do their first dive. We didn't actually get out of the water between dives.   Even though the water was very warm up there, it got quite cold on the surface with the wind blowing.  It almost would have been better to just wait 3 feet under water.  It was probably a 40 minute wait, since multiple other groups had to go down.  And I don't think ANY of the groups managed to stay together as a group of 6. That made us feel a little better.

Dive 2 is the first dive to test skills.
We did fin pivot, a partial mask flood, a full mask flood, regulator recovery, and air sharing.

I couldn't do the fin pivot. In fact, at this point, when I got down to the platform, I couldn't get myself to stay kneeling on the platform, I just kept floating.  They kept telling me to dump air from my BCD, but there was none in it.  I'm going to add 4 pounds of weight tomorrow, I clearly didn't have enough.  So I do a BS little hover in front of them, he gives me a so-so sign, and I'm cleared on the skill.  I think the fact that I was able to hover in the same position is actually a bit better than planting my fins onto the platform and going up and I'm not too bothered that I didn't do the actual skill...  We do it again tomorrow with oral inflate, so hopefully with proper weighting, I'll be fine.

The partial mask flood was the skill I had problems on. Ridiculous. I never had problems with these mask skills in the pool.  I flooded my mask, and immediately got a nose full. I must have been inhaling when I did it and am still inhaling a bit through my nose without realizing.  I put my mask back on, get it cleared, but still have too much water in my nose.  I thumb up at my instructor and he holds my shoulders and shakes his head no. I blow out my nose a million times, I cough like crazy, and I'm able to get a good clean breath and signal ok.  I really did want to go up when I thumbed the dive, but unlike in the pool, I didn't start kicking in panic to get there.  It was more of a "I have a problem and would like to surface" and he said no, and I solved the problem.  That was good and productive.

Full mask flood was no problem at all.

I misunderstood the instruction for the regulator recovery, because the kept talking about regulator clearing, so I thought we were supposed to take it out, put in our mouth, clear it, and then do the other skills separately.  So I take the regulator out of my mouth, breath for a second, and put it back in. The instructor looks at me like I'm an idiot, takes it out of my mouth (this caught me off guard! Thankfully, I wasn't inhaling when he did it) and tosses it away, and I recover it. No problem at all.  I was pleased to see my buddy did the exact same thing as me, so the instructions weren't clear :) it wasn't just me.

Air sharing was happily no problem at all.  I still don't like doing it. By the time I take the octo out of the holder, I've taken a second breath. It seems like that won't really be an option if I'm out of air...  Buddy and I surfaced swimming together no problem.  Kevin's buddy nearly pulled the octo out of his mouth with a quick ascent, so I'm glad I didn't have that problem.

On the surface we did some skills: tired diver tow, BCD doff/don, snorkel/regulator exchange.  I can take the snorkel out of my mouth and put the regulator in, but regulator out and snorkel in took me 3 tries to be able to breath, despite blowing hard to clear the snorkel. And I supposedly have a dump valve in the snorkel.  Bah.  I hate snorkels.  Also, I'm not clear why I can't just pull my head out of the water- even if there are waves, I can hold my breath while I take the regulator out and shove the snorkel in, and it won't get flooded...  But I did it, so it's all good.

I now have a post dive headache and jaw pain.  Oh fun.  But I am happy today went well. I think tomorrow should too- and then I'll be certified.

Scuba Checkout dives: Day 1: Dive 1

So today started with an early morning at Seatasea to catch the van to the quarry. It was mostly DMs and Instructors, just two other students. I was surprised that in a class of 13 most people drove. It's a pretty long drive- almost 100 miles from Iowa City.  I know not everyone lives in IC, but a number of other people did, and most people live somewhere close to Cedar Rapids (or else they wouldn't have gone with Seatasea for open water...).  So yeah, I took the free ride and didn't pay gas. Figured my course fee was going for that.

It was a LONG ride, where I learned a lot about how tough the Marines are, about being in the Army reserves, about how the government is trying to take away our guns, and how the Instructor who held me down two weeks ago (today they actually told us they'd do that...but being warned kind of makes it different!) thought Perry should be President.  I joked with him that I'm now not sure I can trust him with my safety....

So we got to the quarry, unloaded stuff and got geared up.  It was a chilly 60 degrees with wind blowing.  Most of us put on our 7 mm wetsuits to get our gear together- I didn't pull mine up, just on the legs, but it was worth it for the extra warmth.

We got our stuff on, buddy checked, and jumped into the water (giant stride).  And this was where my freak-out of the day happened.  I hit the water, my mask flooded, I pulled the mask off, put it back on, and started crying.  WTF?  Absolutely no reason for this. I'm floating safely on the surface, BCD inflated, and freaking out.  My breathing is fine, but I'm literally fighting back tears. I was terrified, anxious, and panicked. The water was warm-ish, I wasn't UNDER water, it was absolutely ridiculous.  I have no explanation, and it took me longer than it should have to calm down. I'm embarrassed, but except the DM who was doing the weight check, I don't think anyone really noticed.

After everyone was weight checked (mine was wrong- I needed more...) we went over to the platform.  The quarry has two platforms that float about 15 feet under water.  There are lines on them that go from buoys so you can follow the line down under water.  Because of a storm, the visibility was terrible (estimated at 3-5 feet), so the 2 instructors and 2 DMs decided that it was not a good idea to take 13 people underwater. The original plan was for 1 instructor to lead, 2 buddy teams to follow, and 1 DM to be the caboose for Dive 1.  Dive 1 of checkout is just 'explore the dive site'.  We were briefed that if we lost site of our instructor to immediately surface (standard rule is search for 1 minute than surface. They decided that once someone was lost there was no way they'd be found, so just go up.)

So my buddy Anna (whose stated goal of the day was "do not drown") and I volunteer to go in the first group.  We get down on the platform, and I can't see the instructor, but can see the buddy team in front of us. They take two kicks, and I can no longer see her white fins.  We lost our group within 5-10 seconds.  Anna and I are looking at each other like "uh? Go up?" We swim a bit further, and look at each other, not sure what to do. Then the DM behind us taps us on the shoulder. Oh yeah! Him! Thank goodness.  So we gone on with our dive.  At the 15 foot mark, the water is relatively warm (we're in 7mm suits). I think it was maybe 66 degrees.  We hit a thermocline at 17 feet, the water is about 60 degrees. At 20 feet there is another- down to around 56 degrees.  60 degrees is cold. Under 60 is VERY cold.  VERY cold.

After the near lost experience of losing our group, Anna and I are holding hands.  I'm doing fine- but honestly it was really stressful. I was so worried about losing her. (Losing the DM was a bit of a concern too, but if he disappears we surface. If the girl who tells me her only goal was to not drown disappears and then something happens to her- OMG. Thankfully, that didn't happen.)  Since our DM kept us around the 20-25 mark, the water was very cold. I kept looking at my computer to see how many minutes would pass hoping it would be over. (We were told it would be about 15 minutes long.)

After about 7 minutes we were feeling more comfortable and let go of each others hands, still just half a foot between each other.  We tried to practice our buoyancy with hands in front of us. Anna and I have opposite problems, I crash into the ground, she floats up to the surface.  She would go floating and get about 2 feet away and start getting blurry, so I'd reach up and hold her hand while she came back down.  The DM would turn around and OK every minute or two, but I don't think he saw any of this...  The quarry was very grassy, and we saw 3 fish.  After 17 minutes we swam up, did a 3 minute "safety stop" and ended the dive.

We talked with other groups and none of them went below 20 feet, so they didn't hit the really cold water, and their DM kept them above the thermocline so they all go to stay in the really warm water!  No fair. Still, the depth was kind of nice, because I guess it makes it a bit more of a real dive.

Also, the buddy pair in front of us went to the surface probably about the time we lost them. They said they were under for less than a minute; they lost the instructor too (he took off into the thermocline, which has the worst visibility- less than a foot) and then the guy went to let air out of his BC to surface and pressed the wrong button and shot to the surface. He said he probably caught air upon hitting the surface- kind of scary. Rapid ascent isn't good!

And while I was anxious and ready to be done the whole time, I made the whole 20 minutes with really no problems at all. This does make me wonder if I'm going to be able to handle a whole hour (well 45 minutes, maybe, with my crappy breathing...) underwater when we go to Cozumel.  Maybe with things to look at time will pass faster?

The most amazing thing was the visibility.  It was literally 5 feet at its best, and in the theromcline where it was so silted up (where we lost the instructor).  When I've heard about poor visibilty I always thought about like dusk, when it is hard to see around you.  But it isn't like that at all. What you can see, you can see perfectly clearly. You hold your hand in front of your face, and it is clear as day. But then 3-5 feet out it is like there is a wall. You can see absolutely nothing.  So you can either see, or you can't. It isn't like some stuff gets blurry.  I actually think, for me, that made it less claustrophobic, but I could see how for other people, it might be worse.  I'm happy that claustrophobia hasn't been an issue for me in the diving.  I just wish I knew why I freaked out jumping into the water. That was just ridiculous. I think all my other panics have been somewhat justified, but that was not.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Back to SCUBA

But first:  If you are a skater still reading this blog, I have a pair of Jackson Competitors (older style), size 3D with pink Paramount Blades, signed by Alissa Czisny, for sale.  They are scuffed up, but in skateable condition. Life left in blades, though used.  I'm asking $125 shipped ($25 of that is likely the shipping.)  Please let me know if you know anyone with small feet looking for skates!

So today I went back to the pool to re-take the second day of the SCUBA class.  I passed last time, but not without major panic, so I wanted to try again.  Today went MUCH better. There were two instances of minor panic, but I think I handled it mostly okay, and overall things went MUCH better.

The first thing we did was the snorkel skills. This time, I actually did the whole snorkel swim!  Last time I barely made it 10 meters and did the regular swim instead to pass the skill (you can do 300 m snorkel or 200 m swim).  I was very proud of myself for doing this- but I still do not like snorkeling. I feel like I hyperventilate the whole time, no matter what I do- I cannot get a good deep breath.  The fins also hurt my ankles kicking for so long (and I was doing good from the hip kicks, not bicycle kicks).  But I am SO proud of myself for doing this.   Then we did the tired diver tows, and that was no problem, again. (Though my buddy was harder to tow than Kevin, because he was a much larger man.)

I skipped the float to get my gear together (I'm a master of floating, sadly.  We found out that Kevin, who is absolute non-floatable deadweight, can float if he puts his ankles on top of mine.  That' how buoyant I am.  I need to work to get rid of some of this buoyancy!)  I remembered how all the gear got together and me and my buddy were the first ready and the first to hit the water.

The giant stride into the water was no problem at all.  This pool had a much steeper drop off (like 2 feet) from the edge to the water, so it was a long fall. I'm glad I was able to practice that, since I don't know what the boat will be like.

Then my buddy and I swam around a bit, practice regulator in/out, I did the oral inflate of the BCD- it was going well. I was pretty happy, though honestly, still not REAL comfortable underwater, but doing fine.

When the class got together, since I was buddied up with someone, I just stayed as a normal participant in the class (my original plan was to do the oral inflate of the BCD, then just practice regulator skills- I think this worked better.)  We started with the fin pivot using oral inflate of the BCD, and I had NO PROBLEMS!!! I was so proud of myself.  Then we did the hover and I think I did better than last time (when I kept crashing to the ground).  They didn't have me take off my BCD and put it back on, but that isn't something you do much of- it likely would have taken me forever. The final skill on this time down was to take the weights out of your pockets and put them back in. I wasn't able to do it last time, and then had no trouble at all this time. In fact, I was the first one done.  YAY! Things were looking good.

After this, we surfaced for more instructions and then went back down.  This was where my first freak out happened, on the same skill as last time. No mask swim- I swam just fine, and then I went to put my mask back on. I couldn't get it to clear. After about 8 tries, I now had so much water up my nose I couldn't get breaths anymore. I thumbed up, and needed to get to the surface to breathe.  The effing instructor HELD ME DOWN and wouldn't let me surface.  I think he wanted to encourage me to give it another try, but no, I had tried enough, and I wanted to breathe without water in my throat. I fought him a bit (this is all like 2 seconds) and he let me surface, where I was choking water and gasping for air.  It only took a few seconds to regain breath, he told me the problem was that my nose piece wasn't correctly over my nose, and then stayed with me to let me calm down.  I told him he could go back underwater to keep the class moving, and when I was ready I would just get in the back of the line and go again.  I'm again proud of myself for this- because I was able to calm myself down quickly and go back and do it again with no anxiety.  The second time, I again had no problem with the swim, and then couldn't get the mask to clear. This time, after 2 tries clearing, I calmly checked the position of the nose, and then all around the mask. On one side, the plastic skirt was tucked under itself, so not sealed. I straightened that out, cleared the mask and signaled OK, so I did it, and I know more things to check if it doesn't go smoothly the first time next time.  But I really do feel like I did my best to spend time trying before freaking out the first time, but there is a point where I think it is normal to say "I'm not getting it, I'd like to breathe."  Overall, I was MUCH calmer than last time.

The next skill is where my second freakout occurred- out of air swim on the alternate.  My buddy and I had practiced me switching my regulator in and out, and also taking his alternate. I had noticed his alternate was breathing in a bit of water, but didn't think it was much of a problem.  Well, here, it turned out to be a problem.  I took his alternate, and four or five breaths I still couldn't get one that didn't have water in it; everytime more and more water was getting in my mouth. I was blowing out, I was using the purge valve, I couldn't get it clear.  So I put back my primary in, but by then I had a lot of water in my windpipe and couldn't get a clear breath. I thumbed up, and AGAIN the guy held me down for a second, and I kicked against him and surfaced.  This was much worse than the last surfacing- because I was seriously gasping for air and choking on water.  This is when I realized how easily it is for a panicked diver to down on the surface (no, I was not in danger here)- I was so busy gasping, and trying to tread water to fight against my weights and my tank, it never occurred to me to press the power inflator for buoyancy.  In a real emergency, I might not think to ditch weights. When you are panicked, thought doesn't happen.  The instructor had come up with me, pressed my power inflator for me, I threw my mask off (I did NOT put it calmly on my forehead where I like to rest it but can't due to "panicked diver" BS- that thing flew off so I could breathe!) and got some breaths.  The instructor asked me if I was okay and I said "no, I can't breathe" and then immediately said "oh, wait- I'm talking, I'm okay, give me a second".  So it took a bit longer, but I was able to gain my rational behavior back, and explained to the instructor how much water I was getting in my mouth, even with cautious breaths.  He went down and checked the guys octo and came back and told me I wasn't crazy- it was leaking a bit, you just have to use your tongue as a splash guard and breathe carefully... UH, Kevin is getting a high quality octo, or I'm stealing his primary, because if I'm ever truly out of air, there is no way "breathe carefully" is going to be happening... 

So the instructor did the exercise with the other guy and then had me do it again. Again, I was getting water in, so I switched back to my primary. I just shook my head that I couldn't do it.  So he had me do it with HIS octo, which didn't leak at all, but I really had to bite down on to get it to stay in my mouth when we were swimming, but the skill was no problem.  So to any future buddies- please have very well maintained equipment!!! 

It was around this point that I had to get extra weights because I just could NOT stay down. Turned out my tank was leaking a bit (they decided to not replace the o-ring because I didn't really need much air for the class anyway) and was down to about 800 PSI- and it is amazing how much difference not having the air is. I sunk like crazy and he called me "maybe a bit overweighted" during the check.

Afterwards we came to the surface and did BCD off/on, and weight removal (harder on the surface because of the inflated BCD).

Then we just swam around with our buddies. My buddy was excellent and practiced out of air drills with me again, and I was able to breathe around the water a bit better (though we did it in the shallow end).

I'm going to do the open water checkout in two weeks. Here's hoping it goes well. Today was not perfect, but it was definitely much better than last week, and I think overall I was rational and didn't have freakouts over nothing like last time, and for the most part my regulator in/out was much better. (I do want to look for a smaller mouthpiece before we go to Cozumel- my jaw is killing me; it's like going to the dentist having to hold my mouth open to fit the regulator in.)

The only thing I had a real hard time with that we didn't practice again was the breathing from a free flowing regulator, but I don't think you do that for checkout. I'll just have to make sure to practice it again sometime on a dive, since I'm sure it is a good skill to have.