Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dive! Dive! Dive!

No, this isn’t a blog about submarines, or even submarine movies, although that might be a fun topic to explore in the future. Today’s blog is about a 3-tank dive my dive club, Bay Area Divers, did on a couple of offshore rigs yesterday. We BADdies, as we like to call ourselves, stay active pretty much year round, but more so in the summer. What better way to keep cool in these dog days of August than taking a dip in a very large swimming pool, called the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, diving in Texas falls into two main categories: lake dives and offshore dives. There really isn’t a lot of shore diving in Texas, except maybe near Port Aransas. Visibility (“viz”) in the local lakes is rarely what one would call good, so to find that good viz you pretty much have to head offshore. That leaves rigs, a wreck or two, and the Flower Garden Banks for some true “blue water” diving.

Since Cindy and I love cruising the Caribbean, we take advantage of the fantastic diving there and have logged dives from Cozumel to Belize to Grand Turk. The most common dive trips in the Caribbean, when on a cruise ship stop, is the standard two tank dive. Now, before I get too far along in my ramblings, let me explain exactly what that means. Many of my non-diving friends visualize something like Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt, wearing a set of double tanks when I mention doing a “two tank dive.” That’s not the case here, though. A two tank dive refers to a dive trip where one will make two dives, each with a fresh tank. The diver will make a dive, and depending on the dive operator, will surface when either his/her tank is at a certain minimum pressure, or his/her dive computer (or dive tables if going “old school”) indicates he/she is near their no-decompression limit. Normally, it’s the minimum pressure that limits most recreational divers.

Anyway, after diving that first tank, the diver will then spend a certain amount of time on the surface, called a surface interval. Usually about an hour or so, this surface time allows excess nitrogen to leave the body. After a sufficient surface interval, the diver then makes another dive on the second tank, hence the term “two tank dive.”

That’s why I was making it a point to talk about our three tank dive yesterday. We did two dives on one rig, and then a third dive on another rig, using the transit time between the two as part of our surface interval. These rigs were about 37 miles offshore, so we got to experience some nice “blue water” diving with great viz and abundant wildlife. We actually had enough members wanting to dive that we chartered not one, not two, but three, yes three dive boats! In all, there were about 18 divers, plus three divemasters, diving yesterday. I took just over 150 photos, most of which came out nicely. There were several blurry photos and a few who’s composition was not what I had envisioned that went straight to the electronic recycle bin.

One event made our second dive truly special. Two of our club members, Jim McConville and Doreen Wells, have been in a relationship for a few years. Several weeks ago, Jim came to me and asked if I (along with two others) would help him with a “secret project.” During one of our dives, he would give us a signal and we would each unfurl a weighted t-shirt. Mine had “Will” printed on it, another had “you” printed on it, and the third had “marry” on it. Jim would then unfurl his t-shirt that had “me” on it. He also had a ring tucked into his exposure suit, which he’d then present to Doreen. How cool is that, huh?

So, on dive number two, we covertly grabbed our respective t-shirts, tucked into a mesh bag, and clipped them onto our dive gear. After all of us spent some time exploring the rig underwater, Jim nodded to us and then distracted Doreen. We quickly unfurled our shirts, and he pointed us out to her. I could see Doreen reading the shirts, then looking at Jim, who had his shirt unfurled. A vigorous nod from her let us all know we just shared a very special occasion. I’m most happy for Jim and Doreen, and feel honored to have been asked to participate in such a profound moment. Congratulations, you two!

The newly engaged couple

The third dive was just as fun as the previous two, but after what we did on the second dive, it was almost anticlimactic……almost. Hey, it was a fun dive, what can I say? I wonder if Jim and Doreen will exchange vows underwater somewhere in the Caribbean. They can find a minister who happens to be a diver and do the ceremony on the sandy bottom in Cozumel or Bonaire. How romantic, right?

Oh, come on! Surely this would be no different than a couple exchanging vows in freefall. I’m not making that up, either. Some friends of mine actually got married that way. Gary used to operate a drop zone, for sport skydiving. He and his then fiancĂ©, also a skydiver, convinced a minister to take lessons so he could marry them while in freefall. Since the average skydive has about 46 seconds of freefall, most of the ceremony, except for the actual “I do” part, took place on the ground. The wedding party then loaded up into the jump plane, climbed to altitude and jumped out. The minister had them repeat the actual vows in freefall; they opened their parachutes and landed as a married couple.

Having just read about that true story, exchanging vows underwater doesn’t seem all that farfetched now, does it?

Until next time……

Carpe cerevisi