This post was written on April 11 … just a little slow to get it on the blog.
Yesterday we hit the high seas with high hopes for an interesting scuba excursion.
We climbed aboard the Cham Island Diving boat with our friends Carol, who would earn her PADI Open Water certification by the end of the day, and Nikki, who experienced some mediocre snorkeling. Tony puked for most of the 45-minute boat ride to the dive site, so he was happy to finally squeeze into a wetsuit and strap on the BCD (buoyancy control device). I warned the divemaster that I always get cold underwater, even on dives that other people report as “like bath water.” He tossed a second wetsuit to me.
Little did I suspect that hypothermia would be the least of my problems on this day.
I may have mentioned in the past that my head is shaped like an upside-down lightbulb, and I have yet to find a dive mask that can seal those little divots at my temples. For my first dive in Hoi An, I wore an old dive mask that belonged to my sister Megan when she was a kid. I figured a teenager’s mask might fit better than a full-size adult’s mask made for normal full-size faces. I was wrong.
From the minute we descended (which actually took longer than usual because I didn’t have enough weights on my belt, so the divemaster had to slip another weight in my BCD pocket), my mask (a) leaked and (b) fogged up. I spent the whole dive taking off my mask, wiping off the fog, putting it back on, blowing out the water and then catching up with the group. I don’t even remember seeing any fish.
In addition to my mask misery, I was freezing! Back on the boat, it took a good 20 minutes before my teeth stopped chattering. For the next dive, I got a new mask and put on a hood and a THIRD wetsuit. I could barely bend my arms to put on the BCD.
The hood and third wetsuit made a huge difference – I felt warm and cozy. Unfortunately, my new mask immediately filled up, and the divemaster tossed it back on board to trade it for yet another. I thought it was sealing better, but shortly after descending, it filled again. I cleared it a few times and figured I could dive with a partially filled mask. Suddenly, it filled up completely and no matter how hard I tried to clear it, the water rushed back in. I panicked momentarily when I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t read my gauge, so I didn’t know my depth. I couldn’t tell if I was bobbing back up to the surface (and risking “the bends”) or sinking to the bottom (and risking the explosion of my ear drums).
Later Tony explained that he saw me sinking, so he quickly grabbed my buoyancy control valve and pumped a little air into the BCD. Then I started to float up. By then the divemaster realized I was in trouble, so he pulled my fin down until I was level with him. At first I was desperate to get out of the water, so I made the thumbs-up gesture for “Back to the surface!” I cleared my mask and could open my eyes for just an instant to see him pantomiming, “Calm down, silly.”
He tried to push all my hair away from the mask in case it was creating gaps, but by then my panic had subsided and I knew the stupid hood was the problem. I whipped off the mask, pulled the hood down around my neck, put the mask back on and cleared the water by blowing air out of my nose. The mask sucked on to my face like it was permanently attached.
For the rest of the dive, I didn’t have any problems with water leakage. The pressure on my face was quite uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to equalize it for fear of creating new leaks. As a result, I now have a nice fat bruise right above my nose. Pretty.
No longer obsessed with my mask, I was able to focus more on the dive. Too bad the visibility was poor. Our group had six people, and we often couldn’t see further than the fins in front of us.
When I climbed up the ladder to get back on the boat, my three wetsuits suddenly compressed like a corset and squeezed all my internal organs up into my throat. I barely wriggled out of the BCD before leaning over the railing to barf my breakfast into the sea. I felt like a pig in the coils of a boa constrictor and couldn’t get out of those wetsuits fast enough!
As for the dive itself, we encountered a few interesting fish and rolling coral terrain, but probably the best thing I took away was the reminder to stick with my dive buddy. Poor Tony. He always tries to stay close, but I’m so easily distracted. I tail the divemaster but often lose track of Tony when I spot a cool fish. Sometimes I snap back to reality and whip around to find him, only to discover he’s floating right above me. When I had the mask problem, he was right there to help me. But who would help HIM if he got into trouble? Chances are, I would be mesmerized by some colorful sea anemone while he signaled for help. So this was a big wake up call.
After our second dive, we anchored off Cham Island and piled into a little boat to get to shore. We ate lunch and played cards till it was time to take the dive boat back to Hoi An. Despite the equipment malfunctions, chilly water temperature and post-dive pukefest, diving always rocks. Plus, it was fun to be with Carol when she earned her PADI certificate. So, all in all, not a bad day.
Shots in the water were taken by Nikki or Carol with an underwater camera.
Carol, Nikki and Tony on the boat.
Pulling away from the dock in Hoi An, we passed fishermen in boats and baskets.
Carol’s ready to jump in.
Getting ready to descend.
Alex, the divemaster, trying to help me with my stupid mask.
Whew! Finally got it to stop leaking.
Some nice scenery despite the poor visibility.
Playing cards at Cham Island.
Heading back to town.
Love these fish nets!
Pulling in to the Hoi An port.