"In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take."

2018 Escape The Winter Trip – Day 6

Our first two open water dives were scheduled for first thing Friday morning.  That meant setting an alarm clock for the first time since we left.  Bummer!  But, we were up at 6:30am, packed up and ready to go on time.  We would be diving from boats that belonged to Rainbow Reef.  Lucky for us, Rainbow Reef was right next door to our hotel so we had a pretty short commute.  The weather forecast wasn’t fantastic and we weren’t sure that the boats would be going out due to the waves and wind.  After getting the okay for the boats to go out, we all checked in and loaded our gear onto the boat.

After a short safety briefing, we quickly got busy assembling our kits as the boat made it’s way out of the canal and into the open ocean.  Assembling our kits was a bit of a challenge, as it was a rough boat ride out combined with a furious pace to get the kits assembled before arriving at the first dive location.  The seas were running close to 5 feet and the wind was blowing 15 – 20 knots.  We hoped that things might mellow out a little bit by the time we got to our first dive location, but, no such luck.

The first dive location was Pickles Reef, an open water site with a maximum depth of 30 feet.  Walking from the front of the boat to the back with a kit and tank strapped on your back, a mask on your face and wearing fins in 5 foot seas was an experience I’ll never forget!  Everyone made it into the water safely but the waves made it challenging to stay on the surface.  We agreed to descend and found that descending helped, but, that there was substantial surge underneath the surface.  Scuba diving with the strong surge was something!  It was almost like being in a swing, being pushed forward and then drug backward.  Somehow, we were able to complete all the required skills for Open Water Dive 1, despite the conditions.  We even had time for a short swim around to check out the reef and the cool ocean critters.  As we exited the water after the dive, there were a number of divers hanging over the edges of the boat, feeling the “motion of the ocean.”  A few others had decided that they would sit the second dive out due to the conditions.

After boarding the boat, we quickly got to work tearing down our kits and swapping tanks while the boat moved to the second dive location.  The second dive location was Snapper Ledge, an open water site with a maximum depth of 25 feet.  I had some anxiety about the conditions and seriously contemplated not going in for the second dive, but, talked myself into at least going in and giving it a try.  Unfortunately, my ambition didn’t last long, as I began feeling sick in my stomach while we were doing an out-of-air emergency skill.  Luckily, I was able to exit the angry ocean before getting sick.  Josh stayed in the water and was able to complete the rest of his second dive skills before he confirmed the fact that you actually can vomit into a regulator underwater and live to tell about it.  On a positive note, Josh did get to see a nurse shark during dive 2, which made the dive completely worth it!

Needless to say, we were both pretty thankful that diving was over for the day after the second dive and still very angry ocean.  We headed back to the hotel room, thoroughly exhausted and somewhat ill-feeling, and camped out for the rest of the day.  There would be more diving the next day and we crossed our fingers that the conditions would be more favorable.

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