Saturday, September 22, 2007

Swimming with the fishes

Hi all! I'm writing this from our hotel near Anavyssos. I'm a bit sad that tomorrow is the last day of our vacation, but it's been wonderful. I've been compiling my diving blog, but figured that I'd post this first half of it now, to whet your appetites. I'm skipping over the first week in Athens and Santorini (some great stuff to tell you about those days) for now, but will write it up with pictures when I get home. Meanwhile, here's our first day and a half of diving...

Husband and I are qualifying for our PADI Advanced Open Water certification, one step up from our first level diving qualification. We had to do five dives to improve our diving skills, each with a different focus.

Day One (Saturday), Two Dives. Verdict afterwards: Knackered.

The winds off the coast of Anavyssos were unusually strong this morning so we couldn't do the first dive off the boat as planned. Instead we went to a nearby beach dubbed "lawyer beach" for the wealthy lawyers that live on it. It was an 8km drive away from the dive shop. We did a shore dive in order to complete our Fish Identification specialty course. We saw lots of different kinds of fish: wrasse, damsels, parrotfish -- we even saw a moray eel, and Neil spotted a Little Cuttlefish. A great refresher dive.

At about 4pm we went back out, this time on the boat. We were tempted by an exciting looking canyon that we were promised we would get to see on another day, but this dive was the Underwater Navigation skills course. Compasses, lubber lines, bezels, and all sorts of other things I don't properly understand. The location was a bit improvised because of strong currents, and we had to abandon our navigation exercise of swimming in a perfect square, using the compass. We ended up doing the rest of the dive as a fun dive, and intended to carry on with the navigation the next day.

I had forgotten how much effort diving is: hauling the tanks around, the actual swimming, the excitement and the stress. We were too tired to do anything at all in the evening. ZZZzzz.

Day Two (Sunday), Two Dives. Verdict afterwards: Amused.

Our first dive today was breath-taking. We did our course in "deep diving" which means anywhere below 40 feet (18 meters). We went to 55 feet (26 meters), descending down a wall. Looking up at about 20 meters was really awe-inspiring. It was sheer rock with beautiful coral dotted all down it. If you know SCUBA, you know that you can't spend long down at those kind of depths, so we came back up to about 30 feet and then went into a spectacular "canyon". Inside, the ceiling was covered in coral and it was thrilling to be surrounded by rock. But the best bit was turning around to come out of the canyon to see the clear blue nothing expanding out in front of you, framed by the coral-covered rock. Awesome.

The second dive was a bit more... interesting. This was the second try at our underwater navigation course as well as the first half of our peak performance buoyancy course.

The buoyancy part of the course is to help you control your body in the water. If you know SCUBA, you know that beginners (like me) sometimes have a hard time floating along smoothly, staying in one spot without furious arm paddling, and controlling their depth. This is all to do with neutral buoyancy. The idea is that you don't move unless you intend to -- often the weight (or lack thereof) of your equipment causes you to rise or fall uncontrollably. You are supposed to make gentle movements with you breath -- if you are truly neutrally buoyant, when you breathe in you will rise slightly in the water, and when you breathe out, you will sink slightly. We had to do an exercise where we lie flat on the sand, breathe in to rise and breathe out to sink, bobbing up and down at an angle to the sand. Neil got it quickly, but I needed a bit of help from the instructor who showed me that I shouldn't be shy about inflating my underwater life jacket to reach neutral buoyancy.

The navigation part of the dive went rather well, if I may say so. My square was spot on and I even managed the more difficult triangle. It seems lubber lines aren't so unfathomable to me. Then, the instructor sprang the ultimate challenge: he told Neil to lead us back to the boat. We'd come down from the boat almost 40 minutes ago and neither of us really knew where it was. But after a bit of consultation with each other, Neil set off in the general direction. It turned out that he was right but he was wrong as well.

As we swam, another Dive Master came down to our instructor and we began a rapid ascent (from a safe depth). There was something wrong. She pointed down at a strange line in the sand below us, and as we surfaced, it became clear... the boat was gone.


How's that for a cliff hanger? I'll be back with the rest of the story once we're back from Greece.

Love you all!

1 comment:

Steven said...

Oooooh nooooo. Is this the first installment of Lost At Sea? How did you get back to the hotel to post the blog if the dive boat was gone???? Please post again soon tp relieve the suspense.