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The Nautilus

We Both Passed Our Confined Water Dives!

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The Nautilus

We Both Passed Our Confined Water Dives!

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tiki hut
As though the title didn't say it all....

We both passed our confined water dives!

Yesterday, we went to the pool one final time to practice swimming without our masks with the snorkels. At first, again, I was inhaling a lot of water, but I regained my rhythm and actually improved a good deal. The last time, I had been holding large quantities of water in my nose; I would exhale through my nose and it was like opening a faucet! This time, very little water went in my nose, which is a good thing.

Bobby also held me underwater so that I could do the whole exercise: remove the mask underwater, swim away, swim back, put the mask back on, and clear it. Now that's love, I told Bobby: a husband willing to hold his wife's head underwater! I'm so buoyant that I float right back to the surface. I did it without a problem.

Now the question arose: would I be able to do it with 13 ft/4.3 m of water over my head and with a regulator instead of a snorkel? I will admit that I was nervous, as this was really all that stood between me and certification. But I worked on my progressive muscle relaxation and tried to direct my thoughts positively. I practiced the breathing pattern above water too, combining it with PMR, until doing the initial pattern would cause me to automatically relax. It went: deep inhale, quick exhale through nose (while removing mask), slow exhale through mouth (while doing PMR), and inhale without the mask. Then: swim off. I learned that if I closed my eyes, it was easy to go into PMR and get myself back under control.

We had a quick classroom lesson, our last, then took the final exam. I missed only one question of forty and only missed that because the Xerox copy was crappy and I couldn't tell the difference in the picture between the regulator and alternate air source! After the fact, I realized that I could have traced the hoses, since the alternate has a longer hose than the regulator, but one missed question out of forty ain't too shabby. Especially since I sort of didn't study at all. Oops.

We started the confined water dive with skin-diving skills, which basically meant swimming around in the pool in our swimsuits and boots with masks and snorkels, occasionally hyperventilating and jackknife-diving to the bottom of the pool. Having snorkeled before, it was easy.

We didn't have much left to do with the scuba. We did a backward roll into the water this time which involved standing with our backs to the water and our heels hanging over the edge; securing our hoses, mask, and regulator; and "sitting on a chair," which caused the weight of the tank to plunk us backward into the water. After we descended, Bill turned off our air supplies underwater so that we could learn what it felt like. When we lost air, we signaled, and he put it right back on, so the exercise was easy. Next, we had to remove and replace our weight belts underwater. This was also easy; it was really just a matter of thinking about what I was doing and taking my time to do it right. Next, we did the same with the buoyancy control device (BCD): removed it and the whole scuba unit underwater and then replaced it. This was a bit more difficult since my BCD has four buckles and a cumberbund to tighten, not to mention a tank to wrangle and numerous hoses to tangle around myself. Again, though, with patience and careful thought, I did it without a problem.

Next, we did both exercises at the surface as well. The BCD replacement was actually kind of nice because you float on your back while tightening the buckles and straightening the hoses, during which I had a conversation with Bill about how much more relaxed and confident I looked today compared to last week. I laughed and told him that I'd had a really bad day last Sunday; he told me that everyone is entitled every now and then! And then I was tightened and straightened, and--aside from repeating the no-mask swim--I was finished with my confined water exercises.

Because we had so few activities to do, we had a lot of play time. Bobby and I did some buoyancy exercises together, then Bill signaled for me to come and do my no-mask swim.

I wasn't nervous. I'd had a great lesson so far, and I was confident. I took a few deep breaths before removing my mask, did a quick progressive muscle relaxation, and went through my breathing steps. My mask was off; I handed it to Bill. We swam off, and before I knew it, he was putting it back in my hands, I was putting it on and clearing it, and I was done!

It was easier, even, than the same exercise with the snorkel; I can honestly say that I was never uncomfortable or tense, and it was over in an instant. Yet I know that--last week--it was not something that I could have done. It involved breaking down what appears to be a simple exercise to discover where my problem was; it involved a lot of water sniffed up my nose and even more anxiety and a bad dream or two. But it's over now; I need never do it again if I don't want to. But--more importantly than that--I know that if I had to, I could.

Bobby and I went off to play next, practicing a regulator recovery, more buoyancy (hovering and fin pivots), and swimming around to get a feel for things. At some point, I realized that I was having a really good time, really enjoying myself. When we did our last bit of buoyancy work, I began experimenting with breathing to see how it affected me. Having a really good lung capacity, I can float myself from the bottom of the deep end to the surface on a good breath of air. I worked on how to breathe so that I wasn't necessarily so prone to such huge fluctuations. I felt like I had finally grasped the basics enough to worry over nuances of buoyancy control. It was a lot of fun!

So I am over the hill in terms of my certification, and it's all downhill from here. Next weekend, we will go on four open-water dives in the quarry and then...we'll be certified! I look back at where I was four short weeks ago and where I am now, and I cannot believe that I have learned so much and come so far in terms of exceeding what I thought was possible for me to overcome. In a way, I'm glad that I had that challenge because it makes this feel more like an accomplishment, and I feel much more confident in being able to handle myself in an emergency situation.

This time next week, I'll be a certified diver! *squees!*
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