Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Capenwray; our first two open water dives!

I'm currently in the middle of my second 'reading week' at the University of York and I feel like I've done very little work thus far... okay, scratch that I've actually done nothing this week. I have been fairly busy mind you, so I guess it can be excused just this once.

Last Friday night I had another pool session in Yearsley for my Open Water diving qualification, this time it was for 'dry suit orientation' since none of us had actually put on a dry suit, and buoyancy control in one is very different from if you were in just a wetsuit and a BCD. Anyway, once assembling the gear as we did every week (oxygen cylinder to the BCD, regulators attached to the cylinder etc) we struggled to get on our dry suits... well, I did, mainly because it was a little small getting over my bum - still, it was a hilarious struggle and everyone had a laugh at the same time! That's one of the main things I've learnt about diving (asides from "never hold your breath"), that it isn't the most glamorous of activities and yes, you will look a little bit like a stumbling Michelin Man but no body cares. Also, there may come a time where you really are struggling to get into either drysuit or BCD and there will be a number of hands over your body trying to either a) tuck you in or b) get the bloody things to fit right! Anyway, the pool session went well - we learnt to control our buoyancy using the actual drysuits (and cuff dumps to release air) and only use the BCD at the surface.

I drove back to my home town on Saturday night with my man so that it was much easier for me to drive to Capenwray in the morning (we had to meet at 9am and it would have been a 2+ hour drive from York... just over 1 hour from Warrington). I got up bright and early (and nervous) on Sunday, packed everything up, stuck on my million (+1) layers to brave the cold and set off (forgetting my lunch, typical). I arrived at Capenwray Diving Centre after a bit of a struggle finding Jackdaw Quarry, paid my £19 entry fee (+ trainer's fee) and met with the rest of the crew before getting ready for our first two OW dives.  We were given thermal underlayers to put on (unfortunately they had no 'small' so I was shoved into some medium/large thermals - not like I was bothered, it gave me a little more padding) and instructed to get into our drysuits up to the waist. I tried one on which was a size larger than the one I had tried on Friday and it first perfectly, albeit a little long in the arm and leg but at the end of the day as long as the cuffs were well and truly watertight it didn't much matter. We were given the usual safety briefing and site orientation which was interesting... we found out the water was a mere 4°C but visibility was fantastic as we could see from overhead.

Time for dive number one! We head back to the van to kit up, pile on the 18kg of weight (no wonder I was sore the next day) and made our way to the quarry. Before we left I did manage to get a cheeky photo in (without fins, mask, hood or gloves unfortunately) to which I think I look absolutely hilarious but it's all part of the fun...

My BCD, cylinder, weights, fins...

Miss Michelin Man 2012 ;)

Dive one was quite simple. All we needed to do was essentially swim around for the 20 minutes to get used to a) the cold and b) drysuits! It was freezing. I don't think I've ever been so uncomfortable in my life upon first getting in the water - I had a really bad head rush/brain freeze and I was contemplating signalling to our dive master and instructor that I wanted to get out. I stayed in and braved it to see whether it would ease off and it did so... all was well. We got to about 6m deep and swam around, over a sunken boat and towards one of Blackpool Pleasure Beach's carousel horses. That was funny. I was first in line and had to jump on its back (which is quite funny when you're still trying to get used to the buoyancy control. I think I rolled all over the place).

20 minutes were up and we got out of the water, stripped down to the thermal layer and changed into different tops for the next dive as well as donning a fair few jumpers, hats, scarves and gloves to warm up. A few hours later and after a quick briefing of the skills we would be doing for this dive we kitted up and headed back down to the quarry for dive number two.

Getting in a second time was just as cold if not colder but that's what you get for diving in the UK over Winter. We had to do more skills this time; fin pivots, half mask flood and full mask flood (both fine in warm pool water, not so much in cold temps), reg recover, share air with a buddy and share air with a buddy and ascend - I panicked a little when I had to purge the secondary reg (where I was breathing from my buddy's air supply) because my hands were that cold and numb I just couldn't press the purge valve so I could breathe! Instead I had to hammer it with my first, allowing me to purge it, allowing me to breathe and allowing us to ascend  These were all fine and once we were done and the 20 minutes were up we could get out and warm up.

Before heading back to Warrington to devour the most delicious lamb roast dinner (hey! I'd been diving, I was tired and hungry) I took a few photos of the dive site with my iPhone - what a beautiful place:

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