Having completed all my pool sessions successfully, with the exception of a little mask removal drama, i was ready for the depths of the ocean. The pool sessions were great. Kerri and i spent hours after each pool dive discussing how far our diving had progressed and how much more confident we were feeling. We were so enthused that Kerri even came into work with me for my night shift to chat about it and then go to work the next day. She regretted that manouver.
My open water dives were to be conducted in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. The Lough is dark, murky and pretty cold - not really an ideal spot for new divers but you have to start somewhere, so why not? I was nervous about this but my instructor told me i was ready, i had done all the pool skills so what was next otherwise?
On a brisk Sunday morning in October i went on my first ocean dive. By the time i arrived at the boat i had decided i was no longer Jacque Cousteau, screw the money, scuba diving was stupid and The Maldives didn't seem that great anyway. But it was too late. I was beginning to poo a little. I stepped onto the hard hull boat and looked at my future wife for what was probably the last time. I could tell she felt the same. What were we doing? This was madness. Should we run? We climbed aboard.
|the outer lees, strangford lough|
You have to be kidding mate.
|my first dive|
Nevertheless i struggled on an ill fitting dry suit, hood and a weight belt with enough lead to sink the Bismarck. I felt really restricted. I couldn't see with this stupid hood on, i couldn't walk in the big bin liner and why did i have 3 breeze blocks strapped around my waist? I was going to drown.
I smiled for the camera, loaded a 12l cylinder onto my back, signed over the house to Kerri and jumped in. Oh God.
I managed to claw my way around the wreck to the meeting point doing everything in my power to ensure i DIDN'T go underwater. I gingerly lowered my face into the water holding my breath and looked beneath. I could see stuff, this was pretty cool. I then received the thumbs down from my instructor and we descended into the gloom. I plummeted to the sea bed 8m below.
My first breath under the sea was a strange experience. I was definitely scared, but also excited and curious as to what i was going to see. I sat on the bottom staring at my instructor. I could tell he was gauging whether i was about to fly into full scale panic and make a bolt for the surface, which was considered, but i started to feel stable and concentrated to stay calm and focus on my breathing.
I stared around me. This was unbelievable. I looked at some sea weed waving around the sea floor like they were blowing in the wind, and i could see Kerri a few meters away with another diver doing some skills. She was still alive too, this was turning into a good day out. We went for a bit of a swim, well, my instructor finned about, i mainly clawed my way around but at least i was UNDER the water now - being a scuba diver.
I think this lasted about 15-20mins and then we surfaced. Although i did enjoy my first ocean experience i was glad it was over. I needed to regroup my thoughts, get my shit together and reflect. Kerri and I would be having a serious debrief about this! Which we did. We went home and Kerri described how she was working out how to tell me she couldn't scuba dive ever again. We both worked out our fears and continued with the program!
I had successfully survived and enjoyed, to some degree, my first real scuba dive.