I spent the last couple of days diving and completed the P.A.D.I Advanced Open Water certification course. It was a useful course and I recommend it to other divers. This advanced course is a must for PADI divers who want to move on to be a Master Scuba Diver certification or divers who want to go the professional route to become a Divemaster. The advanced course centers around what PADI deems “Adventures in Diving.” I enjoyed the murky, cold waters of Lake Travis, TX and had some adventures with very large catfish!
I attempted to make lemonade out of lemons by working in very low visibility waters. It is really useful to be able to work in low visibility and it is harder to come by the training in the clear waters of the Caribbean. Low visibility makes underwater navigation a lot harder. I noticed that I had to look for some different clues to find my buddy, such as bubbles, when I couldn’t see that he was just a few feet below. It is also easier to lose a visual reference as big as a rock face by swimming a few feet to the side. I finished the course with more confidence and feeling like a better diver.
The advanced underwater course builds on some skills that a scuba diver has already learned and introduces some new material. The dives are all different and focus on building additional skills. Of course, it was good to get more experience doing the things I was taught just a couple of weeks ago. As a new diver, it is challenging to manage all of the task loading that new underwater skills require. These are the additional dives that are required for the course:
- Peak Performance Buoyancy
- Underwater Navigation
- Night Dive
- Deep Dive
- Search and Recovery
I really enjoyed the Night dive. The water was cold this time of year but my 5mm wetsuit kept me warmish in the 50 degree water. I wished I had my GoPro yesterday because I saw a large number of catfish. I found them to be very curious and they came right up to me. They were gentle and I touched a few of them. I saw a 20 punder that was almost as long as my 3-year-old boy. I have landed one that big by fishing from land when I was a kid and it was delicious. We followed a long rock face downward and back. It was a pretty text-book dive by all accounts. The darkness didn’t bother me and it was exciting. It was beautiful on the lake at night and we dove in a place just across from one of my favorite spots to anchor the boat. You can bet we will be going fishing at one of the catfish holes I found under water.
The deep dive was really fun. We only defended to about 70 feet because of my buddy’s air supply. I didn’t realize how different one person’s consumption could be when compared with another’s while doing the same dives. A deep dive in a murky lake amounts to a night dive after about 30 feet. We didn’t pass a big thermocline, which would’ve dropped the temperatures drastically. It was about 49 degrees at the bottom. Lake Travis goes as deep as 200 in the channel but that was a bit farther than we could travel today. It was amazing how the visibility dropped to almost nothing at about 50 feet. It made the 20 feet seem like clear water. I finally scrubbed my mask enough times with tooth paste that I could see clearly without it fogging up. I was happy to get out of the water but it reminded me that I had to hike up to my car to get another air tank, which was never fun. The goat trail that ascends to the parking lot has probably broken a few ankles in its time. I hiked past the old dive structures that were now in far sight of the new water line.
I focused on the search and recovery skills because I am a little clumsy. I have had a few bad dreams about losing a watch overboard. I think this is a gray skill for divers to have. Apparently, it is common for people to find a diver to retrieve a lost ring, anchor or husband depending upon how far it sinks. I think that being able to check on set anchors and fixing boat props will be a good skill to have as we live on the boat.
I recommend my instructor, David McBee. I lucked out by being in a two person class. I was able to get a lot of extra information and diving because of the small class size. David works as a scientist and he dives most days for work. He has been a diver for ten years and did his best to transfer his knowledge to me. I am always glad to get information from a good instructor. I appreciate my sweet wife more each day. She had a wonderful Valentines dinner ready for me when I got home late last night. She made my favorite cake for dessert and it was delicious. The guys in class were jealous when I told them about my dinner that was waiting when I came home. Single guys have it rough..