Last Sunday my son, Guy, and I went scuba diving at Alki Beach in West Seattle. That’s him in the photo.
It’s been four years since we were certified and yet this was our first dive. So, we needed a lot of practice and, ah, well, I was four years older and out of shape. More about that in a minute.
Once our gear was on we walked down the beach and into the water. As we waded out, the cold water started climbing up the inside of my wetsuit. This is normal – your body heat warms the water inside and keeps you relatively comfortable. It wasn’t so bad until the cold water reached my crotch. That’s particularly disconcerting for men because, well, let’s just call it shrinkage.
We used up our first tank of air reviewing some underwater safety moves from our class. Here’s a few:
(1) Properly operating your BC (Buoyancy Compensator) so you can hover over the bottom. The thing is a sort of life vest but with the strange option of releasing all the air so you can sink like a rock.
(2) Taking your mask off (thus filling it with water), putting it back on, and blowing with your nose to purge the seawater. All the while attempting to not snort the briny fluid.
(3) Pulling your regulator (the thingy you actually breathe with) out of your mouth, throwing it behind you, then attempting to swing your arm back, find the damn thing, and get it into your mouth while you’re still alive.
All this happens 10 feet below while the fish are floating on their backs – not dead, but holding their bellies laughing.
Our second dive took us out to a wreck about 45 feet down. There were huge anemones. One had a trunk about two feet long. There was a cluster of beautiful white plumed anemones on the wreck looking like a small, snow covered forest. And Guy saw a nudibranch.
We lost sight of each other once and, as we’d learned in class, both headed for the surface. We were only about 10 feet apart but the visibility had worsened with the sand we’d stirred up.
Soon after, while diving towards the bottom, I could no longer equalize my ears (like when you ‘pop’ your ears in a plane.) I moved higher until the pain in my ears eased off. Then I headed back down trying to equalize again but couldn’t. So I instead swam high above Guy. I couldn’t see him but I followed his bubbles. This, of course, freaked him out because he couldn’t find me. It seems I have a talent for disappearing – not a good thing when diving with a buddy.
Remember that “4 years older and out of shape” thing I mentioned? Well, as we were finishing our dive and heading back to shore, my muscles decided they’d had enough. I was breathing heavy (imagine panting but with a hose in your mouth that you daren’t spit out), my limbs felt like old rubber bands that had lost their stretch, and I swallowed so much water Puget Sound suffered a drop in sea level.
So, we’re near shore. Now comes what should be the easy part – taking off our fins and walking up the beach. The fin part wasn’t too bad. But then came the walking out of the water part. Of course my young, muscular, fireman son quickly stepped out and trotted up the steep beach. I then attempted to stand but, burdened by my tank, weight belt, and rounder-than-four-years-ago tummy, promptly fell backwards with a splash.
You see, rising out of the water is akin to stepping from the Moon onto Earth. What was once my light body floating blithely amongst the fishes suddenly took on the weight of all my gear plus my own 165 pounds. Okay, okay, 170.
(I know that wasn’t a great metaphor, there probably aren’t any fish on the Moon.)
Anyway, there I lay face up as the waves gently rocked me back and forth along the shoreline – not unlike a beached whale, except I don’t think beached whales would lie there, staring wide-eyed at the sky and flailing their limbs about like a beetle on it’s back.
Guy, god bless him, was up the beach causally taking off his gear – possibly ignoring my pleas for help hoping no one would think we were related. Finally his love for Dad overcame his embarrassment and he saved me.
All in all, it was a fun dive. The only real disaster was afterwards when Starbucks forgot to put chocolate in our mochas.