We had trouble falling asleep from just being wired and anxious, and on top of that, we woke up cold in the middle of the night. The temperature outside had dropped to the mid 40s and the thermostat was set for the low 60’s. I couldn’t figure out how to reset it in my half-a-sleep stupor,
so I just tried to go back to sleep and pretty much just laid in bed shivering. We eventually got up at about 4:30am because we always get up early anyway, and I also needed to fix some gear from the day before. In the process of checking gear, I noticed that the rental tanks I switched out the previous night had a really long bottom bolt. I suspect they were setup for a cinch system, but since I wasn’t using the cinch, I’d most likely end up with a hole in my dry suit. I sent a picture of the bolt to Mer thinking maybe she had a trick to make it work, but it was in fact too long. Also the previous day, Tina was having trouble with holding the goodman handle and reel at the same time and it was causing some issues with some of the skills. She has small hands and most dive gear is made for men. Mer and Tina agreed that trying a different handle might help but EE didn’t have any in stock.
Around 7am, Mer met us at the EE house and we did some video review. We got to see what we did that was good and some stuff that was not so good. This did help establish that we weren’t as bad as we thought, but still had a ton of room for improvement. Because of the tank bolt issue and the fact that we were running on only 4 hours of sleep, Mer made the executive decision to do a half day of diving and then do lecture that evening. Once the video review was over she said she had talked to Halcyon and that they had a different goodman handle for Tina to try on her Focus. We packed up and made a quick stop over at Halcyon to change out the handle. I have to admit that I was pretty stoked to finally see the halcyon factory. We tried not to geek out too much and fortunately it was just a quick stop. It only took a few minutes to get the light fixed and then we headed to Blue Grotto for our second day in the water.
I was feeling a little better about diving, but still kind of freaked out and had my doubts about being able to do it, from the previous day. The goals for this day were to resolve the issues and get the confidence back. Mer started us on some easy cavern dives and this was fine with me. I worked on finding that feeling that would indicate to my brain that I had too much gas in my suit. Also Mer showed me a trick that I hadn’t tried with dumping the suit. I normally just life my arm up to my ear like i’m trying to hear someone better. This has worked pretty well for me in the past. I would lift my arm up until i couldn’t feel any bubbles coming out anymore. I saw Mer do this thing where she literally put her hand on the back of her head and cranked her arm up by moving her head back. I tried this after I did my “hand to ear move” Even after I thought I had gotten all the gas out, and I realized there was more that could come out. The hand behind the head trick worked very well for me. This was my new drysuit move. In the mean time I was trying to tell myself that if I felt even a little bit of gas in my feet to straighten the legs out and get it out. The hope was that the dumping would become more automatic when the task loading became harder. I also worked on stretching my feet out more and waiting a few seconds for the gas to migrate up to my shoulders. I would do this in the past but didn’t wait long enough. I was just trying to retrain myself. Lastly I ran my suit much much leaner. I figured out that I wasn’t properly stretching my suit out before the dive. And what was causing me to add more gas to the suit then I needed. It was not as much of a squeeze thing but more of a feeling of restriction. If I spent the first few minutes wiggling around in my suit and stretching it out both on the surface and in the water, then it was much easier to manage.
Once we had some dives in, we revisited the open water skills that Tina and I struggled with. I have to give credit to Mer, she knows exactly how push us without pushing us over the edge. This time the skills went much better and we gained some of our confidence back. Even though we spent a bunch of time in the water it wasn’t a super long day. We ended the days diving on a high note. Tina had conquered some of her demons and I conquered some of mine. We quickly packed up and headed back towards high springs. On the way we were starving so we all stopped at this really cool local dive called Villaggios Pizza. We had a chance to chat about diving and reflect on the day while chowing down on some much needed carbohydrates. It was really nice.
Our evening ended with me switching out the second set of rental tanks and getting fills for the following day. Tomorrow Mer was going to take us to Peacock springs and we would get our first taste of real cave diving. Somehow we made it through day 3.
The last thing I did before we went to bed was set that damn thermostat to not drop to sub zero temps at night. Actually I figured out that the “heat” setting was off and I just needed to bump up the heat a few degrees in the middle of the night. This did the trick and we were fast asleep.