It’s almost bedtime on Christmas day 2017 and Tina and I are about to start our Cave 2 class in the morning. We are staying at a house near Fort White, just a stones throw away from High Springs. The class will be roughly 8 hours of field and in water drills for 5 days. This is the pretty standard GUE class length. If we complete the class we will have learned to dive further into the caves that we love. Currently at the GUE Cave 1 level we only have gas in double 104 cubic feet cylinders on our back, known as “back gas”. We are allowed to use 1/3 of 2/3rds of that gas for penetration. The other 1/3 is for reserve. This is to keep us new cave divers relatively close to the door as we learn. Tomorrow starts what some in the industry call “Full cave” or “Full Cave plus stages” This will allow us to use 1/3 of of the gas in our back gas for penetration. We will also learn to use 100% oxygen for decompression. Finally we will add a stage bottle, which is typically an aluminum 80. The stage bottle will give us even more gas to go into the cave with.
As far as Cave 1 vs Cave 2 goes with navigation, currently we are restricted to staying on the main gold line with no jumps and only 1 navigation decision. Basically if we come to an intersection on the main line we can cross it, by placing a non directional marker on our exit and moving on. However if we come to another intersection we must turn around. . This keeps us relatively safe and since we aren’t allowed to make too many directional changes. Otherwise it’s pretty easy to get lost in a cave if you don’t know what you are doing. For Cave 2. We will be learning how to make jumps off the main line into side tunnels, more navigation decisions and even do things like traverses and circuits. Essentially Cave 1 is the training wheels of cave diving. And cave 2 is the big boys and girls cave diving.
But I digress. Today we got up and did last minute preparations on gear, and mostly hung around the house. Tina hasn’t been feeling well the last few days so most of the morning was seeing how she would be. Well she must have felt better because she ran a 5K with me and then we decided to go for a short dive at Orange grove. Before we went out for the dive, we sat on the tailgate of the truck and did some dry land drills just to make sure we remembered everything. it’s funny how that muscle memory is still there. GUE does a great job of teaching those steps by making you do them over and over. Fortunately we remembered all the steps of the S and valve drills without much effort. For the dive, we decided to just to play in open water for about an hour and a half so we loaded the truck up and headed over to Peacock Springs State Park The basin at Orange Grove was absolutely clear and blue so it was perfect for knocking the rust off some skills before the week. Neither of us had actually done a valve drill in months, so we wanted to run through it a few times (well technically I did one last week and it was not pretty). We also added in S drills, mask switches and some line following (with our eyes closed). It was nice to have done that stuff on a relaxing dive. We also had a chance to poke around the basin some, looking in all the little holes an cracks.
Everything on the dive went smoothly and we packed up the truck to head back to the house. Tina took care of drying the undergarments and i went over to Amigos for gas fills. The auto bank switching mechanism was down and there were a few others there getting fills. Since we had to manually move from bank bottle to bank bottle, it took a little longer to get the fills done. While I was there I met one of the owners for a dive shop in Mexico called Under the Jungle. Funny how you just never know who you might run into at Amigos. I got the 104’s filled, analyzed, and came home.
To wrap up the evening, we had dinner and relaxed. The only other thing we needed to do today is check the backup light batteries, and charge the primary lights. We have to be at EE at 8am in the morning. Certainly we are both a little anxious but we are also excited.