Our second stop on the Magic Cruise was the island of Grand Cayman – not only was it spectacularly beautiful, but there was an exciting excursion on the docket for me: beginner’s scuba diving, a significant upgrade from snorkeling last year.
The experience was composed of three parts: the lecture, the training and the dive. Each part took about a half-hour, with a bit of break in between for putting on / taking off gear. Our dive instructor Moke told us we would be limited to no deeper than 40 feet (this sounded shallow when I heard it, but not once I was actually in the water!) and gave us a detailed lecture on why humans and water don’t mix. When you have to keep track of EVERYTHING you do – including breathing and internal pressure – in the water, it gets pretty draining and pretty nerve-wracking very fast!
After the lecture, I thought I had a good idea of what I needed to do in the water to have a successful scuba dive. After all, Moke claimed that via careful application of grey matter we would be able to think our way through the problems of being underwater. What I failed to realize until I had the gear on, at the bottom of the pool, watching Moke demonstrate our emergency skills, was that the animal brain inside is very very powerful and can seize control from the more rational grey matter lightning fast.
The skills we had to demonstrate seemed easy enough: if anything happens in the water, like you lose your breathing regulator (“reg”) or you get water in your facemask, you need to be able to cope. So Moke looks at me there at the bottom of the pool, and making slow and deliberate movements, removes his reg, pushes it over his shoulder, and carefully touches his way to the dangling hoses and retrieves it.
Then he points at me. Now you, his motions indicate.
I remove my reg and as I go to push it behind me, the animal mind takes over. YOU ARE DROWNING, it screams, YOU IDIOT! Unable to keep a steady stream of bubbles going, I forcefully exhale (bad) and try to inhale (much worse), and then motion to Moke that I need to surface. He’s concerned (rightfully so) and tells me to relax. Yes, yes, I know I need to relax. Here on the surface, everything sounds so simple!
This goes on about three more times before he motions for me to surface again.
“You need to relax,” he states again, and I keep nodding. He looks at me thoughtfully, and then makes a recommendation. “Try humming.”
Humming is the trick that does it. Not only is it relaxing to hum slightly (and gives my subconscious a much better estimate of when I will “run out of air” while I retrieve my reg), but I can keep a steady stream of bubbles to maintain my air properly.
After that, the dive itself was super easy. Moke refused to give me my camera for the first few minutes, but once I gave him my fifth okay sign, he relented. I saw some amazing angelfish and a school of squid, along with quite a bit of beautiful coral. I’m not sure I want to go scuba again, but despite the pool’s near-drowning, overall the experience was pretty spectacular.
Watch Facebook for my developed pictures (need to get them developed the old fashioned way, since I used waterproof disposables) later this week or next!