Yesterday, I took a dive boat to Lanai and did two dives. The first was at Cathedrals, a famous lava formation that has an inner chamber with holes in the roof that lets in light when the sun is out. The sun was out. It looked like the photo below, taken from this blog
It really was that spectacular.
As this was the first dive of the day and I hadn't been underwater in 8 months, I didn't take my camera with me. Instead, I decided to focus on getting everything working. It was a good thing I did. The dive master on the boat convinced me I was trying to use too much weight and ended up underweighting me by a good margin. I bobbed like a cork when I jumped into the water.
Your first dive after a long layoff is always an anxious thing. Is everything going to work? Will I remember what to do? Where is that darn dive computer? I know it's over there on my left side, somewhere, but I can't find it.
Anxiety makes you use your air faster. Going in the water and not being able to submerge made things much worse. The dive master got another 2# from the boat and put it one side of my BCD. He then took my hand and pulled me down. Once I began to compress from the depth, I sank. I sank at an angle, because he'd thrown my balance out of whack by putting the extra weight on one side.
The rest of the dive was spent struggling with my buoyancy and knowing I was using my air way to fast from the nerves. Add to that, my mask was leaking badly.
I can handle a leaky mask, but that on top of the weight issues and my dwindling air was a lot to work. I was able to stay down about 25 minutes of a 40-minute dive and the boat was nearby, so it wasn't risky. Plus the dive master watched me closely to make sure I didn't get into trouble. Still, the most I could do inside the Cathedral was realize how awesome it was. I didn't really enjoy it or get to explore it.
When I ran out of air and needed to start my ascent, I notified the dive master and he pointed out the mooring line, conveniently located nearby. That was a good thing because as soon as I got to 30', I started to shoot to the surface. As you go down, you compress and that makes you sink faster. As you rise, you expand and become more buoyant. As you use air, you become more buoyant as well. That buoyancy plus being underweighted made me a big, floaty thing.
If I hadn't grabbed the mooring line, I would have gone straight to the top instead of doing the required 3-minute stop at 30' to prevent the bends. I held onto the mooring line for dear life while my body tried to pull me up to the surface. It was ridiculous, but the situation was safe enough for me to see the humor in it.
It was my own fault
I'm not naming the diving company because it wasn't the fault of the dive master. It was my fault. Yes, he was dead wrong on the weights, but it's my life and my dive and I'm responsible for knowing how to do it properly.
I weigh about 205# and I was wearing a 7-mil wetsuit. A dive weight calculator will tell you that I should use 26-28# of weights. When I told him that's what I needed, he laughed and said, no you don't. You'll need 16#. He was used to Maui wetsuits which are much thinner and less buoyant. I argued, but halfheartedly. He was the dive master and I was just a scrub. We ended up putting in 22#, which was way too little.
His extra weight at the beginning got me to 24#, but later in the dive, he came up to me and removed that weight because he said he thought I had too much. That's why I shot to the surface - I was back to 22#.
My second dive, I was still cowed and put in 24#, balanced between left and right. It worked better, but it was still too light. I was able to dive down by driving with my fins, but that used air and put me at a disadvantage immediately.
I need 26#, minimum. I shouldn't be taking someone else's advice, I should know my gear and know my weights.
On the plus side:
Visibility was terrific and the fish were plentiful. On the second dive, we ran into a 6' white-tipped reef shark. We woke him up and he didn't like that. He was snoozing in a cave and after thrashing around a bit inside, he swam off. There were a few other things that I wish I had captured with a camera, but I didn't take it on the second dive, either as I knew I needed to focus on buoyancy and diving skills instead of filming. Oh well. Lanai was beautiful enough to want to do it again the next time we come to Maui.