Since qualifying as a diver I have undertaken two battles. The first with PADI who have not managed to get me my certification cards and the second a personal battle with my buoyancy.
To PADI first, I have been in regular contact with them to arrange for my certification cards to be sent to me. For what ever reason the first ones sent out were not received. After chatting with them and arranging for some replacements to be sent out I was still without these.
PADI suggested that I have the sent to work, good idea I work from home we have tried twice to get them sent here. Our last attempt last week was by recorded delivery so we would be able to trace them! Still the postman has not managed to get the delivery through. So I am now waiting for PADI to find out where they were sent to and who now has six of my certification cards!
I had not dived since qualifying so I thought I would continue with the learning by completing the advanced open water certificate. This is a mix of five adventure dives and knowledge reviews. I had decided that I would complete the Peak performance buoyancy, multi level diving, wreck, navigation and deep dives.
I studied the book and completed the tests before setting off to Capernwray for the first of the three dives. PPB, navigation and wreck dives. Ironically the first dive went very well and all of the tasks for the peak performance buoyancy dive.
We checked our buoyancy at the start of the dive and adjusted the ballast weight accordingly before we set off. We swam around and using only inhalation or exhalation swam up and over and under the wing of the Cessna before returning to five meters for a safety stop. At this point it went tits or rather feet up. I could not hover I felt as if I was being pulled over on to my back. I spent the whole of the safety stop fighting to stay level and not turn turtle. Back on the surface we debriefed and the instructor advised that I move the weights around to the front.
The second dive was the navigation dive I really enjoyed this and with the weights to the front I was much more stable in the water. We practiced measuring distances under water using timing, fin kicks, and air consumption. Then navigated a square clockwise and anticlockwise in both directions we managed to get right back to the start position in very limited visibility. We then navigated from Shergar to the Dreamer then to Lord Lucan before heading back to Shergar. Job done, then after a swim around I attempted a safety stop in open water and was again all over the place. Not able to stay level at all. I moved to the ledge and was fine as long as I kept over the surface.
My third dive was the wreck dive and for this we went to the big plane at 17 meters. We drew pictures on a slate and marked the entry and exit points and any areas to avoid. We swam around and over and under the wings avoiding the areas that were risky. The safety stop this time was the worst of the lot I am not sure if this was the hassle and pressure of the previous attempts but this time I spent all of the stop swimming back down as I floated up towards the surface.
After a chat I decided to defer the final two dives of the AOW until I spent some more time practicing my buoyancy, I did not want to fly to the surface after being down at 30 meters.
This weekend I went to Stoney Cove and buddied an experienced diver who was completing her dry suit qualification whilst practicing my buoyancy control. This time I again checked my weight at the surface and was weighted so that I descended on an exhalation and rose on an inhalation.
We set off behind a group completing their OW dives. As they were completing their drills we practiced swimming under the café swimming in and out of the opening and around Nessie just by breath control. While this was fun I did feel that I was swimming down hill a bit. We moved out and practiced hovering this was fine at first but soon I found I was not able to keep my feet down. I could swim around and this brought them down but as I hovered this became more of a challenge. To help the instructor added two more kg to my BCD.
The group finished their drills and went for a swim round we followed them and went to the Wessex helicopter. At the briefing we were told that the front of the helicopter was deeper than we should go and to be careful of out depth. I found that I was dropping due to my negative buoyancy and on checking my computer this showed that I was just below 18 meters. We swam up to five metres and attempted to safety stop. This was impossible for me in the level position. The instructor signed that I should try and hover whilst holding on to an anchor. This was so funny as my feet shot towards the surface. The instructor indicated I should empty the air from my suit, I tried this but the suit was empty as was the BCD. Patting down of the suit showed that there was no air trapped in the suit. The instructor indicated that I should move to the anchor line and hover in the vertical position once my feet were down I was able to hover without a problem. Once the three minutes were ticked off we swam back to the shore without incident.
Back at the shore we chatted about the dive and it was decided that I had “floaty feet” and was clearly overweighed. This felt so counter intuitive as when hovering it felt like my body was headed or footed to the surface completely uncontrolled. It was decided that heavier fins should be tried, after a hunt around and trying a few it was clear that there was only one person with size eleven feet so we stuffed 0.5kg of shot in each boot. Moving some weight from the integrated pockets we planned a further buoyancy check at the start of the next dive and also to check this with an empty cylinder at the end of the dive.
For the next dive we checked our buoyancy with the lead in my boots I was able to take 4kgs of weight off and still descend. We took a further 2kg out and I was still able to descend.
We set off and tagged along with the group, as they completed their drills we hovered like ninjas. The instructor drew a line on the nose of the aeroplane and indicated that we should hover in line, not a problem! We moved slightly deeper and hovered in open water at the top of a ledge, not a problem! We swam down and hovered watching a crayfish walk along the wall, not a problem. After a swim round for about 20 minutes we started to move to shallower water making small changes to the air in my BCD as we moved to shallower water. We swam up and stopped for three minutes to complete a safety stop, not a problem. At the end of the dive and on an nearly empty tank we checked our buoyancy again and made a small change, so I now am clear of the weight I need when in a dry suit with think under suit, and fins that weigh 2kgs!
My fins at 2.02kgs
As we walked back to the dive van both me and the instructor were buzzing at getting the buoyancy sorted out, so that I can now move on to the multi level and deep adventure dives.
I have checked out heavier fins and at £140 I have opted for two 0.5kg ankle weights for £15!!!