Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Category: Divemaster (page 1 of 2)

Life as a PADI Divemaster!

What My Rescue Diving Course Didn’t Teach Me

Are you sure its a dead body?

Yup- this was a thought in my head this weekend. In my rescue diving course and my divemaster course, I learned so much about reacting in a calm manner to distress calls. Methodically performing CPR in the ocean, disassembling a diver’s gear, dragging them out of the water. What I didn’t expect was what happens in the real world. What happens when someone is dead in the water?

During the Rescue Course – Lifting Heavy People

Lets be honest, I’m about 5’ 4”, and about 130 lbs; most divers outweigh me. During my divemaster course, I cried because I failed during my first attempt. The cold water. The heavy “volunteers”. I couldn’t calm down and rescue them. Sobbing because I wasn’t strong enough. Was it unfair that I went last? I was exhausted. Boo hoo on me.  Eventually I got over feeling sorry for myself and passed with out issue.  It felt great knowing I could actually rescue someone in distress. I think it was this experience that helped me prepare for Saturday.

Edmunds Underwater Park

It was a calm Saturday and the skies were clear and bright blue. For a change, I decided to bring my weights to the bench by the beach. No rhyme or reason. Just changing things up.

Then I heard it. A LOUD whistle from the ocean. Someone waving their arms in distress.I look around, no one else is immediately around me.  I call out to them- “Are you ok?!” They show me an OK, but then continue to wave at me.

Adrenaline pumping. I look around. A woman and her son on the beach are looking at the divers. I ask her to “zip” me up so I can swim up to them. She zips my drysuit closed. I tell her to call 911.

I pace over to my hood, gloves, fins and mask. My hands are shaking.

Running into the ocean, I dive in. Water seeping into my suit… the zipper slightly open. I try to pull it shut, but there’s too much adrenaline. I forget about the wet cold feeling. It doesn’t matter now.

I get to the divers and there’s a man face down. Should turn him over and do CPR?

He responds “I think it’s a recovery.”

When a Rescue Dive becomes a Recovery

That’s when I realize it. This is a dead body. The man is half floating in the water. Body rigid. Fully clothed. Not a diver.

Without thinking I grab the man’s arm and help swimming him to shore.

He feels like a bag of cement. Strangely plastic.

The swim feels long and never ending. Firetruck sirens are getting louder. My heart is pumping so hard now. Keep swimming. Don’t stop. Get him to the shore.

Once in standing water. I throw off my fins into the waves.  We flip the man over. His arms frozen near his hips. Legs stiff. He still has his shoes on with the laces tied neatly. His eyes closed. We try to lift him, but he’s so heavy it as if we didn’t try at all.

The waves start crashing on the man’s face. Eyes flick open. Blood shot and empty gazing.  I gasp. I look down at his shoes instead.

Grabbing the shoes, I push hard towards the sand. We finally get him to the shore. EMT staff are waiting for us. They move him to a stretcher. I look away.

Exhaustion. I almost fall over. I can’t catch my breathe.

A policeman puts his shoulder around me. “Thank you for your help. Can you tell me what happened?”

“I know nothing. I just swam him to shore.”

Shaking- I walk over to the bench take off my hood and gloves and walk away. I go to see my friends and try not to think of the dead man.

Shortly afterwards, the authorities have moved the body off the shore and question the divers that found the body. He was in about 15ft of water, visible from the surface. Nothing else was in the water around him.

Later, a tow truck arrives and we find out that the man’s car was left in the parking lot. I google the story a few days later to find that the police suspect “suicide.”

Rest In Peace

I hope that this man found peace and comfort in his last moments.

Lessons Learned from my First Rescue Assist

  1. Practicing helps. If not for my previous strenuous course, I would not have been prepared to swim so far with such a heavy load.
  2. When a rescue dive turns into a recovery effort, you can pace yourself. Don’t exhaust yourself.
  3. Be respectful of the body. Don’t drag it or toss it around. This man just died. Be gentle and do what you would if it were your own family member.
  4. When you hear the distress call- don’t rush into the water. They teach this in the course, over and over. But it’s the #1 thing to remember. You can’t save anyone if you are drowning yourself.
  5. Second victim – I feel disconnected. I’m still at odds on what to feel. I didn’t discover the body, and I can’t imagine the affect that would have on a person.

In all, I’m thankful that I was trained properly. This was my first real world assist. I just wish it had a better outcome.

 

Until next time…

Warm Weather Ruins Monterey Diving

Red Tide – Algae Growth

Hmm. The water looks like God spilled his coffee in it and is now shaking it to get it to dissipate. Its horrible. I talk to my Instructor and he says he’s never seen it “this bad.” Monterey usually sits at mid 60’s during October. Two weeks before leading up to our course, its been high 60’s to mid 70’s. The warm weather has allowed a growth of algae to grow at many of the Monterey Bay Dive sites. To make matters worse, some how there is a swell.

The first time I prepared to dive Monterey Bay, I asked my buddy about tides, currents, and wind. He laughed and told me that Monterey Bay is flat and you can dive it any time. Well, not this weekend.

The plan for the Advanced Open Water course is 5 dives: 3 shore dives with one at night, and 2 boat dives.  I even book an AirBnB to stay over night.

I get to Lover’s Point #3 and it looks like surf’s up. Its definitely upsetting to look out at the beautiful ocean and not be able to get in the water.  Scuba rule to follow- If conditions are bad, cancel the dive. Don’t risk it.

Instead we (the instructor and divemasters) talk to the students and explain to them the situation.  The shore dives are pushed to a different week in November. Boat dives are still on because they are planned for an estimated 80 feet depth.

The rest of the day we spend taking the students to some of nearby dive sites. While I won’t go into specific dive sites (private message me if you would like more information). Here’s the general information.

Monterey Bay Dive Sites

Monastery Beach

This beach is for advanced divers only. So much so the city even put out a warning sign:

monastery-warning

If you dive Monastery, its either going to be on the North or South side. There’s nothing to see in the middle.  The break is very steep. One minute you are on the beach, the next step you are neck deep in water. If there is any swell, like 1ft, then the dive should be called off. Why?  Well, getting out of the water can be extremely difficult if you are trying to climb out as the waves break on you. The image shows a diver tumbling down- imagine a washing machine full of sand and ocean. Thats Monastery.   The last note gave me the chills “At least 30 people have died at this beach.”

monastery

Looks nice and flat… but underneath its a washing machine waiting to grab you.

Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach includes a wetlands area. Over here there is a small free parking lot.  This is close to  Monastery Beach, but not as difficult.

carmel-river

Lover’s Cove / Lover’s Point


There’s three places to dive here. 1. Lover’s Cove 2. Lover’s Point 3. Lover’s Point #3. The third one is on the other side opposite of Lover’s cove and has a stairway down to a beach.

If you go down Ocean View Blvd towards Naiad St, you can dive Otters Beach.

The downside of lover’s cove is that it is very shallow 15-20ft for 200-300 yards. You have to surface swim quite far if you want to dive deep.  Another disadvantage is that you can only park here for a max of 2 hours before having to move your car.

McAbee Beach


Right on Cannery Row, this beach is great if you already have a hotel room nearby.  We parked at the El Torrito to check out conditions.  This dive site is also close to Breakwater Cover, so one could do a dive at breakwater first then drive over during a surface interval and dive again.

Of course there are many other dive sites, but if you want to know something specific, send me a message and I will give you details.

Happy Diving!

Fantasy versus Reality – How much work does it take to earn $70?

breakwater_beach

This weekend I got my first private lesson for a Drysuit Orientation. I’m pretty excited because I got to do these drysuit orientations every day in Silfra. Now I get money for this? Hooray.

Frank arrives just past 1pm. I’m already at Breakwater Cove relaxing after my open water course. He’s just finished doing a feeding show at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I find out that you can sign up to be a volunteer to clean the tanks or feed the fish. Its a year and a half waiting list, but he says its worth it.
We swap stories about diving and sabbaticals. He took one when he was younger biking around Europe for 3 months. I’m beginning to think that everyone in their lifetime should take a sabbatical to have fun instead of working 30 years (and then retiring to have fun).

I do my typical speech about drysuits…. Drysuits are a new factor of bouyancy… dive as if you are superman and keep horizontal… lift your left arm up with your elbow bent to release air…. kick your feet up a little bit to give yourself a better trim, press the center button to add air to your suit if you feel compression at deeper depths. Remember that the air will expand as we rise so if you have added air, remember to release the air via your left arm valve. And on and on I go.

By the time I finish, I start to see Frank sweating. Its a hot day to be in a drysuit. I help him put on his gear and then I go to put on my gear. I’m wearing my new backplacte Halcyon wing. I’m a little unsure about my weight distribution.

The first 20 minutes of the dive goes great…. then I test out my wing inflator valve at 35 ft and it starts to auto inflate due to a sticky spring. I try to quickly dump air out but its not helping. I start to ascend and feel helpless as I watch Frank fade away. I pop up to the surface where the Seals start barking at me. Frank pops out of the water and I explain to him what happens. I’m pretty embarrassed and feel my cheeks turn hot. I stop using my wing for inflation and rely on my drysuit instead. I wonder if it was smart of me to spend so much money on this backplate wing.

The rest of the dive we spend doing some drills and test out diving with out ankle weights. I also show him differences with diving with the dry suit valve closed versus open. As we walk out- Frank can’t believe how warm it is.  The 55 degree water had nothing on him. The sun is shining and it feels like a nice hot summer day.
beautiful-day-montery

We get back to my car and I help explain to Frank how to get out of his suit. He struggles. Wriggling like he’s got a monkey on his back. I show him how I get out of my suit and then slowly assist him. He keeps saying- shouldn’t I be able to do this on my own? I tell him when I first started working in Iceland that I used to hide behind a van so that customers wouldn’t see my misery trying to get out of my drysuit. Like a crazy person escaping an asylum wearing a straitjacket. Frank, like most people, is intrigued by my travels to Iceland. I tell him all the great memories I have on the island. I wish I could go back but there are other places I want to dive… like the Galapagos and much of South America.

At the end of the session he pays me $50 a dive and a $20 tip. I’m really excited because it was a really fun day and it didn’t feel like working. I did this on my own. Frank asks me if I can do more privates with his 12 year old daughter. I respond that I hadn’t thought about it, but sure. I would love to dive and be a role model to his daughter.

A few days later I meet my dad and tell him about my weekend. His first remark- “didn’t you used to earn that much in a hour?” I know he didn’t mean any harm in it. But yeah, I did. And I know I can’t survive off of scuba diving. But really, What’s better: sitting in a cushy office and pushing around powerpoint presentations for an hour or 3 hours of Scuba Diving at Monterey Bay and smiling when you realize all the  truth-isms of Finding Dory.  (don’t mind this pirated secret ending…. hilarious)

To celebrate my gig completion, I took my hard earned $70 to San Francisco and met up with one of my besties from college, Habib. We go to at least 3 cocktail bars where I paid on average $14 a drink.  A whole day’s work in exchange for great conversations and tasty drinks. Totally worth my scuba diving hardwork.

fancy-cocktail-bar-sf

 Be a responsible diver and remember to drink afterwards!

And in case you haven’t used a taxi, download uber and use my promotional code “8tlu0” for a free $20 ride or my lyft code “LESLIE40”

Quitting an Open Water Course

Perspective. Yesterday, I had a student diver that was debating on completing the open water course. He simply said “I can do the exercises. That’s not the problem. The problem is that I don’t like being under water. I don’t think I like scuba diving.” Hmm. I tred to sway him and tell him what a great job he did on day 1 of the pool session.
But then I thought, does he want to be convinced? Or should i lay off an just let him quit? I tried to tell him that I would do all the review skills privately and he could swim around the bottom of the pool and enjoy scuba diving without pressure. He was resistant. The more I try to be nice, the more he resisted.
The worst part was that I forgot his name. I asked him again, and he gave me a half laugh / half frustated remark. He was done. At this instance, I realized that I can’t force someone to finish a program. That’s something he needs to figure out. Maybe one day he will wake up with regret, and call the shop and finish the program. Maybe he will decide he loves to snorkel instead. Who knows.
I felt like I had failed as a divemaster.

Continue reading

Continuing Scuba Education – PADI or GUE

PADI DiveMaster

I thought becoming a PADI divemaster would put me into an elite stage in scuba diving. However, after a few dives in Monterey, CA, I’m quickly learning that I have barely scraped the surface into scuba diving. There are so many more things that I need to learn. I feel confident that I can help other PADI open water divers and advanced open water divers, but I want to challenge myself.

Global Underwater Explorers (GUE)

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.18.59 PMUp until a few weeks ago, I had no idea GUE even existed.  Another divemaster at my new shop introduced me to his fellow GUE divers.  He explained to me that this was another diving organization.  His short explanation to me was that it teaches all divers to dive use the same equipment configuration, dive in group formation, and a higher level of buoyancy and trim requirements.  Essentially it means, whenever you dive with another GUE person, you always expect the same type of diver.  You could dive with someone you just met, and feel like you have been dive buddies for years.

Comparison between PADI and GUE

Continue reading

Any Water Sports (AWS) Open Water Course Ocean Dives

A week later and its time for  Ocean Dives of the Open Water Course. I missed Saturday’s session because I had family in town. On Sunday, I woke up at 5:30am and drove down to Monterey, CA. The popular dive spot for open water courses is Breakwater Cove. It looked like there was about 4 different classes going on. Any Water Sports (AWS) had 7 divers. Diver Dan’s had 16 divers.  I don’t know the ratio for Diver Dan’s, but we had 7 divers, 2 instructors and 2 divemasters.  Claude (the DM that lent me tanks) was hanging out before his tech course. oh la la, tech course anyone?

The AWS folks are in the center of the grassy area. Everyone in good spirits. Well Kinda. The students had minor complaints about the wetsuits still being wet and geese poop everywhere. It was about 7:30am on a Sunday, so I would be cranky about goose poop and wet wetsuits as well.

Green Eyes. Dry Suits.

I felt pretty bad wearing my sweatpants and putting on my drysuit. The students were a pack of seals eyeing a sweet piece of fish. Every now and again they would look over at the instructors and DM. Sigh, drool, yelp. Yoga posing to get into the wetsuits.  Did I mention how much I love my drysuit?? I pull on my suspenders a bit and take a step back to hang out while waiting for the students to suit up.

Dive 3 Navigation and More

The instructors did a quick briefing on compass navigation and I walked around and helped out turning the bezel and explaining where “N” goes. Then the instructors went over  what we all needed to do for Dive 3. Surface Navigation, 5 point descent, followed by under water navigation, demonstrating Hover, Safety Stop, and 4 point ascent. Boom. End Dive.

Continue reading

My new Job: Divemaster in the Bay Area California

It’s been about a month since I left Iceland. I left the island not knowing what or where I would be going next. For now, I’ve decided to chill out with my family and take some time to catch up on everything I’ve been missing in the states. Besides eating In N’ Out everyday, I figured I better start diving again to work off all those burgers.

I yelped a few places around San Jose and found Any Water Sports. I went by one day just to rent some tanks. Everyone in the store was really attentive and friendly. Almost too helpful!  There wasn’t a minute that went by where someone didn’t ask me if I needed something. At first, I didn’t know how to react. Then I gave in and engaged in the art of small talk. Refreshing. I know that sounds weird, but visit Iceland and try to small talk with anyone in a shop. Crickets. It doesn’t happen. I left the store feeling like they were a group of scuba nerds just hanging out. Good times.

After a few tank rentals, I spoke with the owner and expressed my interest in being a divemaster for the store. We had a really informal chat about the business and BOOM. I found a job!

Continue reading

Scuba Diving with the Imperial System versus the Metric System

imperial metric scubaComing back to America, I never realized the horrible pain of the Imperial measurement system. Not to knockdown my fellow Americans, but why do we measure stuff like this? WHY?

Ok, that was my rant. Now here is some useful information that I have been noting between diving in Europe, Asia and America.

Continue reading

Takeaways from the Divemaster Program

divemaster celebration cakeWow. There are so many things that I want to say that I don’t know where to start.

First, the divemaster program was completely the opposite of what I expected. I imagined myself having tons of time for myself, doing yoga, discover iceland, everything except for Diving. (haha) Other PADI programs like advanced Open water, Deep Diver, and Rescue focus on your own development and improvement on diving.

The divemaster course is a big transition from being that vacationer diver to a full time diver that takes cares of others. Yes- you can still enjoy a dive and point out cute little crabs, but its not the main focus of the dive anymore. Instead, you are to focus on helping other divers, give them guidance, and if necessary, save their life. I guess I wasn’t prepared for that BIG transition.

During my three months in Iceland, I was able to dive for fun and dive for work. My fun dives brought back the relaxation and fun in diving. My work dives made me a better leader and stronger person.

Continue reading

I’m done! Well Kinda…

divemaster collage iceland Yay! I’m done! Well kinda… I finished all my internship hours yesterday. These three months in Iceland have really flown by. There were definitely days where I missed America, but there were many more days hat I was really happy to be learning something new and be in a new environment.

For the last week- it’s been a real rush to finish my program. On July 4th- a fellow DMT and I took our final exams. The exam consisted of 120 questions. At lest half of the questions were easy things that were was or watched in the DVD and Divemaster manual. About 20 of the questions- I really just guessed on. I had read the manual but didn’t memorize these little details. The good part is that after the exam we went over each wrong answer, so now I know what I didn’t know.For example, if a diver comes out of the water with bright red lips, what does that? Carbon Monoxide poisoning!  ( I didn’t know that prior to the exam, but now I will never forget!)

Over the weekend we did our Divemaster workshops. The discover scuba pool session was pretty fun. Patrik was able to find a real student for us. (Thanks Deb!) We all then watched him conduct a DSD and then did our simulated sessions. This practice made it easy when we went to the open water. Continue reading

Older posts