Trials and Triumph in SCUBA certification

02/19/09
The last three days have been something else. We arrived in the West End of Roatan Island, and settled into our comfy new digs which are clean and cute and absolutely lovely here at The Mariposa (not to be confused with La Mariposa, our past digs-something about that word, “butterfly” in Spanish, has become a running theme so far on this trip, but I digress). We spent the afternoon, walking around this beachfront town with the surf a few meters to our right and the shops and restaurants to our left, and watched the sunset from the docks.

Monday morning we wake up early and head down the beach strip to Coconut Tree Divers to begin our first day of SCUBA lessons with our very cute and very charming instructor Adam. He has our group of four (me, Jeff, and two other guys) watch some videos and go over some basics, and for a brief moment I have a thought that this is going to be a piece of cake. Sometimes I can be so wrong. After an hour or so of videos and knowledge reviews, we get suited up to prepare for our Confined Dive. However, as we are on a tiny island and there are no swimming pools (that I know of) we head straight into the ocean for this “confined dive”. Maybe this was the start of the nerves, I don’t know. Anyway, I get through all of the basic skills, with lots of instruction and minimal anxiety. However, breathing underwater just feels weird. I can hear the hiss of the regulator and feel the oxygen coming in and see the bubbles coming out, but none of this is natural to me. From the surface we practice our descent and our instructor takes us down to a sand patch to practice some new skills. I just keep reminding myself that we are only submerged under 10 feet of water. Everything is marginally fine until it comes time to flood and clear our mask after which we are to completely remove our mask and put it back on. I watch as Adam demonstrates, and then as each student performs both skills. Then it’s my turn. Let me just say, I have no fear of water or getting my face wet or anything like that. There is just something about having to purposely fill your mask with water, not to mention take the whole thing off, and then clear it by breathing out your nose, all while continuously mouth-breathing through a regulator with your eyes closed that is a little too much multi-tasking for me…and fine, just plain scary. Somehow I get through the flood and clear decently enough, but run into a mess of trouble when I have to remove the mask. At one point, as I begin flailing about, snorting, and hyperventilating, I give the sign for “Go UP”. But instead, I feel a firm tug down! Since I apparently have no choice, I somehow regain control of my breathing and get it together. By the time I cautiously take a slow breath and peek my eyes open, Adam is in my face giving me the “OK” sign. After we surface, he says he was tempted to let me ascend, as I was clearly having some issues, but knew that if he did, I would likely never get back in the water again, and I have to say he was right.

Day Two starts with me significantly more anxious than the day before, due to the mask incident and my newfound irrational fear of taking it off. However, I am determined to get past it and move on….until during our morning videos, our instructor announces that we will be demonstrating the same skill and then some under 30 feet of water. Noooooooo! I think about it all morning, all through lunch, and during the boat ride out, during which I purge the contents of my stomach overboard three times. I don’t usually get seasick, so I’m attributing that whole embarrassing event to nerves. Anyway, while everyone else in the class is performing each task with little to no trouble, I have now clearly become the weakest link. I have a difficult time controlling my buoyancy, either floating upwards into the blue yonder or hitting rock bottom, and Rinaldo (dive master in training) at this point has pretty much become my personal safety assistant, pulling me down, finding my lost fin, putting on and removing my weights, and giving me all kinds of underwater reminder signals. Mask flooding time approaches, and again I have what I feel to be a near drowing panic-filled experience. Adam later tells me that this time he really was going to let me up when I started choking and sputtering, but by some force of nature I was able to regain control. We had time to swim around the reef and check out some cool stuff, but I was too wound up and frustrated with myself to fully enjoy it.

Day Three – It’s our final day!! Swim test, float test, written test. I was dead last by a mile with the swim, but no problem. Then we learn the last few skills that lie ahead. This includes mask removal. Of course. My heart sinks. On our lunch break, I go out to about 2 feet of water and practice and practice until I think I’ve got it. After lunch we get on the boat to take us out to the dive site. We practice putting our gear on in the water (little tricky), switching between our regulators and our snorkel (more tricky), free diving with our snorkels, and then swimming to the surface on one continuous exhalation. I run into some trouble with this one. During my first ascent, I run out of air about two-thirds of the way up. We break the surface and I decide to try my luck. “Did I do it?” I ask. Adam gives me a weird look and says, “No. Let’s try again”. After my third try, I do it. I perform my mask removal with high anxiety but no trouble. Yay!!! I can see Adam beaming at me around his regulator as he gives me underwater applause and a high 10. We have time to swim around the reef and it is nothing short of awesome. I feel myself finally start to relax and take it all in. When it’s time to go back up, I realize that I don’t want to. I think I’m going to love scuba diving. Finally.

Posted: February 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Honduras, Itinerary | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »