Miss Grace: Certified Advanced Diver

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November 22nd 2007
Published: November 22nd 2007
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I'm finally a Certified Advanced Diver!

Back in March I completed four Speciality courses:

* Navigation (which was difficult considering I can't read a compass on land, let alone under water!)

* Waves, Tides & Currents (this has proved most helpful in all my dives since)

* Low Visibility/Night Diving (this was a very late night dive in Sydney Harbour -- lots of fun)

* Nitrox (which was great to dive with -- much cleaner on my lungs -- but I didn't sit the theory exam -- too much maths for my liking)

I hadn't completed the pre-requisite 24 dives at the time so I wasn't given my Advanced upgrade.

Yesterday I completed the Deep Diver course -- I'm now certified to dive to 40m/130ft. And because I have completed four Specialty courses AND 30 dives, I'm now a certified Advanced Diver.

Yesterday's dive was a Wreck dive (not as good as the Vanuatu wreck where I got to dive through the wreck -- and got my tank caught in the narrow stairwell!!) and we had to complete timed tasks on the boat and then repeat them on the sea floor to show how nitrogen narcosis affects the body (it slows you down considerably but I passed the tests).

Allow me one wanker moment: I now know why experienced divers don't like diving with Beginners -- Beginners don't understand the definition of diving 'single file' through a canyon (and therefore kick you in the face or push you out of the way), they're always in a rush to be diving up the arse of the Dive Master (I did exactly the same when I first started diving because I was scared of being left alone) and they haven't yet mastered the skill of not kicking up silt (ie, disrupting the coral and sea floor). Diving behind someone who can't control their kicks is like diving through a dust cloud -- you can't see anything in front of you until it all settles. I did all of the above so I know what it's like to be shitting yourself when you start diving -- I still have trouble sleeping the night before a dive and get butterflies the morning of my dive -- but it's good to see how experience makes you a better diver. I also prefer diving at the back of the line (but in front of the second Dive Master) because then I'm not being rushed or risk being injured by a Beginner.

My Open Water certificate was done through SSI and to get my Dive Master certificate with SSI I must complete the Search & Rescue course and log a total of 50 dives before I start the Dive Master course. But with PADI there's no pre-requisite number of dives logged before I start the Dive Master course so long as I finish the course with 60 dives logged. The course goes for six weeks so logging enough dives to reach 60 would be easy. Plus the dives are free! I'd like to log another twenty dives just so I can get more experience and I'd like to do the SSI Search & Rescue course. On Monday I am booked in to do a course on Proficient Buoyancy. I like hanging upside down and doing tricks when I'm diving and this will teach me how to control my buoyance better. I was stoked that I managed to land perfectly on the sea floor yesterday without lifting up silt. And my breathing is getting better; when the other divers, including other Advanced divers, were on 700psi, I was on 1,100psi. Not bad for someone who used to suck up air too fast!

So I have a plan! I'm going to do my Search & Rescue when I log around ten more dives (I'm hoping to log more in Brazil and Venezuela). Then I'll spend two months here in Roatan next year, probably July and August. Where I'm staying now rents out cabins (with hot water, full kitchen and wireless broadband) for US$750 per month. I know my way around the island well enough and know I can keep fit here with the local gym. Plus there are direct flights from Roatan to Miami, Houston and Atlanta -- I extend an open invitation to my friends to come and visit me while I'm here. Free accommodation -- how could you refuse an offer like that -- and I'll be in West End "the centre of the action"?! And I can get flights to Puerto Lempira to visit Charley and the rest of the kids at Mama Tara. I'll spend June in San Fran for Pride and I'll head back there in September for Folsom. Maybe, if I like the Dive Master course, I'll come back here and do it full time. The money is shit, but who cares -- I'll be living on an island and taking people diving all day. Beats sitting in an office. Of course it wouldn't be long term, but until I decide what I want to do with my life, I'm open to living on an island and sharing a flat with other bludger divers!

Besides getting my Dive Master certification, I have three diving goals:

* dive the SS President Coolidge in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu (one of the largest, most accessible wrecks for divers)

* dive the Aqaba Coast along the coastline of Jordan

* dive with Great Whites off South Africa (cage dive)

So that's my plan as of today (which could, of course, change tomorrow). I've got one more week on the island. I'd like to stay for another month but South America is waiting!


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