This caffeine lover is hard pressed to admit it, but a new rule of NO CAFFEINE ON DIVE DAY is a good one. Or, in the very least, not a lot of caffeine. Our last trip to Redondo got off to a rocky start thanks to my jitters, fueled by having a large Dutch Mocha w/ an extra shot AND a 32 ounce Mountain Dew during the 3 hour trip up.
No such malady this time, although there's always something, isn't there? The end of a cold was hanging on, but I trusted in the Sudafed. The first descent at Redondo at a low tide amused me with lots of squishy noises in my sinuses, until at 25 fsw I felt a sudden stab of brain pain that seriously had me worried I'd suffered some catastrophic event like a brain aneurism, or a stroke. (We now have a new hand signal for "brain aneurism.") Pain so intense it made me nauseous! It quickly resolved and I realized it must've simply been a sinus issue. I sent Scot and Dana on down for the deep dive; I promised to stay near the pier, in sight of the pillars (which in the poor vis wasn't very far).
After careful consideration I took a few spins around the base of the pier, down to 35 fsw with no equalization problems. Some will crucify me for a decision to solo dive. My evaluation went like this: simple, well known area; shallow depth; no current issues; no fishing line/entanglement possibilities; even with total equipment failure I could CESA to the surface. Yes, if something rendered me unconscious I'd be in trouble, but I drive a car daily with that same possibility at hand. I'm pretty conservative, and it felt right. It was gloriously relaxing (no one to worry about but me) and was a good exercise in both decision making and execution. Would I make THAT same decision again? Yes. Will I think even more carefully about such issues in the future? Yes. Is there solo dive training and a secondary air source in my future? You betcha.
No one needs to worry; I'm not about to go striking off on dive trips all by myself without telling anyone, or looking to break my personal depth records by myself at a new dive site. I'm just saying that until recently I thought the idea of solo diving was just batshit crazy. But after realizing that if you're in bad vis with a parter who isn't paying attention... you might as well be on your own. (Not that I've had that happen, but I've heard of others.) So if you might find yourself on your own anyway... why not be prepared for it? It has its place, I now know. One of the best divers in our group solos, too, which has likely impacted my view.
On the second dive it was just Scot and I; I had no ear/sinus issues and we were to 65 fsw. We worked on navigation skills, failed at our specific task due to the poor vis (we found everything BUT what we were in search of, and surely passed within feet of it) but found one another in the murk when lost (knowing the bearing we were on and using flashlights to break through it brought us back together). We're equal air hogs so we hit 750 at the same time, had a very smooth safety stop (it's surprisingly hard to hold your position in the water column at 15 feet in a lot of exposure gear as you have to dump air at just the right amount as you come up to remain neutral), and a little surface swim back.
We were tired, looked like shit, it was raining, we were damp through and through... and we were happy as could be.
Up early the next day to be at Les Davis at 8:30... ugh! But we geared up, had a blast talking with friends, and bemoaning the thick heavy fog. We dove there to 65 feet, and I was doing well using the drysuit only for buoyancy control (I'd learned the bad habit of using the BCD). Vis was really poor, and a current kicked up a bit, and the metal in the concrete that was sunk to make the artificial reef made compass use impossible. We were quite far from the steps when we surfaced, and had a nice long surface swim back. The joy was that by the time we came up, the fog had burned off and we enjoyed wonderful views of the Olympics, blue sky and warm sun!
We hung around for quite some time, then all decided to pack it in instead of do a 2nd dive due to the poor vis. We spent time talking with our many friends, made new ones, and learned a lot from all.
So many lessons learned on each trip; on this one from how much easier it is to pack with a checklist to what to do if Mother Nature deals you a crappy hand on dive day. My pawn moved a few more steps down the road to being a great diver.
Dana deserves a shout out; she's a great travel buddy and a considerate dive partner. I'm happy that she feels the same about me (and Scot, too). Later that night as Scot and I were debriefing, he said, "I enjoy diving with you; you're good and getting better." That made me smile.
Maui is coming up in just a little over two weeks. While I do really enjoy cold water diving, I can't wait for less gear, better vis and more color!