Practice what you (I) preach

peacock_pouchermapI have written in the past (in other forums) that student divers need to talk to a perspective instructor. This is especially true when looking for a continuing education instructor to train with. One of the questions that need to be asked is, “what type of diving do you do when you are not teaching, how often and when was the last time you did it?”

For me that is easy: I cave dive. Why? There a number of reasons and these are not in any kind of order. First, to cave dive one must have a skill set unlike any other. There is no room for errors. For instance, in relation to buoyancy or gas monitoring. Touching the bottom can cause a major silt out and total lost of visibility, and if you run low or out of gas a Controlled Emergency Swimming Accent is not in the cards. Second, planning takes on a new diminution from open water. You cannot just plan on going underwater, swimming around and then coming back to the surface. Third, when caving, I am not in-charge, all plans are team driven. Finally, caving has given me many adventures. I have had the opportunity to go into caves that no one else or only of hand full of others have seen. For me the darkness still does beckons me.

Last Dive of the weekend. (Synopsis of a dive)
Recently, I had the privilege of diving with a great team. Two members from Kentucky and my regular buddy here in Virginia. My favorite was our last dive of the trip, Orange Grove to Peacock traverse. Earlier we had swum from Peacock to Challenge sink, via the Peanut line (~2650ft) on less then one third of our back gas (104s). In planning the traverse, we knew that Challenge was our cookie. A cookie is a line marker and in this case, it references the point we had to be at or past once we reached one third of our gas supply. If not we would have to turn the dive and exit the way we came. Poring over the map the night before, we came up with a simple but elegant plan. Since none of my team, except for myself, had done the traverse, we decided to carry a stage bottle (80AL) for extra safety.
We entered at Orange Grove. After our bubble check and a quick S-drill descended breathing our stage bottle. We had decided to use a primary reel that a fellow diver had left connected the previous day and marked it with a cookie. Orange Grove to Challenge is around 1800ft; at 1000ft penetration, we switched from our stage to our back gas. The switch conveniently occurred in a room with plenty of room for all four of us. After sorting out our gear and a quick team check, we continued the dive. We arrived at Challenge with more then enough gas and after about a10 min surface break we continued the dive. The distance from Challenge to Olsen is a little over 1400ft, and then Olsen out is about 1500ft. We stopped at Olsen for a quick break and checks. It was a great dive and besides a cramp on the way out, uneventful. Our average speed was about 50ft per minute and our SAC was right at .5. Hungry, tired and very pleased with ourselves, we exited the water, recovered our equipment and prepared for the long drive home.