Dive #25 and #26, diving off Mount Lavinia with Colombo Divers, Boatman Ravinda, Dive buddy K and Instructor Paris for the first two dives of my Advanced Open Water Course.
Palagala: Bottom time – 33 minutes; Depth – 12.8 meters
A word of explanation, well a few words. To quote PADI, the course “helps you increase your confidence and build your scuba skills so you can become more comfortable in the water. This is a great way to get more dives under your belt while continuing to learn under the supervision of your PADI instructor. This course builds on what you’ve learned and develops new capabilities by introducing you to new activities and new ways to have fun scuba diving.”
Flowery words aside my main aim was to do the Peak Performance Buoyancy (PPB) dive, Navigation dive and Deep dive so I could explore the Colombo dive sites to the fullest. To those who have done the basic Open Water, I would highly recommend this option, some of the best sites like the Cargo Wreck, Taprobane East Wreck and the Trug are accessible once you have this certification and the skills and confidence to go to 30m and manage your buoyancy.
The day started with Paris giving me some briefings on the PPB and Nav dive. The latter briefing was enlivened by Paris making me take a bearing to a coconut tree with my compass, draping my head in a towel and making me walk to said coconut tree. The first try was a miserable failure due either to my stupidity or a short term change I the Earth’s magnetic field (I personally think it’s the latter). After a chastisement from Paris and another, more successful try, we boarded the boat and headed out to Palagala which is Colombo Diver's standard training ground. Accompanying us was another beginner diver who was along for the ride, K.
Rolling off, deflating and sinking to the bottom we moved over to a sandy area to practice my PPB skills. I had lost my snorkel at Palagala the day before and had jokingly asked anyone who dove there the next time to take a look see if they could find it. As I settled in knees first to await instruction from Paris, something caught my eye to the right. Taking a quick glance I saw a snorkel lying there, Hmmm….weird…a snork….OH WAIT!!!! Motioning to Paris to hold on with the instructions, I swam over double checked to make sure it was mine (which in retrospect was a bit silly I guess), pumped my fists and jammed my snorkel into my BC (after all it's not everyday the Sea gives something She took back).
This excitement over, we moved on with my skills. The fin pivot and hovering were skills I hadn’t practiced since getting Open Water certified back in December 2008, however with my new-found ideal weight of 4kg, thing went pretty well and Paris was shaking my hand in no time.
The next skill however took a bit of getting used to, basically maneuvering close to the bottom with your reg and mask almost touching the bottom and skimming it. It took me a few minutes of figuring out how to time my inhalations and exhalations but once the skill came the feeling was exhilarating. With my usual over-enthusiasm I skimmed the sand over and over again, taking a break to point out a rather minute, gorgeously black and white spotted nudibranch all by its lonesome on the sand. Paris eventually had to grab me by my fin and shake my hand to make me stop skimming the sand and as we did that, two Remoras twisted by in the murky waters. Both of us immediately stopped what we were doing and starting looking around for a big fish that the Remora’s often accompany, but no matter how much we looked there was no sign of any Rays or Whale Sharks or anything else in the soupy green.
Palagala: Bottom time – 35 minutes; Depth – 13.1 meters
This was the navigation dive and I was a whole lot more nervous about this one, primarily because I wasn’t really good at counting my kicks which was essential for estimating distance (I guess I’ve always been bad at this quantitative business). Visibility had also gotten shittier, about 2m, which rather surprisingly helped me with my navigation.
The navigating a straight line felt a bit awkward because of having to concentrate on my fin-kicks but things got more comfortable with navigating a square pattern. With the low visibility I gave my compass my full attention, trying to follow the lubber line keeping the north arrow aligned in the bezel. Looking up at one stage I was rather surprised (if not a bit dismayed) to come face to face with a Lionfish. We exchanged glances for a second, his somewhat pugnacious and mine somewhat frightened before I finned, inhaled hugely and swam over his menacingly raised fins. Seeing the anchor and anchor line glowing blue in the green murkiness was one of the best feelings of my life, knowing that I wasn’t an absolute moron when it came to navigating with a compass.
The last task was leading Paris and K on a tour of Palagala using ‘natural navigation’, i.e. the features of the reef and the compass. This was admittedly a bit easy because I’d dived Palagala so many times before so was quite familiar with the layout of the reef. Also the reef rather handily runs N-S so adjustments of the bezel of the compass were really not required. It was with the usual tinge of regret that we turned around when K gave the time-out signal for reaching 100 bar and exited the water with him just over 50 bar. Not to blow my own trumpet but I exited with over a 100 bar and had at least another 45 minutes of dive time. Oh heck, I did just blow my own trumpet. I do that sometimes.