Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Dive Master in Training – Day #6

Happy Halloween!  Actually, no one here gives a crap that it’s Halloween. The big news of the day is the “Full Moon Party” that’s taking place on Koh Pan-Yang tonight.  This is why we had most of Koh Tao to ourselves today.  This place is deserted.  It was cloudy and rainy for the first half of the day, and just cloudy for the last half.  Apparently the “low season” has officially begun.

Jon has decided that he’s tired of writing up his dives so I’m afraid that you’ll be deprived of his diving experiences.  If you think he should write them up, feel free to send him an email to express your feelings.  J

400 Meter Swim

Today, I was assigned to assist in the Open Water Diver Course which is for new divers.  This means that today would be “confined” training and an afternoon skills circuit for DMTs.  Since I wouldn’t have an opportunity to do the 400 meter swim from the boat, I woke up early with Jon to swim TO the boat.  At 7:45, I took off and swam the 400 meters and climbed on the boat to wait for the speed boat to arrive, full of divers.  While I waited I hung out with Lin and Tom who are the boat captains and live on the boat.  We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well and I really enjoy their smiling faces each day.  Since I made the swim, they offered me tea or coffee – neither of which I felt like drinking – so Lin gave me an orange instead.  It was delicious after having all that salt water in my mouth. 

When the speed boat arrived, I helped unload the gear and then climbed in and rode back to the shore with them.  There, I went back to the room to shower and rest before meeting the Open Water Course at 9:30.

Open Water Course

The instructor for the open water course was Flavius (Flav) who taught us the Rescue Diver course last week.  There were four beginner divers – 2 from Australia and 2 from Holland.  Since Flav is also from Holland he spoke Dutch with them whenever they had a question.  Bi-lingual knowledge is a definite bonus in the Dive Instructor industry.  So Flav started the course on the shore by teaching them how to set up their gear.  Toward the end of the introduction it began to pour rain.  But this was when we headed out to the water anyway so the rain didn’t matter so much.

We went out to about 3 meters of water where there was a sandy patch within the coral.  There, Flav demonstrated the skills they needed to do.  Kirsten – from Holland – didn’t feel comfortable on the regulator underwater and was quite nervous about the whole thing.  So it turned out that Flav took her to the surface and I stayed with the 3 guys underwater re-practicing their skills.  After 5 minutes, Flav came back down and let Kirsten swim around and come down when she was comfortable.

After the guys did all their skills, Flav took them for swim around the coral and then we went back to the shore to disassemble the gear.  They had an academics session scheduled for the afternoon but I wouldn’t be with them.  The DMTs had our own skill reviews to do for the afternoon. 

Dive Master in Training Skills Circuit

Kate, our Dive Master Instructor, gathered the 8 of us Dive Masters in Training on the beach for a briefing.  The gist of this session was to take us out into the water and have us demonstrate each skill as if we were demonstrating for a student.  So each skill had to be done slowly and with exaggerated movements so a student can pick up on the “critical attributes” of each skill.  For example, when doing a regulator recovery we had to point out the fact that we were blowing bubbles instead of holding our breath.  This is crucial for almost any skill, in fact.  If we forgot to demonstrate a critical attribute or didn’t exaggerate it enough then we were docked a point or two.  Maximum score for each skill was 5 points.

Here are the “18 Basic Skills” we had to demonstrate during the skills circuit:

  1. Equipment assembly, adjustment, preparation, donning and disassembly
  2. Predive safety check (BWRAF)
  3. Deep water entry
  4. Buoyancy check at surface
  5. Five point descent
  6. Remove and replace weight belt
  7. Fin pivot (neutral buoyancy)
  8. Five point ascent
  9. Regulator exchange
  10. Remove and replace scuba unit underwater
  11. Hovering (30 seconds in midwater)
  12. Buddy breathing stationary, donor and receiver
  13. Buddy breathing while swimming, donor
  14. Mask removal, replacement, and clearing
  15. Buddy breathing while swimming, receiver
  16. Alternate air source ascent
  17. Free flow regulator breathing
  18. Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA)

And our last task was something called “the stress test”.  This is a crazy exercise in which Jon and I had to exchange all scuba gear while buddy breathing.  So we had to switch fins, mask, weight belt, and scuba unit while taking turns breathing off one regulator.  Not a realistic situation, because there’s absolutely no reason to ever do something like this underwater.  But the purpose was so Kate could observe us under a stressful situation.  And buddy breathing is stressful enough.  The added task of removing gear makes it almost insane!  But once Jon and I caught our “rhythm” of buddy breathing, then the equipment exchange wasn’t so bad.  The worst part was the mask exchange because Jon wears contact lenses and can’t open his eyes underwater.  So I – looking through the haze of sea water – had to shove the regulator in his mouth so he would remember to breathe!

Oh yeah.  And he punched me while helping me put on his scuba unit and his hand slipped.  But that was a minor fluke and I’ve decided not to hold it against him.

We finished the skills circuit at 4:00 and Kate had scheduled a Physics lecture for 4:20.  So Jon and I raced up to the room for quick showers to get the salt water off our skin.  Then we went down to the dive center to settle in for 2 hours of physics.

Physics

Kate gave the lecture to Jon, Lee, Ela, and me.  It wasn’t very complicated, just a lot of discussion of pressures and atmospheres, changes in volumes and density, and the relationship between temperature and pressure.  But it lasted about 1.5 hours and we took good notes.  Jon and I will probably each take the exam sometime tomorrow.  We were too exhausted to think about testing tonight.

Jon and I went to dinner at AC’s and then went back to the room to get caught up on our homework and dive logs.  No Full Moon Party for us.  The boat had already left before we were done, and it would have been an all-nighter party if we’d gone.  We’re too old for this $@()$!(#@#.

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Dive Master in Training – Day #5

“A Bad Day Diving is Better than a Good Day at the Office”

This is our quote of the day.  As bad as the weather was and as poor as the visibility proved to be, we were still diving.  Someone else in the world was at his/her desk shuffling papers.  But all we had to complain about was the strong current and silt.  No worries, mate

R&R

We slept in today.  Yesterday we could have signed up for the morning dive, but we decided to sleep instead.  So we woke up at 8:30 and lay around reading, updating the journals, and catching up on our Knowledge Reviews.  It was raining pretty hard, so we weren’t in any hurry to be outside.  At 12:30, we went down to the equipment room to get our gear.  Then we caught the speed boat to the moored boat.

Dive #1: Fun Dive at Twin Peaks

Depth: 16 meters

Bottom Time: 40 minutes

Visibility: 10 meters

For this dive, Jon had to do his mapping skills and Kate (our DM instructor) suggested that I go with him to update my own map.  Since there was only one fun diver, neither of us had any Dive Master to follow.  So we swam around the three pinnacles and mapped the details.  Visibility was pretty bad – only about 10-15 meters – and the current was kind of strong.  But we enjoyed it because it was one of the first dives where it was just the two of us and all that water.

On the east side of the main pinnacle – in the middle of a large sand patch – there’s a little circle called the “Clown Fish Circle”.  Here, there’s a small sea anemone where 3 clown fish live.  Dive Masters have put a circle of rocks around the anemone so that divers are more careful about not trampling on it.  Jon was familiar with the circle because of the Open Water course he assisted over the past two days.  So we swam up to it and he showed me a little trick.  Apparently, the clown fish “like to keep a clean house”.  He moved slowly into the middle of the circle, picked up a small shell, and held it close to the anemone so the clown fish could see it.  The bigger fish (which was about 4 inches long) approached the shell and took it out of Jon’s fingers.  Then the fish dropped the shell a few inches away from the anemone.  Jon picked up another shell and the same thing happened again.  So the fish don’t like their sea anemone to be messy.  You never know who’ll drop by and then how are you going to explain a messy anemone?

We finished up the dive on a safety stop at 5 meters for 3 minutes, passing the time by writing silly notes to each other on our underwater slates.

Back on the boat, storm clouds had rolled in and the weather was getting nasty.  Jon and I were going to do our 15 minute water-tread, which is one of the DMT skills we have to complete.  But the water was a bit rough and their were white caps so we decided against it.  It was also very cold, and none of us really wanted to go down for the second dive but we all needed to log the dives so we did.

Dive #2: Fun Dive at White Rock

Depth: 13 meters

Bottom Time: 30 minutes

Visibility: 10 meters

The one fun diver we had on the boat only wanted to do one dive.  The rest of us were DMTs and Advanced Open Water Students.  Jon and I went down with Lee, one of the other DMTs.  We didn’t feel like making a long dive because we were shivering from cold on the boat.  But the dive turned out to be very nice despite our lack of initial enthusiasm.  Lee, Jon and I took our time getting around the pinnacles and learning the layout of the site.  Jon found a little eel hiding beneath some brain coral which was quite a nice find.

After 30 minutes, we went back up to the boat and had tea to warm ourselves up.  

The boat drove back to the mooring and we caught the speed boat back to shore.  And while we all complained about the cold and the bad visibility, I have to say that the quote of the day certainly applies.  A Bad Day Diving is Better Than A Good Day At the Office.  

Amen!

Back on shore, we helped put the equipment away and then rushed up to the room to shower and to get into warm clothes.  The night was pretty quiet tonight, and there was no one around because the Full Moon Party on Koh Pan-Yan is in two days.  So most of the people on Koh Tao have deserted for the “other island”.  We enjoyed the opportunity for quiet and rested in the room and watched “Band of Brothers” on HBO.

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Dive Master in Training – Day #4

Today was another day of assisting classes and various dives.  Click on the link below to read each of our entries or just read the rest of the page:

Heidi’s Day Jon’s Day

Heidi’s Day

I met Kate – our Dive Master Instructor – at 9:30 to go over chapters 4-6 which was about Decompression Theory and the Recreational Dive Planner.  She did the lecture with me and another DMT named Lee.  At 11:30, we settled in to take the exam.  But I had to race through it in order to get ready for the afternoon dive.  I ordered lunch from Ban’s and had it delivered to the dive center in the middle of my exam.  Then I raced out to put on my suit and get my gear ready for the 12:45 afternoon departure.

Dive #1: Deep Dive at Chumpon Pinnacle

Depth: 30 meters

Bottom Time: 30  minutes

Visibility: 10 meters

The Deep Dive is a requirement for Advanced Open Water, which was exciting for the students.  What’s even more exciting is that two days ago there was a whale shark at Chumpon Rock and there was a very good chance that it would be there again today.  But before we could see it, the students had to perform some deep-water drills.  When a person submerges to such deep depths, often the nitrogen in the body builds up and may cause nitrogen narcosis.  Narcosis is sort of bizarre behavior at deep levels that causes people to giggle uncontrollably or do very silly things.  So the purpose of this dive was to see if the depth affected any of the students this way.

We suited up, split up into 2 groups, and submerged down the buoy line.  When we got to 30 meters, we settled onto the ocean floor and Soran had our group do some drills like multiplication and addition.  He’d also brought some raw eggs and cracked them open.  We played with the yolk which stayed whole.  Everyone looked like they were handling the depth very well, so we went swimming around the pinnacle.

No whale shark, unfortunately, and the visibility around the rocks was really bad.  So we swam around for a while and then ascended for our safety stop.  On the surface, storm clouds were rolling in and the waves were pretty rough.  We changed our next dive site to White Rocks which we hoped would be more calm.

Dive #2: Naturalist Dive at White Rocks

Depth: 16 meters

Bottom Time: 40 minutes

Visibility: 15 meters

 

The waves at White Rocks were a bit calmer than at Chumpon, but they weren’t fun.  Because of the dark clouds and wind the air had become quite cool so we just wanted to get in the water and out of the wind.  This dive was a naturalist dive.  John handed out under-water slates with fish and coral pictures on it and told us to run our own dives, staying below for no longer than 40 minutes.  Helen and I jumped in and went down.  It was nice to have a dive where all I had to do was help look at fish and coral.  I’d been so busy helping with skill drills or assisting with Fun Dives that I’d forgotten how much fun it is just to roam around a reef for a while.  We found a lot of beautiful fish that we tried to identify on the cards.  Unfortunately, the fish cards were for fish from the Indian Ocean which – incidentally – is no where near the east coast of Thailand.  Some of the fish were identifiable, but most weren’t.

 

After only 40 minutes underwater, we were both cold so we headed back up.  On our safety stop we shivered for a bit and then swam to the back of the boat.  The trip back to the mooring was quick which was good because we were all freezing.  I had planned to make the 400 meter swim back to the shore, but the sea was too rough so I bagged.

 

Jon’s Day

Today is the final two openwater sessions for the class and then they take their exam and they are certified!  The bad news is that we have to meet at the equipment office at 7:15 in the morning.  Not the easiest thing to do when you are diving every day as the diving really does leave you knackered at the end of the day.  Also, since I will be out diving in the morning I will be missing the DMT review session that Kate is doing for Heidi so poor Kate will have to do the whole thing over again in the afternoon for me.

The class met up on-time and we took the speedboat out to the dive boat.  Mark and I helped the group setup their gear and then everyone headed topside again while I setup my kit.

Dive #5: Openwater dive #3, Twin Peaks

Depth: 12 meters

Bottom Time: 45  minutes

Visibility: 20-25 meters 

 

Mark briefed everyone on the dive, including the fact that for these last two dives the videographer would be taping the whole dive.  This means that there needs to be quite a bit of hamming it up for the camera starting with the entry into the pool.  Everyone has seen some James Bond movie or another where Bond has to get into the water from a boat and the water entry is usually done in some overly dramatic frontward roll that isn’t really necessary but looks good on camera.  Well, that was the entry of choice for these last two dives!

 

Once in the water we spent about 15 minutes doing some skills then the rest of the dive was a fun dive which consisted of watching a stingray and some triggerfish and of course the obligatory mugging for the cameraman.  Once back on the boat we got our tanks ready to be filled on the boat and then headed up for a briefing on the next site.

 

Dive #6: Openwater dive #4, White Rock

Depth: 22 meters

Bottom Time: 45  minutes

Visibility: 20 meters 

 

After our buddy checks we all did the James Bond entry into the water again and did a free descent to the bottom where we found a nice sandy area and spent 15 minutes or so doing the final skill test then spent the rest of the dive as a fun dive.  The class did really well and will all make good divers.  I’m a bit surprised that nobody had problems, which isn’t that uncommon, but this is only the first class I have assisted with.

 

Once we were back on shore we all watched the videotape and most of the guys bought a copy for the bargain price of 999Baht ($25).  We took a lunch break and then the class got back together and took their final exam while I worked on my DMT review with Kate and Juliette (another DMT, from France).  We spent a couple of hours going over decompression theory, reviewing the RDP dive tables and the RDP dive wheel which both help you determine decompression limits so you can dive safely.  I did well on the exam but decided that I would quickly get a dive computer as soon as I could afford one!

 

Thai Wedding

 

We went to dinner at AC’s for, like, the 100th night in a row.  But they serve a mean chicken fried rice with pineapple and cashewnuts.  They were showing “Shaft” on the big screen but Jon and I weren’t really interested in it so we took a far table and positioned our cushions facing the water.  Then we inevitably got sucked into the movie.  

Back at Ban’s Dive Resort (where we are staying http://www.bansdiving.com) there was a big wedding taking place that everyone had talked about for 2 days.  One of the speedboat drivers was married about a month ago and had planned a big party for tonight.  The joke is that – of an island of 700 people – 300 of them were attending this wedding.  The staff at Ban’s were all invited and we were told to stop by later on.  So at 9:00 we strolled by the party which was set up on a lawn-area on the beach.  Honestly, it didn’t look like the big fiesta we thought it would be.  There was no dancing or partying going on.  There were a bunch of tables around which people were seated, and many of the tables were unoccupied as if the party had already left.  On the stage at one end of the lawn was karaoke equipment and a local woman was screeching out some Thai song.  Screeching really is the optimal way to describe this.  After a week of diving our ears are a bit sensitive and the high-pitched noise was difficult to listen to.  So we continued to walk down the road for a while and then turned around and walked back via the beach.

 

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Dive Master in Training – Day #3

We crashed last night somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00.  I simply couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  Because of the early bedtime, I woke up at 6:30AM.  Bummer.

In case anyone’s wondering, there’s no such thing as Daylight Savings Time in Thailand.  So this caused a bit of confusion for us this morning because we couldn’t figure out if we were on time or an hour early.  A quick trip to the Dive Center let us know that we were on time.  

Today, I was to begin assisting an Advanced Open Water Course and Jon continued assisting Mark with the same class.  Click on our entries or just read through the rest of the page:

Heidi’s Day Jon’s Day

Heidi’s Day

I met the instructor I was supposed to help (John) and his Assistant Instructor (Soran).  The Advanced Open Water course has 7 students in it:

  • Helen, Rick, and Tim from England

  • Otto and Anna from Spain (I think)

  • Daniel from Toronto

  • Greg from the UK

We started the course doing academics, so the morning was full of videos and Knowledge Reviews.  We watched a video for Navigation and one for Deep Dives.  Then we discussed the dives we’d be doing for the afternoon.  Then we broke for a quick lunch and hopped on the boat for the afternoon dive.

Because I had to change into my suit and pack my gear, I only had time for a quick bite (again).  So I went to the room and fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while I changed into my suit and rushed around the room looking for stuff.  At 12:30, I headed to the equipment room to pack some gear for me.  While I was there, John (the instructor) decided that we would do the night dive as well this evening.  So we were busy for the rest of the day.  Here’s what our dives were like:

Dive #1: Navigation Dive at Hin Daeng Cave

Depth: 22 meters

Bottom Time: 43  minutes

Visibility: 5 meters

John wanted the students to go down and do navigation exercises on the bottom, such as the compass square and the reciprocal dive.  Unfortunately, the visibility was terrible.  Now theoretically, this wouldn’t matter for a navigation dive because the whole point is to get back to where you started from.  But you really can’t expect novice divers to ace the navigation exercises on their first attempt.  So after a few failed navigation and a lot of swimming around looking for students, John ditched the exercise and we went for a swim.  We went through the cave, which was the same one we went through on the fun dive from yesterday.

Dive #2: Navigation Dive and Performance Buoyancy Dive at Japanese Gardens

Depth: 15 meters

Bottom Time: 30  minutes

Visibility: 9 meters

We were a bit late getting started on this dive because Daniel lost his mask when he jumped into the water.  So John had to go looking for it but never found anything.  The rest of us waited in the water for him to get back.  Then we submerged.

Visibility was a bit better (barely) than Hin Daeng Cave, but John decided to continue the navigation exercises anyway.  The group split in two.  One half went with Soran for Performance Buoyancy tests which is literally swimming through hoops.  The other half went with John and me for navigation.  I swam away about 10 meters or so and the students swam to me and back to count their kicks so they could measure distance. Then they did a reciprocal swim and a compass square.  The groups switched and Soran’s group came to us and vice versa.  Then we were done and went back to the surface.

When we got back to the mooring, we took the speed boat back to shore and grabbed dinner.  We really only had about 45 minutes, so I went up to the room and had – yes – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Don’t knock it.  It’s fast and cheap.

Dive #3: Night Dive at White Rocks

Depth: 16 meters

Bottom Time: 40 minutes

Visibility: 10 meters

We got on the speed boat at 6:30 and I couldn’t help but think what a nice life this is.  The sunset was stunning – all yellows, pinks, and blues – and the ocean was like soup.  As we cruised out to the boat on the speed boat I thought that I could definitely enjoy a life like this, even it if doesn’t meet all my “future goals”.  Screw the future goals!  

The night dive was lovely, but I’ve always loved night dives.  As John the instructor said today, “It’s like being in your mother’s womb all over again!”.  Or so he’s heard.  But it is silent and dark and peaceful.  What I like most about night dives, however, is the nightlife that comes out.  Blue Spotted Rays, Crabs, Shrimp, and funny looking fish that you never see in the daylight.  It’s quite cool.  

There were a few different dive groups at White Rocks tonight, and for some reason it reminded me of the night game drive we did in Zambia at South Luangwa National Park (see June 11).  It was dark, there were a lot of flashlights looking for things, and every once in a while we ran across another group’s path.  Funny how I had such similar experiences both on land and under water.

Helen (my dive buddy) and I ascended together because she was low on air.  I came up where I saw the light from the boat, except it wasn’t the boat at all – it was the moon!!  The light was so bright that I thought it was the boat lamp.  How crazy.  We weren’t that far away and the sky was clear and beautiful with stars everywhere.  So we happily swam to the boat on our backs.

After the dive, John had brought a few beers and we cracked them open and drank them on the way back to the mooring line.  The shoreline was very pretty with the lights from the hut along the water.

Jon’s Day

The morning started with more video sessions building on the skills from the first day and preparing the class for their first openwater dive.

Dive #3: Openwater dive #1, Twin Peaks

Depth: 12.2 meters

Bottom Time: 45  minutes

Visibility: 15 meters 

 

I setup the class’ gear before lunch and after lunch everyone grabbed a bag and headed out to the shore where the speedboat was waiting to take us to the dive boat.  After all the students and gear were transferred to the dive boat Mark showed everyone how to set up their again and then they headed up topside for Mark’s briefing while I setup my kit.  Basically, as a DMT my job is to help Mark and the students so my gear is usually the last to be setup – no sweat since it only takes five minutes or so.

 

Mark got everyone briefed in on the dive, from the ‘giant stride’ entry into the water to the descent on the mooring line, where we would be going and what we would be doing once we got there (more skills!) and finally the ascent.  Here my job as a DMT is to keep an eye on the class and help anyone with problems, again a pretty easy task because this class feels pretty comfortable in the water.

 

In the water the class did well, with only one or two people having some small problems with buoyancy.  For the next dive we will have one of them remove a kilo of weight and have the other person add a kilo and I will carry an extra kilo just in case someone needs it.  Carrying a little extra weight is something that a DM often ends up doing when guiding groups just in case someone in the group has difficulty with their buoyancy.

 

Dive #4: Openwater dive #2, White Rock

Depth: 18 meters

Bottom Time: 40  minutes

Visibility: 15 meters 

 

During our surface interval of about an hour Mark briefed the class on the next dive:  entry, descent, what we would be doing, ascent, safety, etc.  This dive went well also.  I did end up giving Andre the kilo weight that he had given me when we were on the boat after the first dive as he was having some problems with floating up above the group.  Otherwise a pleasant dive.

Football at AC’s

We went to AC’s because that’s where a bunch of people were going out.  So we sat down and ordered some food and a beer and enjoyed the night.  And then I fell asleep on my cushion.  Jon woke me up at 10:30 and said we should go to bed.

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Dive Master in Training – Day #2

Believe it or not, Jon and I were separated the WHOLE DAY!  This is the first time this has happened since June 3, 2001 which was Alicia’s wedding and I was away all day doing bridesmaid stuff.  Since that day we’ve been together practically every moment – give or take a few.  So I don’t know how we got through today, but we’re still alive.

We’ve each written up accounts of our days, so click here for each entry or just read down the page:

Heidi’s Day                        Jon’s Day

Heidi’s Day

We woke up and had peanut butter and jelly cracker sandwiches for breakfast, and then Jon went to meet the Open Water course he was going to assist.  I didn’t have to be anywhere until 9:15 so I hung about the room.

Scuba Review

At 9:15, I went down to the Dive Center to find out who was running today’s Scuba Review which I was to assist.  A Scuba Review is for divers who haven’t dove in a while and want a quick and easy refresher.  While I was in the Dive Center, Theresa (the Dive Master I dove with yesterday) walked in and said, “So you’re going to help me with the Scuba Review today, huh?”.  She and I went to the restaurant where she had her breakfast and we chatted about the review – which was only for one person.

At 9:45, Daniel was introduced to us.  He’s from Israel but lives in Dublin and has Advanced Certification but hasn’t been under for a few years.  So Theresa went over the Scuba Review worksheet with him, which is an informal “quiz” he’d completed before.   She reviewed the things he was unsure about and answered any of his questions.

Then we went to the equipment room where we got our equipment and showed him how to assemble it and do a buddy check.  After that we walked to the shore and into the water, where we swam out about 150 meters where the depth was about 3-4 meters deep.  There, we submerged and Theresa demonstrated the skills that Daniel was to do.  He did a mask-clear, mask-removal, regular recovery, scuba unit removal, and alternate source breathing with me.  Then we swam around the coral for a while.  I was amazed at the amount of coral and fish that were within arm’s reach of the shoreline.  I’m so used to the US where you have to take a speed boat 30 minutes to see anything noteworthy.  I could live here.  Definitely.

After the Scuba Review, Theresa showed Daniel how to disassemble his equipment and we were done.  It was about 11:40 and I was going on the afternoon Fun Dive at 12:30 so I barely had time for lunch.  I went up to the room and fixed a few more Peanut Butter and Jelly Crackers and ate it outside on the porch so ants wouldn’t come in the room.  Jon came in from his class and asked if I wanted to go to lunch, but I had to get to the equipment room.

Dive #1: Fun Dive at Twin Peaks (Mapping exercise)

Depth: 18 meters

Bottom Time: 40  minutes

Visibility: 20 meters

On the first Fun Dive, which was at Twin Peaks, I didn’t assist in the dive.  Instead, Ela and I did our mapping exercise.  This is an exercise for Dive Master certification which requires that the trainee does a full map of a dive site.  Since we’d been to Twins before and knew the precise layout, we figured this would be a relatively easy task.  Ela counted kick cycles between the 3 pinnacles and I measured depths.  We got a bit turned around at one point, but our compasses and a few landmarks helped us out.  Theresa followed us around (she wasn’t leading any dive) just for fun and most likely to laugh at our antics.  One of which was us sitting on the ocean floor having a discussion via our slate boards at to whether we were at the eastern-most pinnacle or not.  In the end, here’s what our map looked like:

After the mapping, we had an hour’s surface interval as the boat made its way the short distance to White Rocks.  Many of us went swimming to pass the time and I talked Ela into jumping off the second level deck into the water, which she decided not to do again.

Dive #2: Fun Dive at White Rocks

Depth: 16 meters

Bottom Time: 35  minutes

Visibility: 8 meters

I went down with the fun divers for the second dive, and this group was led by Aaron – a DMT who is almost done with his certification.  The current was really strong, so this was inevitably going to be a shorter dive because we use more air in stronger currents.  While I’m pretty good with my air conservation on normal dives, I still don’t have the hang of it in powerful currents.  But this was no worry, because there was a novice diver in the group who used his air very quickly.  Aaron had told me about him before we went down, and since I’m the lowly DMT it’s my role to ascend with him when he gets low so the rest of the group can continue on the dive.

But the dive was still nice (I mean really, how can someone ever complain about a dive?).  At one point, I rounded a corner and saw Aaron swimming backwards away from something and motioning everyone back.  There was a pretty big trigger fish eyeing us warily.  These fish are very territorial, and I hear that it doesn’t feel good when they go to defend their turf.  So Aaron was clearing everyone back.  We hung out and watched it for a while and then continued on.  The new diver did pretty well on his air this dive and we got a good 30 minutes in before Aaron buddied us up to ascend.  Our safety stop was a bit of a problem because this guy didn’t have very good buoyancy control, but we worked it out.

After the boat moored back at Ban’s, Ela and I dove in for the 400 meter swim back to shore.  My time actually got WORSE than the previous three swims.  This is very annoying.

Jon’s Day

Today I am assisting with an Open Water Diver course that Mark is instructing.  This means the first day will be the confined, or pool, session and review of some homework and some videos.

We met the group at 8:30 and introduced them to the gear they would be using.  The class is five guys:  three Brits (Dean, Mike, Dave), one from Sweden (Andre), and one from Austria (Johannes).  There was a bit of concern that Mike, one of the Brits, might not be able to do the class as two days earlier he got stitches in his hand.  It seems that he was “a bit pissed and fell in the bathroom and put his hand through a mirror.”  It was OK though because he said he doesn’t really remember it.  Must’ve been a fun night!  

Once we got everyone sized up for gear we lugged our gear up to the pool and Mark showed everyone how to set up their BCD and regulator, get into their wetsuits, put on their weightbelts (right-hand release), and finally masks.  Since the first half of the confined session would be in the shallow end of the pool fins weren’t necessary.  Before entering the pool Mike put on a surgical glove and wrapped duct tape around the loose end in the hope of keeping his hand dry.  Mark and I didn’t really think this would work but Mike really wanted to get certified with his buddies.  Mark also nicknamed Mike ‘Michael Jackson’ for the rest of the course, since like Michael Jackson, Mike was wearing only one glove.

Dive #1: Confined dive #1

Depth: 2 meters

Bottom Time: 35  minutes

Visibility: 20 meters (it’s a pool!)

 

The first dive serves a few purposes.  It gets the divers acquainted with breathing from the regulator and they also begin to learn skills such as dealing with a partially flooded mask, a fully flooded mask, breathing without their mask on at all, and signaling to their buddy when they are low on air and how to use their buddies’ alternate air source.  When we were all done we took a 15 minute break to warm up (the pool is about 28 centigrade which feels cold after a while).

 

Dive #2: Confined dive #2

Depth: 5 meters

Bottom Time: 40  minutes

Visibility: 20 meters (it’s a pool!)

 

Everyone did well with the first dive so after the break we got back into the pool and the class learned how to put on their gear while in the water.  With our fins on this time we headed into the deep end of the pool and Mark demonstrated some additional skills to the class.  Another partially flooded mask exercise, ascents, tired diver at the surface, etc.  When we were all done the class brought their gear back down to the equipment office and took a break for lunch.

 

After lunch came some fun videos and we were all done for the day at 3pm or so.  I headed to the office to work on our next set of Knowledge Reviews for our DMT course.  I got through the entire assignment just as Heidi’s boat was getting in from her afternoon dive.  I know this will drive her crazy because now while she is working on the assignment I’ll be reading a book or something!  

Later, Jon and I went to dinner at AC’s where they were showing the Manchester United game on the big screen.  We also went to the internet cafe to upload, but the disks weren’t working well for us so we just read and sent emails instead.

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Dive Master in Training – Day #1

One of the requirements for Dive Master certification is to log at least 60 dives by the end of certification.  In order to do this, DMT (Dive Masters in Training) must assist in the “Fun Dives” and some of the “Instructed Dives”.  So yesterday, Jon and I signed up to assist in this morning’s Fun Dive.  We went to the equipment hut at 7:30 to get our gear and help set up for the fun divers.  We’ve elected to take a day off from our 400-meter swim training today.

We helped to load the bags onto the speed boat, and took the boat out to the scuba boat moored offshore.  There, we unloaded and waited for Theresa – the Dive Master – to give the dive briefing.  She separated the group into two groups: one with her, which I was to follow; and one with Andreas, which Jon was to follow; and one with Pascal.  Each group had 4 divers.

Dive #1: Fun Dive at Southwest Pinnacle

Depth: 22 meters

Bottom Time: 41 minutes

Visibility: 6 meters

 

Visibility wasn’t too hot for the first dive, but it was still fun to be there.  Theresa led the two buddy teams from the front.  My role was to bring up the rear of the dive group and make sure that no one wandered off or had problems with their dive.  There was one girl – Raphael – who had trouble with her buoyancy, but all in all it was a pretty normal dive.  

After the dive, we climbed back onto the boat for our 1hour surface interval.  Our second dive site was supposed to be a place called “Shark Island”, but we’d received radio warning that the current was too strong.  So we went to Nang Yuan Cave instead.

Dive #2: Fun Dive at Hin Daeng Cave

Depth: 18 meters

Bottom Time: 54 minutes

Visibility: 15 meters

This dive was much more fun.  The reef was pretty big, and we saw a very colorful grouper.  We also saw a MONSTROUS blue spotted ray hiding beneath a ledge.  I wished it had swam away because I would love to see it move.  We passed Jon’s group a few times on the dive, and he was doing the same thing as I was – just hangin’ out in back.  At one point on the dive, we swam through a “pass-through” which is basically a large cave-like structure created by the reef.  There was plenty of room to navigate through it, and halfway through the passageway I could look up through a large hole and see the sun shining through.  It was lovely.

Then we were back on the boat for the quick trip back to the mooring.  We (DMT and Dive Masters) loaded up the speed boat and headed back to the shore.  There, we cleaned off all the equipment and stored it for the afternoon dive.

Afternoon Lessons

Jon and I went to lunch at AC’s and then went back to the room to finish up our 3 Knowledge Reviews for Chapters 1-3.  At 3:00, we met Kate to review them and then we took the 3 exams.  We took the exams in the Dive Master offices, and so we were bombarded by Dive Masters and DMTs who wanted to introduce themselves.  Most people complete their DMT in a month or two, but we’re doing ours in 2.5 weeks.  So there were quite a few raised eyebrows.  In fact, most of the people we met said, “Oh you guys are the ones who are doing DMT in 2 weeks, right?”  Clearly, we’ve already been a topic of conversation.

Typical New Yorkers.  Hurryhurryhurry!!!

So after exams/diving all day yesterday and diving/exams all day today we were EXHAUSTED.  We went back to the room to chill out before dinner, and caught the last half of “The Truman Show” on Cinemax.  We watched it for a while and then went to AC’s for dinner and to see “MI2” on the big screen.  As I said a few days ago, there’s just nothing like a cold beer after a day of diving.

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Rescue Diver Course – Day #3

We woke up and had breakfast, and then met our fellow rescue divers at 9:30 for our FINAL EXAM.  Didn’t study at all.  I figure if I can’t remember to give 15 CPR compressions and two breaths every 1/4 minute then I shouldn’t be certified.

Funny though, the final exam turned out to be an informal group effort.  Ela, Mirielle and Alberto had questions about parts of the exam because English isn’t their first language.  After a while, Jon, Paul and I would answer like this: “Hazard means danger.  The answer is C.  What did you get for #26?”  In the end, we each completed our own exam, but for those questions we weren’t sure about we would discuss amongst the group.  45 minutes later, Flav came back and we graded our own exams. Of course, we all passed with flying colors.

After that, we discussed the drill for the afternoon.  We were going to split into two teams and do an entire emergency scenario – missing diver, unconscious on the bottom, navigation search and rescue, and rescue breathing with a tow to the boat.  As each team had 3 members, one person would be the “manager” from the boat.

So we broke for lunch.  Jon and I went to some restaurant down the lane to try their Pad Thai.  It didn’t taste like Pad Thai, but it was still pretty good.

Then we went back to the room to chill out for a while, and headed down to the shore at 12:30.  Jon and I decided to do the 400 meter swim out to the boat today, so we gave our backpack to Thomas and told him we’d see him on the boat.  The current was pretty strong, and we had to kick harder because the surf wanted us to go North instead of West.  But we made the swim in better time than yesterday – we each trimmed a minute off our scores!

Dive #1: Full Rescue Scenario

We went to Twin Peaks dive site for our dive scenario, and Flav briefed us on our skills including the steps the “manager” on the boat had to take.  Paul, Jon and I RPS’ed (Rock-Paper-Scissored) to determine who had to stay on the boat.  I lost, so I was the “manager”.  Then Thomas and Otie (another Dive Master) went into the water to hide somewhere on the reef.  Five minutes later, Flav came up saying “Pizza!  Pizza!  I lost my dive buddy!”  So we (I) had to determine when, where, how long, and how deep the whole situation happened, and then I sent out Jon and Paul for search and rescue.  While they swam to the victim site and submerged, I had to assign rescue tasks to “people” (really, air tanks) on the boat such as: radio for help, prepare oxygen, snorkler searchers, binocular lookouts, and note-takers.

After that, my job was to wait for the rescuers to get back with the victim.  It took a while.  We were under instructions to search for 1/2 hour and then give up (in tropical waters, the victim would be dead by then and the rescuers low on air), and they had been gone for about 15 minutes.  Soon after, I saw their bubbles come up and they emerged about 30 meters from the boat.  They had found him!  So they began the long tow to the boat and do rescue breathing.

As they got closer, I got a better look at them.  Thomas, our assigned “victim” is bald.  The victim they were towing had long black hair – and was Otie!  This means that they had picked up the victim from the other team!  I said, “Guys!  You have the wrong victim!”  To which they replied, “Yeah.  But he was a victim so we brought him in!”  Of course, this means that the other team was conducting a fruitless search for Otie somewhere on the bottom.  But Jon and Paul completed the rescue anyway, and were exhausted by the time they got Otie to the boat.  We pulled Otie to the deck and continued rescue breathing and started CPR, and the drill was finished.  But Flav couldn’t decide if this counted as a successful rescue.  Theoretically, if an unconscious diver is found then he should definitely be saved.  But this was a drill and our team didn’t save our victim.  So we waited until the other team – Alberto and Ella – came up.

After another 10 minutes, they finally emerged – with Thomas!!  It was classic!   They had to have done a HUGE search pattern to get to his spot from where they descended, but they did great.  Ella wasn’t happy about having to do so much swimming, but in the end all was fine and we all passed with flying colors.

Dive #2: Fun Dive at White Rock

Depth: 18 meters

Bottom Time: 39 minutes

Visibility: 15 meters

 

Our next dive was a fun dive, and we were left to go out all on our own.  Jon and I submerged and used compasses to find the reef.  There, we ran into (not literally) Otie who motioned to us to follow him because he knows the reef very well.  So he gave us the grand tour and we had a lovely time.  We saw a very large and colorful trigger fish.  Trigger fish are very territorial and have big ugly teeth.  So we kept our distance but enjoyed looking at it.  When it was time to go back, we were completely turned around but Otie knew where to go.  I wonder when we’ll get to the point that these reefs will become like a second home.  I assume that will be pretty soon in the next week and I can’t wait for it.

When the boat got back to the mooring, Jon and I jumped in and did the 400 meter swim back to shore.  I was pretty tired and so my score didn’t improve from yesterday.  Jon, however, cruised back to the shore in no time and wiped 1.25 minutes off his score.

Pledges Again

On shore, we helped clean up and store the equipment and met Kate who would be our Dive Master instructor.  She gave us a tour of the facilities and the equipment room because we’re expected to help out.  Basically, DMT (Dive Masters in Training) are like pledges in a fraternity.  We’re given all the dirty work and are expected to be around from the beginning of the dive until the last piece of equipment is cleaned and put away.  There is even a DMT hazing ritual at the end of certification that involves a snorkel with a plastic bottle attached to the other end.  Basically, this is the scuba version of a beer bong.  Something to look forward to.

We have 3 chapters of Knowledge Reviews (chapter summaries) to do tonight before we go to bed.  So there will be no Rescue Diver Celebration for us.  We went to dinner at the same place we had lunch, and played with two little puppies there.  Then we went back to the room and did homework until bedtime.  It’s an early morning for us tomorrow!

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Rescue Diver Course – Day #2

We had breakfast at the restaurant – another gorgeous day – and then met the gang at 9:30 for the morning session.  Today was basically a discussion about the proper procedures for an unconscious victim.  So we spent 1.5 hours talking about the theory and the moves that we’d be practicing in the afternoon.

At 11:00, we broke to finish our chapter summaries and to have lunch.  Jon and I went to the room 

At 1:00, we picked up our gear and boarded the long boat to go to the dive boat.

Dive #1: Rescue Diver Session #3

Depth: 0 meters

Bottom Time: 0 minutes

Visibility: 15 meters

Our first “dive” wasn’t a dive at all.  We spent about an hour on the surface in full gear practicing the skills for an unconscious victim on the surface: the approach, the gear removal, the mouth-to-mouth, the tow to the boat.  And we did this over and over again until we got it right.  There’s actually a lot to think about, and some interesting points to consider when dragging an unconscious person across the water.  For example, loosening the BCD to allow the lungs to expand.  Or positioning hands so that one hand can cover the victim’s mouth if a wave comes.  It seems instinctive, but it really isn’t when you’re on the water doing it.

We couldn’t help but think of our good friends Sharon and Ray, who did the same course in Maldives during monsoon season.  What was it they said?  Something about how hard it is to do mouth-to-mouth when you’re sea-sick and the ocean swells are knocking you around.

Oh yeah.  Here’s a funny part of the story.  Because we’re simulating a rescue, part of the procedures is to call to the boat for help after giving two full breaths to the victim.  Of course, we can’t actually yell “HELP! HELP!” to the boat because that would mean we really needed help.  So instead we yell, “PIZZA! PIZZA!” and continue on with the rescue.  Pretty funny!

In between the first dive and second dive, we practiced our rope-throws and observed different ways to get an unconscious victim from the water onto the boat.  We also simulated a from-the-boat rescue.  I was the first victim, so I swam out about 20 meters and yelled, “I WANT PIZZA!  WITH PEPPERONI!”  So Jon jumped in with a life jacket to “save” me, and – as instructed – talked to me to calm me down.  What he said was, “Hello.  We have pizza on the boat.  Just grab onto this life vest and I’ll pull you in and you can have all the pizza you want.”  Hmmmm.  That doesn’t sound as funny as it was at the time.  Maybe we were punchy.

Dive #2: Rescue Diver Session #4

Depth: 0 meters

Bottom Time: 0 minutes

Visibility: 1 5 meters

For our second dive, we practiced more of the unconscious victim procedures that we did on Dive #1.  Practice makes perfect, and after a while it became second nature to us.  The only real notable factor of this dive were the itty-bitty-teeny-weeny jelly fish that kept stinging us.  Nothing really serious, just little annoying pinches.

The boat took us back to its mooring, and everyone got their stuff together to climb into the long boat.

There are a few physical tests that must be passed in order to get Dive Master certification, and Jon and I had discussed these requirements with Flav and Thomas yesterday and today.  One is to swim 400 meters without stopping in a certain amount of time, which is no easy task.  I was actually curious to see how I’d do.  They told us that 400 meters was the distance from the scuba boat’s mooring to the shore, and we decided to swim it.  So we threw our stuff onto the long boat and told them that we’d see them on the beach.  Then we jumped in and headed out.

To do a swim this long, it’s best to conserve energy until the end.  So both Jon and I did most of it with the breast stroke.  I, however, added a bit of back stroke to give my arms a break.  As I was on my back looking at the sky, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful sunset over the water.  It really was lovely, but there wasn’t much time to linger over it because I needed to turn back and continue my swim.

Jon made it in 11:20, and I came in at 12:30.  We did it in farmer-Ted-wetsuits that were less than aerodynamic, so maybe our time will improve without them.  Regardless, we have some training to do if want to shave time off our scores.

Dinner at ACs

We went back to ACs for dinner and sat in the low-table-holes right on the shore.  The beers at this place are so cold and incredibly refreshing.  Now, I love a good Aprés Ski as much as the next person, but I don’t think there’s anything as divine as an Aprés Scuba beer.  There’s something about the tropics, the beach, and an icy cold beer after a long day of diving.  Ahhhhh….

We didn’t hang around for AC’s “Movie of the Night” because we have to finish our homework for tomorrow’s final exam.  Here I thought I would never have to deal with homework again after school.  I guess it never ends!

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Rescue Diver Course – Day #1

We had breakfast at Ban’s Restaurant.  Which, incidentally, is right on the beach and it was a beautiful morning so we were very happy with our eggs and toast!

Morning Session – Theory

At 9:30, we met with Flav to begin the Rescue Diver portion of the course.  We were joined by a few other people: Ella from Israel, Paul from England, and Thomas from Denmark.  Ella is working on her Dive Master certification, Thomas is already a Dive Master, and Paul is considering.  So we jumped into the PADI video about different rescue methods, entries, exits, approaches, and risks.    The video was pretty informative, and Flav followed it up with demonstrations and discussions for what skills we’ll be practicing later in the water.

We have a textbook, “PADI Rescue Diver Manual”, and we also have some Chapter Summaries which we’ll must complete before the final exam.  At 11:00, we broke for lunch and were told to be at the dock at 1:00 to leave for the boat.

Jon and I had lunch at Ban’s Restaurant, and worked on our chapter summaries while we waited for food.  The food at Ban’s isn’t bad, and it’s not terribly expensive so we’re happy with it.

Afternoon Session – Skills

At 1:00, we met the group at the gear hut next to the dock.  There, we got our stuff and waited for the longboat to come take us to the dive boat.  There were a few other classes with us – most of them new divers doing their Open Water course.

We suited up and put our gear together, and the boat reached the dive site after only 10 minutes.  It was a site where three little islands were joined together by one sandbar.  Pretty cool to see.  The middle island had a small resort on it, but Flav says it’s outrageously expensive and the food isn’t so good.

Dive #1: Rescue Diver Session #1

Depth: 14 meters

Bottom Time: 10 minutes

Visibility: 15 meters

Our first skill was an underwater panicked diver, who we had to approach and calm down.  Jon was the victim for me, and then I was for him.  The scenario had the panicked diver – who is now out of air because he panicked and used it all – grab the regulator out of my mouth and I have to deal with that, grab him, and calm him down again.  Jon, of course, was in his element and is a consummate over-actor.

The next skill was to find an unconscious victim and take him to the surface.  I did this for Jon, and then we descended again and he did it for me.  We were only at 14 meters, so the ascent and descent wasn’t anything to worry about.

Then we practiced our water-surface skills.  Mainly: how to approach a panicked diver, what to do if he/she grabs you, what to do if they are swimming to you, and how to get them to calm down.

Dive #2: Rescue Diver Session #2

Depth: 14 meters

Bottom Time: 20 minutes

Visibility: 5 meters

 

The second session was a navigation dive.  We each had a compass and did an “expanding square” search pattern which is basically 5 kick cycles North, 10 kick cycles East, 15 kick cycles South, 20 kick cycles West, 25 kick cycles North… you get the picture.  Then we were on our own to see the Coral Gardens.  Flav had told us where they were, so Jon and I set off underwater to find them.  

 

Suddenly, we found ourselves in very low visibility, high current water and were positive that we’d overshot our mark.  So we decided to turn back, but weren’t sure which way to go.  We both kept pointing to our compasses and pointing in different directions.  If you can, close your eyes and picture this: Jon and me on the bottom of the ocean having a typical husband-and-wife argument about directions.  It was classic… “No honey, we came from THIS direction!”… “But I know the boat is THIS way!”…  “Fine.  We’ll go your way.”…. “No.  We’ll go YOUR way!”…. “Fine.”… “Fine.”

 

A few meters later, the same argument occurred again.  We weren’t getting anywhere.  And to make matters worse, our depth gauges were reading different depths, so we had no idea how deep we were.  This latter part is especially dangerous because we already had nitrogen in our blood from the previous dive and didn’t want to go too deep this dive.  So we decided to go up.

 

On the surface, we could see that the current had carried us WAY FAR away from the boat.  Because we were one of the first buddy teams to come up, this was no problem and there was no rush to get back.  But we quickly realized that our light kicks weren’t doing much against the current and we had to power kick to make any headway at all.  After 10 minutes of power kicking, we were exhausted and a bit snippy.  It turns out that, during the ocean-based directions argument, we were having two different arguments.  Jon wanted to go North so we could fight the current underwater because the current was stronger on the surface.  I wanted to go North-west toward the boat.  If we had followed his way, we wouldn’t have had to power kick for 10 minutes back to the boat.

 

There.  See?  I just announced that JON WAS RIGHT to everyone on the planet.

 

But it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who had to power-kick.  Alberto, Mirielle, and Thomas kicked for a good 20 minutes before they got back to the boat!

After the boat moored and we took the long boat back to shore, Jon and I signed up for our Dive Master Certification.  We’d grilled Flav and Thomas about the requirements and the necessary amount of time, and we decided just to bite the bullet and do it.  It’s much cheaper here in Koh Tao than anywhere else in the world, and we want to get to Australia with the certification already established.  It ain’t cheap, but this should facilitate our job-search in Cairns in a month.

AC’s for Dinner

We were absolutely starving, so we went to a place called AC’s for dinner.  AC’s is a restaurant/bar down the dirt road a bit that shows a different movie every night on their big-screen TV.  Tonight, it was “What Women Want”.  We sat at a low table on cushions, and put our feet down the deck-hole beneath the table.  So our feet were dangling over the sand, but we were on the deck with our dinner.  The ocean was so quiet and peaceful, and the music from the bar was very laid-back and relaxing.  We each had a beer that was so cold and completely hit the spot.

At 8:00, the movie started so we hung out and watched it.  After about an hour and a half (which is when the funny part of the movie ends and the rest is just cheese), we decided to hit the Internet Cafe for a quick check of emails.  Then we went off to bed.

Thailand: Koh Tao

Posted Posted in Asia, Round The World Trip, Thailand

Medic/First Aid Course

Today was the first day of our 4-day Medic/First Aid and Rescue Diver course.  We had breakfast in Ban’s restaurant, and waited to be called to class.  A little after 10:00, our instructor Flavios (“Flav”) walked in and said “Anyone for the Rescue Diver course?”.  So we got up and followed him into a side building.

This l-shaped hut-area was much like the restaurant.  Wooden floors, low tables with cushions for seats, and no walls.  Another class was going in one of the ends of the L, and Flav lead us to the other end.  Taking the class with us are two Italians from Switzerland – Alberto and Mirielle.

We are diving, by with way, with Ban’s Dive School (http://www.bansdiving.com).

Annie!  Annie!  Are you OK?

Day #1 is Medic/First Aid, which is basically the same class Jon and I had to take every year to maintain our lifeguard certifications during college.  Flav launched into the CPR methods, safety precautions, and first-aid lingo, and it brought back a lot of memories for me.  We even had “Annie” the plastic half-body with expandable lungs and to whom we must say “Annie!  Annie!  Are you OK?  I’m medically trained – I can help!”.

Decompression Sickness

Flav also added a scuba twist to everything we learned.  Although all of today’s class was taught as if we were on land, the next 3 days of “Rescue Diver” will be scuba-related.  So we spent part of the day discussing DCS and DCI – Decompression Sickness and Decompression Illness, and what First Aid should be given when either of the two is suspected.  Basically, oxygen and fluids is the best treatment for either, until the diver can be taken to the nearest decompression chamber.  In our case, the decompression chamber is on Ko Samui.

What I didn’t know is that there are different levels of DCS and DCI.  DCS is basically “the Bends”, which is painful and difficult and can be deadly if not treated.  But in most cases it can be helped.  DCI includes DCS and also the more complicated lung over-expansion problems which often require hospital stays and sometimes surgery.

So as part of our discussion of the two, Flav mentioned that Decompression Sickness (The Bends) can sometimes be delayed for a number of hours, and can often be very mild.  For some reason, this made me perk up.  I asked about the different symptoms – from heavy to light.  The worst cases are those people in extreme joint pain.  Other people feel stiffness.  And the lesser symptoms are what Flav said Dive Masters call “the Fuzzies”.  In this latter case, the person feels slightly off-center, dizzy, and exhausted.  

At this point, Jon and I exchanged a very sly look with each other, and we each knew exactly what the other person was thinking.

If you happened to read our excerpts from The Red Sea, you may remember that I was under the weather after the Thistlegorm dive.  (See July 24, July 25, July 26, and July 27).  We thought it was heat exhaustion at the time.  But my symptoms were exactly what Flav had described: Fuzziness, dizziness, exhaustion, overwhelming desire to sleep.  And Jon says that I was experiencing numbness in my hands and feet, although I don’t really remember that much.  So we are now positive that I had DCS, which makes a lot of sense since we had been diving like crazy for 3 days.  But – of course – we kept this to ourselves.  This could put a little damper on our desire to work at dive shops in Australia, because it means that my body is a bit more sensitive than the PADI Dive Tables.  But this is something that we’ll have to watch out for in the next week of diving.  God knows that I don’t want a visit to the decompression chamber.  That would be a very boring journal entry!

Afternoon Session

We broke for lunch, and Jon and I went back to the room for peanut-butter and jelly crackers.  I know this seems boring to everyone, but this dive class ain’t cheap and we need to save money.

After lunch, the four of us settled in to watch two First Aid videos.  They were unbelievably boring and very 80s.  The videos were made in the US, and were just as cheesy as can be.  Did women really wear their hair that big in the 80s?  Some of these ‘doos were huge.

To help distract us from the videos, there were two little puppies running around the dive center.  There are dogs all over this island, and many of them seem to hang out at Ban’s Dive School.  But these two little puppies were precious.  What puppies aren’t?  So they at least offered us some sort of amusement in between the video segments on bleeding arteries and diabetic comas!

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading our books and chilling out.  Dinner was on the deck of Ban’s restaurant, where Jon and I watched the tide come in, played Gin Rummy, and sung along with the Counting Crows.  It was a nice night, and the Pad Thai was very yummy.

We called it a night when the mosquitoes started dive-bombing down my shirt.