Tuesday, January 28

Hilo, day 3

Up early to get downtown for the first day of our scuba class.  Advanced Open Water isn’t ‘advanced,’ as much as a step towards advancing skills a bit.  Just Pattie and me are working with Bill at Nautilus Dive Center here in Hilo.  Bill’s done this for a while—certified in ’71, teaching since ’84.  “Deliberate” is a good description for his pace; and he wasn’t immediately terrifically sociable.   He’s got a definite way of doing things, and has very helpful hints along the way, for sure. 

We went to Leleiwi, about 15 minutes/5 miles east of downtown, driving in Bill’s truck with him.  Got him talking with a few simple questions about his past; born in Holland during WWII, raised in Chicago, served army time in Vietnam, then pursued scuba trained by military UDT, underwater demolition team, i.e., precursor to SEALS, as they’re the only people doing scuba training back then.  Moved to HI in ’81, teaching since ’84.  He told us about how things have changed just in the past few years, after months of volcanic eruption in 2017.  That eruption destroyed subdivisions under 20’ of lava, cracked roads and properties and, of course, made many scuba shore-entry points unusable.

Shore dives today (and likely the next few days).  Bill was very careful to take us to the area where we’d enter—without all our gear on—which he clearly knows like the back of his hand, and shows us exactly where and how to step in, watch for lulls in the tide, etc.

The first dive’s entry, Pattie and I were a little unsure about things, but made it in just fine.  No more than 30’ out from shore, just past rocks, at a depth of probably no more than 10’, the visibility went from oddly murky to crystal clear.  Slowly but surely we made our way down to a depth of about 70’ (this was our ‘deep dive’), enjoying a lot of fish and, delightfully, turtles.  Some sleeping/resting, a few moving around a bit, it’s great seeing these slow-moving, graceful giants moving about at their own pace.  [I should have brought the GoPro for pix, but thought that not appropriate for this sort of class.]

Pattie did very well on this dive, very comfortable with her buoyancy; I struggled a bit.  Nothing dire, just not a good demonstration of buoyancy, for sure.

We made our way back up, again a little tenuous in getting out over the rocks, but just fine.  A review of some of what we saw, but also of buoyancy skills.  He explained the goal of our next dive, to hover 2-3’ above the bottom in a lying down “L” posture, legs crossed, arms folded. 

Getting in at the shore was much easier this time, as we knew what to expect.  Focusing on making smaller and smaller adjustments to our b.c.d., and ultimately just using breaths to adjust, this sounded much easier than it turned out to be.  In the course of this exercise, which probably lasted about 20 minutes, I finally got a glimpse of what neutral buoyancy feels like.  Perhaps the last 5 minutes I was there, able to hover using only my breath to adjust and maintain depth.  Bill was working with Pattie on breaking a habit of sculling her hands, rather than staying still, and that was a challenge for her.

Getting back to shore was much easier this time, too, no surprise.  Again a review of things while we took apart our gear; Pattie feeling a bit discouraged, but hopefully she heard Bill telling her how well she did while swimming, just needing a few adjustments.

Bill makes the breakdown of gear, sorting, rinsing, etc., all a part of the gig, it seems, so back at the shop it was a few minutes before we got on our way.  Off to the Farmer’s Market, just a few steps away, and then to Consciousness Café for a little bite.  The rest of the afternoon and evening was r & r and writing, welcome after a bit of a strenuous morning.

Tomorrow, I believe, will focus on navigation/compass skills, and more….