We started out from Bradenton, Florida and headed into the Gulf. It was a beautiful day, very warm with scattered clouds overhead. The boat was full, mostly of new divers. My friends Tom and Veronica were there to share in my first open water dive and it just happened to be Veronica's 100th dive! What an accomplishment! Our 45 minute ride out to the first dive location was smooth. We geared up, they dropped the anchor, we got a site survey and down we went. Visibility was about 35 feet and we were on top of a reef. My dive buddy was having a hard time clearing her ears, so it took her several minutes to descend on the anchor line. The instructor (Allison) came back to get me and I followed her down to the reef. At about 48 feet below the surface, I ran into my good friend Veronica and gave her an underwater hug (since she is partly responsible for me getting into scuba diving!) It was so cool! I loved being in "another world" and seeing the sights of the sea. No, I didn't see any big fish or anything really cool, but just being under there and getting used to breathing scuba was enough for me!
Here are Veronica and I as we were heading out to the 2nd dive sight.
Here is my fearless instructor, Alison. She has tons of experience diving (and sailing) and she is an excellent instructor. After sunday's dive, I can attest to the quality of her instruction!
Let me fill you in on dive #2. As you can see from the pictures, the sun was out and shining. When we got to the 2nd dive stop, we could see some thunder clouds rolling in, but they weren't on top of us, so we all proceeded to gear up and go down. We were instructed by the boat captain to listen for the sound of the motor, in case the storm came over and we had to move on. My buddy and I were the last ones in the water and I could tell that she was still feeling very queasy, so we took our time. Again, as instructed, we started our descent down the anchor line. We were about 20 feet below when we felt the anchor line tugging violently. We looked at each like, "Did you do that?" Then, I felt it start to pull more and more, so I back away from it and signaled for my buddy to do the same. Once we let go, it went soaring past us and we heard teh sound of the boat motor! Not a good sign! We had only been underwater for about 5-7 minutes. The underwater surge was also rocking us about. We got together, made eye contact asking, " What just happened? That can't be good!" We gave each other the "up" signal and slowly started to ascend.
Well, we surfaced to 6 foot seas and 50 mph winds (that's what the boat captain registered). And, the boat was FAR away. We (my buddy) immediately gave the diver-in-distress signal and the captain spotted us fairly quickly. However, getting us on the boat took some time. My buddy and I never let go of each other and we grouped up with another dive couple (a man and his young son). He brought the boat over to us, but the winds were knocking the boat around like a freakin' cork, so it took 3 tries before we were dragged up onto the boat. No time to remove fins or anything. I now know that I can hyperventilate into my regulator and still be okay. As soon as I belly-crawled into the boat, the BC came off and a life vest was put on. The situation was that rocky. I don't know how our boat captain held on up there, because it looked like he was riding a bucking bronco due to the 50 mph winds and 6 foot seas. He did sustain an injury to his head though. He was holding down the life raft and a strobe popped up and hit him in the back of his head, left a bump the size of a goose egg. I'm just thankful it didn't knock him out or we never would have made it back on the boat.
Once he finally got us on the boat, we searched for the other divers, who were scattered everywhere. My friends (Tom, Veronica and Tonya) were the last ones to be seen/rescued. Let's just say that my nerves were not good and there was some praying going on until they were safely pulled onto the boat. Luckily, everyone was fairly quickly rescued and pulled into the boat with no injuries or harm. It gave us newly certified divers some great emergency procedure training and made us realize how well we were trained. But, yes, it scared the bejeezus out of us! Amazingly, as soon as we picked up the last divers, the rain stopped, the seas calmed down and the storm passed. Mother Nature sure is a fickle one!
Needless to say, I was SO thankful to get home to Will and James. No, I didn't see my life flash before my eyes or anything, but I'm holding onto James extra tight today and giving him more kisses and hugs than usual. Will still gets the same treatment, poor guy! After hearing about my diving adventure, he's ready to accompany me on all future dives. I'm fine with that, since he is already Rescue certified and a very experienced diver.
For all you scuba divers out there, feel free to share your emergency/scary stories with the rest of us!