Diving - The adventure continues!
Dry Suit Speciality - Wrasbury, Feb 2011
After my course in the Red Sea (just weeks later, Sharm was in the news as Sharks attacked and killed tourists in the very location I'd learnt to dive!) I was keen to get diving again, but it was clear that I was going to have to do some (at least) of my diving in the UK if I wanted to get a decent number of dives under my belt and not just be a couple of days a year on holiday type of diver.
So, I decided that I needed to learn to dive in a Dry suit and plumped for the Wrasbury Dive Centre in Surrey for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's very close to where I work. Secondly they were very helpful in response to emails and very friendly when I popped in to book the course. Thirdly, they recently received a PADI Dive Centre of the month award.
With a stroke of luck, I needed to take another day's holiday and won $250 in an award at work, so the course was paid for.
It was rather fortuitously sunny February morning when I arrived at the centre (based on a small lake - presumably an old gravel pit) and with a warm cup of tea (the classroom was freezing!) sat down to watch the c. 1 hour long Dry Suit Diving video which covered dry suit design and operation, selection and maintenance and issues specific to dry suit diving and how to avoid or deal with them.
I learnt quite a bit about dry suits watching the video, but I really came to dive.
Water temp was a chilly 5C the day I dived, so I was going to get the benefit of a dry suit.
I wore a Tri-Laminate dry suit and an undersuit. Having only done 6 proper dives last November I needed a bit of a reminder on how to assemble all the equipment, but Mark (the instructor) was patient and helpful and we were ready to dive.
Unfortunately, as I reached waist depth I felt cold all down my legs. I was pretty certain it was water, although Mark (and Dan, who came along as my buddy) suggested it might just be cold. They checked the front entry zip was fully closed and suggested I try again. Sadly, the same was true, so it was out of the water to check. It turned out the zip had separated from the zip near the bottom of the zip, so I was wet from the waist down.
I went off to dry off and change into some dry socks (the base layer had dried out almost instantly - Note to all, wickable base layer IS worth its weight in gold! :) ) and the guys found me another dry suit.
This was actually the 3rd I tried on and was the most comfortable (The first had a new neck seal which had felt VERY tight).
So, kitted out we set off again and this time I got underwater and was still dry.
I did struggle a bit to get balanced and down on the lake bed at first, but once I did (with some help, thanks Mark and Dan) I was able to get a respectable fin pivot going and a passable hover. Once that was done we swam off into the lake.
I found my first freshwater diving experience very enjoyable and the dry suit did an admirable job of keeping me warm.
I didn't struggle too badly with bouancy in the dry suit and when I did have too much or too little, I was able to compensate by venting or adding air without plummeting or bobbing to the surface like the baddie in the cave in Live and Let Die!
I had a problem with my mask flooding on this dive, which didn't return on the second, so I suspect it was due to it and my hood interfering with each other.
We had a 20 minute dive (by which time my hands were getting very cold, although my body and legs remained very comfortable) and surfaced, dried out, refilled the tanks and had a cup of tea and a chat about various dry suits.
We returned for a second dive, which started with another fin pivot and then cruised around the lake varying depth and taking in some of the sights in there.
I had a slight problem with air in my feet at one point, but was able to deal with it as the training suggested, so we didn't need to practice it as such.
Overall, I felt pretty confident in diving in the dry suit after the second dive, given that I'm still a little cautious generally, still being very much a newbie diver.
We rounded out with the obligitary knowledge review quiz and the 'Usual Suspect's style mugshot for, I presume, my Dry Suit diver PADI card.
Mark and everyone at Wrasbury were very pleasant company and the lake was much more enjoyable to dive in than I imagined it could be.
Visibility was a little variable, probably between 4 (at very worst) and 10-12M, but it was nowhere near as bad as some reports had led to me to fear and, up close, I felt it was actually clearer than the Red Sea sites I'd dived in (Possibly a difference in salt and fresh water?). Mark and Dan said that recent rain had led to runoff, so it was actually worse than usual for this time of year.
With my Dry Suit Speciality under my (weight) belt, my next aim is to complete an Advanced Open Water course, probably in the UK in the spring, but maybe on holiday in the summer, depending on where we end up.
No pictures - I did take my camera, but it was too cold and too murky for taking photos!
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