Class – Day 5 The Open Water
The day, a Saturday, had finally arrived where we were going to get to dive in the ocean. All three of us were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as we loaded our equipment. We had to be at the dock by 8:00 am. So we left bright and early. As we got on the highway, there was a lot of traffic. We looked at each other and wondered why there was so much traffic. There we were, going less than 5 miles per hour. We had 10 miles to go. At the rate we were going we would miss the boat. Poseidon must have wanted us to dive that day, for no sooner had we started to believe that we would not make it to the boat on time, the traffic began to clear, and we made it to the dock with time to spare.
We weren’t the only ones excited at the prospect of the impending ocean dive. There were other students waiting at the dock. The dive shop wasn’t open yet, so we had a chance to talk with the other students. It was a diverse group with one couple departing in a week to spend a year sailing the seven seas.
The dive shop opened, and we were issued our tanks. The instructor asked us to go ahead and put our gear together. Chris and Tara got their brand new Zeagle BCD’s and quickly had their gear together. I on the other hand, for some reason, decided to pull the weight release. That was not a smart thing to do right before you are supposed to get on the boat. I had to rethread the weight release line. I managed to get it done, but it occurred to me that we had issues twice already, the traffic and the weight release, my heart had sunk. Not a very good feeling when you are about to get on a boat.
TIP: Take the time to go over all the features of your BCD (all your gear), and if your BCD is weight-integrated don’t pull the release right before departure time.
Aside from the captain of the dive boat, there were three divemasters, our instructor and the dive shop owner, who was also an instructor, onboard the boat. After getting our gear on the boat, we departed. Because the dive boat was Coast Guard certified, one of the divemasters gave us a mandatory overview of the boat and what to do if the boat should sink. Once the divemaster completed telling us about the boat, we settled in and it began to dawn on us that we left the dock as students and would be returning to the dock certified scuba divers.
The weather was perfect as we made our way up the Intracoastal Waterway. Chris and Tara were so excited. They made their way to the bow of the boat and as they stood there, my pride in them couldn’t be matched by anything. Silhouetted against the rising sun they were now more than just my children, we were about to begin a new phase of bonding as dive buddies.
Prior to turning out into the ocean, the captain asked those on the bow to return to their seats. The Intracoastal Waterway was smooth as glass, but the open ocean, near the shore, was not quite as smooth. On the way to the first dive location, our instructor explained what we would be doing. We would perform most of the skills we did in the pool on our first dive. Then we would spend some time drifting along the reef. During the second dive we would complete our skills tests and spend more time drifting along the reef.
The waves were less than two feet at the first diving location. One of the divemasters threw out a buoy line. We put on our gear and into the water we went. We swam over to the buoy. Once the instructor and all the students were at the buoy, we descended to the bottom.
At the bottom, we formed a semi-circle and one by one, we went through the skills tests. Chris and Tara once again completed each skill like they had been diving for years. Once all the students completed their skills tests we began drifting along the reef.
The reef was so beautiful. I could tell that my children were having a wonderful time. They were pointing out all sorts of wonderful corals and fish. We saw all sorts of marine life including a nurse shark and some spiny lobsters. I really wanted to bring a camera, but our instructor didn’t let us. She didn’t want us to be preoccupied with a camera. I understood, but I wish we had been able to take pictures.
Once we were all back on the boat we changed tanks en route to the second dive site. Our instructor asked us what kinds of fish and coral we saw. As we described what we saw, she would find the fish or coral in a marine life book.
After we arrived at the second dive site, and were all at the buoy we had to do the BCD removal skill. Our instructor told us that we would only do the BCD removal skill at the surface and not at the bottom. Chris, Tara and all of us were relieved. Tara slipped her BCD off and back on as if it were nothing, just like she did in the pool. Chris had no problems, and much to my surprise, I didn’t have any problems either.
With the BCD removal skill out of the way we descended to the bottom and completed the rest of the skills tests. With plenty of air and time left, our instructor, as we drifted along the reef, began pointing out specific fish and coral that she had shown us pictures of previously. The marine life was so interesting and there was so much of it. I was pleased that my children were having such a wonderful time.
One of the purposes of learning to dive was to begin my children’s education in the world of marine biology. As I floated in the water watching Tara and Chris interact with the instructor and other students as they all marveled at the abundant marine life, I knew that I had made the correct decision in allowing my children to learn how to scuba dive.
On the way back to the dock, we reveled in our joy of having completed the open water certification process. After returning the equipment and tanks that the dive shop let us use, we filled out our dive logs. Our instructor filled out the necessary portions of our dive logs and with her signature, we were official PADI open water certified divers. While this process was going on, the dive shop owner asked us to stand in front of a wall while he took our pictures. Chris, Tara and I didn’t understand that the photographs being taken were for our certification cards. Had we known, we would have at least combed our hair.
I hope I’ve given you some insight to the wonderful experiences that await those who learn to dive with their children. Since getting our certifications we have purchased all sorts of dive gear, and a trip to a dive shop is like going to a toy store filled with all sorts of totally cool stuff. Being a computer programmer, I had to buy dive computers for all of us. Now we can store all our dives on a PC.
We enjoy each dive and dive as often as we can. We got our lobster licenses and tried to catch some, but we didn’t do all that well. The lobster season is over here in Southern Florida, but next season those bugs better watch out!