Diving is limited in the winter where I am living now in Western New York State. The dive season here is late May to October. I am sure there are some local divers that are still diving, however, the dive shops all have their boats on land. You can easily find dry suit training, but no organized dives. One of the factors keeping divers out of the water is the weather and lake conditions. Last week, for example, I received a Snow squall warning on my cell phone from the National Weather Service (NWS). The NWS defines a snow squall as “basically a short but ferocious burst of heavy snow and strong wind, usually lasting less than an hour or so.” Looking out my window I saw mostly clear skies and good visibility. Ten minutes later the winds were very strong, it was snowing heavily, and I was unable to see the mailbox at the end of my driveway. When it ended a few minutes later, I had a half-inch of snow on my car. Clearly not the time to be out in a boat on the lake.
Dive training still goes on, with the confined water sessions done in a pool. Two dive centers have their own pool, while a third uses a community pool. Student divers wait until warmer weather to do the open water dives or get a referral to a vacation spot. The local dive centers sponsor winter trips to nice warm Caribbean locations. Many of the students will finish their certifications on one of these trips. It is common that the week before the trip, there is a checkout dive at a local pool for all the participants. Divers can brush up on their basic skills as well as ensuring that their dive equipment is fully tested. One local dive center includes a checkout dive in their pool when you buy new equipment from them. That is a great way to make sure everything is right before you head to open water and away from where you purchased your equipment.
Are You An Open Water Snob?
I will admit that there are some very special indoor dives. However, for the most part, I never really considered diving in a pool as being a dive. Most pools are not that deep and are not that large. I was browsing at a local dive center a couple of months ago and could see some students in the pool. I will admit, I felt a little jealous. They were getting their “nitrogen fix”, and I was not. My last dive had been two months before. It had been in a quarry, needed a full 5 mm wet suit above the thermocline, and visibility had only been about 10 feet (ca. 3 meters). I had the privilege to be a buddy to a new diver, and we stayed in the shallow portion that was about 20 feet (ca. 6 meters) deep. We averaged 12 feet (3.66 meters) for the dive. There was not much to see on that dive, a few fish, and underwater vegetation.
The students in the pool did not need wet suits. They could see the entire length of the pool and could go as deep as the average of my quarry dive. By that comparison, the pool was as much of a dive as the quarry. Another thing that popped into my mind, the pool was large enough to get some practice time with my Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV). My local dives were either in low visibility or on wrecks, and airplane weight limits had me leave it at home on my dive vacations.
So after lining up a dive buddy, I booked some pool time. The price seemed high when I made the reservation, $40 for an hour pool time per diver. On further reflection, it was really a good price as it included a full tank and weights. Also, they really did not watch the clock and let you use the full cylinder. The pool is an equivalent of a shore dive and that is not too bad of a price.
My Pool Dive
I will not bore you with a detail list of what I did on that first pool dive. I did do the basic skill task such as clearing a flooded mask and recovering a regulator. There were also tasks that I do not often do. I put my gear on at the surface, which is not a task I often do. I also removed my BCD while underwater, reposition the cylinder and then don the equipment again. Did a lap of the pool underwater without my mask. I shared my DPV with my dive buddy and got some great practice. While the dive was not the same as an open water dive, it did provide me time to practice my skills.
In the second pool session, we did some games. We set up a course using hula hoops. There were five hoops with different lengths of fishing line attached with a weight. This gave us different depths. We had a 4 pound (1.81 kilogram) weight between two of the hoops. There was also had a 10 pound (4.54 kg) dumbbell and a small lift bag. The goal was to swim through the hoops without touching them. When you reached the 4 pounds (1.81 kg) weight, you had to pick it up and carry it through the next hoop and put it down. After the last hoop was the dumbbell and weight. You had to lift the dumbbell off the bottom, then add air to the lift bag until it had neutral buoyancy, while not allowing the lift bag to reach the surface. This required you to also adjust your BCD as the air was added to the lift bag. Once completed, you did the hoops in the reverse direction. I found a children’s shape toy in a thrift shop. I sure you know what I mean, each shape fits into a hole on a cube. Going to add that to the next pool session.
My dive computer has a built-in buoyancy control game. The game is simple when you start it the computer will give you a depth and a time. You go to that depth and have to maintain it for the time specified. You are allowed a variance. When you are able to stay within the variance for the time specified, you are given a new depth and time. As the game progresses, the variance will be smaller.
These pool sessions are not the same as an open water dive, and they will never replace them. However, as a means to keep your basic skills in tune, they do help. Also, if you are not able to dive year-round these dives will reduce your time between dives.
There is one negative about pool diving. That is the effect the pool chemicals have on your dive equipment. It can make your BCD and wet suit fade and maybe even shorten life. In my case, I am using old BCD.
I have a short dive vacation coming up soon and another pool session before then. I will be well ready for my diving.