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Sink Faze: The Ass-Bottomed Boat

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West Bay, Grand Cayman Island, BWI -  For those of us who arrived on-island yesterday and stayed up late last night getting settled, today’s variation on the training theme was welcome. Rather than rising with the morning sun and hustling to have our growing entourage assembled on the WestBay dock by 8 AM, we were blessed with an afternoon ocean session. 

Mandy Rae had a rest day imposed upon her by Mr. Krack and cooled her heels in the Coconut Bay base camp – hardly a day off, though, as she was well-sunk into Performance Freediving administrative work on her laptop as the crew convoy pulled away.

The winds had picked up overnight, and it remains unseasonably cool. Cold, by Caymanian standards – yesterday topped out at about 80F. Today seems about the same, but it feels colder due to the winds. It’s doing some serious blowing in this corner of the Caribbean. In fact, when I came to this morning on my padded patch of kitchen floor, it was roaring so hard I thought for a moment I was back in Aruba in 1998, and had dreamed all that seemed to have happened since then.

If only. 

Several flukes of geography and geology make Grand Cayman a near-perfect venue for diving. The position, shape and topography of the island provide for deep diving in reasonably calm waters no matter which way the wind blows.

The HD Odyssey wizards, Tad Masek and Connor Kirsch, had  planned a deployment and test of their 3-camera underwater live High Definition video system for this day, alongside and in conjunction with Doc’s and Martin’s training dives.

The Odyssey rig now includes what everyone agrees is a rather comical element: Connor, as surface controller, has solved a complex set of engineering and logistical problems by stationing himself, a Honda generator and his computerized control array in a very, very small plastic dinghy which is  tethered to the freedivers’ surface rig some distance away. Did I say plastic ? It’s clear plastic. Transparent. And very small.

I’m not sure it’s really a boat at all. I think it may be a garden wading pool meant for children. In any case, there Connor sits and shall sit, hour after hour, and work his magic for the rest of the trainup and on event days. The view from below has not gone unnoticed. When the divers look up from depth, they see Connor’s backside suspended, as if supernaturally, in the blue space above them.

Now, back at base in the evening, we’re reviewing HD Odyssey’s  underwater HD video shot today, wirelessly, simulating the live feed we hope to provide for the record attempts. It looks fantastic – when it works. There are still some glitches in the system. Tad explained that the whole thing had to be redesigned on  the fly when their California planning met Caymanian realities. I think it will work.

Doc, whose primary ( though not necessarily only) objective is a 51 meter US National record for Free Immersion, has already made his AIDA-prerequisite dive but continues training intensively to perfect the heads-up free immersion technique taught him by Herbert Nitsch earlier this month. Herbert took a week off and joined the PF team on Cayman for just this purpose.

Doc’s dive today was to 46 meters. How’d it go ? “ It was a difficult dive”, he says. “The water was rough, and those eight-pound ankle weights were feeling pretty heavy by the time I’d pulled back up to 50 feet. I was thinking of signaling for assistance at that point, but decided to go for it.” Doc had a little samba on the surface after taking his first breath. “I closed my eyes. Shouldn’t have ! No big thing.” And indeed, it wasn’t.

Martin, determined above all else to claim the World Record for Constant Ballast, described his prereq 103 meter dive as “no sweat” and today gave us a textbook 102 meter Free Immersion performance. He’ll need to do 106 meters to regain the Constant crown, and is mysterious and noncommittal when asked about his intentions in the Free Immersion discipline. I think I sense a surprise coming in that area.

But the bill comes due. Yes, we got to sleep late today. But no, we will not get to sleep late again tomorrow. It’s the worst of scheduling worlds for the next 24 hours – today’s late finish means a late night, and tomorrow will be an early morning. The weather forecast calls for more of the same – windy and (relatively) chilly for the next several days. The judges and more crew arrive tomorrow, adding some more juice to the already considerable logistical issues.

It’s all good.

Next update tomorrow, including a report on the ongoing pulmonary research with Doc, Martin and Mandy as subjects. We’re learning a lot about what goes on in the lungs of champion freedivers.  Stay tuned.

There’s More!

Read more Daily Updates from Paul in our Sink Faze 2006 Special Feature Series and check out the Photo Gallery. Video and daily team updates at the Sink Faze website.

Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for DeeperBlue.com. He lives in Florida, USA with his family.