Wednesday, April 21, 2021

World Record Diary — Part III

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Friday, June 27th, 2003

With a couple of guests on the boat to watch the morning’s dive, we set out just after 8am.  The sky was gloomy, and the wind was whipping up the sea.  At the mooring the sea was choppy and dark, but the clarity was great and horizontal visibility the best we have had so far.  Gilles decided not to bring his camera, preferring to see how things worked out there and get re-acquainted with freediving again.  He hasn’t been in the water since this time last year when he covered the No Limits record.  Phil brought his second camera while his other one is…..drying out!  With the great visibility, I think he got some great shots today!  John and Carol were at 90m, Ariane was joined by another of John’s former students Tom, who (like Claire yesterday) has offered to dive for us on his day off, and they were at 50m.  Finally Mike was faithfully first in the water to set the deco bottles, supported me at 20m and then last out of the water once the deeper divers were safely through deco stops.

The dive went very well again – 90m in 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  I can’t figure out why my timing is so different!  So far I have done 80m in 2:13, 85m in 2:10 and 90m in 2:30 – it doesn’t make much sense, but it all feels fine.  I am using a Stinger as depth gauge but I don’t have the capability to download and study the dive on my computer, so I don’t know how long the descent is taking versus the ascent.  As far as I know, the Stinger does not have the ability of reviewing the dive on the watch itself, like the Apneist.  (If anyone reading this can tell me a way to see the dive on the watch I would love to know!!!)  Anyway, we have decided the increased dive time today might be because I descended quite a bit slower today which is possibly due to my lung capacity increasing as my rib-cage becomes more flexible with these dives.  I would not normally “pack” extra air into my lungs for these depths, but on the way up the buoyancy of that extra liter or so of air volume certainly helps! 

This might be a case of “too much information” for any men reading this, but I know I will feel some empathy from the women, but I was doubled over with cramps about 30 seconds after surfacing from the dive.  Throughout my 6 years of freediving there have always been times when I have had to dive deep at the wrong time of the month, (I have set 4 records with my period and I think girls should get a few extra meters added on for that!!!), but I have never experienced anything like this!  I guess it must have something to do with suddenly sprinting and being under pressure.  Whatever it is, I know it doesn’t make diving any easier!

At the beginning of their deco, the divers were treated to a great view of schooling skipjack tuna and a big wahoo, but didn’t capture any of it on film unfortunately.  Once I had a brief rest (and a painkiller) on the boat, I got in the water again to do a Constant Weight Without Fins (Breaststroke) dive and did a comfortable 30m.  Then Gilles had a little 30m drop on the sled and has got his apnea groove back!

The team ate lunch together as usual and I am so glad we get to do that each day.  It’s so much nicer than us all immediately going our different directions right off the boat – it gives us some nice time to go over the dive, and to talk about something other than diving!  It’s good bonding time for us all.  The tennis at Wimbledon was too good to miss this afternoon, so I only got a short nap before Gilles, Paul and I planned to head to the beach to shoot some underwater video off the shore.  The guys wanted to use the opportunity to get used to their cameras, and I was happy to play with my monofin again.  But unfortunately there is a “no tanks off the beach” policy here, so we took a roadtrip to pick up some goods from the hardware store and supermarket.  Mike, our 20m diver, was at the store so we headed back to the beautiful home he is house-sitting for a drink together.  A very cute dog comes with the sitting responsibilities, so I was happy to stay for a while!

It seems all we do is eat……….!  After a great dinner in the French Village we went to a local restaurant to meet with new friends from Turks & Caicos.  It was a nice change of scenery and good company for a quick drink before finally getting to bed.

Saturday, June 28th, 2003

I really suffered in the night and didn’t sleep well (any female freedivers out there experience anything like this after a deep dive at a bad time??!!) but we decided to stay in the routine and do some static training this morning.  Gilles wanted to film, so it didn’t really matter what time I managed, as long as I did something!  So I did a little over 5 minutes for the spectators that gathered and then we grabbed a quick breakfast before heading out on one of the Beaches dive boats with guests for a single-tank dive.  Gilles and Paul just wanted to do some practice shooting  of me monofinning around a reef in about 40ft, so while the other divers headed off over the wall, we enjoyed some beautiful coral and marine life.  The weather today was worse than yesterday, with very strong wind and pretty big waves.  It was hard work at the surface, but beautiful under water. 

As soon as we got back to shore I had to take a quick shower before joining the female contingent of the safety team for a photoshoot.  In addition to Carol and Ariane who work at Beaches and are full-time mixed gas divers on the team, there are Claire (who joined us on Wednesday’s dive) and Nina who will dive with us later on.  Like her husband Tom, and Claire, she joins us on her day off.  It seems the British media may show an interest in such a strong female presence on the team – especially as they are all technically trained mixed gas divers.  They rock!!  So, we decided to shoot some pictures on the boat with their gear and our bikinis.  After a quick application of mascara and lippy, we were ready to go.  The light was a challenge and Phil did his best with limited equipment.  Then a slightly better equipped photographer from Tropical Imaging here on Provodenciales was able to light us all a bit better and take some great shots.  We think you will like them when you see them!

After lunch I met up with John (our dive team leader who also happens to be the lead vocalist in a local band….) because he has said he will help me reach a secret goal I have.  I am a closet singer – shower singer actually – and I have a secret desire to overcome my fear of singing in public.  So, what better than to hole up in a quiet room with a man I trust at the end of my dive rope and his guitar?  Well, I took a bit of warming up but we are making some headway.  If I have built up any confidence by our last night here in Turks & Caicos (and I have had a few drinks!) we might just perform for the rest of the team.  But I have a long way to go yet!  Don’t worry, John said I didn’t sound too horrible…!

I was treated to a massage at 4pm, which was very welcome to say the least!  This evening we went to a surprise birthday party for Kevin (our time-keeper) at his home.  I think he was genuinely surprised but I have no clue how it could have been kept a secret from him – this island is so small!  It was a nice evening and good to meet some new people.  Kevin’s father is the head chef at Beaches, so the food was great! 

As we drove back to Beaches we could see the wind was still blowing out of the East pretty strong, which would be bad news for diving tomorrow as it would mean the rope will be too close to the wall to dive.  So we will have to wait and see what tomorrow’s weather holds for us.   Fingers crossed the stormy system around this area of the Caribbean will have moved on in the night……

Sunday, June 29th, 2003

Last night was the surprise birthday party for Kevin’s 18th and he had no idea about it.  It was a nice evening, and really great of his family to include us.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay until 1am like some of the guests, but we had a good time.

The wind didn’t improve much in the night and when I saw the way the trees were bending in the morning it started to make me nervous.  Out at the mooring the conditions were the worst we have had yet, high winds out of the southeast which could have pushed us too close to the wall to dive, and white-capped waves.

Despite a hangover, Kevin joined us as timekeeper and generally was given a pretty hard time about it – we need to train him up a bit so he knows how it all works!  My equalization problems came back again.  Three times I began my first warm-up dive and three times I was forced to return to the surface before my head was a meter down!  With rising nerves and frustration, I lay on the surface on my back waiting for my sinuses to drain.   The process delayed our routine, but eventually my warm-up dives were done and we were ready to go.

Just after the beginning of the 10 minute countdown, Gilles returned to the surface with a camera problem.  His voice broke my concentration and distracted my focus.  One minute before zero he was back in the water with the camera and quickly descended to 30m to wait for my descent.  My breathe-up was very difficult, with the waves frequently going over my head and constantly pushing my chest hard into the sled.  When zero was called I was happy to go just a few seconds later – just so the dive could be done with! 

The sled camera was mounted low and infront of me.  The current bowed the rope.  My descent was painfully slow due to this added friction on the rope, and as I approached 80m the jolting from the waves at the surface began to concern me.  I thought about bailing, but decided to see how much worse it might get.  Soon the taps from the deepest divers came so I decided to stay until I reached 93m.  (According to the video camera the descent took a minute and fifteen seconds – way too slow.)  I did several pulls on the rope and on each one I must have been pulling on a drop in the rope from the waves above, because I seemed to go nowhere!  When I began to kick I could feel the current pulling me away from the rope.   But I always keep one hand on the rope so I know where it is for when I want to pull again.  I could tell I wasn’t swimming up in a straight line, but following the bow in the rope.  Soon after the taps at 50m I saw Phil’s flash capturing a bunch of photos, and then I switched to pulling up the rope.  Paul had experienced equalization problems leaving the surface so I didn’t see him until about 10m when I was just floating upwards.   Surfacing was fine, but I was glad for the dive to be over!!  My time was 2:39, which is really too slow, so we are going to add some weight to the sled for Tuesday’s dive.  And if the conditions ever get worse than that during training, we wont dive!!!

Paul and Nigel were a bit hasty pulling up the rope.  Down below John and Andre had only attached one liftbag to the ballast and were busy with the second, but the rise and fall of the boat confused Paul and Nigel at the surface into thinking that the gear was on it’s way up.  As they pulled in the rope, John and Andre, unaware as they focused on the liftbag, gently ascended.  As their computers began to alert them of their first deco stop, they were made aware of what was going on.  As the guys pulled the sled and ballast away from them in the blue, they gathered themselves together for the rest of their deco.  Issues like this will unnerve any trimix diver, so their frustration upon surfacing was understandable. 

With the sea conditions the way they were, I decided not to bother doing a Constant Weight Without Fins dive to try for a few more meters than the 30m I last achieved.  Instead, we put the ballast at 40m and got set up for some photos and “B roll” footage.  But first, Kevin was ready to try his first Free Immersion dive.  Complete with hangover he did a slow comfortable 75ft dive that he should be pleased with.  We were again visited by a big wahoo, which was awesome.  They are truly magnificent in the water and this guy was pretty curious and gutsy!  I guess he knew we didn’t have a speargun……!!

Back on shore we all ate together again and then went our separate ways for the afternoon.  While I slept of the 93m and a big lunch, the boys visited some local dive shops to encourage people to come out and watch the training dives and then toured some of the island.  In the evening we visited the home of a lady we have become friends with on the island, Patricia, who has a nice home at the top of a hill with a lovely breeze and stunning view.  For dinner we were invited to eat at Anacaona Restaurant at the Grace Bay Club.  We haven’t eaten everywhere on the island, but surely this must be the best restaurant on Provodenciales!  The Club is an exclusive 18 room resort on the beautiful Grace Bay beach, and the restaurant sits on the beachfront around a private pool and hammocks nestled amongst coconut trees.  It was a lovely evening and we all went to bed on very full stomachs!

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