Wednesday, July 9th, 2003
As we left the dock it seemed the weather might at last be getting better. Out on the mooring the boat seemed to be rocking about the same as it has done on the last few diving days. But when I got in the water and saw how the rope stretched and bowed in the water my nerves rose up. More than once I approached John and Paul for reassurance that the divers would be OK in the conditions, and they put me at ease. I got on the sled to see if the waves would inhibit my preparation too much. It was very borderline, and more than once my head went completely beneath the waves – luckily when I was exhaling, so I would have to time my breathing carefully. Just as I managed to focus on relaxing for the beginning of my warm-up, Gilles came to tell me that the dive was canceled. It seemed that the boat was pitching more than normal and had begun to cause a major problem with the arm that the sled is suspended from. Cracks were beginning to appear in the fibre-glass and the weight at the end of the rope needed to be removed from the water urgently to prevent more damage, or even the arm being ripped off completely.
As the sled was being lifted back onto the boat a huge wahoo appeared, but it did little to lift our spirits today. Everyone involved is feeling the stress and frustration that the weather is causing at this stage in training. With today’s dive cancelled and repairs needed to the boat, we are really in danger of falling way behind. There are now only 4 training dives left and my personal goal is 10m away from the 97m I have achieved so far.
Thankfully John graciously invited the team for a complete change of scenery by way of a barbeque at a beautiful house he is looking after on the other side of the island. Unfortunately, with arrangements needed to be made for the boat and the difficulty in getting hold of the right people, we (Paul, Gilles and I) couldn’t go, but apparently it was successful in relieving them all of their tensions – they drank them away, I think! One way or another a lot of the day was spent making calls and waiting for people to call back, and the final result is that the boat will be out of the water until tomorrow afternoon so we shouldn’t miss another dive. Unless the weather is still bad, of course.
To blow off some of my stress I went swimming with Gilles and then the three of us played tennis for an hour. I was successful at something today – I beat the boys at tennis! But, to be honest, we are all really disappointed that we have been forced to fall behind so much, and we are deeply concerned that this wind may stay for another few days. There is talk of moving the Variable Weight record attempt to one of the contingency days, to allow for one more training dive, so we will see.
Thursday, July 10th, 2003
As usual on non-diving days, we began this morning with static apnea training. Tom (who has joined the safety scuba diving team a couple of times on his days off) joined me to see what he could manage. Years ago in Australia he had managed about 4 minutes, but this morning he wasn’t so comfortable in the pool and wasn’t able to challenge his personal best time. After an unusually good few warm-up dives I felt ready to challenge my own personal best of 6:16, but for some reason experienced some very different sensations that sapped my energy and distracted me. Oh, and just a short way into the dive, the huge waterfalls that run into the pool came on and made me jump! I was disappointed with myself at not being able to calm my mind — I truly find static apnea very difficult!! But I believe it is simply training your mind that makes you strong in this category of freediving, so I hope to get a few more training sessions in and hit 5:30 or 5:45 come what may.
It seems the boat will be all fixed up by this afternoon, so we are waiting anxiously for her arrival back on the dock. Nigel, our Captain, and Reggie, his boss the head of Scuba, have worked extremely hard to get the boat out of the water, fixed and back in again in time for us to dive tomorrow. As soon as the boat arrives, Paul will get busy putting the sled and all it’s paraphernalia back together again.
In the meantime, tropical storm Claudette has passed Jamaica and is battering my island home the Cayman Islands today. It is forecast to become a hurricane soon. Hopefully, as she travels west we will have less wind and swells here. I just hope that Jamaica and Cayman don’t suffer any major damage. I called my Mum early this morning to tell her that I was on TV (finally Good Morning America aired my segment at around 7:35am EST) and she didn’t mention that the weather was crazy, so hopefully Cayman got no more than strong wind, rain, waves and a day off work! However, I thought about home all day and kept my fingers crossed there was nothing more serious associated with Claudette.
Around 3:30pm I went to visit Patricia who had offered to perform Rayki on me, in an effort to clear up my congestion once and for all. I know I haven’t spelt that correctly — basically, Rayki involves channeling healing energy to the patient. It was nice to have a change of scenery (her home sits on a high point with a fantastic view of the ocean) and the treatment was very relaxing.
Today saw the arrival of Brian from Ft. Lauderdale, our deep underwater videographer who will film on mixed gas up to around 100m, and another trimix safety diver, Dave from Maryland. It’s great to see the rest of the team arriving — I am excited to have them here. More will arrive in a few days, and then the boat will really be crowded! We all ate dinner together before I got on stage again for my usual presentation to the guests.
And then it was time for bed to rest up for 100m tomorrow. As long as the sea will let me, I will finally nail this dive!
Friday, July 11th, 2003
With a very full boat-load of people, we left the dock just after 8am as usual. The sea was definitely calmer on the way out, and at the mooring the swells were not as big as they have been, although the wind was still quite strong. Paul set the rope for 101m and divers descended to their positions at the bottom, 70m, 50m and 20m. I wasn’t as calm as I have been during my breathe-up, but for some reason I kept yawning. The sled traveled at a comfortable speed on the way down, reaching the bottom of the rope in a minute and four seconds. At 70m Carol tapped 3 times and I reached for the brake to be ready to slow down, and just a few meters from the bottom Andre tapped alerting me of my arrival. I didn’t hang around and pulled quite a few times before beginning to kick. As soon as I began to feel the familiar burning of lactic acid and carbon dioxide in my legs, Ariane tapped telling me I was at 50m. A few more kick cycles and then I switched to pulling. In no time Paul was there in front of me and we were clearing the surface together. At last, a good dive! The total time was 2 minutes and 50 seconds, quite a bit longer than previous dives, but it all felt fine.
I was too tired to do a good breaststroke-down-and-up dive but did test out doing it without the mask, just using a noseclip and found it much easier than having to interrupt my swimming rhythm for equalization. I will do it like that in the future, but I don’t know when I will be able to train again as I think I will be tired after all my variable weight training dives now they are over 100m.
Kevin rode the sled to 46m and did very well. It surprised us all, including him, that he went so deep, but the marks on the rope have become confusing and it was lowered deeper than planned. But he did very well, getting to 46m in 30 seconds and taking his sweet time to come back up again.
The mood is brighter amongst the team, now that the weather is working with us instead of against us and now that we have had a long-awaited successful dive. We ate lunch together and then I disappeared for a nap. The video team, (Gilles, Brian and Paul) met to discuss shots and equipment, and the divers got together to blend tomorrow’s gasses, as we will dive again. It’s highly unusual to dive 3 days in a row, but we are doing it to try to make up some lost depth, and then we will get back on track diving every other day. Another safety diver arrived this afternoon, Rudi who also dives on a rebreather, so our numbers are growing.
Just after 5pm Paul, Gilles and I went to a local restaurant called Magnolia, which has a happy hour and had advertised locally that I would be there to sign autographs and talk to guests. It is set up high overlooking Turtle Cove Marina and the beautiful northwest point of Grace Bay beach. We sat and talked to people for a while and then sat down for the best meal we have had on the island. With excellent food, beautiful setting and attentive staff, we have certainly found the best restaurant on the island at Magnolia. The sunset just as we sat for dinner and the breeze kept us cool — it was a welcome refreshing change. And a great meal! Hopefully it will give me enough energy for tomorrows dive to 105m…….!