We went to Monterey for a weekend, hoping to finally get our feet wet in salt water. A co-worker of Rebecca's, Andrea, who has dived before, was to meet us in Monterey to show us around, but not until Sunday, so we picked a good beginner spot for Saturday. The Breakwater seemed to be good, lots of classes go there.
Got there Saturday and found a couple of good parking places, fed the meters, and got suited up. Lugged everything down to the water, along with 20 or 30 other divers mostly in classes, and wandered in. It was cold, so we wore hoods and gloves, I think the first time either of us had worn gloves. My wetsuit has a hood built in, so I wear it, but Rebecca had never worn one. Well, I think she did in class, but not since. We're not real fond of them, they're kind of binding. But the water was cold enough that I think it was a good idea.
It took us about an hour to get parked, set up, suited up, and to the water. We were in it for about 20 minutes. I was zooming through my air, probably because... well, who knows, lots of reasons. But we swam out for about 15 minutes, looking at scads of star fish, a few other unknown fish, and lots of kelp. The kelp kinda worried me - I have this thing about large objects in water that I'm working on getting over, plus the visibility wasn't wonderful (< 10 feet?) - but it worked out fine. We saw some stuff, then when my air got low enough to turn around, we did.
5 minutes later we were back on shore. I don't know how we swam out for 15 minutes and back in 5, but we did. We weren't going particularly fast on the way back, I don't think... Anyway, we voted not to do a second dive, we were tired.
Rebecca claims to have no real strength in her hands, but it took both of us about 15 minutes to get her regulator off her tank. It was on there good! She swore up and down she didn't tighten it that much, but it was tight! Finally I got it off, and she swore that tomorrow she'd make SURE she didn't crank on it that much,
Rebecca and Andrea
Sunday Andrea was there (after a harrowing experience where Motel 6 gave away her room), and the three of us went to Macabee beach in Monterey, just to be different. It was a 2 hour hike to the beach from the parking lot with 200 lbs of gear each (maybe that's a slight exageration), and then the fun started.
First off, we get in and try to put our fins on. There was a lot of swell/waves/surf/whatever, so even holding on to each other we fell over a lot. It took longer to get our fins on than the dive the first day. :-) Then Rebecca dropped the liner for her hood, and when I went after it, I dropped my mask and snorkle. Andrea went looking for it, and found it in short order. It didn't go far, but my diving day was almost VERY short. Then I noticed Andrea's tank strap was not tight enough, so Rebecca and I fixed that. It took both of us to do it in the water, one holding the tank up and the other tightening the strap. Then Rebecca asked me to check hers, and sure enough, it was too loose. They both had rental BCs, mine was apparently ok. It should have been, I about broke my fingers getting it sinched down. :-) We got all that taken care of, and were finally ready to dive.
Andrea wouldn't sink! She didn't have enough weight, apparently. Rebecca and I got down a bit, and had to come back up to find her, tried again, and pretty much repeated this sequence 2 or 3 times. Finally she did get down by kicking down a little so the air in her suit was compressed enough that it wasn't holding her up. I have to do that to, usually.
On one of these dives when Rebecca and I were down, she somehow got caught on my regulator hose and pulled it out of my mouth. I grabbed my octo to have something to breathe while I found the regulator, but grabbed it wrong or did something so that I was airless, and since we were only down about 6 feet, I headed up. Exhaling all the way, like you're supposed to, but up anyway. I got up, got reconfigured, and we went down again. But I decided that was NOT the way to handle that situation, cuz if we'd been down further, I wouldn't have had the option to go up that quickly. So I made sure I knew where my second air supply was and practiced that a couple of times.
Anyway, we started off and couldn't see each other. That's the problem with low vis and three people, two of us could see each other and the third person was usually too far away. So we went back up, and decided to swim on the surface out farther to get past the silt and sand we'd been kicking up for the previous half hour and maybe we could see better. We did, but swimming on the surface for some reason seems to take a lot more energy than underwater. We got out a ways and went down again.
We got down and it wasn't bad, maybe 10 feet or so of visibility. Enough to find each other. Then Rebecca lost a fin. We're not sure why, apparently it just wasn't on tight enough. She still had the fin, but had to put it on under water (10 or 12 feet? Not sure). She managed to do it, but it wasn't the easiest thing. Remember the problems we had before?
So we went out a little farther, and found a star fish. Well, there were dozens, but someone picked one up, and was holding it so I could take a picture with the cheapo one-use underwater camera I had brought. I, of course, couldn't get the stupid thing out of my pocket, and by the time I did, they had put the star fish back where it belonged and moved on.
The camera had a rubber band strap which I lost, and Andrea found floating around. She didn't know what it was, but figured it out when she saw the camera. I put it on the camera, and then couldn't make it work with gloves on. It's more of a "you can get this wet" camera than a "dive with this" camera. So I didn't even try to use it underwater after that.
Then at some point I lost my tank weight. I started floating up, and couldn't figure out why. Andrea found it, and tried to hand it to me, but since she was now 6 lbs heavier, and I was floating off, it was a trick for her to get it to me. Then we couldn't get it hooked back on the tank, so she stuck it in the pocket I had had the camera in. Which was fine, except it was not in the center, so I was a little lopsided after that. :-)
Then we swam off into some kelp, finally getting somewhere to look at stuff, and I was running pretty low on air. I was fine in the kelp this time, big things in water weren't bothering me, but I was low on air. So I signaled we needed to head back. They let me lead since I had set my compass to point to shore before we left, so off I went.
Somewhere in here I got my hose caught again, or something, and lost my regulator. THIS time, however, I calmly put my octo into my mouth and was fine. No panic, no rush, no nothing, just grabbed it and used it. So the little learning experience helped.
On back toward shore we went. Up, too, apparently. I think I went up a little to get over a kelp blob, but the higher you go the more the air in your BC expands, creating lift, so you go up more. You can dump the air to stay down, but I couldn't find the stupid lower valve on my suit, I think because I was wearing gloves and couldn't feel anything. I was trying to swim down, but all that did was slow my ascent. Which isn't a bad thing. We were only down 25 feet, but the slower you go up, the better.
I poped up on the surface, and shortly after so did Rebecca and Andrea. And a seal pup. :-) We decided at that point to just swim in on the surface. We took some pictures of each other with the camera, and I got one of a bemused bird watching us, and Andrea took some of the seal. Seals, actually, there were at least two. So we started in.
The surface swimming really is harder. We were going in on our backs, cuz it's more comfortable, and you can breathe normally rather than out of a snorkle or a tank. Andrea kept turning at a right angle to shore, and we'd hollar at her to turn back. The seals were watching us, also bemused. They were following Andrea pretty close. She was taking pictures, and got caught up in some kelp.
Rebecca and I made it back to shore, or at least where we could stand up, and Andrea was still out in the kelp. She was fine, she wasn't sure why she wasn't moving, but she wasn't in trouble. We couldn't tell that, though, so we headed back out to help. Rebecca got there first, and got caught in her own kelp. I freed her up, and was no help after that cuz I was exhausted. Rebecca and a DiveMaster from another group got Andrea free, and we all limped back to shore and collapsed on it.
The seals were there all along for moral support. :-)
True to her word, Rebecca hadn't spot welded her regulator on the tank, it was tight enough but we got it off without any problem. Andrea's, however... :-) It wasn't as bad as Rebecca's had been on Saturday, but it was still tight enough to take serious work!
All in all, it was ok, and we felt like real divers now since we had finally gotten into the ocean. We want to try a boat dive next, so we can get where there's something to look at without being tired. We still need practice on free descents first, though, so we don't go down too fast. We'll find a boat full of beginners and go with them. We consider ourselves beginners, big time, we just want to make sure we don't wind up on a boat full of experts who expect more of us than we can deliver. Because we won't even try. :-)
Coming up for more than 5 minutes counts as a separate dive on my dive computer, so there's two for Sunday.
We spent the next few hours at Capitola Beach watching Rebecca's husband
Mike surf, or try to - the waves were pretty small.
Then we headed home.
The pictures of Breakwater and Macabee Beach are from Google Maps.