About ten days ago, my son and I went diving at Blue Hole.
You may know of the Great Blue Hole. That crystal clear, underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. A diving Mecca teeming with ocean life from hammerhead sharks to sea turtles, worth the ticket at twice the price.
Blue Hole, Belize
Picture a pristine day, feeling the ocean spray as the dive boat fairly skims the waves to the sapphire of the Caribbean. All equipment is clean and primed. All divers appear healthy and competent to face the rigors of the day, and no one is doing anything stupid like drinking alcohol or taking an antihistamine that’s going to wear off half way through the dive and have them blowing out their eardrums on ascent. Everyone finds Nemo and discovers sea creatures that would make Jacques Cousteau marvel, then returns safely to the boat for fresh fruit and lots of water, ready to share pictures of sharks and eels.
Diver with shark in Blue Hole–Not Me
Yeah. . . . That wasn’t our dive trip. . . . This was our dive trip. . . .
Me: “Son, where’s your wet suit?”
Son: “It’s in the car.”
Me: “Son, the car is empty.”
Son: “Oh, man! I could swear I put it in there.”
No way was I driving all day just to scratch the dive. I stuffed all 6’ 6” of my Little Guy into the “Farmer John” half of my own wet suit. It’s called a Farmer John because it’s like wet suit overalls that go underneath a jacket that looks like a one piece middle school gym uniform with long sleeves. He looked like a neoprene version of a 19th century Chinese girl’s foot. But Blue Hole is 61 degrees so he needed something, and I drove there to dive, dammit.
Wait. . . . Drive to Belize? Sixty-one degrees? . . . Didn’t I mention? We didn’t go to that Blue Hole. We went to this Blue Hole.
Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM
You know. . . . Blue Hole. New Mexico’s excuse for a Yucatan cenote. It’s got a few fish and crawdads, and lots of little rubber toys that people have put on the rock shelves over the years. Some day, we want to take a toy ship to the bottom so we can do a wreck dive. What can I say? When you’re landlocked in the Rockies, you just have to make the best of it.
And that beautiful building in the background? That’s the dive center Santa Rosa has been constructing for four years. It’s still not open. But we have that ancient, brown concrete bathroom shack behind the tree on the right. I think was an official Rest Area for the Anasazi.
We suited up right after sunrise, happy to be ahead of the surging crowd that was sure to show up later in the day as dive shops arrived with their basic open water students. It was glorious to have the place to ourselves, and everything went as smoothly for us as it always does. . . .
Me: “Hey, Son. I’m going to get in the water, and you take my picture for the blog, ok? Please bring over my tank and BCD.” (Buoyancy Control Device–For recreation, it’s usually a ballooning vest strapped to the tank. You control how full the “balloon” is, and that helps you control your location in the water).
Son: “Mom, did you plan to dive with an air tank this time? Because you didn’t fasten your BCD to the tank.”
Me: “Good job, Son. That was a test. You passed.”
Me in Blue Hole–Everyone looks like Mr. Puffy in a wet suit
My son put away the camera, hauled the extra weights and gear bags to the car, joined me in the water, and got his gear on.
Me: “Son, where’s your octopus?” (That’s the spare regulator [thingie you breathe through] that you keep handy for anyone who might need it.)
Son: “Oh, it’s back here behind me. This BCD doesn’t have a strap to attach it.”
Me: “You’re in luck. You can take off all of your gear and go find a strap in the dive bag. And no. We aren’t diving without it.”
With a little more effort, we had everything sorted out. We discussed our dive plan and checked our gear. Then we verified our plan and checked each others’ gear. . . . Air flowing? BCD functioning? Properly weighted? Weight releases? Dive knife? Resuscitation mask? Dive watch? Air gauge? Depth meter? Huge red signal tube to keep boaters from running us down? . . . Ok. We don’t need a signal tube in Blue Hole, but you get the idea.
Our diving gear for Blue Hole sans wet suits.
So why all this trouble to dip in a big bathtub? Seems like a dive straight down and straight up with no currents and nothing that sees us and thinks, “Dinner!” wouldn’t need so much caution. . . . . Because diving is like social media. Every dive (blog, tweet, status update) counts. Every dive (blog, tweet, status update) can kill us if we get stupid or hasty.
I’m happy to report that, once we get ourselves organized, my son and I are actually quite proficient in the water for divers of our limited variety of experience. Our buoyancy is spot on, we communicate well, and we always stick to our plan, never going deeper or staying longer than we agreed to up top.
Funny, though. My spy novel writing partner, Holmes, has never jumped at the chance to dive with us. . . . Why is that, Holmes?
Holmes and his dive buddy.
What do you do that matters every single time? How do you keep from messing up?
All the best to all of you for a week of safe diving in the waters of life.
Piper Bayard—The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse