Bright and early we arrived at Ventura Harbor to get on board “Peace” to Anacapa for first of 2 days of Open Water instruction. The gear was cold and a bit damp still, and the weather wasn’t sure what it wanted to do.
After signing release forms and having breakfast we got under way. Peace is a fairly large boat and even has a small salt water hot tub for warming up. We started out in sun, but we could see a bank of clouds surrounding Anacapa.
Partway across we ran across a pod of dolphins who had a good time surfing our wake. It reminded me a lot of the time on the boat, especially crossing to Nuku Hiva.
Anacapa as feared was drenched in fog, a little bit of wind made the 60 degrees air temp feel even colder. Shivering before even entering the water we put on our gear and did our buddy checks. A Giant Stride later and we were in the ocean floating with our BCDs full of air. Unlike in the pool we now had gloves and a hood. I was surprised how warm it was though with the suit on. The hood made it even more restrictive.
Descending down the bow line we took our time, eventually settling on the floor. The goal of the first dive was to get used to being in the water. Under it really, 30ft down. We swam around a bit a sea lion paid us a brief visit. We had heard they were all over the island, and I was happy to see one. The dive was over before I knew it and Jenn seemed comfortable, which was better than expected to me. We were down for less than 40 minutes, much less than I had in Saba because it was cold, there was a strict time frame because we had to travel all the way out there, but also because some people blew through lots of air.
On top we had a nice tomato bisque waiting for us! Delicious and warm.
Our next dive was even more eventful! Jenn had a hard time descending. She wasn’t able to clear her ears, and Nick was watching closely. She would signal that she was ok, then that she wasn’t when asked again. I was worried she was cowgirl’ing up and putting up with pain she shouldn’t be. Eventually she seemed to get it and made it to the bottom with Nick’s help. This time we did some drills, but were interrupted by a sea lion that was very curious about us, jetting down towards us and spiraling away at the last moment, sometimes with bubbles. It was amazing being so close to a wild animal like this having fun and taking a look. I managed to get a number of good photos of her as she whizzed past. We did the mask removal and reg recover, and Jenn had no trouble.
Once we surfaced lunch was waiting, chicken and coconut rice. I was so impressed with the quality of food they were dishing out for us. I scarfed down on food, my nose running from the heat. Exhausted but excited. Jenn though wasn’t fairing so well. Her ears still felt like she was under water, one especially. They were hurting too. She wasn’t feeling too good either, and we think the exhaustion had opened her up to a cold and congestion. Things weren’t getting better so she elected to sit out the last dive. To be certified she needs to finish all of the drills and get a minimum of 4 dives. With 2 down, she had room to wiggle.
The third dive was challenging. We were in a kelp forest, and the surge was fairly strong. I had a new dive partner, Molly for this one. We ran through our drills including the buddy ascent in case of an empty tank. It was tough to stay still with the surge pushing us around. By the third dive of the day I was very very cold too. Visibility had also dropped down to 20 ft which made it hard with the kelp to keep track of every one. After the dive it was remarked that people who learn in California learn in a much tougher environment than most, and when we go off to clear warm waters of the tropics we’re like Rambo divers, prepared and ready to go. I was sad this dive I didn’t have Jenn with me, our group had joked about us holding hands during the dive, but it was nice. Reassuring.
Back on board the first order of business was getting warm. That meant stripping off the cold wetsuits and jumping into the hot tub. The tub fits like 5, but we managed to somehow squeeze 7. It didn’t matter though, it was warm and nice. Then a quick rinse off and dry and into normal clothes. Jenn was waiting with some hot chocolate and I was as content as hell. It felt good to be out of the water and the cold. Jenn’s ears still hadn’t cleared so I was glad she didn’t come. The group then went over our dive logs as some 15 year old scotch came out.
Back at the docks we loaded up and went home to see the horses and then crash. I’m not sure I’ve been so tired from a weekend before, and that includes doing 102 miles on the bike in 8hrs. But we were home and down.
Later in the week Jenn went and saw a Doctor who said she had bruised her ears and probably had some fluid inside her ears. Diving was not on the cards for at least a couple weeks. Apparently she has a deviated septum, that combined with congestion from a cold meant she couldn’t clear her ears, and pushing too hard on them had burst some blood vessels. Not a good diagnosis for our plans, but plans are meant to change. She was given some decongestant and instructions for if she wanted to try some diving in the Philippines. Luckily we can still do some DSD dives there if we feel she’s up to it, and even her open water if shes up for it and we have time, so we will see what the future holds.
I’m amazed. I put her in such an alien place without knowing how uncomfortable it made her, and she adapted well. I can’t help but feel guilty for getting her into something where she got hurt. Everything will be fine in the end thankfully.