We decided to travel to Monterey Bay, CA (Breakwater Cove) to complete the open water portion of our course. Why Monterey Bay? Because we heard that it’s one of the tougher dive spots in North America and if you can survive Monterey, then diving anywhere else in the world will seem effortless (with the exception of the Arctic).
Although I had successfully completed Day 1-3 of our confined water training, the idea of diving in open water still petrified me. I was also nervous that my wonky left elbow, which I injured a fortnight ago, wouldn’t hold and that the cold I’d been fighting wouldn’t allow me to equalise properly. I know you really aren’t supposed to dive if you have a cold, but we’d already invested so much just to get to Monterey I couldn’t wimp out.
And knowing that the conditions in Monterey Bay aren’t always ideal (mainly low visibility), my stress levels were at an all time high. That said, it did make me feel a wee bit better to know that we would have our own private instructor for our training (usual student to instructor ratio is 10:1).
Day 4: I was so nervous going into the open water. I had trouble getting my fins on with the waves pushing me about. Although I was positively buoyant, the 90lbs of gear on my back made me feel very uncoordinated. Once we had our fins on we had to swim approximately 100 metres out to set our dive float.
Surface swimming is hard enough for me in the pool, let alone in open water. I tried to keep up with my hubby and instructor and thus immediately tired myself out. Luckily the hubs is a strong swimmer and I got towed in and out of the water on our first dive. The temperature at the bottom was actually on the high side, around 13°C/55°F and the visibility was around 4.5metres/15 feet.
Since it was just the pair of us, we spent the first dive getting comfortable in the water. I had trouble equalising my right ear and after several failed attempts with pressure building in my eardrum, we decided to surface and rest.
As we got closer to shore, our instructor made us crawl out of the water on ALL FOURS! I could barely lift my hands and feet. I imagine it’s what a seal feels like on land.
I made so many odd noises while trying to inch forward that my instructor couldn’t stop laughing. We later discovered that this ‘skill’ has not been required for 6 years. I suppose at least we now know what to do if the waves are really high.
I was able to swim out to the dive float on our second dive. Unfortunately, the bacon and egg sarnie that I had during our break made me quite burpy and I nearly choked on a burp while trying to clear a fully flooded mask. I somehow managed to dislodge the trapped air without regurgitating the entire contents of my lunch.
Day 5: With the first two open water dives completed, I felt more at ease during our final two dives. The second morning in Monterey was colder. In fact, the weather was a bit fickle throughout the weekend — it constantly changed from clear blue skies to overcast and back to blue skies each day. Although for the most part it was nice and sunny when we needed it to be. The bottom was noticeably colder as well.
We practised swimming on the surface and at the bottom with our compasses and our final dive was spent exploring the bay. My hubby held my hand throughout our underwater explorations. It really helped me relax, although there were a few times when he couldn’t stay neutrally buoyant and ended up floating to the surface.
We didn’t quite make it to the Metridium Anemone field as I was running dangerously low on air (at least in my mind I was). But we saw several types of fish, starfish, lots and lost of kelp, and even a giant jellyfish! From what I’ve seen on Youtube, I must admit I’m relieved we didn’t see them as I think those giant anemones would have been frightening to see!
I’m still in a daze. I can’t believe we’re officially certified PADI Open Water Divers!
We spent the past fortnight completely immersed in scuba, whether it was reading about scuba, watching informational DVDs or being underwater. I can’t say it was all fun, but I think it will make our time in Cairns even more exciting. I really hope we’ll see pretty tropical fish and giant turtles!
Looking back, I’ve gained so much knowledge about the underwater world and of course scuba. I am grateful to my hubby for pushing me to overcome my fears and make my scuba dream a reality!