At long last we are on our way north. Our sense of anticipation is all the keener for having had to wait for three months! The weather chaos has eased, the conditions are gentler. It is high time to go and have some fun.
It has been such a big week of final preparation!
- Freediving course completed
- Desalinated sea water offshore of the Gold Coast to fill up the tanks
- Old corroded TV aerial dismantled and new Moonraker antenna
- Flu shots done
- New credit card in Wade’s wallet
- Medical supplies for Chris & pussycat collected
- Boat fully provisioned
But you know what the biggest plus is? It is not so much that we are leaving although that’s long overdue, or that the boat is ship shape, but it is that the pressure is gone! What a relief not to have to push ourselves and our poor old bodies with free diving training. It was like cramming for an exam! Worth it though!
Here is the last of the Freediving course explanations… promise! We know a few of you have been quite interested, and for the others, take a big breath… it might come in handy!
All free diving photos were kindly taken by Clinton, Freediving Gold Coast. Chris was otherwise engaged!
We took a chance with the conditions last Saturday and it paid off. We did not think the visibility would be good enough after the heavy rains, but the dive boat took us about 4nm offshore to the 40m mark depth and it paid off. Once the float was set up at the back of the dive boat it was all go!
This is the set up: under the float is a length of rope kept taut by a lead weight. There is a tennis ball at the bottom just before the weight. The idea is to go down using the Free Immersion Method: head first, hand over hand down the rope, equalise as you go, tumble around once you reach the tennis ball and let your buoyancy take you back up, with one hand running along the rope.
Gradually the rope gets lengthened from 5m, to 8, 10, 13, 16 and 20m. The first 10m is where the biggest build up of pressure occurs. The hardest aspect is calming your nerves down, then it is equalisation. If you can’t equalise, you get pain in your ears and it is game over. If you use the traditional Valsalva method you will have difficulty making it past 5 meters. And of course the longer you can breath hold, the longer you have to get down comfortably, without rushing, conserving oxygen. After you have done your 10m dives, you are quite tired and need a rest and a snack on the dive boat; then it’s back in the water for rescue practice and the deeper dives.
It is quite a mix of sensations and your self-talk is on overdrive when you start. After a couple of minutes of relaxation, you take your big breath and down you go. The more relaxed you are, the better you perform. They tell you to clear your mind, do a body scan to let go of tension, visualise a special place and focus on being calm. Not that easy in the environment we were in and the nerves we felt! This is what goes through your mind at a million miles an hour. It definitely was not zen!
Frenzel equalise… oh good, it’s working… stay streamlined, equalise, body and legs straight, pull yourself down, equalise, don’t look at where you are going or your back arches like a banana and you are inefficient; equalise, tuck your chin down, don’t do the banana… equalise, experiment with eyes closed… wow, feeling dizzy… eyes open… oh look at the little jellies… equalise, the pressure is building, equalise, okay that didn’t work, stop, try equalising again… getting squeezed like a sponge, running out of breath… where is that ball?… here it is… time to turn around and let yourself float up… contractions… oh oh… start finning and get up faster… oops that uses more oxygen… explode up on the surface… recovery breaths… ahh!
Once past the 10m mark, you use the Constant Weight Method of descent and ascent: one hand on the rope, the other arm tucked in with your hand next to your face ready to equalise ears and mask on the descent, and you use your fins to get down and back up. You are no longer positively buoyant and sink down.
Wade did incredibly well. He needed to get to 16m to get his certification and as usual he showed off, diving down to 20m, the best in the group – he really is like a fish in the water. We were told it is unusual for people to get their certification at the first attempt.
Chris only got down to 10m depth, feeling like she was suffocating in too tight an old scuba winter wetsuit. It was hard enough taking a normal breath on the surface, but taking the mega breath before a dive was just about impossible. So it limited how far down she could go. She got exhausted really quickly and had to stop to avoid a hypo. On the positive side she was able to Frenzel equalise and with a different wetsuit should be able to get down deeper.
Although disappointing we did not both get our certification first go, as Wade keeps pointing out, we have both improved by more than 100% in a few weeks. Before the course Chris could get down to 4 or 5m and now gets to 10m, and Wade could get down to about 8m and now can get to 20 meters. So we can’t complain too much.
Every time you stumble, you learn something and can improve at the next attempt. The practice is not over. We will do a lot at the reef with a focus on relaxation and enjoyment rather than the numbers. Chris will get her ticket on the way back south in seven months’ time after heaps of dives, a much more zen attitude and she won’t dress in a corset!
And now we are underway. Saturday we leave the Gold Coast. Instead of taking our usual ocean route, we are going on the inside channels between the mainland on the west side and Stradbroke and Moreton Islands on the eastern side. We will overnight in the Canaipa Passage and will then make a stop at Tangalooma for a bit of snorkeling fun among the wrecks with sailing buddies on Anapa.
Can’t wait to get into the water and play. Last time we stopped at Tangalooma was several years ago when we were still sailing Take It Easy. It will be a good test of our new gear and newly learnt diving techniques. We are also going to give Tony on Anapa a quick lesson on how to use the Power Snorkel he bought from us!
After Tangalooma, our intention is to head off to Double Island Point and Fraser Island. We have the Reefs of the Capricorn and Bunker Group in our sights. We hope to spend a few weeks there then reprovision at either Gladstone or the Keppels. We’ll see what the weather does, how we feel, whether we have the company of another boat to go to the Swain Reefs. Our original plan was to team up with our friends on Gipsy, but work for Alex and injury for Wendy got in the way. The Swains are too remote for us to be comfortable venturing there on our own. So we will see how things develop. Maybe our friend Bill, from Zed, will come.
Whatever happens the fun is about to start again after way too long a break. Going somewhere after going nowhere for months is such a buzz!