Dive: 42ft 65min
I've always considered myself a pretty calm diver. The one time I got entangled in rope underwater I managed to take off my BC, keep the regulator in my mouth, untangle myself and get on with diving. Which is why it was a strange feeling to find myself fighting the impulse to flail in the water all bug-eyed and bolt to the surface today. What happened? Let me explain.
Part of saturation diving means we don't ever touch the surface as long as we are saturated. In fact, the shallowest we could go is 40ft. Which means, no matter what happens, or how uncomfortable we feel- lost buddy, overenthusiastic BC inflator, headache, mask kicked off by buddy, etc, we DO NOT surface to reorient and regroup before going down. A new concept.
Today we find ourselves facing the one of the worst case scenarios that could happen underwater- my buddy and I have somehow lost both our masks, and also deviated from the excursion line and are lost on the reef. Argh. Instead of surfacing at a safe rate and bitching about our misfortune on the boat, we had to find the line and return to our safe haven- the Aquarius Habitat. I can truthfully say that I was pretty sad to hand over my mask to our trainer when he indicated that we should start our exercise.
Now, I hate the thought of opening my eyes underwater. Probably one of the reasons my Eskimo roll on the kayak sucks. I can count on one hand the number of times I've opened my eyes underwater in my life. There was definitely some internal pep talk before this exercise. This time wasn't just some mask clearance exercise that was over in 10s. As I hovered at 40ft, reel in hand, getting ready to start my search pattern, the sea a stinging blur of whites and blues, the pressure on my face and eyeballs, and the constant threat of seawater pushing up my nose, I was fighting the immense urge bug out completely and thrash around like a fool for my mask.
Relax. Breathe. Just through your mouth, not your nose. Keep breathing. You can do this. Most of all, I don't ever want to repeat this exercise again. First round, and we came up squat. I was asked to extend my reel-line and try again. Fingers fumbling to loosen the bolt for the reel, eyes stinging like mad from the seawater. Bubbles from the regulator stinging even worse. Finning, finning, then in the distance, I thought I saw a bright pink object floating off the reef. Pink of a rather unnatural shade. Should check it out. As I approached, a most blessed line shimmered and took shape, and I grasped it firmly in triumph. Was almost literally crying when the trainer handed us back our masks. That's seawater on your eyeballs for you.
Other tasks: shut-down drills with masks off and eyes closed, buddy breathing, sharing air, deploying safety sausage, and an orientation swim to our work site.