It’s been a while, I bet a lot of you forgot I’m a scuba diver!
I got Open Water certified in the U.K. in October of 2017. My instructor was wonderful (if you’re in the UK south, I strongly recommend Ocean View Diving in Lancing, Angela was a gem) and it was nice to do it with Bill, a course leader at my university who I would end up working closely with over the next year. It was several very long days in cold water, but hell, we did it.
I went on to get my Advanced Open Water certification while on a LiveAboard in Egypt over Christmas in 2017. I strongly recommend doing something like this if you have the chance. Although the course materials take up most of your down time between dives, the wide range of dive sites make it easy to get specialties like night dives, wreck dives and deep dives all in one trip. Plus, the underwater portions of the course don’t take away from the wonderful sites.
I ordinally planned to get my rescue diver and divemaster certification all in one go in Utila, Honduras with my good friend Michelle. But like everyone else, COVID threw a wrench in my plan. Now with a full-time job, I can’t take the month off we planned to do the whole course, so I got my deposit back and had to construct a plan B for my further scuba certifications.
My CPR certification is expiring in November so before the weather cools down, I wanted to get my rescue diver certification done. There’s an outstanding Seattle Scuba School equidistant from my house and work that I chose to do my course with.
Cold water refresher dive (Thursday)
First, since I haven’t been diving in over a year and a half (Riviera Maya) and haven’t done a cold water dive since April of 2018 (Cape Town), I was required to take a cold water refresher dive. At the shop, I met our divemaster for the day Duncan and the two other people on the dive. We had a briefing about the dive, tried on gear, hauled it to each of our cars and drove half an hour to Alki Cove 2 in west Seattle.
Once there, we again hauled all our gear onto the small beach and had a further briefing of what to expect for these dives. Once all was good, we went for a swim. My main concern was being warm enough, but the 15mm two-piece wetsuit kept me nice and warm against the 58°F water. The first dive I had a little bit of buoyancy control trouble, but that’s exactly why I’m doing this dive: to refresh my skills. By the second dive, I really had my buoyancy under control and was reminded that there’s no feeling like floating underwater. It’s absolute bliss… until you have to walk out of said water with 40lbs of weights and your 20lb tank. Both of our dives lasted about half an hour and were at around 15 meters. As for the underwater life, there wasn’t much to see, a few crabs and fish and some anemones. The view from above the water was a lot more impressive.
After that, we loaded our cars once again with our gear, went back to the dive shop to clean our gear and debrief and we were on our way. Duncan gave me some pointers for the upcoming rescue diver class and said things would be a lot easier with my own gear so I bought some gloves and fins. I’m slowly trying to eventually have all my own stuff anyway to be a more competent diver so there’s no time like the present.
Course reading preparation
Before the rescue diver course, I had to complete a 200+ page workbook with practical information and an overview of what hands-on material we’ll be learning. At the end of each small section, there is a self-check quiz with the answers provided and at the end of each larger chapter, there’s a knowledge quiz without the answers that we will review in person.
Rescue diver pool session (Saturday)
Saturday night, we met up at the dive shop to go over the knowledge reviews and get started on the hands-on activities. There were three other people on the course with me and Duncan had an assistant instructor, Amelia. We went over the knowledge reviews in the course workbook to make sure we all understood the correct answers. After that, we took an exam that was basically word-for-word select questions from the knowledge review and made sure we understood all those correct answers. Then, it was time to get into the pool.
The pool was nice and warm so we didn’t need all of our exposure gear and weights; it was a good place to practice. We did the following drills:
- panicked diver at the surface
- panicked diver underwater
- out-of-air assistance
- unconscious diver underwater
- unconscious diver at the surface and bringing them to shore while stripping their gear, our gear and giving rescue breaths (yes, this was the most challenging one)
- throwing a life ring
- lifeguard carry out of the water
The whole class ran from 5-11PM and we were tired, but it was nothing compared to the next day.
Rescue diver open water session (Sunday)
We met up at Alki (same spot as the cold water dive on Thursday) for our in-water practical. We did all the drills we practiced in the pool but in open water at the mercy of the environment and in all our exposure gear (wet/dry suit and weights for days). Not to mention we had to enter and exit the water and walk up the beach a handful of times. It was a long day and I’m still sore in places I didn’t even know I could be sore. I was absolutely spent.
After the drills, we went back to the dive shop to clean our gear and fill out some paperwork. When we were going around the room sharing what we liked and learned, my buddy said he learned a lot about taking care of a buddy from me as I really had his back. This is one of the best compliments (at least regarding scuba) I could ever receive, especially now that I’m rescue certified and may want to pursue scuba professionally to some degree.
I learned so much, feel more confident in my skills and can now look into more conservation jobs involving diving!