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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dive 6: Puerto del Carmen – Top of the Altar - 1/5/2009

Our largest group dive of the week was another Puerto del Carmen dive. Most of the morning group from Brian’s deep dive was staying on for the afternoon dive. Brian was late coming back to the hotel for lunch and I had been wondering if they had any difficulties during their dive or just suffered from group faff. I was right on both accounts. Brian’s blue hole dive got changed because of group inexperience. One of the divers had problems with equalising and had to bail early. And the faff factor was enormous.

Not a lot changed between the morning and the afternoon. Our group consisted of Brian and me who had been diving all week and Alan, Richard and Leslie, all three with the advanced qualification but not an enormous amount of experience. Richard and Leslie were responsible for the lion’s share of extraneous faff beyond what is typical for diving. I waited until the last possible minute to get geared up and buddy checked with Brian. Then I asked Simon if I could go chuck myself in the water so I wasn’t standing around in lots of heavy gear. Brian and Alan went with me, though the rest of the group wasn’t far behind. A bunch of kids were jumping off the jetty in the same place where we wanted to enter, so it was an awkward and slippery walk past them. Brian went in the water first, followed by either Alan or me. Simon had caught up at that point so he got to wait on the jetty around all the screaming kids while Richard and Leslie got the rest of their gear on.

Once all of us were in the water, Leslie had trouble submerging, suggesting she needed another 2kg on her weight belt. Simon helped get her down to about 6 or 7m and then found a rock to use as a substitute extra weight. While we were waiting for them to get organised and underwater, Alan took some photos with his digital camera. It was a cheap digital camera with plastic housing that he found in Arrecife. I was jealous because my camera isn’t useful beyond 3m and its predecessor had a bad experience with Lanzarote. Alan and Brian each took a few photos. He had said it would work up to about 15m, which was the depth where the buttons would be under too much pressure to function properly.

Once everybody was underwater and reasonably settled, we began the dive by swimming out along the jetty. The more interesting creatures were found in the rocks rather than in the sand below. We saw lots of little fish whose names I forgot as quickly as I learned (underwater naturalist I am not). I learned very quickly to not stay too close to either Leslie or Alan. Probably because each was wearing a pretty massive weight belt (ca. 10kg), they moved through the water in a manner that looked more like kneeling than swimming. Lots of sand kicked up. Brian hovered away and up by at least two metres. Sensible.

The plan was to visit Charlie the grumpy grouper I saw two days previously, if he was in the neighbourhood, and see what else we could see. Simon said Charlie usually hangs out around 16-18m, which is where I saw him during my training dive. Sadly, we didn’t see Charlie, but we did see lots of little fish, a handful of starfish, sea urchins and two angel sharks. Simon pet the angel shark, which was passed out asleep in the sand. This time, he didn’t invite us to pet the shark. I wondered if the size of the group and possible chaos might disturb it, especially since the previous day’s feeding angel shark wasn’t too happy with us.

The reefs drop off significantly at the top of the altar. We descended to around 20m, which is the top of the drop-off. Swimming over the drop-off was a very slight heart in throat moment. I’m not fond of heights, but the sensation of essentially flying over the reef was the fondest of heights I have ever been. I am looking forward to doing deeper dives in the future.

I am not sure who hit the 100bar mark first. I have to guess Brian because of his claim, but maybe not. We headed back toward the jetty. I got a little too close to Leslie and she nearly knocked my regulator out of my mouth as she was adjusting her BCD for the ascent. I readjusted and moved away to give her more space. We slowly worked our way back up to about 9m and pile of rocks at the end of the jetty. At some point of swimming along during the swim back, we lost Leslie and Richard quite suddenly. In less than two minutes, probably less than a minute for Simon, gone. We waited while Simon swam back toward where we had been and then all of us looked up to see Leslie and Richard at the surface. Near the end of her tank, the weight belt that Leslie was wearing and the rock in her BCD pocket wasn’t enough to hold her underwater any longer. She and Richard swam back to the entry point on the surface. Alan, Brian, Simon and I swam back underwater. Simon’s warning to stay low seemed a bit pointless with the other two from our group bobbing along the surface, but it was good practice to play with buoyancy at the end of the dive.

Our return to the surface was greeted by the same screaming children who were there when we left. We missed the peace and quiet of underwater.

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