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I have been Reborn

1 girl, 2 coffee breaks, 6 hours, and 400 miles from home. After what felt like months of applications, interviews, and crossed fingers I have finally arrived in Boston, MA for an internship working with marine mammals and sea turtles! While I have experience working with dogs, cats, birds, horses and some exotic species it has always been sea creatures that have pulled at my heartstrings. Thus it is with excitement that I am trading in my coveralls for a dry suit! It is this dry suit that brings me to my first post!!

Have you ever put one on? I had not. First, for those of you who have no idea what a dry suit is - it is similar to a wetsuit and is used for diving in cold water however it has the main advantage of, well, keeping you dry. How? With extremely tight rubber wrist and neck seals! I have provided a series of useful tips based on my first experience following the instructions to don a dry suit. Now, on to the fun part.

Step one: open the main watertight zipper so that you can step into the suit. (Prior to attempting this step the writer recommends completing 6 months of upper body weight training and or asking a gorilla to assist you.)

Step two: Step into suit with both feet taking care that you do not bear weight until your feet are perfectly aligned in the suit boots. (Tip: Sit down for this part)

Step three: Put your head through the neck seal.** (Grab that gorilla and stretch the non-compliant rubber apart enough so that you can start to push your head through. You will start to feel dizzy - this is just the rubber cutting off circulation to your head - normal. Prepare to have your hair ripped out. Have your hair ripped out. Enjoy having your nose smashed into your face as your top layer of facial skin is exfoliated by the rubber. Kiss your tiny earring studs goodbye. This step is complete once you start to feel like you are being choked. **This step not recommended for those individuals who have had recent rhinoplasty. May elicit exclamations such as, “I feel like I am being BORN!!”  

Step four: Place hands through wrist seals. (Birth your hands as per above)

Step five: Zip up (Gorilla required)

Step six: Release air in suit through neck. (Release choke-hold of neck seal by pulling it forward - do not allow it to snap back at you as this will cause discomfort. Crouch down and enjoy the smell of rubber and stale drysuit as all the air rushes out in your face. Return neck seal to choke-hold. Stand up and feel like shrink-wrapped vacuum-packed meat as the suit sucks to your body. 

You are now ready to enjoy your ice-cold water experience! (Please note…rubber seals are not entirely waterproof…please plan accordingly.)

Stay tuned for tips on caring for your dry suit :)

New Post has been published on http://www.scuba-blog.com/7-steps-to-cold-water-scuba-diving-success/

7 Steps to Cold Water Scuba Diving Success

Cold Water Scuba Diving

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment after cold water scuba diving. Off come the mitts, the hood, and as your hot breath steams into the chilly air, a big grin appears across your face. Time for hot drinks, hand warmers and excited post dive chitchat.

There are some things we can do to make our lives more comfortable when diving in colder temperatures. Whether you are a scuba diving addict who just doesn’t want to stop at the end of the season, or you live somewhere where the sun isn’t very hot, here are seven steps to cold water scuba diving success:

Thermal Protection

Being cold isn’t fun! That’s why adequate thermal protection is so important. Drysuits are the preferred method as you can adapt the thermal base layers to suit the temperature. Every year there are new innovative designs and high-tech materials being used. I adore Fourth Element base layers and my Weezle undersuit boots (I actually wear them at home when it’s really cold!) Another great thing about drysuits is that many companies will offer a custom fit. Hoods, wet or dry gloves and mitts come in all shapes and sizes so get trying on at your local dive center and find your perfect match. Totally comfortable and totally warm!

Hydration

In the warm sunshine we naturally drink lots of water, but many divers forget to stay hydrated when cold water scuba diving. Keep hot drinks or water on hand and remember to drink plenty before your dive as well as after. There’s nothing quite like being handed a hot drink after a cold dive!

Acclimatization

Both in and out of the water give your body time to acclimatize to the temperature. That initial cold water shock on entry is always a wake up to the system. I find that putting my face in the water for a minute allows me to adjust to the ambient temperature and test my mask isn’t leaking.

Kit Configuration

Wearing thicker thermal protection means adding more weights. Make sure you complete a buoyancy check and distribute the weight evenly for good trim. Weight harnesses, integrated weights, and ankle weights are good options for an alternative to wearing a weight belt (which many divers find uncomfortable).

Another kit configuration issue to think about is ease of use. If you are wearing thick gloves or mitts then small buttons and fiddly clips are awkward to use. Practice at home before the dive: adjust your BCD, put on/remove your fins, equalize, and release your weights. Your buddy is always there to help you, and it is good to have them check your mask skirt is seated properly under your hood – it can be hard with gloves on.

DSMB Use

Sending up a delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) in cold water has some extra considerations compared to warm water use. One standard method is to inflate the DSMB using your alternate air source. In cold water, our regulators have a higher chance of free flowing and so I would advise using a different method for safety. You can use your exhaust air bubbles from your regulator to fill your DSMB. Make sure your reel is easy to use with gloves on.

Emergency Procedure Practice

With the extra equipment and decreased dexterity it is good to practice emergency procedures with your buddy. Cramp is very common in cold water scuba diving, so make sure your self-rescue (and buddy) skills are up to scratch. Alternate air source use and free flow regulator breathing are important too. Cold may increase the risk for decompression illness and so if you have any signs or symptoms get yourself checked out straight away.

After Dive Considerations

After the dive have warm clothes, hats and towels ready to hand. Don’t forget the hot drinks and snacks and you’ll be everyone’s favorite cold water scuba diving buddy!

Drysuits

We’re doing some boat training this week that will involve recovery drills. That’s right, people jumping in the lake from the boat, then being pulled out again. In December. In 38-degree water.

This calls for drysuits.

Which we have, but I didn’t know if they were in all decent shape. I knew one had blown out at the wrist and ankle. The other three looked okay, but I figured, all it takes is a little hole to make recovery drills a truly miserable experience. So I did the reasonable, responsible thing and tested them. In the bathtub.

All three passed with flying colors and now they’re hanging in my laundry room, drying out. As I walked back to my office, braids dripping, arms full of the one defective suit, one of the guys from maintenance asked how it went. “Fine. Three work great. It was kind of funny rolling around in the bathtub checking all the seals,” I said.

"BATHTUB? I thought you were testing them in the LAKE!" he replied.

Hah. If your drysuit might be leaky and you were faced with the choice of 80-degree water or 38-degree water to test it out in, what would you choose? Mama didn’t raise no fool.

I’m packing in preparation for me going to Kristiansand, and going on a night dive. Which I expect will be cold (hence the wooly thermals and hat), dark (hence the headtorch so I can actually see something before/after the dive) and my dive logbok. 

I asked my diving instructor, a man whom I actually have to trust with my life, if going in a wetsuit was going to cause me to freeze to death and if this was the time when he had to give me a crashcourse in drysuit diving. Which he did promise he’d do at one point. His reply was “heheh”. Gee, reassuring. Thanks, mate. 

averagebloke said:

12, 31, 53, 59

12. what is something you want right now?

I’d like to know whether I’m going to the beautiful little bilingual campus in amongst trees! I’d like to have clarity of mind over certain situations that I could be clouding with anger. I’d really like a Moo Milk Bar cookie.

31. 3 random facts

  •  I am a qualified Open Water, Drysuit, and Advanced Open Water scuba diver. At some point I’d like to train as a DiveMaster.
  • I took singing lessons for eight years and am a classically trained soprano.
  • My mum had a pet monkey as a child and I’m still not over the jealousy.

53. 5 things that make me happy

  • When old friends reach out and reconnect
  • Family gatherings (and the food there)
  • Big, tight hugs
  • Compliments from people I admire
  • Poetry slams

59. why i joined tumblr

badjokesandcheapliquor told me to and broski means business.

Pacific, Part Two

I should start by telling you how much I hate the cold. Growing up in Atlanta, we don’t have much cold. Sure, it dips below freezing on winter mornings and there’s the occasional ice storm, but the weather is mostly alright. I’ve never wanted to be around cold (skiiing for a holiday? snow? you must be joking) and . never enjoyed anything cold. Yet here I was, in the middle of the North Pacific on an unheated boat. I wore two pairs of thermals (both tops and bottoms), a lightweight midlayer jacket, heavyweight midlayer salopettes and jacket, two buffs, a hat, my drysuit, gloves. Sometimes a balaclava. Sometimes another fleece. Enough clothing to look like a bright yellow marshmallow and lose some of the ability to bend. Still cold. During off-watches I usually slept in thermals and part-midlayers, inside an incredibly heavy sleeping bag (Ocean Sleepwear - love it) and in the warmest bunk on the boat (there are perks to being chief-of-staff and doing the bunk allocation). There were still plenty of times I would be too cold to sleep (it could take up to an hour for me to warm up enough to stop shaking and fall asleep). 

The thing that made the cold even worse was the wet - it was everywhere. Life on deck was always wet with waves breaking over the boat. Consequently outer layers (drysuit, foulies) were always wet. If you weren’t wearing them they were hung in one of two wet lockers, surrounded by more wet kit and managing to get damp on the inside as well (if you hadn’t already taken waves down the neck and up the arms/legs). Boots were soaked, and consequently so were socks - people regularly wore plastic bags over socks in an attempt to keep things a bit drier. Water seeped into the boat itself from various chain plates (where the big bits of rigging attach to the deck), stanchion bases, and toe rails. We stopped being able to dry off. You’d have to sleep in (or on) wet kit so that at least it would be warm and wet, instead of absolutely freezing. I think the worst moment for me personally was the realization one morning that even my thermals were damp. How does that happen? I constantly had layer after layer of water-resistant and waterproof kit on top. The damp just set it.

So here you have us cold and wet. The other half of the equation? Exhausted and starving.

Heavy weather sailing is incredibly phsyical work. Heavy weather sailing with a short-handed crew is even worse. We had a crew of 14 for this race. It’s not the shortest we’ve ever been, but it still doesn’t make things easy compared to boats with 18 or 20. 14 means two watches of seven, with two people on mother duty at any one point in time. You’ll effectively have a maximum of six on deck at any one time. A heavy weather headsail change needs a minimum of eight - one driving, one or two in the cockpit, and five up front (three forward of the inner forestay). We’ve done it with less, but it’s going to take a bare minimum of half an hour to drag a sail down when you’ve got 20+ knots. And it will destroy every single person on the bow. 

We worked with a standby system to make sure we had enough crew on deck but also protect the off-watch. If we had made an all-hands call for every headsail change, there would’ve been days where nobody had more than an hour or two of sleep. The way standby worked was that the two mothers would be on standby from 0600-1800. If the on-watch crew needed a hand, mothers would stop what they were doing, kit up, and help. Then they had the entire night to sleep, barring an all-hands call. From 1800-0600 two of the off-watch would be on standby. If the on-watch needed help, they would wake the standbys first (and give them some of the easier deck jobs). Once you had been called up on standby, you’d be off it until everyone else on your watch had taken a turn. There were times where we wouldn’t call standbys for a week, and then times where we’d call them every single watch. You never knew what you were going to get, how much sleep you’d miss, or when you’d be woken. On the whole though, it worked out really well as a system. 

Standby helped with the exhaustion, but it couldn’t prevent it. One of the most tiring things for me personally was helming. Beyond keeping your balance, heavy-weather driving uses your entire upper body to both turn the helm and keep it in place. There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve actually had to cling to the wheel with my entire body as it tries to rip itself out of my grip. We always keep a secondary helm (a spotter) nearby in case things get out of control. Upwind my greatest concern is usually being bounced off as the boat slams down a wave. Downwind it’s a combination of being taken out by a wave and not being able to stop a vicious round-up into the breeze. My watch had two of us who could drive in the worst of the worst and another two who were fine in bad weather. We’d swap out every 30 or 40 minutes, for both a physical and mental break. I always ended up slumped next to the helm afterward.

The biggest factor in my exhaustion was more than that though - it was my job as watchleader. It’s the constant watching - what’s the wind speed/direction? what’s our course (both the aim and what the helm is actually steering)? do we have the right sail plan? etc. It’s heading downstairs regularly to check the chart, the AIS, and our data spreadsheet to see averages (course and speed) and make the calls on sail plan from there. More than that though is watching the crew - how do they feel? what do they want? what can I do better? have we rotated the tough jobs enough? who is next on standby? etc. We’d go for a tough evolution and I’d try to have a tea break or snack break afterwards, situation permitting. Inevitably this meant I’d come back from doing some job, exhausted, and swap into another job, usually driving, to give that person a break. Then it was onto some other job. It was a rare watch when I’d have a tea break and actually have the chance to have a hot drink. 

I vividly remember a moment after two incredibly tough days where I sat down briefly after an evolution, slumped over and staring into space. One of the guys came up to me and asked what was wrong. All I could say was, “I’m just so tired.” He sat down, gave me a hug, and said, “you don’t always have to be Wonder Woman, doing everything.” I looked at him - “yes I do. If I don’t lead the way when we all feel like this, then nobody will follow.”

And I’ll stick to that belief. As much as I hurt, I’m still 25, in relatively good shape, and very comfortable with my sailing ability in those sorts of conditions. There were several people on the boat that had joined for Leg 6 and never experienced these things. The great majority of the boat was also older than me - and bounced back more slowly from the various bumps, bruises, and basic muscle pain. I can take a bigger beating and recover more quickly. On top of that I’m not afraid of the heavy stuff, at least in terms of my own personal safety. Maybe it’s just the arrogance of youth, but I know I will be fine no matter what. That can’t be said for all the crew members. When I’m scared for the boat or for my watch, I can’t let the fear show because it scares other people. Fear is seriously contagious. The fact remains that I am a leader on board and I need to set an example of what I expect from crew. I firmly believe that if I wouldn’t do a job myself then I have no right to ask anybody else to do it either. When Matt calls for a job to be done, now (usually on the bow), I am one of a small group of people that will always be there first, without complaining. Stepping back because I’m exhausted simply isn’t an option. 

The last factor, the one that compounded the exhaustion, was the hunger. We had overspent our victualling budget (3.50pounds per person per day) in Australia and consequently had a shortage in China. We ended up not really having enough food. Meals were all small portions - no seconds. You had to fight for an extra spoonful or two. Seasickness was great for the rest of us as it meant an extra portion to divy up. We hardly had any snacks either. As silly as it sounds, they’re a really important part of the sailing. Not only do they give us a bit when we’re hungry in between meals, but they also provide a huge morale boost. But this trip we only had a packet of crackers or biscuits to share between the watches every other day or so and occasionally a Snickers bar each after a really terrible watch. I can’t fault the victuallers (it’s certainly not a job I would ever want to do), but it was really tough. You just never had enough food to repair muscles. Everyone arrived in San Francisco having lost a ton of weight. The boys looked skeletal. Most of the girls looked a really good thin (the exception being Claire, who looked scary-thin).

It’s that combination - cold, wet, exhausted, hungry - that made the Pacific constantly difficult. It just wears you down so quickly and there’s no such thing as recovery in that kind of environment.

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