Blind Buddy Carry

Scuba class last night was a serious challenge. In the last four weeks I have made it through the basics of learning how to assemble, check and don (and doff!) the equipment, both above and under water. I can clear my mask, remove and replace my regulator and even buddy breath. But last night. Wow. Last night Bob said the terrifying phrase “And now let’s do our blind buddy carry.”

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it, but I had to raise my hand anyway and ask what it was. (I have had a lot of reluctance to researching the test, so stuff keeps coming as a surprise. This is not good. I’m not good with surprises.)

A blind buddy carry is when one diver has lost their mask and is led to safety by their buddy. Sounds pretty  good. I mean it’s nice to know that if I lose my mask to some plastic eating fiend of the depths, my buddy will step in and guide me back to shore or the boat.

Holy freaking panic, Batgirl! I was in shallow water at the time and just the thought of the high school girl who was my partner being responsible for me while I was BLIND freaked me out. Then there’s the whole putting your naked open eyes in water thing. And last, but not least, I am one of those people who dive into the pool holding my nose. I swim with a nose clip. I HATE having my eyes and nose exposed to water. Plus, I was really blind. Without my mask, I couldn’t really even see my hand, just a blur a few inches from my face.

I asked if I could practice in shallow water, since the other fools/heroes were going straight to deep water to try this. I took off my mask and tried to put my face in the water. Nope. Again. A little longer, but maybe 5 seconds. Again. I asked Bruce for some suggestions and he said to just sit down in the water with my mask off and my regulator in my mouth and breathe. But for some reason, this just freaked me out and I started to hyperventilate. I got really panicky and couldn’t breath.

Bob came over, which ordinarily is the key to my relaxing and getting whatever it is, but that just made me want to cry and the panic attack got worse. So off comes the weight belt, the gear, the mask, the snorkel and I had to unzip my diveskin and sit down (head above water) and cool off. Wow. That was NOT fun. It probably took me 10 or 15 minutes between the beginning of the attack and the end to get control. Underwater, that probably would have killed me, as my reaction was to strip down all the protective gear keeping me alive. Hmm. Interesting.

Okay, so then I got my head in the game and kept saying mind over body. Mind over body. So alone (well they were a few feet away) I did put in my regulator and started over again. Without the mask and underwater. First, don the gear. Without the weight belt it was hard to stay under, I bob. Then, mask still off, I laid down on the bottom and put my weight belt on doing the roll-over technique. So there I was lying on the floor of the pool (shallow end) with my mask off and pretty much blind. I decided it was actually better to be led around by a high school girl than to be on my own!

Bob came back over just as I finished taking my regulator out and replacing it (both methods) and had practiced donning the mask and removing it underwater a few times. He said he was going to be my buddy and take me through the drill. Okay, soldier up!

He suggested we go in to the deep end and start there, but I was afraid I would panic, so I countered with the suggestion that he lead me to the deep end with the mask off so I could get used to the feeling. It worked, but I got so disoriented that I had no idea I was on the bottom of the pool until my fins touched bottom. Then Bob gave me back my mask and I put it on, cleared it and got back my vision. Then he made me take it off again and we did another circuit. Then, mask on, I did the doff and don, mask clearing and weight belt replacement roll. Then the crazy bastard points to his mask (which means watch me) and he did a complete flip/roll in the water on the bottom of the pool. Then he points to me. Seriously? So I decided not to think about it and I just did it. I was disoriented, but it wasn’t so bad. He said later I did it perfectly, which just showed him that it was my head that was getting in the way.

Duh! That’s always my problem. I could have told him that!

I was a little shaky by the time we got back up – it was 9:30 pm and I hadn’t eaten for 4 hours. Not good. So I got my protein bar and had a bite (still in gear and in the pool!) and kept going. Spent the rest of the time under water with the class and regaining my comfort in the water.

I really need to practice more. Now that boot camp is ending I can start swimming (without my mask and without my nose clip) to increase my confidence in my sense of direction and ability to not inhale water. (Did that on one of the mask clearings and managed not to shoot to the surface. Not as scary as I thought it would be to have water up my nose at the bottom of the pool.)

So I guess I need to google the SSI dive test and see what else I have to do to get certified!

Gotta get going – yoga starts in a few minutes – have a great day!

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