I realized today that I’m an old school diver. This is the story of how that realization came into my mind.
After having a forced sabbatical from diving for over a year, I decided to spend some quality time in the water. Due to my equipment being stolen several years back, renting has been the alternative, as I progressively piece my new gear together. It’s never been an issue before, so I was expecting a repeat performance.
Yesterday I did some shallows diving in Dana Point Harbor, just to try out the rental gear (good to get familiar with the gear each location you are planning on using has). Never getting down to 20 ft, I found a 1/2 tank dive plenty to try out the gear, get things adjusted and feel pretty good that I remembered my basics. Visibility was low, but for me the worst day of diving is a load better than the best day on shore.
Today, I picked Laguna Beach and a well-known spot just north of Aliso Creek. Access is through the path at the Montage Resort (Not my recommendation to stay here - VERY expensive for everything). Parking across the street, I set my gear up and made some adjustments based on yesterday’s dive and headed to the water.
The access has both a ramp and stairs. If you don’t mind lugging your gear, take the stairs, as it will save you a ton of time, but if you have a wheeled cart or bag, take the ramp. Well worth the investment, especially if it is one of the folding ones.
After looking over the surf, I decided to enter at the northern edge of the main beach, about 30 meters south of the rocks, as the tide was starting to shift and I didn’t want to get pulled into the rocks. Lots of people on the beach and though it is a well-dove location, there were no other divers around to get feedback from and this was my first dive at this location. I have swam the area, but never dove here.
Nice clean sandy bottom, with a long gradual grade made entry easy an allowed me to put my fins on once I was past the waves. This is just a personal preference. I hit about 30 feet and was happy with how everything was working out. Found a few things of interest and started making my way towards the outer edge of the rock shelf. Noticing a small ray I followed it along the bottom and made a few circles with it following me, while I was following it. Finally it decided it was bored with that game, so it wandered off, while I headed back on my compass heading and that is when things started going wrong.
By this time I was at 47 feet and a good distance off shore, just heading to the point of the rock shelf and truly open water, when I looked again at my rental dive computer only to find a blank screen. Then it flashed. Then blank again. Continually cycling, I came to realize that I had no idea what depth I was at any more and the computer was not going to be coming back online.
I’ll stop here an explain something. By standard I dive with a second set of old dial gauges. Always have. Usually I keep them strapped to my BC in some out of the way spot, or tucked into a pouch, yet since my gear had been stolen, I haven’t had the luxury of having a backup set.
Knowing that my dive was now over, with still plenty of air in the tank, I found myself in the position of needing to make a choice. The choices to pick from were these. First, I could slowly surface and guess my depth as I followed the small bubbles to the surface, or I could head for the shore and gradually increase my depth without guesstimating. I chose option number 2 and headed for the beach in a zig-zag pattern, taking my time, knowing by the progressively lighter surroundings that I was coming up slowly and safely.
Finally breaking the surface about 10 meters off shore, I made my way along the beach and exited the water at the same point I had entered, no worse for wear. Loading the gear into my car, I headed to the location I had rented the gear, which was about 30 minutes from where I had been diving. Loading the gear into a shopping cart, I rolled it into the store and to the dive counter an informed them of the situation.
Without questioning anything, except making sure I was OK, they offered to swap out the equipment, but understood my desire to not go for that, since I wouldn’t be able to get back into the water before nightfall, they gave me a full credit, along with an apology.
Even though my dive was cut short and my short dive tomorrow will not be happening, I will be back in the water shortly and renting from the same location. Probably between now and then though, I’ll be hitting a garage sale for a second set of old dial gauges, until I can get the Cobalt dive computer by Atomic.
Everything in time.