A Giant Stride
And a step closer towards normality, with a little bit of luck!
It’s been 140 days since my last dive. 140 days. That’s almost 5 months! And much like everyone else, I’ve been going stir crazy at home. Fortunately, however, I did have some fairly major distractions to preserve my sanity, in the guise of remodelling half our home and then having my father turn up and stay with us for 8 weeks whilst we had no kitchen… that’ll take your mind off most things!!
With the new kitchen fitted and my father packed off back to the West Country, I was finally able to think about getting back into the water for my first check-dives post imposed Covid-Lockdown hiatus.
My BARE Expedition HD2 drysuit had just come back from its annual service, nothing of any real note needed doing to it, despite the pounding it has taken over the last couple of years. Will Cooper at Deepsea Marine did a cracking job and got it back to me in next to no time, it looked like new when I open the box! Which given the fact it’s completed almost 500 dives and spent the last two years being dragged through mines and rusty old shipwrecks is pretty impressive. My last two crushed neoprene drysuits had both disintegrated and turned into ‘teabags’ at around the 500 dive mark… so literally no comparison really. Goes to show, you get what you pay for!
I was concerned, however, that during lockdown it may have miraculously shrunk somehow. Like all drysuits seem to do over the Christmas period! But I needn’t have worried, it was fine, even if it was a little snugger than before!
I got my kit together and checked everything was in test, serviced, generally charged up and good to go. My Hollis 200LX regs had been serviced not long before the 3rd lockdown, as had my Katana wing. Cylinders were all in test, so all I really had to do was charge the batteries in my camera and my scooter.
I had an invite from Cromhall to avail myself of their facilities mid-week and so avoid any large crowds, I went over with one of my DMs and the value of a check dive became immediately apparent… 4 months isn’t a long time, but if you’re sat on your backside not diving for that long then it’s surprising just how much your dive fitness can drop off… lugging all the kit around, which I normally think nothing of, suddenly felt like hard work!
Once we were at Cromhall and set-up I got myself into my BARE base layers and SB undersuit, donning the HD Expedition I felt my first ache as I strained a muscle reaching across to pull the zipper closed! ‘Oh my days’ I thought to myself as I rubbed my now aching shoulder. Swinging the Katana sidemount harness onto my back I eased my now sore arm through the shoulder strap and was immediately grateful for the ‘H’ style harness and the ease of which you can don and doff it.
I had my cylinders at the water’s edge, resting on the platform, and my camera was attached to my scooter and clipped off under the platform. I got my Zeagle Recon fins on and lowered myself to a sitting position on the platform and clipped my cylinders into place.
Having run through all the kit checks I got my hood and my trusty Oceanic Shadow mask on and slipped off the edge of the platform into the icy cold water. My delight was immediate… I’m back! I’m in the water… thank goodness.
Running through a bubble check on the surface I gave the signal to descend and depressed the deflate on the Katana, as the wing collapsed the water enveloped me and with it that now familiar sensation as I dropped beneath the surface and the silvery lining washed across my mask as I looked up to watch the surface slip away as I dropped down. I arrest my descent at 6 metres and perform another bubble check. I’ve fitted a 360 Observe mirror to one of my strobe arms and this has proved to be an awesome bit of kit. I have a 2nd one on the back of my left hand, the all new bungee version in fact, with its red bungee is pretty neat, but the practical nature of this inexpensive bit of kit is invaluable. I glance at this and can see all my kit and my buddy. When scootering this really does come into its own as I can see my buddy just behind and to the side of me at all times. It’s quite literally like having eyes in the back of your head!
We scooter off and the viz rapidly deteriorates as we approach the new helicopter and plane that have been put in the quarry. A couple of ‘mud skippers’ had just been through and practiced the art of walking on the bottom, so we enjoyed a little navigational challenge as we made our way through the cloud of silt and out the other side.
The feeling of neutral buoyancy as I hung from beneath the Katana was joyous, how I’d missed that sensation… I paused to enjoy the moment, slowly breathing in and out, as I gently rose and fell with each breath. My scooter and camera floated in front of me, it was time to go and play, it was time to explore, it was time to get my mojo back and get ready for the diving year ahead… with Swanage already booked for the next week, and hoping and praying that it doesn’t get blown out I headed off to put all of the kit through its paces, to shake it all down and make sure it all performed as it should, which it all did, faultlessly.
'A couple of ‘mudskippers’ had just been through and practiced the art of walking on the bottom, so we enjoyed a little navigational challenge as we made our way through the cloud of silt and out the other side.'
Now it’s time to do some proper diving, now it’s time to hopefully put this awful Covid behind us and move out of the darkness and back into the light and hopefully a much brighter future.
“OPTIMAL HYDRATION IS PART OF THE TREATMENT FOR COVID-19.”
— Steven Magee