Exam day – though first off, more class time. Per needed to explain dive computers and how one predicts how long a dive can be depending on the depth and dangers. One of the biggest risks with diving is that nitrogen becomes compressed in your body, and if you don’t expell enough of it, you’ll start to suffer from decompression. In order to counter this, you often need to have stops while coming back to the surface, or make sure you only stay at a certain depth for a certain length of time – and there are wonderful little tables to help you figure that out if you can’t splash out on a dive computer. Once we (more or less) felt we’d learned as much as we could, it was time to get tested.
Got to admit, if my higher exams had been held on a beach I would have probably enjoyed them much more. The exam itself isn’t particularly hard – its designed for 12 years olds to pass, and consists of nothing but multiple choice questions. Takes less than 40 minutes to complete if you’ve done the homework and paid attention in the classes.
(in the end, passed with 4 incorrect questions. One was a stupid mistake – answer was ‘C’ but filled in option C instead, one was me completely misunderstanding what Per had said, and 2 were questions I’d gotten right but then scored out and chosen the wrong answer as I’d not been certain. Should always follow my gut with that).
The others all managed to pass too (though one was just one question away from failure), and with that, we had a short time to get lunch before heading out with everyone for our first real dives. First stop on the boat? Mango Bay, a very popular dive spot for beginners.
That said, along the way I got hit with 2 problems. One was discovering my BC didn’t work properly (and this would be why we check equipment multiple times before heading into the water) so ended up holding our group back while they found a new one, and the other was my motion sickness rearing its ugly head at the worst possible moment. Its ridiculous – been on half a dozen boats this trip without a problem, but this boat has wrecked my stomach completely. Have to stay on the bottom floor staring at the ocean to try and recover before heading into the water.
This is apparently a great place to practice underwater as its mostly sand with just a little coral, so we could practice everything we’d done in the pool under several more metres of ocean water. This included throwing away the regulator, buoyancy control, hand signs and generally following Per under the water.
While on this dive, I discovered a new talent. While checking how much air we all had (you get approximately 200), I answered (correctly) that I had 140 in my tank. This shocked Per, and I thought I’d been overusing. It wasn’t until we got to the surface that I found out everyone else had been in the 70/80 range. Most beginners can’t regulate their breathing and go through their air quickly, but I’ve already got close to perfect control. Personally, think several years of Taekwondo and breathing exercises there probably gave me a head start, but does mean I have a bit of an advantage over everyone else.
The next dive was Sairee beach, which had a lot more fish and more things to look at. We were still doing exercises, but we mostly got a chance to see what recreational diving was like. It also meant we had to empty and attach new tanks on the boat so they could see we’d actually learned how to do that (took me a stupidly long time since I practically had a whole tank left).
Did have a problem with this dive as I just couldn’t get my ears to equalise. I’d definitely gone down a little bit faster than I should have and since the problem hadn’t been fixed at a higher level it was just getting worse down below.
Tomorrow we have our first 2 proper dives. We still have some maneouvres to go through, but for the most part it’ll be recreational diving – and time to see if what we’ve been learning is worth it.