Wet Diving Weekend, or How do you do a Drysuit Specialty when you can't stay dry???

Saturday, October 26th, 2002

The weather report said "partly cloudy, chance of showers, high 65 degrees"......... I wonder what kind of drugs that weather man was on! We woke up in Santa Rosa, NM on Saturday morning to completely overcast skies and drizzling rain. Okay, the weather station on tv was still saying the original forecast so we packed up the truck and headed over to Blue Hole at 7:30am.

Not many people were there yet so we hurried and unloaded all our gear as the rain picked up slightly. Ron and Dave are both AIs with our dive shop and working the OW student class due to arrive at noon so this was the only opportunity for any fun dives this weekend. They both jumped into their dry suits and helped me don my dry suit I had borrowed for this weekend in order to do my Drysuit Specialty. We had to stand under one of the shelters in order to keep our undergarments dry and it became apparent that the weather man had lied. This was not going to be a chance of showers, we were in for the mother of all rainstorms in the desert.

Tiffany jumped into her wetsuit and off the four of us went to try to get in one dive to the bottom before all the droves of students arrived and mucked up the vis.

Dive 1

8:01am start...24 minutes, max depth 75'/96' alt, vis 30-40'

buddies: Tiff, Ron, Dave

SI.... 3 hr, 32 min, weather - downpour

This was my first dry suit dive other than the training in the pool and so Ron and Tiff were watching my every move like vultures. I must say, dry suit diving is not what I expected. I wore a friends recently purchased DUI 200 series drysuit which was fine in length of the legs but the torso was about 8" too long. I had to roll and telescope it to a certain point but with that front diagonal zipper as a hindrance I was not able to make it completely effective. The zipper does not"fold" under so I had a huge lump on my right hip. I wore a set of long underwear and a pair of sweatpants of Ron's under the suit and figured if I needed more thermal protection I could add it on the next dive. Also, her rock boots had not arrived so I had to use regular neoprene booties. The feet on this drysuit were huge and after bending and folding them under I finally stuffed them into a pair of Ron's booties. I had to use ankle weights also, probably due to the neoprene booties plus the layer of socks I was wearing to keep my feet warm. So my weighting configuration was 16 lbs in my BC pockets, plus the ankle weights which were 2lbs more each. This is way more than I am used to wearing and with the weight of the crushed neoprene drysuit I felt odd. I really thought I would sink to the bottom of Blue Hole and never return!

Buoyancy was not a problem. Ron had been my instructor in the pool and other than it sucks having your spouse teach you anything, he actually did a good job preparing me for this experience. The biggest thing I noticed was the "squeeze" affect. I added air into the suit but I had always thought that there was supposed to be a pocket of air around me. I guess the neoprene suits I have worn here before took all the pressure and I never noticed it before. But at 75' depth I really felt it now. I became chilled very quickly also (I needed to add another layer to my torso) but other than that I was fine. Wearing ankle weights was new for me and I must say that it is tiring! Kicking seems to be much more laborious and I felt like I was sucking down my tank more quickly than normal. Part of it may have been nerves but I was tired by the time we went up for a safety stop.

We exited the water into a torrential downpour. We had wanted to get in another fun dive for the guys but the idea of being warm and dry was a higher priority. We packed up the truck again and left for the hotel.

The rain continued but the students arrived and once again we headed back to the Hole. Tiffany had gotten out of her wetsuit and with the continuing rain she opted to stay dry and as shore support for us for the rest of the day. I added another thermal top and 4 lbs in my trim pockets for compensation.

Dive 2

12:08pm start....24 minutes, 30'/36', vis 20-30', drizzling rain,

buddy: OW class, drysuit spec

SI...1 hr, 32 min, drizzle

This was my official Dive 1 for the certification and I hung out at the platform with the two instructors (Chris and Jen), Ron and Dave, and the 11 students getting their OW certification. Between skills with the OW students I did my drysuit skills with Chris and all went very smoothly.

Dive 3

2:05pm start...31 minutes, 29'/36', vis 20'-30', wet, buddy: OW

class, drysuit spec

Same as last dive, I watched the students and they watched me trying to figure out who in the heck I was. I felt much more confident with my drysuit skills and practiced several of them on my own while I hung out in the area of the platform. I donquote t think I will ever want to do wetsuit diving in cold water again!! I am hooked.

Once the dive was done we all headed back to the hotel for showers and our group dinner. The rain continued on and on all night.

Sunday, 27

Sun, yes sun, greeted us instead of rain! We headed over to the Hole and Tiffany was itching to dive so I had a buddy again.

Dive 1

7:55am start...25 minutes, 75'/96', vis 25-35', clear and sun,

buddy: Tiffany

SI... 57 minutes

Dive 2

9:17am start....22 minutes, 33'/48', vis 20-30',

buddy: Tiffany

Since it was Sunday and checkout was at 11am, we hustled to pack up the truck and head back to the hotel for showers and checkout. The weather had cooperated on Sunday so the students did have one decent day of diving and quite honestly didn't whine too much about the weather like I had expected.

This was the worst weather we have seen there in 2 1/2 years of diving Blue Hole and I actually got in 5 dives and my Dry Suit Cert so it was well worth the trip.

Things I learned:

I don' t want a front zip suit unless the torso is the right length for me. This does not apply to the trilam fabrics which are much more pliable. With them there is a cost differential however. I liked the crushed neoprene feel and the fact they are warmer than the trilam means you wear less under them meaning less lead. Since the water at Blue Hole is a constant 62 degrees I could go with a trilam suit but since we plan to try other cold water sites someday I may opt for a crushed neoprene suit for more versatility.

The ankle weights make kicking more strenuous and therefore you may use air faster and tire quicker. I was really tired after the third dive which is unusual for me.

The drysuit doesn' t keep you warm, it only keeps you dry. Undergarments keep you warm but you have to compensate with more weight for them so it is necessary to balance that warm snuggly feeling with the extra ton of lead feeling. For a small person like myself, this was more of an issue than it would be for a large man better able to carry the extra weight with ease. I felt much more tired after a dive in the drysuit due to the extra weight I had to carry.