Well, it's not the sort of post I would ordinarily make, but this particular ratcheting of my certification level will only come once. So I've decided to indulge and announce to the world that I am now an NSS-CDS Cave Diver
A few of the things I learned over the last week:
- Nothing works better to break me out of the 'first dive shakes' than to realize while doing something (installing a jump spool in this case) that I've started out sloppily, and then taking the time to back up and do it over again properly. Doing this snapped me out of an early case of jitters, and turned a dive that looked to be just something I'd have to endure into one that was a whole lot of fun.
- Silting really and truly can be so thick that a 21W light can't be seen at all just a few inches from your face.
- There's almost nothing cooler in the world than passing through a layer of tannic water in the Crossover Tunnel and watching your light dim down into a red glow that only extends a couple of feet.
- The flow at Little River can seriously kick my butt.
- The flow at Little River doesn't seem to phase certain people, some who are twenty- or thirty-some odd years older than me.
- The flow at Devil's can kick my butt.
- The flow at Devil's is not a big deal if I'm careful to stick to the trail that's plainly visible.
- It's possible for an open water descent into the Orange Grove basin to be the creepiest experience in a week filled with your most challenging cave dives to date.
- I am much better at this overhead stuff than I was back in that first Cavern class
- I still have a lot of room to become much better than I am now.
I loved my time in Florida's Cave Country this past week, and as always it was a mournful time leaving it. A shout to the folks I ran into... Cathy, Tim, Matt, Wes, Dave, Gene, Paul, Paul, Tracy, Mark, Jim, Gwen, Matt, Buddy, Mike, Marissa, Terra, David, Cheryl, Edd, Frank, Jay... if you happen to be reading this, it was great seeing/meeting you, can't wait 'till next time.
And a special prop for a great instructor, Carl Griffing Jr.. Some forum members undoubtedly know him, but for those who don't, Carl is an instructor based out of my home town of Houston TX. He's an excellent diver with a wealth of knowledge and a huge store of experience to pull from, and he is an excellent teacher, with great natural ability, plus the evident polish he's put into it in his years of working with people. Plus, he's a lot of fun, enough so that you can forgive all of the nasty little learning opportunities that I'm sure are just course requirements rather than flagrant entertainment for the instructor.
For those that tend to comment that cave instructors are no good anymore (presumably instructors were once good, at the time that those making the comments were taking classes on their own path to awesomeness), I really encourage you to reconsider such generalizations. I've seen some good instructors in action in N. FL, and I can definitely assure you that Carl is one who sets a high bar for performance, and continually pushes the message on buoyancy, gear configuration and stream lining, communications, line skills and etiquette, conservation, and just plain good citizenship in general. I would say that above all, he has stressed to me throughout my instruction the importance of being “a thinking diver”. So Carl, thanks-- I will plan to always keep that one at the top of my priorities when getting in the water.