Wednesday, June 18, 2008
My neighbor got a new dog.
A GIANT St. Bernard puppy.
Yeah. I almost went over the fence when I saw her.
She is beautiful.
As of this morning she did not have a name.
He said he wanted a name that was fit for a girl, but also for a dog of that size.
A name like Bear, he said, but more feminine.
Which prompted me to go dog stalker.
I looked up St. Bernards on Google.
They are from Switzerland.
OK. In Switzerland they speak German and French.
Bear in German is Bar. Hmm. Not pretty.
Bear in French is Ours. Yeah, not digging it.
Then I thought of Latin. Ursa.
Like the constellations Ursa major and Ursa minor. Big bear and little bear.
Me, I love it.
But I am too embarrassed to actually tell him that I researched names for his dog.
Too embarrassed to tell a man I hardly know that I have decided to name his dog for him.
He got her yesterday.
I saw her out there in the yard again today.
She is so beautiful.
Again. Over the fence. Almost.
He heard me talking to her and stuck his head out the window.
Was she loud? Was she bothering me?
Not at all.
In truth, I was probably bothering her.
He then mentioned that he did not want her to get lonely.
So he was getting her a playmate.
An Alaskan Malamute puppy.
That is a lot of dog. Two huge, HUGE dogs next door.
Now I have to think of cute Eskimo dog names that I am too embarrassed to tell him.
Seriously. I may hurt myself climbing over that wall.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I was just so busy and then so wiped out by it all that I wanted to take some time to get back to normal before posting all this.
Turns out I did not have to.
The suit, since it was made for my exact measurements, pretty much just slid right on.
I got out of the office around 8 p.m. and went home to start getting things ready for Saturday morning.
Manfriend and I had a quick dinner then I set about getting my gear in order so I could get to sleep at a reasonable hour. It was about 11, I think, by the time I was done triple checking the dive bag for all the equipment.
I wanted to have time to have a little breakfast (a bowl of cereal) even though I don't normally eat anything in the morning.
I was supposed to be at Veteran's Park in Redondo Beach by 8 a.m. It is not far, but I did not want to risk being late.
I had rounded up about $5 in quarters the day before and put them in a baggie.
Then when I got there I found the baggie in my bag.
I also had the brand new wetsuit, which is pretty buoyant. So that meant more weight.
All in all, I started with 32 pounds on the weight belt.
We walked out onto the sand. One of the instructors, Carlos, was already in the water. He had set up a float that we would use as a sort of in-water home base.
The other instructor, Ron, sent us out one at a time. He advised us to take the waves at a sideways angle and to try to sort of jump over them as they crashed toward us. Once we were past the surfline, we were to swim out and wait at the float.
The water was not even as cold as I thought it would be.
One by one my class swam out, followed by Ron.
At the float we were told to go down the line one at a time and wait at the bottom.
I had no trouble clearing my ears and despite the fact that it looked like there was no visibility from the top of the water, I could actually make out the other people pretty well.
Under the water we had some things we had to do.
This time I was the one who was out of air. Of course I was not really out of air. But we had to practice what to do if i was.
So I told my buddy I was out of air. He gave me his alternate air source, basically a second regulator or mouthpiece attached to his gear.
It was time to get out of the water.
Which was no easy feat.
I made it to the beach and a diver from another group was kind enough to help me back to my feet.
After that we took a break, caught our breath, swapped tanks and went over the plan for the second beach dive.
But wait... I got it right. Just like that. Awesome!
Then we had to set our compass for a fixed object in the distance, put on the mask and snorkel, and, at the surface, swim out toward that object 20 kicks. Then, without picking our head up out of the water, turn around and swim back 20 kicks.
I did OK. I ended up close to where I started.
Finally we got to go to the bottom. In pairs we set our compass in the direction Ron pointed, synchronized them and swam out 10 kicks, turned and swam back. My buddy, Lee, and I did a fine job of this. We also had the benefit of knowing that if things did not go well, Carlos was swimming above of to make sure we did not head out to sea.
Finally, all these things were done and we got to swim around with Ron leading us.
I was at the end of the pack, following the red fins in front of me. The owner of the red fins was following the fins in front of her.
Suddenly, there was nothing. Nothing in front of me but water.
Crap. I was lost.
I remembered what the book said: Look around for one minute to see if you find your buddy or anyone else. If you do not, surface normally.
We all started swimming back to shore. It was part swimming, part letting the waves push us in.
Then I began walking to shore, being mindful of the waves at my back.
This time I got to the place where I had fallen before and paused a second. I watched the next little swell come in and I let the momentum from that move me forward but not knock me down.
This was the end of the diving for Saturday. I walked out of the water and just kept going, right back across the sand and up the stairs to the parking lot.
Back at the car I shed weights, vest/tank, hood, gloves, boots, wetsuit.
There was a little more paper work to fill out. Plus we had to get one of our tanks refilled for Sunday's boat trip. I also wanted to see about some soft weights for the tank. I needed more than the 32 pounds they had given me to start and I did not want more on my hips.
I opted for a couple of 3-pound pellet-filled weights. They can go on the tank or the ankles.
I was pretty tired. And I had gotten a fairly ugly sunburn on my face. Yes, I used sunblock. But in the water so long, at the surface so long with the sun's reflection bouncing off the water and onto my face... yeah. I burned.
After cleaning up I just vegged on the couch for a while.
That night was a light dinner out of soup and salad. Then back home to pack all the stuff up all over again for Sunday.
So I was asleep by 11, with my alarm set for 5.
I wanted to be out the door by 5:30 tops.
Cool. I grabbed some stuff and quickly claimed a bunk down below.
We left the dock at 7:05. I did not get much rest in the meantime since people were coming and going. So I got up and watched as we left L.A. Harbor. It would take a couple hours to get to our first dive location.
We were supposed to be on deck at 9 to start getting into wetsuits and gearing up. By the time I finished my food I still had a little over an hour. I decided to go below again and try for more rest.
I have been on boats several times. I used to go sailing off Newport on a fairly regular basis and never really had a problem with seasickness.
I knew what it was. I never should have gone below. The boat was rocking pretty good. I should have stayed up top and rolled with it, keeping my eyes on the horizon.
As others were getting into their wetsuits I was wondering if I was going to be able to get ready, to get in the water.
Yes. That should do it.
The boat was very full. It was crowded and hard to get to my stuff with all the other people in the same space.
I was really hot at this point.
Carlos asked me if I was OK.
He said they would get me in the water fast to cool me down and help with the queasiness.
I finally was able to get into the vest/tank. I grabbed my mask and put it around my neck.
I was ready.
The water was so much prettier than it had been at Redondo.
One giant stride and in I went. Ahhhh. Yes. That water was not warm. But the suit did its job.
We all got in and swam out to a float Carlos had set up. We descended.
We got to the bottom and had to do some skill tests. Take out the regulator and then recover it. Let water in the mask and clear it. That was about it.
Then Ron motioned for us to follow him and we started to swim.
Then I saw it. A bat ray! Awesome!
A look at probably a fourth of the bags that were
on board. The boat was pretty crowded.
We had some more time to rest as they were going to move to another site. I decided I was feeling decent enough to eat some carrots and cucumbers Lee had brought.
I was wrong. As they were dropping anchor at the next place, I was back at the front of the boat, tossing my carrots.
But I knew I had to do this dive. I only needed to complete this one to finish the course.
Back into the gear. Back to overheating. Back into the water.
This time we went down the anchor line.
This is something I hope I won't have to actually do in a real situation. But it is good to know that doing it, while not fun, is not as bad as it seems.
I need to get more familiar with the sea life since I think Catalina will be the easiest place to dive where there is stuff to see.
After about 30 minutes we surfaced.
Dang! I had lost my snorkel.
We started swimming back to the boat and could see a big kelp bed. Trying to kick my way around it I lost a fin.
Ron, after a little ribbing, dove back down to find it. My decision to get bright yellow fins was a good one. He was able to spot it easily.
But while I was waiting for him, I drifted into the kelp bed. My tank valve got tangled in it.
Carlos came to my aid and untangled it.
I could see Ron's bubbles moving toward the boat, so with my one fin, I kicked my way there.
He surfaced, with my fin. Thank goodness. Those things are not cheap and they do not sell them one at a time.
Another view of Big Geiger.
My gear, sitting forlorn on the deck after most
everyone else had gone in for the third dive.
I figured the best thing would be to give myself some time, while the boat was anchored and somewhat more steady, to get myself anchored and somewhat more steady.
So I sat it out. A couple other people did, too. Not for sickness, just because they were tired.
Lee, from my class, also sat out the third dive. She did do some
snorkeling near the boat. She said she saw a bat ray. Cool.
Yeah, I was done.
The time onboard was nice. I was able to get some bread down, then some of the California roll. I had a soda to get some sugar back in my body.
I was feeling pretty good by the time everyone came back from the dive.
The last test was to fill out the dive profile and use the dive tables to calculate our pressure group. After a false start, I got it right.
It was still choppy on the way back and bags that were tethered
to the storage area were bounced onto the deck.
All that was left was the ride home. This time I stayed up top, in the shade and watched the horizon.
Coming back into Los Angeles Harbor.
as it headed toward my favorite bridge, the Vincent Thomas.
It was after 5 p.m. when we docked. I got all the gear from the boat back to my car and headed home.
The Disney Magic, headed out to sea.
Manfriend came over and brought me food. It actually helped perk me up.
I was completely wiped out. The sun and the sea had taken a real toll.
I napped for a bit on and off.
But I did not really get my land legs back until Monday.
It was quite a long weekend that left me drained in so many ways.
But at the same time, I loved the part where we got to be under water.
I loved that bat ray.
Manfriend said he hoped I would not let this trip discourage me from diving.
I told him no way.
I just need to make sure to get some seasickness pills next time.