I took Nitrox Classes through Temple Terrace Watersports. A requirement of the class was a couple of dives that involved signing off on Nitrox fills and then diving them. I took the tanks to Weeki Wachee since it was close by, the water was practically guaranteed to be at least 72 degrees. However, I did spend a good bit of time kicking myself for not doing this the week before ...
Diving in the land of the Mermaids:
- Directions from Tampa: Weeki Wachee is just south of the intersection of State Road 19 and State Road 50. Weeki Wachee is technically it's own city, but I've seen it referred to as part of Brooksville, as well as part of Spring Hill.
- Conditions on the day of my visit: Sunny, but very cold in the morning. It was hard to put wetsuits on after taking them off between dives.
- Personal Notes: Neptune Divers does accept walk up divers, though it is suggested that you make reservations ahead of time. At the time of this writing, it's roughly $40 - $45 (taxes included) for a day of diving. You also get entry into the park. During the summer Buccaneer Bay is open and that part has a beach and water slides.
Great Dive As Usual, But:
Well, it wasn't the best day for me. Though I was completed with class work and could have done the Nitrox cert dives the week before, I waited a week. The result being that the week before the air temperature was very warm. This day though, I'm sure it probably started below 60 degrees (F) and I doubt that it climbed above 65. What that equates out to is a difficult time of getting back into a wetsuit for a second dive. Neoprene is a great insulator dry or if you are underwater and it's trapping water inside. However, wet and out of the water in cold air, it gets really cold really fast.
And it doesn't stop there:
Problems encountered and their solutions (not all of which were "Good Ideas"):
- Problem: Forgot my B.C.
Solution: Borrowed one of Scott's. This involved switching off a hose from his regulator onto mine, so that I could actually hook up my regulator to his B.C.
- Problem: No Designated Buddy.
Solution: Dove without one. This is "Something You Should Never Do #1." You have no one to work through problems with. Though you are always responsible for yourself, it is very wise to have a second pair of eyes, a second air source, and, in some cases, a second set of hands to help you through some of the Bad Things that can happen. On my first dive, with no buddy, I set some restrictions on myself:
On my second dive, there was a gentleman that did not have a buddy and requested that Scott hook him up with one. I was more than willing to be a buddy, and have a buddy. This would have allowed me to do the second swim through, hang out a little deeper to watch the fish play in the flow. Unfortunately, he got into the water and discovered that his inflator hose (on his B.C., where the air goes into the air bladder) had a hole in it. He had to go and rent one. Again, I dove alone, same restrictions as before.
- No going down to the grate. Divers are not supposed to in the first place, and even with a buddy, it would have depended on my buddy and it would have required Scott's permission.
- No diving the second "swim through." There are two overhead conditions; at the entrances and exits to both, you are hit by the spring's fast moving, very strong flow. These areas are one on top of the other, so the first swim through (at about 45-50 feet) is calm in the middle. The second one, you are blasted by the flow all the way through.
- Try to stay within sight of another diver.
Above all, don't hang out underneath outcropping rocks near the flow. This would have required being below 45 feet and could have resulted in a bonk on the head ... which could end up being fatal if no one was around to help.
- Problem: No Octo.
Solution: Dove without one. This is "Something You Should Never Do #2." If your primary second stage fails, you've got no backup. If your buddy's regulator system fails, you have to share one second stage ... this is "Not A Good Idea." Diving with a buddy that didn't have one (and not being aware of that before hand) almost got someone close to me killed.
Comments about "Things You Should Never Do."
Cognizant of the buddy issue even before the dive, I had thought it through. I doubted to an extent that Scott would have let me dive alone, or figured that he would have placed even more restrictive limitations on me. However, we've talked, he knows me, and he's seen me dive and has been in the water with me before. I guess he figures I'm cautious enough. So, well before the dive I had assumed in my mind full responsibility for myself in this dive. Now, you are always responsible for yourself. But if you are going to put yourself in an unusual dive situation, you must think it all through completely.
When it came to not having my B.C., my first reaction was "Today is shot." (Well, mentally and even to an extent verbally, I did use stronger language ... and I was very disappointed in myself.) Why is another story (it has to do with how I store different gear). Scott came to my rescue, and I made sure I was fully aware of the lack of an Octo, and that I was familiar and comfortable with the operation of the inflator/deflator.
Now, why I did "What You Should Never Do." I have done many dives at this location. Two of them were night dives. I had a plan (which these days seems to be becoming an exception more than a rule). I dove that plan. I always take full responsibility for myself, and this time was certainly no different. I did what I did, fully cognizant that in any normal situation (and in pretty much any other location), I would not have. I am fully confident in my ability to survive (though certainly not unscathed) an ascent without air from 50 feet. The "No Octo" situation was secondary in my mind to "No Buddy." Your primary reason for having an Octo is to have that emergency air source for your buddy.
It Was Still A Good Dive.
I had fun. While I spent the average small amount of time (which is slowly becoming unacceptable) futzing with my computer (even after replacing the transmitter battery), I spent most of my time looking at fish. I was amazed at how many there were. I watched from a distance where they hung out; occasionally I would peer into the nooks and crannies where they would hide. I watched them from three different depths, looking up at them, looking on level with them, and looking down from above. It is interesting how different the whole basin looks from three different levels. I actually saw some of the snails move; I think I might have actually been surprised when I realized there were actual snails there. Most of the time you see the shells, seemingly empty, rocking in the flow, and your brain might not make the connection that some live creature used to live in that shell. This time I was highly aware of the ones stuck to the side of rocks, stuck fast, while the water flowed around them.
There was one manatee but he spent most of his time sleeping and I decided not to bother him.
I have had my deepest dive to date in Weeki Wachee, and now my longest: 60 minutes (according to my dive computer).
I definitely would have had more fun with a buddy (especially my sister), but I doubt I would have been able to hit the 60 minute mark with a buddy. ;) I could have even gone longer (within my computer's "Exit the water with 600 psi" limitation), but the water does get slightly chilly (though knowing the air temperature was even colder kept me in). Besides, it was time to get out of the pool and get home; staying down any longer would have been little more than sitting there watching the timer on my dive computer.
Dive data for dives on this day: