Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bahamas Trip - July 26 and 28, 2011 - Drift Diving

In addition to getting to do a shark dive, I also got to do another kind of dive I had never done before, a drift dive.  Well, two of them, actually.

The first drift dive was on July 26 at a site called Wax Cut Drift between Normans Cay and Shroud Cay in the Exumas. 

As I listened to divemaster Ian's briefing about the dive, I felt my stomach getting knotted.   Having never participated in a drift dive before, his description of the dive seemed rather complex and intimidating to me.   We would all have to position ourselves on the dive deck so that all of us could enter the water within a matter of a few seconds.  It would be a negative entry, which meant that there could be no air in our bcd vests.   That means as soon as we dove into the water, we had to submerge instantly and follow Ian, who would be at the head of our column.  Andy would be at the rear of the column.  First Mate John would be in the Magick and meet us all when we gathered at the end of the dive.  One or two of the other crew members would be in a dinghy in case any of us required rescuing.  When we reached the end of the dive, Ian would be holding a rope that we all had to grab on to, which would then be attached to the Magick for towing us all back to the Aquacat.

Soaking all of this in, I started having serious reservations about doing the dive.  Remembering my bad experience with a strong current at Closemon Reef on the first day, I was leery of drifting away from the main group and not being able to get back to them.   Then again, I thought, I had come here for new experiences, and this would definitely be a new and exciting experience.

I was feeling a bit tense as I donned my gear in anticipation of the dive.   We all started to take up our positions so that we would be ready to jump into the water when the word was given.  Some of the divers walked down to the two dive platforms while the rest of us would jump off the dive deck on either side of the boat, which was the only way possible to accommodate the most number of divers at once. 

Then came the announcement for all divers to dive (I must confess, I don't remember the exact words) and in we went.   As I splashed into the water, I exhaled steadily so that my body would begin its descent.  Once I got about 15 or 20 feet down, I looked around me to see where everyone else was heading and started following, continuing my descent.   I didn't really have to worry about which way to go, because the current just pushed me along.  I ended up making my way close to the front of the group so that Ian the divemaster was in my sights.  Otherwise, it was just a matter of letting the current take you along for the ride.

I didn't take my camera for this dive, because I was worried the seal might break during entry.  In a normal dive, you enter the water and then a crewmember would hand your camera to you.  Too bad, because this dive presented some great photo opportunities.

At one point during the dive, I was looking to my right for marine life and just taking in the scenery.  Then I turned to my life, and nearly did a double-take.  Several feet to my left was Nick, the Filipino kid, riding on a plastic horse.  I almost shot my regulator out of my mouth from laughter.  I was like "Where did he get that from?"   I found out after the dive that one of the crew had found the plastic horse and they would bring it on the drift dives to let divers take turns riding it. 

Another interesting sight on the dive that would have made for a great picture was this huge brain coral about the size of an automobile.  It had these gashes and cuts in just the right places to give it the appearance of a giant jack-o-lantern.

The dive proceeded smoothly to plan, and when we got to the end point, we surfaced, holding on to Ian's line for the tow back to the Aquacat.  It was a really cool dive and I realized that my earlier nervousness about it was totally unfounded.

The drift dive for the Washing Machine on the 28th proceeded according to the same plan as Wax Cut Drift, with as many divers as possible making a simultaneous negative entry into the water, with the remainder following immediately afterwards.

I was really looking forward to this dive, which is one of the more famous dives in the Bahamas.   The site is located between Highborne Cay and Long Cay in the Exumas.  For those of you who have never heard of it, the Washing Machine is what they call an area where, to quote from the Aquacat website, "the strong incoming tide of up to 6 mph takes scuba divers thru a narrow cut where water drops off a ledge and then makes a sharp bend to the left. This causes the water to swirl like the water in a washing machine."  Divers who enter the Washing Machine can find themselves tossed and spun around.  I really wanted to experience that!

As the current pulled us along, I kept anticipating that over the next drop would be the Washing Machine and I would feel the tossing and the spinning.  And I waited and waited and waited.  Nothing.  I looked at Tara and Jeff and shrugged.  Where was this Washing Machine.  And then the dive was over.  It wasn't without its excitement though.  I had a collision with Martha that scared the bejesus out of her.  When we were back on the boat, I apologized profusely to her, but she was very understanding.   It turned out that a lot of the divers on the dive didn't get the Washing Machine experience.  In fact, I think Guy and Tony were the only ones who reported getting tossed around.  All in all, it was a disappointing dive, though from what I understand, the experience can be inconsistent.  It's one of those YMMV things.

To give you an idea of what the Washing Machine can be like, here's a video I found on Youtube for your viewing pleasure.

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