Friday, June 15, 2007

Mom Don't Read This...

I nearly lost my entire family on a scuba dive yesterday at Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Mayan for wave bye bye to your children as they are swept out to sea). This is a dive I have done many times and I was a little disappointed that it might be boring. It’s hard to be bored when you’re terrified.

Mike, Jack, Charlie, Anna, and I were partnered with a newly certified dive master and two dive masters in training. With the combined experience we all have, I thought this would at least be an easy dive.

The boat was tied to a buoy in a very shallow spot (about 3 ft of water) and we were able to stand on the ocean floor - near the boat to put on our gear. It was a comfortable start to a familiar dive.

As we approached the channel, swimming now, I noticed that the current was unusually strong. Generally if there is a current, you are supposed to swim against it during the start of the dive, and with it on the way back. But that wasn’t what happened and we were quickly swept into the channel. Nearly out of control, we tumbled along the channel wall, bumping into rocks, coral outcroppings, and each other.

As with most bad dives, there were a series of problems; Anna’s mask kept leaking and fogging, Charlie wasn’t able to stay down, and my ears wouldn’t clear. It was uncomfortable at best.

We reached the end of the channel in about five minutes – normally a 20 minute swim -and turned around to come back. At this point the dive became terrifying. The current was so strong I had to kick with all I could muster just to keep from being blown backwards, out into the open ocean. Charlie was kicking as hard as he could and was still making negative progress. Jack seemed to be doing ok, but Mike and Anna were nowhere that I could see. I was in a full blown panic.

I was gulping air and looking to the dive master to help Charlie. He needed someone to tow him and I was no good to anyone. The best thing to do in this situation is to sink to the bottom, hold onto the rocks or sand, and crawl your way back – and that is what we did. Hand over hand, kicking as hard as I could without exhausting myself, and trying to keep my family in front of me so that I could see them.

Once out of the channel the swimming was easier and we found Mike and Anna who had cleverly turned around earlier in the dive. Though they were ok, Anna was crying and had a nasty scrape from some fire coral.

In the end we all made it out safely if rather shaken and injured (coral scrapes). As with most experiences like this there is supposed to be a lesson right? For the life of me I can’t think what it would be. What it did was make me thankful. Thankful that even without this wonderful adventure, I have all I need in my safe, healthy family. Maybe that’s the lesson right there.

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