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Sunday 17 Nov 2013
Cozumel, Mexico

Diving the Devil's Throat

It was with mixed feelings that we set off for Eco-divers in the morning.  We’d been assured we’d be diving with Eric and that it would be a small group.  Christina was understandably nervous, but also determined to get straight back in the water.  We checked our own gear thoroughly at the shop.  They were pleased to show us the brand new regulators they’d attached to our gear, but we couldn’t test it with any tanks yet, as they were all down at the port.

We arrived at the boat, to discover we weren't going to be a small group, despite what Kristin had told us yeaterday.  The novice divers we’d been told would be moving to the afternoon were joining us after all, but Kristin assured us they would be diving separately with her.  On the first day, Jim had declined to take us all because they didn’t take more than 8 in the boat at once.  However, today we picked more people up from Nadal’s jetty, crowding 9 people and a captain into the small space.  The Argentinian couple we’d dived with two days earlier was there again, which didn’t fill us with confidence as their buoyancy control and spatial awareness had left a lot to be desired.  The new couple was from Michigan, apparently experienced divers who’d dived with Eco-divers many times.

Punta Sur is a deep dive, going down to 34m.  It starts with a large coral cave known as the Cathedral.  On a bright day, shafts of sunlight come slanting down through the gaps in the coral and create beautiful effects.  To leave the cave, you swim along a deep channel called the Devil’s Throat and under a coral arch.  Once again, Eric knew how I felt about narrow spaces and told me I could stick right behind him so he could keep an eye on us. 

This was fine in principle, but he apparently didn’t tell anyone else in the group.  Christina had a little difficulty equalizing as we descended, so I hung back with her to check she was ok.  By the time we got down, the rest of the group had crammed into the cave after Eric.  He was at the front and led everyone through, but that left us at the back trying to navigate through poor visibility after the Argentinians had once again kicked up sand from the bottom. 

We were not impressed and I could tell Christina was getting quite stressed by the experience.  When we reached the second cave and channel, I made sure I got in before the others and Christina strategically blocked them to give me time to follow Eric through in clearer water, for which I was very grateful.  It really was a beautiful dive but I'd have appreciated it a lot more had we been in a smaller group with better communication.

The last part of the dive involved swimming along the surface of the reef, which got progressively shallower.  We were still at about 17m, when I noticed a lot of activity out of the corner of my eye.  Robin was breathing off the Argentinian’s second, while his wife flapped around them.  I wasn’t sure what had happened – to be honest, I assumed Robin had just got through his tank too quickly by wasting energy in the deeper water – but then I saw him switch to the wife’s second-stage and realised there was something more going on. 

It turned out that Robin had been swimming along, when there was a loud bang behind his head as the seal suddenly blew on his tank, leaving air streaming out of the connector.  Luckily, the Argentinian had been right behind him at the time, saw the stream of bubbles and immediately offered Robin his second.  However, the couple of breaths that Robin managed to take were half air and half water, so he’d had to switch to the wife's tank in order to breathe properly.  Despite their usual dive style that encouraged me to give them a wide berth, the Argentinians had redeemed themselves by looking after Robin.  We all surfaced safely, but it was another dive affected by poor communication and cut short by faulty equipment. 

The last dive was thankfully uneventful.  Santa Rosa Shallows was a low, sandy reef where we spotted lobsters, crabs, stingrays and even a tiny little pygmy pipe horse, which is the closest thing I have come to a seahorse yet. 

We enjoyed the last dive, and certainly felt more relaxed than the first one as we had the space to spread out and avoid the less-controlled divers.  However, Eco-divers had provided four faulty regulators in the space of two dives: Jorge’s gauge had been flickering, giving an unreliable reading; Christina’s gauge failed leaving her out of air; Robin’s seal blew, leaving him without a first or second-stage; and the second-stage had failed on the Argentinian’s regulator.  Not good, guys.  That was the last chance and you blew it.  A big part of diving is about feeling comfortable and confident in the people around you and the equipment you’re using.  Christina and I had learned a few valuable lessons from these experiences, both about what we should and shouldn’t do in future.  But we had discovered that we make good dive buddies, that we have the same high expectations of safety and that we both really want to do the Rescue Diver and Dive Master training.  I’m working on her to join me in Indonesia in March…

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #2 Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica

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I met Christina in April. We travelled a bit of Australia together and both learned to dive. Now we're off to Mexico and Belize to see what the Caribbean and the Great Mesoamerican Reef have to offer, before I head down to Costa Rica for 10 days.

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