July 2007

July was a month of intense training, amazing challenges, little sleep, and great adventures. I began the month with a small break to catch up on sleep after my trip to Egypt and the UK, and spent Fourth of July in Boston with friends. The next day it was back to work on Martha’s Vineyard to finish my PADI divemaster couse with 2003 scholar Anya Watson. We dove for four days to complete my requirements and were able to combine work, fun, and wonderful meals from the Watson family. I studied hard and passed all of my divemaster tests! I can now call myself a professional diver.

My coursework did not stop there. I soon flew to Los Angeles to meet up with European scholar, Igor Valente, and Australasian Scholar, Mat Kertesz. The three of us converged upon Jeff Bozanic's house in order to take his famous (and infamous) closed circuit rebreather course. Closed circuit rebreathers have become increasingly popular in the dive community mostly because they provide "silent diving" – no bubbles nor bubble or regulator noise. By providing a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen that can change with any depth, rebreathers also reduce the chance of decompression illness. Jeff has been a long time supporter of scholars and we were thrilled to be learning from him. I think Jeff was also thrilled to have all three scholars under his wing! It was great to be with Mat and Igor to share the experience and face the challenges together.

And there were challenges! The rebreather course was amazingly difficult. Complete with long days, late nights, physics problem sets, and drills in the pool, the course proved a challenge I had never experienced. We were provided our rental units by Silent Diving Systems based in New Hampshire and I was diving on the Evolution. I was very glad to have completed the advanced nitrox and decompression procedures courses in Egypt as these had strengthened my background in dive physics as well as conditioned me to have extra weight, gear, and new buoyancy skills. Even with these courses boosting my confidence, when it came to the rebreather, I still felt like I was learning to dive all over again.

The course was equally as rewarding as it was challenging. I can’t say enough about the wonderful instruction and good humor we had from Jeff. We even learned about the aurora borealis at some point (you’ll have to ask Jeff about that one). Having Mat and Igor right alongside me also made the experience much more special. We supported each other, woke each other up if we had fallen asleep while doing physics questions (which was often), and celebrated our successes. I am thrilled to have Mat and Igor as my fellow scholars. Our open water dives were conducted on Catalina Island where I had always dreamed of going. We practiced skills, sent up lift bags, and finally got our buoyancy right (I think). With no bubbles in sight or regulator noise to distract us, we swam through beautiful forests of kelp, watched the bright orange garibaldi fish, and searched for giant black seabass. I can’t say that every dive went perfectly but my favorite dive was our last where I finally felt comfortable in the unit and I didn’t get any sensor alarms! It was an incredible week. I am thrilled to have had this opportunity to be trained in this technology.

When the class ended, we were dropped off on Catalina Island and had about half a day off before we were to start the Emergency Diving Accident Management (EDAM) course with chamber manager Karl Huggins. Mat and I managed to keep ourselves busy on this day with Karl. We were all smiles when we realized there would be only one tank on our backs.

EDAM is a week long, in depth, discussion on hyperbaric medicine, dive physiology, physics, dive tables and computers, and chamber functions. I had been exposed to most of the material before in many of my classes but this course pulled these subjects together and added immensely to my knowledge. My favorite activities were the two chamber dives. We were compressed to 60 feet and then to 165 feet where we thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of nitrogen narcosis and sang songs in our Donald Duck voices – Mat’s Australian accent being the most hilarious, in my opinion. It was nice to be out of the water for a few days and learn from Karl and the rest of the fantastic chamber crew.

We sadly left the beautiful island but looked forward to yet another course with Jeff Bozanic – he had amazingly agreed to host us yet again so he must not have been sick of us at that point. This time Mat, Igor, and I were to complete our SCUBA Diving International (SDI) Instructor Training Course (ITC). Back at the Bozanic homestead we cracked open our books yet again and began to learn. Jeff’s partner in crime was Gord Boivin of Laguna Sea Sports. For the week Jeff and Gord shared with us the philosophy of SDI and how to be a great instructor. Again this week was full of long days and late nights as we learned how to make and give informative presentations, teach in confined and open water, and refine our knowledge in dive theory. Mat, Igor, and I were successful in the course especially as we continued to help each other through the late nights (again, waking each other up in order to finish assignments) and celebrate our accomplishments. I shook Jeff and Gord’s hands with a smile on my face when they told me I had done a good job.

I like to think of these three weeks spent with Jeff Bozanic, Karl Huggins, and Gord Boivin, as a mini SCUBA "boot camp." I have never been as challenged underwater and above water as I have been in these three courses – rebreather, EDAM, and the SDI ITC. I know that I put in my best effort and energy to succeed and came out a better and more confident diver.

I want to thank Anya Watson (and the Watson family!), Jeff Bozanic, Gord Boivin, and Karl Huggins (as well as the chamber crew), Mat Kertesz, and Igor Valente, for an absolutely fantastic month. And now time for a break to catch up on some much needed sleep.

1) 2003 NA Scholar Anya Watson and I getting ready for a dive for my divemaster course on Martha's Vineyard

2) Learning how to put together my Closed Circuit Rebreather unit

3) Getting CCR homework done on the boat between dives

4) Mat, Jeff, Igor, and I after a very successful and exciting rebreather dive off of Catalina Island!

5) Filming underwater on the Evolution CCR unit

6) At the Catalina Hyperberic Chamber

7) The first dry "dive" down to 60 feet in the Hyperbaric Chamber

8) Teaching a lesson for a SDI open water course at Laguna Seasports

9) Successful graduates of the SDI Open Water instructor course with instructors Jeff and Gord