Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bubbles and Buoyancy...

What is travel to you?

A short road trip out of the city, or would you only count something involving passports, planes and a healthy dose of jetlag?

Let's backtrack a week.

Saturday morning, bright and early - much earlier than I would normally be awake, let alone coherent and perky. It's 7:45 a.m. and a group of us are assembled in a Tim Horton's parking lot, waiting for everyone to arrive and I, for one, am grateful for my morning coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in.

The last few people pull into the parking lot, and after a briefing on the day's planned activities and directions as to where we're headed, we're back on the road.

After many pool sessions and classes in theory and the written part of the test, this is it, the big weekend - I'm about to do my Open Water check-out dives, the final thing I need to do to become a certified scuba diver.

This weekend has been made possible by the hard work of the instructors and dive masters of the dive club that I'm proud and happy to be a part of, and I can't wait to get in the water.

The site we're headed to is a short drive outside of Barrie, ON, and the weather couldn't be more ideal. It's hot and sunny, no wind and the water is calm. The water is also cold, but that's why you come prepared. My 7 mil wetsuit, hood, gloves and boots keep me nice and warm - and afloat; it amazes me how effortlessly I can just relax and bob on the surface with just the wetsuit's added buoyancy.

It's time for the dives. Everyone puts their gear together - mask, snorkel, fins, BC (the vest you can add air to or dump air from, to control your buoyancy), regs (this is what you breathe from) and, of course, the tank.

All of the students - myself included - demonstrate the skills we've learned in the pool, and then it's off for some fun dives.

My buddy and I head off, and the visibility is great - in most places, you can see for a good 25 feet, and the only times the visibility goes down is when I get too close to the bottom, and stir up silt from kicking my fins.

We're only a few minutes into our dive when I see movement below. There's a lone crayfish scuttling along the bottom, most likely in search of food. Another few minutes along, and my buddy points out to me a pair of territorial crayfish who are facing off, circling each other, claws raised.

My first Open Water dive, and I'm already seeing wildlife! Ok, these creatures might be small, but to be able to go into their environment and to see them in their native surroundings is really something.

I come back to the surface with a huge grin on my face; I can't wait to get back in the water! We all go back up on to the deck, put on a full tank, grab a snack or drink of water, and then before you know it, it's time for the next dive.

Again, I see some crayfish, including one that raises its claws in challenge to me, though I'm nowhere near it, and I'm thrilled to get down around the 45-ft mark. I don't see any fish, although I do spot a few on the second day of diving - I'm not sure what kind of fish they are, but they have black stripes on them, a little like a zebra.

On the second day of diving, the light hits the water at such an angle that, underwater, you can see the rays streaming down - if you've ever seen a break in clouds, where you can see the sun's rays breaking through, that's what this was like; just beautiful.

By the end of the weekend, I am happy and exhausted and famished - I've never gone through a veggie burger and fries as quickly as I did on my way home! And now, I can't wait for all the future dives to come.

So what is travel to you? Staying close to home or heading to other hemispheres?

To me, it's all around.

Happy travels,

Sarah :)

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