Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
A bathing bird at the Zoo in Sydney

Circuit at Mayan Blue

Learning to not waste gas setting the primary reel.

A couple of weeks ago, I did an awesome single stage dive down Tunnel A and out to the end of the line past Maya’s Two Cenote and Lost Cenote.  In the weeks leading up to the dive I was feeling flat and burned out.   Probably from doing too many dives that required too much preparation, work and stress.  That dive really turned things around and refreshed me.  The highlight of the dive was the blue water in Hostage Hall.   I don’t know; I just had a ton of fun.  When Alain and I decided to dive today, I knew just where to go, Mayan Blue.

It was Alain’s first trip to Mayan Blue and I had an excellent dive in mind.  Patrick had been bugging me to do the do the circuit that passes through The Tubes and then up through The Dead Zone.  I thought I would finally oblige him.  Luckily, on the aforementioned dive I had done about fifty percent of the circuit so I sort of knew what to look for to connect the loop.  I remembered a red arrow that said Sun Cenote on the line coming down from the Dead Zone.  That was my mental clue for knowing where to connect the lines.

It has rained for the last 35 consecutive days.  This has flooded some of the cenotes. When we arrived at Mayan Blue the water was 1ft over the deck and the water was tannic down to about 10ft (3m).  I really hate jumping into tannic water, I always feel like there is going to be a scary monster in the water that is going to reach up and bite me.  I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about.  I overcame my fear and we started the dive from The Dead Zone entrance.

I lead and Alain staged a bottle of 02.   I had been in that section before so finding the main line was pretty easy.    We estimated it would take us 7-8 minutes to get to our first way point, the sharp right hand turn where the tunnel turns south and drops down to 60ft (18m).  We reached it in 9 minutes.  We were close to schedule but I still wasn’t sure if we would make it to our objective, the jump to line leading to Maya’s Two Cenote.

I am going to digress for a minute, but I suffer from a terrible waste of gas when setting the guideline to open water.  For some reason, I always seem to burn 500psi out of one tank for that small task, even when the main line isn’t that far from open water.  Setting the reel drove my SAC through the roof and would blow out my estimates for the entire dive.  It was really frustrating!

For a brief moment I considered carrying a small stage just for setting the reel.  I know it is ridicules, but it was awful and embarrassing to waste that much gas at the beginning of the dive.  I knew it wouldn’t fix the problem only the symptom.  So, I decided to talk to Steve about it during dpv/stage class.  I explained to him what was happening and how frustrated I was.

He suggested that after prepping for the dive and getting all worked up entering the water I was a little stressed.  He asked me how I felt when I started most dives and I told him stressed and anxious.  His guess correlated nicely to my experience.  He suggested that after everything is ready to go, I take 5 minutes, float on the surface, and focus on relaxing and breathing.  Take some time and just chill out.

He also suggested that setting the reel added to my stress level and I was forgetting about my breathing.  The cumulative effect was why I was wasting so much gas.  I agreed with him.

With that knowledge I decided to put his recommendations into use today.  Once Alain and I were completely ready to dive, pre-dive checks and all were complete, we took five minutes and just floated there.  I took some time to meditate and relax each muscle group on each exhale.  It felt great.  The stress and anxiety of the coming dive melted away.  I cooled off a bit and started to breath with a nice rhythm.  I just felt so much better.  Thank you Steve!

Setting the reel went really smoothly and I used about 50% of the gas that I would have normally used for a run that long, I think about 250PSI.  I made my breathing the first priority, buoyancy with the BC next and setting the reel number three.  I was really satisfied with the change.  Everything just came together.

The swim down from the turn is really beautiful!  There is big cave, small cave, restrictions, and silt.  It is perfect cave for sidemount.  I can only think of two places I needed to turn 90degrees to fit through a restriction, the rest of them would have been tight in backmount.  When we reached the first potential connection point, it was 19 minutes.  We found a green arrow and a pretty big jump. I swam across and put a cookie on the end of that line and returned.  I was pretty sure we weren’t in the right place yet.  The arrow on our line was pointing wrong direction and it was the wrong color.  Unfortunately, those two indicators can’t be trusted here.  Lines and arrows change in Mexico ALL the time.  I wrote some notes on my survey slate and we continued.

We passed a couple of more arrows and a change in direction.  None of those were candidates because they were jumps in the wrong direction.  Were having a fabulous dive!  We finally came to two red arrows that said Sun Cenote.  I looked right and the jump was about 2ft.  I felt like we were in the right place and the time reflected it at 36minutes.  I signaled Alain and asked if he wanted to make the jump.  He said yes and told me he has about 200psi to burn between his tanks.  I signaled him I had about the same amount of gas and I just wanted to go a little ways, he affirmed, I installed a small spool and we crossed.  We swam a couple of minutes and I started to recognize the cave, I felt confident.  At 40 minutes it was time to turn the dive and I placed my cookie.  We agreed to use 900psi and we hit the mark about the same time.  I was stoked knowing that we had jumped onto the correct line.  We exited leaving our markers and reel in place.  The exit only took 31 minutes, Alain picked up the pace after accusing me of being slow.  We used even less gas on the exit.

During the 2 hour surface interval we tried to figure out where on the map we made the connecting jump.  We never really did.  Either the distances are wrong or I am just confused.  Alain and I decided we were going to try and complete the circuit.  We agreed that when we reached my cookie, we needed to have 2000psi left.  This added 200PSI of conservatism.

We entered the water and we repeated the relaxation routine.  It was awesome, I felt great.  We put the primary reel in A Tunnel wasting little gas and made the first marked jump to the left.  We passed Maya’s Two Cenote at about 10 minutes and dropped down into The Tubes.  The dive was going great.  In fact, this dive was better then my first dive to the tubes.  The first time I was in very limited visibility the entire time. Don’t accuse me, I found it that way.  This time visibility was great and now that I could see the floor, I was amazed how bad the floor in The Tubes is damaged.  It looks like there was a bar room brawl down there!  People, please be more considerate and practice some cave conservation.  If it is too small and you can’t stay off the floor, stay the fuck out.  This is equally true of Minotauro.  It is going to take centuries or more to repair your damage.  There is plenty of cave that doesn’t require you to be that close to the mud.

We made it to the T at Lost Cenotes in about 25 minutes.  I wasn’t sure how much further it was to the marker.  The first time I came this route I had checked all the jumps and really wasted a lot of time.  I was surprised when we hit my cookie at about 30 minutes.  I had used 600psi out of each tank, so we had plenty of gas.  Alain and I did all the appropriate confirmations and decided to finish the circuit.  We gave each other a high five.  I have to admit that it is comforting to come up on your own gear and confirm you are going the right way.  We finished the circuit at 60 minutes and with 1500psi remaining in each tank.

We did a short stop and swam over to A Tunnel.  We dropped down and went to pick up our gear.  I had placed a cookie at the T in Maya’s Two and didn’t want to leave it.  When we reached the end of the clean up we were at 94 minutes and I had 10 minutes of deco on my Suunto D6, Alain had no deco on his computer.   He did a safety stop plus two minutes and surfaced. When he got to the deck there was a 5ft black and white snake sunning itself.  Alain was trapped in the water.

When my computer finally cleared it was 109 minutes.  I love deco minutes on dive computers, talk about bending space time.  I swam to the wrong end of the cenote while decoing, so I had to surface swim back.  By the time I arrived the scary monster had slithered into the water and disappeared.  We celebrated the dive, cleaned up and headed to Tulum for some chicken at Pollo Bronco.  It was another excellent day with a great friend and dive buddy.

This is a fantastic circuit, but it takes all day to setup, complete and clean up.  If you want to dive it, I recommend getting some Nitrox 32.  That would keep you squarely in the NDL limits.  Also, care has to be taken if you are diving in backmount or with a stage.  There are some tight areas that can easily be damaged.  Lastly, a big percentage of this dive is in the halocline, so be considerate of your dive buddies.  I would really limit the team size to two.

3 comments

1 Jason { 10.27.08 at 6:58 pm }

Yummy! This dive looks great! Any pics from it, by any chance?
I’m really looking forward for my SM course. But I’ll have to go and do it ASAP!! Will stay off the ground, promise.
Looking forward to it.

2 Hans { 10.28.08 at 7:24 am }

Jason, no photos from the day. Allie had the camera down in Majahual. She went with Anna and Jose for two days of open water diving and hanging out on the beach.

3 Ron Micjan { 01.15.09 at 10:05 pm }

Quote HansK “If it is too small and you can’t stay off the floor, stay the fuck out. This is equally true of Minotauro. It is going to take centuries or more to repair your damage.”

Ah, Hans, perhaps you are unaware of how solution caves form. There is nothing, save a lot of patience and a large tub of Splash Zone (underwater setting epoxy), that is going to repair broken formations. Maybe I should also mention that the caves are continually changing, the flowing water is breaking down all the formations, ever since they were flooded, which is when the formations stopped growing. Ever think what all that silt on the bottom is? Its the residue drifting down from the formations that the flowing water is eroding away. Nothing anyone can do will change the fact that the caves are always changing, albeit slowly. Its preferable that we, as responsible cave divers, do not hasten this change, so that others can see the beauty we enjoy, so we should be careful about where our fin tips go, however swearing at other divers on a semi-public forum only shows immaturity. Let he who has NEVER broken a formation cast the first stone, and I am certain that it won’t be you. I am equally certain its not me either. Dive Safe.