Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Trawler wreck off the beach in Bonaire

Smile! A Fabulous Dive at The Pit.

A solo trimix CCR cave dive to the back of the Wakulla Room.

After our dives at The Pit in October I was pretty rattled about deep diving and CCR diving.  During those three days at The Pit, I lowered my rebreather into the water with the BOV open, twice.  The first time I know I made a mistake and luckily only suffered a little water in the loop, not enough to cancel the dive.  The second time, I double checked the BOV was closed before I lowered it.  After twenty minutes, I noticed the Megalodon was floating kind of funny.  When I checked it, it was flooded bad.  The bottom of the can was full of water and the sorb was shot.  I called my dive that day due to “technical difficulties” and waited on the surface for Patrick.  When he returned in pain, I got rattled.  The combination of making a very pedestrian error, one which I was taught not to make in basic CCR, twice and then seeing Patrick injured me, just put me off CCR diving and deep diving all together.  I just wasn’t sure I was cut out to play at that level if I am going to make basic mistakes.  I spent some time considering selling the rebreather and just diving open circuit.

I didn’t dive the CCR for a couple of months and concentrated on sidemount/survey diving.  I gave myself some room to rebuild my confidence, see Patrick’s outcome and to get some distance.  Finally, with Patrick back in the water and the season for deep diving returning I thought it was time to get back in the saddle.  I had a choice, I could dive the rebreather or get rid of it.  No reason to have it sitting in the corner depreciating.  I decided to dive it with a renewed focus on checking everything twice.  I started with a couple of dives at Vaca Ha.  Both of those dives went very smoothly and I was really stoked to be back on the machine.

Then Victor & Santiago told me they would be doing a week of deep diving at The Pit and asked me if I wanted to join.  I thought, “This will be good.”  It will be a chance to get back to The Pit and concentrate on myself.  Victor & Santiago would dive as a team and I would dive solo.  Learning from our October experience, I hired a sherpa, Jorge, to do the heavy lifting.  He would be responsible for raising and lowering the tanks and moving them from the truck to the water and back, which was an excellent investment!  The three of us split the cost of the sherpa and it was the best 80 Pesos I have spent in a long time.

The two days before the dive were filled with the typical work: planning, blending, and double-checking gear.  The rebreather needed a new #3 cell so that went in and was calibrated.  The gases were mixed: 10/60 for bottom and 5 different blends for bailout.  Tuesday night was spent poolside doing bubble checks and assembling the gear.  The tanks were loaded into the 4Runner and the rebreather was assembled.   I cut my dive plans and hit the sack calm and ready for my dive.  I was in bed by 11:30.

Jorge arrived at 7AM on the dot and we loaded the remaining gear and Chico, my Black Lab.  We were on the road by 7:30AM.  It is really amazing how much smoother things go without 3 other divers involved.  Normally, it would take us and hour to get loaded and out of Playa.

We arrived at The Pit by about 8:45.  Jorge and I set to work.  In short order the tanks and rebreather were in the water.  As soon as the rebreather hit the water, I jumped in and checked it.  Everything seemed to be sealed up nice and tight.  About 9:30, I had my wetsuit on and I was in the water.  I kited up and pre-breathed the machine.  I played the dive over in my head a couple of times.  Everything was going so smoothly, I was very happy.  Once everything was on and I was comfortable, I lay back in the water and did my five minute meditation.  I cleared my mind and took nice long deep breathes and listened to my heartbeat.  I could hear it slowing to a nice rhythm.

When the five minutes were up, I waved to Jorge and calmly dropped down the deco line.  At 20ft I stopped and checked the O2 bottle, it had pressure and was off.  Then I dropped down to the 50% and checked it, though I checked it more thoroughly.  I noticed something strange, it only had 2500PSI.  The 50% should be full I thought to myself.  The 02 is the bottle that was short.  Then I looked at the MOD sticker and I realized that I was looking at the O2 bottle.  It was at the wrong depth!  I thought to myself, “Damn it!”  I unclipped the bottle and ascended to the 20ft station.  I swapped the bottles, reconfirming them and then dropped back down to deposit the 50% at the right depth.  All this was handled in the span of a couple of minutes; however the clock had started to run at that point.

I am very glad I checked the tanks before I left.  In the past, we lowered the tanks and assumed they were fine.  It would have been a nasty surprise to arrive at the “50%” and find that I was looking at a bottle of 100%.  Without in water support it would have been especially problematic, because it would have required that I break my ceiling by 50ft to retrieve the 100% while breathing the 30/30.  I know I should have enough gas to deal with the situation, but the fact is it was avoidable and in fact was avoided by double checking the gassed at the deco stations.  During stage class and deco class we are taught to check and recheck the gas we are breathing, the same lesson goes for staging gas on a deco line.  Another lesson learned.
With the gases at the correct depths, I left for my dive.  I started to make up for lost time, though I arrived at the 150ft stage depot a minute late.  By the time I got to the 220ft way point I had slowed my swimming to limit my exertion I let go of the fact that I was late.  I was still a half minute behind.  I arrived at the By-pass and felt great.  The cave is awe inspiring; the scale of it is really remarkable.  The Cardea Passage and Wakulla Room are huge, both wide and tall.

I swam through the By-pass and beyond my previous distance.  This trip I had some time to really enjoy the Wakulla room (Map of The Pit by Nick Toussaint).  I had scheduled 20 minutes for my deepest segment, so I just took my time.  At 15 minutes I arrived at the second T in Wakulla.  I thought for a second trying to remember the way to BMB, I took the left, a moment latter the line drops off towards the BMB.  I had reached my distance goal, but I still had time.  I decided to drop down and try and catch a glimpse of the BMB.  I got down to 317ft at minute 18, two minutes ahead of schedule.  I stopped and peacefully enjoyed the moment.  All of the anxious excitement of my first dive to Wakulla was absent.  By minute 19 I had turned and was heading out, by minute 24 I had exited the By-pass and started my ascent.

The ascent was super peaceful; I was really stoked about my progress and execution.  I had about 2 hours of deco ahead of me and I wasn’t dreading them.

I arrived at my 40ft stop around 11:30AM.  I could see Victor & Santiago getting into their gear.  I was really excited for them; I hoped they would have a great dive.  While I was on my 20ft stop, another team came up from the deep.  After some puzzling, I thought I recognized the diver in doubles, it was Dennis from Aquanauts.  It was nice to see him.  We exchanged glances and hand gestures to pass the time.  At minute 164 my dive was over, I was floating on the surface chatting with Dennis.  It was an awesome dive.

I floated around for 30 minutes just relaxing.  I pulled off my CCR and got it read to lift.  Jorge, with some assistance from Dennis, lifted the CCR and the tanks.  What a luxury to have help.  Jorge and I cleaned up our mess waiting for Victor’s team.  We got them out of the water and squared away.  Jorge, Chico and I headed for home around 3PM.  It was a fabulous day of deep diving.  Almost everything went right and I had a huge amount of fun.  The pay-off was huge for the effort.  With any luck, I will be back there in 4 days to give it another go.

Of course, no dive is executed by only one person.  I want to thank Jorge for his time, he was a life saver.  I want to thank Patrick Widmann from Protec for mixing up some excellent Trimix and loaning me his deep bailout.  I know I need to blend my own.  I want to thank Santiago and Victor for having me a long.  And I want to thank Chico for being the loving attentive friend that he is.

And as a closing treat, a friend forwarded me this video from YouTube.  I thought was great, though unrelated to diving.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

1 comment

1 Paul aka Hammerhead { 01.26.09 at 9:11 am }

Congrats. Sounds like a great dive.