GRAHAM BLACKMORE’S FLORIDA SUMMER:
Disclaimer: this was all written sometime after the event entirely from memory. It is a part of teaching that students never remember exactly what is taught and add their own interpretations. As such this write up should be treated as fictional and should not be thought of as a true representation of what happens in GUE cave training.
I arrived in Orlando late on the 14th of June and proceeded directly to a motel that Bill (another classmate) had booked. Later on Bill arrived, with the hire car, and after talking for a while we slept until the joys of jetlag saw us up far too early. We took full advantage of the buffet style breakfast and hit the road. We were going to Palm Beach to meet a friend who lent us a multitude of tanks and his truck (a fantastically generous offer that saved me an absolute fortune over the course of the summer).
He was not available to meet us till he finished work that evening so we had time to kill and decided to go and visit NASA at Cape Canaveral. That was interesting enough, although coming from the third world it was horrendously expensive…we did, however, manage to see the shuttle on the launch site. That evening we met with our mysterious benefactor, picked up the vehicle and treated him to a massive steak. Over the next few days we chilled out and generally did nothing except eat and drink (we were later to find out we could have been using this time much more wisely). On Saturday morning we drove out to meet George Irvine in Fort Lauderdale and were given a crash course (no pun intended) in Scooter maintenance. True to form George was wearing only his running shorts – so he doesn’t only dress like that for DIR videos. He was extremely knowledgeable and we learnt a lot to help keep the growing fleet of Gavins in Asia in good working order. Furthermore and more importantly, he was a cracking guy and kept us amused with Cave diving stories all morning. We left his place around lunch time and with two feet on the accelerator sped up the Florida Turnpike stopping, what seemed like, every 2-3 miles to pay another 75 cent toll.
After a long drive we arrived in Highsprings just in time to go to Extreme Exposure before it closed and be abused by Derick (those who know him will know what I mean). We checked into the hotel (I stayed at www.highsprings.com/cinns the Country Inn for the 6 weeks I was in Florida and found the staff to be helpful but it was a little basic) and got some supplies from Win Dixie (A local supermarket – tip for future travellers: get the card, since it saves you 5-15% and costs nothing. You can make up your address and phone number if you don’t live in the States).
When we came back, Osman (a friend from the Philippines now living in Texas and our third class mate) was waiting for us and after catching up we decided to take Osman’s rediculously “pimped” up 8L V10 truck out to dinner in Gainsville. The 15 min ride (30 by normal car) was exhilarating and we managed to find a restaurant serving massive steaks (I found the food in the states rather dissapointing and resorted to eating steak most nights due to
lack of choice). In addition we had some strange coloured water they called “beer” that didn’t taste anything like beer and which came in a pitcher not a jug (more on Jugs when we went to Hooters)!
Early the next day we popped into EE to get fills and rent tanks as necessary and went off to Ginnie Springs for my first dive in freshwater, something I had been clever enough to avoid till this point. I decided to get the annual pass on the advise of Jarrod Jablonski – who we met by chance at Devil’s Ear/Eye – this cost US300 + tax (why can’t American’s give the real price straight up?) compared to US30 per day for Openwater divers or US20 for full cave divers (Cave 1 does not count as full cave but interestingly enough Tech 2 did! Those who have this card can save themselves a bit of money) We did two dives at Ginnie Spring Cavern / Ballroom and completed a few lazy looking skills, but generally messed around – another big mistake! That evening we again went out for a massive steak but took it easy (i.e., only 14oz) since tomorrow would be the first day of Cave 1.
Day 1 “A big wake up”. We arrived at Blue Grotto at 8 am to be met by David Rhea, his hummer and the three other students, Lance, Darek ‘Del Boy’ and Eric. As a treat we were part of a 6 -student class with two instructors – Jarrod who was the second instructor arrived a bit later.We set up our equipment and did a review of why the DIR set up is like it is. My triple 500lb bungie wing, parachute harness and butt mounted light only received minor comments – ha ha just kidding. I did, however, manage to sneak some ******ry on my gear, for example, the NLC elbow (just like tennis elbow but
worse) Following this we were introduced to line work and protocols and found out how easy it would be to kill yourself if you were ear muffed and blindfolded inside a cave, since it took us 3-5 x as long to follow a line to an imaginary exit compared to sighted and non-touch contact situation.
I hope David washes his blindfolds since mine was soaking wet with sweat by the time we had finished and I was suffering from sun******. In addition, one of us managed to piss off the instructors by asking too many obscure wreck questions (For those of you who know the group can you guess who?). Five of us then got changed into our drysuits and sweated like rapists with all that sweating I knew I wouldn’t need to install my catheter but I did anyway since I really look forward to taking “wide-bands” off – even after the porn star trim… Osman gloated in enjoyed his wetsuit but at the end of the day we were in much better shape in the ~20oC water.
What followed can only be described as a carnival. Due to a lack of preparation, inexperience in the equipment we were diving, forgotten protocols and general stage fright we proceeded to do a good job in convincing Jarrod that we had never even dived before rather than been ready for diving in a very unforgiving environment. After some remedial action and general practice we graduated to “not as good as I had expected” in Jarrod’s polite and generous manner…we were terrible! I cannot emphasize enough that in order not to waste time if you plan on doing cave 1 you must be able to drop down to 2m and do a valve drill and S-drill without moving, loosing trim or otherwise looking like a monkey – easier said than done. In my defense…I have no defense – I had been warned by a good friend and I simply did not practice enough in the equipment I would be diving in: Drysuit and 104s (which I still feel as if I am going to topple head over in after 70+ dives in Florida – maybe the “Berry Tailweight” is the answer, or probably more practice).
Nevertheless, despite our poor performance Jarrod let us move onto to running the line into the cavern zone. We did three of these and played around with team positioning, passive communication, primary and secondary tie offs and generally looking like a “Starwars Bar Scene”. On the forth dive JJ threw an air-sharing in, this resulted in loss of buoyancy upwards and a combined silt-out – quite an achievement! The last thing we did was a line following drill, which got progressively more difficult till we were sharing air with masks off and mysteriously having stuff our equipment clip itself to the line …We all left the day tired and feeling like the idiots we were.
Jarrod must have been really happy that he was not with us tomorrow and would have the other group – who looked to be actually enjoying themselves and going very well, they did try to convince us that they were doing badly too but we knew they could not be as bad as us!
Day 2. We met at EE at 7.45am (very important since you need tanks to be filled asap and don’t want other customers in front of you in the queue) and gassed up. We did some more lectures and talked more about line work (jumps and gaps – the later we were allowed to do as cave 1 divers and may have to at Peacock). We drove in convoy to Peacock and David only had to stop 3 times in the hour drive to fill up his 15L HummerBy the time we had got to Peacock, lectured some more and were shown a neat way to record dives it was time for lunch (rolls, salad and fruit from the supermarket – don’t expect any food at the dive sites). Lunch out of the way and at the hottest part of the day we donned our drysuits (more pedophile in a playground impressions) and into the water. More splashing around and silting up as we attempted our predive drills. David reamed us all new assholes – it was clear we were going to have to work hard to continue let alone pass.
On the first dive we went into the Pothole Tunnel at Peacock I. We placed our primary and secondary and ran past the gold line (which now comes almost to openwater) to the bottom of the crack, placed a brick on the line and tied into the gold line at the sign (do not pass go, do not collect US200 – the usual stuff). The plan was to swim along the gold line and then bridge the gap at pothole and continue towards Ollsen, placing appropriate markers. The Peacock line now runs straight through, making our dive easier. We turned when the first team member reached 1/6th (our gas consumption was similar and on the surface a quick calculation estimated it at >20Lpm – yikes – we attributed this to the roaring current, well for Peacock which is normally placid, but actually it was probably just the stress of our first Cave dive and trying to avoid all that nasty brown stuff on the bottom – not like your average reef dive.
On the exit lights started to go out and I heard bubbles behind my left ear so I reach for it, then I have a brain fart and go for my right post (as I was told in fundamentals always close the right post first). I signaled Osman wildly who came into check and found out what an idiot I was, communication was not good and it was generally a “goat screw”. I then proceed to swap back to my long hose but put the reg in upside down (I did not realize immediately) so David broke the drill and we exited. The debrief was suitably embarrassing and the importance of slowing down and reacting appropriately was hammered into us.
If you are up-to-date on dive politics you may know where the right post thing comes from and it was explained to us in a clear and simple manner that neither post is more likely to fail than the other and one has to learn to react properly to situations as they arise. It was plain stupidity of me, when I clearly heard bubbles coming from the left, to go for the right – the lesson was clear, do not leave your brain at the surface. Oh did I mention it was actually a nice dive – nearly 40 min, white walls, 9-12m viz and an average depth of 18m ish.
Dive 2. We were determined to do better! We entered the cave after having recalculated gas and dropped to 6-7m, keeping left until we found the Peanut tunnel with David showing good places for tie ins. This tunnel is initially much shallower than pothole and felt like real cave diving – with a 2-3m round tunnel and scalloped walls. We reached the breakdown room and turned on gas. Lights started to fail and we reordered the team accordingly, then Bill was out of air and I donated. It is not pretty but no-one drowned – normally a plus. Osman was now at the back and his last light soon died, he came forward to ask for a scout from one of us. Bill thought it was David breaking the drill and spits out my long hose whilst having a drysuit moment I tried to grab him since I thought we were sharing air and David seizes the moment to clips my now dangling long hose to the line. I couldn’t work out what was
happening but after a few seconds stop trying to rescue Bill and get all my stuff back together.
Bill was now working at a 100 mph and proceeds to pick up the reel with Osman and I behind him breaking a cardinal rule of cave diving. We eventually made it back to the surface without further “major” problems. At the surface, Bill was having problems breathing and was gurgling (it did not sound good) so we him sat up and when he calms down enough we debriefed. It was not pretty and we tried to take what David was saying about team resources, ordering, communication (we did 17 OKs in 19 min swim in) and problem solving underwater. We are surprised nobody died and our performance was described with diamonds like “and here comes the most retarded part of this goat screw” and “flailing like an openwater student” – very funny after the event. We took it on the chin and resolve to do better. We got back to EE and dropped all the tanks off and have a video debrief from the first day.
David was extremely knowledgeable about the source of our problems and offers solutions, it was humbling nonetheless, but we all knew what we had to work on.
Day 3. Off to Ginnie for today’s diving for an introduction to high flow. I kept thinking of what somebody told me “90% of Cave students do not make it to the lips on their first dive in Ginnie”. We were briefed fully on how to enter the Ear and how to handle high flow caves. Osman, Bill and I dropped down into the basin and attempted our predive drills. Bill had to pull out as he couldn’t perform the drills or control his breathing and at the surface is gurgling again – I can only imagine how bad Bill must have felt at this point. Osman and I dropped down again and managed to fluke something nearly reasonable. We came up and discussed the dive – it was my turn to lead and we would be with Jarrod today. We swam out to the buoy marking the Devil’s Ear that was in tannic water and descended into 1 m visibility. Very soon after leaving the surface we hit crystal clear water (you can not believe how clear if you haven’t seen it before), showing us a famous log (mysteriously at 6m) and a long crack ending in a small hole with a considerable volume of water pouring out of it.
I found a tie off and fumbled with the line in the current which kept unlooping my loop – doh. Eventually, after filling my lungs with water when I turned sideways and let the flow fill my reg, I-get-through-thehole- and-crawl-shrink-wrapped-along-the-bottom-panting-(as I tried to recover from my near drowning experience)-and make-cursory-placements (in my preoccupation to get to the lips I forgot the secondary) – my mind was racing, I can only see the lips. Somehow I managed to tie into to the gold
line and get neutral and my mind finally engages so I moved up to the ceiling and started to think about my buddy and all the other things you have going on in the cave. Up off the floor we can appreciate the beauty of the cave and the incredible visibility, my 18W HID cuts a path through the darkness and even Osman was impressed without seeing any fish! We made it to the lips and hard learned techniques from Philippine crawling in high currents see us squirt through with only the odd crash and bang off the ceiling.
We have also picked up the skill of ceiling pushing with fin tips, which helped too. We made it to the Keyhole and I checked my air for the first time (mmmm goal orientated diving) and realized I was close to 1/6th. I didn’t know if I could get through the keyhole without reaching my turn pressure so I called the dive. Lights started to go out and we reordered the team, we have some valve failures which we dealt with and then came exit through the Ear…it was quite a struggle not to get shot to the surface but we manage to catch the log and have a reasonably controlled 6m stop. Back at the steps we debriefed and I confessed my preoccupation (I was going through the lips if I had to breath hold) and although we still had plenty to work on things had improved.
We recalculated for the second dive and when Bill enquires how it went we try to sound as if the dive was crap. The second dive proceeded in similar fashion, although this time we tried to swim smarter and made it a little
further (close to Hill 400 Jump) and didn’t nearly drown in the entrance. Jarrod piles on some more pressure on the exit and we generally handle all that is thrown at us (of course we are still learning but we are starting to enjoy ourselves too). We exited for lunch and do some dry lost line and diver drills – I actually managed to impress David since I had been looking at my compass and could tell him the directions of the main tunnels – the sun came out and all was well.
Given what we learned on the surface at lunch were not too surprised that we lost the line and each other on the next two dives, in addition to the troublesome light failures and broken valves / regulators on the way out. We also pick Jarrod’s brains and really try to smarten up on the way in, we tried to read the current and were getting progressively further into the cave “by swimming smarter rather than faster”. We got to EE and abused Derek and told him to fill the tanks smartly – he gave as good as he got in return.
We decided to celebrate with a massive steak (notice a trend?) in Gainsville and Darek from the A-team joined us – he was impressed but slightly concerned by Osman’s driving but after 3 days we don’t even notice the sub-light-speed travel. We were told to be at Manatee at 8am on pain of death and since David was taking Osman the next day we took this seriously.
Day 4. We left High Springs early for the 40 ish mile drive to Manatee Springs using directions from EE, Osman was navigating but after we got lost at the second turn I took over and we arrived miraculously on time. The Florida State Park pass that I had bought at Peacock the day before could be used here and this saved the US10 entry fee (the annual pass was US40 + the tiresome tax which is never quoted but still an absolute bargin). When we had all arrived and checked in we drove from the front gate to the carpark and took a walk down to Catfish Hotel where we would be diving. The
flow is very strong in Manatee and it is very rare for cave divers to try and enter through the actual spring head (where Manatees are often found in the winter – hence the name).
Catfish hotel is a round basin <100m in diameter and surrounded by trees. The weird part is that the whole surface was covered in duck weed (or pond weed) and looks like a green from a distance. We were thoroughly briefed on the entry since there is a siphon and a spring in the basin and as Cave 1 divers we were not allowed into the siphon. We were told to keep hoods on to keep the duck weed out of our ears – but after 6 weeks away when I came home and cleared my ears with cotton buds they were black with duck
weed that was nicely pickled in swim ear– this may have explained my ear problems. Many used a trolley to get their gear to the waters edge, since it is quite a walk, but been men (David had said we would be girls if we didn’t carry our own tanks) and in order to save time Osman and I carried ours and
by the time we had sweated our way down to the entry we very happy to enter the spring to cool off.
We did our predive checks and drills, which now seemed a little easier (they actually are easier to do with two instead of three and hopefully we were also progressing). We returned to the surface and were given some feedback. The visibility in the basin was good (20m) and we dropped down and followed the instructions carefully trying to avoid any “retardations”. The Spring is on the right hand side of the basin at around 17m depth, I tied into two tree stumps and hid behind a big boulder as I ran the line down, the flow hit me as soon as I came around the corner which I pulled (rather than trying to swim) into and ran the line to the bottom of the dip then up again and into the gold line.
We followed the gold line into the dark, dark cave. The black walls and 9-10m visibility just ate the HID beams – it was a very different cave than the previous day. The flow was strong (1 knot ish) and any stoppage in swimming meant been swept backwards. Interestingly, the flow is strong enough to pull stuff out of the sinks upstream and thus the water is full of large particles and bits of weed as these flew past us, lit up by our lights, I could not help feeling like we were going at warp speed on the Enterprise. We pulled and glided whenever possible but the floor of the cave was mostly large particles of dark sand. I was able to pull and glide in this with a cupped hand (later to be called “booger picking” by David) and after nearly 20mins and with a pounding CO2 head I had reached 1/6th and turned the dive. On the exit those mysterious failures started to occur and we reordered the team and checked failed posts for each other as appropriate. The debrief must have been reasonable since I don’t remember any of it other than I was asked to swim on the next dive rather than “booger picking” – I think he wanted to test my fitness, I don’t know why as those who know me can attest to my body being a temple and a fine example of a fit young man.
We commenced the next dive, using the line we had laid on the first dive and with Osman leading we actually made it a little further than the first dive with less air – we tried to again swim smarter and found some eddies to take advantage off that actually dragged us into the cave and gave a welcome break from the current. We turned and the pressure was turned on with simultaneous light and valve failures. We muddled through what was thrown at us (or rather taken from us…) by using our brains and thinking rather than rushing. We ended up sharing air with one scout on the way out. At the debrief David paid us our first compliment as he liked the line we had laid
and told us it made our exit easy (it was apparent that he would have had some fun if we hadn’t laid the line as he had asked). Once the other team returned to the surface we were shown how to rescue an unconscious diver and watched as JJ played dead – he breaths so infrequently it actually looked as if he was dead, lying there on the bottom – then we practiced within our teams.
We then dekitted and lunched as David and Jarrod lectured some more, this time about Geology and more cave diving protocols. It was cool to think of diving in Catfish Hotel as I had read about it in Shek Exley’s book. We found out that David had locked himself out of his Hummer so we teased him relentlessly over lunch, which was a bowl of Raisin Bran for Osman and I since we had been too lazy to go to the supermarket that morning to stock up. The Hummer proved difficult to get into and even Jarrod, using skills he had obviously learned in his dark past, could not break in, so we waited for AAA.
About 15 seconds after been let in David had eaten his lunch and rekitted and was ready for our next set of dives – I still have no idea how he and Jarrod get ready so quickly. The walk to the water, now in the afternoon sun, was a real pleasure. Our second two dives went reasonably well and we were starting to enjoy the cave and get a little further each time as we swam smarter. This also allowed us to actually see some of it on the way in.
I think Manatee is my favourite cave, I love the challenge of the high flow and it is absolutely huge in places and I liked trying to read it. On the first dive I managed to crunch David into a wall as he tried to steal my scout – not on purpose honest. The exit for dive one was with no lights and air sharing. We recalculated 1/6th quickly and started our second dive. On the
way out my left post went so we reordered putting me in front, then Osman’s primary light failed. Just after this David went to Osman and signaled out of air, Osman donated and then David went limp and let his mask fall off. Osman signaled crazy and so climbed on top to guide him out as we presumed that was why we had been taught the unconscious diver drill. I illuminated Osman as he perfectly controlled David on the exit – just as we got near the end of the gold line the other team appeared and Jarrod had a fright seeing two students bringing the instructor out.
The debrief was interesting since David was laughing hard at us and Jarrod’s reaction, since he never meant for this to happen. We cleaned up and went for dinner with Darek and Eric from the other team and instead of a massive steak we had a mountain of barbequed dead pig. We compared fingertips and some peoples were actually bleeding since they had been “pulling and sliding” or had soft office worker hands to begin with. We also compared how the course was going for each of us and generally had a good time. It turned out
that Osman and I were getting further into the caves than the others, which is not bad considering we are both in such bad shape and the other guys were mere waifs (with ladies fingers I might add).
Day 5. We started early at EE this morning, since we had a lot to do. As soon as we were all pumped up it was off to Ginnie. We started with the swim test in the Devil’s spring run – apparently the distance between Devil’s Ear and Little Devil’s has been measured at 100m and between the two sets of steps over the Eye is 15m…both looked much further and the spring water was very cold without a drysuit! But since both David and JJ were doing the swim with us there was no excuse, so without too much mincing everybody got in and completed it within the allotted 12 min. Del Boy, the fish, got the best time for the students at ~6minutes for 300m and all completed the underwater swim without problem first time around. The cold dip made kitting up more pleasurable. Osman and I dived with Jarrod on this last day. We entered the water and fluked a reasonable pre-dive sequence.
At the surface we were told to enter the Eye and to watch out for line traps. The entrance through the Eye is longer and tighter than the Ear and at the surface after the dive Jarrod said we actually looked like cave divers with Osman running a great line –David even said he thought Jarrod had done it - this screwed their plans for us on the exit! We were now really moving around the cave to find slack water and progressing into the system nicely. On the exit we ended up with one scout and sharing air – which was interesting in the tighter spots between rooms in the Eye.
We quickly debriefed and prepared for the final dive, this time entering the Ear with the other teams line. Jarrod stopped us before the Ear and we did some more lost line and diver drills. Whilst waiting for Osman I was pushed into the ceiling and made to wait with no light, you quickly lose track of time and I made sure not to cry and turn my light back on as I had heard my good friend had done in his course (he was scared of the cave Sasquash!). When all the drills were complete we were able to exit the last few hundred feet with lights and then picked up the reel and did our stops without further complications.
The debrief was short and sweet and it was off to EE to sit the exam. The exam was more involved than any other I have taken and took ages. It was expected that you had done your reading and listened in the lectures…
We were then called in individually and debriefed by both instructors. I was given a run down of my strong points (the biggest of which was been “full of shit” – it had only taken them all week to work it out) and my weak points, which were trim and fundamental skills, particularly during the drills. I
can’t seem to dial in before the dive. I was told to prepare for Cave 2 and to PRACTICE and not mess around sight seeing all the caves I could…everybody else also passed – well done guys! We celebrated with a massive steak and some weak beer type liquid.
Overall feelings about the course: I found Cave 1 to be a great course and I learnt a huge amount. It was, however, physically demanding for a soft, typically wetsuited, tropical diver. We were expected to have mastered fundamentals and this slowed us down earlier in the week. We got a real appreciation of the need to slow down, think and solve problems fully before moving on without losing fundamentals. We came into the course too confident and those with other GUE certifications were led to believe that it would be a breeze, it was not! Did I say yet you have to have your fundamentals squared away?
The real bonus was having both Jarrod and David who were able to field our questions no matter how obscure given their level of experience. There maybe some other good instructors (GUE or otherwise) out there but I wouldn’t personally waste my money.
On the following day after the course Bill left early for Seattle and I took him to the airport. When I came back Osman was ready to go and we drove the short distance to Ginnie. We knocked off four dives in quick succession (only another 21 to go for Cave 2). Those dives were excellent and we felt relaxed not having someone creeping around us and this allowed us to get a bit further than we had during the course. The way out was the best bit, no drills and full lighting and we could fully appreciate the cave it was great and the cave beautiful. Over the next few weeks I did over 30 dives mostly with Darek but also with Christos and on the last 2 days before Cave 2 with Steven Catron (who would be joining us for Cave 2). Most of the diving was done at Ginnie and we typically did dives in the morning, took the afternoon off to avoid the heat and then dived again in the evening. We did a few days at Manatee and I really enjoyed this cave, although I missed my scooter and on 1/6 th we could not get past Sue Sink. We also did two days at Peacock – which was also enjoyable. We also spent lots of time in the basin at Ginnie practicing skills and swimming with Olly Agbebi and even set a camera up to allow us to see how we were going. I made some good friends and met up with some famous (and infamous) cave divers during this time but the highlight of the course was finding a place that serves 48oz burgers – the person who took us there thought he ate quickly but I had finished mine before he had hardly started.
C2 Day 1. All too soon the days of sleeping in and taking it easy were over and it was time to start Cave 2. Due to work commitments David did not join us till around lunchtime on the first day and, therefore, Jarrod started us off on some lectures at EE at 9 am. Like my Cave 1 this would be a two instructor and six student class. The six students were Darek “Del Boy” and Lance who were part of the Cave 1 team and we were joined by Ian, Steven and Olly, in addition Charlie Robertson joined us as an intern. The lectures were interesting and I especially enjoyed the talk of “statistical analyses”… We broke for lunch and arranged to meet back at Ginnie, so Ian and I shot off and stole the best parking space at the Turkey Roost. We did the swim as soon as everybody arrived and Jarrod told us we would swim between the tarp that was keeping the tannic water out of the spring run and was 5m away from Devil’s Ear and Little Devil’s 5 times…
Since we had shave 5m off an already a long 100m we all cried but got on and did it nonetheless. For the underwater swim Ian did from the steps to the other side and made it 1/3 of the way back. I had to better him and made it 1/2 way back, now peer pressure from Jarrod et al. meant Ian was forced into doing the distance twice (which he did – respect) but he was all puffy, red and blotchy, I also thought I heard him talking about isobaric counter diffusion - seeing the state of him I didn’t even go for twice.
In the lecture we had covered more advanced line work and on these two dives we made our first jumps, dived 1/3rds and carried an Oxygen bottle. As
we geared up we really enjoyed the summer heat, as it was now the hottest part of the day, it could only have been better if the mossies were out. As we were about half way through gearing up we heard the roar of David’s tiny engine – not been one to mess around, he had lunched and was in the water before we had finished, despite our head start. Ian, Olly and I made a team and Jarrod was to look after us. We dropped down to do our drills and found out we had stage fright and had regressed, Jarrod did not have much to say so he can’t have been watching. We planned our dive and entered through the Eye – since I was the most familiar with the cave I led. After I had tied in, we dropped our bottles in the first room.
There were plenty of lines everywhere and I had fun trying to run ours and follow good protocol (which many of the others had not). As I was concentrating on the line lights were jerking around behind me and I kept having to look back, I got desensitized and we eventually managed to get
separated and I continued without noticing and tied into the gold line. I then saw a flashing light and came back to find air flowing out of Ian’s right post. I thought it was a bit early for a drill but when I got there Jarrod moved away and Ian was still losing air – his hose had worked itself loose and it was
real failure. I gave Ian a tissue and we shut his post off and exited – Dive 1 time <10 minutes! At the surface we were able to borrow a wrench from David (whose team had not yet descended) and fix “old Scully’s” Reg. A mini-debrief followed where the Jarrod’s typically mild mannered approach
summarized “team communication could have been better”. After replanning gas we dropped down and again struggled to keep the team together. I was tending to get ahead and Ian, at no. 2, was having a torrid time trying to keep us close.
My recent experiences at Ginnie meant I was in a better place in the cave and not fighting the current. After the dive we worked out it would be better to put the person who is most familiar at the back of the team to avoid this. We popped through the Key Hole, over the Cornflakes and to the Junction Room and then jumped onto the Bone Room line. As we swam along we passed the Expressway Tunnel and continued on. We turned on gas before we reached the Bone Room and after the turn things started failing. By the time we reached our jump we still had enough resources to pick the spool up safely and retrieve our cookies, which we did inefficiently and continued with the exit only to have more failures. By the time we reached our line Ian and Olly were sharing air and I think they enjoyed exiting through the Eye that way! I picked up the Oxygen bottles and for some reason Ian didn’t want his so I carried it for him.
We got to 6m and let the out-of-air guy switch first and then completed a safety stop, since we were nowhere near real deco. At the surface we debriefed and resolved to fix our problems of team separation and poor communication, we all needed to slow down when reacting to failures and had some more fine tuning to do. As we were diving 1/3rds we needed to get out and change tanks, which we did as quickly as possible and returned to the water to prepare for the second dive.
For the second dive we reordered the team and I was now at the back. On the entry we were able to keep together better and after a couple of false starts Ian located the Hill 400 jump. He was annoyed with himself that he had tried to jump into the wrong place and after tying into the gold line missed the Hill 400 line and kept running out his spool. I was busy tidying up his line and noticed that somebody had got all the best placements! At about the same time as it finally clicked that this was the line we were supposed to have tied into Ian realized also and we thumbed it since we hadn’t talked about the turn signal or didn’t think to use it. Again as soon as we had turned things started to fail and I managed to avoid most of the problems but I did have a right post failure, which put me in the middle.
After coming through the Keyhole, Olly came to me out of air but been on the necklace I couldn’t help him, a few seconds passed as we considered buddy breathing (Olly was turning blue now) and he swam past onto Ian. We had an underwater meeting and after someone found the agenda we finally got moving again and exited without further problems. I don’t remember exactly what resources we had available but my right post was dead out and the two others were sharing air, I had a primary light and thought I should have been at the back, lighting the team (who were all on backups).
Jarrod was gracious at the surface said all of our opinions on ordering had merit. We talked as a group and agreed on an order for this situation so that if it should happen again we would know what to do. Jarrod said we need to be aware of the whole team’s resources and in this scenario a diver going out of air should swim straight past someone with a failed right post (since they have nothing to donate) to the front or back diver who could help, we also needed to be closer in these situations. This was unlikely to occur in real life but was educational nonetheless. Everybody was very tired and we agreed to meet at Floyd’s for dinner. I was dead on my feet and when the “doris” told us it would be at least 10 min till they could even take our order and that “Del Boy” et al. had been waiting for 10 min + already I threw my toys out of the pram and went home to cry myself to sleep. It was a good move since the next day those who stayed did not finish till late and I awoke having a full nights sleep.
We met at EE at 8 o’clock the next morning since “David Rhea was back in town”. Whilst the “tank monkeys” (thanks Derek) were filling we talked about deco and even rehashed the ratio deco discussion that had been raging online. Ratio deco can work over a small time range where the deco curve can be forced to fit a straight line. The instructional team (including Charlie – who was a great resource for us that week – and Peter Steinhoff – who was taking a break from his girl friend to listen in today), encouraged us to start from a known (GF decoplanner or VPM for example) and then find what works for us using theoretical knowledge and physiological feed back post dive (how do you feel). Not too dissimilar to what we had been doing with our ocean diving after Nic Le Clerc spent days messing around with deco programs (well done Nic).
It was lunchtime by the time we got to Ginnie and had been briefed on setting up circuits. David spent a long time explaining this and in general our dive plans were becoming increasingly complex. In the same teams as yesterday we walked over to the basin and went through our drills. David had some feedback for us, which we listened too and resolved to get better. The plan was to do the first half of a circuit: At the Junction Room we would jump, then jump into the Expressway Tunnel, then as the Expressway Tunnel curves around jump into the tunnel that would connect us to the gold line, in the unlikely event that we made it to the gold line we would continue up stream but make a note of our gas and time at that point. Wherever we turned we would place a cookie and make a note of gas. In this way we would know that if we reached the cookie on the second dive we would have enough gas for the exit. Olly led us in today and made the jump at the
junction room we all placed a cookie but not before David gave pigtails back to two people who had left them out (“guys you have got to keep all your shit together”). Now I moved to the front and jumped onto the Expressway line. Now Ian moved forward and made the third jump and we called the
dive on gas. A cookie was placed and we all made a metal note of gas and time.
We lost lights and posts started to fail. Again I got off lightly but the other two tried to kill each other by turning off posts that were being breathed. David ran out of Argon mid way through the drill complicating matters but
was still able to tie into the gold line and cave with a spool that was left hanging out. The drill was cut and we exited. The debrief was amusing since I hadn’t been part of the “goat screw”. But David saw me quite on the edge and said “I haven’t started with you yet” I thought bring it on fat boy, and then remembered I was the fat one…, actually I thought “wow magical” I am going to enjoy the next dive. The message was clear, slow down, solve problems fully and pack your stuff away and look after it, since if you brought it you may need it.
For the second dive I was back to leading again. Ian did a great job of slowing me down when I shot off too quickly. We reached the jump just before the mudflats and I ran the line down and around a rock to keep it out of the passageway and up again and into line, despite been told to look right and up I looked down and left, as David said I would, but eventually I found the line (but not before I had seen the entrance to the Mud Tunnel, which I liked the look of and more importantly the sound of). We reached our cookie and proceeded with the circuit, Olly, who was at the back, pulled the spool and as we had agreed to reorder the teams to spread the work of pulling spools we did so. David seized this opportunity to turn us into a “goat screw”, he failed things and since we were reordering the team for pulling the spools we had not ordered based on resources. I pulled the second spool and soon after I lost my left post and held everybody and told them, but I was not aware of any other failures (other than lights – which were going out like x-mas lights on boxing day) but Olly had also lost a post. I eventually went out of air and shared with Ian. Then I lost my primary and went for my scout, which was also broken (a real failure). I left it clipped to my d-ring and went for the other, at this point I sensed someone else beside me and reached down and squeezed the hand at my broken scout, unclipped the light for the thief and gave him the bird (I heard a chuckle). Ian and I are “husky boys” – the SUV of male body types, so we had fun squeezing through the Eye exit sharing.
We picked up our Oxygen bottles and did a sloppy bottle swap. Ian and I wedged ourselves under the ledge, which was just a little under 6m and a lot more comfortable than been washed around in the basin. The debrief was entertaining, with phrases like “breakdancing in the silt” thrown in to keep us amused and awake. We were reamed for our Oxygen switch and talked a bit more about protocols for this and resolved to improve. We got out of the water and did a rapid dekit and pack up since we had to get back to EE. I can’t remember which was more interesting: Derek’s sense of humour failure, since he had been in the sun all day already filling and seeing another 16 twins to fill, or Jarrod getting back to his roots and filling tanks too. We had to fill that night to allow us to get to Manatee early the next day. I had really pushed to go to Manatee since I wanted to get past Sue sink and I thought the extra gas of 1/3rds would allow this. Plus I absolutely love that cave.
Ian and I left a little late and I had to break the speed limit considerably to make it to Manatee on time. We all checked in and as we exited the rangers station it was like an old Grand Prix race with drivers running and cars going everywhere in order to try and get a space under the trees. Olly, Ian and I were with Jarrod again today. We dropped down to do our drills and it was so bad that we had to do them again. Since Manatee does not have many passages we just had to swim up the mainline. Since Olly and Ian had not been here before Jarrod asked me to lead the dive. I briefed the team on what to expect and we dropped down. I forgot I was carrying an Oxygen bottle and only dropped it at the gold line, which had not been our plan. We continued on and reached Sue sink, I was trying to swim slowly but since I knew the tricks of the cave was able to go faster and had to keep stopping. We reached the narrow part of the tunnel just past Sue sink that I had been to many times on 1/6ths and turned the dive on gas! Jarrod was easy on us and we only had limited failures on the way out. We lugged the tanks up to the cars and stopped for lunch, but not before we had a vote on where we would go tomorrow.
Ian and I pushed for a quick turn around and sulked around in our drysuits till everybody felt suitably embarrassed and rushed their lunch. We got back in and attempted some drills. David and Jarrod then told us they were mixing the teams up. I would be diving with Lance and Darek and Ian would dive with Olly and Steven. I did some drills with Lance and Darek joined us half way through. David told us to impress him with our drills in future and to be some distance away when doing the S-drill rather than on top of each other. After we had finished I was told I would be leading the team again but did not have to lay the line again since we would use the one the team had put in that morning.
We set off and Darek and Lance kept up so I swam faster. We got high flow part and I popped through on the right hand side and asked the others to wait till I located the line. We got a little separated but they came through and we continued on. It was great to see the cave past here and it was truly fantastic, but again I missed my scooter. As we turned lights and posts failed and at one point Darek and I managed to swim under Lance as he stowed his failed primary. Lance corrected the problem and before Sue Sink, David told me I was out of air and I signaled to Lance who donated. We continued to loose lights until we were in the dark but otherwise the exit was uneventful. I enjoyed flying along in the current and by this stage we were all comfortable in the dark as we followed the line out. We debriefed and David was grinning as he formulated what he was going to say: “you guys were swimming like Mo
Fo’s”! He also had some minor points for us (and for me and “goal orientated diving”) and the message continued to be slow down. We again raced out of the water and back to EE since we had to fill tanks and stages as we were off to Jackson Blue tomorrow. Later that evening plans changed and the group would split with Lance, Ian and I staying in Highsprings with David and the others going upstate with Jarrod.
We arrived at EE early this morning to meet David only to find Jarrod and the other group there too. We thought that they were going to Jackson Blue and they soon departed. We met Frazer from the Cayman Islands. I thought he was from Liverpool and when I asked him if he was a scouser he was upset since he is in fact from Blackpool (both are in England for my American friends) – how was I supposed to know? It’s all the same to me on the wrong side of the Watford Gap. He soon cheered up when he had called me a “southern-shandy-drinking-poofter”
We all drove down to Ginnie and briefed the dive. The first dive would be a larger version of the circuit we had completed on Day 2. The plan was to jump at the Junction Room and follow the Expressway Tunnel line to the end, jump and turn left and follow this line to the end where we would jump onto the Big Room line and again turn left, in the unlikely event that we made it to the gold line we would continue upstream. We kitted up and entered the spring basin and went through our matching drills, which had become much more involved now the dives were becoming more complex. We each had to check we had enough spools and cookies and now added a step of pulling out scouts and checking them in addition to our normal checks. We did the drill and were debriefed by David who instead of ripping us new orifices was now
really focusing on fine details. I was again to lead, only this time instead of placing a spool and reordering the lead man did all the work to avoid confusion and Lance and Ian passed the spools up to me on the fly (we were becoming much more efficient). The only problem with diving with Lance and
Ian was they were both in PSI – I felt like I had been thrown back to the Stone Age, but managed by just guessing and sounding confident. We made the Junction Room jump and then the Expressway Tunnel jump and followed the line. It did not end where we expected (the lines had been moved since
David’s last journey down this tunnel) and kept going. We eventually reached the end with a small duck under and then we came into a huge room – it was the Big Room. We turned left as planned and enjoyed the room, which lived up to its name. After a few minutes we hit our gas, turned, placed a cookie and made a note of gas and time (we found out we were only 30m or so till the Maple Leaf). The usual followed, with lights and post failures and subsequent team reordering. David, of course, waited till the worse times to work his magic, like when somebody passed under a duck-through or
around a corner. Lance and Ian ended up sharing and I was at the front. We exited through the Eye with the usual fun and games in the tighter spots and picked up our Oxygen bottles.
We all got comfortable under the ledge and did our switch. On the surface there were lots of minor things debriefed but the major one was that we had let two of the team air share from close to maximum penetration and we should have shared the donation between the two divers with useable backgas (made a lot of sense). This would make sure that we didn’t end up in a situation with two divers out of air and only one donation possible. Following the debrief David showed us two skills. The first was rescuing an unconscious diver. He demonstrated on Charlie then we all had a go – we managed to complete the skill with out any uncontrolled ascents. The next skill was air sharing in zero viz. David laid a line of 15m and had Charlie waiting at the other end on the line but facing away. David took his
mask off and reg out and swam lazily along the line and located Charlie then his reg, which he took and they then both exited. We all did the skill and undoubtly did not look as relaxed as David. My buddy decided to complicate the skill when I did it and took his mask off too.
Now David gave me a demonstration of control (since I was putting too much effort into my back kicks) – incredible, he moving all over the place with just his ankles – even using one leg at a time (Expect a video of me doing that soon – Ian and I promised to practice till we can do it!). We exited the water and enjoyed picking David, Charlie and Frazers’ collective minds about diving.
On the second dive we took a stage for the first time. This made the planning even more involved, but I was really enjoying planning the dive in great detail and then going and doing it. It was even more fun for me since I was converting between bar and PSI – at least our tanks were the same size. We did our drills and received some more pearls of wisdom from David – he appeared to be enjoying himself now as well, so I guess we had made it past monkey boy status for the moment at least. In the water we talked about gas management with a stage. It is tempting to dive 1/3 from the stage and then 1/3 from backgas but this can lead to all sorts of problems. You have no options if you need the stage gas (air share at maximum penetration in a two man team) and then you have a stage problem because the stage essentially a single tank and cannot be shared. David guided us as we discussed until we came to the correct solution ourselves. We would dive the stage to 1/2 +200 PSI then switch to back gas. In the backgas we would reserve the equivalent volume to cover a stage less exit (in 104s this is 500 PSI) and dive 1/3rds from the remaining volume. Thus if you had 3000 PSI in your backgas you need 500 PSI for the stage and thus have 2500 useable. 1/3 of this is 800 PSI so you would use 800 PSI of your starting pressure and turn at 2200 PSI. In this case we wanted to have the stage available for either exit path of the circuit so we planned to leave them at the Junction Room, or before that if we reached the drop pressure of the stage. Following all the math, we now had to remember our turn pressures from this morning so that when we reached the cookie we would know if we had enough to complete the circuit. We again used our line from this morning as we entered the Eye carrying the stages. It was amazing how much drag the stage added and we really had to pick up our technique to move forward.
As we went through the Lips and the Keyhole/ Cornflakes we had to lift the bottle up to prevent adding to the scrapes already there. At the Junction Room we dumped our stages, clipping them to our jump line and made sure they were turned off (to prevent Murphy from draining them) and neatly stowed. We continued along the gold line to the Maple Leaf and Ian installed a jump line into the Big Room, we were soon at our cookie with gas to spare and continued on to complete the circuit. Now David really turned the pressure on and we had all sorts of failures. Ian and I ended up sharing gas and we were down to two scouts for the whole team. Earlier we had been able to clean up some of the jumps but as resources dwindled we had to leave them (luckily Charlie and Frazer were there to save the day and clean up our stuff). When we reached the stages Ian swapped to Lance’s air and we all picked up stages although Ian kept on the long hose since he then had a 1/2 full stage he could use in the event of a problem.
We left the reel in and bumped through the Eye exit. We had also left a spool at the Maple Leaf. We debriefed fully and David was joking around with us, but nonetheless important information was passed along and we resolved to fix the problems that were identified. We exited and went to EE to gas up for the next morning. When we were all full we made a plan to meet at 8am at Ginnie the next day.
Unfortunately, we had some equipment issues that we had to solve in the morning but this only put us behind by an hour or so and we rolled up to the Turkey Roost at 9 ish. The plan for this last day was to cruise up the mainline until we had to dump the stages and then continue on to jump into the “Mud
Tunnel”. At the end of the Mud Tunnel we would jump into the Big Room and head towards the Maple Leaf. Gas permitting we would come up to the Maple Leaf and use our spool and gas management remembered from yesterday to complete a circuit. We geared up with excitement as the “Mud Tunnel”
sounded like it could be fun and entered the water to do our predive checks. David again only had small items to talk about when we reached the surface. We planned our gas and entered through the Eye. Ian was pleased to see his reel was still there and he need not of cried so much last night. We swam like “Mo Fo’s”, again, and reached our gas on the stage at around Hill 400. We dropped the stages on continued on backgas. We found the Mud Tunnel jump and Lance installed the spool.
We started in a reasonably sized tunnel that quickly reduced to “fairly” small with mud banked up everywhere. At times the line ran through a side of the tunnel that a diver with back gas could not pass and we had to hold the line at arms length whilst passing through a wider bit. I kept thinking, this is
going to be fun coming out especially if we are sharing air. At times we came to places that bellies were in the mud and tanks on the ceiling. We passed through these areas very carefully so as not to damage the cave – surprisingly this tunnel had much less evidence of careless divers and probably does not see the traffic that some of the other areas do. In the whole tunnel I only counted 2-3 places where it would have been possible to turn with out kicking the hell out of the cave – luckily nobody reached their turn pressure. Ian was been followed by David so had to be extra careful of his technique.
Eventually we made it to the jump with plenty of gas to spare and continued up to the Maple Leaf where we used our spool from yesterday to jump onto the main line. Ian picked it up and I had a simultaneous primary light failure and out of air – I was facing Ian who had his head down playing with the spool so I turned to Lance who was close by but behind me and promptly donated. We communicated with Ian and commenced our exit. When we came to the stages we were all on our last scouts and we stopped and picked up. Then Lance and Ian swapped out so I had a fresh supply of gas
to Hoover up. When we got to the Key Hole we were down to two scouts and I decided to swap to my stage to make it easier going through the restriction. We met another team in the restriction and Ian and I just ploughed through them. On the other side of the Key Hole, David took another scout leaving us with one in the team. After the Lips we lost the last scout and went into touch contact. Just as we were coming up on our line somebody turned the lights on as a couple of rebreather divers came through (I wondered who was safer), shortly afterwards we were in darkness again and I used my computer to check the pressure in my stage (still had plenty of gas), we exited in darkness until the 9- 12m room where we picked up our Oxygen bottles in daylight. We continued up to the deco ledge and got comfortable for a 5 min stay. We then came back to the surface for our debrief. David had a mischievous look on his facewhen we asked him how we did in the Mud Tunnel. He said Ian was wallowing like an elephant and so as not to be out done Ian said like a pregnant elephant (Ian was in the
worst position in the Mud Tunnel since he had David right on top of him). David also said he saw Ian’s “big ass” and my “big ass” and hoped we didn’t see one of those holes and think we couldn’t get through other wise it would have been a nightmare. He said he doesn’t often take students in there – so
we glowed in this compliment. Again he said we should slow down a bit since we were swimming too quickly but we handled the problems well and reacted appropriately. He said ordinarily I made a good choice going to a stage to speed up going through a restriction, but in the this case with limited
visibility (2 scouts) I should have stayed on the long hose or at least got back on the long hose when we had chance (i.e., after the Key Hole or when the lights of the other divers lit us up).
As we exited we met with one of Florida’s local cave diving celebrities. He looked like Edgar out of Men in Black, since he had cockroaches crawling out of his gear and all over him and was all blotchy with bloodshot eyes. He told us that he dove on his own – out of respect for others, which we thought
was very kind of him. He also said that 100% percent of double deaths in a cave occurred with the long hose deployed. David had a grin on his face since it was an obvious shot at GUE/DIR. We thought he was “very clever” to establish the perfect correlation but obviously had not looked at causality. We put him out of our minds, with difficulty, since he was one of the oddest guys I have ever met and the sight of all those roaches will stay with me for a long time, and started preparations for our last dive.
David was a bit vague in the brief and we were to jump into Hill 400 and do any jumps as indicated. We got ready, did our drills and gas planning and we were off. We jumped at Hill 400 and left our stages just after the jump and continued along the line, we jumped again and then on the third jump (I think we were jumping into double lines) we hit gas and turned. For the whole way
out we were taught like bow strings in anticipation, but nothing happened. The tunnel was beautiful going up and down and with some strange holes in the floor and it was really pretty (I had planned to go back to Mud Tunnel tomorrow after the course, if I passed, but now I wanted another look at Hill
400). We picked up our markers and spools on the way out and then picked up our stages and every time somebody breathed out we jumped waiting for something to happen. Eventually we got to the reel and as the last man I had to pick it up – I almost forgot. We exited without problem and after doing a
limited stop on Oxygen. David again said he didn’t often do a dive with no skills but wanted to see us working as a team – we made a deep sigh of relief, we had done OK.
We dekitted and went back to EE to fill up for tomorrow’s fun dives and do some paperwork (namely the exam). David debriefed us as a group on the week and told us where we were strong and what areas we had to work on and then gave us our cards - sweet. I had achieved what I set out to do – it had been an expensive summer and I didn’t think I would even get Cave 1 at one point but I had done it (it was a fantastic feeling). We arranged to meet the other group later that night in Gainsville and went and took a celebratory sleep.
We had a great dinner (massive steak) that night with Jarrod and the others and enjoyed reliving the last two days of diving. We tried to convince them they should’ve stayed and they tried to convince us we should’ve gone - both were the right choice. Unfortunately, they did not know if they had passed or not because they still had the exam to sit.
On the way home Ian and I chatted about what we would do as our fun dives the next day. We decided that we wanted to go along Hill 400 and have another look. By the time we had messed around the next day it was lunchtime and we took our stages and full back gas and had a good look along the Hill 400 line, we got past the Bats and into the Hillier tunnel before we reached our turn pressure. We had a fantastic time and really enjoyed the lack of stress involved in diving outside of a course. Nothing went wrong! We met up with Geoffroy, a friend from Asia, who is now living in US, and Pete Gelbman.
We arranged a dive for later that day after we got some food. Pete and Geoffroy went off to get some gas and we sat around and chewed the fat. We met up with Darek and learned he too had passed Cave 2 (well done mate) and was going to dive with us on this second dive. By the time the others got back from gassing up we had got bored and we starting to get moving. Then Pe te blew his neck seal and Geoffroy went off with him to get that fixed. Nonetheless we followed the same dive plan. I was to lead. We went in via the line that Ian and I had laid into the Ear earlier that day and dropped the stages past Hill 400 when we had reached 1/2 +200 (Darek also works in PSI). We continued to follow the gold line until we reached the Roller Coaster where we jumped (more virgin tunnel for us), as the name suggests this goes up and down with massive sand banks. We then jumped into the Short Cut and at the Bats back into Beetle Tunnel. We followed this into the Hillier Tunnel.
The plan was to jump into the dome rooms at the end of the Hillier Tunnel but we had to turn just when we reached the end of the Hillier line. We had been very efficient and had been passing up spools as I put them in and marking
diligently. I am going to do the same as David and make sure I don’t die in a cave by breaking a fundamental cave diving law. When we turned we were already at 50+ minutes of bottom time at ~30m. We made our exit pulling all our lines and markers as we went. Just before we were to pick up our
stages we met Derek (of EE) and Robert (a friend of Geoffroy and Pete). We stopped for a chat and I got a message for Darek (wet notes are great). We later learned that they were going to jump out on us but we foiled them.
Ian and I packed up with heavy hearts knowing that it maybe a year till we next dive at Ginnie. We bumped into Derek and Robert after their dive and arranged to meet for a massive steak and look at some parklife at Chilli’s. Ian and I are both married and having “yellow fever” I did more eating and drinking than looking at whisky tango’s but we had to let the young fellas have their fun. It was great comparing diving stories over a beer or two and a bit of food!
Final thoughts: It had been a great summer I had met some cool people, done some awesome dives and done what I set out to do. I came with an open mind and had learnt a lot. I cannot recommend David and Jarrod enough as instructors. I warn anybody against trying to do back to back courses (as will Paul Berry who did the same the summer before). It was very hard work and logistically we were lucky to avoid the typhoons and inclement weather of the summer before. However, coming from the other side of the world and having fixed holiday times I was left with no choice but to attempt this. As
I left Highsprings I was pensive about missing the diving, the new friends I had made and the burgers, but after 6-weeks away I was looking forward to getting back to wifey in the land of plenty