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First day teaching in the water July 5, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Training.
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Today, July 4th, 2009, was my first experience as an instructor in the water. It is a very different thing from being a certified assistant. To make things harder, the wind was blowing hard at Big Bay Point and at the surface the current was moving quickly, making underwater the best place to get  around. Compounding it even further, I’d just gone out to the lake to dive with a guy who is starting out on doubles, so I wasn’t expecting to teach, and I ended up doing to Adventure Dives for his son Alex’ advanced course at the same time. Teaching in doubles made it even harder, although it provided built in redundant air supply for the deep dive.

Our plan was to do a Deep Dive, Search & Recovery Dive and a Nitrox Dive. We only did the first two, which is OK as Alex had done one dive (Underwater Navigation) at an earlier date, so he would not have been able to finish his 5 dives for his Advanced Scuba Diver Certification that day anyway (limit for training is 3 dives).

The deep dive itself was uneventful. There’s a line going to down to the depths of Big Bay Point to about 90′. We got to 88 feet where a skateboard is about the last thing to see. We compared depth gauges as required (my Shearwater Pursuit said 86 feet, which allowing for its salt water setting is the same as my Quantum reading 88 feet), and the colours of various objects, which has replaced the timed task for both the adventure dive and the first dive of the deep diving specialty. After this, and of course several SPG checks, we headed back up. I was going to show him around at 60 feet for a couple of minutes but he signalled 800 PSI left and I decided it was best to get up to the safety stop, which we did with him still having 500 PSI left.

The second dive was a little more challenging. We were doing a search and recovery, but on our way down we lost the lift bag that was stuffed into Alex’ BC. I left Alex with the 2 instructors and DM teaching the Open Water Class, and chased after it. It was more difficult that I’d imagined. The reason it had come loose (other than being a bit loose to start with) was that there was some air in it. It had floated a considerable distance in the wind and current, and by the time I’d retrieved it, the Open Water class had headed up and brought Alex with them, so I had to then swim back to the dock, fetch Alex, and head out again. As I was huffing and puffing there and back, I thought about how I’ve got to get my exercise discipline back again.

We made it to the boat lying some distance east of the training area at a depth of 30′, and I went through the knot tying exercises. Fortunately we’d practiced on land, and I’d recommended thin gloves, so he performed with flying colours. I then gently placed the weight belt I’d brought with me near the boat and had him search with a U pattern. After that I went a greater distance on the other side to drop the belt and Alex did a pendulum search with the line tied of to the boat. He found it in short order despite the visibility and he attached a line to the belt with bowline and to the lift bag with 2 half hitches.

Getting back to the ascent line was a chore as it is fair distance and we were swimming against the current. The line is sturdy though, and after some very slow swimming I took the bag and started pulling myself along the line, which was much faster and less taxing. We did our ascent there, and then struggled back to shore int he wind and current.

What did I learn? Not to use doubles for one thing, but today circumstances required me to use them because I wasn’t planning on teaching. I’m always amazed at how well the owner of our dive shop manoeuvres in them, but his weight relative to the tanks is much greater than mine, and I find them quite a load when I’m twisting and turning to help the students, even though I’m OK with normal diving. The extra effort to manage myself in the doubles  (and in a dry suit, to boot) detracts from the attention I can give to the student.

Mind you, the next course I teach which will be wreck diving will be in my doubles, although I’ll be able to move easier in a wet suit than in the dry suit I used today.

I think the other thing I learned is that becoming a good instructor takes practice, just like it does to become a good diver. It’s no so much any particular skill, but getting into the rythym of it, remembering the little things, keeping it moving, etc. etc. As I alluded to above, you need to dive conservatively so you have some reserves to pay attention to the student. With so many things to remember this is difficult at first.

To top off the day I had left my keys with one of the other instructor’s gear, and didn’t tell him. While I had some of his equipment on the dive, he and the others left the site while I was underwater. One of the was nice enough to drive all the way from Newmarket which is almost an hour away (thanks again Marty). It made for a long afternoon as I was delayed about 2 1/2 hours. I whiled away the time tying knots and occasionally helping some students who were taking a class from another dive shop.

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