Dive #1 - Rich Torkington's Dive Log
Copyright 2010 Rich Torkington Mesa, Arizona

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Bottom Time to Date:


Dive Info:

Dive Start:

Bottom Time:
48 minutes

Maximum Depth:
45 feet

Safety Stop:
3 minutes

Beginning Air:
3100 psi

Ending Air:
300 psi

Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm 85F

Surface Conditions:
2' swells

Surface Water Temperature:

Bottom Water Temperature:

100+ feet
* * *
July 15,
PADI Open Water Certification Dive No. 1
Rebecca Cabral (Instructor), Linda, (buddy)
Glover's Atoll Resort - Belize
Linda and Rich just prior to our first dive
Photo by Janel Torkington in Belize 1997
Dive Journal: When my friend Myron heard we were planning a visit to Belize, he joked, "You won't be permitted out of the country unless you scuba dive there."

Linda was apprehensive at first, and told me to sign up for the classes myself if I wanted to. I signed up for PADI Open Water instruction with El Mar Diving Center, a local dive shop in Tempe, AZ with an excellent reputation. To my surprise, Linda and her good friend Lisa followed suit only a couple weeks later. We both opted for the 4 week program of alternating class work and pool work. I believe this slower pace is beneficial in order to absorb the training materials over time. My El Mar instructor Tony, and Linda's instructor Brent, were both exceptional.

Once on Northeast Cay in Belize, Becky had us perform a battery of surface swims and suiting up to assess our training level. El Mar had prepared us very well and Becky was easily satisfied with our aptitude.

We are both outfitted with BCs (buoyancy control vests), 8 lb weight belts, regulator/octopus, console with depth/pressure/compass, and one 80 cu ft tank filled to 3000 psi. We both opt to wear our Lycra skins, again mostly for sun protection since the water temperature is at least 84F. Becky asks us to assemble our gear on the dock. When we are finished, she remarks that it is already a good sign that we know how to set up the equipment without aid. As a precaution, Becky asks us to perform a few preliminary skills near the beach. We shoulder the tanks, put on our fins, and gingerly inch backwards down the shallow slope to a depth of about 4 feet. Becky has us do a simulated share air, a partially flooded mask recovery, etc., to judge our comfort in the water. No sweat.

We are diving today with Becky Cabral, two of the Norwegian boys and their dad, one of the Swedish girls, and Wyatt. The Norwegians have completed their PADI training on Cay Caulker last week, and are enjoying their first non-training dive. Wyatt will serve as divemaster for these four divers, while Becky will work with us on our certification skills. We board the 25 foot sailboat Pelican that is docked next to the Christmas Bird, Janel takes a picture of us, and we then begin to motor our way out to the dive site, which Becky identifies as Mid-White Sands.

On the way, Becky shouts and slows the boat, and we see dolphins nearby! Becky yells for everyone to don mask and fins and jump in! We are kinda slow at getting in and neither of us catch an underwater glimpse of the dolphins, who only hang around for a moment anyway. Back on the boat, we complete the mile or so trip to the dive site and toss anchor.

We do a back entry from the boat and then our first open water descent, about 40' down the anchor rope. Both of us clear our ears with no difficulty. Once on the bottom, we swim to a sandy flat area and await Becky's instruction. I blow the very first skill, a simple lost regulator recovery, by removing it from my mouth, back sweeping my arm to recover it, but don't feel the regulator or hose. I repeat the arm sweep once, then twice, but never seem to snag the hose. I finally reach over and behind with my hand to locate the hose at the first stage, then locate the second stage, clear it, and start breathing again. The octopus fittings here are angled differently than at El Mar, and my arm sweep actually captures the second stage regulator hose too generously, well outside the hose. Becky requests that I repeat the skill and I have no problem with it once I make the adjustment.

We also demonstrate other required skills, including a simulated sharing of air resources using the proper signals, and we also both clear our masks that are intentionally partially flooded. We are both calm and deliberate in our actions, and have no further difficulties with the skills. This drill takes about 10 minutes, and we then take off toward the coral wall!

Becky takes us on an incredible tour of the corals, sponges, and reef fish. She uses an underwater slate to identify each object immediately after she has pointed it out, a very powerful way to remember what we are seeing. We see vibrant yellow tube sponges, grand olive-colored vase sponges, brilliant lavender fan corals, and ominous looking spherical brain corals. We confront two splendid gray angelfish, and Becky beckons them to swim very close to us by wiggling her fingers at them. Close to a coral outgrowth, Becky points out a juvenile jack knife fish swimming in odd little curly-Qs, resplendent with long flowing fins of pale yellow and black. We see gobies cleaning sponges, a lizard fish, and a brilliant violet and yellow fairy basslet. On a sand flat, we observe a dozen garden eels that sway vertically like 6" long ropes from the sandy bottom, but hastily retreat into burrows once seen.

At one point, Becky has us descend into a hole about 10 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep, providing a remarkable 360 view of corals rising around us. I feel lucky that she takes us there, since it is a good demonstration of swimming and buoyancy control for us. The sensation of swimming using scuba is probably as close to flying as one can get (unless perhaps you are slated for the next space walk).

Next, we approach the coral wall perpendicularly at approximately a 30' depth, and do a slow 'negative-g' roll over the edge, swimming down the wall face to around 45 feet. It is utterly breathtaking to peer down the wall as it descends to over 2600 feet, disappearing into a chasm of midnight blue.

The dive is over all too quickly after 48 minutes. I signal that I am low on air at 500 psi and note that Linda still has 1200 psi left. I must be hyperventilating! We ascend up the anchor rope, do our 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet, and surface. Returning first our gear, then ourselves to the boat, we finally give each other a wide grin. What a thrill - but we are exhausted!

We motor back to the dock and plan dive #2 for tomorrow at 10:00am. Becky mentions that we appear to be calm and deliberate in the water and well trained, and that we should pass this assessment on to our instructors in North America. It is a good confidence builder for us.

In keeping with a leisurely training pace, Linda and I elected to do only one training dive per day, since we were situated on Glover's Reef for a whole week. I think this permitted us to discuss and enjoy the process as much as possible.

Mares Avanti Quattro
PADI tables
80 ft3 Al
Dive Type:
BOAT (Pelican)
Body of Water:
U S Divers
Lycra skin
8 lb
Water Type:
Video Equipment: