With sightings of Hammerheads increasing daily, and rumours of a particularly large solitary one hanging around, I’m now cursing myself for being in the bay today. Well, at least I know I have no chance of seeing one there! My students today are finishing off their Open Water course, normally done from a boat, but they have to be finished as quickly as possible to make sure they are available for an excursion they have pre-booked. They never intended to do their diving course, but got hooked after doing an intro and have spent the last few days studying hard to squeeze the full course in. So with just two dives to complete, we should be finished nice and early, and I might get to relax on my sofa for the afternoon. However, in this job, I know that making plans is a mistake as they will always need to be changed.
With minimal skills left to do, we enter the water for our first dive. As we descend down and settle at 6 meters, my ear starts to feel a little strange. The guys do their skills, and before I know it we are off on our ‘tour’ part of the dive. We ideally want to get to 18 metres, their maximum depth as an Open Water Diver, so in the bay this can be a bit of a swim! As we get a little deeper, my ear starts to complain and as I try to equalise, every diving instructors worst nightmare happens – I realise I can’t. My ear has ‘stuck’. Now as an Instructor this causes you multiple problems, not least ensuring the students still complete all the requirements despite your problem. Luckily, over the years I have noticed my ears follow a pattern. Although on the initial descent I will have no problems, if I then settle at one depth (ie to complete skills), my left ear will ‘stick’ at that depth and refuse to go deeper. I have also over the years learnt how to ‘unstick’ it. With a combination of hand signals that I’m not entirely convinced they understand, I tell my students to stop and wait. I then go up to the original depth (6m) and then a little further and magic – I can equalise again. For the rest of the dive I have no problem and we carry out our planned profile.
The second dive I had no issue at all and my students finally relaxed and really started enjoying themselves underwater. They weren’t fussed about big stuff these two, a parrot fish and couple of squid were more than enough to have them writing reams in their log book, and then quick as a flash they were gone, off to their next adventure.
As I wander home for a nice afternoon snooze, I try to remember how I figured out this ‘quick fix’ for my ear and more importantly decided that I really need to work out a proper signal for it because to students it must appear very strange for me to swim up and then down again in a matter of seconds for no apparent reason and then carry on the dive.