Fantasy Lake SCUBA Park, Rolesville, NC
MORE RECENT LATE-BREAKING NEWS!! I completed the Mixed Air/NITROX Certification in July of this year! This allows me to stay submerged for a longer period of time, which is probably offset by the additional time it takes me to figure out how to set my dive computer for the correct NITROX mixture. When in doubt, surface!! (This is a corollary of one of the primary rules of diving: Surface as many times as you submerge.)
LATE-BREAKING NEWS!! I went ahead and signed up for additional training following my Open-Water certification in July. One course highly recommended to me was "Stress/Rescue". As it turned out, I was a lot less experienced than the other students in the course. After completing our classroom and pool training, we headed to the quarry to do some practical work. I know that we must have hauled "unconscious" divers to the surface and dragged them to shore at least 8 or 10 times. Having relatively less experience controlling my air consumption and buoyancy, I know I made it a lot more difficult on myself than it needed to be. It was very helpful, though, to have a task to accomplish, as this really made me focus on what I was doing while still remaining aware of my depth, time, remaining air pressure, and other critical issues. The course was very beneficial to me, even though I wasn't the "typical" student. I highly recommend it to others.
As an "Advance Birthday Present" this year, my wife gave me diving lessons. I've really enjoyed snorkeling and this seemed like a logical next step. She selected Gypsy Divers in Raleigh and I signed up two months ago for their Open-Water Diver Certification Class. The class consists of six classroom/pool sessions and five open-water dives. Gypsy Divers uses the SSI curriculum.
We made an excellent choice going to Gypsy Divers. When I first stopped by to sign up for the classes, they were exceptionally helpful in explaining the certification and training process. There were several classes scheduled and they handled the scheduling and pre-class preparation in a very smooth and professional manner. When I returned several weeks later to purchase my mask, snorkel, and fins, they remembered my name from the previous visit and we picked right up again where we had left off.
I purchased corrective lenses for my mask because I did not feel comfortable wearing contacts in the water. Wow! What a difference the lenses make. They are "off-the-shelf" but are good enough that I can watch television at home while I'm wearing my mask. (Doesn't everyone?) I really felt confident that I would be ready for my first class.
Our course instructor was Andy, who was extremely knowledgeable and did a great job of relaxing everyone with his sense of humor. Jonathan, our DiveCon, was also a blast. Being feeble and elderly, I was a little concerned about how I would handle the water pressure. In fact, my first two dives caused me some ear pain, even though we never got below ten feet. Andy assured us that we would get better at equalizing our ear pressure as we continued to dive and he was right. I had no significant problems after that. (Of course, I've only done shallow dives so far.)
The Gypsy Divers facility was great. They have an indoor pool right next to the classroom and everything was clean and comfortable. The equipment (BC's, regulators, wet suits, etc.) we used was in excellent condition and seemed to be a notch above regular rental equipment. We even got some refreshments, since Andy would "fine" a student a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts if he/she left his/her tank standing upright and unattended.
After our classroom and pool training, we went to Fantasy Lake SCUBA Park in Rolesville, NC, for our first open-water dives. Fantasy Park is a flooded quarry and seems to be pretty popular with local divers. Visibility was poor when we were there, but Andy, assisted by Charlie and Bob from Gypsy Divers, was able to get us through all our exercises without any problems. In fact, the only complaint I had was that the combination of a Farmer John wet suit and a shortie wet suit gave me so much buoyancy that I had to wear 26 lbs. of weights. (Yes, you read that right...twenty-six pounds. Of course, I'm confident that my love handles had nothing to do with my inability to sink.) You have not lived until you have tried to walk uphill in 96-degree weather with SCUBA equipment on your back and 26 lbs. belted to your waist.
I can't believe that I squeezed into a wet suit. It was actually pretty comfortable until you wore it for a few minutes at 90 degrees plus.
Here I am about to do a shared breathing ascent. We're at only about 20' depth here. Andy obliged me by taking this picture using my cheap waterproof disposable camera.
Bobbing along waiting for my turn to do an emergency swimming ascent. Charlie said later that I must have set a record for speed in my ascent, due in part to my inherent buoyancy.
Here's Andy, our instructor, giving some last-minute directions to another student prior to their emergency swimming ascent.
Once again, Gypsy Divers was just super! After the students finished their last dive, Gypsy provided hotdogs and drinks for everyone as part of their regular Gypsy Divers Summer Sunday. Dave Farrar, the Owner of Gypsy Divers, was present at just about every class activity and went out of his way to make sure that everything went smoothly. To sum it up, everyone at Gypsy was about as friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable as you could possible expect.
If you would like to see some more images of the certification class, drop me a line. I have many images taken during the class of the other students and instructors.
Drop me a note if you want to discuss my diving certification experience. My goal is to be able to dive some of the wrecks off the North Carolina coast, but I need to get some more training and experience first. Wish me luck!
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