Scuba divers

My stories: ‘A first dive without a guide’

This is the 2nd story in a series of personal scuba diving adventures since I got my PADI certificates. In this story I'm taking you along how I met my current dive buddy, with whom I still have adventures till this day. It was also our first dive without a guide. A special day and dive that I'll never forget. How can I, this specific dive is still often 'the story' on parties. ;)

"The year is 2010 and spring has broken the grasp of winter. Despite being nuts for diving it's almost seven months after my first dive in the Netherlands. It's on a birthday party I get talking with Victor, my new to be dive buddy. Despite going back for ages we didn't knew from each other we both loved diving so much! He just came back from Curacao where he had gotten his open water certificate. As what had happened to me, he had gotten the virus immediately! It didn't took long for us to plan a dive together . The next weekend would bring his first dive in the Netherlands an both our first dive without a guide.

I called the dive center Dolphins and made reservations for rental gear. At that time we didn't even have our own masks.
After giving our weight, duikgids-zeelandshoe size and length, they promised the gear would be ready for us. As the big day approached I got more and more nervous. Would we be OK without a guide? Where our skills with the compass enough not to get lost? What if we would get separated? We didn't even have a dive site in mind yet.

That Saturday we jumped in the car fully prepared. Sandwiches, coffee, towels and slippers where all present. As we entered the dive center, our future 'scuba' home away from home, we where greeted by Remco. All the scuba gear was present and while we made the final checks he gave us the tip to go to the dive site Dreischor Gemaal. A beautiful site and really easy to navigate. His wife had written a book with an overview of all the dive sites in Zeeland (province in the Netherlands). Each dive site was fully described with an dive map of the location. I bought the book immediately. How could we get lost now! This book has seen many adventures afterwards. Confident by this time we took all our equipment and went on our way to the dive site. Only a 10 minute drive from the dive center.

The dive site is one of the easiest dive sites in the Netherlands. As with most dives in the Caribbean it's a clear left of right situation. You climb (literally) over the rocks in to the water. You swim out for a few meters, submerge till 7 meters. You keep to the coastline and you'll get to ' Het Gemaal' eventually. Sounds easy doesn't it... So where did it go wrong?

Dive site Dreischor gemaal

Well to be honest it's not exactly like in the Caribbean. The visibility in the Netherlands is only 3 to 4 meters on a normal day. As we had read in the dive site description we swam out for a few meters and submerged. Within 1 minute we where at 16 meters instead of the 7 we had read about. As we reached the bottom we kicked up a sand storm which reduced our visibility to zero. We lost every sense of direction and as we had forgot to check our compass (it would have been a simple to the right dive) our only option was to ascend and check our position above water. The first time we had moved a mere meter and even in the wrong direction.

We looked at each other, determined this time we would get it right. We both took the compass heading, confirmed it and decided to go down again at the same location. We would not swim on the surface, we where Dutch scuba divers, we would find 'Het Gemaal' as every other diver by scuba diving to it. Within 10 minutes we where at the surface again. Despite keeping our compass heading we just had no idea where we where below water. Nowadays I keep a mental map of where I am in regard to the point where I started. I didn't have that skill then and neither did Victor. It took us three more surface glances to get to ' Het Gemaal'.

It was a hard lesson, but one we had to learn. Scuba diving in the Netherlands is no Caribbean. Here you dive on your compass! You need to know where you are every moment of the dive. Despite the visibility you also have to deal with heavier gear, colder water temperatures and sometimes even strong currents.

Despite we where a bit shaken by this reality check, we also where even more determined. One hour after our first dive we where back in the water for our second attempt!

In the 'My Stories' series:
- My Stories: 'My very first scuba dive in the Netherlands'

Posted in Country Stories, My Stories, Scuba diving Netherlands.

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