Surface – Bayahibe

Dumb thing to do, that. Tapping wouldn’t change anything. She tapped again. 900 psi. When had that happened? Just a minute ago she swore she’d been just under half a tank. Taryn recognized the beginnings of concern, but checked them. 

In two, three. 
Out two, three, four, five. 
In two, three. 
Out two, three, four five. 
Better, it was holding steady around 900. 

Where was Jered?  She finned her way out of the larger of the three rooms they’d determined were safe for exploration. At the far side of the medium room there was a stairwell clear enough to allow descent into the wreck’s lower hold. Her kicks guided her toward it. Maybe he was down there. Their dive plan had called for meeting up at the top of the wreck when they hit 1000. She checked her gauge again – 850. 

Diving part way into the stairwell she glimpsed the yellow of his fins below and to the left. Perfect. Conscious of her breath rate she descended the stairwell and reached back to tap her tank with one of the metal D-rings attaching her compass to the BCD.  The fin didn’t move. She’d have to go farther in. As she made her way below the stairs to the far side of the room she tapped her tank at intervals. Still no response.  Something was wrong. 

Coming alongside him, She noticed his eyes were closed and he was drifting at an odd angle against the ship’s wall. Somehow his regulator was still in place. She grabbed his gauge, her breathing accelerating without heed. 1200.  Transferring her hand to his arm, she tugged gently. No response.  

She looked down at her gauge – 800.  Okay. Time to get up and out. She didn’t see any blood floating in the water near his head, but he was definitely non-responsive. She pulled alongside him and began maneuvering his body ahead of her up the stairs. At least the water made his 200 pound bulk less of a factor.  Once she had him aligned with the stairwell’s entrance, she inflated his BCD slightly and pushed him up, following immediately. Safely in the middle room it was a straight swim through to the larger salon and out the front where large window frames offered the least hazardous exit. Safely out, but keeping one hand firmly on Jered’s BCD she realized she’d need to tie him off to her so she had both hands free to manage the ascent and keep them along the dive line. They didn’t have rope, but Jered had some longer device attachment strings and she had extra carabiners. 

750. She checked his gauge again – 1100. Enough to buddy breathe off his tank during the safety stop. Up now. She inflated his BCD slightly again and began their controlled ascent keeping one hand on the guide line and the other on her dive computer. The needle of her gauge dipped into the red reserve area – definitely below 700. 
In two, three. 
Out, two, three, four, five. 
In two, three. 
Out…

At 60 feet she stopped their ascent for one minute. It was hard enough keeping herself stationary, managing Jered’s still unresponsive bulk was not helping. 500. 

Finally, the minute was over. 60 feet and five minutes left. Here’s hoping.  At 15 feet her gauge was dangerously close to empty. Jered still had 800. Not a lot, but enough. Keeping one hand on the rope, she reached for his secondary regulator. She’d never buddy breathed off someone without them knowing. Oh well, no choice. Two minutes left. Taking one more deep drag from her own regulator, she transferred her grip on the rope to the crook of her elbow and used her right hand to take it out while simultaneously pulling Jered’s backup toward her.   

Please work, please work, please work. 

She inhaled carefully – air! One minute left. 30 seconds. Time. She released the pressure of her elbow and followed the bubbles to the surface. Gratefully, she exchanged the regulator for the freedom of fresh air. She wasn’t sure she should or could remove Jered’s. Fortunately the captain of their boat was at the stern ready to help them out. 

“He’s unconscious. I can’t lift him myself.”  She called out. With a splash, Rafa hit the water and grabbed Jered by the BCD/Tank connection.

 “I’ve got him. Take out the regulator if you can.” 

“We’re attached, give me a sec.”  She unclipped the carabiner she’d used to get him up with her and then pried the regulator out of his mouth. How he’d managed to keep the tension to keep it in even while unconscious was beyond her.   Rafa swam his burden to the ladder and Taryn followed. 

“Can you undo the weight belt?” Rafa grunted.

She did so. “Got it.” She handed it up to Rafa’s second, José, and then the mask. “Fins next.”  These were harder, but after a moment she fumbled them off. 

“I’m going to swim him over to the stern and see if we can get him up by the engine where it’s a bit closer to the water level. I may need you to push too.” Rafa directed.

Taryn nodded and complied. José returned from stowing the other equipment and passed a rope to Taryn. 

“Tie it under Jered’s arms once we get the BCD and tank unstrapped. Rafa will work him out of it one side at a time.” This done and the BCD stowed, José returned to the stern and between the three of them they finally heaved Jered onto the deck of the boat. As soon as Taryn and Rafa were out of the water, José freed the mooring line and turned the boat toward shore. 

~~~~~

While the above short story is a creation of my imagination alone, it was jointly inspired by WordPress’ Postaday prompt for today and my own experiences SCUBA diving in the DR after my teaching job ended. Following the recommendation of a visiting professor and RPCV whom I met shortly after I returned to Santiago for my second semester, I took five days and traveled to Bayahibe on the southeastern side of the island to complete a dive course. I’ve had my Open Water Diver certification since before I got out of the military (thanks to Todd!), but I hadn’t logged any dives since before we knew he was sick. Because of this, I decided that completing another course with an instructor would probably be the best way to travel and dive by myself, something I’ve never done before. 

Five days later, I completed the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course and now have a new certification and seven more dives added to my dive experience. Four were wreck dives – one of which was at night and two of which were deep dives at 100+ feet, and the others were underwater navigation (somewhat easy for a former Nav), fish-ID, and gorgeous reef dives. I also discovered that doing a dive trip is one of the best ways to travel solo! Since boat dives generally require at least 2 or more interested divers, it’s an outstanding way to meet like minded people also out for adventure.  Dive towns are fun places to hang out too.

On my second deep wreck dive, I actually nearly did run out of air and had to buddy-breathe off our guide for a bit at the final safety stop. As a result, one of my dive companions gave me some much-needed and extremely helpful breathing instruction so that my final dive was much more successful as far as air management went. The last dive also revealed some amazing sea life such as dozens of sea stars, a glimpse of a black and yellow polka-dot moray eel, little coral jack-in-the-box fish that hide when you pass a hand close to them and then pop back out, romantic butterfly fish who always travel in pairs, retiring flounders, minuscule jellies that don’t sting, and myriad other beautiful sea creatures and corals.

Unfortunately, I did not have an underwater camera with me (something I definitely need to rectify sooner rather than later), so most of the memories are in my mind alone. However, the first and last set of pics are representative of what I saw and the shoreline is actually Bayahibe. Can’t wait to go back!

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Happy Dogs Don’t Bark at Clouds

Daily posts’ writing challenge this week was flash fiction. I thought this was interesting since my assignment for my Creative Non-Fiction class was to write a flash non-fiction piece.  Why not try both?  So here is my attempt!

Happy dogs - samoyed

The quiet weighed on her. The wind frightened her. She’d never minded either before Henry passed. Their country retreat had always been just that, a retreat. The wind sighing through the shelter belt had always soothed before. Now she found herself starting at the slightest breeze.

A flash of white arrested her lazy survey of the trees framing the garden. She picked up the trowel she’d just relinquished and searched the shadows more deeply. The white blob moved haltingly, unbalanced. Two black eyes and a nose became distinguishable from the mane of white being ruffled by the wind.

A few steps closer explained the curious movement. Cruel black talons disturbed the soft white fur of the animal’s left foreleg and streaked it with red. The dog dropped to its belly six feet away. She stretched out her hand, palm up. The dog lay there looking up at her with clouded eyes. Exchanging the trowel for clippers she moved closer.

As she approached his side, he turned his head and feebly licked her glove-covered hand. Resting one hand on his side, she used the other to find the loosest part of the barbed wire. Leaning against him slightly, she worked the clippers into his fur and snipped one cord, then another, and another. With each snap she felt the dog shudder but he remained still, trusting as only animals can do.

Samoyed smile

Samoyed Smile

Two weeks later the wind nearly bowled her over as she brought a bowl of food out to the porch. She couldn’t see dog and panicked for a moment, sure that something was wrong. Then she heard the barking. She scanned the horizon and saw him romping through the overgrown grasses behind the house jumping at the wind. She laughed as he turned and came racing toward her – Happy.

Mountain Biking – inspired by Great Expectations – Blogging U.

For my writing challenge post this week, I decided to follow a prompt from the WordPress Daily Post blog. This week’s topic was Great Expectations and the following was one of the options.

For those who prefer a bit of wit, give us your best expectation versus reality post for all those times you’ve tried your hardest and failed majestically.

Image

biking starts

 

My brother-in-law just bought the above bike for my precious niece who is completely in love with anything pink and princess-y right now. He’s hoping that she’ll actually want to learn to ride because of it. He is a big road and mountain biker who has been patient enough to do a couple of road rides with me. Every so often, he invites me to join him in mountain biking.  Each time he asks, I have to laugh.  Mountain biking and I do not have the most mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s not that I expected to be terrible at mountain biking.  Heck, I grew up in Colorado and first learned to ride in the shadows of the Boulder foothills. When I was younger and mad at my mother, I would pedal furiously up and down our long driveway pretending that I was riding all the way to my Grandmother’s house in Nebraska. I love the mountains too! I would often take off and hike 10 minutes from our house to where the trails up Mt. Sanitas or along the Mesa Trail began. One would think that putting the two together would be an easy combination for me.

The first time we truly went mountain biking as a family was at Vail during a summer weekend away. We rode the gondola up the mountain and rented bikes to ride down. My sister and I relished the excitement of flying down the first half of the mountain. Then my brakes failed.

Mountain Biking pic from Justin Garland’s Flickrstream

Fortunately, I hadn’t damaged too much of my body at that point and my sweet mother switched bikes with me so I could continue bombing down the mountain with my father and sister while she walked the broken bike down the hill. By the time she reached the bottom, she was fuming about the incompetence that had nearly cost her her daughter’s life, the danger to me had become far more serious than it originally was of course. My father intervened to spare the poor bike rental people her wrath.

I persisted in my desire to be a mountain biker.  While living in Japan during my 20s, my colleagues found a mountain biking trail in the Japanese foothills not too far from our base. Part of the trail involved racing down into a 15-foot dip and up the other side.  If you were really good, you’d fly off the lip at the other side.  I was just happy to make it up and down without a scratch which I did quite a few times. I took my sister once. She however, was not as intrigued by the thought of flying through the woods as I and was quite angry with me about the episode later.Kodomos enhanced

I returned to the States with renewed confidence and eagerly attempted trail biking again in North Carolina. Despite the fact that the hills were hardly the caliber of the Japanese foothills, much less the Colorado ones, I started cautiously. The trail was pretty easy and after the first hour I was feeling brave enough to attempt a jump…Big mistake.

An unknown someone had dragged reclaimed wood and tin out to the trail and created a few makeshift jumps, big and small. My friends of course chose the largest and steepest. The wood used for the jump had at one time been painted white. It couldn’t have been more than about 2 or 2.5 feet tall, but it was a relatively steep incline to the top.  I pedaled furiously along a 7-foot run-up to the jump certain I would be arcing gracefully into the air at the end.When my wheel hit the ramp though, I panicked!  Instead of claiming flight, I somehow managed to plant the front tire of my bike directly into the ground just beyond the jump. My body subsequently flipped over the right handlebar and I  missed slamming my head into a solidly established pine tree by about 3 inches. My bike landed on top of me, and by the time my friends had confirmed that I was laughing, not crying, wounds on my right elbow, face, and right leg had begun bleeding profusely.

My final (to date) mountain biking experience was less dramatic but nonetheless damaging. I moved from North Carolina to the opposite coast and went biking with a friend on the sandy bluffs north of Monterey, California. Again, since the hills were so much more gentle than those I came from, I was not worried at all. I was a competent biker and never one to back down from a challenge.  I don’t think I was prepared for sand

Sand biking

Sand biking

though. The hills were free of vegetation and densely packed clay with looser sand on top. The incline which would begin the loop back to the car was riddled with slender wash-outs. I gathered my courage and decided to try it anyway.

About a quarter of the way down, I could see disaster written in the sand. I got my front tire caught in one washout that abruptly ended about 6 feet in front of me. Descending at 20-30 mph left me powerless to rectify the situation. Sure enough, I was launched over the left handlebars and this time my left knee, leg, and elbow were all bleeding profusely.

I still hope to try mountain biking at some point in the future. Given my history with the sport however, protective equipment might be in order. I refuse to admit defeat though. Some day, I will triumph!