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Dives 5 through 9, Oahu style

I wanted to make the most of my first trip to Hawaii, so my wife encouraged me to complete my open water certification beforehand, which I did (in San Carlos, MX.) When we arrived in Honolulu airport I was ready, temporary certification card in hand, to go on the various dives I had arranged in preparation for the journey. I expected to dive on the West shore first, then the East, then the North.

I chose them in that order because it was my understanding that the West was easiest and the North was most difficult, especially this time of year. Unfortunately, the dive company I was diving with failed to anticipate a regional fishing tournament being held at the port of call used for the West shore dives. When the dive shop van arrived at my hotel to pick me up, I was informed that we were going to dive the North shore that morning instead of the West. We arrived at Waimea harbor and boarded a dive boat of approximately twenty-five feet in length. As we proceeded out to our first dive site, Waimea point, the dive boat following in our wake soon turned back, presumably because of high seas. Oh well, I thought to myself, at least I have a dive master who will stay with me and they are letting me use a Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV.)

After gearing up and diving into my fifth open water dive (first in Hawaii) I gave the OK sign to my instructor and we began our decent. After equalizing through the depth of fifteen feet, panic struck me. I knew, consciously, that I was going to be ok and that I was prepared and that I was safe and that I was with an experienced dive master, but my unconscious was overwhelmed with panic, which manifested primary as rapid, shallow breathing. Being in rough seas was tossing me around more that I would have liked and is probably what triggered my response. Was I going to hit the button? Was I going to inflate and abort this dive? I had a scooter, surely that would bring me to place where Iíd be ok. If I surfaced Iíd be in even rougher currents. Rationally, the choice between ascent and descent was clear; there is no reason to surface. Emotionally, fear was trying to take charge. Breathing is the key. Slow it down. Deep breathing. Less fear. Descend. Equalize. Success! Now Iím ok! The panic is gone as quick as it came. This is what I came here for. Down, with my scooter, with the dive master, down to the bottom to see what is there. Depth? 70 feet, a little more, maybe 72. Equalizing the whole time, following the dive master. He continually asks if Iím ok and I respond affirmatively. The scooter isnít right though. Does it have some sort of time delay? It doesnít want to shut off when I let go of the switch. The switch is something someone rigged up in the shop. Apparently the factory switch stopped working, maybe years ago, and was replaced by something handy. The switch, when subjected to depth pressures not found in a pool, has now shorted out and is engaged all the time. This scooter is fast and it wonít shut off. I steer it into the bottom to slow down a little, my instructor sees this and wonders why. Later he says that at the time he thought I lost control of it. As we progress along the dive site, we see various fish, but nothing noteworthy. When air gets down to 1000 pounds we begin to ascend to our first safety stop. Then the instructor comes to me to take the scooter because he sees I am not stopping. We progress back to the boat at the correct depth for our safety stop, but with the scooter towing both of us so that we donít go as fast. Even with both of us though, the scooter still moves along at a brisk pace. After a minute at that safety stop, we move to three minutes at fifteen feet. The scooter is still moving along the whole time, with both of us. Eventually, we get back in the boat with no problem. Iím happy about making my fifth dive, let alone having such an adventure. While there was nothing spectacular as far as scenery or wildlife, it was a great dive for me and I was lucky to have such a great dive master as my buddy. On the surface the weather got worse. Rain and high seas have kept my wife and son from their planned snorkeling; it had gotten pretty stormy while we were at depth.

We head back to shore and then to the hotel. I try to accommodate them with warm tea & soup so as to provide some sort of comfort to them while I gloat over such a meaningful fifth dive. The eastern shore is tomorrow for me, the western shore for them as they plan to snorkel with dolphins. We awake the next day ready to each go on our respective adventures.

Upon entering the dive shop van in front of my hotel I ask if we are still on schedule to dive the eastern shore. He responds affirmatively but not with any specific information about where exactly we will go because, Iím told, it depends on conditions. We board a large dive boat in Waianae Harbor. Dive #6 is Baby Barge, 60 feet and swift current. With no scooter the current takes me. The dive master takes me back and I remain at depth, holding the mooring line until I get down to 1000 pounds of air. Visibility is good and there are more fish here than where we were yesterday but examining every facet of the barge around the mooring line isnít very exciting. At least Iím fine-tuning the communication skills between my instructor and I. It was another good experience with respect to making good judgment calls regarding safety.

Back in the boat for a one hour surface interval as we go to our next dive site. The Captain says Fantasy Reef will be the site for my seventh overall dive. Finally to a place Iíve heard about before! This should be good. Only 50 feet but a fair assortment of fish. Dive number seven whet my appetite for seeing more underwater sights and built my confidence in breathing and buoyancy control.

Two days later we went to the Western shore for dives 8 and 9. This proved to be the best diving on Oahu. Mild current was the most we had to fight but usually there was almost no current. ďIt is almost always flat as a pancake out here,Ē says the Captain. Black Rock is at 90 feet and the best dive sight yet; it is almost a cave but more of an overhang- open on three sides. Again I feel lucky to be with such an experienced, safe dive master. A fair amount of fish and coral, certainly more than Iíve ever seen before. Papio Pass was next. 37 feet and tons of fish and coral, it made me feel like I was in an aquarium (especially after having just seen the Waikiki Aquarium the day before.)

To conclude, I now know that the next time I plan to dive in Hawaii, I need to plan it as far away from the new moon as possible so as to minimize the currents I will face. It is important to me that I be at my dive site during high tide, meaning early morning, so that I will have plenty of room to maneuver without bumping into the coral reef every few feet. This is especially true when snorkeling in Hanauma Bay; if I had been there at high tide I could have swam though the channel connecting the outer reef to the inner reef and seen them both. Also a benefit of being on site early in the morning is that no one else is there yet, so the visibility is best.



Dives 24 through 27, Oahu style

Scuba diving is an especially rewarding way for me to recreate not just because I am a paraplegic and full-time wheelchair user but also because it refreshes my soul in ways that I never imagined possible. To dive into the ocean is to travel into another realm, both an escape from limitations that otherwise restrict my physical movement and a journey to aspects of consciousness that are as unblemished as the seemingly undisturbed seafloor. The mental baggage that accumulates during the course of my busy days can be exhaled as soon as I begin my decent. While submerged, each breath releases tension that had relentlessly fastened itself to my being. As a car goes through a car wash, so too do I feel cleansed by seawater; especially when I am surrounded by hundreds of tropical fish in vivid colors of unimaginable rainbows. I dive to continue feeling good about myself, my world and our society. The positive energy gained from an undersea perspective is truly a healing remedy for all the trauma with which life burdens us. I am not alone in my appreciation of this activity. Nearly all the divers I have had the pleasure to dive with agree that after a day of diving, life just can't get much better.

Above, I was very happy to tell you of my June 2004 scuba diving adventure in Hawaii. Those were my first dives after completing nearly a year of pool training as well as the four open water dives required for scuba certification. That expedition was both exhilarating and inspiring. One of the main lessons I learned on those dives was to schedule my future dives between the full moon and the new moon so as to avoid large tidal surges; but that is only part of how I planned the August 2005 dives.

Since returning from last year's Oahu dives I completed additional training and practiced what I had learned on several more dive trips. The Oahu dives in 2004 were so much fun that I was motivated to stay physically fit in preparation for more dives. I kept true to my exercise routine at my local gym because I wanted to be ready when the time came. I began to really feel good about my strength, my endurance and my overall ability. When each of my dive trips came up, I was ready because I had been working out in the gym. Soon came more diving: three more trips to Mexico and one to Aruba. I normally do two dives per day on such trips. That is fourteen more dives. As I completed each one I began to perceive them as relatively easy dives.

Then back to Oahu. When I arrived at the marina Saturday morning I was very happy to be back on Oahu's west side. The weather was clear and the seas were calm. I knew today would be a terrific day. Once the boat was loaded we cast off and made a fifteen minute ride to our first dive site. The Mahi was a wreck sitting in about 91 feet of water. My partner and I dove in and began to descend. We surveyed the exterior decks from bow to stern. At one point a half dozen Hawaiian Spotted Rays glided by us. Of course we were occasionally visited by schools of neighboring tropical fish as they pursued their quest for survival. Sometimes we were surrounded by bright yellow tangs or butterfly fish or by angelfish or an occasional Trigger fish or Parrot fish munching on the coral reef. This dive, like so many others was relaxing, energizing and rejuvenating. The practice I had put in since my last visit was really paying off because I was proficient in utilizing the information provided by my underwater dive computer. Without hesitation I was able to determine exactly what I needed to plan my safety stops with only a glance at the palm sized display.

My partner and I began to make our ascent cautiously and purposefully, being mindful of our position and time at each safety stop. Everything was going perfectly. I climbed back into the boat and after a short wait for the remaining divers to make their return, we were off to our next dive site of the day. Whether it was another spectacular reef or merely a turtle cleaning station thirty feet below the surface, the August 2005 Oahu dives were all that I'd hoped for and more.


Dives 28 through 31, Oahu style


28th of April, 2006.


I arrived yesterday with plenty of time to check into my hotel, get settled and still have a decent amount of rest; I wanted to be completely ready to go the next morning. The hotel was different this time, the Ohana West. While the location was better, more central, it was the first time Iíd been to that hotel. The reason I had to switch was because the Ohana Surf East, my previous hotel, was sold to another company and they were remodeling it. As soon as I got into the room I knew I would be happy with this place. It was even bigger than the previous one, the roll-in shower & bathroom was better and the price was only about $10 more per night. The location really was much better because it was right across the street from a supermarket and the international market, two places I often went to anyway. This trip was much shorter than the other ones so the less sidewalk time I spent going back and forth the better.


I was alone this time, which was also a huge plus. I didnít have to worry about anyone but myself. I was able to really clear my head and focus on what I was doing. I had a really great time.


Seven thirty Friday morning the dive shop picked up as usual. We were diving the south side of the island today. I was looking forward to finally seeing the Corsair because that is not a sight they show during the summer. As it turned out, one of the other divers didnít want to see it because he had already seen it that week. Instead, we decided to see a wreck called the LST. That is the acronym for Landing Ship Transport; it was an amphibious vehicle used to put troops and equipment on the beach but was sunk to become part of the coral reef. It was in the same depth of water as the Corsair and I had never seen it before so for me there was no difference.


We boarded the boat. I had been on this boat before. It was Honey Dew II and the Captain was Captain John. My diving partner was an instructor from the shop, Jeff. He was here diving with his wife, Melanie. Both are experienced Scuba Instructors. The weather was great. It could have been a little sunnier I suppose but the cloud cover was light and the waves were mild. I was really feeling great about finally getting back into the ocean. I had all my equipment, including the scooter I rented the first time I came here. I made sure that they repaired and tested the scooter at depth before renting it to me this time, so I knew I would be able to depend on it. Over the side we go and then follow the mooring line down.


It took me a while to equalize because my sinuses were still so congested. Thatís ok though, I just took my time on the line equalizing little by little. I was not about to create any unnecessary anxiety. Down we go for dive number 28. I wasnít the first one down but it didnít take me long to follow the other four divers. We went right down to the bottom and saw a 7 foot white tip shark. I did not know that white tips were afraid of people so I became somewhat concerned. I was not as terrified as I expected I would be but I was definitely uneasy. The shark was circling the whole wreck. As the other divers left, the shark came under the LST and began making smaller circles not far from my partner and I. I found out later that the shark merely wanted to go back to sleep. White tips sleep directly on the bottom. Apparently we were intruding in itís bedroom. I didnít know that at the time though so whenever it pointed itself at me during the course of itís circling, I was uneasy. Eventually I decided to leave and the shark did not follow.


I still had plenty of nitrox left in my air tank but decided to start a gradual assent along the mooring line. Visibility was still great and I spotted plenty of small reef fish. Back in the boat and then to the next dive sight. Fantasy reef was dive number 29. I was here in August but was glad to return to a spot I had been to because I was hoping to be familiar with the layout of the terrain. Such was not the case. There were so many beautiful fish and coral that it all looked the same. I tried using my compass but was still very disoriented. The scooter was still working strong but the current was almost as strong, so the going was slow. At least I didnít get washed away though, the scooter was stronger than the current.

Back in the boat and back in the hotel to wash everything off and get ready for tomorrow. It had been a truly excellent day of diving. Everything went perfect and spotting a white tip was a real bonus.


The weather on Saturday was even better than Friday. We went to the West side this time and it was clear, sunny and flat as a lake. Dive conditions were great too, no current to speak of. Water temps almost as high as August; 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Dive number 30 was to be the wreck of the MAHI. I had also been here before as well but the bonus was spotting a 12 foot Hammerhead. I already knew they were skiddish of people, so I wasnít worried. I just took my scooter and enjoyed all the sights. Lots of fish: Black Triggerfish, Yellow Tangs, Cornet Fish, Unicorn Fish, Cowfish, Squid, Eagle Rays, Cleaner Wrasse and thankfully- no jellyfish.


Dive number 31 was Papio Pass. I had also been here before but had no better luck feeling like I knew the place. It was so beautiful with so many beautiful fish and coral that it was like new to my eyes. My nitrox mixture was a little richer for this dive- 36%. That is as it should be. I truly felt great. Even the scooter was behaving itself and I was starting to get a feel for how to maintain proper buoyancy. Buoyancy control is still something Iím working on though. While I did manage to avoid the Sea Urchins, I was not successful in avoiding the coral. I was really trying not to bump into anything but Iíll have to try harder next time.


Dives 28 through 31 were great. Four dives that couldnít be better. My first time seeing sharks; very memorable. The whole trip, including food and cab fare and tips was had for $1,600. When it comes to refreshing getaways, this really fit the bill.


Dives 83 and 84, Oahu style



April 15th, 2008. I was coughing for the first part of this trip so I didn't get to dive until the Robitussin started to kick in for the end of the trip. One dive day is better than none :-)

Finally, after diving Oahu for a few years, the timing was right for me to dive the Corsair and it really was worth it. Some people may consider it old and desolate and not much to see- not me though. I really like it because it is very clear, deep and the tether line goes straight down. If you like deep wrecks, this is certainly one to see because it is easy and one can practice some of the basic technical dive skills necessary for more complicated wrecks. Being mindful of air and depth and buoyancy are all good things to practice here in a relatively safe setting. The current was somewhat mild on the day that we were there but my understanding is that it sometimes can be rough.


An especially pleasant plus for this dive was that Aaron's Dive Shop had a new scooter (Dive Propulsion Vehicle) for me to try out. This scooter was a little bigger and much heavier because of the bigger battery. Was it worth lugging around? If you want power and silence, yes! While the handling and controls are slightly different from what I'm used to, having that scooter at depth is a real bonus. I would not be able to carry it at all by myself while traveling, but I think I can get around that part when the time comes. 


After the Corsair we did a shallow dive at Angler's Reef. This was a good dive to see lots of fish and relax. Thanks again to Aaron's Dive shop, the best shop on Oahu for lots of reasons.


May 2009

Aaronís Dive shop was up to the task of going the extra mile. Their Instructors helped to complete my Diver Stress & Rescue dives in May 2009. Thanks Kevin :-)

May 2010

Dives #115 & 116 were a bit choppy. Roger (from Aaronís) was there to get me through it.The South shore of Oahu was a bit rough but we completed the dives.

August 2011

This trip to Hawaii I dove two islands. That's my first time doing that. I completed twelve more dives (#157-168.) It's been a while since I've been to Oahu but I returned to dive on August 28th and 29th, 2011.  The timing wasn't great because my third day of diving was canceled due to the large summer swell. This is a phenominon that comes late summer each year. During the summer swell, the normally calm leeward sides of the island are rough and the normally rough windward sides of the island are not. While my first two days of diving were great for me, not all divers had the same good luck. One diver was actually lost while doing a drift dive. The last I heard, he had not yet been recovered. I hope and pray that this diver finds peace. With these two days of diving in Oahu, I completed dives #157- 164.


Then it was off to Kona for my Manta Ray dives with Kona Honu divers. They are great. They treated me so nice I'll definitley be back. As an added bonus, I happened to meet one of the Dive Pirate directors there and we were able to lay the groundwork for future Handi-Diver activity with Kona Honu divers. By the time I was done diving there, I completed four more dives #165-168. I invite you to see the blog for some detailed descriptions and the photo gallery for some photos.




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