Diary of a Cold Diver Part III

It’s not just cold — it’s dark, too

As the temperature continues to drop at home, most divers are hanging up their wetsuits for the season. But last weekend, two dive students braved the cold and visited the dive center where I teach, looking to take their advanced course. We were happy to oblige, after thoroughly briefing them on what to expect in terms of temperature and weather.

We usually complete advanced courses over a weekend, doing a Friday night dive and the subsequent dives on Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures were hovering in the high 50s, but the forecast promised it was about to turn unseasonably cool, with temperatures around freezing just before dawn on Saturday.

Luckily, water temperatures hadn’t dropped as dramatically, so we would be fairly snug in our thick suits, in water that was around 55 degrees. The real challenge would come when we surfaced, and my two students would have to shiver into their street clothes.

Getting into warm, dry clothes quickly is key — and a warm drink is a big help too. So I made sure to pack extra towels and a thermos of coffee.

Friday night arrived, and after a briefing in the shop, we headed for a beach nearby, which offered shallow, sheltered water — perfect for a first night dive. The feeling as the water flooded our suits was one of cool — but not overly cold — water. We turned on our lights and started the dive. Visibility is better in the cooler months, and marine life is more abundant as well; we spotted salmon, shrimp and eels. We headed out of the water before we got too cold, and quickly changed out of our wetsuits. As we were discussing the dive over hot coffee, the two students marveled at all the things we had seen. Dark, cold water on a fall night is about as far from vacation diving in tropical waters as you can get, and yet, these guys were gushing over it. They were undoubtedly another couple of cold-water divers in the making. I reminded them to eat heartily when they got home to compensate for the calories they’d used in keeping warm, and we headed off into the night.