Sunrise…No Excuse Necessary

Sunrise…No Excuse Necessary

photo-1In the wee hours of the morning I found myself driving to Destin, Florida for a morning of diving. The two hour drive would give me a chance to wake up. Of course the 63 degree temperature was helpful in chasing slumber from my groggy mind.

It was a perfectly beautiful start to the morning with clear skies and a stillness that foretold of potentially great diving. There was barely a ripple on Perdido Bay and Pensacola Bay.

photo-2The sun was just peeking over the horizon as I neared Destin when I received a call from the dive shop that the trip was cancelled due to high wind and rough seas. I was shocked…wind? Evidently the wind was blowing from the east and offshore seas were over six feet. Ugh….I was happy to miss that! But in truth, I felt that odd intuitive uneasiness had been with me since the day before.

I had my tanks serviced at a local dive shop and asked them to put a mixture of gas known as nitrox in the tanks. Nitrox is a rich oxygen mixture used in diving. It’s beneficial in that you build up less nitrogen, which is good. Nitrogen is an inert gas and if you apply the laws of physics related to pressure you know that a gas under pressure….oh, bother. The short version is it is better to have less nitrogen in the bloodstream and nitrox, being oxygen rich, makes that a reality. The downside is that breathing a richer mixture of oxygen you have more oxygen in your system because you are under pressure from being under water….it won’t bubble like nitrogen but the partial pressure of oxygen has to be closely monitored so you don’t overdose on oxygen. Making sense? Oxygen can be toxic if you get too much. So there are depth limits for each mixture of nitrox.

Anyway….the mixture I asked for was 32% oxygen (instead of air which is 21%). The guy at the shop didn’t have me analyze the tanks there…which is the usual protocol. When I got home and analyzed my tanks the digital readout kept going up and up. It didn’t stop at 31.7 or 31.8 or 32….it kept going to 35.7 for one tank and 35.9 for the other. Hmmmm. The maximum operating depth for that mix is 95 feet and that was the depth of the first dive. I don’t push limits so this concerned me.

photoI haven’t used my nitrox analyzer in a couple years so perhaps the sensor is bad. I calibrated it before using it and everything seemed to be working perfectly. But it made me nervous. I could dive that mix and stay shallower but I simply don’t push my limits when diving. And I always like to leave room for contingencies.

So when the call came canceling the dives I wasn’t really upset. The trip already had a weird feel to it. And even though I had planned to re-analyze the tanks at the shop in Destin before using them, it was almost a relief to scrub the trip. Once I get that ‘feeling’ –especially about a dive trip–its best to just not do it.

I had two hours before the natural foods store opened for my weekly shopping in Pensacola so I headed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore for an early-morning visit with the beach. It was very chilly and the wind was blowing. Offshore I could see jagged rollers dotting the horizon. Oh, I was happy to be on land!

Peace enveloped me as I strolled along the edge…that place where big water and earth come together. It had been a while since I treated myself to sunrise on the shore. ¬†With the Sunday morning sea turtle team duties ending September 1st, nothing had motivated me to get up at 4.30am for a sunrise visit to the beach. Pity really.

photo-3Without the distraction of my heavy camera I found myself more present and focused. The glory of nature brought me into balance and filled a longing for the elements I didn’t realize I had. I miss the mountains and the opportunity to connect daily to such immense energy as the Appalachians yet equally important to me is the chance to dance with waves and wind of the ocean…the one world ocean of which the Gulf of Mexico is a part.

The theme of self-care was really evident with the nitrox mix-up and the rough seas…and the quiet time spent wandering the white sands of the beach. I left the gulls and sanderlings and beautiful, salty water feeling clearer and more focused. And happy to have had an excuse to witness the sunrise on the shore.

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