We're a little slow on getting started, in fact I haven't even put on the neoprene yet, but Saturday was the beginning of the SCUBA season for us.
The day started a little late, really around noon. Usually we are up and at 'em earlier... you know, to get the better parking spot, get there before the general population does, yadda yadda. But it was nice to get to the Glienicker Lake and see the kids already having a great time in the water.
It's always a little strange to me. Almost everyone else around us is spreading out a towel or a beach blanket along with a few drinks and something to eat in a basket. Maybe they have some lotion or a pillow-like thing to put their head on as they plan to lie in the sun and maybe walk down to the lake once in a while to cool off. But here we come. First with a large plastic drop cloth, then a beach blanket alongside.
On top of the drop cloth goes the equipment for diving. Boxes filled with the normal stuff: mask, fins, air tank... but also the buoyancy jacket, lots of weights, and of course the neoprene... yes, the gloves, hood, and the body suit. Uh Huh... a load of crap!
Usually by now we are getting looks from the other sunbathers. We sit down for a few minutes to rest from carrying all of the heavy equipment and take in the scenery. The Germans love their lakes, and this lake is a nice one. The kids are playing in the water so we know that must be relatively warm, but once you don a suit and get down a few meters, the water gets cold quickly. On this day the surface temperature was 18 and at six meters it was 11. (surface temp 64f. 20 feet down it was 52f.) Just a bit cold for someone that wants to stay down a while and observe things.
N.'s dive buddy is an Open Water Scuba Instructor as well... in fact they went through the training together. So they of course have ALL the cool gear and love to chat about it. I on the other hand just want to see fish and really don't get excited about their really cool new dive watch computers or the new ice-resistant air regulators. They talk for a bit but it is easy to see they are itching to get into the water, which they do in short time.
They have a nice dive and come back out of the water with huge smiles on their faces. When I ask the all-important question for me... "What kind of fish did you see?" They both shake their heads and one of them tells me that they saw only one fish. This may have more to do with the flurry of swimming activity all around than anything. But as I mentioned, they don't do it for the fish. For them it is a sort of a zen thing I think, but I really can't get into their heads for that kind of understanding.
The girls in the picture below are wearing dry suits which usually means that the water doesn't get inside the suit. In cold temperatures this keeps you much warmer.
As they come out of the water there is always interest from the sunbathers and especially from the children. Usually they are gawking but good. Of course our little group of divers is not alone. There are two other dive groups going into and out of the water, and the German sunbathers are well accustomed to seeing the strange creatures in black emerge from the water dripping and staggering clumsily under the weight of the heavy (sometimes as much as 30kg - 66lbs). It is still rather impressive to see all of the strange and alien-like equipment we carry and people can't help looking.
After the dive there is always the discussion of what was seen... because without special equipment there is no way to really talk underwater... so this must wait for after the dive. Then they talk about the missed signals from the other diver... "What did you mean when you were pointing at that tree branch?" Long time buddies have a whole language underwater but new buddies have to learn how to communicate.
Then there is the inevitable discussion about the equipment. On that day N.'s buddy was starting with a new dry suit... which didn't manage to keep her 100% dry I'm sorry to say. Then they compare temperatures and depth numbers between stories on the things seen underwater. These items are entered in log books and buddies sign each other's books creating a lasting memory (and a searchable reference) for years to come.
Hmm... I must admit that riding in the car filled with the smell of fresh neoprene was strangely nice. I really enjoy diving myself... I bet that I put on the suit myself in the next weeks. I dive in a wetsuit though, and my extremities get rather cold at these temperatures. Perhaps I'll wait a few weeks. :)
See the whole set of pics on Flickr.