- Dive 1 of trip- cenote Minotauro, 53 minutes max depth 38 feet. Tuesday 29th
This was a shakedown dive and I passed the little test with nothing worse than a
little touch of cramp - it's too long since I finned a reasonable distance. Also
a weird sensation of - I'm not sure what - as the water eventually penetrated my
drysuit to the tune of 1/2 pint or so.
Went up the extreme left hand line (not the one that's part of the Loop). My HID
light (Brent's hand-me-down) worked well. I like having the bigger battery than
the modern ones, 7 hours burn time can't be a bad idea.
My Buddy Nexus dive computer (new) did not work well, doing OK during the dive
but then locking up afterwards - defective battery? May have to return it when I
get back. Fortunately no question of deco at the present. Irritating.
Way I had things rigged (sidemount) the HID canister was able to rotate round
until it became a dangly under my belly. Fix that. Buoyancy control was mainly
with drysuit, worked well with 11lb weight to offset the drysuit's buoyancy.
Minotauro as pretty as ever, the guy who takes the money just as friendly. Good
dive for first of trip.
After the dive - I looked around and found cenote Escondido, a small nearby
cenote I shall do next time. A good achievement because the footpath to
Escondido is not quite where you'd expect it to be from Steve Gerrard's book.
- Dives 2 and (?) 3 - wednesday 30th june.
I went back to Escondido this time meaning to dive. There are 3 lines down there
leading off a single stalagmite in the cavern zone; 2 go to regions with
immediate sidemount restrictions, the middle one a relatively broad passage.
I went along all 3 but turned in the narraower ones when I felt things were
getting a bit tight.
The Buddy Nexus this time worked flawlessly, having been "cured" by removing and
then replacing its lithium battery (with the same lithium battery). Hmmm.
31 minutes max 32 feet; the Nexus noticed I surfaced for a couple of minutes
between exploring the middle passage and the other two and split it into 2
dives. Brutal truth: I am out of practise and not yet ready for long dives
- Dive 4 30/6/04.
Went back in and explored what I thought might be a side passage.
Unsurprisingly, it ended fairly soon. However, my homemade primary reel worked
- Dive 5 1/7/04.
My primary light was non-functional today so secondary lights only as I went in
and tried to find all the other lines - I'd forgotten where they all were,
except the one off to the left of the basin that I went up on 29/6. Took a while
to just get familiar with where the lines are again - I used to know! - but it's
been too long since I was in Mexico.
- Dive 6 1/7/04. only 20 minutes!
After a little pause at the car I decided to take an upstream line I don't think
I have done before. Quite fun but I still lacked confidence to do a full dive,
turning on thirds in my first tank only, leaving 5 times as much air to get out
as I took getting in. Still nervous and out of practise. Half length dive about
right for my state of preparation. The way I had my sidemounts set up some of
the hoses were too long and becoming danglies. Better than yesterday, maybe make
a full length dive tomorrow.
- Dive 7 2/7/04. 40 minutes, max 32' deep. Completely explored the middle one of
the 3 lines at Escondido. In doing so went through several sidemount
restrictions without trashing the place too badly. Good fun and I would love to
come back and explore.
- Dive 8. 2/7/04. 29 mins max 40' deep at Escondido. On this dive it became
apparent that I really needed tank weights to keep the sidemounted tanks from
riding up into a nearly vertical position when positively buoyant. The tanks
were getting jammed - vertical - in the restrictions. A definite no-no. Also I
had trouble with a leaky second stage that kept breathing wet though I could
find no tear in the diaphragm nor any problem with the exhaust valves. On this
dive the wet breathing became a problem so I exited early. Afterwards I found
the problem was that the front face of the reg simply wasn't screwed on tight
enough so the diaphragm was leaking round the side. There was grit in the
threads of the front face which had fooled me into thinking I had screwed it on
tight when I hadn't. Clean and reassemble job in other words. A good dive, but
shortened by technicalities.
- Dive 9. 2/7/04. Cenote Yax Mul. 54 minutes, max 43' deep. On this dive I became
the first person to dive at the newly opened cenote Yax Mul. This is a window
into the Nohoch Nah Chich system, somewhat downstream of cenote nohoch itself,
but still a long way upstream of the exit to the sea at Casa Cenote.
Yax Mul is run by the friendly Lucio, who made a great fuss about my being the
first diver there. You take the car along a rough road 2km into the jungle,
then you have access to the cenote via a path and a ladder.
The passages are not brilliantly decorated like at Nohoch itself, except near
the cenotes. Away from them, it becomes more like a large underground river - a
larger Dos Ojos. I swam upstream for 1500' to a cenote which must be betweeen
Yax Mul and Cenote Nohoch - I was expecting Nohoch itself, but no, they're
further apart than that. En route I came across a place where a rockfall had
buried the guideline for about 10-20 feet. Glanced nervously at the ceiling as I
passed. There's a fair current by the way - passage still huge but narrower than
at Cenote Nohoch. I would be more conservative than Thirds if diving
A good dive, though the entrance pool has some really fine clay silt in it -
still suspended in the water after I returned from an hour's dive. I nearly
managed to lose a fin in the silt - it fell into the water as I was climbing
out, and I had to find it by feel because visibility was absolute zilch.
- Dive 10. 3/7/04. Cenote Muchachos - Sistema Camilo. 56 minutes, max 62' deep.
[About now I finally fixed my primary light.] This cenote has just been opened - since I was last in Mexico anyway - and gives
access to a wide cave with dark mud floor but impressive white decorations.
Reminded me of Vaca Ha. A little further in I'm told it goes to 80' or so.
Entrance pool tiny - like Tortuga - with line tied off to a tree root in air.
Ladder provided. I went to thirds along the main line. Quite fun. Met 3 people
from DIR Akumal also doing a similar dive plan, their bigger doubles getting
them just a little further in the cave than I - difference can't have been large
though because the 2 dives took nearly the same time - they got to the 70'
section and had a little deco.
- Dive 11. 3/7/04. 44 minutes downstream at Cenote Yax Mul. More decorated than
the upstream bit, a little bit like Nohoch itself but a MUCH lower ceiling, not
nearly such a grand scale... Extremely shallow, max 10' deep.
- Dive 12. 4/7/04. Cenote Regina. Guided dive with Kim Davidsson as guide. 56
minutes max 65'. This dive begins just outside Tulum in a cenote in someone's
back yard. (Their daughter's name is Regina.) A guideline goes down close to
vertical from a log, hits 45' immediately, going to 65' or so later on.
At first it's like Vaca Ha, dark mud floor but brilliant decorations in wide
open halls; then there's an obvious phreatic tube, reminiscent of Little River
Spring but without most of the flow; then there's a neat halocline area with a
varied passage rising back above the halocline beyond. Kim's computer thought we
needed a minute or two of deco, mine thought not. On the borderline then...
- Dive 13. 4/7/04. Cenote Chan Hol. 79 minutes, max 35'.
This was another guided dive with Kim Davidsson, this time in his "own" cave,
Chan Hol. A beautiful cave with huge rooms splendidly decorated (upstream) in
white. We went in on a shortcut line that rejoins the main line some way into
the cave, and went along the main line some way, then jumped off right down a
virgin passage with wonderful decorations. After 750 feet or so it bent round
left and returned to the main line. The new passage has two line arrows, marked
"Professor" in my honour, to this day. Kim surveyed back out. Only my second
wander in a virgin cave passage.
- Dive 14. 5/7/04. Cenote Regina. We went further in to the salt water area and
this time there was no doubt about needing a bit of deco, I notched up 9
- Dive 15. 5/7/04. Downstream Sac Actun. Not a brill dive, I was silly enough to
go down to the Pickpocket restriction with sidemounts attached to a backplate -
and of course the backplate jammed in the narrow restriction. You need REAL
sidemounts for the downstream Sac. Live and learn.
- 6/7/04. Took a break!
- Dive 16. 7/7/04. Chan Hol; 110 minutes, max 29'. Sidemounts plus 1 stage. I went
back solo and explored Kim's remarkable find; a great little cave system right
by the main road. I did a downstream lead that we hadn't explored together, also
completed a little loop so i understood the shortcut Kim had used on the last
diove; and did a bit of unfamiliar upstream passage as well, turning left
instead of right at the T on the upstream line.
- Dive 17. 8/7/04. Feeling lazy but went back to Escondido and did another short dive. Found a little room to the right of the main entrance.
- Dive 18. 9/7/04. Cenote Yax Chen; 154 minutes, max 32'. 52 minutes to find the
cave entrance, then 102 minutes to do the dive. The cave entrance is at the far
corner of the biggish lagoon from where you enter the water. When you find it,
it's huge - so don't waste time on looking into small openings as I did. You get
so many openings to the surface in this cave system I'm almost unsure whether
it's mostly cave or mostly open water. Steve Gerrard says that the best dive in
this system is to visit the school of tarpon 600 feet into the system and that's
exactly what I did. Cute fish, very silver, 3 feet long. About half a dozen of
them. No decorations this close to the sea; dark floor. Fun. But Gerrard's other
point, that you really need a DPV to appreciate the system properly, is well
taken. It goes for miles - it's one of those which - as Brent Booth puts it - are "logistically walled out". Finning, I only saw the first 1500' or so.
- Dive 19. 10/7/04. Cenote Kim Ha. 56 minutes, max 83', includes 5 minutes deco. Kim Ha is a new cenote they found very close to the dirt road between Vaca Ha and Tortuga. I'm told it can be connected to Tortuga but only if you do a triple stage dive --- involving sidemount passages (for those who know Tortuga better than I, you end up in the remote "Black Hills de la Tortuga" passage). The American group that found that connection unfortunately ruffled the feathers of the original Mexican exploration team by installing line but not doing a proper survey. This was still being discussed rather negatively when I got there. If you leave line - survey it! seems to be the motto.
It's all still under active exploration, and I went to the end of the guideline in one direction - not the one that connects with Tortuga! My computer wanted 5 minutes at 10 feet but I gave it 1@30', 2@20' and 2@10'; I believe in deep stops even with undemanding dives like this.
Difficult thing about this dive is the entrance area. It's a fairly narrow opening down to a biggish room at 50 feet or so, but there's a lot of rotting vegetation about and tannic acid in the water plus H2S (hydrogen sulphide).... This last is poisonous, and stinks of rotten eggs, and you end up doing your deco in a dilute solution of it. I was glad of my drysuit, and more careful than usual not to swallow any of the water. All these contaminants disappear once you're below about 65', in favour of crystal clear salt water passage. It's very pretty, a nice new system, or new part of the Tortuga system depending on your opinion of that triple-stage-dive link. Even around the 65' mark there are still sporadic, pretty decorations in the cave. The rest is rocks and saltwater, but very pretty.
- Dive 20. 11/7/04 This was my first effort with an underwater camera, one of those disposable jobs which I attached to a big reel and went off into an unexplored passage in Chan Hol, where I did a photoshoot. See http://solocavediver.com/chanhol.html for the photos.
- Dive 21. 11/7/04. Shot off another disposable camera in the more familiar environment of cenote minotauro; The [photos unavailable] are taken around "The Loop" which I had never done before but which is the standard tourist dive the guides take people on.