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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

my first compressed air dive

Hanauma Bay Hawaii.

My first trip to periscope depth without a submarine.
I was in pearl harbor for machinist mate “C” school on ford island during the summer of ’77. one of the problems I had during this summer was the dude that was supposed to take care of our pay while the boat was out to sea (yeah, you Hop!) went on leave without turning over to anyone at the detachment. That meant I didn't have a paycheck for weeks and weeks. i was so broke, i had to pretend to be snorkeling off the back steps to the barracks on ford island, because i could couldn't scrounge up the 25 cents to ride THE BUS to waimea bay.
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or i would just hang out in the barracks room, daydreaming about all of the heinous things i was going to do to the yeoman when i finally got back to the mainland
i posted this one before

so i ran. and i worked out in the cheesy gym out in one of the leftover aircraft hangers from WWII. bobby and i ran an average of 7 miles a day, at least 5 days a week, and we spent at least 2 hours a day lifting weights. it's amazing what great shape you can get in when you don't have any money, and you are on a military base.
. i ended up GAINING weight, even eating at the base galley. i volunteered for a medical study some doc was doing, and my body fat was at 4%, at 180 pounds. i gained 5 pounds just from running. my classmate bobby went from a little pudge to a little less of a pudge. he had money, and didn't mind spending it on LOTS of beer, so he didn't quite get the same results. one good thing about bobby was that he didn't mind lending me a couple of bucks now and then so i could go to the beach and snorkel. i spent almost all of my free time either working out or exploring the depths.

and then i saw a flier for scuba classes being given by a civilian school, on sub base. it looked like a blast, but i was BROKE.

So what’s a very broke submarine sailor to do when in Hawaii? You borrow $65.00 from a couple of guys in the class, and sign up for dive classes, that's what you do. I took classes on subbase from a dive school run by a retired marine EOD diver by the name of Kirwan. He said he loved teaching the class on subbase because the bubbleheads were all a bunch of squishy soft marshmallows, and it was his duty to see that they got at least some exercise before going back out to sea. he had a rough group of assistant instructors (AIs). they were all either active duty EOD marines, or navy divers, with one or two exceptions. so they took great glee in trying to kick our asses into shape. we got a lot more physical than the classes out in town did. we even played sharks and minnows, where the AIs harass you and do everything but actually drown you. it was a blast. and all the "lose the mask and tank" drills we did actually paid off a couple of years later on a dive, but that is for another story.

so we do all of our pool work and class work. time to go diving! since we had about 60 guys in the class, they split us up into 4 groups. we would cycle through each of the 4 dive locations over a couple of weekends. what was really great was they folded in the civilian classes with ours during the dives. our first dive was hanauma bay.

if you look at the first picture, you can see that the beach is way the hell down there. and you walk down from the parking lot. so we had to lug our dive gear, grub, and a couple of tanks each down to the beach. straight out from the beach is a reef which protects the beach from any big waves, and makes it an easy swim for those interested in snorkeling amongst the fish. just out past the reef, the depth drops to 60 feet. to the right, the shoreline continues on to diamond head. to the left, it sweeps around to the toilet bowl, so named for the dramatic water movement in a cleft of the lava.
so in we went. we swam out past the reef into the depths. we stopped and explored along the way, and got used to breathing compressed air under a lot more water than during practice in the pool. pretty soon, they had us sitting on the bottom, taking off our gear and putting it back on again. this is when i finally made it to snorkel depth without a submarine around me. well, 60 feet is pretty close to snorkel depth. close enough for me!
after a while, pairs started making their ascents. we were down there for as long as it took to suck the tank dry. that way, we got to experience boyle's law first hand by ascending 30 feet, and finding we still had air to breath. you can teach it all day long in a class room, but it will never have the same effect as actually hearing the regulator squawl and then smooth out as you rise.
bobby and i were the last two down. we were probably in better shape than any of the students out with us that day, since we spent so much time snorkeling at
sharks cove (picture stolen from peterworld.com)

three tables (picture stolen from shorediving.com)
waimea bay.

we did our four dive trips to these four places too, which was pretty cool. the lava tubes at sharks cove were especially cool. i've been back in the last decade or so, and the quality of the diving experience really sucks. the beaches and reefs are so overused that they are all but wastelands now. when we dove them, the sealife was simply splendid, the varieties and colors made you feel like you were diving in a tropical aquarium at some huge museum. not any more. too bad.

anyway, i found that the years of snorkeling and diving on a hookah (hoses on a float to the surface) were just the tip of the iceberg. i loved diving, and spent every available dollar i had, and minute remaining on the islands to go diving. i took a bunch of extra classes, and certified the following:
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i don't know if you can see the picture on the back of the PADI card, but i was a damned swashbuckling sailor, let me tell you!! i also took underwater first aid, night navigation, and did as many cave and lava tube dives as i could line up.
i've been diving just about everywhere i've traveled. i've been to the bottom of truk lagoon, and i've dived the wall in the caymans. i've chased octopi under the tacoma narrows bridge (they get BIG there), and chased moray eels on the northern coast of california. probably the coolest thing i've seen was the nautilus migration to the surface to spawn while diving on guam. usually they don't come anywhere near the surface. that day, there were literally thousands upon thousands of them, floating up and swimming from the depths. a most memorable dive.



Blogger edieraye said...

What fun! I was already certified by the time I made my first blue water dive. All the instructors and advanced divers (including A) went off dive Punta Sur leaving a bunch of newbies at the shore to do a check out dive - thought what we were checking out I'm not sure since no one was there to see us. Still, it was an amazing experience. Even if we did come up way down the shore with no idea of where we were. Had to lug our gear (who am I kidding, I smiled sweetly at one of the guys and had my gear carried for me, he was too new to know that in diving there is no such thing as chivalry - you pack it you carry it) back to the hotel. What I didn't like was my first night dive but I've since decided that I just don't like drift night dives. Drift dives, yes. Night dives, yes. Just not the two combined. Thanks for sharing your story!

5/11/05, 9:03 PM  
Blogger WillyShake said...

Thanks for the great pics and reminisces...my last dive was off of Electric Beach, Oahu...Man! do I miss it! *sigh*

5/12/05, 6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess I better fess up after all these years. First, did you fly on a MAC flight or commericial? If you flew MAC, well, you were in uniform. Commericial you went in civvies. If we got along, you always flew commericial. Others who mistreated us office types or other friends of mine went on z MAC flight.

Now to the meat of it. You remember awhile ago when Bo the Nook told us how he use to give non-quals the business. I was a recipient of thåt harrassment. I can remember Bo giving the old night Mess Cook Hop the business. IWhen you're the Yeo, strange and bad things can happen. I can't remember if it was intentional, but, things happen for a reason. If I did do it on purpose, I am sorry. I think I did make up for it later before I left when you went on vacation.

I remember a S/P Chief who use to like giving me a hard time because I didn't move as fast as he'd like me too. One day I overheard him telling the other goats about how he was going to get on his motorcycle and ride on his long weekend. He had the duty Thursday and payday was Friday. Yeah, his paycheck didn't make it to the boat that weekend, and he did not go anywhere. Payback!!

Those days are gone. BTW - went to Back to Sub School in Groton, CT. got a tour of the USS Miami (SSN755). Gave the old down ladder and that familiar smell hit the old nostrils. 688s are a lot tigher than the Wolf. Sure miss the folks.


5/13/05, 5:46 PM  
Blogger bothenook said...

as a matter of fact, i did fly a mac flight. should have known.
actually, i was supposed to go on 60 days leave (29, call in two days, and 29) as a crew augment. but the xo decided to send me to school the day before the class was supposed to start, and a week before the boat got underway.
i was so bummed. i had my summer all planned out, a deposit on a cabin at diamond lake in oregon, a whole passel of fish with my name on them ready for the flies i'd spent so long tying.
and yup, hop took care of me the next time i went on leave. ahhh, basket leave is so sweet.
and i also figured it wouldn't take too long before you read this post hoppy, so i took a couple of shots just for g.p.!
hope to see you in silverdale for the 50th birthday boat reunion this august!

5/14/05, 1:08 PM  
Blogger edieraye said...

Hop: That is too funny!

5/15/05, 8:13 AM  
Blogger pas123 said...

I was searching for Denis Kirwan and found your blog. It was nice to find because I also learned to dive from Denis Kirwan. As you said, he was an ex-marine, the class was full of Marine men and I was the only AF woman. It was a bit intimidating and I didn't even know how to swim, but I stuck it out. I went through the pool work twice (my own choice) to gain confidence. It worked and I loved scuba diving! While I remained station at Hickam, I became one of Denis' AIs. Again, loved it and was glad to read about someone else that took his classes.

4/20/13, 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this from a Denis Kirwan search too. My husband and I were his students in 1979-80 maybe 81? Had great times at Hanauma, Sharks Cove, Haleiwa trench. Good memories. We were civilians..anyone remember Mac from Nicaragua?

9/8/13, 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me too, I was a student of Denis Kirwan in one of the classes he taught at UH Manoa (just inland from Waikiki) 79-80. When I hoovered my tank empty on that first dive, I panicked and headed for the surface. The assistant who grabbed me said, "It's a good thing you kept your head up, or we'd be towing your meat in."

2/26/14, 10:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In 1978 or 1979 when I was 18 I took Denis Kirwan's class. My brother and I were students at Chaminade University in Honolulu and found a flier posted advertising his class. Your stories of Haunama Bay, Sharks Cove, lava tubes, draining tanks and surfacing empty brought back a lot of fun memories. Like the time inside a lava tube when the guy in front of me fell behind the group and started kicking his flippers hard in an effort to catch up. Of course that left the 8 of us behind him blinded by a tunnel full of thick silt that he had churned up. Luckily a few feet ahead was an opening in the lava tube with sunshine burning through. I went for it, followed by my brother and the six other guys behind us, and we surfaced in the middle of the reef. The water over the reef was only a foot deep, so we ran across the reef and jumped back into the water where the group was exiting the tube and rejoined them there. The guy that had kicked up the silt never said a word. Neither did we of course.

At the end of the class, that same guy aledgedly stole some of Kirwan's dive gear. One of the AIs, whom also attended Chaminade, told me they caught the guy on a beach a few months later and re acquired Denis' dive gear at the tip of their spear guns. Yeah, Denis and his guys were qreat instructors, but they were tough guys too!

Bill Drelling

12/27/15, 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Vanessa said...

The main reason I love night diving is for the adventure, you don't know what it may happen or what you may found below the water surface. In the past years I've taken a lot of pictures of the marine life which I store on https://dive.site along with all my diving logs. It's cool that I can also search new dive spots or even add my own.

11/21/17, 11:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the memories I too had with Denis Korean. He was just as you made him out to be. I took the same courses and have the same cards just a few years later while stationed onboard the USS Bryce Canyon AD-36. I also still have one of Denis’s business cards If you want a copy please contact me . Thanks again shipmate!

7/23/18, 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do remember Mac from Nicaragua, so this must be Cathy? This is Patricia and I was in the AF at the time. What a small world. Hopefully you'll visit again sometime, as I think I have the right person. I happened to check back and saw your comment. Hope all is well. :)

9/23/18, 10:45 PM  

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