Ran Out, Chased Out and Just Plain Out. And You Call This Diving?

As a land locked youth in New Jersey, with the closest water being the Delaware river, and that was within walking distance, the opportunity to dive usually meant the river, or a bathtub. Going to the Jersey shore for a dive was almost exclusively out of the question.

How It All Started

My interest in diving started in the mid 1950’s with the family taking vacations to Florida. Back then, the 2 1/2-day drive was an experience within itself. I even remember cows on the road in some forgotten Georgia town. But the real thrill was finally hitting the Florida border. We were close now, but not as close as it sounded. Florida is one heck of a long state!

Getting closer to Ft. Lauderdale, we would pass the occasional dive store and I would just stare. In the window would be a small yellow tank with straps, lots of straps and maybe a 2-hose regulator. Even while at the hotel, getting to a dive shop was not easy. A 9-year-old is not allowed to drive in Florida. Not sure about Georgia though. Being 9 though, it wasn’t difficult to make friends. With our green masks with plastic lenses and green rubber fins, we would play frogman in the pool all day or look a 3-inch fish in 3 feet of turbid water at the beach. Once I even saw a small barracuda but was told by my mother not to mention it or my sister might not go in.

My non-vacation diving time was spent watching Sea Hunt every Saturday night. Even during a great summer game of bicycle tag, I would quit (to remarks like “chicken”), to go home and watch Mike Nelson. Never missed an episode and always dreamed of those 200 feet visibility. Many years later I would see it first-hand.

Each year we vacationed for 3 weeks in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida up until 1965. By then I had my own tank and a Scuba Star regulator which by today’s standards would be deemed unbreathable and unexhalable. Still, it was mine and the dives at Pennecamp and off of Ft. Lauderdale were beyond description. I was in heaven. Even though I had quite a few dives in New Jersey I will never forget my very first dive in tropical waters. The site was directly out from our hotel from where I had actually watched the dive boat numerous times with my father’s binoculars days before.

There wasn’t much of plan. The man who had given me some additional lessons the day before said follow me and that’s what I did. I had no watch or pressure gauge, just a J rod to pull when I thought it was needed. After about 10 minutes I was told we should head up. I pulled the rod just because I thought I should and went back to the boat wondering why we all quit after such a short time. On the way back one of the other divers, who did not have a watch either, asked how long the dive had been. The leader of our pack said 45 minutes and my jaw dropped. In my mind it had really only been 10 but the overwhelming beauty and experience just left me with no sense of time.

Quarries In New Jersey

Back in New Jersey, my area had numerous quarries, most of which were either off limits or a gray area of legal use. Almost all were hangouts for drinkers, swimmers and whatever else people did in and around these secluded places. One summer I recall preparing for days for the journey to a quarry which had always looked interesting, but signs said, “No Entry”. It was actually a quarry in a quarry. We had to climb down a rather difficult path to get to the water. It was hot, really hot and we had to make 2 trips hauling gear. When we finally started to suit up, a voice came across from the other side. At first, we couldn’t see anyone. Then the person became clearer. There was something about the clothes he wore and his general appearance. My friend Steve looked over at me and said “cop”. We made it back up with all gear in one trip, wetsuits on and sweating, threw everything in the car and floored it.

We went back again next summer and to our surprise had probably the best quarry dive ever. Visibility was an astounding 60 feet or better. The overall depth was never much, and we had an opportunity to follow railroad tracks, enter what was probably a mess hall, swimming in the rafters, around a steam shovel and generally enjoy a perfect dive. Even after surfacing, not a soul around. The next time was not so great. Expecting good visibility again and our driver promising he would go down a steep road, we packed up and headed off. When the guy with his ’57 Chevy saw the incline and the state of the road, he said no way. Great! So, we hauled everything down including a little blue and yellow rubber raft which I was so anxious to use. Upon arriving at edge, the water was as thick and green as anyone could every dream. If you wanted to get pea soup, this was it. Hot as could be, dehydrated and near death, we hauled everything back up the road and headed to Jimmy’s Custard Stand where I chugged down 2 large orange drinks none stop. I have never been that thirsty before or since.

There’s another quarry that no one was allowed in, but we thought it would be easy to go anyhow. This quarry had slot machines dumped in its eons ago as part of an illegal gambling cleanup. At the time the police threw the machines in, no one thought there would be recreational divers in a few decades. Steve and I thought we would at least look at the place before trying to get in. One Saturday morning we drove nearby, parked the car and started to walk back the road. We got less than halfway before we were formally stopped by someone who must have been some sort of authority. I still have never even seen this quarry.

Of all the quarries, Stewartsville, NJ was the most used by everyone and anyone. Some summer days, especially the middle or end of the week, diving was not too bad. Weekends were of course loaded with swimmers and sun bathers. But one day, after getting a few friends together for a dive, we found someone had dumped a few truckloads of dirt to block entry down the road. So, another favorite spot was supposed to off limits. No problem just knocked down a small tree, some bushes and drove around. The road and quarry were such that unless someone came all the way back, no one could see what was going on. Steve, Ron and I made many dives there.

Wonderful Dive Spots Outside Of New Jersey

Not only New Jersey had these wonderful dive spots, but Pennsylvania, just across the river, had a few also. One was Wind Gap, a very deep slate quarry. I dove there only once to what was then my greatest depth, all of 80 feet, swimming under a ledge of some sort with visibility just enough to see the diver’s fin, which I was all but holding on to, in front of me. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later a young boy drowned while diving and that quarry was shut down. This obviously scared a lot of people and better steps were taken to keep everyone from all quarries. Stewartsville now had a gate with no way around it.

As my quarry “expertise” grew, I heard of new quarries to conquer. Oxford had a supposedly good one. Off limits of course but remote enough that access would be clandestine. Another dive buddy by the name of Bob had a plan to have a small tire tube tied to a rope so we could use it as a down line. Another long trudge with our gear and sweating more water that the quarry had, we suited up, sweating more and went in. Overweighted, overheated and inexperienced we soon found the small tube coming down along with us. This upset Bob who suddenly looked like he wanted nothing more that to get back to the surface at almost any cost. My first reaction was to drop his weight belt, but he somehow made it clear that these were too expensive and even though things were getting worse, we both managed to kick our way back up, exhausted but not drowned.

My second dive at Oxford was a bit better. A different buddy and the weather not as hot. We had an interesting dive with zip visibility until we swam under a layer of algae, and it just opened up. The depth was around 60 feet by then and a sheer wall presented itself going down to an unknown depth. We swam along a bit and pretty much ended our uneventful dive.

I got a call from that same buddy, can’t remember his name, who said there was a quarry down around Trenton somewhere. So, we packed up and headed off. When we arrived there were some rather questionable characters, both male and female swimming (sort of) or whatever. The quarry itself was small and the road back, remote. Shortly after submerging, visibility poor, we ran into a car that looked newish. We were able to rip off the rear license plate and after some underwater communicating, tried to open the trunk, both not wanting to think what we might find. We couldn’t so we had no worry about what could be in it. That was the highlight of the dive but on the way home, driving toward Flemington we stopped at the State Trooper Headquarters to show them the license plate. It was made clear that we should not have been diving there but they took the plate anyhow. We were warned never to go back, and we didn’t. Later we heard that it was a stolen car, so we did a bit of good in finding it.

Another quarry dive I remember making was at Raven Rock. This was the smallest water hole I had been in. Again, swimmers were around, and they warned us it was a bottomless pit. Strange but it seems all non-divers think water is a bottomless pit. It was Steve as a buddy again. Visibility was zero, light was really poor from a rock overhang. We grabbed hold of each other so we would not separate and went down feet first. Dark turned to darker and darker to black. All of 10 minutes bottom time and we said, “No way”.

Becoming A Dive Instructor

My quest to become a dive instructor made it necessary to get a recognized certification so I signed up for an evening class NAUI course at a local school. This led to helping out in future courses which lead to a quarry near Frackville PA. The instructor in charge was very good at teaching but apparently not so good a paying bills. He was banned from most dive boats in New Jersey and New England and most local swimming pools. So offbeat quarries seemed the only option.

The Frackville quarry with no trespassing signs was well hidden from any road so all the cars and divers were more less safe from the authorities It was the smaller of the quarries in the area, shallow but remarkably unique. For some reason, still unknown to me, it was crystal clear. 250 feet plus visibility clear with absolutely nothing growing it except for a weird green cloud not more than a few feet in size the middle at the bottom. It was a typical gray slate quarry but not a single speck of algae anywhere except for that cloud. No one seemed to suffer any ill effects so it must have been safe. That was around 1972 so I am sure by now the quarry is either a housing development or ruined with garbage.

In 1973 I arrived on Bonaire. Out of cowardice or being spoiled, not sure which, I doubt I will dive in quarries again. I do have a friend Harry in Alpha, who I think has dived that quarry with the slot machines. Maybe if he can get me in, I’d try one more quarry dive.

Bruce Bowker

Want a quick repair?

When you bring in your regulator or other pieces of equipment for repair try to avoid a conversation like this. It gets repairs done quicker:

  • Hello. Can I help you?
  • Yes, my regulator has a problem.
  • What is wrong?
  • Well, I was diving down by, uh where was it…
  • OK. but what is wrong with the regulator?
  • Well, it was when I was diving, It was near Angel City. I can’t remember the name of the site.
  • OK. But what is wrong with the regulator?
  • It was just rebuilt by someone I have been dealing with for…
  • OK But what is wrong with the regulator?
  • They have rebuilt it before, and it worked fine …
  • OK. But what is wrong with the regulator?
  • Well, it was working fine yesterday and…
  • OK. But what is wrong with the regulator?
  • Oh OK. It is leaking water when I breath.
  • Thank you. Let me fix it.



There is a dive site on the Caribbean Island of Bonaire that was not named for the fish one might see, the coral formations, or some romantic reason. It was named for the way in which the first divers entered the water. The name of this dive site is Rappel. The idea behind such an unusual method of getting in the water was to see if rappelling -descending a mountain or the face of a cliff by using ropes – was possible in full scuba equipment without too much danger.

Stan Gdowksi, a mountaineer, and diver from New Jersey, traveled to Bonaire with all the necessary gear and was in charge of all the aspects of the rappel. He also explained the techniques to me and together we made many practice descents on small faces of cliffs with the scuba equipment. Finally, after I felt reasonably assured that I was ready, a suitable location was chosen for the actual rappel in full scuba gear. We soon found it was possible, without too much danger, but the main feature of the entire exercise was what was discovered upon entering the water. Before this no one had dived in the area and neither of us expected such beauty underwater. Photographs from 1974.


Rappel is like no other reef on Bonaire. The 65-foot sheer face above the water line continues underwater to a depth of about 35 feet. Here the reef flattens out to a ledge about 50 to 70 feet wide before taking a spectacular drop to several hundred feet. Both the shallows and the drop-off are covered with corals of every description.

Just below the present-day water level there is a beautiful undercut formed when the oceans were lower. It is very much like swimming in a cave but with one side completely open. Waves smash overhead, causing a churning of white water and a deep rumble, that a diver can both hear and feel. Pockets of air trapped in crevices and holes disappear when a wave strikes and then suddenly return as the wave recedes. All along this cavern are orange cup corals, many of which, because of the low light, are out feeding. Their tiny orange tentacles wave relentlessly in the surge.

There is also a pair of French Angelfish that make this area their home, along with a large Tiger Grouper. Lately, a school of 10 or more Barracuda have been frequenting the reef.

Because the shallow area directly under the cavern is well covered in shadows from the overhead cliff, interesting available light photography can be done easily. Contrast from the outlined undercut and the blue water gives a very unusual effect. Sunlight beams down from the surface. Divers need only swim a few feet out of the shadow to become completely covered in strong sunlight, enough that a strobe is not absolutely essential.

At one time a very small section of Rappel was used as a dumping area for electrical fixtures such as air conditioners and small transformers. This was long before the rules governing the protection of Bonaire’s reefs were in effect. The dive operators on Bonaire got together, and with the help of about 10 divers, removed almost every piece of debris, making Rappel perhaps one of the most beautiful and unique reefs on Bonaire.

Nowadays at Rappel

The dive boats from all the shops and hotels take trips to Rappel and tie up to the permanent mooring there so no anchors will damage the reef. It is no longer necessary to push off the top of the cliff with rope and carabineers, laden down with full scuba gear to see the reef and fish. If you actually want to do Rappel the classic way you can bring your ropes – but the trip back up the cliff is a bit harder than getting down.


It is interesting after more than 30 years since the first and only two divers to have done this, how many people now claim they rappelled with Stan and me that and other days. Oh, how history changes over the years!!

Bruce Bowker

Repairs and Some Other Things

When you bring in a piece of equipment to be checked or repaired it helps if you can remember the following:

  • If you are repairing an Air II, Air Source, Sherwood Genesis or equivalent (these are the regulator/inflator combinations on a BCD), also bring your main regulator. If the problem is a free flow of air, it is possible the first stage of your regulator is putting out too much pressure and causing the unit to free flow. Just because your main 2nd stage is not free flowing does not mean that the 1st stage is correct. Also, the repair shop may not have the correct hose so checking the unit would be impossible without the regulator.
  • A free flow is any air coming from a regulator, be it a bubble every 10 seconds or a constant blast of air. It is flowing and it is doing so freely. When a repair person asks if it free flowing, say yes if any air is coming out unwanted.
  • The world is coming to an end – I have an o-ring leak! An o-ring leak is not the end of the world. It is best to get it fixed but if it is one bubble every minute, one does not have to swim to the surface as fast as possible and walk across the water to get to land. It takes a huge leak to lose any appreciable amount of air. Someone who says they have a small leak, and their dive was 25 minutes shorter because of it, was doing something else wrong. One manufacturer actually built a regulator that intentionally leaks air. This is to keep the 1st stage water free and environmentally seals the first stage. The total amount of air lost is probably one or two breaths at best. A major air leak from a regulator or other item should be looked at and fixed immediately.
  • If you are diving and find yourself emptying air from your BCD a few times per dive and you have not put air in it, the auto inflator is leaking. This is usually a simple repair and should be done as soon as possible. With most BCDs, the inflator along with the corrugated hose can be removed from the BCD by unscrewing it at the top. I prefer working on them this way as it is much easier than with the entire BCD. If you do this make sure you do not lose any o-rings or a flat rubber ring.
  • A simple maintenance procedure is to dry the dust cap before placing it back on the first stage air inlet. This can be done easiest with just a small amount of air from your tank. Some people actually “dry” the regulator air inlet which in theory could not have any water and then put a wet dust cap in place negating whatever they thought they were trying to do in the first place. Obviously be careful not to blow the water from the dust cap, or from anywhere else, into the air inlet when drying. I put the dust cap tight against the tank valve and slowly open the valve. This allows just a tad of air to dry it and does not make so much noise that people need a set of Bose noise canceling headphones!
    • Although this is not really a repair it will certainly help save repairs in the future. The reason for the dust cap is to keep dirt out but more importantly it is to keep water out so make sure it is in place when washing the regulator. Some plastic dust caps have an o-ring in them. Without the o-ring it is probably not watertight so check that the o-ring is there.
  • Annual servicing of dive equipment – this will probably start arguments (actually it will start arguments) but I am not a great fan of yearly servicing. I have seen regulators that were 6 years old, looked brand new and had never been serviced and others that were 6 months old and should have been junked. A lot of it has to do with how well the user treats the equipment. Here in the tropics the salt water and sun wreak havoc on everything. A thorough washing is very important, not so much after every dive but for sure after the vacation is over. Dry the regulator completely and store in a cool dry location. And dry that dust cap after every dive – put it back in place and then rinse the regulator.
    • Some people charge as much as $100,- for a yearly service and I have heard of even higher than that–how about $250,- ! Think about this – if you don’t service your regulator for 2 or 3 years you can buy a new one! The manufacturers say this yearly overhaul must be done to maintain the warranty. Actually a few companies now say every 2 years. Their o-rings etc are no different so if they can go 2 years (and they can) others should be able. A professional might put as many as 400 dives on a regulator in a year. The average vacationer might make 40 dives. Should a regulator then be serviced every 40 dives or every 400 or yearly or every two years? One of the reasons I am not in favor of this yearly overhaul is that I have seen far too many regulators that were just serviced, and they do not work. Some were dangerously wrong while others were just some simple adjustments. One person paid an outrageous amount of money to have 5 regulators serviced. Of those 5, 4 did not work correctly. I always ask if regulators were working fine before servicing and almost everyone tells me “Yes they were working perfectly well.”
    • If you have a very reputable dive shop that has an excellent record, then overhauling yearly is fine providing you are not being charged too much. It is also interesting that many things that should be done in a service are not. The swivel on a high-pressure gauge should be cleaned, new o-rings installed (all of about $2, -) and lubricated with silicone grease. I rarely see this done. Also, the inflator system on BCD’s is rarely checked. Remember, never use petroleum products or something like WD-40 on any dive equipment. I know the price of service kits and for me anything more than about $60 for a service is too much. There are of course cases where certain parts can be expensive if damaged. These costs would be up and above the servicing costs. Some regulator first and second stages are extremely simple so this price could even be less!
    • Below are pictures of some poorly maintained pieces of equipment. The first picture shows a new regulator piston and one that someone allowed salt water in the first stage of regulator and never cleaned anything. Other parts were so bad that threads had been eaten away by corrosion. I doubt the regulator ever saw any fresh water. In a case like this I would say a regulator should be serviced every month!! You can see how the plating on the piston on the right has been corroded away allowing even more damage to occur. Normally a service would include the 2 o-rings and the little white(ish) seat on top of the piston, plus a few more things. Because of the damage done by neglect, this servicing was a lot more expensive.

The picture in the middel is the inside of an alternate air source. Again, corrosion has taken its toll. Even after being cleaned the chrome plating was all but gone allowing corrosion to start again. Above is another example of storing a regulator away without washing.

On the other end of the scale is the picture below. This regulator is over 35 years old and in excellent condition. Not a museum piece, this regulator is still in use. The chrome is near perfect. Although regulators have improved in areas of breathing, this is still a good functioning regulator for average recreational diving.

Do I like hose protectors? Not really. Here is a picture of one that was not cleaned underneath. Do these protectors really protect or cause more damage? I can’t say for sure but sliding the protector back once in a while to clean under it certainly does not hurt.

Below are two pictures of the cute rubber covers on 2nd stages. I suppose they make the regulator sell better but look underneath. If you want to keep these, then slide them back frequently to wash them out.

  • One of the most common repairs to a regulator is the first stage high pressure seat. There are many styles, and a few are interchangeable. If you are traveling, it might be impossible to find the one you need. If you can, see if your dive shop will sell you at least one HP seat for your regulator. They may say no, stating that it must be installed by a recognized dealer or other reasons. You should be able to find someone at just about any dive destination who is competent enough to change a high-pressure seat. It could save a lot of money and lost time. These seats run from a couple of dollars to maybe $20 at the high end. Think of what the cost of renting a regulator for a week or more might be. If you can get a seat, wrap it is some tissue paper, place it in a film can or some protective container and take it with you.
  • A 2nd stage that never gets cleaned or receives a brief rinsing and is left wet repeatedly can wind up looking rather bad inside. The following picture is for mature audiences only. Viewer discretion is advised.

A really scungy (no other word to describe it) 2nd stage Most, NOT ALL, 2nd stages are not difficult to remove the front cover and diaphragm. Some have a side pin or a clip. Most have nothing. Just unscrew the front cover and carefully see what comes next. Some have a friction ring. Others have another screw-on ring with a friction ring under that. The last item should be the rubber diaphragm which might be blue, black, clear, or white and possibly other colors. Aqualung (US Divers) makes a very small 2nd stage called the Micra that can be a bit of a problem. I have a special tool to remove and install the cover so you might not want to tackle that model. Some really old 2nd stages such as metal Dacors and Scubapros have a ring that holds the cover, and the ring is held by one or two screws. These are a pain but not impossible.

I have had some newer regulators that I needed a strap wrench to unscrew the cover only because they had been on for so long. Some manufacturers make special tools although there is usually a way around this. Using a kitchen rubber top removing cloth thing pad works wonders also. With care, an old soft toothbrush can be used to scrub out the inside if necessary. Perhaps the dive shop you use can show you how to take the cover off explaining any “tricks” such as keeper pins or friction rings etc. Of course, the best thing to do is clean and dry the 2nd stage well after diving by running water through it, not just soaking.

One last point – when you do have the cover off, clean the threads if it is a screw on cover. There can be sand pieces in there which don’t help when putting it back together. Just screw the top down snugly. Do not over tighten. After all is said and done, take a gentle breath through it to make sure you get no air. If you get air, you have not put the diaphragm back correctly or the exhaust valve got disturbed. Note – if the 1st stage dust cap is not in place it is possible to draw in air through the 1st stage. There are a few 2nd stages that have a system that keeps the orifice open, so the seat lasts longer. It is recommended these 2nd stages do not get soaked since water could enter the hose and wind up in the first stage.

  • Many divers bring regulators in that leak water or as they say, “I get water when I inhale.” There is a quick check for this which is to inhale lightly when the regulator is off the tank and the dust cap is in place. It is important that the dust cap is in place and sealing or air can be inhaled right through the 1st stage. If you cannot get air that it is extremely unusual that you get water. If you do get air, there are 3 basic places to check.
    • First, is the mouthpiece tight? Is the mouthpiece zip tie or whatever one calls them in place and tight? Does the mouthpiece have a pin hole, a tear, a rip, or another hole somewhere – other than the one you breathe through!
    • Second, is the exhaust diaphragm curled under itself or a piece of something stuck in it. On many regulators you can look in the exhaust T and see the diaphragm. Sometimes using a blunt object such as a popsicle stick, you can straighten it out. Other times it is necessary to remove the front cover to better access the exhaust diaphragm. It is also possible that the exhaust diaphragm is weak and needs to be replaced.
    • Third, is the main diaphragm torn, has a hole or maybe out of place? This can only be done by removing the front cover. After each step try inhaling again to see if it fixed the problem. On rare occasions the actual regulator case may be cracked, or another external o-ring seal is bad. But the above 3 are the most likely.

Bruce Bowker

Lesson Learned

When you were about half as old as you are now, there was no doubt in your mind that you were twice as smart. Or if not twice as smart, at least sure you were immune to all and any accidents. It scares me to think back too many instances like that, a majority involving cars, but one especially that involved a dive.

Noticing Warning Signs

It was in January. The dive was to be on a recently found wreck out of Montauk Point, NY. For me to get there from western New Jersey it was necessary to leave after work which was late in the afternoon. After driving for what seemed to be days across Long Island, it became very obvious how it got its name.

Arriving late at night, I checked into a motel and tried to get whatever sleep possible. The dive boat was scheduled to leave at the crack of dawn so most of my night was spent waking up to make sure I would not be asleep when it was time wake up. Funny how that works.

The dive boat did leave at the crack of dawn with about 30 of us on board and raring to go, more or less. The boat was a very large, very slow diesel-powered catamaran with a name of Hell “something”. You know, now that I think of it, perhaps that should have been a warning right there and then. After many hours of motoring along, a diver shouted that the wreck had been located. Someone threw a marker in the water of some sort so the boat could swing around to anchor.

The weather was very nice with plenty of sun, temperature not too bad for January and the seas calm. As the boat slowed, another person threw a nickel into the water. We watched as it flickered and sank, showing us that the visibility was quite good, probably in the 30 ft range. We waited for the anchor to drop. And we waited and waited. The anchor did not drop.

For some reason, that to this day I still don’t know, the captain was unable to relocate the wreck on the next pass. Or the next pass after that. The marker someone had thrown in either was not tied or didn’t reach bottom. No matter what, the marker was no longer a marker. Drawing an “X” on the water would have been just as good. Three and a half hours later the captain once again found the wreck! Three and a half somewhat boring hours talking about whatever one could for three and a half hours.

Diving In Rough and Choppy Current

Unfortunately, by now the weather had changed. The seas became much rougher, a strong current had started, and the visibility had dropped drastically. The sun was still out though. Now after spending well over 6 hours on the boat, quite a few divers elected not to go in the water for various personal reasons.

Time was pressing according to the divemaster, so I was told 7 minutes bottom time maximum. This was going to be my deepest dive at 110 feet. I was already excited about that plus this was my first Atlantic wreck dive. The first diver jumped off the bow, swam to the anchor line and tied a rope to it so each diver could pull themselves to the anchor line and make a descent. Soon my turn came and in I went. I don’t remember feeling one bit of cold water. I do remember pulling on the rope and finding the end in my hand.

By this time the seas had become very rough and choppy with a wicked current. Not at all ideal for trying to tie something. With all my energy I swam to the anchor line and after a long time of being thrown around by the sea and many attempts got the rope retied. I was exhausted. My buddy now jumped in and signaled he would go down first. I nodded ok and he went under. I followed. I can remember only three things from that dive. One, the anchor line was more like a one-inch steel bar because the current was so strong. Two, I wondered if I could find the nickel the guy threw over and last, I was breathing so fast and furious that if anything went wrong with any part of my breathing system I was done.

Neither my buddy nor I was wearing any sort of alternate air source. I guess they either weren’t heard of then or not so popular. All I could see was my buddy’s fins in front of me and that was it. Visibility was down to a few feet of very dark water. During the entire descent the main thing on my mind was my breathing. Instant inhale, instant exhale. Not a nano second between. If I did need air from my buddy there was no way I could get his attention and wait for his reply. Simply no way. But on down I went. We touched the wreck never leaving go of the anchor line, looked at each other and decided it was already time to head back up.

All the way toward the surface all I could think about was my breathing which had not slowed one bit. At least now I was on the way up and not down. Upon reaching the surface I said to myself, “I made it.” It wasn’t a feeling of relief but more a feeling of accomplishment of having taken a great risk and “won”. It never occurred what the word “lost” would have meant. One other thing flashed through my mind. Maybe that wasn’t a nickel, maybe it was a quarter!

After all the divers were aboard the captain announced that the anchor was stuck. In went a diver to cut the line and we all sat waiting once again. A few more hours back to the dock and the dive was officially over.


So why for a seven-minute dive did I drive 6 hours each direction, spend a night in a motel, endure endless waiting on a boat with seasick people all around and pay a great deal of money to boot? I don’t know why.

I do know that I have on many occasions since gotten somewhat tired underwater and always remembered that dive. Immediately I either rest or make sure my buddy is aware and close by. I have never since that day allowed myself to get totally exhausted or even nearly so underwater. Whoever was supposed to have securely tied that line also taught me to make sure lines are properly tied. Had the line been tied I would not have become exhausted. If you don’t know what it is like, try sprinting with everything you have for 100 yards, turn around and sprint back with everything you have, stop dead in your tracks and try to hold you breathe for 5 seconds. It would have taken far more than 5 seconds to straighten out any air problem.

Even so, I never should have gone down. Since nearly everything else had gone wrong who was to say my regulator was going to work. Because I was young and inexperienced, because it was my first (and only) Atlantic Ocean dive, because if I went in, I would be better than those who didn’t, because I paid for all this in advance, I threw out all caution and went diving. I really feel quite lucky when I look back on it. Quite lucky and really stupid!

Bruce Bowker