Over the past few years my understanding of “cold” has changed.
There was the:
“Boy, I’m chilly in a wet suit” …
“Wow, that leak in my drysuit is refreshing” …
“Face tingling, feet numb” …
“Ice cream headache without the ice cream”
To my latest which was:
“Bloody, argh, WOW, that’s cold”!
Cold water diving is a mind over matter situation. You have to look past the tingling fingers, the pins and needles on your face and the numb toes and enjoy the dive because cold water has some AMAZING things to offer.
While the Scuba Diver Girls were in Finland visiting Suunto, we were diving in 39 degrees Fahrenheit water. The perk of this was that we were able to dive an almost fully intact, 92’ wooden sailboat from 1873. After almost 140 years, it is in impeccable condition because the cold water helps preserve the fragile wood. Often times cold water means better visibility as well as it kills off all the algae though this was not the case for us.
Here is the temperature profile (in yellow) of our dive on the Elizabeth Osborn (mentioned above). The graph was pulled from Suunto’s DM4 dive software after I uploaded my dives off of my D4i computer onto the Movescount.com website.
A few tips for cold water diving:
• In winter months – make sure you are aware of the early sunset so you don’t find yourself accidentally on a night dive!
• If you are in below freezing surface temps or near freezing water temps, be aware of and prepared for a regulator freeze! Do not breathe from the regulator at the surface or it will turn into a block of ice. Most regulators will typically freeze in the “open” position and lead to a free flow. Having redundant regulators is highly recommended in these conditions. And remember, salt water freezes as a lower temperature than fresh water!
• A drysuit is highly recommended along with appropriate undergarments, socks, gloves and a hood. Dry gloves, argon and heated vests are nice perks!
• If wearing a wetsuit, wear multiple layers and keep your core and head as warm as possible (hooded vest).
• Don’t forget the extra weight! With the additional layers, you will more than likely need to add a few extra pounds to be neutrally buoyant.
• Bring a warm jacket for before, between and after dives. Something that is wind resistant and warm is ideal!
• Wear a warm hat and gloves to keep body temperature up while on the surface.
• And if you ever find yourself diving in Finland, be sure to visit the Sauna post-dive to warm back up!
In spite of the bulky suits and tingling face and limbs…cold water diving can be both amazing and safe. So don’t hang up the gear for the winter…bundle up and get out there and dive!