IT HAPPENED TO ME
Halfway through a dive is not the best time to discover a stowaway, Kevin Donoghue discovers
Diving with a full-face mask is a rewarding experience. I've dived with a Divator full-face mask (also called the AGA mask) for the last 12 years, and I love it because I can talk to my buddy, or shout at him if he's gone the wrong way. It also never mists up. But you have to take precautions. Let me explain.
Some time back I went out for the first dive of the season with other members of my dive club K2 Divers on the club RIB. The weather was good with blue skies and calm seas and we headed off to our favourite wreck, the Shirala off Littlehampton. It's a broken-up wreck, 18-20m deep, and it usually has lots of life on it. My buddy and I were at the back of the boat with our equipment in front of us so it was decided we would get in first, just before slack water. Then I could cox for the rest when I got back.
With our equipment on and buddy checks done, all that was left was was for me to put my full-face mask on. Now, being a tight old git, I like to leave this to the last minute so I don't waste any air (I really must get me one of them ambient valves but only when the high price of them comes down). With the RIB's engines in neutral, the call came to go. I put my mask on and my buddy and I were in the water. We swam to the shot line, and after a quick 'Okay' and thumbs down signal we started our decent.
With great joy we found we could see the shot line going down a fair way, meaning the viz should be okay. At the bottom of the shot line, we had a quick stop to tighten our weight belts and exchange okay signals, then we were off. The wreck didn’t disappoint, with good viz, lots of life and nice big bits of wreckage to have a good old look around.
It was about halfway into the dive that I kept seeing something out of the corner of my right eye. Now being of mature years, things that are up close aren't always easy to see, so I thought it may be some seaweed caught on my mask. I gave the outside of my mask a wipe, thinking that should cure it.
But it was at this point that the full horror of what was about to unfold came into view. The first of eight fury legs twitched into my peripheral vision, and then I watched as a spider walked across the inside of my mask.
Of course, us divers are not ones to exaggerate, but this thing was the size of a golf ball. It was certainly big enough to keep my attention. 'Now what should I do?' I thought. I could bail out of my mask and use my low profile mask, which I keep in my pocket of my BC, and go onto my secondary air source. Or I could live with it. 'Hey,' I thought, 'I'm a rufty tufty frogman. I can do this. If so-called celebrities can deal with spiders in I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, then so can I!'
The only thing is, those celebs don’t have to check a dive computer, an air gauge and their buoyancy as well as keep up with a buddy who's now looking at me wondering why I'm swimming boss-eyed. Try coming up with a signal that tells your buddy you’ve got an eight-legged monster going walkabout an inch from your face. Where in the training manual does it explain that?
At this point I was only too pleased to see him deploy his SMB. Our ascent up the line seemed to take forever. Back at the RIB, I handed up my mask and explained that I had a visitor in it. My club mate on board carefully put said monster on the A-frame and to this day we're not sure if he still resides on the boat or got lost at sea.
After a quick examination of the mask, I found a small egg sack in the inner gasket. It was my fault for storing it in a open bag in the shed over the winter months. I now do a more thorough check for any extra little buddies.