Angi's Scuba Diving Lessons and Snorkelling in the Thousand Islands




Summary: Angi the non-sailor, basically a non-swimmer, takes scuba diving lessons from Barra Scuba and goes snorkelling at Camelot Island in Lake Ontario's Thousand Islands area.


In the winter of 2006-2007, I took scuba diving lessons at the YMCA in Hamilton with the Barra Scuba club (, along with a friend of ours, Paul. Dave had taken the same lessons two years previously, so he, two of his sisters, and a number of their friends, also had their scuba certificates.

I figured I could handle working with the gear; I was just unsure of the swimming part. Several people suggested I would have twelve weeks to work up to doing the swimming test, so I shouldn’t worry about it.

Unfortunately, on the first night of classes, we were told to swim the 12 lengths of the 25 yard pool non-stop, only touching the pool walls when turning. Luckily they said we could swim any stroke we wanted and take as long as we had to, because after the first two lengths, I could only do the back stroke and not too quickly at that.

Paul is a strong swimmer, so he had no problems. The other three people in the class consisted of two 13 year-olds girls and the younger sister of one of them. All three girls had had swimming lessons all their lives and swam like the proverbial fishes.

After the lengths, we were to attempt to swim a length of 60 feet underwater in one breath. I think two of the group managed that part. (By the end of the course we had to be able to do the 60 feet in order to get our certification.) Then we had to tread water in the deep end for 12 minutes using arms and legs, then one minute legs only, and two minutes arms only (or vice versa for the last two). We had rubber arms afterward.

Since I had never had swimming lessons and hadn’t swum anywhere or for any length of time for years, this was torture; however, I managed everything except the 60 feet underwater.

As I expected, I learned how to do everything and passed the course, even doing the 60 feet on one breath. The only thing I couldn’t do was haul myself with all the gear up onto the wall at the deep end. Eventually the senior instructor said I could just go up the ladder, since that’s how it’s generally done from a boat anyway. (Thank you, Doug.)

Dave here: Angi is being very understated about passing the swimming requirements! She started the scuba course a mostly non-swimmer who was nervous in pool water of depths over her head, let alone open water swimming. Throughout the duration of the course, she and I would go to the local pool once or twice a week extra and work on her swimming, especially the underwater breath-holding part.

When we first started, she was only able to push off and go about 10’ before popping up and needing air.

She worked really hard at relaxing, making her movements through the water more efficient, and improving her cardio, and, in week 11 of the 12 week course, she was finally able to make it the whole 60’ during one of our practice sessions! She repeated the feat the next week, and was all geared up for the last scuba class as she knew she would pass.

Much to her relief and my chagrin, after all that effort, they forgot to test her on it! She passed her written exam with no problems, and after her checkout dives, got her certificate.

Angi: What did I learn from this course? I am no longer afraid of the deep end of the pool. This was a major accomplishment. We spent so much time there, bobbing around, that I actually felt comfortable. Once again, thanks, guys.

When we were in the Thousand Islands in 2007, we had a scuba diving weekend with Paul and, close friend, Kim. I stayed on deck and helped people get organized and then helped them when they came up. On the second day, several boats rafted together at a public dive spot, so it was a good thing I was there to tie off ropes.

Dave: While Angi’s got her certificate, she’s still not comfortable with buoyancy control and needs more time getting used to the equipment, and so she decided to give that dive a pass. I don’t blame her at all – scuba can be dangerous, and it’s wise not to push things if you’re not comfortable. Hopefully, when she’s ready, we might be able to get some additional practice time in so that she can join us on some open water dives in the future.

Angi: Later on during the trip, we went snorkelling off Camelot Island. Dave was surprised that I just jumped in off the back of the boat. The water was about 20’ there and dropped off to 40’ very quickly. We snorkelled around the island in water depths ranging from 60’ or more up to three feet of weeds at one end. I was very comfortable. Amazing.

Al Hoceima at Camelot Island

Al Hoceima at Camelot Island

Dave: What was it like for you, seeing the underwater world really for the first time? How did it feel to literally swim along with the fish?

Angi: I was surprised at how relaxing it was, floating about, gazing at everything. I didn’t go diving with the snorkel, but stayed submerged most of the time. It really is a different world, in colour, silence, activity – grasses flowing with the current and fish of different species weaving in and out of the grasses.



© Copyright 2008 David S. Malar and Angelika Jardine. All rights reserved.
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