ADP Journal: Weekend #7, Part One

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 6:57 pm

On Saturday, September 9, I was able to sleep in for a change – the ADP candidates weren’t due in class until 9am. I can’t even describe how nice it felt to leave the apartment in daylight.

Apparently, Long Beach lifeguards regard their sleep more highly than LA County instructors; those were our teachers for the day, and the reason for our “late” start. We gathered at Los Alamitos Bay in Long Beach for a few hours in the classroom going over search and recovery techniques with the lifeguard dive team. These are the guys who search along the hulls of container ships in the harbor for contraband, go over every inch of the area where a gun was thrown into the water, or recover bodies and wreckage from accidents. Serious guys.

But they were a lot of fun, too. We had the chance to look at some of their gadgets, hear their stories, and learn from the best.

Then it was time to practice. We broke into teams and headed to the little beach on the bay, where we were tasked with recovering airplane parts (of various sizes) and three dummies that had been dropped around floats in the harbor. In buddy pairs, we took turns going out to the float, dropping down the anchor line, and conducting expanding circular searches out from the float. One buddy stayed at the anchor point holding a reel, letting out line to the searching buddy, who quickly disappeared into the murk.

Unlike the ocean a few hundred yards away, the bay bottom is extremely silty. When you step into the water, you sink into several inches of muck that puffs up into brown clouds, and it’s just worse the deeper you go. All it takes is a wave of your hand near the mud, and you can wave goodbye to visibility for a few minutes.

Mike and I were the first buddy pair in the water, and he only did about 3/4 of a circle before he found an enormous piece of airplane. We took it up, brought it back down for the next team, and went in to give them a turn. I felt like we’d barely had a chance to try the search pattern.

So after the next team had found the large piece, and then searched fruitlessly for 15 minutes for the various small parts that were in our area, Mike and I were sent back in to finish the job. This time Mike took the anchor spot, and let out about 25 feet of line for me to wander off and search.

I did a few circles around him. Every time he was facing the same direction as we started, he’d give two tugs on the line to indicate that we needed to let more out, and I’d tug twice back to agree before he spooled out another 2 feet of line. I made three or four expanding circles, and found two 6-inch metal chunks half-buried in the mud. Visibility ranged from 6 inches to 2 feet, so my mask was usually panning back and forth right over the ground.

After I’d found a second piece and been down for about 15 minutes (the max alloted), I gave Mike the “reel me in” signal (three tugs) and headed back as he spooled in the line. Even though I was looking for him, I didn’t see him until our faces nearly bumped into each other!

Everyone seemed to have a surprisingly fun time for our first near-zero visibility dive. All the parts were found (eventually), and lunch was waiting for us at the restaurant next door when we wrapped up around 2pm. That’s downright early – these lifeguard hours are easy!


Thanks to the Long Beach lifeguards for giving us a chance to learn their tricks – on their own volunteered time. We really appreciated it!

1 Comment

  1. Wow — recovering airplane parts sounds like fun! I’m glad you had such a good time!

    Comment by Kathy Brantley — 9/19/2006 @ 7:49 am

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