I had to give up using the Zuma and the Pony Bottle. The Zuma is a light weight, easy BCD made for recreational diving. I needed the Oceanic Excursion I used 3 or 4 years ago. That was a fairly heavy BCD with D-rings to inspire your run-of-the-mill gear baron. I set it up Friday night, then got to the beach early Saturday morning to make a short test dive to check the system and my weights. I was heavy. So I took 2 pounds off, being the recreational diver that I am. I may have had 2 pound of extra weight just in the redundant knives, slates, whistles and what-not the course required.
I got to Pompano about 7:00 am, and Enzo did not have us on the manifest because I apparently didn't read my email carefully enough to see that Sean had switched from ScubaTyme to Pompano Dive Center. We were diving on the Sea Siren. Things started getting busy around 8:30 am, and we got loaded and under way. Sean checked everyone's gear to be certain we had all of the necessary redundancy the course required. The boat tied off on the bow section of the United Caribbean. I got my gear on, but was having doubts about my buoyancy. I'm used to filling my lungs and floating without putting any air the the "inner tube." I swam to the line and went down, letting go of the line early in the dive to make a delightful free fall descent.
Forest was acting a divemaster, but apparently also taking the course. Sean had flash cards with various commands or situations that required a skill to handle. It was a good idea but might have used a larger font. The gear was unwieldy in the water, but manageable. I hung onto the pony bottle the whole dive so it wouldn't bump against me. I was heavy and bouncing on the bottom from time to time, but things got better about 2000 psi. I blew through my air, which was not unexpected considering the new/different equipment and, of course, the stress of being evaluated. We didn't get much done on this first dive.
During the surface interval, a pod of 10-12 dolphins surfed the boat's bow wake. They spent easily 5 minutes with us as we cruised down to the South of Grouper Bend. I decided to drop 2 pounds and went back in the water with 4 pounds. Would have been okay if I had dropped 2 more, to 2 pounds. Surprising how much extra weight I carried. We got in the water and Sean used the flash cards to put us through our paces. At the end, we sent up our sausages and reeled them in as we went up. Everyone did fine and we all got certified.
I can understand the need for the redundant and independent air source if you dive deeper than 20-30 feet, though I am a bit ambivalent about any depth more shallow than the depth of your deepest recent controlled emergency swimming ascent. Nonetheless, I'm not sure that I will change the way that I dive of the Fort Lauderdale beach. It's 20 feet deep for 600 yards out and I think that it continues to be reasonable for me to rely on the CESA instead of carrying a pony bottle.