Now when repainting tanks I always put numbers and
letters on the bottom and sides as guides, but here one
seam looked identical to another, and this tank had what
seemed like miles of seams!
of except an emergency triangle that somebody
had screwed to the hatch underside. I
tell you, I was pretty sure the whole island
could hear my heartbeat. I knew the tank
was 12-feet deep, but black rubber doesn’t
reflect light, so everything was just black.
The operators had warned me to only use
one flashlight so that I always had a backup.
I actually turned the light directly at my
own face just confirm it was on. I nearly lost
it when I turned the second light off. I was
breathing way too fast—not a good way to
conserve air. I felt as if I was immersed in a
sauna. I had been told to take my regulator
out and drink, but dry mouth and panic
seemed like the better choice than removing
my air supply even for a second, besides I
don’t think I could have pried it out of my
mouth I was so tense, and down I went.
The bottom was clean rubber with just the
smallest amount of sand, so I got some
visual relief and began focusing on the job,
which really helped to calm my nerves. With
flashlights, wrenches, and clamps, I had too
much gear to feel relaxed, but the job was
underway. Since this inauspicious start, I’ve
been in dozens of tanks and now appreciate
how clean this one was. Nevertheless, it was
incredibly hard to keep track of where I was
or had been. Now when repainting tanks
I always put numbers and letters on the
bottom and sides as guides, but here one
seam looked identical to another, and this
tank had what seemed like miles of seams!
The heat, fear, and worry that I’d mess up
made each minute feel like an hour. But I
suppose everybody has days at the office
that seem just a stressful.
Eventually I spotted an existing repair.
Seeing how the repair clamp looked in
service gave my confidence a boost and I
swam faster, skimming along the bottom
and racing down a seam until I came to the
perimeter, turned left and raced down the
next seam. When I found it, the leak was
immediately obvious because the sand was
making a star pattern around the hole and
the fabric was fluttering from the velocity.
By then, however, I was down to the last
of my second bottle of air. Fortunately, the
Continued on page 16