Recently I went on a
Caribbean cruise vacation, but not before getting braces. My
braces were on for about 3 weeks before we traveled, and
having taken my snorkeling gear to Hawaii last year I was
contemplating taking it to the Caribbean on this trip. We
would be stopping in Barbados, Martinique and Aruba where the
snorkeling and scuba diving would be exquisite and I really
didn't want to miss out.
As we were packing I took out
the snorkel and wondered if there would be adequate clearance
between the brackets and the mouthpiece. Unless you have
extractions in the places where the bite tabs are on the
snorkel or a scuba regulator your teeth only come in contact
with the mouthpiece in at most two places.
Trying it on, I discovered
that the brackets were no problem - plenty of clearance, and
the bite tabs are soft (silicone for my snorkel at least, and
more than likely rubber on the regulator). Decision made, I
packed mask, fins and snorkel. In a few days we were on our
Upon arrival to the cruise
ship, we proceeded to book our shore tours: sail and snorkel
in Barbados and Martinique, and scuba diving in Aruba. The
first tour in Martinique was via a huge catamaran sailboat
which took us across the harbor to a secluded part of the
island. Now were going from "dry trial" to the real
The cat dropped anchor in
about 40 feet of water, and lowered the stairway between the
hulls into the water. My cheeks were bugging me at this point
and I had two wads of orthodontic wax which I had to get rid
of. It's not that there was any clearance problem with them in
but the last thing I wanted to do with my face underwater was
to inhale a gob of orthodontic wax! Fins on, mask on, and
snorkel in mouth I took the plunge. Not so bad, and the tour
went off without a hitch. I even got to swim with a giant
loggerhead sea turtle for a while. Returning to the cat about
an hour later, doffing my fins and heading up the stairs from
the bay, I had no idea how tightly you bite on the snorkel's
mouthpiece until I took it out of my mouth. Wow! It felt like
all my teeth in braces were in different places. Of course the
reality was that they might have moved a little, but within a
couple of hours everything felt back in place. A little
ibuprofen and I was set.
On Barbados, we snorkeled
over a wreck in water that was clear all the way to 50 feet!
By this time I was used to what to expect with the snorkel and
didn't feel braces a hindrance to one of my favorite sports at
Thursday was a day at sea as
the ship steamed to Aruba our final island destination before
returning to San Juan.
My 18 year-old son joined me
on the scuba tour, although if you ask him it was me that
joined him. We had a "classroom" setting under palm
trees on the beach as we learned the basic skills needed to
equalize pressure, work the equipment, etc. Following this we
had a pool session to practice things like breathing under
water (it's harder than you think because your body's natural
reaction is to hold your breath).
One of the skills in the pool
session I was concerned about involved "losing the
regulator". Essentially what this amounts to is after
taking a breath, while under water, you literally take the
regulator out of your mouth and let it float to the end of its
hose, all the while trickling a stream of bubbles out of your
pursed lips (you are trained to never hold your breath because
that can be dangerous on ascent as your lungs expand from the
reduction in pressure). The skill then is to sweep your hand
down, and behind you and then overhead capturing the regulator
hose and regaining control of the regulator which by now is
filled with water (remember your lungs are still filled with
air but it's getting stale at this point and you need more).
All of this happens in a matter of 10s of seconds so you still
have more than enough air to complete the maneuver. The trick
is once you quickly get the regulator in your mouth is to
exhale what you have left to clear it of water and then take a
breath and start breathing again.
Our rental equipment was
fitted with two such regulators, one for you and one for your
dive buddy to share your air supply should he/she run out
while at depth.
The pool session was a
success and we headed to the dive boat which motored out to
see about a half mile to the dive site a wreck sunk around the
time of WWII.
My son and I were some of the
first people in the water, the dive was beautiful and we ended
up paying the extra 50 bucks to have a memory CD of
professionally taken underwater photos and movies to take home
with us. After 40 minutes at depth and of course, constant
breathing through the regulator we were both fortunate to
never have to execute the "recover the regulator"
maneuver or share air. We returned to the dive boat after 45
minutes underwater and I was truly amazed at how both my teeth
AND jaw felt upon giving up the regulator. While it is much
heavier than a snorkel, part of the support for the regulator
is the air hose attachment back to the tank.
I don't think that it was the
weight of the regulator so much as the adrenaline and the
resulting bite force needed to keep your #2 survival link in
place (the ability to keep your cool is #1!) that resulted in
feeling as if my teeth and jaw had moved.
Again, within an hour or so
this feeling had subsided and I felt back to normal, all the
richer for the experience.
While it may seem that braces
might prevent us from doing some of the things we love, you
don't really know unless you try. This is probably the most
pressing activity since the means to participate directly
involves your teeth and your bite which are not as strong as
they were before braces or after stabilization of the result.
In fact it was probably more enjoyable to me in terms of a
sense of accomplishment, because I had a little more to
overcome than the rest of the group who were sans braces!