My Most Recent Failure

Freediving swim

When it comes to physical activities, I am a slow learner. I need lots of practice to get adequate at most sports. On the plus side, I am game to try most anything and willing to practice. I am at least adequate at skiing and paddleboarding and more than adequate at a few other sports, but it all took work! This is a post about my most recent failure, but don’t worry. I won’t be depressing, because I agree with the genius quoted below.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Albert Einstein

Regular readers of this blog know I am used to failure. Whoops. I did it again. Here’s my story about how trying to be a freediver was my most recent failure.

Let’s Freedive!

I love to scuba dive. I love the water. In fact, I used to be a pretty good swimmer but it’s so much easier with fins and a snorkel that I don’t swim without them much anymore. When I was in Utila I first noted the availability of freediving classes for the public. And that sport is growing, at least from what we’ve seen in the Caribbean. In Bonaire, you can take freediving classes from one of the world champions, and he is the real deal. In September, Brian and I signed up for the class.

The Freediving Course

We took the AIDA2 freediving course and it is amazing!

I loved the breathing exercises and worked my way from a static breath-hold of 1:20 to over 2 minutes. Once we got moving in the water, it was even more rewarding. Using the long fins made me feel so powerful and aided my 40 meter dynamic swim in the shallows! The technique wasn’t easy or natural for me, but I picked it up after a few tries and thought I was golden.

After successfully completing the breath hold and dynamic requirements, we practiced vertically pulling ourselves down a line and duck diving. Then I started to get nervous! Which is not conducive to free diving. Since free diving involves breath holding, you want to be as relaxed as possible to be successful.

The AIDA freediving manual is full of interesting information about breath holding and equalization techniques, and a lot of safety steps. We spent a lot of class time learning the proper protocols, buddy systems, and rescue techniques.

Freediving rescue session. It looks violent but you need to make sure the mask stays on!

I passed all of these levels, and then l had to dive to 16 meters.

Final Test

Once it came time to dive straight down to the depths, I started stressing. And the last thing you want to do when free diving is stress because you need to be relaxed to equalize and go deeper. Brian did amazing in this course, by the way! He is so relaxed and comfortable, holds his breath for minutes and is now a certified AIDA-2 diver, going all the way down to 16 meters on one breath! I guess he is the mermaid on our boat.

Conversely, I got so nervous and tense but still determined to do it that I blew out my eardrum after 11 or 12 meters. NOT RECOMMENDED! DON’T BE ME! Freediving is not a sport you can power through. You need to relax and follow the guidelines.

DO THIS! Brian looks so relaxed underwater!
My most recent failure freediving
NOT THIS! I am stressed underwater!

Ruptured Ear Drum

As a diver, I know a lot of people who have damaged their ears. PADI trains us to take our time descending and equalizing, and in scuba, I have always managed to avoid it, but it happens to a lot of divers. In freediving, I was still careful. I equalized on the descents, and when I felt pressure, I stopped and equalized until it went away. The doctor in Bonaire said it occasionally happens that you rupture an eardrum without feeling pressure first. Basically, I was unlucky, according to the doctor. Most likely I didn’t equalize enough because I wasn’t relaxed and my bad form prevented me from doing it properly.

When you rupture an eardrum, it’s a tear or cut, and you just wait for it to heal itself. It’s uncomfortable more than painful, feels clogged all the time, and makes it hard to hear. My instructions were to keep it dry and take paracetamol if I felt pain. Either way, with a ruptured eardrum I was banned from the water for two weeks.

Off to Curaçao Without Getting Wet

Two days later, we sailed to Curaçao, straight to a marina to do work on the boat. Sava needed a paint job and a full clean inside out. And we rented an apartment so we wouldn’t have to live in the hot buggy yard while doing work on Sava.

My ruptured ear felt fine for 12 days until it swelled up, my jaw started hurting and even eating was painful. And of course, this ear infection started on a Saturday morning so I had to wait all weekend to get help. Thankfully, friends in Curaçao referred me to a great clinic, where I was treated, diagnosed and given a prescription for steroid antibiotic eardrops which are already helping. The doctor’s visit and medicine came to 75 guilders, or 42 USD, 55 Canadian. It really is better in the Caribbean.

Out of the Water

I’ve been benched! Or dried? However you describe it, I’ve been avoiding bodies of water for 2 weeks and the ear infection extends it for another week at least. And as for scuba? Probably not for another month. Good thing we got our scuba fill (not possible) in Bonaire. Hopefully I will be back snorkeling and diving regularly after that. I can’t wait, but as I want to be diving for the rest of my life, I will wait. Maybe I’ll spend the down time on relaxation techniques. We all know I need it because living on a sailboat like everyday is Friday isn’t relaxing enough. I don’t know!

Sava is in the yard and we’re living in an apartment in a cute neighborhood in Willemstad, Curaçao, while we fix up Sava and clean her inside and out. Next week we’ll move back on board and get out on the water again. Hopefully soon after that, if my treatment continues to work, I’ll be in the water soon too!


There are a lot of things more important than my ear problem. Super spreaders in the White House, families separated at the border, and Black Lives are much more important. My ear will heal, I learned a lot freediving, and I can now duck dive and swim below for a couple of minutes before I need to breathe. I’ll take it and remember how easy I have it.

Don’t Be Afraid

Learn from my most recent failure. I was determined to complete the course because we were leaving in two days for Curaçao even though I wasn’t ready. The good news is I have failed so often at so many different things, I am not afraid to fail. I’ll keep trying new sports and activities, and have fun doing them.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t try to dive so deep without more practice. Just because other students, Brian included, learn faster, doesn’t mean I can or should. Brian and a lot of other people passed the freediving course with no injuries and really enjoy it! Hell! Once I can, I am going to practice again, at lower depths, and enjoy it myself. But probably not until December. I may even try to finish the AIDA course and dive to 16 meters. Or I may not. I haven’t decided yet, but if I do, I will practice a lot and make sure I am relaxed first.

We’re in a new country, Curaçao is big and busy and we have lots to explore on land for a bit. Take it from me – don’t be afraid to try and fail, and keep chasing adventures! I know I will!

 Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill.

Feel free to share your stories of failure or long roads to success in the comments.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

7 thoughts on “My Most Recent Failure”

  1. I tried to love sailing life and for the most part I did but I love being with my family and the mountains of East Tennessee. I’ve made my choice to not go back to the boat. John is on the fence. Tim is sailing Belle Marie back to USA when airport opens but 5-knots is in a brokerage hands and if she sells Johns decision will be made except to crew with Tim.
    You did try and have a heart of a worrier. Practice makes Perfect I believe you will make it.
    When I get a home again you and Brian are always welcome.

    1. I know you tried, Renee! And you were a trooper and such fun to have as a buddy boat! I can tell you are so happy to be home so relax and enjoy it. Thanks for sharing and I think it’s possible to have the heart of a warrior and a worrier. Hugs to you, John and Tim! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kristen! It’s a great sport and can be so rewarding if done properly. I want to encourage other people – more relaxed people – to try it!

  2. So sorry about your eardrum. I like how you are able to put it all in perspective. And get back on the proverbial horse.

  3. I really love your attitude to learning new sports! I need to try to be this open (I am not keen on the idea of learning to snowboard as I know all the falling on my ass will be painful. I need to take a leaf from your book!

    Poor you for your eardrum. I am glad your on the mend, but you have me wincing in sympathy!

    p.s. woot woot for the Caribbean health system!

  4. I love that story, and sorry about your ear drum! I think sharing honest stories about how we don’t always succeed but each failure get us closer to the goal should be shared more often. Thank you for that and good luck on your next attempt ????

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