Buddy Team, you hear about it from the second you open your open water diver book and begin your adventure into the undersea world. In the newest open water book from PADI some of the knowledge review questions even expand the buddy team to be 3 people. But what are some of the best practices for being a good buddy team? Let us take a look at a few things that all good buddy teams do and sometimes they don’t even know they are doing them.
Is your buddy team ready to go diving? Have you done your pre-dive safety check? If you watch my buddy and I you will not see us doing the formal BWRAF that you learned in your open water diver class, but you will see us do it as we are sitting next to each other going over our dive plan. Which leads me to the second thing every buddy team should be doing and that is after the briefing if you are listening to one you should be finalizing your final thoughts and dive plan.
Is everyone in your buddy team easy to recognize underwater? Many divers have BCD’s or fins that look familiar or are even identical to others on the dive boat. Sometimes our buddies might even look like someone else on the boat; after all it isn’t easy to recognize everyone under the water in all that gear with just a quick glance. So are you staying close to your buddy team? Have you as a buddy team talked about what an acceptable distance is away from each other? Does that distance change with conditions such as heavy current or night?
Has your buddy team ever practiced or even talked about emergency procedures? Are you familiar with your buddies gear? Are your skills compatible in your buddy team? Even a dry run on the boat before the dive could prove to be beneficial in case something where to go wrong.
And finally does your buddy team have the same goals for your diving? Critter finder or just cruising and exploring what do you and your buddies enjoy most in your diving?
See you under the boat
Bet you didn’t know that there is a class called Diving Etiquette? Well there isn’t and since we are very excited to have you join us in exploring the 70% of the world that the land lubbers just do not get to see up close and personal we want to take a few minutes and discuss some diving etiquette. It is the one thing that isn’t cover to deeply in your Open Water class is diving etiquette 101, sure there is a mention about how to pack for the boat and how limited space is; but let us take a little closer look at some diving etiquette.
A lot of diving is done from boats and as we know boats are limited in space, even the liveaboards that I enjoy so much. Since space is limited it is important to get your gear set up and then everything else stored away. Having a mesh bag streamlines the storing of your personal gear instead of those bulky roller bags that are better suited for the airline. Once you have your gear set up, move to an uncrowded part of the boat such as the sun deck.
Some of the most important diving etiquette happens in the water. Upon entry or exit allow the diver in front of you ample room to get either to the tag line, their camera or even on the boat. Many accidents happen when a diver falls onto another diver, so give space. Under the water diving etiquette means giving your fellow divers space, while staying close to your buddy in case of emergency. Allow your fellow divers room to swim free and if a small awesome creature is spotted, take turns. Diving etiquette means allowing the diver that is looking at say a crab enough time to look and maybe even snap a picture or 3.
Speaking of cameras and diving etiquette new diver, watch your buoyancy. Until your buoyancy is perfected you might want to stay off the reef a few extra feet. Will your pictures get the really small critter? Probably not, but we are protectors of the sea and reef, in time you will nail your buoyancy and get those amazing shots. One last thing about cameras and diving etiquette. If you have your camera on a “selfie” stick and you put that camera in the area that I am attempting to take a picture, you just may find that “stick” some where else.
Divemaster? But, Scuba Joe when would I ever be a divemaster in Colorado? Or maybe you don’t want to worry about getting the insurance or you just don’t want to turn your hobby into a “job”. Trust me I understand. But there are many different reasons for enrolling in the dive master program.
First, the divemaster program will fine tune your dive skills to the envy of all your dive buddies making you the most sought out dive buddy and the best dive buddy in your group. Much like the rescue diver class fine tuned yourself aid and rescue skills, the divemaster class will sharpen your skills to a professional level. Just imagine everyone on the dive boat will be envious of your skills.
Secondly, you will become a resource for all your diving friends. You will be amazed at some of the questions and topics that they will bring to you.
Third, for the challenge and growth you will gain as a diver. Expanding your horizons and your knowledge and taking you out of your comfort zone will enhance your diving and bring you even more enjoyment. And you just thought Rescue Diver pushed the limit of your comfort zone.
And finally, taking the divemaster class also sharpens and enhances your leadership skills. From supervising new students to assisting your instructor with a class to risk management to problem solving, which are all major things that employers look for when they promoting someone at work or even hiring new employees.
There are many good reasons to take the challenge and enroll in a divemaster class and most dive master classes can be worked around your schedule. So what are you waiting for? Get signed up today for an amazing and rewarding dive master class.
See you in class
Dive Hacks, aka Life Hacks are simple to use and quick fixes for different types of things that on one of our dives just decide to, well not work like it should. Most people know about the “defog” dive hack, that is baby shampoo or even a mild liquid dish soap that you can buy for under $2 at the nearest big box store near you, but did you know it also makes a great little lube to help slide on your wetsuit? Leave those plastic bags at home or better yet take them back to the store and recycle them.
Here are a few more dive hacks to help you out on your next adventure. And Yes, I do keep some of these in my save a dive kit, you just never know when you need some dive hacks.
Does your wetsuit start to get a funky smell about half way into your dive trip? Well this simple and most used of our dive hacks will cure that smell in about 30 seconds. A cap full of liquid fabric softener or simple green in the wetsuit rinse bucket will wash that order away for you. Just make sure it is wetsuits only that go in the rinse bucket. Or you can even spray some of that “defog” into your suit before the dive.
Lots of people suffer from swimmers ear during the summer months and they spend a lot of money on drops for their ears. Just 1 ounce of that stuff sells for $5 and it is 95% rubbing alcohol. This is probably the second most popular of our dive hacks, but mix rubbing alcohol with vinegar in a 50/50 solution and now we are drying our ears and cleaning any nasty stuff out of them all for less than a $1.
Dry bags for your trip, dive hack them with freezer Ziploc bags. Do your hands get cold even when wearing nice gloves? Add a pair of wool gloves underneath your dive gloves. Even though the wool is soaking wet it still retains its insulating factor.
Has your console retractor given up on you? One dive hack to keep your gear streamline is to use those old split rings and a couple heavy duty rubber bands to keep your gauges or flash lights close to you.
So, yesterday was Earth Day, a day to celebrate earth and support environmental protections that was first started in 1969 with the actual first Earth Day in 1970. It was mostly an American event and largely acknowledged by the youth and in Universities until 1990 when Earth Day went “global”. For many it is a reminder that we need to protect our resources and Earth Day is largely responsible for many of the recycling projects that many people start in their own homes, but what I noticed yesterday is how many of the post to social media and even in the evening news was only about earth and not water. In other words it was all about the less than 30 percent of the surface of the earth.
We celebrate Earth Day as a reminder to take care of our planet every year, but we largely ignore the ocean. After all, the ocean covers over 70% of the planet and gives us so much in the way of food and energy and yes even entertainment. In 2000, research showed that 11% or the planet’s coral reefs were damaged and degraded beyond recovery and in 2004 just about 20% of the reefs were dead. We are slowly losing a major player in maintaining our biological diversity as the coral reefs die off due to pollution and other factors. One such factor is the new deep water port for the cruise ships just off Palencia in Southern Belize. Yes, we celebrate Earth Day; but we forget about Mother Ocean.
If you haven’t downloaded the free book from Project Aware’s website, I will encourage you to do so. Just 115 pages it is an easy and quick read and yes you can even earn a PADI specialty afterward, but the book is very enlightening about our water covered world.
Or do you leave your dive plan up to the dive master or instructor? Once upon a time you may have hear something like plan your dive and dive your plan, but with computers today most divers most divers basic dive plan is whatever the dive master says in their briefing and then what their computer tells them during the dive. That is if they have a computer at all.
Let’s review three easy ways to do a dive plan. We will assume that it is our first dive of the day and we are diving on a nice little reef area that is a maximum of 74 feet and we are going to follow the reef along slowly exploring as we work our way to the top of the reef at 40 feet. Being the first dive of the day the dive master calls for a dive plan of no more than 40 minutes.
Looking at the Dive Table it shows us that a dive to 70 feet allows for 40 minutes of bottom time. But since this dive is actually deeper than 70 feet we look at the time limit for 80 feet and see that we only have 30 minutes. Bummer looks like our dive will be shorter that the others or we adjust our dive plan to a max depth of say 65 feet allowing us the full 40 minutes
Or, we get our our handy eRDPml and finding the dive plan mode and following the prompts for multi-level and first dive of the day we see we get 35 minutes for 74 feet. And since we are doing our dive plan, we will plan that depth for say 20 minutes as we will take that long to explore the side and bottom of the reef as we work our way to the top at 40 feet. Again following the prompts on the dive plan tool we see that at 40 feet we now have up to 83 more minutes of bottom time. WOW
But, I will dive plan with my computer. My Computer tells me just what the table does, but since it will take a reading every 20 seconds as I dive my time limit is ever growing as I work my way to the top of the reef my computer tells me that I have 87 minutes of bottom time left after 22 minutes.
See you on the dive boat
Dive tables, like some old classic music cds, still have a place in our hearts and classrooms. And not just from a historical point of view, but from a real world happening now point of view. Most dive shops and instructors teach computers (yes we do), because that is what the over whelming majority of divers are using; especially since they are so easy and in most cases economical for the diver to own. There are even dive operators that will rent you one, free of charge, if you are diving with them for the week and don’t own one. (Owning your own is still the best option as you know how it works.)
But, dive tables are they not going the way of the cassette player? I would argue that is not the case as dive tables have a very real and tangible part of learning to dive and not just because we learned them. Working with students and helping them understand dive tables, while not mastering them, also helps them to understand what the computer is telling them. Dive tables make the no-stop times real in their minds and not some abstract point that they read about in the book or saw on the video. Dive tables and the basic understanding of what they are telling the diver leads to a little better understanding of decompression theory without boring the student to tears. The humble dive table along with its cousins the eRPDml and the dive computer can help us show the student diver that yes our computers allow us more bottom time, but there is no reason to push things to the limits.
I will leave you with this story. A few years ago when dive tables were the primary dive planning tool that we taught, a new diver went to Cozumel for his first ocean dives. When he arrived home he sat down one night and thought it would be interesting to practice his tables based on the dives he had made the week before. The next morning he was waiting for me at the dive shop and looking worried. As he went through the dive week on the dive table with me he stopped right in the middle of it and asked if he should head to the chamber right now because according to his dive tables he should be very sick or even worse. After assuring him he was fine, we reviewed the differences in dive tables and dive computers and how they both function and why dive tables are the most conservative dive planning tool we use.
Did you know that ear injuries are the most common scuba injury? In fact Middle Barotrauma (MEBT) is the leading ear injury among scuba divers with some surveys suggesting that over 50% of all divers have experienced MEBT while fewer than 5% have experienced decompression sickness (DCS). That means that just about every other diver you know has suffered some sort of ear injury while diving. Most cases of MEBT are very mild, heal on their own and in fact are never reported to DAN or any medical agency. It is generally caused by poor equalization techniques or by diving with a cold or allergies.
The second most common ear injury is a ruptured eardrum which again is caused by poor equalization techniques along with descending to fast. What I found interesting in researching for this blog was that most ruptures heal on their own within a few weeks. Can you return to diving after your ear heals? Yes, as long as your doctor clears you and the healing is strong.
Tied for second is our good friend swimmers ear. Now we all know what that is and how to cure it and of course we can go diving again. As soon as that pesky little infection is gone. There are many more serious ear injuries such as Inner Ear Barotrauma and Perilymph Fistual and you can read more on DAN’s webpage.
So how can we prevent the first two types of ear injuires? By equalizing early and often as you probably recall from your open water class. Here are some of the more popular ways to equalize, some you know some might be new to you (Big thanks to DAN.org for this info)
- Voluntary tubal opening: Try yawning or jaw wiggling.
- Valsalva maneuver: Pinch your nostrils, and gently blow through your nose.
- Toynbee maneuver: Pinch your nostrils and swallow.
- Lowry technique: Pinch your nostrils, and gently blow air out of your nose while swallowing.
- Frenzel maneuver: Pinch your nostrils while contracting your throat muscles, and make the sound of the letter K.
- Edmonds technique: Push your jaw forward, and employ the Valsalva maneuver or the Frenzel maneuver.
Mermaid, just the word brings so many images to our minds. From the world of Disney to other attractions at amusement parks or Las Vegas shows. The word mermaid brings to mind lost sailors as they ventured out to sea and of lost treasures.
The first recorded mermaid story is actually from around 1000 BC in which a Goddess accidental killed her mortal lover and being ashamed she jumped in a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters could not hide her beauty and thus she only grew a fish tale. A very popular legend tells of Alexander the Great’s sister Thessalonike, that after her death she became a mermaid living in the Aegean Sea. She would encounter sailors and ask of them one question, “is King Alexander alive?” Give the correct answer and the sailors would have calm seas for their adventure, but give the wrong answer and the sailors and their ships were doomed.
Mermaid stories are wide spread across history. From Western and Eastern Europe to China to Africa and can even found in Hinduism. In some modern Caribbean cultures there is a mermaid recognized as representing wealth and beauty.
One of my favorite stories is of Columbus in 1493 as he sailed off of the coast of Hispaniola. Columbus reported seeing 3 female like forms which rose high above the sea; but they were not as beautiful as the stories represented them to be. Legend has it that he probably mistook Manatees for humans. Blackbeard the Pirate, in his log book, instructed his crews to stay away from “enchanted waters” for fear of mermaids. Pirates fear mermaids would seduce them out into the waters and steal their treasures.
So, do you believe in a Mermaid? The word comes to us from the old English words of Mer meaning “Sea” and maid meaning “girl”. So yes I do believe in a mermaid, after all they are girls of the sea and we might have just trained a few of them
First how is your weighting? Are you over weighted and constantly using your inflator to maintain proper buoyancy? Maybe you are weighted properly but you are carrying all your weight in one spot and it is dragging you down? Dropping weight or moving it around to become more streamline in the water will help you and your air consumption. By being more streamlined in the water, we glide through the water column in a more efficient manner. If we are over weighted the body wants to have our head up and back arched some which drops our feet putting our body in a less than efficient position and increasing our air consumption as we are working harder than we should be.
Secondly, how is your fining? Are you racing around under water or are you gliding? A nice smooth fining motion with a straight leg is the best way to improve your air consumption. If you are racing around or using a kick that looks like you are riding a bicycle you are exerting more effort than necessary and working harder and increasing your air consumption. Scuba diving is being more like the tortoise than the hare. It isn’t a race, but a nice little stroll under water.
Finally, I know you read in your open water class to take long slow deep breathes. This encourages you to get a nice full breathe and a full exchange of air in the lungs. But what it does is get you thinking about breathing and you actually will increase your air consumption. What we really want you to do is just relax and breathe. If you have been in one of my classes you have heard me ask the question, “How long have you been breathing?” You know how to breathe so let’s relax, breathe and have fun.
Signing up for your Advanced Open Water or a Peak Performance Buoyancy class can help you decrease your air consumption and increase the amount of time you spend under the water.