The History of the BCD

bcdThe BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Device) had some very humble beginnings. In fact when recreational scuba was getting started there was no such piece of equipment and the only adjustment for buoyancy was a weight belt to offset the natural buoyancy of the body.
In 1959 the first BCD was starting to show up at dive sites. The horse collar style was the best and most used as it kept the head out of the water and the diver didn’t need to use their hands to hold on to it. There were many experiments on how to inflate this new BCD, oral inflation was the most common and even an auto inflation system was developed. Then someone figured out that they could attach a hose to the tank/regulator and take some air from the diver’s tank to easily and safely adjust the BCD.
In 1971, Scuba Pro introduced and patented the “stabilizer”, which was a BCD with a large air cell that went over the shoulder and around the diver and even the tank. A huge advancement in the BCD, which was copied and modified due to the patent, with the biggest modification being to separate the air cells.
1972 saw the introduction of the AT Pac Wing which was developed by Watergill and is generally considered the first wing style BCD.
bcdThe I3 has been a standard in the Aqualung line since 2007, but the I3, which is the lever inflation system used by SeaQuest/Aqualung was first introduced in 1973.
In 1979 the first jacket style BCD was introduced and in 1985 SeaQuest/Aqualung introduced the ADV (advanced design vest)BCD which was an open front with the adjustable shoulder straps. They didn’t patent the design and it is this design that today’s BCD is still using.
• 1959 “horse collar style”
• 1971 Scuba Pro “stabilizer”
• 1972 AT Pac Wing
aqualung-axiom-bcd-6407-p• 1973 first version of the I3
• 1978 there were 19 models of “horse collar”
• 1979 SeaQuest introduced the jacket style BCD the “Sea Otter” and “Sea Jacket”
• 1980 Octo pockets
• 1985 The ADV jacket introduced and this is still the main style of BCD today
• 1988 the first BCD for Ladies was introduced
• 1990 the first light weight warm water BCD
• 1996 the beginning of weight integrated bcd
As you can see our humble little BCD has grown and definitely been upgraded over the years

scuba joe

Learn to Dive, Make new friends

Dive friendsAs we age meeting and making new friends is always a challenge especially when we consider all of the challenges that life throws our way. Think about the last trip you were on, you probably didn’t know anyone or unless you travel with a large group such as the dive shop you may have known everyone there may have been someone new to the group.  Even the ones you didn’t know you had a common bond. That is the love of diving.  Your conversations probably started on places you have been and grew from there.

Or maybe you are new to a neighborhood or town, maybe even just standing in line at the grocery store and you are wearing your newest favorite t-shirt from your last dive adventure.  The person behind you generally ask something along the line how was the diving or are you a diver.  Some of the other questions a new non diving friend may ask, “aren’t you afraid of sharks”, “how deep have you gone” or even about your favorite place to dive or how long you have been diving.

Dive friends 2Some of our best and closest friends have been made on dive boats.  The story of how   we meet Martin and Christine is a dive story classic. It was in Cozumel the week after hurricane Emily in 2005, we were booked at the same resort, but due to the damage the resort claimed they had no water or rooms for us; but they would be happy to send us to their sister property in Cancun.  We politely declined and eventually they found rooms for us all.  The next day we were on the boat reliving the night before and diving and we have dove with them every year since 2007 at least once every year

PADI had a saying in the old curriculum that went like this; Go places, meet people, do things. And it is true today. Diving is a social sport, sure the buddy system enhances our safety, but it more than doubles the fun

scuba joe

Master Scuba Diver or Dive Master?

master scuba diverTo be or not to be? Master Scuba Diver or Dive Master? The path is not always clear, but why not take a dive down the path towards both? But, Scuba Joe why would I want both? Yoda says why not both be.
First, what is the difference between the two ratings; Master scuba diver is the highest non-professional rating you can earn, where Dive Master is a rating that allows you to be paid to dive, a professional diver. Maybe at this point in your scuba life you love the sport, but don’t want to turn your hobby into a job. But you want more out of your diving, then Master Scuba Diver is the path for you. Or maybe you want to become a dive professional but the cost, time and opportunity for work are limited by your life situation (being in land lock Colorado). You can achieve both, here is a game plan to help you be both.
Master Scuba diver is the first and ultimate goal for most recreational divers. It includes taking your AOW class and Rescue class and 5 different specialties; it requires you to log at least 50 dives. Notice I didn’t spell out which specialties, because that my diver friend is all up to you and your interest. It can truly be designed to be all about you. But, if you are thinking that say in 5 years or so you might like to change your life situation and move to the islands and make you living diving then let us merge the two paths so you reach both, or as Yoda said why not both be.
master scuba diverThe Dive Master program has a couple of scenarios that we must train, deep and search and recovery. If you are walking the merged path towards both then those are two of the five classes you should consider along your journey. Yoda, would probably add in navigation since you would be leading other divers and you don’t want to get lost. That still leaves you 2 electives to fill in with what interest you the most, be it Digital Photo or Fish Id or Underwater Basket Weaving (yes this is real)



So my friends you can have both. Yoda does


How many dives can you do in a day?

At some point during open water class a student will ask how many dives they can do in a day. The answer to that is a big “that depends”. I know that is so vague that it begs to be answered, but first let us define a dive as using a tank of air.

Digital Camera
So, just how many dives can you do in a day? Well, are they fun dives or training dives; that is taken in conjunction with a class? PADI standards say that we can do no more than 3 training dives in a day, so that answer is very clear. So how can you do your Open Water and Advanced Open Water in a long weekend or your Advanced Open Water and Rescue in a long weekend? The key word is long as in 3 day weekend. If PADI standards say we can do 3 dives in one day and we need to make 4 dives for open water and 5 for advanced open water it will take 3 days. Dive planning will be a huge part of your weekend and that is a great thing.

Can you combine training dives and fun dives in one day? Of course you can. If you finish your open water training dives in the morning and want to go out on the boat that afternoon and do a 3 tank trip, you can do that. Plan your dives accordingly with your instructor and dive buddy.  How deep are your dives going to be and how long?

So just how many dives can you do in one day? Again, that depends on you and your buddy and how you plan your day and what gas is in your tank. On the liveaboards, we generally do 4 to 5 a day. The dives are generally about 80 feet and for close to an hour with at least 90 minutes or so between dives and yes we are diving computers and nitrox. But, if we are going to explore a shallow reef at so 40 feet on regular air with 90 minute surface time we can probably make 5 or 6. Change air to nitrox and you can cut your surface time to 60 minutes and easily make 6 maybe 7.

So how many dives can you do in one day? That depends on you and your dive planning skills.


Bored? When Scuba Diving?

diving sea whip

On our last adventure I overheard the captain say to his newest crew member; “aren’t you bored with diving yet?” Her answer was perfect, “how can you be bored when diving, because you never know what you will get on every dive”. Every month we go to the crater for certification dives and every month a student will say to me aren’t you bored with the crater. My response is while the drive bores me, the students more than make up for it with their wonder and amazement and we are diving in very warm water.

As Mia said to the captain, “how can you be bored”? America sang that the ocean is a desert with its live underground and we get to explore that wonderful hidden world. As your skills improve with diving you can get closer to the reef and find even smaller creatures, such as the sea whip shrimp or the squat anoneme shrimp. One of our divers has started carrying a magnifying glass while diving to even help her find the smallest hardest PICT0287to see creatures. The joy and amazement that she shows when she discovers something so small when diving is fun and energizing and makes you want to get back in the water as soon as the captain says that the pool is open.

diving clown crab

Bored diving? On our last adventure I watch one of our divers get closer and closer to the reef. She is even head down now looking under the ledges. Heck her buddy even let her borrow a magnifying glass to look closer. Watching people discover different creatures while diving or nailing a skill is exciting and fun and I can honestly say that it never gets old. Oh, sure the drive to the dive site might get stale and putting that cold soaking wet exposure suit on for the 4th or 5th time in a day might feel like work, but the awe and wonder that awaits us on every dive is breath taking.

Bored diving? Never, as Mia said; “you never know what you will get on every dive”

See you under the boat

scuba joe

Do you have a scuba mentor

go proAs a new PADI OWSI or dive master are you continuing your relationship with your scuba mentor or shop? Or are you going out solo?  That is always the question that a new PADI OWSI will struggle with as they await the paper work to be completed and arrive with their brand new shinny black card.

It has been an interesting month for me, watching a new PADI OWSI working with their first class solo, that is without me leading them in conducting the class as well as working with some students that were given a referral from an independent OWSI to go do their open water check out dives that didn’t feel ready to go to open water and wanted a little more practice. Yes, you can say it has definitely been more than interesting.

Altitude divingThe other night as I was with our 3 new dive master candidates we were discussing the role of the dive master and the role of the shop/instructor.  We talked about how our roles have grown from that of student and teacher to that of a new professional and their scuba mentor.  The new dive master and even the new OWSI are qualified to lead and teach from the moment they graduate; much like a newly minted MBA is ready to take on the business world. And they will probably do very well and be successful.

But, there is so much more to teaching any scuba class and while true that experience is the best way to gain the experience and confidence in any profession having a scuba mentor or 2 can help the new OWSI and dive master grow.  Having a scuba mentor to talk over things that happen in a class can be instrumental in your growth as an OWSI or dive master. In our programs we try and have you work with as many real students as we can, because while role playing scenarios with other candidates is fun and a learn tool, working with real students and real problems and yes real fears will ramp up the learning curve as you progress and learn and grow.

Talk with your instructor/ scuba mentor about the opportunities for you to co-teach or the possibility of you going the staff at the dive shop. Check out the PADI pro site for teaching opportunities in the island where you can gain experience and work closely with experienced instructors. The world awaits you as does your mentor.

scuba mentorIf you are ready to join the scuba professionals join us for our next PADI social night on April 30.  The theme of the night is “Living the Scuba Dream”.  See you there

Scuba Signals and Air Management

scuba signalsBy now you are all familiar with the basic scuba signals and some of you have probably even invented your own scuba signals for a special creature like that very big shark that is behind you. And I know you know the signals for out of air, but how about low on air and how do we tell the dive master how much air we have left in our tanks?

Flashing fingers to signal our air supply just confuses me and most dive masters, because I can’t count that fast. There is an independent instructor that likes to have his students signal with fingers on their chest with how much air they have left.  The problem with that is that the scuba signal for low on air is a fist/hand on the chest.scuba signals low air  So if you are touching your chest to me that is the scuba signal for you are low on air and I will be taking you to the surface at that point.

The best and easiest scuba signals for telling your dive master and dive buddy how your air management is going is the simple ok sign.  This tells your buddy that you have been watching your air and you are ok and have plenty of air remaining. The other preferred way, especially for a new diver is to signal with your fingers on your arm for your remaining air in thousands and with your fingers for hundreds. So for say 2400 psi in your tank the scuba signals would look like this; 2 fingers tapping your arm and then hold up 4 fingers. A simple and non-confusing scuba signal for letting your dive buddy and the dive master know how much air you have and that you have been watching your air supply.

Digital Camera

scuba signals






What are some of you favorite scuba signals?

Do you keep a log book?

log book coverThe other night I did a pool refresher for a family that had just finished their pool class with an independent instructor. I asked to see their log books and was told that they didn’t get one in their class. Your log book is one of your most important tools as a diver. Not only is it a required item in your PADI Open Water class (page 39 of the PADI instructor manual), but it is a place where you can record all of your training and all of the fun adventures that you share with your dive buddies.

Your dive log as I tell all of my new open water divers is your personal journal. You can write as little or as much as you want.  There are all sorts of dive logs out there and yes there are many apps that will log your dive.  You can download your computer and just print it off or you can take a note book and make you own personal version of a dive log.  The choice is yours.

log book pageLet us take a look at the basic dive log page.  The most common of dive log pages has a place for the name of the site, the day you dove and what number is this dive for you.  The other common features of a dive log page is a place to record the air and water temp, what exposure suit if any and a very important bit of information, how much weight did you use.  Along with depth and time and air consumption, how much weight we use is very important so the next time we go diving we can be weighted correctly to start with instead of guessing.

But Scuba Joe, I don’t want to write a novel in my log book.  As I said, you can write what you want, but I do like to note the new creatures I saw and maybe anything interesting that happened on the dive such as someone reaching a milestone dive of 50 or 200.

In preparing for our upcoming adventure to the Turks, I was curious what the water temp might be and the Explorer people are reporting 80 degrees.  Nice 3 mil wetsuit, but then I thought since I dove there in 2007 and I remember it was chillier than that we pulled our log book since we are going about the same time of the year ( actually 2 weeks later)  and sure enough water temp was recorded from 73 to 78.  Sounds like my 5 mil semi-dry.

Yes, we log our dives and it saved me from being cold on our next adventure.scuba joe

Top 5 or 6 dive tips for new divers

dive tipsOne of the most often asked questions from our new divers is do we have any dive tips for them as they head off on their first tropical dive vacation. Of course we always have dive tips for the new diver and we also have dive tips for the experienced diver. Let’s look at our top 5 dive tips for new divers.

  1. Let the dive master that you will be diving with know that you are a new diver. This may sound like an obvious thing, but by letting the dive master know they will watch out for you a little more and show you the cool critters that you might otherwise miss.  The dive master may even offer some other tips on weighting and buoyancy after watching you for a dive or two.
  2. Always do your pre-dive buddy/safety check. Especially since you are probably renting gear for the first few trips.  The gear may be a different configuration that what you were trained in. And talk to your buddy about your experience and his.
  3. Stay in your comfort and training levels. If the dive plan calls for you to go through a tunnel at 90 feet and you are not ready for that, tell your buddy and dive master. Most of the time you can just go over the tunnel and follow the bubbles to the other side.
  4. Ascend slowly and always to your safety stop. Check your and your buddy’s air usage every 5 minutes or more. Stay within a few fin kicks of your buddy.
  5. Have a save a dive kit. Most dive boats will have extra o-rings and things like that, but you should have a back up mask strap and fin strap. You would hate to miss out on your first ocean dives due to a broken mask strap or fin strap.
  6. Log your dive. Note your weighting and what fun creatures you saw. Your log book will become a great and treasured resource for you in the future.

scuba joeThese dive tips are true for all divers and in time will become part of your diving routine, but by following this dive tips you will develop good scuba habits and they will be with you for your entire diving career.

Have a dive tip for new divers? Feel free to add them in the comments

My journey to PADI OWSI and beyond

owsiHonest, I never intended to ever be a PADI OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor). I was happy and content to be making loans and playing golf and not really into the thought of basically changing my career and life to be Scuba Joe.  So how did I get here?

Well, it started with when I met Donna. See we made this deal, I would get certified to dive and she would learn to play golf.  Sounded like an easy plan and would give us to different hobbies to enjoy.  Then sometime in 2004 she decided that she was ready to become an instructor. Me? I was happy taking two trips a year and doing 20 or so dives and then playing some golf. Then in early 2005 after she passed her instructor exam the thought popped into her head that I should at least become a dive con/assistant instructor so I could help her with her classes and maybe it could be something we could do as part time work at retirement. I firmly dug in my fins and said I wasn’t really interested in that.  Then in 2007, my fins came out of the sand and I began my training.  After all, I was tagging along and going to the crater and helping out any way.

Back in 2003 on a Windjammer after a day of diving in Bonaire, we were sitting with some new friends and munching on a bag of fries from Whataburger, laughing and joking about being retired and “working” at a dive shop on some island.  My friends it wasn’t anything other than people sitting around and having a little fun.  But 4 years later, here I am starting my training on the way to OWSI. Then later that year (2007) the owner of the shop was in a horrible accident, Donna became the lead instructor and I her trusty second.  Donna even mentioned to the owner’s wife that if they decided to ever sell the shop she would be interested in purchasing the business.

storesideSometime in the summer of 2008, the phone rang. That phone call changed everything.  The shop was officially for sale and would we like to buy it? To make a long story as short as I can and to keep this post under 10,000 words, we officially took over on December 1, 2008.  We had 2 instructors and 1 assistant (me).  Shortly, after that Anthony finished his assistant instructor rating.  But, Donna was doing all the classes and with her job at the state requiring her to travel and teach almost constantly, we need to add a few more instructors to the team.

About a year or so later, PADI walked in the door and well made an offer that we could not turn down.  If we would switch from our current training agency to become a 5 Star PADI dive center, they would bring me and 2 others to OWSI. Again, I really had no desire to take on OWSI, but in order to help grow the shop and help Donna with the teaching load we walked through the door that PADI had opened for us.

What started out as a fun conversation in 2003 off the Island of Bonaire has become a self fulfilling dream of sorts. Maybe someday I will find myself updating this post from some tropical island and wonder how I got there.

lift bag