Dive Master, just those words bring many thoughts to your mind. Dive Master, the one that leads you on a dive and shows you the little critters. Dive Master, the one that fixed that problem you had with your regulator. Yes, Dive Master brings so many different attributes to the daily life of scuba.
But the one attribute that people never consider that their favorite Dive Master has is critical thinking. Did I lose you for a second? When I was in Cozumel in July, there was an instructor doing some training with two of his students. He mentioned to me that he hated and thought PADI should get rid of the gear exchange in the professional program. He went on to say that the time would be better served teaching them how to dive. Sorry, if you have to teach them how to dive at that level, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the program. We even had two students this year that claim the exercise was unfair and that the old ditch and don was better.
The honest truth is that this exercise is perfect because it makes the students think. It makes the students think and solve problems under a bit of pressure. The gear exchange is supposed to be a secret, but if you are in the dive master program, you know it is coming. And the stress that it brings. What it does is make you think and solve a problem with another person. It makes you slow down and work through the steps to accomplish the task at hand. It simulates a major problem with a diver underwater and provides steps in critical thinking so the divemaster candidates can solve that problem.
Dive Master, critical thinker and problem solver. Not just the boat driver and dive leader and tour guide.
During your PADI open water course we talk about staying within your dive limits and those of your buddy. This video is out of just about everyone’s dive limits. But these divers have obviously had the special training and some would say insanity to plan and complete that dive.
So what are some things that make up our personal dive limits and those of our dive buddy?
First would be our level of training and experience. There is a dive in Curacao called Whatamula and it is an advanced dive, but even divers without advanced open water can go on the dive as long as they can show excellent buoyancy control. The reason for this site being an advanced site is that the coral is so large and pristine that they limit the number and the skill of the divers to protect it.
Another factor in our dive limits might be our gear. I personally am not going ice diving without a dry suit, ok even with one I am not going ice diving. But, I do think my point is made that having the proper gear to make a dive will factor into your dive limits.
A third factor might be the actual shop/boat/crew that you would be diving with on that day. On most dives in Florida there will not be a dive master or guide in the water with you unless you arrange for one to be there. So if you are navigationally challenged you might want to practice with the compass or pay for a dive master to led you on the dives.
Or this guy might show up to be your dive guide one day. I have confidence that most of you would probably not dive with this guy. But at least you would have a great story to tell.
As you can see there are many different factors that make up your personal dive limits, but with experience and further training you can definitely expand upon your dive limits and keep exploring the underwater world that we all love and enjoy.
The critter hunter is often asked after a dive “how did you see that?” and the most common answer is “it moved”. Now while it “moved” is the most common answer there is a bit more to finding these amazing little critters than just movement. So let us look at a few tips from successful critter hunters.
First a good critter hunter goes very slowly over the reef. Often times they are the last in the line of divers following the dive leader and looking under ledges and in side of cracks and even taking a long look at say a sea anemone. The reason for the slow movement along the reef is yes we can pick up subtle movement, but it also allows us to look very closely for the little critters.
The other thing a good critter hunter understands is the habitat of the sea life one is looking for. Using our friend the anemone for example we can find different life in and around them and we are not just talking about Nemo. We can find different types of little shrimp and crabs making their home in and under the anemone.
Just last week in Cozumel we saw lots of beautiful anemones and in just about half of them I found this guy and in a few others hiding below and deep we found some little furry crabs. Then there is the “cork screw anemone” that well it looks like a cork screw. In there you can find different types of shrimp, mostly the Peterson Cleaner Shrimp and sometimes the Red Snapping shrimp with its big red claw that loves to pinch at our little pointers that you can place next to them.
Try these two little tips on your next dive and you will be the one saying, “well, it moved”
Some of our divers keep telling me that it is time for me to embrace technology and go with an electronic dive log. It is so simple they say (I know it is), all you do is just plug the cable into your dive computer and download your log. The electronic dive log will even show you your dive profile and all sorts of cool stuff. There is even an app that you can load your stuff into and it will save the GPS locations and you can upload pictures and all this cool stuff.
While it is true that the electronic dive log can and does give you all this neat stuff, but it only does it if you actually input the data. Your dive computer doesn’t know what you saw or what funny thing your buddy did. It doesn’t know how much weight you used or what wetsuit or if you got cold. The electronic dive log is only as good as you are about entering data.
Another issue with an electronic dive log, at least for me, is how dives are recorded. As an example, when we are conducting a pool session either a Discover Scuba or an Open Water class, our computers register that as a dive. So when you download the data into your electronic dive log it adds that pool session as a dive and inflates your dive numbers.
Another advantage my old school paper dive log has is that it has the stamps and other fun stuff from the dive operator and resort that we dove with and other fun trivial things. Plus I don’t have to worry about the battery going poof on my paper log book.
As I say to every group on new divers. The log book is your personal diary of your diving. Paper log books still come in the student kit, but you can go with an app or when you buy your first dive computer, you can chose to start and electronic dive log. The choice is yours and there is no wrong decision.
As for me, well I will stick with my old school paper dive log.
Of course we all try to be and think we are a safe diver, but are we? After all we all listened to the dive leaders briefing and talked to our buddy about the dive or did we? Well, just what is a safe diver?
Do you dive within your limits and your training? Just because we have a dive computer doesn’t mean we are staying within our limits. Your dive computer is just like the GPS on your car, you can follow it or not it is up to you. But what about your training? Are you trained in wreck penetration or cave exploration? Does your dive buddy have the same training and experiences that you have? To be a safe diver we should take into consideration both or training and comfort level and that of our buddy or buddies.
Speaking of buddies, how close are you to your buddy while diving? Same ocean, same day? Or maybe just a few feet or fin kicks away? Safe divers are great dive buddies. They are close by and they have wonderful communication skills underwater. They also, make sure that you do your pre dive safety check and are familiar with your gear so they can lend you a helping hand if one is ever needed.
One of the most important things about being a safe diver is being mentally and physically ready and able to dive. I don’t mean that you have to be in awesome condition with 0% body fat, but are you physically capable of diving? Being sick is no fun at any time, but attempting to dive while you are sick can be a very dangerous situation and it isn’t just being sick, having an injury can lead to unsafe situations.
And finally all safe divers have the proper gear for the dives they are doing. Weather it is a safety sausage or some other signaling device or the proper exposure suit, having the right gear can help you be a safe diver.
Are you a dive boat hog? Do you know a dive boat hog? Well if you have been scuba diving for more than one trip to the islands then you probably have seen a dive boat hog. You know that person that has all their gear everywhere on the boat and is always in your way.
So how do we avoid becoming a dive boat hog? Well, with a little planning and for thought it is easy to be the best boat dive buddy around. The first thing one needs to do is know exactly what gear they will need and what they might need and pack it approximately it the way they will need it on the boat. So let us take a look at what is in my gear bag as I get ready for a normal day of boat diving.
The first thing is to lay it all out on the table so I can pack it as needed. First is the save a dive kit and any spare parts that we might need. This goes in the bag first so it sits on the bottom and it also helps the bag to stay flat so I can reach into easier. The next thing that goes in is my small dry bag as it is the last thing I will need or want on the boat and my wetsuit follows that. As you can see the things I hope I don’t need and the things I will need last are the first to go in the bag. This allows me to have what I need to get my tank ready at the top of the bag and allows me to get it together and stowed so I can get out of the way.
Next is my BCD which has my regulator and mask wrapped up in it and my fins on top. Why the fins on top, they are so easy to move and place under the seat where I will be setting up my tank. After the tank is ready the wet suit is folded and placed on my seat and the gear bag is stowed either up front or under the seat. The location depends on the boat and the preference of the crew.
I am now ready to sit out of the way, chat with the crew or just sip on a cold soda and relax and think about the exciting day ahead.
A group scuba trip can be a lot like the guilty pleasure show “Survivor”. Both happen in a warm awesome tropical paradise and both can feature crazy people you probably have never met before that first moment on the boat. Both do offer you stunning vistas and amazing blue water to play in and around and you can build some really great “alliances” better known as friendships on both. But group scuba trips are so the anti-survivor.
On a group scuba trip our “tribal council” is different. We generally sit around the pool and laugh and review the day, not some crazy fire pit area where you will plead and lie and try and worm your way back on the boat for the next day’s amazing dives. All divers are welcome, after all isn’t that what we traveled all that way for was and is to go diving and exploring and discovering all the amazing little and big critters?
Sorry guys at the end of a group scuba trip there is no final vote to see who wins a million bucks. The simple truth is we are all winners on a trip. Just look at the things we see and do and the crazy people we have met along the way. Some of the crazy people even join us on our next adventure and some haven’t missed an adventure in years. Some come and go and some stop in every so often, sort of like the merging the tribes on survivor.
Ok, one last little difference between a group scuba trip and the show “Survivor”. Everyone wins in our challenges. We are divers, we all win when we go diving. Oh and I can promise you this, that after all of our challenges we have way more food and drink for everyone that they do on that show.
Meet new people
New divers are always asking us what our favorite dive sites are or where the best scuba diving location is. My standard answer is where ever I am going next, but that doesn’t really answer the question now does it. So in a feeble attempt to actually answer the question without writing 10,000 words
Little Cayman and Little Cayman Beach Resort. I just adore this resort, the staff and of course Blood Bay Wall. If you can’t unplug and relax here, well then you just can’t. Wall diving and little creatures and turtles and sharks, they are all here and with over 100 foot visibility.
Cozumel. There are many reasons to love this island. It is affordable and easy to get to. The diving is easy, just fall off the boat and make sure you have your buoyancy and drift along. San Miguel has lots of things for your non diving friends and we enjoyed Scuba Club for their nice resort, but also for the proximity to town.
Fiji. The soft corals and Nemo is everywhere. And then you have such a different variety of fish. For example the Angel fish look the same body wise, but their markings are so different. Add in that the people of Fiji are just about the friendliest and happiest people we have ever had the opportunity to be around make this one of the must dives.
Turks and Caicos. The best way to dive this island chain is to dive one of the liveaboards. We have had pods of dolphins and a few pilot whales on our adventures here along with sharks and turtles.
I could keep going on about my favorite dive sites and you could probably guess. But to quickly round out the list of my favorite dive sites one would have to add St Lucia, the East End of Grand Cayman and Kauai.
So what are your favorite dive sites?
Our scuba adventures are as unique and varied as we are. Some like the baby turtles in this picture are just starting their scuba adventure while some been on the trip for a long time and yet some even wind up writing post like this one. But the point is it is your adventure and we hope you are making it your best adventure ever.
Some of us are content on our scuba adventure with just our basic open water card and some are happy to have the advanced open water card so they can “go deeper”. There are others that reach for the brass ring and want it all. The island life style and working and living in paradise. And there is the beauty of scuba; it can be anything you want.
Regardless of where you are on your scuba adventure as we begin 2016, take a moment to reflect and to think of all the awesome things you have seen. Dolphins playing in the wake of the boat, sharks, even the small things like the anemone shrimp and crabs. The wonder and amazement of it all. Now, let us take another moment and reflect on something, anything that might increase our enjoyment of this crazy adventure. Maybe, it is something as simple as joining a group trip to meet and dive with new buddies or it might be you want to learn more about the coral reef itself.
Maybe you are at the point in your adventure that you are now ready to show your kids the underwater world from a different point of view. You might want to add rescue diver to your adventure. Or even take classes with them and share the same adventure.
It is your scuba adventure and it can be whatever you want it to be and more. Let’s go diving!
Do you ever see an underwater photo in a magazine or one the web and say, “Dang, wish I could take pictures like that”. Well, my friend you can and you don’t need to invest a small fortune in your underwater photo set up.
First, get low and shoot up. Use the natural light of the sun and get some contrast in your images. Remember from your open water class that water absorbs colors starting with red in rather a swallow amount of water. Use the wall and the reef along with the surface to add depth to your underwater photos.
Second, focus on the eyes. Try and center your underwater photo with the subject eye in the center. Now, that is sometimes impossible especially with small creatures such as the Juvenile Drum as they are constantly swimming in a figure 8 patterns. But if you know the creatures’ behavior you can time the image and create some very pleasing shots. Plus, some fish such as the Lizard fish and Scorpion fish have really cool jaw lines and teeth.
Move slowly, you have been hearing this since basic open water. The trick to really cool underwater photos is to not scare the subject away. Turtles and seals will actually approach you if you can be still long enough. And those little shrimp that I love, well if you move to fast they will just disappear on you. Also, sometimes if you see the object of your desire like a turtle, if you look ahead you just might see an opening that the animal is heading for and you might be able to cut it off and get a really cool shot.
Tip number four; use one strobe. By using one strobe and turning it and the camera you can create shadows that will give your underwater photos some different looks and contrast.
And finally, practice and practice and practice. Find say a nice grouper at a cleaning station and practice. Turn the camera one way and the strobe a different way. Move slowly and try and get below your subject. That isn’t always possible on say nudibranchs, but look for different sight lines to give your underwater photos a different feel. But, what ever you do take the pictures that please you and enjoy them.