Group Scuba Trip or Survivor?

group scuba tripA 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?

group scuba tripSorry 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

Have fun

Enjoy life

Go Dive

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

What is your Scuba Dream?

Some might think I am living my or even their scuba dream, after all not to many people get to go visit far away islands and take scuba dreampeople diving and as Colton said to me “get paid to do this”. And as you read this post I am walking along the beach in Cozumel, so maybe I am living the scuba dream (you can follow our adventure here).  I recently read an article about a 75 year old lady that is chasing her scuba dream and that got me to thinking, what is your scuba dream?

My first scuba dream was actually just to get through the open water class.  Honest, I just wanted to survive it and then I wanted my tank to last long enough that I wasn’t the first one back on the boat or at least long enough so I wouldn’t get the evil eye from my dive buddy.  From there my scuba dream morphed into maybe owning a little dive hut on the beach somewhere, wait maybe that is still my scuba dream with a side stop at Joe’s Scuba Shack.

From exploring and discovering new and exotic locals to discovering the underwater world in your own back yard.  Your scuba dream awaits you. Head off to the islands to find your fortune or maybe help develop and teach future generations of divers.  Maybe your scuba dream is like Instructor Jeff’s and that is to see and travel the world and scuba is how he decided to do it. Or maybe your scuba dream is to earn as many “merit badges” or specialties that you can.

Regardless of your scuba dream, whether you dream of owning your own shop or even teaching in the islands or maybe you dreamDigital Camera of finding sunken treasure or maybe you just want to go diving, as the lady in the UK proves you are never too old to chase it.

So tell us what is your scuba dream?  Share yours with us either in the comments below or send me email and I will share your stories in a future post.

All about Drift Diving

Ah, drift diving in Cozumel.  In just a few short months we will make that little back roll and drop down and just let the current push us along, so lazy and easy.  Well, that is generally how we describe drift diving, but there is so much more to it than what we make it out to be.  While it is also, basically true that there is little if any need to kick, just adjust your buoyancy and soar along.Turtle

So, let us look at some of the challenges in drift diving.

First and possibly the most important thing in drift diving is to have awesome buoyancy control and to be streamlined in our gear set up.  By being streamlined and being able to control our buoyancy with just our lung power we can maintain a good position over the reef.

In drift diving our ascents and descents are different as the current is pushing us along.  On our descent we want to all enter the water together or as close to it as possible to help keep our group together. On our ascent again we want to try and keep the group as close together as possible as the boat has been tracking our bubbles and should hopefully be there to pick us up.

In some locations where the current is extra strong we may need a reef hook, so we can safely slow down and watch the show as the current sweeps by us.

What if we get separated from the group on our drift dive? All drift divers should carry a “safety sausage” and a whistle at the least.  I like to carry a finger spool reel with 100 feet of line just in case I get separated from the group so II can send up my marker while I am on my safety stop and the boats in the area know that there is a diver below.

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Risk Management, A Case Study

Gilligans IslandSo much of what we do as dive professionals includes the unseen practice of risk management. Let’s start with defining risk management, taken from the PADI Dive Master manual on page 80, Risk Management is the practice of taking precautions, following established guidelines and making good choices to reduce risk. Now that leaves a lot to the individual’s definition and the situation at hand. There are many sides to risk management, some are legal of course and some, or most are for safety both the divers and the dive professionals.

I was recently told a story that I wish to share with you.

A group of divers are going out for a morning of boat diving. The sky is clear and the seas are about 1 foot. Nothing too harsh and the trip out to the first dive site is uneventful. As the first dive is underway, the winds start to pick up and the seas get a little angry, becoming approximately 5 feet. Rough enough that the boat crew is planning on cancelling the second dive since getting divers back on board is going to be tricky at best. With the divers back on board they are pulling in the anchor when the anchor line breaks. The captain makes the decision to try and retrieve the anchor. So, he gears up and attaches a new line to the anchor. He struggles to get back on board, and while he is doing so, the boat is being pushed around in a circle and unknown to anyone the anchor line is wrapping itself around the prop. When this is discovered the captain decides to get back in the water and cut the line from the prop. Now remember this is in 5 foot seas in a smaller dive boat. The boat is being bounced pretty good while this is going on. So our fearless captain is again under the boat attempting to free the prop and the boat is literally beating him up and it goes up and down and lands on him.

Not too long into this exercise the captain runs out of air and aborts the mission of attempting to totally free the prop, but he has freed it enough to where they can limp back to port. Everyone gets home safe and sound, but as I listened to this story all I can think of is how lucky this captain was and is to be home safe.

What types of risk management could the captain and crew discussed? What would you have done? After all, in the captain’s judgment it wasn’t too risky to retrieve the anchor nor was it difficult to get back on board.skipper

Travel Tips

We have all been standing in line at the check in counter watching the person in front of us fumble with their travel documents. Or we are worried that maybe our passports and other important documents might “disappear” out of our rooms at our destination.Ramons Village

While, this post can’t take away our stress and worries, we can take some safe guards to make sure that even in a worst case scenario, we can get home safely and without much if any delay. Even when there is a safe in the room or in the main office of the resort these travel tips can help reduce our stress and worry.

First, make a copy of everything and leave it with a trusted friend back home.  If something does happens this person will have a copy of everything and can forward it to you via email or other means.  While there might be some delay, due to time difference and that person being available when you need them, this ensures that someone has what you will need.

Or, what I like to do is scan a copy of all your important documents and save them on your smart phone.  Yes, there are apps to help you do this. Many are even having their boarding passes sent to their devices to help reduce the amount of paper that is being used and with the airline apps you can get them securely and you don’t worry about miss placing them in your carry on. This way, you have control of your documents and can retrieve them when you need them.

By having a copy of your passport with you, if yours is lost or stolen on a trip, the authorities at your destination can help you get a replacement usually within 24 hours. Since you have a copy with your photo on it and the numbers they need, this makes the replacement process streamlined and just about stress free as it can be.

Finally, your diver certification card.  Again, while most of us are in the computer and dive centers can login and verify your diver certification, there is another way to make it even easier.  You can download the PADI app for free and then order an electronic replacement card and have it sent right to your device.

While these travel tips won’t cure the other stress of travel, we can at least take some of the stress of dive travel off our weight belts.

Do you have any travel tips to add? Please sign in and leave a comment ok

My 5 top dive sites

Last night as I was reading the newest issue of Sport Diver and their top 50 dive sites in the world, I got to thinking about my 5 or so top dive sites.  Sure we all have our bucket list of the places we want to go and see and dive, but what about the places we have been.  The ones that for whatever reason we just want to dive again?

Sea HareBlue Heron Bridge in West Palm Beach Florida is a must dive. This shallow no more than 20 foot depth is home to just about everything you can imagine.  An easy to navigate shore dive that can only be done at slack tide. On our dive last summer we saw octopus, 3 different types of shrimp, star fish and star gazers, a bat fish, lobster and crabs and the list of little critters is long and varied. And at 20 feet the bottom time is unlimited.

 

The Manta Dive off of Kona. This is a night dive, but I think it is best to do off the Kona Aggressor as you get to spend another dive or two during the afternoon exploring the area.  Make sure you keep looking out into the blue as you will probably see these amazing graceful creatures soaring by at depth before they come up for the nightly show.

Oil Slick Leap, Bonaire. The entry can be a little intimidating for some as it is either a rickety ladder or a nice 10 to 15 foot giant stride.  This dive has all the critters you want to see and can be done from as little as 25 feet to 70 feet.  With no current, head north one dive and then south the next.  Vary your depths and enjoy.

CrabPalancar, Cozumel.  This isn’t just one site there are actually 3 and I enjoy them all.  Maybe it is the many swim tunnels or the lazy drift that makes this one of my favorites, but it is a staple of Cozumel diving and I can’t wait for our trip back there this coming fall.

The Elbow, Belize. Again, not just one site but more of a region south and just south of Turneffe Atoll.  This can be a drift dive, but it is well worth the 3 or so hour boat ride to take in the amazing coral and marine life.  If you are spending the week on Ambergris Caye add this 3 tank day to your week.  The difference between the Elbow and the local diving off of San Pedro will delight you.

What are some of your top dive sites?

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Dan Travel Insurance

danlogoDan has introduced a new annual travel insurance program. For those of us that lead or enjoy scuba dive vacations this is a wonderful announcement. But at almost $300 for the lowest level a year is it worth it?
Well, let’s take a look using our shop trips for 2013. Our Grand Cayman trip with a total cost depending on your airfare is approximately $2200 and does come with a rental car. Add in some food and beverages and the total cost will be approximately $2700 a person. We can get travel insurance that includes insurance for the car for about $181. If this was the only trip we were planning on for this year, then the obvious answer is a big no way.
But, since we are planning a second adventure in the fall to Cozumel with a projected total cost of $1600 it might be worth it. A single trip policy to Cozumel for that projected cost would run us anywhere from $90 to $125. Which brings us to just about the breakeven point of the entry level protection we can get on an annual policy.
Where the annual policy really has the best value is for those that also travel not on just a scuba adventure. Just one more trip of any kind either for pleasure or business and we come out ahead. Let’s say we add another shop adventure to the Florida Keys this summer during hurricane season. We would definitely want to add travel insurance for that trip. If the cost of that trip with rental car and diving is $2000 a single trip policy would run us $153. Making the annual policy very attractive and actually under the annual policy this Florida Keys get away would already be covered and paid for.
Please keep in mind that trip insurance doesn’t cover you for any diving accidents or any other major medical mishaps. For that we highly recommend the regular Dan insurance which is very affordable and you can join Dan by clicking the link on our web page.
So it depends on you my friends and how many adventures you will be taking this year?

As always your comments are welcomed

Are you ready for a scuba trip?

FIJIMost of us got scuba certified to travel and go places and you see all the awesome pictures and hear all the fun that divers are having on our group scuba diving trips, but you are not sure that a group adventure is for you?  Well, there are many advantages to group travel.

First, sometimes we can save a few bucks when we book group trips.  The resorts offer us things such as free Nitrox or extra diving to entice us to come and visit their resort and bring our diving friends.

Think that groups are for only the “experienced” diver?  We have divers joining our trips that are making their first dives after certification.  Actually some have gotten certified just to go along on the adventure.

Aw, groups are so “structured”.  You have to do everything as a group.  Nah, as I say it is your vacation.  Feel like just crashing on the beach and reading a book and not diving, that is your choice.  Want to head off and explore the local culture or night life, enjoy.  Now some resorts do have group meals, but that is to make things easier on them and it is rather rare.St. Lucia

Some groups are “cliquish”.  The group dynamic is what makes it so fun.  As you know divers are a rather friendly and outgoing group. I bet you will make lifelong friends instead of feeling like a third wheel.  Don’t have a dive buddy?  No worries, we have a group of dive buddies ready to dive with you.

Still worried about your experience level?  All of our trips are instructor led and we are very happy to work with you to increase your experience level on any trip we led.  From doing your advanced open water to a specialty class, we are there for you.