Sometimes the worst part of your dive trip to paradise is just trying to navigate the airport and the customs hall. Well relax fellow divers as we have a few tips for you to ease your stress level.
First tip in how to navigate the airport is to arrive early. Do not cut it close. Allow for enough time to clear security and if you wind up standing in line a little bit you will be stress free by giving yourself that extra bit of time. Also, know what you can take as and in your carry on. These rules have been in place for long enough that even if you are a newer traveler you should know what is allowed. By following the rules you will save yourself time and stress.
Tip 2 in how to navigate the airport is sign up for TSA Pre Check. While it doesn’t do much here in Grand Junction, it has saves us lots of time in Dallas and Miami. At the airport in Dallas in the B gates there is a security check point that is just for pre check and believe it or not on most Saturday and Sunday mornings there is no one there. Most larger airports have special lines just for pre check and will save you lots of time and stress. Big plus is leaving your shoes and light jacket on as you go through security.
Tip 3 in how to navigate the airport is free. Down load the Mobil Passport app. We have used this app now a few times and wow the time saved with this ap. While the lines in the custom hall can require an hour or so to get through, with this app we have cleared in less than 10 minutes in Dallas and Miami. Unfortunately this app is not available in paradise but it does make coming home less painful.
So dear divers and travelers a little planning will save you some stress while you navigate the airport to paradise.
Packing for your amazing dive vacation is easy. So many of our new divers have overwhelming feelings when it is time to pack for their dive adventure. Well I have always joked that I should teach a packing for a trip class, so how about a packing blog post instead?
Now this does assume that you own or are renting gear for your trip. Otherwise you wouldn’t be worrying about it and just over pack as usual.
Packing Tip 1: Your fins should go on the side of your bag. This creates a very stable and protective side walls.
Packing Tip 2: BCD goes on the bottom with the tank pad down. Again this will create a more stable and protective bag.
Packing Tip 3: Take half of what you think you will need for the week. Unless you are traveling first class or just want to spend extra money on that overweight or extra bag, you really don’t need a fresh outfit for every day. Here is what I usually pack; 2 or 3 pair of swim wear, 4 pairs of shorts, 3 t-shirts and 4 collared shirts. Ladies might want to add 2 cover ups or wraps. I will also pack 1 pair of flip flops in my main bag. That is all; after all we are going to the islands. If we are going somewhere that has a fancy dress code, then I will toss in a pair of slacks (I probably am not going if they require that).
Packing Tip 4: Wetsuit goes on top. It helps protect everything and is a nice cushion for that rum bottle.
Packing Tip 5: Mask, camera and regulator are in my backpack along with a light jacket/golf pullover, an extra t-shirt, shorts and bathing suit. Add in a micro fiber towel that can act as a pillow or blanket on the plane and I am ready for the islands.
See you at the airport
Underwater critter hunting is part of scuba diving’s enjoyment and appeal. In part 1 a few months back we talked about going slow over the reef and learning some of the critters habitats. Another way to help you spot more critters is perfecting your buoyancy.
Being able to hover over a coral head so you can get a closer look is invaluable. Some will even use a “tickle stick” to help stabilize them as they examine the corals. The soft corals are what most divers focus on, but don’t forget about the hard corals. In Fiji, we spotted a few of these guys hiding in hard green coral. I was able to find this little crab and get the photo thanks to some good buoyancy.
But buoyancy sometimes isn’t enough to spend the extra time critter hunting. And going slow and slower is helpful. In Fiji, we were critter hunting and told Christine our dive master that we liked to find the little stuff. And did we find the little stuff. On one dive the nudibranch was about the size of 2 stitches in her wetsuit. When after an hour we reached the end of the dive we were at the point that they normally reach after 40 minutes.
But sometimes if you look around the coral head you can find a place to actually lay down on the sea floor. This allows you to rest some and continue your critter hunting. And you can spend a lot of time looking without damaging anything.
One last thing about critter hunting, keep your eyes open. You just never know when you will see say a free swimming sea horse or a flat worm. And if you are lucky you just might get a up close look at an amazing critter.
Happy Bubbles and happy critter hunting
Did you know that your dive computer can “talk” to you? It can tell you more than just how deep and how long. Your dive computer can tell you so many different things if you will listen.
The first step in learning to listen to your dive computer is to look over the operating instructions. Or if you are lucky, you might find a helpful video to walk you through a few things. I like our divers to read the instruction cards and play with their new dive computer some and then come in and ask questions.
One of the most important and valuable things your dive computer can tell you is all about your nitrogen loading. You might have heard some divers referring to “bubbles”. This information refers to the level of nitrogen in your body. Remember the “letters” on the dive table? These letters have been translated into a bar graph, aka bubbles, and are broken into green, yellow and red zones. Keep your bubbles in the green and you will be a very safe and conservative diver. Are your bubbles pushing up high in the green and maybe into the yellow or caution zone? Ascend some and watch the bubbles drop back down.
As your dive week progresses you’re left over bubbles will grow some and that is why a lot of divers will take an afternoon or a day off from diving or they dive Nitrox. Another way to drop your bubbles is to extend your safety stops from 3 minutes to 5 or more. As long as you have air why not hang out under the boat and watch what swims by. We have seen many sharks and turtles just hanging out under the boat.
Yes my friends, your dive computer can tell you so many things. It can tell you if you ascend to fast. It can tell you how long your next dive can be for and also how deep. Are you listening to your dive computer?
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.