Scuba Bucket List, what is on yours?

As the adventure that was 2018 melts into 2019, it is a wonderful time to review your scuba bucket list. Places, animals or just experiences. What is on your scuba bucket list? Do you have a bucket list? I actually have 3, but we will just concentrate on my scuba bucket list.
I was fortunate to mark an animal off my list on our spring adventure to Costa Rica by having a whale shark cruise by. Alas the Hammer Head remains on my scuba bucket list along with a yellow head jaw fish that has eggs in his mouth. I would add in cage diving with Great Whites as well.
I have been very lucky to be able to travel the Caribbean and visit all the islands except for Cuba. Even though I have been blessed to have been and seen so many amazing places, there are some special spots and even a few “unique” places to explore still. One is going to be our spring trip for 2020 with a trip to The Villa on the Rock in Honduras. As for other places on my scuba bucket list, the Pacific Ocean is calling as well as the Indian Ocean. I know that leaves some places to your imagination, but I cant give away all my list. And after all the oceans cover over 70% of the planet. You will just have to follow along on our adventures to explore some of them with me.
You might even have a new diver rating on your scuba bucket list. Maybe Master Scuba Diver or even Dive Master. 2019’s adventure just might be the time for you to check your scuba bucket list and check off a few places, animals or classes off that really long list. 

We all have our dream adventures. Things and places we want to see and experience. This year instead of resolutions, why not make a small bucket list. As I said I have a few different list. They relate to things I like to do and by keeping them separate it keeps my list manageable. And unlike resolutions, I won’t be breaking any of them. Just adventuring.

Scuba Cylinders: Myths and some Facts

scuba cylindersScuba Cylinders, the not so sexy, sort of heavy thing that holds our breathing gas and allows us to spend some time in the underwater world. What do most of us know about them? Other than we may recall that during our open water class we heard about some test that are required. And there are different sizes. But the scuba cylinders are somewhat of a mystery outside of that.

The making of scuba cylinders is an interesting process. From how they are formed from a solid piece of aluminum or steel to the final product that you find on your dive boat. They are the heart and soul of any dive adventure, since without them we wouldn’t be underwater very long. And with proper care, they will last a very long time.

Did you know that the amount of air inside an 80 cubic foot tank contains the amount of air that was found in a traditional phone booth? Do you remember phone booths? And that amount of air has approximately 1.3 million-foot pounds of energy. Scuba cylinders a like a bomb on our backs. Ok, maybe more like two hand grenades. And we are taking them into the ocean and they are getting banged around on the boat and at the dock and yes, even when they are getting filled. Amazing that scuba cylinders are so stable and safe.

This is the reason that we have those tests. And every 5 years we have them hydro statically tested. Basically, we try and blow them up. Then they are visually inspected. And every year all the scuba cylinders and visually inspect them. The biggest failure spot in scuba cylinders is in the threads. A small hair line crack that runs through 2 to 3 threads is a major weak spot. They are usually found with magnification or a light electrical current. Any weak spot with that much energy pushing against it, is dangerous. We also, look for pitting and other anomalies.

Can scuba cylinders explode if left in my trunk all day? Well, not really. Charles’ Law will tell us that as the gas warms inside the cylinder in your trunk, that gas will expand. Your cylinder has a burst disc in the valve. Most are rated for 3500 PSI. So, when the pressure of the expanding gas reaches 3500 PSI it will “pop” that safety disc and the air will bleed out. Yes, the noise will scare the senses out of you. But it is not going to go shooting off in your car and bouncing around.

Now for the big myth. I will leave you with the TV Show Myth Busters.

Instructors Creed or Super Power or Both?

instructors creedThe instructors creed something every new instructor sees it, usually right after they pass the instructors exam. We have had many opportunities over the last years to see it play out. And this last weekend as we finished prepping another candidate for the exam I got to listen to a slightly different version of the instructors creed.

Course Director Kelly was talking about “our super power”.  Now, I know you are thinking like some sort of Marvel comic books super hero. But, when you think about we do have a “super power”.



As a scuba instructor, I have the opportunity to see:

  • Fear change to courage
  • Faint-heartedness converted into accomplishment
  • Timidity transformed into confidence

As a scuba instructor, I can:

  • Open hearts and mindsto the hidden beauty of nature’s creation and our obligation to protect it
  • Foster self-esteemin another person
  • Teach thevalue of character and integrity
  • Transformanother human being and change a life for the better and forever

Plus, we get to teach people how to become fish and breathe underwater.  Pretty cool “super power” when you stop and think about it.

The first section of the instructors creed alone is a special moment. Many times we have had a student that starts with a discover scuba session and they think they can’t do it. Too claustrophobic or want ever. Then, they think maybe it isn’t that bad. Next thing they are in a full class. Still struggling a little, but you can see they are determined. Then that darn mask skill comes up.  Somehow, someway they get that silly thing cleared of water. And again and yet they do it again. Still not liking that skill, but accepting it. More practice. Getting easier, but yet still. Then the magic happens. They find a way that works for them. BOOM! But they still don’t like it, but they got it. Now they are now sneaking off to the corner of the pool to practice some more. They don’t want us to see. But we do. We just watch, knowing that confidence is growing in them. The instructors creed is happening all over again.

Yep, maybe just maybe Course Director Kelly is right. We do have a “super power”

Recycling, But my cups decompose

Recycling as you may know is sort of my “pet project”. But did you know that there is more ways that we as consumers can reduce the amount of “trash” that goes into our landfills and oceans and we don’t have to worry about recycling?

recyclingYou see those cups sitting there so pretty in the islands? Did you know that they are made from corn and decompose in the trash? The straws? They are paper. There have been recent articles in the local paper and stories on the KREX TV news about recycling in the last month. And while I applaud the attention that is being given to the recycling effort. There is still so much more that we as consumers can demand and do.

Let’s take a look at my little corn starch drink cup. The famous Solo cup, now you are singing that song. The line goes something like, “… it is cheap and disposable and in 14 years they are decomposable….” Well, the truth is not really. It is more like over 100 years. Whereas, my little decomposable plastic cup will decompose in the landfill in less than 180 days. Actually most decompose in as little as 45 to 60 days.

Now take a look at the bottom of that solo cup. You see that little recycling symbol with the number 6? Those cups are notorious for being difficult to recycle and be toxic. I am fairly sure that my little corn starch cup isn’t toxic in any way.

But regular plastic cups are cheaper that my little decomposable cups right? Well, you can price them out here . The bottom line truth is that they are virtually the same cost. And let us be honest, I bet all of you will pay 5 cents more for your cool or hot drink in my little corn starch cup and not even know it.

I am looking at your City of Grand Junction, Grand Junction Rockies, Colorado Mesa University and all the places that serve the public cool refreshing beverages. It is time to change your purchasing habits and do your part to ease the burden on the recycling system.

So, the next time you are at a Grand Junction Rockies game and enjoying that cold beer. Think about your cup. Will it decompose before winter?

Why dive Nitrox

NitroxNitrox (Enriched Air) just what is it and what benefit does it have for our diving? Nitrox is any blend of air that has over 21% oxygen, hence the tern Enriched Air Nitrox or EAN, with the most common being around 32% oxygen.

The first benefit in diving Nitrox is that by using air that contains less nitrogen we are loading less nitrogen into our bodies therefore at least in theory we are adding a safety margin against decompression illness. With less nitrogen in our scuba cylinders there is even less need to push the limits of the dive tables or our computers. On the regular PADI dive table a dive to 60 feet for 45 minutes leaves us in the pressure group of “S” while on Nitrox of 32% the same dive leaves us in the pressure group of”M”. That is quite a large difference in nitrogen loading.

Which brings us to the next benefit of Nitrox, longer bottom times or shorter surface time. Using our 60 foot dive of before if we look at the regular dive table 60 feet shows a maximum bottom time of 55 minutes and our Nitrox 32% table shows 90 minutes. A huge amount of extra time to spend under water, but not many can make a tank last that long.

nitroxSo how about shorter surface time? In our 60 foot dive for 45 minutes on the regular PADI table we would be an “S” diver and after a 1 hour surface interval we would have off gassed down to a “G” diver which would allow us only 34 minutes at 60 feet or 54 minutes if we only go to 50 feet. On Nitrox 32% the table is much kinder to our bottom time. If we dive the same 45 minutes and our pressure group is “M” if we want to go right back to 60 feet for 45 minutes our surface time is less than 4 minutes. But since we are safe divers we stay on the surface for 30 minutes which drops us to “H” pressure group and that gives us up to 60 minutes of allowable bottom time.

One last benefit of diving with Nitrox is that you may feel less tired after a day of diving. There is no science that I can point you to, but after 4 or 5 dives a day I know I am less tired

Why do I need a scuba certification to go diving?

scuba certiificationA C card or diver scuba certification card is standard equipment in today’s scuba world, but every once in a while someone doesn’t think they need a card to go diving.  After all, dad or a friend is a diver and they will be watching out for me, right? Besides I am an all star swimmer, what could go wrong? Or, they did a few resort courses or even better, they were in the Navy and did a lot of diving.  Heck they may have even been a Navy diver.

We can look at an accident like the one in Florida on Christmas day, when a father and son died while testing out the new scuba gear they got for Christmas on a dive in a cave to at least understand a little why we want a scuba certification card.  Dad was a certified diver, but the son was not.  Even, if they had made the dive with no issues it was way beyond the 15 year old son’s experience and training to be even diving in a cave let alone diving without a professional.

Your basic open water diver card is validation and proof that you have the training DIGITAL CAMERAand skills to go scuba diving.  But, there are limits to this certification level. If you recall from your open water class the entry level scuba certification is for up to 60 feet and in conditions that you were trained in. This means for most of us warm and rather clear water.  Makes sense, since most of us did our training dives in the warm waters of the tropics or the crater. We are comfortable and confident in our abilities in such water.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t go deeper or at night or in colder or even murky water. But, we should probably get some training for those conditions or at least go with a certified dive professional.  I recall our friend Rock and his first night dive.  He was anxious and nervous as he had never done a night dive. After the briefing on the boat, the dive master asked if this was anyone’s first night dive (he knew as we had told him it was Rock’s first) and Rock, like the good sport he is, raised his hand.  It was decided that Rock would lead us into the water.  Well, since he was at the bow of the boat he walked past all of us to the back and as he was about to make his stride into the water, as he placed his hand over his mask, opps he had forgotten his mask.  We all had a great laugh as he walked back to get his mask and we had a wonderful dive.  The point is, he was nervous and anxious, but his instructor was on that boat with him for his first night experience.

When you are ready to go beyond your scuba certification level it is a great idea to go with a dive professional to help you get use to new and different conditionsscuba joe

Yes, there is an app for that

saba queen angelWhile teaching dive planning at Colorado Mesa University the other week, one of the students asked if there was an app for dive tables.  Well, there is an app for everything, so we looked and sure enough there are 7 for IPAD and 24 for IPhone and a few for Android.

While the free ones are not awesome by any stretch of the imagination and the ones that work well such as Dive Plan Lite, which does appear to mirror the PADI Dive tables, will only do one dive then you need to upgrade for $6 to plan more. 

There are even dive log apps.  There are 13 for IPad and 42 for IPhone.  One of our dive buddies Christine has one on her IPAD and it works really well. I want to say she paid like $30 and she has been using it for a few years. She likes to take a picture of the dive briefing map and then add in the dive site coordinates, longitude and latitude.  After the dive she can load some of Martin’s photos from the dive and finishing logging her dive.

Looking for a dive site on the islands or even maybe in San Diego or Bonaire?  There a few apps that have the coordinates, tide info and more. Some locations like Bonaire and the Maldives even have their own dedicated app. There are even boating ones that have some really nice maps and a ship wreck locator.  Wonder if the treasure hunters developed that one?

There are apps for dive signals, fish id apps (of course the Fish ID books are more complete).  There is even an app to turn your I Phone into your dive computer and dive light and even your dive camera, and yes the app is free; but the housing for your phone is over $300.

Just doing a little search for scuba diving at the app store returned over 100 apps for the IPad and over 200 for the Iphone.  Magazines, Certification Agencies, Manufacturesregal angel FIJI

Yes, my friend there really is an app for that!