Dive Master and the gear exchange

dive masterDive 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.

Are you staying with in your dive limits?

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 dive limitsdives.

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.

scuba joe

Electronic Dive Log VS Paper Dive Log

dive log book coverSome 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.

log book pageAnother 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.

Are you a dive boat hog?

dive boatAre 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.

joescubashackI 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.

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

A few tips for your underwater photos

underwater photosDo 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 ballon fish underwater photossometimes 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.

grouper underwater photosAnd finally, practice and practice and practice. Find say a nice grouper at a cleaning station sea goddess under water photosand 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.

Benefits of your Dive Log Book

Just last week I got to watch one of our divers work on her dive log book while on the boat. She would draw the dive  dive log book coversite map that the guides drew on the white board and then after the dive she would record her info that was important to her.  I never did ask what she recorded as it is her dive log book, but she is approaching her 200th dive and still recording them.   Also, on this boat were many different levels of experience of divers and watching this one so diligently work on her dive log book got me to thinking if any of the others are keeping a dive log book; and if they are, what type of information do they record?

But what are the benefits of keeping a dive log book?

Dive sites and maps of the site: I know another lady that has an app to keep her dive log book and this app allows her to upload photos and even if on line the GPS location of the site.

How about conditions such as the temperature of the water?  Water temperature changes all throughout the year, if you travel to the same location every year at the same time the water temperature will be within a degree or two and this will be helpful in remember what exposure suit to bring.  For example in 2007 we dove with the Turks and Cacios Explorer and as we were preparing to return to visit them again the water temperature was being reported as in the low 80’s. But when I went back into my dive log book and checked what the water temp was the last time it was actually in the mid 70’s.  This information changed my mind as to what suit I took and I was very happy and warm thanks to my dive log book.

diving clown crabSome other useful things to keep in your dive log book are things like how much weight did you use or for the new diver how much air and how long did the dive last. Did you use a steel tank or a smaller aluminum tank? Did you see anything different? Maybe you are starting to notice different creatures and are learning how to spot some of them based on the habitat that they keep.  All of these are fun and useful bits of information.

Oh, one last benefit of keeping a dive log book is that you can prove your dive experience and training.  This can be helpful if you want to do some of the “advanced” dives that often available to those with at least an Advanced Open Water rating.

So if you do keep a dive log book a hearty well done to you, and yes we keep ours and record all the dives; even the ones at the crater.


Why take the Divemaster class?

dive masterDivemaster?  But, Scuba Joe when would I ever be a divemaster in Colorado? Or maybe you don’t want to worry about getting the insurance or you just don’t want to turn your hobby into a “job”. Trust me I understand. But there are many different reasons for enrolling in the dive master program.

First, the divemaster program will fine tune your dive skills to the envy of all your dive buddies making you the most sought out dive buddy and the best dive buddy in your group. Much like the rescue diver class fine tuned yourself aid and rescue skills, the divemaster class will sharpen your skills to a professional level. Just imagine everyone on the dive boat will be envious of your skills.

Secondly, you will become a resource for all your diving friends.  You will be amazed at some of the questions and topics that they will bring to you.

Third, for the challenge and growth you will gain as a diver. Expanding your horizons and your knowledge and taking you out of your comfort zone will enhance your diving and bring you even more enjoyment. And you just thought Rescue Diver pushed the limit of your comfort zone.

And finally, taking the divemaster class also sharpens and enhances your leadership skills. From supervising new students to assisting your instructor with a class to risk management to problem solving, which are all major things that employers look for when they promoting someone at work or even hiring new employees.

dive masterThere are many good reasons to take the challenge and enroll in a divemaster class and most dive master classes can be worked around your schedule.  So what are you waiting for? Get signed up today for an amazing and rewarding dive master class.

See you in class


Dive Hacks to keep you diving

dive hackDive Hacks, aka Life Hacks are simple to use and quick fixes for different types of things that on one of our dives just decide to, well not work like it should. Most people know about the “defog” dive hack, that is baby shampoo or even a mild liquid dish soap that you can buy for under $2 at the nearest big box store near you, but did you know it also makes a great little lube to help slide on your wetsuit? Leave those plastic bags at home or better yet take them back to the store and recycle them.

Here are a few more dive hacks to help you out on your next adventure. And Yes, I do keep some of these in my save a dive kit, you just never know when you need some dive hacks.

Does your wetsuit start to get a funky smell about half way into your dive trip?  Well this simple and most used of our dive hacks will cure that smell in about 30 seconds. A cap full of liquid fabric softener or simple green in the wetsuit rinse bucket will wash that order away for you. Just make sure it is wetsuits only that go in the rinse bucket. Or you can even spray some of that “defog” into your suit before the dive.

Lots of people suffer from swimmers ear during the summer months and they spend a lot of money on drops for their ears. Just 1 ounce of that stuff sells for $5 and it is 95% rubbing alcohol.  This is probably the second most popular of our dive hacks, but mix rubbing alcohol with vinegar in a 50/50 solution and now we are drying our ears and cleaning any nasty stuff out of them all for less than a $1.

Dry bags for your trip, dive hack them with freezer Ziploc bags. Do your hands get cold even when wearing nice gloves? Add a pair of wool gloves underneath your dive gloves.  Even though the wool is soaking wet it still retains its insulating factor.

Has your console retractor given up on you? One dive hack to keep your gear streamline is to use those old split rings and a couple heavy duty rubber bands to keep your gauges or flash lights close to you.

As you can tell there are many different dive hacks. Do you have a favorite dive hack or even life hack?  Send them along or post in the comment section.joescubashack

Do you do your dive plan?

Or do you leave your dive plan up to the dive master or instructor? Once upon a time you may have hear something like plan your dive and dive your plan, but with computers today most divers most divers basic dive plan is whatever the dive master says in their briefing and then what their computer tells them during the dive. That is if they have a computer at all.

Let’s review three easy ways to do a dive plan.  We will assume that it is our first dive of the day and we are diving on a nice little reef area that is a maximum of 74 feet and we are going to follow the reef along slowly exploring as we work our way to the top of the reef at 40 feet.  Being the first dive of the day the dive master calls for a dive plan of no more than 40 minutes.

Looking at the Dive Table it shows us that a dive to 70 feet allows for 40 minutes of bottom time. But since this dive is actually deeper than 70 feet we look at the time limit for 80 feet and see that we only have 30 minutes. Bummer looks like our dive will be shorter that the others or we adjust our dive plan to a max depth of say 65 feet allowing us the full 40 minutes

dive plan

Or, we get our our handy eRDPml and finding the dive plan mode and following the prompts for multi-level and first dive of the day we see we get 35 minutes for 74 feet. And since we are doing our dive plan, we will plan that depth for say 20 minutes as we will take that long to explore the side and bottom of the reef as we work our way to the top at 40 feet. Again following the prompts on the dive plan tool we see that at 40 feet we now have up to 83 more minutes of bottom time. WOW

dive plan

But, I will dive plan with my computer. My Computer tells me just what the table does, but since it will take a reading every 20 seconds as I dive my time limit is ever growing as I work my way to the top of the reef my computer tells me that I have 87 minutes of bottom time left after 22 minutes.

dive plan


See you on the dive boat