A dive computer is a wonderful and very useful piece of equipment to own. I would say right after mask, snorkel and fins your next purchase should be a dive computer or a wetsuit. Just as there are many different types of people there are many different styles dive gear for you to pick. And a dive computer can come in many different styles. And they are all nitrox compatible right out of the box. All dive computers track your nitrogen loading and your safety stop. Most water activate and have altitude adjustments.
The basic “puck” style of dive computer is first up. A very popular entry level option, it can be worn on your wrist or in a console attached to your first stage. The come in 2 basic styles, the one button or two buttons. Both are very easy to learn to use, but the one button does take a little bit extra to learn. When you reach the setting you want to change you need to hold the button down for a few seconds. It takes just a little to get use to it. The Aqualung i300 has come along and made the two buttons even easier to use. They labeled the buttons advance and select.
Next is the watch style or wrist dive computer. And of course with in this style there are 2 main types, air integration with a transmitter and non air integration. I have personally dived both and own both. For teaching classes I use the non air integration style. It gives me all the information that I need and I have an SPG for air pressure. For my dive travels I am even more stream lined by having all my dive info on my wrist and no console or hose.
Finally we have the air integration console style computers. Most of these have quick disconnects so you can take the computer off the hose for easy logging of your dive info. Most will have bigger screens for those of us that might be a little eye sight challenged.
With just about any dive computer, you can download your dive information into an e-log book. Some have blue tooth capability. With one dive computer you can upload 3d maps of the dive sights and some have color screens. Most now have user changeable batteries and one even has a heart rate monitor.
So which dive computer is right for you? Well that depends on you, but I can offer one suggestion. Take the time to visit with your local dive shop as they can show you your options and walk you through the differences for each style and in our case even a few different manufactures.
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
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.
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
Dive 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.
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
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
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.
See you on the dive boat
Dive tables, like some old classic music cds, still have a place in our hearts and classrooms. And not just from a historical point of view, but from a real world happening now point of view. Most dive shops and instructors teach computers (yes we do), because that is what the over whelming majority of divers are using; especially since they are so easy and in most cases economical for the diver to own. There are even dive operators that will rent you one, free of charge, if you are diving with them for the week and don’t own one. (Owning your own is still the best option as you know how it works.)
But, dive tables are they not going the way of the cassette player? I would argue that is not the case as dive tables have a very real and tangible part of learning to dive and not just because we learned them. Working with students and helping them understand dive tables, while not mastering them, also helps them to understand what the computer is telling them. Dive tables make the no-stop times real in their minds and not some abstract point that they read about in the book or saw on the video. Dive tables and the basic understanding of what they are telling the diver leads to a little better understanding of decompression theory without boring the student to tears. The humble dive table along with its cousins the eRPDml and the dive computer can help us show the student diver that yes our computers allow us more bottom time, but there is no reason to push things to the limits.
I will leave you with this story. A few years ago when dive tables were the primary dive planning tool that we taught, a new diver went to Cozumel for his first ocean dives. When he arrived home he sat down one night and thought it would be interesting to practice his tables based on the dives he had made the week before. The next morning he was waiting for me at the dive shop and looking worried. As he went through the dive week on the dive table with me he stopped right in the middle of it and asked if he should head to the chamber right now because according to his dive tables he should be very sick or even worse. After assuring him he was fine, we reviewed the differences in dive tables and dive computers and how they both function and why dive tables are the most conservative dive planning tool we use.
Mermaid, just the word brings so many images to our minds. From the world of Disney to other attractions at amusement parks or Las Vegas shows. The word mermaid brings to mind lost sailors as they ventured out to sea and of lost treasures.
The first recorded mermaid story is actually from around 1000 BC in which a Goddess accidental killed her mortal lover and being ashamed she jumped in a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters could not hide her beauty and thus she only grew a fish tale. A very popular legend tells of Alexander the Great’s sister Thessalonike, that after her death she became a mermaid living in the Aegean Sea. She would encounter sailors and ask of them one question, “is King Alexander alive?” Give the correct answer and the sailors would have calm seas for their adventure, but give the wrong answer and the sailors and their ships were doomed.
Mermaid stories are wide spread across history. From Western and Eastern Europe to China to Africa and can even found in Hinduism. In some modern Caribbean cultures there is a mermaid recognized as representing wealth and beauty.
One of my favorite stories is of Columbus in 1493 as he sailed off of the coast of Hispaniola. Columbus reported seeing 3 female like forms which rose high above the sea; but they were not as beautiful as the stories represented them to be. Legend has it that he probably mistook Manatees for humans. Blackbeard the Pirate, in his log book, instructed his crews to stay away from “enchanted waters” for fear of mermaids. Pirates fear mermaids would seduce them out into the waters and steal their treasures.
So, do you believe in a Mermaid? The word comes to us from the old English words of Mer meaning “Sea” and maid meaning “girl”. So yes I do believe in a mermaid, after all they are girls of the sea and we might have just trained a few of them
Improving our air consumption is always on a scuba divers list of resolutions or things they want to improve on. So here are a few things to look at to help us improve our air consumption.
First how is your weighting? Are you over weighted and constantly using your inflator to maintain proper buoyancy? Maybe you are weighted properly but you are carrying all your weight in one spot and it is dragging you down? Dropping weight or moving it around to become more streamline in the water will help you and your air consumption. By being more streamlined in the water, we glide through the water column in a more efficient manner. If we are over weighted the body wants to have our head up and back arched some which drops our feet putting our body in a less than efficient position and increasing our air consumption as we are working harder than we should be.
Secondly, how is your fining? Are you racing around under water or are you gliding? A nice smooth fining motion with a straight leg is the best way to improve your air consumption. If you are racing around or using a kick that looks like you are riding a bicycle you are exerting more effort than necessary and working harder and increasing your air consumption. Scuba diving is being more like the tortoise than the hare. It isn’t a race, but a nice little stroll under water.
Finally, I know you read in your open water class to take long slow deep breathes. This encourages you to get a nice full breathe and a full exchange of air in the lungs. But what it does is get you thinking about breathing and you actually will increase your air consumption. What we really want you to do is just relax and breathe. If you have been in one of my classes you have heard me ask the question, “How long have you been breathing?” You know how to breathe so let’s relax, breathe and have fun.
Signing up for your Advanced Open Water or a Peak Performance Buoyancy class can help you decrease your air consumption and increase the amount of time you spend under the water.
Nitrox (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.
So 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