Sunday, July 28, 2013

Manta Vlog: Ohio!

Hey everyone!

This week we have a special vlog for all of you. It is a follow to last week's installment.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Adventures

Hi Blog Buddies!
Whew! Busy week—what else is new? The highlight was, of course our first Team Manta road trip to Ohio. Tater, Josh.0, Artsea, Hottie, Batesy and PG rounded out the group for our 878 mile odyssey to explore Gilboa and Whitestar quarries in the Toledo area. 

The first diving day, we went to Whitestar, in Gibsonburg, a 15 acre manmade lake with an average depth of 40 ft. We got maps and talked logistics with Rich at the dive shack and got the lay of the land the night before, so we were ready for action on Saturday morning. We were pleasantly surprised to find a parking spot fairly close to one of the entries and we had plenty of room to set up our gear and make a nice “base of operation.” The divers in the area were very friendly and willing to give us hints to make the most of our dives. This is a wonderful place to get certified, with several suspended training platforms. The beauty of suspended platforms is that any sediment can fall through the cracks leaving nothing that can decrease the visibility for the students. Some of Whitestar’s attractions include numerous boats, a cop car, a swingset and silly things like the 7 dwarves, gnomes, and super heroes tucked in the rocks. With prior permission, advanced divers can dive through a tunnel, starting at 80ft to the bottom of the quarry at 50ft. The visibility was not that great, due to a series of storms , but still about 15ft.
The next two days we spent at Gilboa Quarry in Gilboa, OH. This spot knocked my socks off with the visibility! You could stand on the deck at one of the entry points and look down at the training platform at 20ft. In all, I think we had about 30ft vis! From where we entered, we could even see the tail end of the Grumman Gulf Stream turbo prop plane. Divers can swim right through this plane and check out the cockpit. Next to the plane is a Sikorsky helicopter, also open for swimming through. In a few fin kicks, there is a school bus. As we approached it, the resident trout become excited and start swarming, expecting to be fed. (Apparently you can purchase fish food and lots of divers like to create a fish frenzy by feeding these ravenous creatures!) This made for some really funny photos! There are also boats, cars, and a minivan to look at, all connected with rope, though with the visibility as good as it was, there was really no need for it. Like Whitestar, Glilboa had spacious suspended training platforms. I can imagine divers in training, waiting their turns to flood their masks, and looking out to see the bus, sailboat or microbus beaconing them, giving a glimpse of what is in store for them after their once their certification is earned! Mike, the owner of Gilboa allowed us to leave the trailer on site overnight, and even let us come in Monday morning to dive before the park was officially open. Monday we had the place to ourselves, and the vis was even better! There is a deep area in this quarry, too, but divers must submit a deep dive plan to dive it. We did a little tour along the wall and saw a paddlefish!
Photo by Sheryl Brandes

Photo by Sheryl Brandes
Without a doubt, we had a blast and plenty of laughs, the trip being the perfect “decompression” from crazy stuff at work, family stress and whatever aggravates us. One question we got from local divers was with all the places to dive in our area, why would we make the drive to Ohio? The simple answer is “because it’s there,” but it really is about trying something new, meeting some new people, and some quality time with friends.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Matt's Open Water Adventure

This week, we have a guest Blogger, Matt Wozniak.  Matt recently earned his open water certification and is now looking forward to some dives on the Great Barrier Reef.  I asked him to share his experience in Manta Divers’ open water course.
Matt, the diver!
What is it like going through the PADI Open Water Diver course and becoming a certified diver?

It was an adventure and a half. From reading the instruction manual to my final open water dive, I was enthralled.

After receiving my manual from the dive shop and a short drive home, I instantly started to read, take notes, and answer all the knowledge reviews in the manual. The reading which is a bit long is probably the most grueling art of the class because the diving isn’t actually tangible yet, but it has to be done. The knowledge you learn from the reading is indispensable and really helped me through the classroom as well as the water. Next came the classroom sessions where the other students and I reviewed what we read and took several quizzes and a final over the entire manual. All this classroom stuff sounded a bit frightening and overwhelming to me at first, but once in the dive shop, those feelings drifted away. The quizzes were not overly difficult, and during the class, I got to breathe through a regulator for the first time and put together a whole scuba unit by myself which allowed me to see the finish line, when I would be a certified diver.

The fun part. The DIVES. My first breath underwater is something I just cannot explain because I did something that the human body wasn’t meant to do, but, yet, there I was in a pool underwater and not drowning. I broke down a limit and discovered a whole new world. 

The confined dives in the pool are almost the same as a class, but it’s just underwater. We went over basic skills in this controlled environment to make sure we understood what we read and went over in class. One student would complete the skill then the next student would perform the same skill, and this went on until every student completed each skill. These dives are a rehearsal for the open water dives.
To Pearl Lake we go!
The open water dives are truly the highlight. My dives were in the pond next to the RecPlex and Pearl Lake. In these dives, you also have to complete similar skills to the one completed in the pool, but it is just so different. There’s sand, seaweed, and fish around you when you’re completing the skills. These dives are real so there’s a sense of danger almost, and I became really excited which elevated my breathing so much that I finished 3 tanks in 3 dives. However, while I was at depth, it was breath-taking. I swam past a couple of boats, an ice cream truck, and a submarine! I got into a staring contest with a fish; the fish won, but I was right in its face!

It’s just a totally different world underwater. And being able to stay down there for an extended period of time with scuba is something everyone has to try once. It is absolutely amazing and absolutely worth it.

Thanks Lisa and Mike for teaching me how to dive safely and how to really experience the underwater world.

Matt Wozniak

P.S. Always go to the bathroom before suiting up!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Six Things to lLook for When Planning a Dive Vacation

Of course, divers and non-divers alike will enjoy a Team Manta tropical vacation, with all the details already figured out and the promise of a fun group of divers to hang out with, but what if you are charged with planning your own trip?  Here are six things I think about when researching new destinations.

Number 1
How long will it take to get to destination? If you only have a week to get away from the job, relax and dive, dive, dive, then a destination that will require 2 or more days to reach may not be the best choice.  The need for a couple of days’ travel is understandable when you are traveling from here to, say, the Pacific, but less popular destinations, though they may be closer, may also take extra time to reach.  The airlines will make frequent trips to popular places like Cozumel or Grand Cayman, but the lesser traveled spots, such as Dominica usually will require an overnight somewhere along the way.  I am not saying to rule out these more remote destinations, because if they are hard to reach, they are likely more pristine, but you may want to wrangle a few more vacation days to make it worthwhile.

Number 2
What are the diving conditions? Just because you are headed south, don’t assume the water will be warm. Remember that ocean currents can bring cool water even to places with scorching temperatures on the land. When researching the water temperature, be sure to specify the month that you will be traveling to take into account the seasonal differences.   The water temperature, of course will impact your choice of exposure gear.  Find out if there will be current, whether it is generally a mild current, or if you will be doing drift dives.  If you are drift diving, do not leave home without a surface marker buoy and a whistle or some other device to signal a boat at the surface.  What is the visibility? Visibility can change with the season, and you may not want to take a trip to some distant location only to have the same visibility you can get at a local quarry.  Diver forums can be a helpful resource but the information can be a bit biased. In order to obtain the most reliable information about this stuff, contact a local dive shop in the location and ask the experts.

Number 3
Is it all inclusive? All inclusive packages are nice in that they remove the unknown of how much you will be spending on food.  The down side is that you lose some of the adventure of local dining and rubbing elbows with the locals.  All-inclusives are nice too if you plan to have an aggressive dive schedule that may not allow for long meal breaks.  On the other hand, if you, for example, you would like to only dive in the mornings and explore or relax in the afternoons, then a breakfast only or an all on your own package would be the ticket.

Number 4
Is there shore diving near the resort?  I love to shore dive and feel that availability of shore diving adds value to your dive package, but be sure to get particulars.  It really does you no good if the reef is far from shore or if the shore diving spots are on the other side of the island from your resort, unless, of course, you have a vehicle.  You may want to get information on the relative difficulty of entry and if there are local restrictions as to where or when you shore dive.

Number 5
Are there biting bugs?  The thing with warm, sunny destinations is that bugs like them as well as we do.  If the location has biting bugs, it is not a deal breaker, but you need to prepare.  It is good to know if they have no-see-ems, mosquitoes, or other biting insects so you can plan on delegating some of your luggage space (and weight) to bug spray.  If you are headed to a malarial area, you will definitely want to bring repellent with DEET, but if you are only worried about nuisance bugs, Avon’s Skin So Soft may be do the trick without the stinky smell.

Number 6
Where is the nearest chamber?  No one expects to have a dive accident, but it is prudent to locate the nearest recompression chamber and consider the difficulty and expense that may accompany a trip for treatment.  I really recommend DAN insurance for a fail-safe in case of an accident.  In some countries, you will not even get treatment unless you can come up with the cash to pay for it!  If the chamber is not close by, you may want to hedge your bets by planning your dives a little more conservatively.

These are a few of the things I consider when choosing a dive destination, and I’m sure there are more.  These six are a good start, though.  You need to figure out what your travel priorities are and ask the right questions of informed individuals.  Finally, do not forget that you may have to take into consideration the wants and needs of your traveling companions, especially if they are non-divers.  I hope this helps the next time you plan a dive trip!