Sunday, December 29, 2013

Diving in the Working Opportunities

Happy Sunday!

I have been gathering my gear in preparation for my trip to Curacao in January, and it got me thinking about all the great people I have met on dive trips; the 70 year old guy who digs up wooly mammoths in Alberta, the trauma surgeon with hundreds of stories, the nuclear engineer working for NOAA, to name a few.   In fact, meeting new and interesting people are one thing I really look forward to when traveling. Well, I got an email from one of our former students that tops my encounters.

Some of you may remember Sarah Barrett who dove with us this past summer.  She came to us as an open water diver looking to advance to dive instructor and work in the dive industry.  She took Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver courses with us and then spent the rest of the summer racking up dives so she could start her Divemaster course. At the end of the summer, she moved down to Florida and started her training.  She sends Mike and me periodic updates and we are very interested to hear of her progress. She shared with us that she had earned her divemaster and was already hard at work to become an instructor, but she also shared an encounter that is bound to set her life on end!

While practicing skills with the other instructor candidates, she realized that the woman who is working with her class and going for IDC staff was none other than Christina Zenato.  Christina is known the world over for her work to protect the cave systems on Grand Bahama Island, but for most of us, she is known as the “shark whisperer.”  She helps scientist to take DNA samples and collect data by putting the shark into a state called, “tonic immobility,” a trance-like state.  She also does this with sharks so she can rid them of fishing hooks and parasites.

Sarah a wasted no time in introducing herself to this woman: her idol. She shared her desire to work with Ms. Zenato, and Christina, no doubt impressed with Sarah, has agreed to help her get the necessary visas to allow her to work in the Bahamas. This chance encounter is leading to a chance of a lifetime for our young friend.  We are so excited for her! Before any of this can happen, of course, Sarah has to complete her instructor training and earn her Master Scuba Diver Trainer rating, so, “Get to your studies, Sarah!” 

I guess one never knows to what other adventures diving travels may lead, but one thing is certain, it will never be boring!

You can check out Christina's diving here.  Until next time, cheers.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Pebble Cast Into a Pond Creates Ever Expanding Ripples

Recently I heard a radio show in which the hosts were talking about how an event or activity can change the course of one’s future.  By extension, these changes also impact one’s family and circle of friends. It got me thinking about how scuba diving has affected me and my family.

It all started with a family vacation to the Bahamas. Our son, then 9yrs.old, was interested in marine biology and the ocean, so we thought the Bahamas would be a great spot to expose him to the ocean in a much more intimate way.  We purchased snorkeling gear and took a short class to learn how to use it all before we left. Arriving at Stuart Cove’s Dive Shop in South Ocean Bahamas, we signed up for a couple of boat snorkeling trips. One of the spots we snorkeled was the remnants of the airplane prop from the James Bond movie, Thunderball.  When we got to the wreck, the certified divers dropped down before we got into the water to snorkel. The whole time I was in the water I watched the divers exploring the wreck and knew that that is where I wanted to be. 
As soon as we got back home, I was looking into diving lessons.

Lisa and I were certified the following October in time for a trip to Aruba for the production awards for the company that I was working for. Though our first ocean dive was somewhat terrifying, it was wonderful as well. The first thing Lisa said to me after we surfaced from that first dive was, “We have to get the boys into this”.  I signed Dylan and Boomer up for classes as soon as Boomer was old enough to be certified. The boys were certified on their first dive trip to Bayman Bay Club in Honduras.  Little did I know that that trip would be beginning of our sons’ training for international travel.

We were fortunate enough to be able to take the boys on several dive trips throughout their teen years. By the time they went off to college both of our boys seasoned travelers.  I think that it also opened the door to other adventures.  When our older son, Dylan married Dominique, we of course pushed for her to learn to dive. She had no problem with that as she is adventurous as Dylan, so we taught her to dive one summer that they were home.  They were living in Taiwan at the time, and with the couple now both certified, they took the opportunity to dive in the Philippines and Thailand as well as the Sea south of Taiwan. They also traveled to Cambodia and Viet Nam. Our younger boy, Boomer, has also headed out to other adventures and travel. His career as a geologist takes him to some very remote and beautiful locations in the US and Canada. He spent 10 months on Admiralty Island in Alaska, where, unfortunately, he never got the chance to dive during crabbing season.

Diving in Cayman Brac with family and new friends
As for Lisa and I, diving turned to a passion that led to becoming Instructors, having a dive shop and of course more dive travel, expanding our destination list to many local diving venues we had never hear of. Who knew a trip to the Bahamas would set into motion the events that would influence all of our lives? It has for you too because you just read this blog.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Six Things: Non-diving Stuff to Bring

When packing for a dive trip, I tend to really stress over my gear: Is everything is functioning? Are the weight pockets are in place? Do I have all the retractors and clips I need, etc.  The diving, of course is my focus, but I also do not want to forget the non-diving items that are essential to the enjoyment of the trip.  Here are my top six non-diving items to add to your checklist for a dive trip.

Number 1
Lip Balm, preferably one with sunscreen:  Anyone who knows me will smirk at this suggestion since they know that I am almost unable to go out to get the paper without chapstick, however, even those who do not share my addiction need chapstick on a dive trip.  Breathing dry air through one’s mouth coupled with wind and sun on the tender tissues of the lips can make for some ugly blistering and serious discomfort.

Number 2
Meclizine:  This is an over the counter medication to prevent sea sickness.  This should always be on a dive trip because even if you do not usually experience sea sickness, if the water is rough enough, you will run the risk of experiencing this terrible scourge.   Meclizine should be taken an hour before boarding the boat in order to be effective.  If you’ve never used this medication before, it is a good idea to try it before your trip to see how it affects you. (In fact, any new medication should be tried at home before taking it on vacation.) Tiredness, a common side effect of meclizine, may be mitigated by taking half the dose.  For many, this decrease does not prevent the medicine from doing the trick.

Number 3
Jolly Ranchers (Team Manta’s favorite) or other individually wrapped hard candy:  After a dive, it is nice to get the saliva going and get the salt taste out of your mouth.  Hard candies work well for this.  You want to have the individually wrapped candies so they do not get soaked when everyone is grabbing their favorite flavor.  (Be careful not to toss the wrapper in the water, though!) I put an aliquot of the candies in a Ziplock box so I don’t have to take the whole bag on the boat each day.

Number 4
Hand held scale:  Even if your stuff was under 50lbs. when you traveled to your destination, and you did your best to dry everything before repacking it for the journey home, it may weigh slightly more at the end of your trip. Weigh your packed luggage prior to departing for the airport so you can avoid having to redistribute your stuff while in line at the airport, or worse face an “overweight” charge.

Number 5
ID/Credit Card case on a lanyard: You will doubtless want to bring some cash or a credit card for incidental purchases, but you will not want to have your entire wallet or purse with you.  Get a small, waterproof case that can be worn around your neck while touring around, or walking the beach.  This is a good place for your room key as well.  Most of these are not adequate for diving depths, but if you are strictly diving from a boat, it should be safe tucked in your drybag while you are underwater.  If you are shore diving, get a container that is rated to be waterproof at dive depths.  These are a bit more expensive, but what will it cost you if you lose those items?

Number 6
Spare glasses/sunglasses: This is especially important if you have a fairly strong prescription.  Stuff happens and glasses can be misplaced, or destroyed by carelessness, so if you do not want to walk around the island for a week wearing your scuba mask, it is a good idea to bring a spare pair of glasses.

Are these on your list of non-diving essentials?  Can you think of any items I forgot?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Going Up

It’s 50 minutes into Sandy’s dive and she is noodling around under the boat, snapping shots of corals, macro creatures and her fellow divers.  Checking her pressure gauge, Sandy sees it’s time to go up.  Sandy cannot wait to share her dive experience with everyone on the boat during the surface interval, and before she knows it, she’s at the surface.  The mistake here is that Sandy stopped diving before she got out of the water.  Just as important to the safety of a dive as gear, buoyancy, and attention to gauges is the ascent, and sadly, many divers never give it a thought.

At the end of the dive, the first thing that should happen is that the diver communicates with his dive buddy.  Compare gauges for NDL and tank pressure.  Even though you dived together, it is always possible for one member of a buddy team to require more deco/safety stop time than the other.  Air allowing, buddy teams should ascend and make those stops together.  This is important so each person has nearby help if an emergency should occur.

After agreeing to make the ascent, dump a little air from your BC. This allows proactive control of the ascent, allowing more time to respond to increased buoyancy due to expanding air.  Remember that you want to remain neutral or a little negative throughout your ascent to make sure you do not blow through your safety stop at 15 ft.  While 30ft./min is generally recommended as the rate for safe ascents, it is preferred, if you have one, to allow your computer to guide you.  As you ascend, keep a hand on your dump cord and a hand on your gauges.

Be aware of what is overhead and around you.  Nothing spoils a dive experience like doing a header into the bottom of the boat, coming up underneath another diver, or passing through a swarm of stinging jellies.  Again, control of the rate of your ascent along with attention to your surroundings, will go far to help avoid mishaps.

Once the safety stop depth is reached, make yourself neutral and relax.  You are still diving, so look around! Many times bigger animals vacate dive sites when groups of divers are around, but return when the divers are on their safety stops.  The safety stop has gone from optional to a routine part of a dive.  The usual safety stop, three minutes in length, allows the diver’s blood to circulate through his body three times.  This is important because it is easier to exhale the gas than to deal with it once it forms a bubble.  The small amount of pressure at 15ft. is enough to keep the nitrogen in circulation so it can be safely exchanged for oxygen in the lungs.

At the end of your safety stop, again check that your buddy is ready to make the final ascent to the surface.  Ascend close to the boat, but not under it or the swim ladder. If other divers are on the swim ladder, get over to the current line so you will not be pushed away from the boat by surface current. Inflate your BC so you can float comfortably and switch to your snorkel. When it is your turn to exit the water, get yourself over to the boat, but again, never directly below a diver climbing the boat ladder! To make sure that you are not separated from the boat, hold onto a line or the rung of the swim ladder when taking off your fins. Lengthen the straps and hang them on your wrists, or hand them up to a boat crew member, then make your way up the ladder.

 If your exit point is at the shore, swim in to a depth a little over your waist.  Remove your fins, enlisting your buddy’s help to stabilize you in the surf. If there are big waves, it is a good idea to keep your regulator in your mouth, so if you are knocked down, you are not in danger of drowning before you can make yourself upright again.

In a novel, the middle part is the most memorable, but without the set up in the beginning and the conclusion tying up all the details in the end, it will never make a best seller. Dives are like that.  A diver must pay attention to all the parts of the dive; descent, exploration and ascent to make the experience a great one.

SIDE NOTE:  Tis the season for gifts and giving and Manta Divers has just thing for that scuba divers on your list.  During the months of December, we a number of great deals so stop on into the shop and check them out.  What if the people on your list don't dive?  Perhaps your could sign them up for a class!  What better gift could you give than the world of scuba?  It is the gift that keeps on giving.