Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stories from the Repair Bench

Picture #1
It’s always sad when divers bring me gear that can’t be fixed or repaired, not because it got to be too old but because of improper care.  It’s also expensive. Take the diver whose dive computer gave up the ghost prematurely.  It didn’t have to happen. After close examination it was obvious that the diver’s air integrated computer with quick release  had not been properly rinsed after diving. ( see picture 1) Note the salt build up on the threads, O-ring and the bayonet quick release. It was obvious that without proper rinsing the salt dried the O-ring allowing salt and moisture to get into the computer.  End of computer.  You should always thoroughly rinse your gear at the end of every dive day. If you have done repetitive dive over many days it’s always a good idea to soak your gear overnight after washing it with recommended shampoos. This is true in fresh or salt water. While the aforementioned computer was the victim of salt water , fresh water can be just as harmful. Improperly rinsing in fresh water grows harmful bacteria. Check out picture #2. This diver regularly “Dipped” his regulator after diving to rinse it. That green stuff in and around the mouthpiece is mold. I didn’t take pictures of the interior but they were just as bad. It could have been avoided by flushing the inside of the regulator with clean water.
Picture #2

There are a lot of divers out there doing their best to keep repair technicians busy.  I was recently talking to another technician from the Chicago area and we were both sharing equipment horror stories. At one point he got out a box of little baggies containing things that they had found in regulators over the years. There was sand, gravel, hair, shells and plant to name a few. The best was the regulator that a diver brought with the complaint that it that tasted funny. No matter what tank he put it on the air had a horrible taste. My friend held up the baggie t contained the cause of the bad taste. It was a frog the got up into the regulator and after passing on dried to the inside of the regulator box. GROSS!  Remember, take care of your gear and above all, rinse all frogs out of it!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fighting the Invaders

Well, never let it be said that Manta Divers does not come up with some really different activities for divers. If you follow the blog at all, you will recall that yesterday was our day for picking weeds underwater.  We did and it was a wonderful day.

We left the shop at 7AM and headed out to Troy, WI and the Nature Conservancy’s area on Lake Lulu.  While we were setting up our gear, Mike and Southeastern Wisconsin Land Steward, Jerry Ziegler, set the dive flags to mark off the area where we would be working to carefully remove invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil (EWM). 

With the dive flags set and our scuba kits assembled, we boarded the pontoon boat and headed out.  Surface support included Jerry, Mike, Kathryn and Jerry’s intern, Elizabeth.  Their job was to keep an eye on the divers, look for any stray EWM, exchange full collection bags for empty ones, and make sure that boaters obeyed the law and stayed 100ft from our dive flags.
Photo by Kathryn Elliott
Meanwhile, underwater, Sheryl, Chris, Brandon, Ken, Tater and I were diving in teams with one person carrying a mesh collection bag, and the other diver picking milfoil.  We were to find the offending plants and carefully pull them out, trying to get the roots as well as the rest of the plant. When we had our mesh bag full, we called for Elizabeth and she paddled out in the canoe to take our full bag and give us a fresh one to fill. 
At first, it was slow going, with only occasional small plants being found. I thought to myself, ”Wow, they really are winning this battle!” I was wrong, though, because as we continued to sweep the lake bottom, we were coming across large patches of the plant.  When we found the patches, both divers would pick, roll the long branches up in a bundle and place it in the bag.  You can guess what happened as soon as we started to pull up the plants.  Good thing for us, we would pick as long as we could, then move to another, clearer spot, pick there and then return to the previous spot.  Usually, the sediment cleared up enough that once again, we could see more plants to pick and our buddy.

Meeting the other dive teams at the surface, we would excitedly state that we “found the mother lode” and show off our bags.  We all enjoyed finding the big patches and clearing out so much milfoil. Jerry was really impressed with the amount of weeds we removed, and was so excited to have volunteers with our skills.  We were able to remove so much more than the snorkelers he has had help in the past because we could stay down for 30-40 minutes at a crack.
Photo by Kathryn Elliott
We dove for a couple of hours then broke for lunch, Mike cooking brats and hot dogs, and the rest of us sharing fruit, chips and other snacks.  Fortified and rested, we then swapped our tanks for fresh ones and hit the water again. 

It was a great day, fun and productive.  The only negative thing was a run in with some boaters who did not know that they were to stay 100ft from our flags and who, when informed of the law, expressed great displeasure that we had the audacity to take their spot in the lake.  The irony, of course is that we would not be doing this clean up if it weren’t for then I the first place.  They bring their boats through the river channel into Lake Lulu from another lake that has a EWM problem so severe that they have to use chemicals to control it. The EWM gets wound around their props and when they reverse them in Lake Lulu, the plants are deposited in the water where they float to the bottom, root themselves and start a new patch.
Photo by Kathryn Elliott

There are self-absorbed idiots everywhere, but fortunately, there are more people who are on board with trying to stem the spread of these invaders, who participate in these clean-ups and have fun doing it! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Neal Skrenes: Six things to know about Dive & Travel Insurance

Neal Skrenes
After a recent event that caused the cancellation of a dive trip three years in the planning, Mike and Lisa asked me to write about my experience with dive and travel insurance. So here are six things I think you should know about dive and travel insurance.

1. Be aware that Dive Medical Insurance and Travel Insurance are not the same thing, and that many Health Insurance Policies may not cover diving-related injuries or expenses.

I am a firm believer in Diving Medical Insurance and have been a member of DAN¹s Master/Premium diver policy since I first became aware of them in 1988. Other divers belong to other programs; having coverage is more important than which program you choose.

Something that not even all DAN members know, or understand, is that basic DAN insurance IS NOT TRAVEL INSURANCE, per se.

While it¹s true that DAN membership also includes a form of travel interruption and cancellation insurance, in order for DAN¹s medical evacuation policy to take effect, you must be ill enough to require evacuation to make a claim. DAN trip cancellation coverage only covers the DIVING-RELATED portion of your trip.

For example, if you booked a flight/room/diving trip to Bonaire and come down with a cold or ear infection, only your dive trips on the boat would be covered by DAN . . . because, according to DAN, you can still sit on the beach with a cold.

2. All dive accident policies require care to be first prescribed by a medical professional, documented in an itemized bill, reported to the insurer in a timely manner and other important details. You¹ll need to follow your policy rules to ensure coverage, not always an easy task in remote areas.  Sick as I was, I knew I¹d need proof that I had seen a doctor or visited an emergency room, so I asked for and obtained copies of the doctor¹s notes and the bill for services and medications. I also planned to see my own doctor as soon as I arrived home.

I think the main thing that confuses some divers about DAN is that the trip cancellation/interruption insurance included with DAN Preferred is that it applies only to diving-related cancellations:

"This benefit pays for the losses described below that an Insured Person incurs for a trip canceled up to the time and date of departure for a Sickness or Injury that would substantially impair his or her ability to dive. "

But it's not general-purpose travel insurance; it doesn't do anything for you if a hurricane wipes out your trip, someone dies, there are travel delays, lost baggage, etc.

3. As I began traveling to exotic destinations, I realized I needed coverage over my trip costs. Fortunately, DAN also realized this and offers "travel insurance² packages through its website.

Note that cancellation insurance must often be purchased and paid for within a specified number of days from the date that the trip¹s first deposit is due to be paid.

4. You aren't likely to need trip cancellation insurance if you're just getting into the car and driving 50 miles to the beach (or quarry). However, if you¹re planning a major dive trip that requires paying out a good deal of money and flight time, it¹s something to consider and I hope my advice is helpful.

5. What Good Travel Insurance Covers:
Cancellation - You become ill and need to cancel your trip
Missed Departure - A road traffic accident or some other delay causes you to miss your flight
Vacation Abandonment - Airport strikes cause you to abandon your trip altogether. (Cancellation is the one of the more common reasons people claim on their travel insurance policy); In my opinion, it's bad enough not being able to go on your trip, without the added blow of losing the money that you've shelled out, too.
Medical Expenses - You need to go to hospital, this can be very expensive should you need surgery. Medical expenses can be incredibly high in foreign countries; this is perhaps the most important reason for buying travel insurance, and consequently is the most claimed against. Do no underestimate how expensive medical bills can be!
Baggage - Your bags get lost or delayed in transit and you need to purchase new clothes to wear
Curtailment - There's an emergency at home and you need to go home, cutting your trip short

6. Points to Consider When Buying Coverage:
A common mistake is leaving travel insurance until the last
Minute. The best time to purchase your policy is as soon as you have booked and paid for your holiday. By doing so, you¹re saving money should you need to cancel your trip or if a strike is announced that disrupts your travel plans and you need to make alternative arrangements.

Lost Equipment Coverage generally covers only diving equipment that is worn on the diver's person that is "cut loose" and is lost or damaged as a result of a Covered Diving Accident.  For full coverage of lost diving equipment you should have separate sports gear coverage added to your home or renters insurance policy.

In my case I was glad to have purchased both DAN Medical Insurance and DAN Travel Insurance - though I missed out on some long anticipated diving I received adequate compensation so that I did not lose most of my non-refundable trip expenses.