Scuba Obsessed – Episode 1 is edited and up

Episode 01 – The big introduction – Beta January

It seemed like we have been working on this forever. I am pleased how it came out. I know we can improve, but I have to say I am happy with the results.

Check it out here.

http://www.scubaobsessed.com/archives/620

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Missing Divers!

Missing Divers

Missing Divers

Even though I have only been a scuba diver for three years I have been a lover of the underwater world my whole life. I had always wanted to learn to dive, but with living a busy life it never seemed to fit in. There were other priorities that seemed to justifiably get in the way.  It was a tropical vacation to Mexico that rekindled the desire to learn to dive.  A gift of scuba lessons after returning is what finally got me my C-card.

Then like many scuba noobies I got my certification and promptly didn’t dive again for over another year.  Why? Why no diving? Honestly my dive buddy and I didn’t know where to dive.

We had a great open water dive in a stone quarry in Ohio. This location is just far enough away that it takes up most of a weekend to visit. Not someplace we could dive on a whim.  Other options were tropical vacations. They are awesome when you can scrape up the money to take them but they are not something that was going to happen very often either.  The last option (at least as I thought) was a weekly dive the local dive shop had. The problem with that was the weekly dives were done in the late afternoon the same day every week. The times were in conflict to those of us gainfully employed.

So over 16 months of no diving for me. No gear purchases, gear rentals or air refills. No stories I could share with the yet to be initiated about the undersea world. No planning for my next dive…

Take two happened earlier this year. My dive buddy and I decided that if we didn’t find a way to get in the water locally we wouldn’t get back into diving. To brush up our skills we signed up for an advanced open water certification. It was a good way to renew our skills and hopefully find a way to dive more than once every two years. We trekked back to the Midwest quarry and finished our series of dives to get our updated certification.

Lake Clean Up

Lake Clean Up

What next? We hunted for dives. There was a local eco dive a week later on a Saturday. It was something we could fit in. It was a beach dive at a youth camp. It was great! We did two tanks worth of diving and still had the rest of the day to spend with our families. Now this was the way it should be.

Still there was a problem.  No other dives… The local dive shop wasn’t doing regular local dives this year. Sure we could charter something a state or so away.  That put us back to taking up most of a weekend to go diving. There had to be a better way…. and there was. Dive local with a dive club!

Finding the local dive club was a challenge. Searching for dive clubs on the internet brought up 3 year old web sites with no updates. It makes you wonder if the club is active. Other clubs only had old posts on a message board with little information other than a contact email address. We finally found one that was meeting very close by. So close that their meetings were only 5 minutes from each of our homes. After an email we arrange to go to the next club meeting. This was the best thing we have done for our diving.

MUD Club Patch

MUD Club Patch

The club became an incredible resource. There are at least a dozen members that have been actively diving over 30 years each. Many of these club members dive at least 3 days a week.  Even when the weather turns rough it is rare for a week to go by without a club member doing a dive. They are eager to share their knowledge and fresh members just gave them a good excuse to dive all the old spots as if they were new again.   This was great! Since joining the club there hasn’t been a month that we haven’t dove.  All it takes is an open block of 4 hours and a phone call and we have a club dive going. The club also plans different events and at least once a month there is an official organized club dive. The best thing the club did for us is open our eyes to all the local diving possibilities. Every body of water in the area is now open to us thanks to the sage advice of our experienced club members.

So here is my next question. Why don’t local dive shops actively promote these ambassadors to diving? Are they afraid that I won’t buy their dive vacations if I dive local? Do they think these experts are going to bad mouth their business? Or is it that they believe with an independent source of diving knowledge we will buy all our gear online?  To me these are ring as conspiracy theories. I am willing to naively believe that they just don’t see the point in promoting the dive clubs.

I am convinced there is a vast underutilized pool of certified divers in the area that could be providing revenue to local dive shops and bring more divers into the sport. What percentage of divers here received their certification or worse yet just their book work here and only dive once every four years on a tropical vacation? I believe there has to be 9 missing divers for every 1 active local diver. I would love to see some real numbers.

As I help the dive club to promote I will be searching for these missing divers and trying to bring new participants into diving local.

MUD Club Website – http://mudclub.wordpress.com/ 

MUD Club Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=160373818789&ref=share

DIY Dive Flag and Float

DIY Dive Flag Rig

DIY Dive Flag Rig

After my river dive of a few weeks ago I realized I really needed to have my own dive flag. Sure I dove with my buddy Jim and he had a dive flag, but what made me want to get one was how great it was for reconnecting if we got separated. A quick pop to the surface and I knew exactly where he was. Yes, I am sure it is much better to not get separated, but with strong current and less than 6’ of visibility it is going to happen.

After looking at the commercial rigs other divers had I thought I could make one just as well myself. I like building and creating things. I get a great understanding of how they work and I can modify them to meet my specific needs. I expect before I am done I will have made several dive flag rigs. I wanted a small rig for river dives. It will mostly be use for marking my location and I want it to be a light tow. Now along with liking to have something that fits my specific needs I also like to be cheap. Any money I save just means I have more to buy air fills. 

I searched around to see what parts I had. I had a fiber glass electric fence post, some 1” blue Styrofoam insulation panels, bicycle inner tubes, hose clamps, a Christmas tree light storage reel and a variety of connecting hardware. I also had some white fabric for the flag.

Dive Flag
Dive Flag

The post looked a little short but was still taller than some of the other dive flags I have seen, so I was sure I could make that work. I didn’t have any suitable cord or rope so I would need to buy that. After a discussion with my wife we decided that the cost of red fabric would probably cost more than a flag from the dive store. This gave me the perfect excuse to make a run down there.

The dive shop had a variety of dive flags and rigs. I briefly considered just buying a complete setup from them, but by the time I added everything up it would be about $60. I knew I could do better. They had a nice dive flag with a wire reinformcement for under $10. They also had a spool and a reel for about $13. Since I already had a reel I decided I could get rope cheaper at another store.

OK I breafly tought about going to Wal-Mart and getting the rope, but this day was “Black Friday” and a 90 minute wait in checkout lines to save $2 on rope wasn’t that appealing to me. Yes I am cheap, but not a masochist. I decided the farm store between the dive shop and the big box retailer was my best bet for a quick visit.

5 1/2' fiberglass rod

5 1/2' fiberglass rod

I found 100’ of rope for about $8. As I walked the isles I found a 6’ orange fiberglass rod used to marking the ends of driveways. I liked this much better than the electric fence post I had so that was another $6 onto the project. I looked around for something heavy to use as a weight for the rig, but my cheapness got the better of me and I left with my two goodies. I headed for home to assemble my parts before my dives the next day.

Empty Pastic Spool with Foam

Empty Pastic Spool with Foam

The flag and the rod went together very easily. It was as if they were designed for each other. I put the reflect end down since if I slid it into the flag it would be hidden anyway. Next was the floatation part. I had originally thought I could use foam pool noodles, but I couldn’t find any. I think the dogs and decided they made good chew toys or maybe it was the cats for scratching post, but either way there wasn’t any to be found. The blue Styrofoam sheet would float but they needed to be stacked or combined. I had thought about just gluing them together and strapping that to the pole, but it just seemed sloppy. I would also be relying on glue to hold everything together or a mess of strapping. I had an empty plastic wire spool. It was just a little wider than 3 sheets of foam. I figured I could use that as a protective form. My only concerns were holding it together and would it have enough buoyancy with the plastic spool attached.

Rope

Rope

I traced the outline of the spool onto the foam panels. I measured the center point and drove a nail trough it to my bench to use as a pivot point. I had a rotary cutting tool I held in place and spun the foam on the nail. In no time I had three good circles. I then cut out the centers so they would fit around the center of the spools. I then cut the foam “donuts” in half. I used some tile adhesive I had laying around and glue the foam around the spool and to each other. Then I read the instructions on the adhesive bottle “allow drying 48 hours before getting wet”. Well that wasn’t going to work for tomorrows dive. To keep everything together I used existing holds on each side of the spools to zip tie the foam in place. I drilled a hold off center on the newly foamed spool to run the rod through. The existing hold in the center of the spool was too large to easily run and secure the rod to. I pipe clam on each side of the spool on the rod would be perfect for attaching it. I held off on securing it until I finished by plan with the rope.

Completed Pre-test Setup

Completed Pre-test Setup

I had 100’ of rope. I think that is really more than I needed but it is easy enough to shorten it later on. I cut a short 4’ section of rope to attach to a quick release snap on one end and tied off the other to the spool. The rest I wrapped on the spool with about 8’ to run through the float. I fed the ends through the pipe clamps around the rod and back through the pipe clamp. I had an extra pipe clam at the bottom of the rod I ran the end of the rope through. I then put a double snap on this end of the rope to attach a weight too. I had a variety of heavy objects that I would add until I had the right mix.

First hot tub test

First hot tub test


Second hot tub test

Second hot tub test

Next it was time for a test. The hot tub seemed the perfect location to test it out. As I expected without any weight it just flopped over. Even with a couple of extra snaps attached it still wasn’t heavy enough to stand upright. I had to add a steal hook with 4 links of heavy chain to get it upright. The good news was foam was enough to float the rig. The bad news is I didn’t really like how far the hook was hanging down. This would be ok for a lake dive but for a dive starting from shore or in shallow parts of a river I was having my doubts. I didn’t like the idea that the hook would be dangling and dragging, but I figure a real life test was the only way to know for sure.

12 hours later the flag got its first test. We dove in a fast move river. I never got deeper than 10’ and most of the dive was around 5’. The flag looked fine, but was close to 45 degrees most of the dive. The hook as I expected did get caught on anything it could snag along the bottom. The second dive of the day was must deeper and the current was slower. I unfortunately for most of the dive didn’t have enough line out and wondered why it was such a drag to pull behind me. With less than 5’ of vis I didn’t realize I needed to let out a little more line. An extra 5’ did the trick. Like before coming in and out of the water the hook would snag.

Completed Dive Flag

Completed Dive Flag

So what was my verdict? I think it was a success. I am going to replace the oversize steel hook with some sort of lead weight attached to the end of the flag. I will still keep a double end snap handing below. I like the idea I can attach something to it if I need to. I plan to get a truck inner tube with a basket in the middle that I could attach the flag to when I do ecology dives. That will give me a spot to store some finds. Overall I think this was $20 well spent.

Underwater GPS

Navimate™ - © 2009 Shb Instruments, Inc.

Navimate™ - © 2009 Shb Instruments, Inc.

With the visibility of the water we frequently dive in it would be nice to have GPS underwater like most smart phones are capable of on dry land. If Shb Instrument’s Navimate™ sees the light of day underwater GPS could be a reality.

Navimate consists of a wrist mounted device that communicates to a surface based GPS gateway.  It lets you know what your longitude and latitude are and places it on a map that is displayed on the device. It will also display the locations of your dive buddies provide they are wearing one of the units and are within 100 yards of your location.

I am exciting about the possibilities. I see many useful scenarios for this device as well as making diving just a bit safer. I am hopeful that this device or others offering similar functionality will be available soon.  Shb is saying initial units will be available in the May/June 2010 timeframe.

Wrist units will retail for US$700 and the GPS gateway for US$300. I am guess as part of their initial marketing effort GPS gateways will be free to shops, clubs or other organizations that purchase a minimum number of the wrist units and will also be placing the gateways on selected dive boats at no cost. Instructor discounts for Navimate™ will also be available.

I have to credit Shb Instruments with publishing the price of the device. As with many items technology based I will hear about the product, get a fuzzy late quarter X release date with pricing TBD.  I am holding out hope that this is more than vaporware.

Shb Instrument’s Navimate™ – Website – http://navimate.shbinstruments.com/

Navimate™ Press Release – October 15, 2009 – http://www.shbinstruments.com/Navimate/press.html

Navimate™ FAQ – http://www.shbinstruments.com/Navimate/FAQ.html

Cold Water Wetsuit Scuba Diving Tips

If you live in Michigan and you scuba dive local you are going to run into some cold water. When my non-diving friends ask if it is cold I tell them even in the summer 60 feet down in a quarry is going to be around 40 degrees. Yep cold…. not cold enough to keep me from diving. The real difference now is as the snow starts to fly all the water is cold, the air is cold and that just makes for cold. No moving above the thermocline to warm up.

So until the time I spring for a dry suit I need to do all I can to keep warm diving this time of the year.  The old… errr… more experienced Mudder divers in my dive club have offered up the following tips for cold water wet suit diving. (My dive buddy Jim actually gets credit for extracting these nuggets of wisdom)

  1. wear a good fitting 7mm full wet suit with hood, gloves and boots. (this seems obvious, but still needs to be said)
  2. wear a T-shirt under your wetsuit to help hold a bit more water/insulation between your skin and wetsuit (I don’t believe the water actually insulates. You want to limit water movement so you don’t lose heat as quick)
  3. wear latex gloves under your regular thick gloves to minimize water contact on your skin
  4. bring a thermos of hot water to prime your gloves and wetsuit prior to entry

Jim did #1, #2 and #4 two weeks ago and said he was very comfortable through his entire dive a couple of weeks ago.

Now there has to be more good tips than these. I searched the internet and didn’t find a lot new. I did find a few pointers from a variety of sources.

Before the dive

  • avoid drinking alcohol and drinks containing caffeine.
  • get plenty of rest and that you are adequately hydrated.
  • stay warm before the dive, heat loss can start to occur many hours before the actual dive.
  • wear a hat during the hours running up to the dive.
  • when possible stay indoors for the hours running up to the dive.
  • drink plenty of hot drinks before diving.
  • keep as dry as possible.

During the dive

  •  if you consider adding a “core warmer”, try both layers together to make sure you have a good fit
  • neoprene socks greatly reduce water flow
  • avoid unnecessary movements (don’t flail your arms)
  • fin slowly
  • don’t pee… it might feel warmer but, just like sweating, it’ll cool your body temperature
  • 5mm lobster claw mitts are warmer than 5mm gloves
  • neoprene compresses at depth…deeper will not only be colder but will feel colder

After the dive

  • Keep moving.
  • Stay out of the wind.
  • wear gloves and a hat as soon as you come out of the water.
  • Dry yourself off and put on some warm clothing.
  • Drink plenty of warm drinks.

Even more important than comfort is safety. Make sure you have a regulator that is designed for cold water use. If you regulator is not up to the task it can freeze up and free flow. One tip I have heard of is sliding down the hose stress relievers away from your first stage. These stress relievers stop the critical water movement around the regulator that will reduce the chance it will freeze up.

I am going to try all these steps in my next dive and will report back how they worked. I am diving in a location I did a couple of months ago so I am familiar with the site and the water temps we had back then.  I am hoping these tips work. Brrrrr..

If you have some tips please tweet me or leave a comment here! I would love to hear them. Has anyone tried Sodium Acetate Heat Packs?

Cold water / Ice diving references

Here is a book on ice diving. This could be what my January diving is going to be. http://bit.ly/1S6yPc

Diving in icy water and the equipment necessary http://bit.ly/420Nv2

Diving wet when it is cold http://bit.ly/22geFi This is a very good article!

Scuba Board cold water wet suit diving thread – http://bit.ly/VaF0U

An exert from the US Navy Dive Manual – Ice and Cold Water Diving – http://bit.ly/3XC2rs

Cold water images by Kawika Cheltron – http://www.coldwaterimages.com/Nothing to do with my topic other than name and they are very cool photos

A sad story of a cold water dive with a dry suit gone bad – http://bit.ly/2xKytH