Tag Archives: Diving

Tips To Help You Conserve Air

Today we are going to look at some tips that could help you control your air consumption. Making your air last as long as you possibly can is important in scuba diving.

Having more air means longer dive times, it can also mean the difference between life and death if a diver were to become entangled while underwater.

  1. Get In Shape – If a diver is overweight or out of shape, they are naturally going to consume more air than a diver that is fit and trim. The more streamlined you are the easier it will be for you to move through the water using less effort.
  2. Relax & Breath Slowly – Relaxing while diving is one of the most important aspects of air conservation. Take slow, seep, re;axing breaths. The natural tendency is to breath much faster than when on land due to stress and the anxiety of being under water. This translates into faster air consumption and shorter dive times. Breath normally, as on land in a slow relaxed pace.
  3. Don’t Use Your Hands – Waving your hands around to move and control your position causes your body to use a lot of oxygen. The muscles in your arms a much smaller than those in your legs and consequently if you use them to maintain position and move around with they need a lot more oxygen than the muscles in your legs do. Learn to swim with your arms at your side to stay as streamlined as possible and let those big leg muscles do the work for you.
  4. Slow Down – Scuba diving is not a race or a competitive sport. Learn to slow down and make your movements graceful and relaxed.
  5. Buoyancy Control – One of the biggest things that new diver can work on that will help them to conserve air is their buoyancy control. Staying neutrally buoyant throughout the entire dive not only protects the fragile underwater environment, but it saves energy and air. Being neutrally buoyant keeps divers from accidentally bumping into delicate coral which can take hundreds of years to grow and become established. If bumped and a piece breaks off, it can take up to ten tears for every inch of regrowth. When a diver is neutrally buoyant they are able to stop finning and remain motionless off of the bottom. If they are negatively buoyant they will sink to the bottom if they stop finning and if they are positively buoyant they will rise up. Getting buoyancy and ballast weighting correct will do wonders for a divers air consumption.
  6. Watch Your Weight – We already discussed your body weight, now we are talking about the extra weights that you will be putting into your BCD or weight belt. The heavier the diver is the more air they will have to add in their BCD’s to compensate to achieve neutral buoyancy. Think of your BCD like a big balloon strapped onto your back. As a balloon is inflated it gets bigger, and the bigger something is the harder it is to move through the water. This is because it is less hydrodynamic and streamlined and causes a lot of resistance when being moved through the water. The more streamlined an object is the less resistance it causes, and the easier it glides through the water. You need air in your BCD to compensate for your ballast weight to achieve neutral buoyancy, but by being weighted too heavy you will need more air. The heavier you are the more air you will need to compensate. I recommend taking a class like the Buoyancy Specialty offered by PADI. This class was one of the best classes that I have taken since I started diving. I learned so much in such a short amount of time about buoyancy control that I was immediately able to drop eight pounds from my weights just in the class. I have dropped an additional four pounds since the class by remembering what I was taught in the class. This immediately made me feel lighter and more graceful and made moving easier through the water which translated into less air consumption and longer and more enjoyable dives.
  7. Trim Down – We already discussed the need for being streamlined in the water and how it saves your air consumption, this also applies to your gear. Strap all of your gear as close to your body as possible, or secure it in your BCD pockets. This will do a lot for making you more hydrodynamic which will make it easier to swim through the water with less resistance. As for equipment, if you don’t need it for the dive you are on, don’t carry it with you.
  8. Dive, Dive, Dive – Air conservation comes naturally with the more comfortable you are in the water and the best way to get more comfortable in the water is to dive. The more often you dive the more comfortable you will become and the less anxiety you will feel when diving. This translates to using less air and having more enjoyable dives.

Product Review – Sea-Doo Explorer X

I have been using my Sea-Doo Explorer X DPV’s for several months now and thought that it was about time for me to write a review on them to let everyone know what experience I have had with them. I wanted to wait until I had a chance to really test them out under various conditions before writing a review.

When I first received the Explorer X DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) I was skeptical as to how it would actually perform on a dive, especially the battery life. Sea-Doo claims that the batteries have a 2-hour runtime, so just in case I ordered a spare battery with mine.

I was also a little nervous after reading other reviews complaining about the seals not holding and the units flooding. Sea-Doo had apparently completely redesigned the rear end of the Explorer X and driveshaft seals to take care of this problem by incorporating a new three-stage waterproof seal.

I charged the batteries up overnight and prepped the DPV for its first voyage below the surface the next day by carefully inspecting it and installing its o-ring seal which I carefully lubricated with the supplied lubricant. Once the batteries were fully charged I installed the first one and ran a few tests on the scooters on/off switches and finger triggers to make sure that everything was working correctly. Everything appeared to be working correctly so I loaded the unit up for the days dives.

To start testing the Explorer X out I decided to do several boat dives with it, so that incase there was a problem with it I would not be stranded out in the middle of nowhere and have to swim back to shore dragging it behind me. For the next three months I dove with the Explorer X on just about every boat dive that I could as long as I wasn’t doing a training dive that would not allow its use.

I very quickly became a huge fan of the Explorer X. On land with its battery installed it only weighs 32 pounds, about the same as an empty 80cf aluminum scuba tank however in the water it is neutrally buoyant. Its hydrodynamic design allows it to glide through the water with ease and it has the strength to pull 2 divers along for the ride at up to 3.3 MPH.

Most recreational DPV’s in the same price range as the Explorer X (around $700) are very limited in the depths that they can be safely taken down to, many not even able to reach the 100 foot mark. That is one area where the newly redesigned Explorer X shines. It is depth rated to 130 feet (40 meters), and is tested to 160 feet (50 meters). I have had mine down to 125 feet so far with absolutely no troubles whatsoever.

As I mentioned earlier, I was wary of the two-hour battery runtime claimed by Sea-Doo, so I ordered a spare battery for my Explorer X yet I have never run the battery completely empty. I have used it continuously for a 90 minute dive at top speed circling the dive boat (for safety) and I ran out of air before the battery ran out of power. As a safety precaution though, I always change out batteries when I change out my cylinders on my surface interval.

Routine maintenance on the Explorer X is simple to perform. After the days dive’s I thoroughly rinse the DPV in fresh water allowing it to sit submerged for a few minutes to remove any salt deposits. I also start up the DPV while holding it in the water and let it work any salt from the driveshaft and propeller. Then I let it dry off completely before opening it up to take out the battery to recharge. While the battery is out of the unit I carefully inspect the o-ring around the battery compartment to make sure sand or other debris are not on the seal. I also make sure that there is plenty of lubricant on the o-ring before I drop in a freshly charged battery and seal it back up.

I love with the Explorer X so much that I now own two of them and have used them to show other divers how enjoyable they are when we dive together. A couple of the divers that I have allowed to use mine have loved them so much that they have now ordered their own. I actually dread shore diving without one now, thinking about how I will have to fight against currents, or make long surface swims to get out to a dive site. The Explorer X has become an invaluable tool in my dive trailer.

My Product Rating: 

Product Review – Aqua Lung Nautilus

Dive safety requires the use of a snorkel, and PADI requires every diver to have one in all of their classes.

One drawback to a snorkel is that it causes drag in the water which can be annoying, and also cause your mask to leak. This is why many divers choose not to wear one while diving.

Aqua Lung has introduced a compact folding version of the snorkel that rolls up and stores inside a seashell shaped plastic case that can be attached to your BCD.

The snorkel is deployed only when it is needed, thereby eliminating the unnecessary drag and mask leak problems.

I decided to try one of these snorkels out for myself because I hate wearing a snorkel, especially when I am using my DPV because of the extreme drag that it causes. Every time I try to use my DPV while wearing a snorkel my mask leaks severely which makes me take it off. thereby eliminating its intended safety function.

 The Nautilus is attached to one of my BCD d-rings and is out of the way until it is needed. Then I can simply pull it out of its housing and attach the snorkel to my mask strap when I am on the surface. No more drag while underwater.

The only drawbacks that I have found to the Nautilus is that it is not a dry snorkel nor does it have a purge valve. If you are used to using a dry snorkel like I am, be very careful as you breath with this snorkel as there is nothing to prevent a wave from entering and flooding the snorkel. It also requires two hands to snap the snorkel keeper around the mask strap to secure it.

My Product Rating: 

Another Air Source

I decided to make a change to my dive gear setup. Today I installed the Oceanic Air Xs 2 Alternate Inflator onto my Oceanic Excursion 2 BCD.

The Air Xs 2 combines both the low pressure inflator for the BCD and the alternate air source regulator into one streamlined unit.

When using the Air Xs 2 in an Out of Air (OOA) emergency instead of donating my octopus regulator to the out of air diver I would instead donate my primary second stage regulator which I now have on a 7 foot hose going across the front of my body and wrapped around my neck “tech-style”. I would then switch over to the Air Xs 2 as my regulator to surface with.

I am also considering the possibility of leaving the octopus installed along with the Air Xs 2, which would give me a total of 3 second stage regulators. If I were in a situation where two divers were out of air, I would donate my primary and my octopus to them, and use my Air Xs 2 to surface with.

I know the chances of running into this extreme situation where two divers would be out of air at the same time would be rare, but there is always the remote chance. I have seen a couple times where a pair of dive buddies had just enough air to make it back up to the surface. If something were to happen which delayed their ascent by just a few minutes, they would not have had enough reserve air to make it back up to the surface.

I know that we are all trained to not dive like that, and to always ascend leaving plenty of air left in your tank for the ascent, safety stops, and emergencies, but let’s face it, it doesn’t always happen like that.

Especially here in Hawaii with all of the tourists that we have diving here. Sometimes it seems like they think that since they paid for the tank of air, and they are going to get their moneys worth out of it. They seem to push the limits more than local divers do, I suppose because they are trying to cram as much as they can of their vacations into the few days that they are on the islands.

On shallow dives I already carry a 3 cf Spare Air system strapped to my BCD under my arm, and on deep dives I switch it out to a 40 cf Pony Tank system, both of which give me a completely separate air source if something were to happen to my primary. On my 40 cf system, I also have 2 second stage regulators installed on it instead of just one. So in all, on deep dives I would have a total of 5 regulators and two separate air sources in an emergency. I would rather have too much equipment in an emergency than not have enough when it is needed.

I haven’t yet decided on keeping the octopus regulator attached to my rig or removing it. I guess I will try keeping it there for a while and see how it goes, and if I don’t like it I can always take it off later.

Solo Diving Hypocrisy

For about the past month I have been interested in Solo Diving and attempting to find more information on it. Every PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) instructor that I have spoken with about my interest in it say the same things, “solo diving is dangerous and should never be done” or “PADI does not allow solo diving“, or my favorite “as a certified PADI professional I will pretend I did not hear that“, yet PADI themselves offers a Distinctive Specialty for this exact same thing. They just named theirs the PADI Self-Reliant Diver Distinctive Specialty which is taught at many PADI dive shops around the world.

So that makes me start thinking, if solo diving is so taboo and dangerous and you should never do it, then why does PADI have a Distinctive Specialty teaching you to do what they say you should never so in the first place?

There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy concerning solo diving when it comes to PADI. So I started looking outside of PADI for information on solo diving and I discovered that Scuba Diving International (SDI) teaches a course on solo diving, and guess what, they were even bold enough to name it a Solo Diving Course.

Solo diving is no more dangerous than any other form of recreational diving. It needs to be done correctly, and with the proper equipment and training, just as any other form of recreational diving needs to be. Even diving incident statistics for the past decade do not show that solo diving is more dangerous than any other form of recreational diving.

I am not saying that “Buddy Diving” is bad, or that there is anything wrong with it, but I have been paired up with a “dive buddy” on a boat dive that I have never met before, have no idea what kind of a diver he or she is, and have no idea of how competent they would be in an emergency situation.

I do know that from past experiences I do not allow myself to rely on my “dive buddy” in an emergency. I rely on myself, my training, and the equipment that I carry with me on every single dive, including a completely redundant air supply. If I am going on shallow dives I always carry a 3cf Spare Air system, and if I am going on deep dives I carry a 30cf pony bottle with separate regulator and gauge. I also always dive with a spare mask in my BCD pocket, just in case something happens to mine on a dive.

As soon as I am able to I plan on taking the SDI Solo Diver Course. One of the prerequisites for the course are a minimum of 100 logged dives, which I will be able to complete in about a month or so, I am already at 72 logged dives.

Below is a very good video that was recorded at the London International Dive Show in April of 2012.

I believe that instead of making everyone believe that solo diving is taboo and dangerous, we should teach the correct ways to solo dive, and the proper equipment that needs to be used for a solo dive. Its like a police officer giving you a ticket for speeding, then the same officer speeds when not on an emergency call. Its complete hypocrisy, and that is one thing that could make new divers leery and untrusting of diving associations and what they say and teach, and question other things that are taught to them for safety.

Wreck Diver Specialty

Since there are so many wrecks to dive in Hawaii I decided to add the Wreck Diver Specialty to my list of certifications. Diving on a wreck and diving on a wreck properly without damaging it or injuring yourself are two different things so I wanted to learn the proper way of diving on a wreck so that I could make sure that I did not do anything to harm it for future divers.

The course required four wreck dives, each with various skills that need to be performed. The first wreck dive I completed in my Advanced Open Water certification course, so this left me with just 3 more dives that needed to be performed.

On the second wreck dive I had to map out the wreck so that i would have a map showing my penetration points for the last wreck dive when I will actually penetrate the wreck. I have no idea why, but this seemed difficult for me because I can not draw. I just was not able to easily draw it as I saw it. It took me a while to get it right, but the finished map was good according to Nate the instructor from Island Divers Hawaii.

On dive 3 we learn how to deploy and retrieve penetration lines by practicing on the outside of a wreck. We also need to show that we can swim along a penetration line without kicking up silt while holding a dive light.

On Dive 4, the final dive of the Wreck Diver Specialty we actually penetrate the wreck using a penetration line that I deploy to be able to relocate the entrance once we are inside. We also need to be able to swim through the wreck maintaining contact with the penetration line using a dive light without disturbing silt which would hinder visibility.

Unfortunately I was not able to complete dives 3 and 4 this past Friday when I had them scheduled because on Thursday I went to test out my new Trident 4.7 kayak and got sunburned very badly on my legs, so I had to reschedule the dives. On Friday morning the pain was so bad in my legs when I tried to stand, I am glad that I rescheduled the dives instead of trying to “grin and bear it”.

I will be completing dives 3 and 4 of this specialty on Thursday morning.

Product Review – Oceanic Excursion 2

Up until now I have been using the Oceanic OceanPro 1000D which is a jacket style BCD, primarily because it was on sale as a package at the local dive shop when I signed up for my Open Water certification however I have never really been happy with it.

The OceanPro 1000D did not fit me very well at all because I am in-between Large and Extra Large sizes. I assumed that I would be able to use the adjustable straps to make it fit better, however this turned out not to be the case. It always flopped around on me underwater and I had to constantly adjust it throughout the dive, so it was time for a change.

I checked into more expensive back plate style BCD’s that the other instructors were using, but I just could not afford to invest that much money into something that I had no experience with to know if it would work better for me or not. I finally decided on the Excursion 2, back inflate BCD from Oceanic which I was able to try on at Island Divers Hawaii’s brand new Scofield Barracks location and it fit me like a glove.

The Excursion is a back inflate which took some getting used to instead of inflating around my sides, but I found this actually more comfortable. When the BCD is fully inflated on the surface it does not feel like it is squeezing or suffocating me. On the first dive using the Excursion 2, my trim and buoyancy drastically improved and I was able to loose 4 pounds of my weights immediately.

I have been using the Excursion 2 for a week now and I absolutely love it. It has plenty of “D” rings positioned down both sides between the bladder and the vest, as well as more above and below the side pockets and on both shoulder straps. These are not the cheap plastic “D” rings that were on the OceanPro 1000D, these are sturdy stainless steel and are actually meant to be used instead of just being for looks.

The Excursion 2 also has mounting grommets on the side pockets to attach a Spinner Knife and two built-in trim weight pockets on the tank strap.

Because of my past experiences and fears, I always dive with a 3 cubic foot Spare Air alternate air source which can be difficult to mount to a jacket style BCD, but with the Excursion 2, I can mount it on the “D” rings going down the side and it tucks nicely right behind and under my arm, I don’t even notice that it’s there and have to reach back every once in a while to make sure it’s still with me. It feels so comfortable there and does not affect my trim at all. It is almost like it was meant to be attached to this BCD in that location.

With the Excursion 2 BCD I now have the option of diving with a single tank mounted onto my back, or side mounted tanks with the built-in “D” rings on the sides if I decide to pursue that PADI specialty. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate an instructor in Hawaii that offers that course as of yet, but I am still looking.

Overall, for the price, I think this is one of the best equipment upgrade decisions I have made. I love the new Excursion 2 from Oceanic.

My Product Rating: 

Kayak Diving

I have been wanting to try something new that I have not had a chance to try yet, diving from a kayak. I have seen a couple people from a distance while onshore or onboard the dive boat that were diving from a kayak and I just met someone in a CPR class that I taught whose husband is really into kayak diving and is getting others involved in it.

I have a Pelican Castaway 116 DLX kayak like the one shown to the right that was designed for fishing that I bought a few years ago that has just been sitting in the garage collecting dust. I thought I would look more into kayak diving and what is needed in a kayak to see if mine would work for diving or if I would have to buy a new one. Mine has a large rear cargo deck with bungee tie-downs already installed, and a closed cargo well underneath the bow deck. There is also an additional dry storage area directly behind the seat back for smaller items that need to be kept dry.

After doing a lot of research on the subject online and talking to other people that dive from kayaks I was fortunate to find out that the kayak I have meets most of the diving “necessities” already in its factory form. I just needed to make a few minor additions like  a mounting for a dive flag, some additional attachment points for equipment tethers, an anchor, current buoy with at least 200′ of line, etc.

Unfortunately this dark green kayak is not the most desirable color for kayak diving as bright colors are more desirable to make them more visible, but the design and layout of the kayak is workable for single-tank diving with room for one aluminum 80 onboard.

I have attached a 42″ flag pole to the bow of the kayak that can be laid down flat or removed when not needed that has both the standard red and white U.S. version of the dive flag attached to it as well as the blue and white international version since we have so many tourists from all over the world here in Hawaii. It also has a light on top that can be seen for 2 miles for better visibility for night diving.

Technically the red and white “Diver Down” version is for protection of the diver by requiring other vessels to stay 300′ away from the flag and the blue and white “Alpha” flag is for protection of the boat meaning to stay clear that it can not be maneuvered normally to get out of another vessels way to avoid a collision. Even though I am only required in Hawaii to fly the red and white version under state law, I choose to fly both of them for safety.

Over the next few weeks I will be making additional modifications and additions to it while I test it out and get used to using it as a dive platform. I will try to keep you up-to-date on what I find out, and my progress as I delve into a new adventure in the world of kayak diving.

Product Review – Nautilus Lifeline

My local dive shop has been recommending the new Nautilus Lifeline divers emergency radio since I started diving with them back in January, so I decided to try it out.

The Lifeline is a self-contained marine VHF radio enclosed in its own watertight case that is capable of being taken down to a depth of 425 feet. It was designed with the recreational diver in mind, but it is so well designed that it can go way beyond the recreational diving limits.

When the diver surfaces, he can open the case, extend the antenna and speak via marine VHF radio to his dive buddy, or the boat. In an emergency he can also use channel 16 to speak with all vessels that are nearby.

But what if the diver still can’t find anyone nearby? He can also activate the “Distress Mode” which sends out a signal with the divers GPS location and an emergency message to every vessel and Coast Guard station within a 4,000 square mile area of the diver for up to 24-hours. It even activates a flashing light in case it’s too dark for the diver to be easily seen.

The Nautilus Lifeline displays the divers exact GPS location as well as other information on the built-in LCD display screen. Besides in an emergency, this is also a good tool to have around for pinpointing that awesome new dive site that you just happened to stumble upon. Now you can see exactly what the GPS location of the dive site is, and even upload it to Google Maps with the computer software provided.

With all the horror stories out there about divers getting left behind by their dive boat by mistake, or divers becoming lost at sea, the peace of mind that this little unit can bring is priceless.

I believe that every diver should have a Nautilus Lifeline with them on every dive. You never know when an accident or emergency is going to happen on a dive. As my mother always told me when I was growing up, “Better to be safe, then sorry”.

This little unit has now become part of my permanent dive gear. I will not dive without one again!

To find out more information, or to purchase the Nautilus Lifeline, check with your local dive shop or visit http://www.nautiluslifeline.com to find a dealer near you.

Product Review: The Nautilus Lifeline Marine Rescue Radio from Backscatter on Vimeo.

My Product Rating: 

Dive 53

Date: April 8, 2013       Dive Shop:  Dive Oahu, Honolulu, HI.

Location: Kaiser Reef,  Oahu, Hawaii

Dive Type: Boat    Environ: Ocean / Salt   Conditions: Surge & Mild Current

Visibility: 40-60′      Air Temp:   84       Bottom Temp:  75      Weight:  18lbs.

Time In:  13:09    Time Out:  13:45

Depth:  39′       Time:   :36        Safety Stop: 15′  3min

Start PSI: 2792    End PSI: 1897      Air/EANx:  34%

Exposure Protection: 5-Mil Full Wetsuit, Hood, Boots, Gloves

Equipment: Spare Air, DPV

Notes:

First dive of Diver Propulsion Vehicle Specialty course. Went over required DPV skills while doing a tour of Kaiser Reef. Saw a White Tipped Reef Shark sleeping under a coral ledge, a couple large moray eels and a few small ones. First time diving this location, I like it a lot for a shallow dive. Great location to run the DPV’s.

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