The breeze rustles through the palm trees as you store your gear on the boat and get everything ready for today’s dive. Once in the water you have the feeling of almost being weightless as you glide effortlessly and gracefully through the warm tropical salt water.
As you enter the open-top Sea Cave you start to watch three playful Hawaiian Monk Seals swimming overhead. As they watch you they become curious, and finally venture down from the surface to investigate.
For what seems like hours the playful seals gracefully glide past, seemingly performing an underwater ballet with you. They rub their whiskers on you to investigate you almost like a dog sniffing you. They stare inquisitively at you only inches away, cocking their heads from side to side. From time to time sipping off of the air bubbles released from your scuba system so that they can stay down longer with you. You then realize that you are one of the fortunate few that will ever have the opportunity to swim with or even see the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals this close in person.
Scuba diving is an experience like no other. Once you become comfortable underwater, you start to feel at one with nature. On a Drift Dive, the feeling of floating where the sea takes you underwater is like no other, it is one of the most free feelings I have ever experienced.
Unfortunately living in Hawaii everyday you start to take it all for granted. You begin to just think of it as just another day like any other. You no longer notice the breeze as it gently drifts through the palms, or the slight salt mist in the air. You no longer appreciate the gentle tropical flower scents all around you.
I have lived in Hawaii for the past eleven years, and I do not know when this transformation happened to me. I did not even realize that it had happened until I started scuba diving this year. The more I dive the more I start to take notice of things again, like a veil is being lifted off of my senses. I start to appreciate again that yes, I truly do live in Paradise.
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.
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Since I recently purchased a new BCD which is a back inflate style instead of the jacket style that I had been using up to this point I decided that this would be a good time to take the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialist course to help me dial in my weighting and buoyancy with the new equipment.
I worked with David, my instructor from Island Divers Hawaii and with some tips from him we were able to really zoom in on my ballast weight. We were able to drop 4 pounds off of my weighting which made a huge difference in being able to move easily underwater. I felt a lot lighter and more fluid as I moved now, and with the extra weight being off of me I barely had to add any air at all to my BCD which kept me more streamlined with the bladder tighter against my back.
I had heard that this was an important specialty to take, but until actually doing it I had no idea how much of a difference what I learned in the class would actually make.
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.
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Today a dive buddy of mine asked me why I am writing this blog about my diving activities. I teach food safety through the Hawaii Foodservice Academy, I teach First Aid, CPR, & Prehospital Emergency Care courses through Oahu CPR TRaining, and I still take time to dive and write a blog about my diving.
I thought about it for a moment, and the answer just jumped right out at me.
If someone out there who has been through a traumatic event in their past that has scarred them and changed how they live their lives happens to read this blog and is encouraged to overcome their fears and take back control of their lives like I am, then they are why I am doing it.
I let my fears control my life for 25 years before I decided to use SCUBA diving to overcome them. Since I started diving back in January my whole life has changed for the better. Now thats not saying that my fears are not still there, believe me they are there, but I do not let them control me anymore. I am now in control for a change, and it feels great!
If I can help just one person to overcome their fears through diving, it will be worth it.
The majority of my diving is done from boats, so I decided to add the PADI Boat Diver Specialty as my next course which I completed today.
Shore diving seems too much like work fighting the surf, then a long surface swim just to get out to where you want to dive. Diving is supposed to be fun not work, so I rarely shore dive at all.
The boat diver specialty is good for someone who doesn’t dive from a boat very often. It teaches boat diving basics, proper entry and exit techniques, boat safety, etc.
Here in Hawaii we do a lot of Drift Diving because the currents are so strong in many areas that it is the best option for seeing a large area underwater quickly. You just enjoy the view as you float along with the current.
Since we do so much drift diving here I decided to make Drift Diver my next PADI specialty, which I completed today.
Today I completed the Deep Diver Specialty course and I have several other specialties and classes that I have already scheduled over the next couple of weeks.
My fears are still alive and well and it is still a challenge to overcome them with each dive, but I am not giving up.
I decided to become certified in SCUBA diving through PADI and after confined water training and 4 open water dives obtained my Open Water Diver certification today.
It was difficult working through my fears of not being able to breath throughout the course, butI trusted the instructors and set my mind to it that I was going to complete this course and overcome my fears.
I havent quite overcome them yet, but I am not allowing them to control me any longer.