Friday, July 20, 2007

Caribbean Dive Sites

Ryan Turner wrote:
Hi Ken,

I'm going to be booking my excursions here sometime over the next week or
so, so if you have any suggestions on the best
spot to go, please let me
know cause I don't want to miss out on a good dive opportunity. We're going
to Nassau Bahamas, St Thomas and St Maarten. Thanks a lot.

Hey Ryan,

Nassau has several good spots, one place I know that does a good job
is Stuart's Cove. They are the biggest shop; and are known for their
shark dives (a little controversial because they will feed sharks.
They can be a bit of a cattle-boat dive operation with up to 20 divers
on a boat. Contact info:
Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas S-1875
South, West Bay Street
PO Box CB 13137
Ph.: (800) 879-9832
Fax: (242) 362-5568
Another choice is Nassau Scuba Center, they are more of a Mom and Pop shop with smaller groups. They also do the shark dives, but there have been reports that their rental gear is a little dated and worn out. If you don't mind the group size Stuart's is probably the better choice. In St. Thomas Blue Island Divers has a decent reputation. St. Thomas has a bunch of good wrecks, and many of them are in OW depths so you shouldn't have any problems with finding dive trips from the ship that work. Blue Island Divers Suite 505, Crown Bay Marina Sub Base, St Thomas, 00802 United States Virgin Islands ++1-866-scuba-VI ++1-866-728-2284 In Saint Maarten there are several good reports for Dive Safaris. They cater in diving with the cruise ships, and are known for taking good care of new divers. Their contact info is:

Dive Safaris in Philipsburg
Phone: 011-599-542-9001
Fax: 011-599-542-8983

Dive Safaris in Simpson Bay

Phone: 011-599-545-2401
Fax: 011-599-545-2429

Hope this helps, Ken

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's so Technical about Tec Diving?

Tec Diving, DIR, GUE, Hogarthian, Cave Diving, Wreck Diving, CCR, Open Circut Twins.... The list of terms goes on.
So how does Tec Diving differ from "recreational diving? The simple explanation is that technical diving is that diving world that lives beyond the standard recreational world we learned about in our Open Water Course. It often includes depths beyond the recreational standard limits of 130 feet; or dive times that require decompression stops. Essentially, if you couldn't do a CESA (Controlled Emergency Surface Accent) without harming yourself you are entering in to the area of tec.
So, what's the "tech" part of the sport? Well, the technical aspects come into play when you consider that without the opportunity to "humm" yourself to the surface if things went bad you need to have a plan, gear, skills and experience to get home ok. Let's look at each of those to see how the tech gets into the label.

  • Dive Plan In the Open Water course you learned how to use a set of dive tables to calculate your nitrogen loading, surface interval and maximum NDL (No Decompression Limits). In Tec Diving, you not only calculate your nitrogen loading; but your gas usage and needs, alternate gas switches and any decompression stops if necessary. Plus, a set of plans if you happen to go too long or have to go too deep.

  • Tec Gear In recreational diving we get by with a dive that if we forgot something; or a piece of equipment failed we would just end our dive an go home... with technical diving we may not have that option. So the gear and configuration of that gear needs to provide life support even if we had something really bad happen like blowing a high-pressure hose at depth.

  • Dive Skills This and experience are probably the most overlooked and dangerous elements of technical diving. You can go buy a set of twins. You can plan to dive to 185 feet. You can stay down there for 20 minutes...But, if something was to happen would you instinctively know what to do. Remember, you'll be narc'd, scared and flustered. That's why most good Tec Classes are intensive and expensive. If you want to get Cave Certified; it's a week long course and they will screw with you. Period. Too many dead cave divers.

  • Experience So you take a tec course, get certified to dive to 165' now what. You should build experience and keep the skills fresh.

Alright, so is Tec Diving for everyone? Absolutely not. But it is the way to safely dive beyond 130'. It is the way to have a 45 minute dive at 90' in Truk on the wrecks. It is the way to venture into gin-clear caves. And it is the way to venture into wrecks and see how the inside of a shipwreck looks. I would argue that it's the only way to do those things.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

UW Photo Class Notes

Awesome dives today with Bandito Charters on the Ocean Quest. Captitan Gorge' Potts took the four of us (Aaron, Jesse and Michael) off to two of the best spots for Underwater Photography; Pt. Defiance North Wall and Zee's Reef.

Michael and Jesse were trying out their new skills learned in the pool; like white balance, composition, lighting techniques and learning how to avoid the dreaded back-scatter. The first dive to the wall we set out to use natural light, and adjust the white balance to get more color in the shots. I followed suit with my Cannon D30 and Ikelite housing. I took along a new toy this dive to see if the hype was worth the money. I added a Green Magic Filter. Magic Filters are designed and made by Dr Alex Mustard. Photographers have been using the filters in blue water for a couple of years with great results. The new filter for green water just came out so I wanted to try it. The photos above were taken in natural light, the shot of Aaron was taken at 60' in the Pacific Northwest. You can see the red tint of the filter in the light from his Light Cannon, but the detail and color in the rest of the photo is great. The kelp shot was taken at 30' without resetting the white balance; but it provides a neat mood. I would recommend the filters, and plan to show students how to use them in my next UW Photo class.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pretty Cool Video Sites

Don't know if any of you've ever seen this video site before, but it's got a great interface. I think most of the videos are pulled off of YouTube, but the search parameters are scuba specific; plus you just have to define your tags and you get the shots. The site is called the Scuba Channel I linked in a video of a Wolf Eel that's pretty good. It reminds me of a dive Tony and I did down at Sunrise where the eel wouldn't leave Tony alone. I've had them cuddle around for a snack; but these guys are getting all-kinds of friendly.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ultimate Drysuit Drying Rack

Some of you that have been out to my garage have seen my drying rack; others may have heard about it. The problem started when I got tired of smelling like an old pair of gym sneakers after each dive. With my DUI the crushed neoprene stocking foot anytime I get a little wetness in the feet it never seems to dry. So Aaron and I did some research, a lot of R&D and came up with a great system. It's made entirely of PVC, so there's nothing to rust.

There's a place for the boots, my hood, each glove, and the drysuit hangs upside down so everything drys fast. Each terminal point has vent holes and the best part is I have a small fan that I can attach to the bottom and it forces air throughout the suit and it dries the toes. The arms go around another pipe so they get dry, and with the wheels, I wheel it off to a corner of the garage for drying. I can actually get all of my dive gear onto the rack including BC, Fins, Reg etc.

Underwater Digital Photography Class

Michael at the Seattle Underwater Sports store was nice enough to gather a few students for an Underwater Digital Photography Course on July 14th and 15th. We'll spend a little time in the pool Saturday farting around with gear, making sure stuff doesn't flood, and how to keep it all dry. Then on Sunday the 15th it's a two-tank dive with Rick on Bandito Charters to go take photos. The cost will be $150 plus $80 for the dive charter. There's two spots still open if you're interested. I think this is one of the most under-rated classes for divers. I can't tell you how many times I've seen divers on vacation trying to learn how their cameras work; let alone how they should work underwater. Essentially there are 3 areas where most underwater photographers go wrong:
  1. Composition: How many times can you take a shot looking down at the bottom, seeing a fish's head and expect that to be interesting? Usually you see a mass of coral or sand with very little pop.
  2. Lighting: We loose all reds in as little as 10 feet, without a little help with a strobe or filter the subject matter gets all green or blue and becomes uninteresting. Or we use the internal flash of our camera and all of a sudden there appears an underwater snow storm.
  3. White Balance: Now this is a real technical term for camera geeks; but it's a way that even the lay photographer can adjust for underwater light and get decent shots without learning a ton of Photoshop techniques.
I'll spend some time in a future blog on this subject suffice to say that with a little practice you can have a positive effect on all of your underwater shots.

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