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Another Reason to Learn to Dive March 23, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies.
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Great story about a diver in Japan http://badassoftheweek.com/akaiwa.html

I should add that this story is undoubtedly embellished for dramatic effect, and contains language that would draw an Parental Guidance rating if it were a movie.


SDI Comes to Town March 17, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Equipment, Technical Diving, Training.
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The owner of our LDS has some SDI and TDI instructor certifications, but has been 99.87% PADI for years. He also has some IANTD certifications, but as I wrote long ago I started the IANTD Advanced Nitrox Course, but switched over to PADI Tec Deep mid way through. All my certs except Open Water Diver are PADI, although I did the SDI Solo Diver course but the card is lost in process somewhere.

Today (writing this on March 5, publishing later) Steve Moore from SDI/TDI gave the instructors and some other pro staff a presentation on their courses and standards, and also showed us some of the products he represents from Edge and Hog, which are recreational and technical product lines respectively. These products are aggressively priced and may be a signal of greater competition in the dive industry.

Edge and Hog Wares on Display

Throughout the presentation Steve gave dive shop pricing, but even taking that into consideration the costs were low. A lot of the gear was styled along the same lines as the Apeks equipment that I use, but parts are not interchangeable. The Hog (technical) regulators were similar to the ATX50, although they also had an end port which is handy for us dry suit divers. I use the Tek 3 these days which has all ports between the valves on the doubles and pointing downward so I don’t have to have a weird routing of the dry-suit hose.

He then started the introduction to SDI/TDI. This started with the announcement that Doug Arnberg was no longer the Eastern Canada Regional Manager. No explanation was given. I imagine I’ll hear the story sooner or later.

Pitching SDI/TDI in a PADI Shop

So here as some of the things I heard that make SDI/TDI different from PADI.

  1. In general, fees and materials cost less. This is why Steve was here in the first place. The problem for instructors though is that we are unlikely to give up our PADI memberships so we’ll end up paying for both.
  2. Open Water courses are computer based. All divers have to have a computer, which means the shop has to have them available for rent. The instructors would like them integrated into the console to cut down on losses. That may not happen.
  3. Training curriculum is similar (emphasis on RSTC standards) but is less rigid than PADI.
  4. Except for Open Water training, more than 3 training dives are allowed per student per day, as long as the dive profiles are reasonable. As many training dives occur in quite shallow water, this is quite reasonable and gives greater flexibility to the instructor. Mind you, students will get really tired after the 3rd dive.
  5. Instructor certifications don’t require Instructor Examinations by the agency.

In the end, the decision will come down to the specifics of deal.

I'm Listening, but Still Not Convinced

Cozumel 2011 Day 9 – Tormentos Reef March 16, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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Feb 24, 2011 and my last dive of the trip. Tormentos is further North than most of my dives but South of San Juan and Cantarell where I had been the previous week. Pedro had asked us what we hadn’t seen yet. I didn’t mention Toadfish, although I’d thought about it, and was glad to see one finally on this final dive.

It was well hidden but I managed to get a decent close-up by dumping air from my BC and anchoring my fins on the bottom where it looked like I wouldn’t do any damage to the reef. Only its head was exposed. I love how you can see the transparent cover on the right eye.


Tormentos Reef - Cozumel Splendid Toadfish

Pedro found a tiny Pipefish that I didn’t photograph. It was probably about 7-8cm long. The most curious part of the dive was when Pedro and I were looking under a ledge, a fairly large fish, something like a Triggerfish, peeked under as well. Just recently I thought that he might have been trained to by divers spearing Lion Fish to pick up the pieces, because he followed us around for about 20 minutes, even after Pedro gave him a poke int the side. We saw a huge Black Grouper and a bunch of Stingrays near the end of the dive, and a Spotted Moray Eel. I saw a brittle Starfish for the first time there as well, but won’t embarrass myself by posting the picture with only half of it in the frame.

That's a Moray

The 5 minute safety stop was off the reef, and fish of various types were swimming around us eating invisible morsels. A few small jellyfish floated by. Stingrays on sand well below us swam around. One came up about half way to us before dive-bombing back to the bottom.

Reluctantly, after 63 minutes dive time, we climbed back on the boat. A fantastic end to a fantastic trip.



Cozumel 2011 Day 9 – Santa Rosa Wall March 15, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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This dive was moderately deep maxing at 89′ and had fairly tight and twisty swim-throughs.

Santa Rosa Wall - Spotted Drum

Cozumel 2011 Day 8 – Punta Tunich March 14, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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Dive two of the day was much closer to town, and today was typical where the further North you go the stronger the currents. It was a wonderful dive with lots of fish around, especially under ledges sheltered from the current. These were great to duck behind to stop and look at things and perhaps take a photo or two.

One ledge had hundreds of small fish called Glassy Sweepers, although I didn’t know that at the time. I asked Pedro when we got back on the boat and I thought he said “Glass Slipper”. As I was getting closer to them, a big black Grouper swam out – too close to get a good picture. I suppose he considered the school his personal lunch buffet. I think though, that the next picture was the best of the trip as it has a kind of dreamy quality. Must be the eyes.

Glassy Sweepers at Punta Tunch

At one point Christine thumbed the dive and gave a curious dog paddling signal, which turned out to be an indication of having trouble with the current. Pedro helped her get things under control. She didn’t have a lot of experience in strong currents and we went over some techniques after the dive like ducking behind ledges, dropping close to the reef, and streamlining.

We also saw one of the nicest groupings of the ubiquitous juvenile Spotted Drum with two larger ones and a smaller one in the background.


This Green Moray didn’t have its own hole to live in and had to make do in its crevice.

Cozumel 2011 Day 8 – Columbia Deep March 13, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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Feb 23, 2011. This dive has nice coral formations to drift by and swim-throughs, and there were just the three of us plus Pedro under water with Mago chasing on top. The high point in the dive, unsuitable for photography unfortunately, were two Nurse Sharks swimming around (most of them we see are sleeping). We also so the usual assortment of Turtles, big Grouper, and Lion Fish.

At 118′ this was the second deepest dive of the trip, and I had to decompress for a couple of minutes to make my computer happy, and took a 5 minute additional safety stop just because I like being in the water.

Columbia Deep - School Swimming Against Current


Deco Pastimes March 12, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Technical Diving.
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I’ve been cruising around other diving blogs a bit today and came across this one on Dave Harmon’s blog about using eBook readers underwater. Would this be useful on a decmpression stop? I’d say yes, but the technology to also carry a large touch screen tablet on a dive that requires a long deco stop would be hard to achieve. A case just for the much smaller iPod costs $324, but I think the real problem is having to store it and fiddle around with it on a technical dive, especially when decompressing in a current either drifting on a line or holding on to something. What might be cool is to have a deco kit hanging from the descent line to leave there for the return journey. Hopefully it would still be there when you got back.

In the St. Lawrence River, where some of my deco stops are hanging on to rocks (same in Tobermory on the Forest City wreck), my favourite pastime is feeding Zebra mussels to the Gobies. Once they figure out what you’re doing you can get a big crowd of them waiting to pounce. Nothing to assemble or carry, or get flooded and cost you big bucks. I know about this, I went snorkelling with my wife’s almost brand new iPod in the pocket of my swimming trunks. Ouch!

Thanks for asking David!

Cozumel 2011 Day 7 – Columbia Shallow March 11, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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I had marked this reef in my log book as one of my favourites. We had a shortened surface interval of 48 minutes as this dive maxes out at 30’. We didn’t go to the beach this time and simply tied of on a buoy about a half mile from the beach.  There were too many shallow reefs to attempt a landing. That arrangement was fine with me, but Christine asked the next day to land on the beach so she could sunbathe. Since I would end up in hospital if took in a lot of direct sun it didn’t matter to me.

It’s a nice thing that Blue XT Sea doesn’t mind long dives (even though Pedro always announces 60 minutes as the limit) as I was under for 75 minutes this time. There is lots of life on this reef, although I remember it being a bit less turbid the last time I visited it. Still, it’s a great dive and we saw several Yellow Stingrays, A Juvenile Spotted Drum, and several turtles. There were also lots of lobsters hiding under ledges.

Yellow Stingray - Columbia Shallow

Some things I didn’t see on any other dive including a Sand Diver (although I saw one when I was snorkeling of the beach at the hotel) and Flamingo Tongue Snails.

Sand Diver

Flamingo Tongue Snail

We also saw a decent sized Nurse Shark sleeping in a crevice. This one had a Remora (or something along those lines) snoozing along with it.

Nurse Shark

Cozumel 2011 Day 7 – Punta Sur March 10, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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We all agreed that this was a great dive. Pedro had asked me what I hadn’t done yet and on the Southwest side this was the only one not already in my log book. He explained that there were two sites at Punta Sur – Cathedral and Devil’s Throat. His dive light wasn’t working and he thought he’d need it for Devil’s Throat so he chose Cathedral. The swim throughs were excellent, and had considerable depth changes. Fortunately Pedro, Christine and Glenn (and me!) all had good buoyancy skills and we had an excellent time swimming through them.

Swim-through - Punta Sur Cathedral

We saw several Southern Stingrays, a Spotted Moray, a Turtle, Lobster and Crab, Lion Fish and Sea Cucumber. To top it off we observed a Spotted Eagle Ray on the deco stop of 5 minutes.

Crab in swim-through

Yes I want to do that one again!


Cozumel 2011 Day 6 – La Francesa March 9, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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As we were heading to the dive site Sheri was having trouble with her computer. It was stuck in navigation mode (it having a built-in compass) and she couldn’t get it back to dive mode. As it was air-integrated, that meant she had no submersible pressure gauge, leaving her unable to dive. Pedro tried for a minute but gave up as he had no experience with that kind of computer. He and Mago were busily pulling out the spare reg and trying to figure out if they could attach it to the “Air 2” style inflator hose, while I played with the computer. First I tried every button and nothing happened. Then I tried holding each one down for several seconds and still nothing happened. Finally I tried combinations of buttons and hit the jackpot when I pressed the left and right button at the same time. It popped back into the correct mode, they changed back to her own regulator, and we went for our dive.

This spot, the “French Lady” in English, also had lots of swim throughs but was shallower than Palancar Caves with a maximum depth of 74’. Most of these have considerably less marine life that the reefs that they penetrate, but this time we saw some lobsters and crabs hiding withing. A small Nurse Shark slept under a ledge and passed by a huge Green Moray which I didn’t photograph.

Sleeping Nurse Shark

Huge is hard to convey in photographs anyway without some reference object. I would have had a hard time convincing one of the other divers to hold his or her hand near its mouth to make for a better-scaled photo. We also saw lots of blue tangs around, far more than any other dive in Cozumel.

La Francesa has never been my favourite reef, but sometime I just go with the flow and let others decide where to dive.