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Climbing Back Up the Hill November 11, 2016

Posted by Chris Sullivan in CCR, Emergencies, Fitness and Nutrition.
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Until recently I did not dive enough. I started to forget how much I enjoyed it. In 2015 I only dived a couple of times, and I started to wonder whether I was going to give it up altogether. I also let my weight creep up to almost 190 pounds, putting me just in the “Overweight” category of the Body Mass Index (BMI). I wasn’t exercising. My clothes were too tight.

Fortunately I signed up for a Florida Keys wreck diving trip last April and had a great time. The experience renewed my resolve to get in shape and I then and there decided to bring my weight down below 180. I didn’t have to do a whole lot to make that happen. My diet rules were pretty simple.

  • Avoid bread – not completely but most of the time. I love bread, but now it is more of a treat than a compulsion.
  • Lunches were mostly vegetable smoothies or soup (without bread!). Later, I found a bean salad recipe that I really like, and if I’m at work and haven’t brought anything in I’ll get some take out Sushi or Sashimi.
  • Avoid overeating at any single meal. I can easily wolf down large quantities of pizza. Now I limit to 2 slices.
  • Avoid free food. In our society there are countless opportunities to consume excess calories, like someone bring doughnuts into the office or all-you-can-eat buffets. No longer.

These simple rules worked so well that my weight just kept dropping. By July I was in the mid 170’s, and I was slightly affronted when I attended my physical and my doctor said that my BMI was a bit on the high side at just under 24. Then came the opportunity to conduct a Wreck Diving course in August. That went quite well but I thought I was working too hard even though I’d been getting in better shape working in the garden all Summer. I had to do more exercise.

Meanwhile the weight kept going down. After a long weekend of diving doubles I decided I was going get a CCR (closed circuit rebreather) and felt that there would be a benefit in getting into better shape so I started a simple exercise program. It consists of walking an incline on a treadmill for 30 minutes or so every day, 20 minutes of stretching, and doing some crunches and push-ups every other day. I  walk outside instead of using transit or driving when there’s time. To increase cardiopulmonary capacity the incline will go up by 1% (about 1/2 a MET) each month, so by midsummer 2017 it will be at the treadmill’s maximum. I’m also managing my diet by consuming more protein through food or the addition of protein powder to make up the calories burned by the exercise.

Now I’m down to 160 pounds – way less than I’d planned. BMI is 22, close to the middle of the normal range. There’s still some fat around the midriff but further weight loss is not in the plans. For the next phase I’m going to stay at 160 and try to change body composition with exercise. Despite a normal BMI people call me thin. Is that because we’re used to seeing more overweight people these days, including me 6 months ago?

By staying on the diet the current weight is easy to maintain. If below 160, I add a glass of orange juice to breakfast. That’s worked so far but more might be needed. I’m not stressed about it and avoid fanaticism, but embrace discipline.

Like quitting smoking, the hardest part is deciding. Deciding is not the same as wishing or wanting. The rewards are many, with the greatest being the capacity to keep diving for years to come, greater overall health and better fitting clothes. The flip side is that diving provides much of the motivation to keep exercising – a virtuous circle about which I remind my wife often.

Lastly, I’d like to address a common comment that divers often get from their non-diving friends. It goes something along the lines of why would you do something that can kill you? Often we respond with something like “you can die just crossing the street, if we all thought like that we’d never leave our homes”. While I agree, there’s a more fortuitous response, which is more like “By diving, training to dive and staying in shape to dive, I’m actually increasing my chances for survival. I also hang out with people who are trained in lifesaving and like myself can maintain self-control in emergency situations.”


Diving in the News, Oct 27, 2012 October 27, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies, Fitness and Nutrition, Miscellany, Training.
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A La Jolla, California diver died in hospital after losing consciousness on a boat dive. It seems that everything that could have been done was done to save him. The cause appeared to be a medical problem, and the diver appeared to be over 40. From the news at least it seems that the most common cause of death among divers is medical problems with older divers. Fitness would clearly be a good thing, but so might better training and skills. Diving should be relaxing, not physically stressful. I’ve reported on fatalities in La Jolla before. A solo diver died there in September, and a man died on his first solo dive at 155′ a few years back.

Diving in the News, October 6th, 2012 October 6, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies.
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I’ve taught Search & Recovery as part of the PADI Advanced Diver Course. We couldn’t get a lot of interest in the full course from new divers. This search course at the San Diego Harbour Police looks challenging, and fun. I mentioned before that in the early eighties my NASDS course we lifted a car (a Vega, I think) in our advanced driver training. We’re a little less ambitious with today’s courses.

I didn’t know there was good diving in the French Riviera. If I win the lottery I’m definitely going to swing the yacht by every once in a while. I’d have to buy a ticket of course, which I never do.

It’s hard to glean the truth out of news stories, especially those about diving fatalities. This article describes the death of a diving instructor in Lake Mead, and says he ran out of air at 350′, with another short article saying he was diving a Hoover Dam relic. Diving on air at 350′ isn’t sensible (in both senses of the word), but the reporter seems to have got it wrong. He shared “air” up the ascent line and was separated from his “dive partner” and made a free ascent to the surface. From a little Google searching Xavier was an accomplished diver, and has been described as an technical dive instructor in this article, which also says that were separated when he attempted an emergency ascent – a small but critical difference in the description. The article quotes Jill Heinerth, who was associated with Xavier on the “We Are Water” campaign, which included this video. He was 48. A post on Scubaboard corrects the news reports to say he was diving on mixed gas.

Diving in the News, Sept 29, 2012 September 29, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies, Miscellany.
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OK I get it I think. The son of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, also called Eugene, is a diver. His project cleaned up trash from the L.A. River and made art about it. Good publicity and awareness I think but not my thing. Not that I’m not for cleaning up the bottom of our inland waterways, and not that getting public awareness is bad, and the sculpture they created is actually pretty good. So OK, I like it…. I guess.

Paris Hilton scuba dives. Lately in Maui according to Twitter. Perhaps I’ll run into her on a dive boat some time.

You can now go scuba diving in the virtual world with Google who have mapped the coral reefs in Google Earth, but c’mon now, get up off the couch and do something real, for Pete’s sake.

Speaking of Los Angeles, there were some more older diver deaths this week. A 59 year-old woman died near Anacapa Island, which is about 150km North West of Santa Catalina Island where I dove several years ago. Also reported was a 55 year-old ex-Mountie who died in Alberta. The accident may have begun with an equipment failure. A 45 year-old diver in La Jolla, California died. It seems he was diving alone. Another 45 year-old diver from Wichita Falls died diving in the Roi-Namur, in the Marshall Islands Kwajalein Atoll.

A 35 year-old Oregon woman drowned after surfacing from a dive, only 50 feet from shore. She was out of air, but on the surface. We all have two options that don’t require air. One is to drop the weight belt, and the other is to orally inflate the buoyancy compensator. Maybe more training is needed on these skills. OK if you’re a tech diver you generally can’t drop a weight belt, but then again you shouldn’t run out of air, either.

I was somewhat shocked that a couple had to close their diving business in the Ozarks because of the planned dumping of mining waste containing lead in the pristine lake they used for dive training. What a shame. It says here that this was done under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Over the Atlantic in Cornwall, England, a diver found a camera underwater and discovered that the chip holding the photos was intact. The (non-waterproof) camera had 800 family photos and once the story got out, it was reunited with the owners. That story reminds me of how I was involved in connecting the underwater memorial for Maureen Matous with the family who’d lost it in Cozumel several years ago.

Justin Timberlake is afraid of sharks, but Jessica Biel helped him overcome his fear. She probably have that effect on me as well.’

That’s all for this week. Let’s be careful out there and don’t dive beyond your experience and training unless you’re with a qualified instructor.

Diving in the News, 2012/9/8 September 8, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Ecology, Emergencies.
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Coming up from dive in the open ocean and not finding your boat  is a scary thought, and in the ocean and on most other dives I carry an orange SMB, a reel and even a regulation whistle in case this happens. If you don’t have an SMB, improvise with whatever you have. In this story, the intrepid diver used her yellow bikini top attached to her fin to get the attention of a passing boater. Now that would definitely work – especially if the passing boat were full of young male divers. There’s some recent additional discussion about SMBs in Scuba Diving Magazine (and if you want to know, I’m on the “con” side because equipment can’t replace judgement.

A Riviera Beach, Florida man surfaces too quickly and gets taken to hospital. Nothing is mentioned about symptoms in this video. Whilst it’s good to err on the side of caution, and yes, you can get an gas embolism by holding your breath and coming up just 4 feet, I think in the absence of symptoms I’d just watch this guy who bolted from 6-8 feet for a bit rather than rushing him to the emergency room. I’d be interested in what DAN would have to say, and of course you can call there hotline for no charge if you want to know what to do, even if you’re not a member. I liked the expression “taking on water”. I assume they mean some water got past his regulator and it panicked him. Happens sometimes.

A man in Ireland wants to break the cold water open ocean scuba diving bottom time record. There’s a record for everything these days (except deep air, due to the number of deaths, which is not good publicity for beer that’s good for you). What made me laugh in this article (other than the reason for aborting his first attempt) was the bit “when he will be exposed to temperatures of less than 15 degrees Celsius”. My goodness 15 degrees! Now I won’t scoff at how cold that is after 15 hours but it’s hardly the Arctic ocean kind of cold, or even the Georgian Bay kind of cold, or anything in Canada after mid-October. Having dived comfortably myself in 3 degree water it does sound a bit hyped.

I don’t know what to say about this article on the dead fish in Lake Erie, maybe because it’s not directly about diving. While the Ministry of the Environment says it might be from natural causes, I’m sure most people have suspicions that lay elsewhere. A follow up article confirms that it was caused by a temperature inversion, a natural phenomenon.

It should go without saying that scuba diving while high on cocaine is a bad idea. I don’t think I’m stepping out on a limb by saying cocaine itself is a bad idea. But scuba diving is enough fun all by itself, and is a lot safer when you have your wits about you.

Crater Lake, in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is in the news this week, over a scuba diving closure due to fear of invading species. This article actually makes me want to dive there, but I understand the reasoning having first-hand experience with Zebra mussels and Quagga mussels on my own dives in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

Back to the Florida Keys April 24, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Emergencies, Fitness and Nutrition.
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It’s almost time to say goodbye to my 1996 Toyota Camry, which has been a delightful car to drive for the last 15 years but is now starting to really show its age. It’s mostly used for either getting around town, going to the occasional visit to my in-laws in London Ontario (about 200 km each way), or dive trips. The trunk (boot, for those of you reading outside of North America), has taken more than its fair share of abuse, having been subjected many times to wet dive gear, including a set of double steel tanks. It now takes some determination to make it latch shut.

So when the I signed up for the trip, I figured I’d drive it, if any one would want to come along with me. The advantage of driving is money saved and the ability to take more gear, especially tanks. Due to a medical condition of one of our group, we didn’t know if there would be 2 or 3 of us, and the Camry would really only fit 2 people plus gear. It turned out to be just 2, so on Tuesday night we packed the Camry with more gear than one could reasonably expect it to hold, ready for the drive the following day.

The trunk held Matt’s twin LP steel 125s (insanely huge) and my twin steel 95s (just huge). To my surprise Matt had another set of 95s in his garage belonging to our local dive shop owner, so we brought them as well. We also squeezed 2 AL80s and some luggage, including one of the other club member’s backplate and wings. Behind the driver seats we stuffed 2 more AL80s, 2 LP steel 50s, and an LP steel 45. On the back seat we had all our dive gear, laptops, and other sundry equipment.

All this meant the rear tires were almost scraping the wheel wells, despite trying to put some of the load forward of the rear axle.

At 5AM I headed over to Matt’s and we set the GPS for the Keys. With the early departure traffic was building but light, so we avoided highway 407 (North America’s most expensive toll road) and had no problems clearing the Greater Toronto Area. Amazingly there was no line-up to customs and they didn’t question our heavily loaded vehicle. Traffic was pretty light the whole way, with the worst being perhaps Charlotte, North Carolina – a bit heavy but no delays.

On the way we discussed driving through the night but figured that we wouldn’t be able to schedule any Thursday diving so we opted to stay the night in Southern Georgia with about 800km left to go. The following day was an uneventful drive down the coast of Florida and we arrived in Key Largo and went straight to Silent World, where we’d arrange a dive charter for the following day.

We needed deco mix for the dive (EAN50) as our shop couldn’t get any Oxygen for our fills prior to leaving. We found them closed, but their sign said open. As we were leaving we asked a guy who was driving in if he knew where the owner was, and he took us to the Garden Cove Marina where they were unloading from an afternoon dive charter. We waited for them to unload in the Shipwreck Bar and got everything sorted out.

Unfortunately there was also a commotion at the end of the dock where paramedics were attended to a 69 year-old doctor from Michigan who had died while snorkeling. The cause of death isn’t known at this time but heart attacks are common during periods of unusually strenuous activity in older people. A sobering thought as I continue my technical diving pursuits as I get older.

We went back to the shop and got everything sorted out for the next day, expecting to dive the Duane. The car now had about 2,600 more kilometres (1,650 miles) on the odometer than it had a couple of days before.

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.

Beware the Man O’War March 1, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies.
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My next trip is to the Florida Keys to dive the deep wrecks there. Two divers just died there. Watch out for those Portuguese Men o’War, divers. Fortunately death is rare when stung by one.

Oriskany Fatality November 28, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Emergencies, Shipwrecks.
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I stumbled on this Fox News story today. There aren’t enough details to know anything about the incident, but from my own experience this wreck is a challenging dive, not just because of the size and depth of the wreck, but the two hour boat ride each way can not only be tiring, but puts help a long way away.

Blind and Airless on the A.E.Vickery February 1, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Emergencies, Equipment, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving, Training.
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After the success of the Kinghorn dive, I was feeling pretty good. We all went over to the US side at Alexandria Bay, New York, for a dive on the A.E.Vickery. This wooden schooner lies on a slope down to 123 feet, but my dive had a maximum depth of 132′. After looking at the outside of the wreck, swimming along with Dave, with Brad and Pete up ahead, we slipped over the side and into the ship. Just at that moment, my regulator separated from its mouthpiece and started to free flow. Dave spotted this right away and came over to help, but I had things sorted out by then. It’s disconcerting when this happens. You breathe in and all you get is water.

I continued the dive. Looking back, that probably wasn’t wise, but we were on a training dive and I had lots of backup, but still – any equipment failure in one’s breathing apparatus justifies an abort. Inside the wreck, I was met by Brad who took my mask and let me along. The regulator slipped out of the mouthpiece three more times during this exercise, and finally I switched to my backup regulator and finished the no mask swim.

At that point we called my dive and I went back to the surface with the recreational divers. As we’d each taken only 1 set of doubles on the boat (which is all I own), I’d gone in with 1600 PSI for this second dive of the day. With a bottom time of only 25 minutes, the depth, anxiety and free flow took this down to 400. Still quite a bit for a non-overhead dive and double cylinders.

Back on the boat, Brad told me I’d handled the situation well. Inside a shipwreck, no mask, and water coming through the regulator is defintely a stressful  situation, and I’m glad I kept my head. That evening, we installed new tie-wrap on the mouthpiece. Since then, this is the most common equipment failure I’ve seen underwater (on the surface, it’s blown o-rings on yoke valves).