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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, Week Ending September 22, 2012 September 22, 2012

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Miscellany.
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I’ve been thinking that I’d like to dive some of the wrecks off the South Carolina coast some time. I’ll try to remember not to use Coastal Scuba, though, based on the articles I’ve read about a recent fatality. If it wasn’t so tragic some of this would be funny, especially the report of an employee throwing the only non-empty Oxygen bottle overboard because he thought it might blow up. While the reports of the company’s actions on board the boat allege they were frozen in inaction, they have been quick to send their clients threatening letters from their lawyers, according to one report. A pair of registered nurses who tried to revive the woman apparently had to “bark” at the boat captain to get him to call the Coast Guard.

A diver died in Cape Breton last Sunday, which was also reported by the CBC. Cape Breton is part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. He was part of a group of 10 and 56 years old, and was determined to be missing when they left the water. I wonder who his buddy was. It seems, although I don’t have stats, that deaths amount divers 50 years and older (like me) are due to medical problems.

Solo Diver October 10, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Training.
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Scuba Diving International, commonly known as SDI, is the only agency that I know of that has a solo diver certification. SDI also has a well-known technical diving sister company called TDI, and the two agencies share a web site.

I’ve signed up for this course, after receiving an offer I couldn’t refuse from Brad at my local dive shop, and have reviewed the entire book, the “SDI Solo Diving Manual”. It is full of sensible advice, and sits about 1/3 of the way between normal recreational diving practices and the technical diving techniques I learned in the IANTD Advanced Nitrox Course and the DSAT Tec Deep Course. The bottom line is a higher level of dive planning – including gas planning, emphasis on self-control as a prerequisite to self-reliance, and redundant equipment including a secondary air source, reel and SMB, and a spare mask. I carry a reel, SMB and spare mask on almost all dives, solo or otherwise.

While I feel the content of the course was pretty good,  I was surprised by the number of errors in the book, ranging from poor use of commas (placing a comma between the subject and the verb, for instance) to mathematical errors (Conversion of metres to atmospheres by adding 1 to the depth and dividing by 10). At one point it casually introduces the concept of deep stops by recommending them to be added to the US Navy tables (good idea) without mentioning that the stop should be added to bottom time, as the Navy tables require a 30 foot/min ascent rate. Not that I would ever use the Navy tables unless I was in a real hurry to get out of the water for safety reasons. I’m not a super fit somewhat expendable 25 year-old with a recompression chamber available at all times.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the course, and will write to SDI with my list of errata so they can hopefully do a better job with the next edition. One thing I like is that I have all the equipment I need already.

Off and on the wagon April 30, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Fitness and Nutrition.
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No, not that wagon. I don’t drink a lot these days. I’m talking about exercise. For almost a year I was really disciplined exercising 6-7 times a week, except on diving days, but when I went to Cozumel I fell out of the habit having spent 2 weeks on the beach and under the water. When I got back there was a recovery time where I didn’t exercise and I lost the momentum completely, exercising about once a week. While I tried to get back in the groove, driving nonstop to Florida killed it once again.

This week though, thanks mostly to the encouragement of my wife, I’m back at it. I have to report how hard it is to bring myself up to the level I was at, especially with running. I think for every week I’ve taken off it will take about a month to restore things to former levels. It just goes to show how fleeting cardiovascular fitness is, and how much dedication it takes to keep it going.

Travel is always the problem. It disrupts sleep and makes it hard to motivate myself to get up a little earlier (I’m talking 4:45 here, vs. 5:30 on weekdays) to fit the workout in. Every time I take a trip I have to struggle to get back at it. On the other hand, I feel so much better when I’m fit that I am determined to take the time to get back to my February levels.

Living on Vegetables April 13, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Ecology, Fitness and Nutrition.
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Trying to stay healthy into my old age so I can keep on diving is a challenge. Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol down can be a difficult as you age, and I lot of people I know that are my age are taking Lipitor and other medicines. That’s always an option but I’m doing my best to fight it without resorting to a lifetime on prescription drugs.

One of the things that’s changed slowly over the last 20 years is that we eat a lot less meat than we used to. We’re down to once or twice a month now, and the less we eat it the less we like it. We eat fish, mostly salmon, once a week, and there’s a scallop dish (based on a fiery Thai shrimp recipe) that’s a Saturday night staple, but otherwise it’s vegetables supplemented by low fat cottage cheese to keep the protein content up. Scallops by the way are very low in cholesterol, unlike shrimp.

It’s tough to make this kind of diet appetizing, although I like hot pepper and for me a little or a lot of pepper sauce is great addition to most vegetable dishes, along with other herbs and spices. It’s all the more important as I don’t add salt to anything.

But one thing we learned in cooking school I’ll share, and I think it’s important both environmentally and gastronomically, is the creation of vegetable stock. As we eat of lot of stews and soups, using stock instead of water adds a lot of flavour. Stock cubes, like Knorr or Oxo, are full of salt and who-knows-what-else, and I try to avoid them. We used to make chicken stock, but as we don’t each chicken more than twice a year or so we can’t make it any more.

So what I learned was that all the things that normally get thrown in the garbage like the ends of carrots, potato peelings, stalks of herbs, onion and garlic skins, or just about anything else can be set aside for making stock. So we just stick it in a container, along with any water used for steaming, and freeze it after a week. Once we have a bunch of containers it all gets boiled into vegetable stock, which is then used and/or frozen for later use. It adds a ton of flavour to anything we cook and is free.

Once the stock is made, all the vegetables are tossed into the composter along with coffee grounds, tea bags, paper towels, wine corks, apple cores, banana skins, avocado pits and so on to support my wife’s gardening habit, and along with the paper, cardboard, glass and plastic recycling we hardly have any non-recyclable garbage to speak of. In fact, most of that garbage consists of plastic bags, which we (a) reuse at least once, and (b) are trying to cut down on. We’ve even started to bring home compostable stuff from lunch at work which may be bordering on fanaticism.

It’s a contribution. I still don’t feel it’s enough.

Cozumel 2007 March 15, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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I lost my photographs from this trip in a disk crash, so I’m going to cover all 12 dives in this post. I apologize for sticking this amongst the postings on my February 2009 trip to Cozumel, it’s just a coincidence. I also left the log pages from last month at work so I can’t continue that thread until I retrieve them.

The 2007 trip was just a week long. We’d decided to give November another chance after the previous year, which had a little too much rain and lot too much wind. After arriving on November 17th, I confirmed with Blue XT Sea Diving that I’d be diving the following day – and dived all 6 full days that I was there.

  1. Dive 187, Nov 18 Dive 1 – Palancar Caves: The boat was the Bandida II and Juan was our guide. This was a wall dive with some swim throughs. In 9:04 out 9:45, PSI In 2700, PSI out 500, Max Depth 89 Bottom time 37. Saw some grouper, a couple of turtles and a lobster.
  2. Dive 188, Nov 18 Dive 2 – Francesa Reef: In 11:13, out 12:08, PSI In 3000, PSI out 800, Max Depth 67, bottom time 52. Looked up to see fish scattering everywhere because a grouper was on the attack. The grouper grabbed a fish a swam away. Also saw a Nurse shark sleeping under a rock, a lobster, blue parrot fish and  a Southern Stingray chased by other fish.
  3. Dive 189, Nov 19 Dive 1 – Columbia Deep. Again with Bandida II and Juan. In 9:26, out 10:12, PSI in 3000, PSI out 800, max depth 87, bottom time 44. Saw a turtle. Needed a couple of minutes of Deco.
  4. Dive 190, Nov 19 Dive 2 – Columbia Shallow. In 11:13, out 12:28, PSI in 3000, PSI out 700, Maximum depth 31, bottom time 1h15m (no safety stop needed at this depth). Saw lots of things. Lobster, turtle, lots of spotted morays, some urchins, lots of grunts. I marked this as a really nice dive, although shallow. We didn’t visit it on my last trip, maybe the guides don’t like the length of these dives.
  5. Dive 191, Nov 20 Dive 1 – Palancar Caves. Reduced my weight to 10 pounds (I couldn’t manage with that little this year for some reason, needed 12) using my 3mm Henderson full wet suit. In 10:30, out 11:31, PSI in 3100, PSI out 800, max depth 85, bottom time 58. Again with Juan in the Bandida II. Saw a turtle.
  6. Dive 192, Nov 20 Dive 2 – Dalila Reef. In 12:44, out 13:43, PSI in 2950, PSI out 600, depth 63, bottom time 56. Saw a barracuda and a Nurse Shark.
  7. Dive 193, Nov 21 Dive 1 – Cedral wall. Boat: Shamu. In 9:02, out 9:56, PSI in 2800, PSI out 600, max depth 81 feet, bottom time 51 minutes. Saw the plaque for Manolo Salsas.
  8. Dive 194, Nov 21 Dive 2 – Paso de Cedral. In 11:10, out 12:04, PSI in 2900, PSI out 900, maximum depth 56 feet, bottom time 51 minutes. Water temperature was 27C (81F) as it had been all week. Saw a couple of lobsters near a crab, and a Nurse Shark.
  9. Dive 195, Nov 22 Dive 1 – Palancar Horseshoe. Guide was Blanca, boat Bandida II. In 9:14, out 10:11, PSI in 3000, PSI out 700, maximum depth 90, bottom time 54. Great visibility in a light current. Saw an electric ray, turtle, and the memorial for Martin. Buddy Don. Scored 1 minute of deco time.
  10. Dive 196, Nov 22 Dive 2 – San Francisco Reef. Buddy was Don again. In 11:47, out 12:47, PSI in 2950, PSI out 650, max depth 67, bottom time 57. Saw a pair of juvenile Spotted Drums, a spotted Moray, a Green Moray, and a large Nurse Shark. Nice dive.
  11. Dive 197, Nov 23 Dive 1 – Maracaibo Reef. I’d made a request to Christi to dive this reef and she  managed to orchestrate it on my last day of diving. Being my last day after 6 days I requested Nitrox to keep the dissolved Nitrogen levels down and this dive I measured the O2 content at 34%. In 9:10, out 10:00, PSI in 3000, PSI out 800, maximum depth 76 and bottom time 47. With Bianca on the Shamu again. It was a beautiful reef with lots of soft corals. A couple of good turtle encounters, lots of groupers, and found a sleeping Nurse Shark.
  12. Dive 198, Nov 23 Dive 2 – Columbia Shallow. Using EAN38 this time although maximum depth was 34 feet so really didn’t need it. Close encounter with a Spotted Eagle Ray, lots of lobsters, and followed a small Turtle around for a while. A very pretty dive. In 11:12, out 12:30, PSI 2950-600, bottom time 1h 18m – the longest dive of the trip.

That’s it in a nutshell. This last trip I thought my air consumption had fallen off sharply, but reviewing this list I don’t think it was that bad. The longest dives were really shallow – much more so than any dive I did last month, so I don’t feel like I’m slipping at all. Still – got to stay in shape.

Open Water Scuba Diver – Pool Training Day 2 January 13, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Training.
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Sunday’s training day was in the “well”, a deeper part of the pool that’s off to one side and 5 metres or so square. It was a crowded day with Ed, my AI instructor, putting 3 divemaster candidates and a rescue diver student through their paces, and Brad instructing the 9 open water students with Mary and me assisting. I’d started the day at 7AM, first going for a 45 minute run like the previous day before having breakfast and driving up to the shop for 10AM. On Sundays I usually try for a 90 minute slow run but as I was going to be spending 2 hours in the pool I thought that a slightly faster 45 was good enough.

The class was enthusiastic and competent. We did fin pivots, hovering, CESA simulation, scuba unit removal and replacement on the surface and underwater, and all the other things required by the PADI curriculum. It was so easy we finished 1/2 an hour before we had to give up the pool so we gave the students free time to swim around and play underwater.

Marty was doing a fin-pivot in the middle of the well while I hovered almost directly above him. Pretty soon the entire class were either doing fin pivots or hovering. A couple of them mentioned to me how much fun it was controlling their buoyancy just by breathing. Like I said, they were a good class.

We packed up quickly and went back to the shop so Brad could finish off the classroom work and give them their referrals for their sun vacations. I spoke to Ed about the EFR instructor course, which is  my next step on the path to become an open water scuba instructor. I should have that course done before I go on vacation in February, which is likely to be my next opportunity to go diving.

Technical Diving Agenda for 2009 January 12, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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Wednesday night our little technical diving subgroup of our dive club met at the shop to discuss dives for 2009. We had Brad (shop owner and technical instructor), Matt (prospective technical diving student and Assistant Instructor), Rich (newly minted technical diver and Divemaster in training), Pete (Divemaster and technical diver, who finished his course at the same time as me), Mike (Divemaster and finished his tech course in September), and Andrew (Assistant Instructor and not quite finished his tech course).

Our first goal is the Oriskany, a.k.a the Mighty O. This aircraft carrier was sunk intentionally a few years ago about an hour off the coast of Florida near Pensacola and ranges from advanced to technical depths. We’re planning to go there in April on a 5 day trip which includes a 19 hour drive each way. We may rent a Winnebago for the trip and take some non-technical divers to defray the costs. Rich ordered deck plans and a video of the dive to help us plan our visit.

Another destination is Long Point in Lake Erie. While Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes with a maximum depth of about 240 feet, one of the deepest parts of  the  lake is around Long Point, and there are many wrecks down there at deep air depths. Two we have in mind are the Trade Wind (120 feet) and the St. James (165 feet), and we’re looking at perhaps June for this trip. The water will be cold, and we’ll all be in dry suits.

We also discussed going to Cornwall, maybe around July 1, which is further downriver than Brockville on the St. Lawrence, where there are a dives on a power dam, “Lock 21” and a large wreck called the Eastcliffe Hall. This would be more of  a regular club dive but there are technical diving opportunities on the power dam apparently. There is also supposed to be a boat with sleeping accommodations available so it could anchor near the Eastcliffe Hall (which is only about 60 feet deep) and make it a night dive.

July will also be time for this year’s wreck diving course. With a maximum of 8 students,  a total of four instructors or safety divers are used. I was one of them last year, and while the students do 6 dives in groups of 2, the staff only do 3 long dives.  So each dive needs extra air and decompression.

Early August will be the club’s annual trip to Tobermory, Ontario. The club dives the deep wrecks there anyway, usually the Forest City at a maximum of  150′, the Arabia at just over 100′, and the Niagara II at around 90′.  So we can use our additional air and bottom time quite effectively on those. I suggested that we continue the trip on to Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior. We would take advantage of being in Tobermory (4 hours drive from here) and take the Chi-Cheemaun over to Manitoulin Island then drive the rest of the way. This would take about 2 3/4 hours off the trip (not including the ferry ride, which would count as part of the fun). There are plentiful wrecks in Whitefish Bay between 130 and 200 feet for us to play on, and several of these were featured in the most recent issue of Diver Magazine.

Finally, at least at this stage of planning, we are planning to have a technical boat at the club’s traditional Labour Day Weekend trip to Brockville, Ontario. The destination wrecks  are  the Roy A. Jodrey and the Oconto, which are both on the American  side. We now have enough technical divers to make this possible.

All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a fun year. First things first, though – next month I’m going to Cozumel for some warm salt water diving.

Open Water Scuba Diver – Pool Training Day 1 January 11, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Training.
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On Saturday I assisted with a new class of diving students, all of whom are seeking referrals to complete their training in a warmer climate as our local bodies of water are all around the freezing mark and starting to ice over. Now that I’m no longer a Divemaster in Training, I’m not required to hang around the store all day while the classroom instruction is going on, so I showed up at 10AM, an hour before the pool session was to begin. Getting in later allowed me to get up at my normal Saturday wake-up at 7AM, complete a 45 minute run, and have a hot breakfast before heading out.

To my surprise, in addition to the Assistant Instructors (Steve and Marty) and Divemaster (Rich) I was expecting, we also had Assistant Instructors Ron, Dave and Matt, and Andrew and Martin as Divemasters in Training. Along with the 9 students, we also had 3 or 4 certified divers in the pool who were refreshing their skills. It made for quite a crowd.

At some points, it felt a bit like an audition or tryout, with the pro staff trying to show their stuff before someone else could jump in, but most of the time things were very cooperative. My first challenge was a student who didn’t feel comfortable breathing underwater. I took him aside and we did it one step at a time. He held his nose while breathing through his mouth, then added a regulator, then added the mask, then tried it underwater eventually with no problem. I had to then take him through regulator removal and replacement and regulator recovery because he had fallen behind at that point.

We only had 1 lane of a 25 metre long pool. Lane rental is $100/hour so it is a precious resource indeed. Consequently, will all the divers around, any of the swimming exercises like the regulator to snorkel switch were a bit of a traffic jam. Some of the other exercises I demonstrated and observed were the mask flood and clear, and mask removal and replace, and breathing from a free flowing regulator. Even reading the pressure gauge is a required skill which I also had to take a student through.

Once all the exercises were done we used the lane to put people through their 200 yard swim, and the 10 minute tread water/float. One girl was really impressive at the latter exercise and just for fun she held her hands out of the water for almost the entire time. She moved her legs in circles instead of back and forth and seemed to get a lot of lift that way.

Once done, we loaded the gear into the truck and headed back to the shop, and unloaded everything including the tanks which all needed to be filled.

Divemaster Open Water Weekend #2 January 5, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Training.
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On June 16 and 17, 2007 Len was instructing a class at Big Bay Point. The first day went well, with training dives 1 and 2 out of the way quickly, although we’d gotten to a late start. Sometimes these things happen – students arrive late, they forget stuff, we run out weights, etc., etc. Len is an ex-Navy guy (don’t know what he did in the Navy – I must ask him) and a pleasure to work with. Like many I find in the professional Scuba world, he smokes – even during the surface interval between training dives. At the office where I work with over 60 other people, we have exactly one smoker, but around the dive shop the tobacco industry definitely has more than 50% penetration. Strange.

The second day was marred by losing track of students, especially on the underwater tours. The silt can be pretty bad in Lake Simcoe and there was so much of it that the two I was with simply disappeared. They were hitting the bottom too much and I tried to get them to swim out of murk, and was perhaps 5 feet ahead of them. They never emerged and I went back in to hunt for them but didn’t find them until I surfaced (which they, sensibly, had done for themselves). I felt bad about that, but everyone else supervising the dives had the same problem. We regrouped, got through the skills, and from then on took the student buddy teams in separate directions so we wouldn’t lose them in each other’s silt.

Len, in true military fashion, called the experience a “Charlie Foxtrot”. He didn’t use those words exactly, but knew what I meant weeks later when I used them to refer to the day. Still, he gave me a half-decent mark for the weekend. My only other dives that weekend were to install and retrieve the dive flags. Two are used, a big one about 150 feet out from the dock near the log where we line up the students to do their drills, and a smaller float about half way out.

By this time I was using the Notes section in Log Book #2, which I’d acquired on my PADI Advanced course in Ocho Rios in February 2005, to log my dives, as I’d run out of pages. The final entry was on July 8th, was a training dive in my doubles and dry suit, also at Big Bay Point, with Dave, one the assistant instructors. My intent was to practice valve shutdowns but I couldn’t reach them while wearing the dry suit. I was worried about this because being able to shut off your air by yourself is a requirement for technical diving. Of course, there are knob extensions – fondly referred to as “slob knobs” – but I certainly didn’t want to have to use them. Eventually I figured out how to do it, but on this dive I exited the water still unable to reach them.