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Back in the Pool February 9, 2013

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Training.
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It’s been a while, maybe almost a year, since I did any pool training. I could have done some of the small things a bit better, but overall it went great and we were pleased. The students were all great and none had any undue anxiety.

Maybe there’s more instructing in the cards for me this year. For once I feel like doing it again. Or maybe it was just the energizing effect of the Nitrox I was breathing (although those effects are not proven, of course).

We had 10 students, two instructors, 3 divemasters, and 3 divemasters in training. Made it easy, even though the DMiTs were doing some of their own exercises.


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.

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

Christian Lambertsen’s Scuba Gear – Article from The Atlantic March 5, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I stumbled on this article in the The Atlantic which I thought was worth sharing.  I don’t know much about the Christian Lambertsen other than that he died recently and what I just read in Wikipedia, but the video is cool and the short article is well written. The video shows him doing things we greatly frown upon today, like holding his breath. I did see some bubbles coming out of his mouth on the ascent – otherwise “the father of the Frogmen” might not have lived quite as long as he did. He looks to have had a very distinguished career.

Hard to imagine February 28, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Training.
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This story of a the death of a 28 year-old woman is troubling. As with most stories like this, there aren’t enough facts to really form an opinion. The woman was with an instructor in Fiji, but the instructor surfaced without her. She was later recovered and her boyfriend tried to revive her. It doesn’t mention what she was doing with the instructor or how many other divers were with them. Based on the article, one might wonder:

  1. How could an instructor lose track of a student in the clear waters of Fiji?
  2. Why wasn’t the EFR trained instructor involved in the resuscitation?

PADI is investigating and well they should, at least based on this story.

After writing this I noticed another story this time describing the instructor as a “dive master”, and that he surfaced to change cylinders. If she was with a buddy, and was sufficiently experienced, that just might have been reasonable if conditions were good. But the article goes on to describe strong currents. This one also reports that the boyfriend gave CPR rather than the “dive master”, which is odd.

Goes to show that precision reporting on dive accidents doesn’t occur in the mainstream press.

MOD Memory Aid September 17, 2010

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Technical Diving, Training.
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Maximum Operating Depth and Contingency Operating Depths for Nitrox diving are defined (by most) as the depths you reach PP02 of 1.4 and 1.6 respectively, indicating the recommended safe limits for continuous Oxygen exposure during the working and deco portion of a dive.

When I was teaching a Tec 40 class we were discuss MODs and other depth and pressure related calculations and I was using the formulas to explain the principles behind the math, the instructor mentioned Daltons’ Diamond, which I had to confess not remembering. It looks like this:

     /  \
  /    |   \
 /Depth| FO2\

It says that Depth*FO2=PP02, PPO2/Depth=Fo2, and PP02/FO2=Depth. The trick is that depth is in Absolute Atmospheres, so you need to divide FSW (feet of sea water) by 33, FFW (feet of fresh water) by 34, MFW (metres of fresh water) by 10, etc, then add 1. For instance, 50% mix at 33 feet is FO2=.5, Depth=2, so PP02=1 (and safe).

The memory aid is simple for people who used computers, and useless for those who do not. The triangle is made up of the first initials PDF (PPO2, Depth and FO2), which is the file format used by Adobe Acrobat.  Once I noticed it I never forgot it, and neither do my computer-using students.

Tec 40 Graduation Dive June 29, 2010

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving, Training.
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Rather than end up at our usual mud hole, on June 13th 2010, the Tec 40 students, assistants and instructor met at Caiger’s Resort along the mighty St. Lawrence River to knock off the class’ first (authorized) decompression dive. With 3 students, an instructor and 2 assistants, we had an easy time of it, with the students forming a team, but also being buddied up with a certified pro to both harry them and be around for emergencies.

The location was Ivy Lea Ontario, just a little upriver from the Thousand Islands bridge. I’d been there once before, and having enjoyed it the first time, was looking forward to doing it again. The dive consists of dropping into the river about 1/2 way along Ash Island, then drifting to a wreck known as the Ash Island Barge.

Once we’d entered the water, gathered together and done our bubble checks, we dropped over the wall to our planned depth of 125′. Actually Dave went a bit deeper to see if the students would follow him. They did, but soon caught themselves and got established at the proper depth. About 1/2 way through the drift we stopped and went through some drills, then continued on to the barge.

By the time we got there, we were almost out of time, so a couple more quick procedures and we headed up for our deco. Each student performed a gas switch on the way up to their decompression stops and soon thereafter our new graduates were floating on the surface where the boat was waiting for us.

Graduates waiting to be picked up

Because I need to log some 130+ deco dives to qualify for Tec Instruction, I followed Dave down to 132′, and used EAN50 for staged decompression. Water temperature was 15C (58F) on the bottom. We’re looking forward to diving the St. Lawrence again with some new students on Saturday. It should be even warmer.

Tec 40, First impressions April 8, 2010

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Technical Diving, Training.
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The DSAT Tec Deep course I took a 3 years ago has been split into 3. The course is essentially the same when you put all 3 modules together, except that there are now incremental certifications on the way to the full 50 metre/165 foot, 100% O2, 2 deco bottle certification.

The 3 courses are Tec 40, Tec 45, and Tec 50, referring to the depth limits in metres for each level. My local dive shop just started a Tec 40 course, we me as the certified assistant. Each level consists of 1 confined water dive and 3 open water dives.

Tec 40 retains the 40 metre recreational limit, but allows up to 10 minutes of unaccelerated decompression, and enriched air mixes up to 50%.

Tec 45 goes a little deeper and permits a single deco gas up to 100%, while Tec 50 teaches two gas decompression (something I have found fairly useless in most (but definitely not all) air diving scenarios.

There are a few loose ends and contradictions. The knowledge reviews are in separate handouts which jump back and forth in the manual, which hasn’t changed from the original course. Worse,  there are places where the standards contradict themselves. One that we’ve already run into in Tec 40 says in one place that deco gas carried by students can never exceed 1.4 PP02 at the deepest part of the dive, while another says that if students are carrying mixes that are beyond 1.4 PP02 for decompression to make sure to remind them of the hazard and proper procedures.

Given that the course is supposed to allow for up to 50% Oxygen to add conservatism to decompression (as we are not talking about accelerated decompression), restricting to 1.4 means the dive can’t exceed about 60′, which renders it useless for practical purposes.

Hopefully these issues will get sorted out with time, and the student materials will catch up with the curriculum. Whilst the Tec Deep had the advantage of a cost-effective way to go through what would be 3 courses with any of the other agencies, the new packaging seems popular with many of the students, some of whom find committing to the entire program to be a bit daunting.

Promotion December 22, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Training.
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I certified 3 new divers on my recent trip to the Florida Keys. One was an advanced open water diver and two were in the deep specialty. This allowed me to upgrade my PADI status to Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT), catching up with my fellow instructors.

One benefit of MSDT are that you can apply directly to PADI for specialty instructor ratings, which I did immediately for everything for which I qualified. I’ve heard of instructors doing this without the necessary 20 dives “in the specialty” but I’ve been honest. The biggest temptation was night diving, of which I’ve done a limited amount but have more experience in equivalently dark surrounding during daylight hours. Some of the ratings seem more in the “card collector” category but others will be useful as long I can find students. I’m looking forward to teaching underwater navigation for instance, as this is one of the key diving skills.

MSDT is also a prerequisite for some other things, most notably technical diving instruction. I’ve a long way to go in this, having to act as an assistant to another instructor, getting a few more Nitrox/Deep certifications, and some more deep staged decompression dives in but it will all come together in a year or two I think.

So at any rate I’ve now earned 14 specialty instructor ratings, which are:

  1. Deep Diver
  2. Digital U/W Photographer
  3. Drift Diver
  4. Dry Suit Diver
  5. Enriched Air
  6. Emergency Oxygen Provider
  7. Wreck Diver
  8. AWARE Fish ID
  9. Boat Diver
  10. Multilevel Diver
  11. U/W Naturalist
  12. U/W Navigator
  13. Search & Recovery Diver
  14. U/W Photographer

Some of the dives I used to qualify for Navigation and Search & Recovery Diver were looking for things I’d lost on the bottom of the Lake.