Archive for the ‘New to Scuba’ Category

Your Guide to Scuba-Gear Maintenance

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

By guest writer Lorena Espin

Keeping your scuba equipment in good working order is a topic often discussed. Although it can seem arduous, it’s well worth it financially to care for your gear diligently. Following are a few easy tips when it comes to scuba-gear maintenance.

Mask

How to clean:

Here’s a little bit of preventative knowledge: Bacteria in saliva will make itself right at home in the skirt of your mask, so no more spitting to de-fog. Baby shampoo is cheap; it does the trick; it makes your mask smell sweet; and it is kind to your eyes.

Post-dive mask care is as easy as soaking it in fresh, warm water to dissolve the salt. If you want to give your mask a good scrub, use a toothbrush and keep your oily fingers out of it.

How to store:

Towel dry your mask well. Water, like saliva, is very chummy with bacteria and bad odors. Once your mask is completely dry, store in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. If you’re not storing it in the original box, angle it upward to avoid scratching the lenses. If your mask has a clear skirt, keep it away from your other gear, as the black pigments will discolor it.

How to travel:

Although your mask is durable, you do need to protect the lenses from scratching. If you want to leave that space-occupying case at home when traveling, wrap your mask in some clothes before packing it. If it’s an expensive prescription mask, pack it with your carry on.

Wetsuit

How to clean:

Let it soak in warm water for a few minutes. Knead the neoprene to clean those often-missed areas and then thoroughly rinse the suit. And remember, because people tend to forget: Your wetsuit has an inside too, so turn it inside out and repeat. After the last dive of your trip, soak your suit in a bit of diluted cleaner, such as a mild dish detergent. And please, for the love of your suit, keep it away from the washing machine and dryer.

How to store:

Keep it away from sunlight in a cool, dry place. Hanging it by the shoulders will make it lose its shape, so instead fold it over a non-wire hanger with the zippers open. Once dry, turn it inside out because, remember: two sides. You can leave your wetsuit to hang there and call it stored — it would not appreciate being crammed into a drawer, anyway.

How to travel:

Once completely dry, your wetsuit will not be too picky about how you pack it; you can even use it as padding for some of your other dive equipment. At your travel destination, don’t be so aggressive when getting in and out of your wetsuit. Be good to the seams and the zippers and they’ll last longer.

BCD

How to clean:

Soak it in a tank of fresh water and clean the outside, and don’t forget: your BCD has an inside too. So fill the BCD with water and orally inflate it to help the water swoosh around inside. You can drain it through the mouthpiece by holding it upside down, squeezing it and depressing the deflator. Repeat this action until you’ve rid your BCD of any salty residue, because if salt crystals form, they can stab your poor BCD from the inside. But here’s some good news about salt water: it helps protect against fungus and mold, so the more you dive in salt water, the better.

How to store:

Get rid of any wet air, the same way that you drained your BCD when you cleaned it. Before hanging it somewhere cool, dry and out of direct sunlight, orally inflate the BC to prevent the sides from sticking to each other. Hang it with the hose facing down so those last droplets can find their way out. If you want to be extra nice, rub a light coat of wax onto the zippers. As for storing, your BCD is happy to stay right there until you take it on the next dive.

How to travel:

Make sure your BCD is dry before packing it; you don’t need to take mold on your vacation with you. Fold the sides in tightly, and pack it first. Your BCD won’t mind acting as a pad for the rest of your gear, as long as you keep it away from anything that can puncture it.

Regulator

How to clean:

Keeping your reg clean begins with gear assembly. Before securing your first stage onto the tank, release a little bit of air. With that puff of air, any debris that might have been in the tank will be released as well. Post-dive, dry the dust cap before replacing it. Then soak the regulator for a few minutes in fresh water and rinse, making sure not to purge the second stage, as you do not want any water creeping into the hoses. To feel certain, you can secure the reg onto a tank and purge it before storing. Using a bit of anti-bacterial cleaner on your mouthpiece is worthwhile as well.

How to Store:

Keep it in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. Sensing a pattern? Keep your reg with your BCD; regulators like to hang too. If you want your regulator to look extra fresh, before storing it, spray some silicone conditioner onto a rag and wipe it down. You’ll have the shiniest reg around.

How to travel:

There are padded bags designed especially for regulator travel, but it’ll hold up just fine if you wrap it in some clothes before packing it. If you can spare the space, put it in your carry-on.

Fins

How to clean:

These guys aren’t too fussy. As long as you soak them in fresh water and rinse away the salt, they’ll keep their flexibility and they’ll keep smelling okay. If you’re feeling particularly giving, spray silicone conditioner on the rubber parts.

How to store:

Cool. Dry. Place. No sunlight. Do not stack them up against a wall; this will make them lose their shape and fins are useless without their shape. Lie them down vertically or hang them by their strap. Bonus points if you store them with an insert.

How to travel:

Make sure your bag is big enough for your fins. Pack them in the sides, making sure they don’t bend (see above paragraph about fins maintaining their shape) Your fins can help you be thrifty with your baggage real estate; pack items like socks into the feet openings.

 

So from now on, no excuses. If you didn’t before, now you know how to easily clean, store, and pack your dive gear. And all that money you don’t have to spend on replacing it? Properly pack those bags for another dive trip.

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How to Ascend from a Dive

Friday, March 18th, 2016

A recent accident in Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay, Thailand, wherein two surfacing Russian scuba divers were struck by a speedboat propeller, resulted in one of them losing a leg and the other receiving deep lacerations. When accidents like this occur, it’s worth revisiting the safest possible ascension procedures. The exact details of the accident are still unclear, so this article is in no way intended to assign blame or claim to know how it could have been prevented. Rather the incident serves as a reminder that, as scuba divers, we must always be vigilant as we ascend in mid-water to minimize the risk of run-ins with passing watercraft. Here are a few of our tips on how to ascend from a dive.

Carry a Dive-Flag Buoy

If you’re on a guided dive in an area with boat traffic, the divemaster should have a dive-flag buoy, which will accompany your party on the surface during the entire dive to let watercraft know exactly where you are underwater. When it’s time to surface, do so as near as you can to the buoy. If it’s just you and a buddy on a dive, one of you should deploy the dive-flag buoy for the same reasons. 

Start Early

Once it’s time to ascend, remember that a proper ascent takes some time, so make sure to begin by taking into account your remaining air, your no-decompression limit and personal factors, such as cold and fatigue. Ascend while you’re still fresh and on top of things. 

Go Slow

Most organizations recommend a maximum ascent speed of 30 feet (9 m) per minute. Orient yourself as you begin your ascent, getting an idea of where you are in terms of your planned surfacing point. Start looking up to get an idea of the conditions above. Is the sea calm or choppy? Do you see a lot of boat traffic, or do you have the water to yourself? As you ascend, also keep an eye on your depth gauge and timer to make sure you’re rising slowly enough. 

Stop

Even if it isn’t a requirement for non-decompression dives, pretty much all dive organizations and dive computers recommend a safety stop for any dive deeper than 33 feet (10 m), typically at 15 feet (5 m) for three minutes. Use the time during your safety stop to scan the surface for any boats (including your own dive boat), kayaks, or other vessels you may need to navigate around. Listen for propellers as well, as you’ll hear a boat much sooner than you’ll be able to see it. You won’t be able to determine where it’s coming from though, so watch the surface for it.

Surface

When you’ve finished your safety stop, become neutrally buoyant before beginning your ascent, and maintain neutral buoyancy throughout. Fin very gently if you must to ascend. Keep the ascent rate as slow as possible, but don’t spend the entire time looking at your dive computer. Instead, look around, scanning the surface. Rotate as you ascend to give yourself a 360-degree field of vision. Most organizations recommend that you ascend with one hand above your head, holding your low-pressure inflator at the highest possible point to allow you to quickly release air from your BCD if your ascent becomes too fast. This is also partly to ensure that if you do have an unfortunate encounter with a boat propeller, at least it will be your hand and arm that takes the hit instead of your head. If there’s boat traffic overhead, you may want to delay your final ascent until it’s clear, air-permitting, or swim to another location. 

Come up Close

Ascend as close to your dive boat or dive buoy as you can, as mentioned above, since other boats will typically keep their distance. If you have neither, and there is boat traffic in the area, send up a DSMB before surfacing to give boats and other vessels fair warning that people are coming up.

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Top Technical Diving Myths

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

By guest blogger Richard Devanney, senior TDI and SSI technical dive instructor

While some forms of technical diving do indeed demand extensive training and experience, much of the sport is also quite accessible. Technical diving myths and misconceptions keep many divers from giving it a try, although common opinion is slowly beginning to shift. Here we’ll offer an overview of the main misconceptions, as well as explain why they’re wrong. Perhaps after reading them you’ll consider trying technical diving yourself.

Myth #1: You must be addicted to danger to tec dive
Let’s put 1,000-foot (300 m) world-record depth attempts to one side for a moment. I intend to come back in one piece from every dive I do, be it a decompression dive, a wreck-penetration dive, or a shallow, easy dive. Yes, if you’re doing a decompression dive to 250 feet (75 m), there’s the potential for serious injury, so you seek training to learn how to do those kinds of dives as safely as possible. Tec divers are very good at risk management. We must always consider the best course of action to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, and have a plan of action in place should something go wrong during a dive. If we cannot reduce the risk of a certain dive to an acceptable level, then we don’t go diving. It’s that simple. Thorough dive planning, equipment maintenance, skills practice and contingency planning are inherent aspects of tec diving — you must be addicted to problem solving and planning, not danger, to love tec diving.

Myth #2: It’s all about cave diving
There are some fantastic spots around the world where you can train to cave dive, but if caves are not your thing — and for many tec divers they aren’t — there are all kinds of other tec dives you can do. Ice diving, mine diving, muck diving, wall diving, thousands of shipwrecks — there are tec dives in all these categories. Or you can just make longer dives, and add nitrox to stay longer at depth without worrying about getting low on gas before you hit your no-decompression limit. Sidemount is fast becoming the most popular way of doing all these, for a variety of practical reasons. I have trained many people that never intend to do any decompression diving, but who do most of their fun diving on sidemount because it’s straightforward and works well for them.

Myth #3 The gear is too heavy
Okay, steel twinsets are quite heavy; actually, aluminum twinsets are heavy too. You may have seen tec divers load up the boat with endless amounts of gear and try to seem as though they’re not struggling with a twinset that’s obviously giving them trouble. So where does that leave us with regards to this “myth”? Sidemount, that’s where. You can carry your dive gear around without crippling yourself. You can put your equipment on and take it off in the water (also reducing your chance of injury if you fall over on the dive boat, compared with having one or two tanks strapped behind you). The BC and harness are comfortable and lightweight, and you won’t feel over-encumbered when diving. Sidemount is changing the face of tec diving, and it works in caves, wrecks, mines, open-water pinnacles…you name it. Likewise, rebreathers are getting ever smaller and lighter, and are usable on any kind of dive.

Myth #4: Only geeks like tec diving
You may have been on a dive boat and seen a group of tec divers huddled around a laptop, pointing at a graph. Yes, this can be a part of tec diving. But people dive for many reasons. Some people are only interested in fish; some like the history of shipwrecks. Tec diving ticks all the boxes for me because I like understanding how the equipment works. I’m interested in physics and physiology, so the decompression theory appeals to that part of my brain. I love wrecks, caves, marine life, strong currents, and the potential to see something mind-blowing on every dive. I also like a challenge and get a lot of satisfaction from planning a dive and then, as we say, diving the plan. Tec diving attracts people of all ages, with different abilities and different interests. Being tec qualified simply gives you more options with your diving, and will make you a more well-rounded, safety-conscious diver overall, and that can only be a good thing.

So the next time you’re on a dive boat with some techies, strike up a conversation and hear those technical diving myths debunked once again.

 

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How to Store Scuba Gear

Friday, January 15th, 2016

From time to time, either seasonally or due to other circumstances, a diver may have to think about putting their gear away for some period of time. Here we’ll give you a few recommendations on how to store scuba gear, while still keeping it in tip-top shape. There are a few main threats to our gear, and unfortunately, these are also some of the things they are most often subjected to — sun, water and salt.

Sun bleaches colors, makes rubber stiff and brittle, and fabrics stiff and fragile. Salt breaks down fabrics and rubber and oxidizes metals, causing rust. Water also causes rust, and makes fabrics rot. Various chemicals, such as engine lubricants and fuel, can also do damage, but it’s less common, though not impossible, for scuba gear to be subjected to these.

When cleansing your gear, you should seek to remove salt and any chemicals and allow the gear to dry completely. Store your gear in a dry location, and out of the sun. Keeping these general considerations in mind when storing scuba gear, it will generally do well.

Wetsuits and Drysuits

The main threat to wetsuits and drysuits is their exposure to water and salt, both from the water we dive in and from the sweat on our skin. The main purpose of cleansing these items is to remove this salt. Rinse the suit in fresh water, possibly adding a bit of an appropriate cleanser. Rinse both inside and out if storing for a long time, and hang these items to allow them to dry. Once they’re completely dry, store them either hanging or loosely rolled up in a cool, dry location out of the sun.

BCDs

The same thing goes for BCDs, more or less. Rinse them on the outside and make sure to get into any pockets and under straps and other places where salt may accumulate. Detach the low-pressure inflator hose and fill the inside of the BCD about one-third full of water, and then re-attach the inflator hose. Shake the BCD up and down, turn it on its head, and swish the water from side to side to make sure that all of the inside has been rinsed. Then remove the inflator again and pour the water out. Repeat if necessary. Hang the BCD on a hanger and leave to dry thoroughly in a well-ventilated room. Store in a dry place out of the sun.

Regulators

Regulator are best rinsed while still attached to a scuba tank with pressure in the hoses. This will prevent water from entering the first stage, where it can cause all kinds of problems. The second-best option is to make sure you’ve attached the first-stage valve protector, and only rinse, don’t submerge, the first stage in fresh water. Hoses and second stages can be submerged in water without a problem. Once dry, store loosely coiled up in a dry place out of the sun. 

Fins, Mask and Snorkel

All of these get the same treatment as the gear we’ve mentioned so far: Rinse in fresh water, dry and store in dry location. Store your fins flat or with support; do not stand them on end, as this can warp them. 

Computers

Computers must also be rinsed, and ideally removed from the console or wrist strap that they’re mounted on to ensure they are rinsed in those hard-to-get-to places. Store in dry location out of the sun, and if storing for a long time, consider removing the battery to avoid acid leaks from expired batteries.

Knife

Both knives and their sheaths must be rinsed and dried. If they’re made from titanium, this is all you need to do, but knives made from steel (even the stainless kind) should be rubbed with petroleum jelly to protect them and ready them for your next dive.

Cameras and Dive Torches

Rinse torches, camera (in housing) and any flashes and strobes, thoroughly in fresh water. Ideally, leave to soak for 30 minutes. If possible, remove the camera from its housing once dry. Remove any batteries from all units, and if they’re rechargeable, recharge them all the way before storing.

 

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Tips For A Happy Dive

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

By Adam Straub

It’s happened to all of us. Instead of coming up from a dive smiling and chattering away with excitement, you occasionally surface muttering about the conditions or your buddy, wondering why you even bothered to go in the first place. You didn’t enjoy the dive; in fact you may have hated it. Here are some common issues that can detract from your dives, along with a few ways to overcome them.

Equipment Failure

Did you test your gear after you got it serviced? Technicians are human, and albeit rare, mistakes are sometimes made. Make sure you’ve put the equipment on and tested it before packing it up to help eliminate any nasty surprises.

There are other considerations as well. Did you follow your technician’s recommendations about cleaning and maintaining your gear? When he told you something needed replacement, did you continue to dive it or work on it yourself instead?

Another way to nip a potential problem in the bud goes all the way back to your OW training — do a proper buddy check before a dive. Stick close enough to your buddy that you can monitor their gear during the dive and look for potential weak points or excess clutter. Be on the lookout for anything that could cause a problem during the dive.

Unrealistic Expectations

The most important thing a diver can do to prevent false expectations is to attend the dive briefings. Stop fiddling with your camera; shut your mouth; pay attention and ask questions when the divemaster or instructor is done.

No one is going to be better prepared than the crew when it comes to putting the dive together. You may visit a site five times on a trip; your crew can’t even begin to count how many times they’ve been there in the last year.

Listen for words and phrases such as maybe, perhaps and most likely. These words mean you should have no expectations other than if you follow your guides they will give you the best dive possible. Briefings offer an idea of what to expect, but nothing in the water is absolute; this is a wild environment, and as such, there are no guarantees. Try not to set your heart on one particular marine encounter and instead focus on what each dive does offer.

Dive Ended Early

The No. 1 reason a dive ends early is because an individual runs low on air. The best way to  avoid becoming this person is to stay fit — walk, run, swim, hike, ride a bike, even a stationary bike. Your body will operate more efficiently if you’re in good shape. Don’t just sit at home for months before a trip and then get frustrated with everyone else because you have to come up early. Be part of your own solution. Also know that good air consumption comes with time and practice.

Good dive plans are essential when it comes to obtaining maximum time on a site. Current and surge or an uneven profile will deplete your air and force an early ascension. Also, keep an eye on your buddy so you don’t have to abort a dive because he or she went missing.

Dive-Buddy Issues

Diving with a buddy can be a great experience and enhance any trip, but the situation can also cause several problems that keep us from enjoying the experience. The biggest obstacle between buddies is communication.

Make sure you and your buddy are on the same page when you discuss your dive plan, as well as a contingency plan. Have a firm understanding of what you’ll do if one of you can’t equalize, if a piece of equipment or camera misbehaves, or if you can’t find each other.

Frustrated divers often complain because their dive buddy was going one way and they wanted to go the other. The easy solution is to share — let one person lead one dive, and the other lead the next. Take turns planning the dive and making decisions underwater.

If you and your regular dive buddy don’t have that kind of compatibility, it may be time to break up. Sometimes best friends or partners on land are simply incompatible underwater. It’s okay to dive with other people. If you and your dive buddy aren’t getting along, rather than force yourselves into a frustrating situation, take a break and spend a dive with someone else.

 

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