Posts Tagged ‘Training’

Five Tips: How To Spot Hidden Marine Life During Your Dive

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
Underwater Photo of a Nudibranch

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Nudibranchs and other camouflaged creatures are waiting — here’s how to find them.

Camouflaged critters include some of the most interesting in the ocean, but spotting them can feel like a game of Where’s Waldo. To give you an edge, here are five tips for finding these elusive creatures.

1. Slow Down The slower you swim, the better chance you’ll have of spotting those camouflaged creatures waiting for you to pass by.

2. Get Low Swimming close to the bottom and scanning the top of the reef line is a good way to spot sneaky fellows, such as octopuses, as they attempt to slink away unnoticed.

3. Learn Their Habits Many hard-to-find critters have adapted to blend in with certain backgrounds, such as pygmy seahorses that only live on like-colored gorgonians. Learn where they hang out, and focus your attention there.

4. Look for the Eyes Even when their bodies blend with the background, their eyes will give them away. A stingray can bury its body in the sand, but if you see two dark eyes jutting from the seafloor, you’ll know what’s underneath.

5. Ask a Local Local divemasters often know the locations of resident critters. Men- tion what you hope to see, and chances are, the divemaster can take you right to it.

Operation No Fear: Diving with Oceanic Whitetips

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

By the time I realize what’s happening, it’s too late.

Tunnel vision is instant: The last thing I remember is the blunt end of an oceanic whitetip shark scratching an itch against my fins — my yellow it-won’t-be-a-problem fins. Normally these fins are so dependable that they don’t warrant a second thought — it was only their bad-as-a-banana color that gave me pause a few days ago when I packed for Cat Island. I knew this Bahamas trip would be different. In places like Nassau and Grand Bahamas, Caribbean reef sharks have become habituated to systematic feedings. The sharks showing up are all regulars, where every handler knows their names — it’s like Cheers, except the cold ones are herring.

In open water, the rules are different. There aren’t any — only procedures based on predictability. Sharks here act more on instinct, less on habit. Pink, baby blue, yellow or other light-colored fins could be interpreted as fish.

Luckily, sharks’ body language is as subtle as a pickup artist. With these predators, a sleek pectoral fin angling downward signals that all bets are off — and the hunt is on. Those same fins slicing horizontally away from the body is good.

This is called polite feeding, and it’s the only behavior Stuart Cove’s allows guests to experience, whether at its Nassau hub or satellite Cat Island operation, run by Beto M. Barbosa and Charlotte Faulkner with boat captain and all-around chill guy Alvin Duncanson.

Earlier that morning, I was the opposite of anxious as White Bungi, the 46-foot-long custom-built Newton, carried us 13 miles offshore of Columbus Point, an idyllic white-sand crescent. It’s a spot favored by big-game fishermen for the same reason we’re here now, engines idling.

At 70 feet, the reef gives way to a 3,000-foot abyss where anything can appear — the closest on-ramp to a superhighway of life.

And it’s officially spring break: For a few magical weeks in April and May, it’s Tunas Gone Wild, a migration of epic proportions. Big-game fishermen score. And the oceanics, practiced hunters that are opportunistic by default, know how to take advantage. It’s little wonder these sharks have made headlines picking off shipwreck victims.

That same energy-saving instinct brings them to Columbus Point. Just as Caribbean reef sharks have learned what it takes to score a handout from a chain-mail-clad feeder, so too oceanics understand what happens when a big haul is on the line, snatching the marlin, sailfish or other prize just before it’s lifted from the salt water.

Anglers in the Billfish Blast tournament held here every May label them as pests. But it’s all that fin flapping and those pulsing hearts that attract the oceanics — and the reason that Stuart Cove’s has started tours here.

Dive teams intentionally replicate the actions of a fishing boat, including gunning the engine into reverse.

“All the cues are there, so the sharks are confused,” Faulkner says. “They’re like, ‘Where the frig is the line?’”

Trickle Down Theory

The process starts with a slick of menhaden oil — a fish-attractant that smells like wax and is as common here as white ice chests. Next comes chum.

Barbosa slides a glove on, and then secures a hunk of mahi against a cutting board while perching off the swim platform. Down comes the hatchet as he flings bloody bites of sushi into the flat sea.
Sometimes the sharks appear right away — or, rarely, not at all. It’s the wild, not Disney World. Today it’s only 20 minutes before the first dorsal fin cracks the surface. We climb into our gear, and then plunge in behind Barbosa.

There is a system for the dive: An aluminum cube holds enough enticing scraps to persuade the predators to stick around. Tis is the worm on the hook — the bobber is a standard tagline buoy, which lets surface support know where the divers are at all times because the buoy is tethered to nothing. The whole show travels.

Barbosa keeps a light grip on the line connecting the bait box to the buoy. He stays at the center of the action, and can dole out fish bits if the sharks appear to lose interest — unlikely, given that it’s also raining chum. When Duncanson brings the boat near the group, Faulkner lobs tuna heads and skins into the mix, helping photographers get the open-jaw shots.

For me, the trickle-down of meat is just another obstacle to avoid. I keep it in mind when I first get in the water — when things are still quiet.

Swimming with oceanic whitetips requires mental gymnastics: Just as a juggler stays mindful of every brightly colored ball lobbed aloft, a diver must swivel one’s head about, keeping an eye on the ever-swimming sharks. As a species, they are known for nudging — then attacking — the unsuspecting. But they always knock first.

It’s polite feeding, remember?

In the water, tracking one shark is easy. Then it’s two. Three and four make me thankful for my second cup of coffee. Five and six make me wish I’d thought of a better system of staying aware of their positions. Photographer Elly Wray and I had considered diving with our backs up against one another so we wouldn’t be caught off-guard, bumped from behind. When the dive started, this seemed silly. Now I scan for her. Her hooded head is fixed behind the camera, strobes firing. She’s happy in her element.

That’s one of my first mistakes: I had been watching my buddy, not the sharks, when I first spotted the female whitetip who had me in her scope, pressing steadily forward. With each flick of her tail, my heart beats faster. And yet, this is why I’ve come. The primal rush of a shark approaching, unafraid, is a high that divers rarely encounter on a reef; most sharks keep their distance, darting away when spotted. Photographers call this head-on approach the Mercedes shot. Experience it, and it will be imprinted on your memory.

Right now, as this graceful powerhouse swims closer, it’s like watching target practice. I know it’s just a matter of seconds before it will veer away. Right? And just like that, doubt creeps in, quickly replaced by the sweet smell of panic — at least from the shark’s point of view.

She noses against my fins. I get the bright idea to use that soft plastic to swat her. That plastic is as deterring as a flopping fish, which, incidentally, is exactly what my fins must feel like.

If this were a movie, this is where there would be frames missing.

When I finally snap out of it, I realize I’m gripping Barbosa’s forearm. With his fingers tight against his chest, he makes the smallest OK sign. A question. I nod. With a flat hand, he gestures a reminder to slow my breathing.

Suddenly, the lessons come back. I have been diving with sharks a dozen times. I know the drill. Don’t show fear. Make yourself appear big. Yet I feel so small. The only positive thought flickering through my mind is that as long as I’m clinging to Barbosa, we must look like a giant fish. My other happy thought is that at the rate I am breathing, my tank will soon be low, even though we’re only at a depth of about 15 feet.

Strangely, this starts to relax me. With Barbosa as my personal bouncer, I’m free to admire these pack animals. Their fins are so long that they remind me of outrigger canoes. Oceanics have a cool, faux-aloof confidence — watching them in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I suddenly realize how lucky I am. Fifty minutes into the dive, and the sharks still have demonstrated only curiosity, never aggression.

Scanning the group again, this time I see I’m not the only one who made a fashion faux pas. Another member of our group is sporting yellow fins, and he too has the unyielding attention of a shark that demonstrates all manner of pliability as it checks him out. But when the rest of the paparazzi approach this twosome of diver and shark, it’s too much stimuli, and the shark resumes swimming wider circles around us all.

When my air supply is sufficiently low, I signal to Barbosa. Once I’m safely back on the boat, I stop shaking. By the time I down a bottled water, the rest of the gang is aboard — it’s time for the halftime show.

Sharks are like houseguests: Once invited, they get cozy until the cupboards are bare. And right now, we’re packing two Rubbermaid coolers full of fish. The photographers ready their cameras, lowering the domes halfway into the water for over/under shots. The chum-slinging resumes, only this time, the chorus of oohs and ahs is audible.

Memory cards soon fill and residual nitrogen depletes. It’s time for dive two — only now jumping in requires trying not to land on a shark’s backside, their noses nearly pressed against the transom.

Other divers plop in, but I can’t bring myself to giant-stride smack into the middle of circling sharks that have been served only appetizers. While the others take advantage of round two, I join Faulkner on the bow. We’re mere feet from snapping jaws, but from this vantage point, I can re-collect my courage. It’s secondhand experience, but right now, it feels first rate.

Hours later, we make the 40-minute drive east from Hawk’s Nest Marina to Greenwood Beach Resort, a rustic, charming inn favored by Europeans. Dinner is served just after dusk, and I take solace stuffing my face: warm conch fritters, potato soup, lobster dinner and coconut-cream pie. Comfort food. I return to the room, belly bulging, and climb under the cool sheets, nodding off as Wray reviews her images and gives me a pep talk. She admits that she was surprised at how afraid I was, especially given how many years I have been strapping on fins and tanks.

As tiredness sets in and I think about tomorrow, part of me wants nothing more than to walk the white-sand beaches — the ones that Bahamas is famous for — and forget all about sharks.

But it’s not beaches I dream about. When I finally fall asleep, I’m picturing a fearless version of myself — in black fins.

I Am Not Bait

Take two. Morning at Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina. The Stuart Cove’s crew has already set up our gear. As we embark on the hour-long boat ride, I take advantage of the fact that Andy Brandy Casagrande IV

is on board to shoot video. The GoPro-sponsored daredevil makes a living being fearless around sharks, including swimming outside the cage with great whites. Of course I hit him up for advice on how to be fearless around the sharks. Or for me, perhaps simply less fearful.

He says the biggest thing is to not think or act like bait. The sharks will pick up on that instantly. And with that, I find my mantra: I am not bait.

Faulkner answers another prayer: She hands me a pair of fins. Dark blue ones.

In the water, the first few passes the sharks make are a simple display of power — Lamborghinis doing warm-up laps. I work to make my buoyancy as perfect as possible. I want to avoid needless kicking, so I make like a statue and simply watch.

Sharks are funny. Anyone who has swum with them confidently likens them to dogs. Puppies even. Part of me understands. When interacting with us, they are harmless. They rub against divers to get a reaction.

I think they’re more like cats: curious and seemingly packing an agenda. They’re processing infinite amounts of complex data in any given moment. They scheme.

This occurs to me as I watch them twitch their freckled snouts. The movements are small, almost imperceptible. Te sharks are angling their noses and bodies into different positions, like rotating satellite dishes, to provide better positioning for their jelly-filled, cuplike receptors — the ampullae of Lorenzini. This is how they smell fear.

It’s this moment that I want to hold onto. I’m watching my fear swim around me, and it’s beautiful.

4 tips for shooting oceanic whitetips

1. Stay Shallow Oceanics are most territorial — i.e., more likely to come 
in close — from zero to 10 feet. This is also the sweet spot for surface reflections, or dappled light on their backs.

2. Don’t Chase Pursuit will only scare the sharks away. The electrical field emitted by your strobes should attract their curiosity.

3. Body language showing too much confidence might prevent a close encounter. Break eye contact from time to time. Letting your guard down (just for show) should bring them in.

4. Strobe Strategy Your camera-to-shark distance can change instantly. Be prepared to reposition and change the output of your strobes from close to camera at low power for a dome-bumping pass to wide set at high power when they’re farther away.

NEED TO KNOW

When to go Oceanic whitetip sharks flock to Cat Island in April and May, coinciding with the tuna migration.

Diving Conditions April and May temps average 75 to 80 degrees F. Visibility extends 70 feet or greater.

Operator Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas (stuartcove.com) brings a custom-built, 36-foot Newton to Cat Island, running trips through
 Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina.

Price tag From $2,082 per person for 4 nights/3 dive days.

25 New Year’s Resolutions Only Scuba Divers Make

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

It’s that time of the year again, folks. The time where we all vow to improve ourselves — one way or another — and get a fresh start with the onset of a new year! You’ve heard the repeat offenders (and probably made them yourself, be honest): lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, save money, drink less… the list goes on. So here at Scuba Diving magazine, we decided to come up with a list of our own! You know you’re a diver when…

A Diver’s List of New Year’s Resolutions

  1. I will stop taking so many underwater selfies.
  2. I will stop calling freedivers “snorkelers” behind their back.
  3. I will visit a new local dive site.
  4. I will dive more often to help manage stress.
  5. I will stop exaggerating the size of that whale shark I saw that one time (EVEN THOUGH IT WAS HUGE).
  6. I’ll stop referring to the beginners on the boat as “chum.”
  7. I will find a new dive buddy — but forever love my old one.
  8. I will not have any drinks the night before a dive.
  9. I will get another certification: Advanced, Nitrox, Cave Diving, Wreck Diving….
  10. I will ACTUALLY take that refresher course this year.
  11. I will finally edit all of my underwater video footage.
  12. I will learn a new skill. Maybe underwater photography….
  13. I’ll exchange my mother-in-law’s gift certificate for a shark-feeder program.
  14. I will take part in a Dive Against Debris.
  15. I will stop peeing in my wetsuit when my buddy is swimming under me.
  16. I will not laugh every time somebody on a dive boat uses the words “safety sausage” or “offgas”.
  17. I will finally start saving for my dream dive destination.
  18. I will subscribe to Scuba Diving magazine. 😉
  19. I will attend a diving-related function.
  20. I will stop tugging on sharks’ fins with my one good hand.
  21. I will join a local diving club.
  22. I will update my equipment.
  23. I will encourage my family to dive.
  24. I will come back in the same dive boat I left in.
  25. I will practice my emergency skills at least twice this year.

Scuba Diving Checklists: Wreck Diving

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Of course there’s standard gear for every dive: wetsuit or drysuit (or simply a rashguard if you’re in very warm waters), tank, BCD, regulator, fins and mask. Add a bit of personal gear, such as a camera, and on most dives that’s pretty much all you’ll need. But certain types of dives or those with a specific purpose call for specific pieces of equipment that you wouldn’t normally bring.

In this series of articles, we’ll help you put together checklists for various types of dives, this time for wreck diving.

Gloves

Ships are often made of steel, and when submerged — especially in saltwater — they rust. This, combined with damage from their sinking and general wear and tear, means that wrecks often contain sharp, exposed edges that you could easily cut yourself on. And because of the rust, a cut can very easily become infected. So if you’re exploring, especially inside a wreck (with proper training), you may find yourself touching surfaces, particularly if you use the popular pull-and-glide technique. Wrecks can be traps for jellyfish, catching their poisonous tentacles on the structure, so you also risk stings from these. Wearing gloves protects your hands, so wear them even if you’re diving in warm water where you wouldn’t normally need them. Even a pair of thin gardening gloves can be enough to offer that little bit of protection you need.

Exposure protection

You might want to consider wearing a bit more exposure protection that you normally would when wreck diving. If you’re diving in warm weather, a shorty might seem adequate, but if you accidentally brush the side of the wreck, you run the same risk of cuts and burns mentioned above. So a thin, full-body wetsuit can be very helpful.

Dive torch

If you’re venturing inside a wreck, regardless of whether you stick to the light zone, or if your training allows you to venture deeper, you’ll need a dive torch to light up the dark corners. And even if you stick to the exterior, a dive torch will illuminate portholes so you can see what’s inside. If you’re penetrating a wreck, make sure you also bring at least one backup light, and preferably two.

Line reel

If you need to measure the wreck, a line reel is a great tool, but if you’re venturing inside the wreck, a line reel is an absolutely essential piece of gear to help you find your way back to the entry point. In very low visibility, a line reel attached to the shot line (or anchor line) will guide you back to your boat.

Redundant air source

Again, if you’re venturing into that wreck, a redundant air source is a good idea. If you’re sticking to the light zone, a pony bottle or a Spare Air can be enough, but if you’re heading deeper into the structure, a full double set, with two full tanks and separate first stages, is the right choice.

The post Scuba Diving Checklists: Wreck Diving appeared first on Scuba Diver Life.

Dive Gear Maintenance Made Easy

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

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Gear Maintenance Made Easy

If you are a serious diver, odds are you’ve invested significant money in your dive gear. So it goes without saying you want to take care of that gear, right? Not only will proper maintenance greatly prolong the life of your gear, but it’s also one of the best insurance policies for staying safe while diving. Regular user maintenance requires that you visually inspect, clean and properly handle all the pieces of your setup using specific steps for both pre- and postdive care. So, before your next dive trip, follow the pre-dive steps in this guide to make sure your gear is safe and ready-to-dive. And at the end of your trip, or once you get home, follow the postdive steps to keep everything in top-notch condition until next time.

Masks, Fins, Snorkels

Predive Stretch out all the straps to look for fine cracks in the rubber; these are especially common in the heavy rubber straps on open-heel fins, and they’re clear signs of impending failure. If you do find any, immediately replace the straps. If you use a “strap wrapper” to cover your rubber mask strap, either slide the cover to the side or remove it so that the strap underneath can be fully inspected. Next, examine the silicone of your mask skirt, the flexible hose of your snorkel and the snorkel’s mouthpiece for any tears. The most common failure area on a mask is the feather-edged seal on the skirt. This can become imperfect or irregular in shape with time and heavy use, and that irregularity can create leaks. Finally, check all the buckles, which can crack, split or become clogged with debris that can interfere with how they function, and check the frame of your mask for cracking, chips or other obvious signs of wear, especially in the areas immediately adjacent to the glass lens.

Postdive To avoid mildew growth, rinse your mask, fins and snorkel in warm, fresh water and allow them to drip dry completely before packing them away. And pack these items loosely so nothing bends the fin blades, crushes the foot pockets or distorts the mask skirt. Leaving these items squashed into a weird position for a long period of time will cause them to take on an unnatural shape.

Regulators/Gauges

Predive It’s a good idea to connect your regulator to a tank when preparing your gear for a dive trip. Take a few breaths from the regulator, a few breaths from the octopus and check the SPG for an accurate reading. Visually inspect all regulator hoses to ensure there are no cracks, make sure there are no holes or tears in the mouthpieces and check the metal fittings for corrosion. If you use hose protectors, slide them away from the first stage to check beneath them. At the same time, look for corrosion on the metal first stage. Cracks in the hoses or obvious corrosion on any of the regulator’s components require professional service from a qualified technician. Next, disconnect the regulator from the tank, replace the dust cover, inhale on each regulator forcefully and hold a vacuum. Each regulator should let in either a very tiny trickle of air or no air at all. Also check each second-stage housing for cracks, and if you have analog, oil-filled gauges, make sure they aren’t leaking any fluid. Most divers now use computers, and although these devices rarely fail, a dead battery can cut a dive day short. So check the battery indicator on your computer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for when and how to replace these batteries. If you have an analog compass, rotate the housing to ensure that the compass card moves freely.

Postdive When rinsing your regulator, make sure the purge valves on the second stages don’t get depressed and the first stage dust cover is firmly in place. After dunking the entire octopus, rinse your second stages by running warm water through the regulator mouthpiece and out the exhaust diaphragm. Rinse the fitting that connects to your low-pressure inflator by working the slip coupling back and forth while holding it under warm running water.

BCs

Predive Check your BC inflator by connecting it to a regulator that’s hooked to a tank. Shoot a few bursts of air into the BC, then release the inflate button and listen for air leaking into the BC that would indicate a stuck inflator. A technician must repair any leaks before you get in the water. Next, inflate your BC until the pressure-relief valve pops off and let the BC stand for about 20 minutes to see if it holds air pressure. While the BC is inflated, check the cummerbund, waist strap, shoulder straps, tank band and all the buckles for excessive wear. If your BC has metal buckles, check them for corrosion, which will weaken the metal structure and eventually cause the buckle to fail. A buildup of a white chalky substance or green powder in addition to rust are all indications of corrosion. Minor corrosion can generally be cleaned with a stiff brush and a little white vinegar–be sure to rinse the item afterward so the vinegar is thoroughly removed–and a quick spray of food-grade silicone will help prevent future corrosion if routinely applied after your equipment is clean and completely dry.

Postdive Rinse your BC in fresh, warm water. Even better, add a small amount of unscented shampoo or a dive-gear wash solution to the rinse water. Take all the air out of your BC, place it in the bottom of the rinse tank, hold it down with your weights and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Then, drain the tank, rinse the equipment to remove most of the soap, refill the tank with fresh water and allow the equipment to soak a few more minutes to remove any soap residue. To rinse the inside, depress the manual-inflate button and hold the mouthpiece under running water until the BC is 60 to 70 percent full of water. Shake the BC to agitate the water and then drain it through each of the dump valves and the inflator hose. You should use each of the dumps, including the pull dump on the BC inflator hose, to remove salt crystals and sand from each of these important valves. Once you drain the water, fully inflate the BC, allow the remaining water in the BC to settle for a minute or two, and then drain it again. Finally, inflate the BC to about 50 percent of its volume and let it air-dry away from direct sunlight.

Tanks

Predive If you have your own scuba tanks, check the numbers stamped into the metal on the top of each tank, near the valve, for the hydrostatic test date–it expires on the last day of the month five years after the last date of inspection–and check the VIP sticker for the visual inspection date–it expires on the last day of the month one year from the date of inspection. If a tank is out of inspection, it must be inspected again before any dive shop will fill it. Next, check the tank valve for any impact damage or corrosion. Corrosion around the burst disc or the hand wheel can be an early indication that these items will fail. Burst disc failure will cause you to lose all of the air in your cylinder very rapidly, and if the thin brass stem that holds the hand wheel gets too weak, it can break off. Also look at the front of the valve and check the O-rings. If they appear fuzzy or you see obvious nicks or cuts in them, replace them.

Postdive Never store your tanks completely full or completely empty. Without some pressure, empty tanks can take on contaminants and moisture that can lead to corrosion. Full tanks, especially aluminum cylinders, can crack if stored for long periods of time. So, it’s best to store these cylinders with between 300 and 500 psi, and of course, store them where they won’t be knocked over or subjected to any other impacts.

Exposure Suits

Predive Examine wetsuits for tears, cuts or significant fraying around the cuffs, neck and the seams of the suit. Significant areas of missing or “pulled” stitching can lead to split seams, especially in high-stretch suits in which the seams recieve a lot of stress. Make sure the zippers pull smoothly and lubricate them with a thin application of paraffin-based wax where necessary. Drysuits require a more detailed inspection of the cuff and neck seals as well as the dry zipper. Any imperfections, cracks or cuts can cause the seals to leak. Inspect the dry zipper for missing or bent teeth or advanced wear in the fabric that holds the zipper in place. Unlike wetsuits, it is generally cost effective to repair drysuit seals and zippers. Only a qualified service technician should perform these repairs. You must also check the operation of the valves on the suit. Like the low-pressure inflator on a BC, check the drysuit’s inflate valve by attaching it to a tank and operating the valve a few times; it should allow air into the suit easily without sticking or inflating after releasing the button. Checking the suit’s vent valves can be more difficult. Do this by putting the suit on and inflating it completely, wait to see if the suit holds air, then activate each deflate valve several times to make sure they vent properly and reseal as they’re supposed to. If you notice leaks in the suit’s material, patch them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or return the suit to your dealer for service. Patched leaks may need to cure for 24 hours or more, so it’s best to check your drysuit at least a few days before you plan to use it.

Postdive Exposure suits can be hand washed in a tub of warm water. It is best to use a wetsuit shampoo available from any retail dive facility to help prevent the suit from fading or breaking down the integrity of the rubber. Wetsuits can also be washed in a machine with a hand wash cycle. Take it out before the spin cycle and allow it to drip dry.

Surface Interval For Gear

Always let your equipment dry thoroughly inside and out before packing it away. If you have the room, it is best to hang BCs, exposure suits and regulators in a cool, dry closet. The garage may not be the best place to store your gear, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate. However, many divers lack the space to do this. With the exception of your exposure suit, equipment can be stored in a good-quality piece of dive luggage without damage, but make sure the bag is large enough that the gear doesn’t fold or crimp in unnatural ways. Store your BC about 20 percent full of air to keep the internal sides of the bladder from sticking together. To further protect against age-related damage, apply a light coat of food-grade silicone to all rubber and metal components. Don’t spray the silicone directly on the components. Instead, spray a light coating on a soft cloth and rub it onto your regulator hoses, rubber fin straps and metal buckles. You can also preserve the life of the zippers on your gear bags and exposure suits by applying a dry-suit zipper wax. Simply pull the wax stick along the exterior of the zipper on each side, and then work the zipper back and forth a few times to distribute the wax. Store your mask in a rigid box to protect it from impact. You can add your computer and compass to the box as well. As a final note, before storing your equipment, look for items that need to be replaced or otherwise repaired. It is best to repair these items immediately so that your stored equipment is ready to dive when you are.

Gear Check

Certain components of your equipment require annual inspection and service by a qualified technician. It’s a mistake to assume that if you haven’t used your equipment it doesn’t require service. In fact, most technicians agree that rarely used equipment needs regular service more than equipment that sees more frequent use. Both your regulator and your BC should be checked in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually once a year.