Friday, December 19, 2014

Redundant Breathing Systems... Confidence... the next step...

  Recreational diving and technical diving used to be a lot closer in the activities performed. Diving was done by a select few that were very well trained. They dove a lot and practiced their skills, including the emergency skills on a regular basis. One of the biggest myths in scuba diving is that you can run out of air underwater. As discussed in a previous blog, running out of air, unless done on purpose, seldom happens, and as I expressed, "you cannot run out of air." Please read the blog to find out why... Even so, basic scuba divers learn at least a couple of emergency techniques to deal with out of air situations. The emergency buoyant ascent and the emergency swimming ascent are two. A controlled emergency swimming ascent is part of every scuba diver's open water training. The question you have to ask yourself is, "do I remember how to do it?" Look up "s-drill."
As a NAUI dive instructor, I teach my students to be good dive buddies. Nonetheless, just because you are in the same ocean as your buddy, doesn't mean they will be in arms reach if you ever run out of air. Sharing air with a buddy is the prefered method to ascend safely to the surface. 

Most certification agencies don't encourage "solo diving." As a diver with technical experience, I understand that a technical dive is a solo dive. Technical divers plan accordinly and often follow decompression schedules that means they are required to stop at different depths. That being said, each diver on a technical dive site may not be able to exit the water together, so sharing air to the surface is problematic. Technical divers also plan for the worst case scenario and bring what they need to resolve those issues at depth. Recreational divers plan that in a worst case scenario, they've got to get to the surface.
Until you are ready to start your technical training, there are things that you can do to better manage your gas. You can follow a "rule of thirds." This might not be your best option unless you are diving with a very large cylinder. Most divers want to get the most time out of every dive and leaving a third of your gas in the cylinder usually means shorter dives. You can learn to manage your air consumption. Yes, your air consumption usually gets better over time, but how much air you are consuming on your dive is only part of gas management. The time to a site, time on a site, and the time to return to the shore are also part of it. Those takes time to learn and lots of dives to master.
There have been divers that jokingly have asked me if I was going to run out of air. They see the extra cylinder I regularly dive with and wonder what that's all about. When I do dives, I don't plan on running out of air, and while I have never had an equipment failure nor an out of air emergency, it could happen.

Divers carrying redundent breathing system can develop a level of confidence beyond emergency skills. I've seen it. I believe that the diver should be as confident even without the RBS. Look at it this way, if your dive buddy isn't near enough and there is an issue, you can be your own buddy and make your ascent safely and slowly, breathing all the while. 

If you don't dive with an RBS, have you been mentally rehearsing those skills and going over the maneuvers and procedures on a regular basis? One of my newest students demonstrated his confidence on a dive at Clear Lake. His regulator free flowed and he did exactly what he was supposed to. We shared air to the surface. He was totally cool during the whole procedure.

Likewise, one can't say that just because you have the equipment, that using it effectively is going to happen, either. Just like emergency skills, RBS skills need to be practiced. Ascents with and RBS have to be practiced. A few of my students have shared a confidence they didn't know before diving with their RBS. If they ever were on their own, they don't feel that the lack of a dive buddy is a danger. 

So, are you going to fork out a couple hundred extra dollars (minimum) for equipment you'll never use? The purpose of owning it is for emergency purposes, but owning it alone might not reduce any of the risks of diving. In fact, I was recently made aware of a change in policy requiring an RBS on a particular dive site. This dive site had a regular policy that an RBS was required in order to participate. Being an instructor myself, the dive guide felt comfortable sharing some of what they saw. Untrained in its use precipitated to several divers actually running out of air. While no injuries occurred, they could have. The common mistakes included: the diver starting the dive out on the smaller cylinder; switching to the redundant cylinder to extend bottom time; and in one instance, even completing the dive on the redundant cylinder because they interpreted, "returning to the surface with 500psi in the tank on their back," meaning that at 500psi the diver must switch to their redundant cylinder. 

If you want to learn more about the RBS and learn how to use it, let me teach you how.




Sunday, December 14, 2014

An SPG is not always an SPG...

When I teach my beginning open water scuba diving course, one of the things we talk about during the educational portion are the myths associated with scuba diving.
One of the biggest myths is that, "you can run out of air underwater." Here is why the perpetuation of this myth is unfounded. Unless it is your goal to actually breath all of the air out of the scuba cylinder, we will contend that no one wants to run out of air. As a NAUI Instructor, I promote diving with a buddy until the time comes that your training provides you with the requisites to attempt diving on your own. Solo diving will be left for another discussion.
So, what do I mean with that statement. Let's look at the SPG. The submersible pressure gauge is a tool used to aid the diver determine how much air is left in the cylinder. Believe it or not, there was a time when divers did not use pressure gauges. The scuba cylinder had a valve on it that when in the "off" position, left a little bit of air in the cylinder. Once the diver felt the resistance of getting low on air or ran out, they pulled a lever which opened the valve the rest of the way providing them the additional air required for an ascent. As you can imagine, the "J" valve fell out of favor. If the lever was in the "on" position all along and unbeknownst to the diver when they pulled the lever and there was no air, their only options were buddy breathing (one regulator, two divers) or an emergency ascent to the surface.
So, what do I teach my students. I teach them that, "you will never run out of air." When I say this to them, I ask them to tell me what they think that means. I usually get two interpretations. The first is that this diver, the one I teaching at this moment will not run out of air. As if they have a technique that makes it possible for them to survive underwater without needing to breath. Well, we know that can't happen. No one has that ability. Next, I hear that the diver believes that there is so much air in the scuba cylinder that it will never run out -- that it will never become empty. Well, as we know, that is not true either. It is possible for the cylinder to be breathed down to nothing and it is possible for all the air to escape from the cylinder (accidentally or on purpose).
This is what I teach. The SPG tells the diver how much gas is in the cylinder at that particular moment. Has anyone ever told you that all SPG's have a margin of error? Some more than others, but usually a few percentage points. Electronic pressure gauges are the same but the margin of error is higher. That's something to keep in mind. Also, just because the SPG reads 3,000psi doesn't mean there is 3,000psi in the cylinder. Most divers check the SPG when assembling their gear, but what about the moment they enter the water and after the cylinder cools? What about once you reach your desired depth or dive site? What would it mean if you looked at the SPG and it still read 3,000psi? What about 300psi? If you develop confidence as your dive career progresses, you should be able to look at it and determine that it is not working properly, tell your buddy, and swim safely and surely to the surface.
Mechanical failures are rare. Even when they do happen, what the diver does then can make the difference between life and death. Divers learn to never hold their breath, ascend slowly, and some even learn to relax well enough to extend bottom times and improve their buoyancy. Learning about air consumption rates, where you are, being ever present and aware of your equipment and your environment usually takes a little longer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Two great dives with Callie Renfro

132fsw for 45 minutes
142fsw for 43 minutes

No deco, all NDL

New depth limits for Callie. She did great.

Sunrise Motel & Dive Resort
Hoodsport, WA

jca elite scuba, private lessons, flexible scheduling, naui, learn to scuba dive, portland, oregon, vancouver, washington

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Charging volunteers a fee to help clean up the environment

Charging volunteers a fee to help clean up the environment... Really?

Is volunteering done out of the kindness of one's heart or one's wallet? Do we volunteer to make the world a better place even if there is no return on our investment? I do...!!! There is a difference when that fee buys food, drinks, and pays for the costs associated with renting a campsite -- when it is all spent on the activity.


I just found a flyer for a dive shop that charged volunteers $20 to come pick trash out of a local lake. The volunteers did get a sandwich lunch and soda. What was not included: parking ($10/day or $30/year); air fills ($5-10); rental equipment ($50-$75); and of course they had to drive up there and pay for the cost of gasoline ($2.75/g).

I talked to the park ranger, and as expected, a business cannot charge people to go to the lake to do an event like this. A foot-long sub at Subway cost $5 and a can of soda, 50 cents... where did the extra money collected go? Does anyone think this is wrong?

Monday, December 8, 2014

You've gotta start somewhere

In the Maya Underworld

Cavern Diving... open water divers welcome

It's what started it all for me. I went to Mexico and I wanted to dive the cenotes...

Next year I went to Florida and got cave certified.

A new JCA Elite Scuba Partner

Scuba Diving Lessons for Women by Women

Learn to Scuba Dive in the most beautiful place on Earth...

Sea Fox Divers provides the best scuba diving lessons in the Portland and Vancouver areas. Your scuba diving certification will be taught on your schedule, where you can take as long as you want with individualized and personal attention. Finish your certification in a few days or a few weeks. There is never a rush to have to keep up with others or at their pace. Learning modes include textbook, online learning, DVD, and every student will receive direct facilitation from a Scuba Diving Instructor . 

a little about Callie Renfro...

She got certified in 2010 and loved diving so much that she immediately started to take specialties courses. She started diving the Oregon Coast almost every weekend, and with lots of dives under her belt, became a Dive Control Specialist in 2012. Encouraged to keep learning and wanting to teach, she quickly made the jump to PADI Assistant Instructor that same year. In 2013 she achieved Open Water Instructor and now strives towards teaching advanced specialties.

Callie mostly dives in the Pacific Northwest. During the winter months she loves crab diving at Netarts Bay. Every year she spends two weeks diving the warm waters of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, home of the Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA). These life-sized statues were created to promote reef growth and provide marine life habitat.

One of Callie's greatest passions is deep diving. Her favorite dive so far was diving the Cenotes in Tulum, Mexico, which pushes her desired to become a Cave Diver. 

Contact Callie Renfro at for more information, to schedule an appointment, or learn more scuba diving!

Buy locally or online...

FRIENDS AND STUDENTS... A CONVERSATION I HAD THIS MORNING... I KNOW THERE ARE MANY OF YOU THAT NEED IT NOW, WANT IT NOW, BUT PLEASE...***ASK ME FIRST*** I ***DO NOT*** WORK FOR A SHOP AND YOUR BEST INTEREST IS MY FIRST PRIORITY I'VE SPENT TENS OF THOUSANDS ON EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING. PLEASE DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES I DID. THERE ARE ALWAYS GOOD DEALS OUT THERE, AND SOMETIMES THERE IS NOT... Student: I found a used aqualung apeks black ice for $300 And I'm looking at a brand-new aqualung LUX legend regulator + aqualung legend octo for $950 Carlos: That's a good price for the BCD. Is it in working order? The regs... Are they new or used? Student: Yes on the BCD and the rags are new Carlos: Where are they selling them Student: eBay Carlos: FYI. If you buy on eBay you will not get a warranty. New or not... You also don't get parts for life on the annual reg service. They will be as is... Student: The manufacture should cover the warranty If they're going to stand behind their Carlos: I know a good deal is important, but please let me look at what you want first... Student: I want the best without paying top dollar Carlos: Nope. Sorry dude. Original factory warranty only applies to purchases from authorized retailers at MAP pricing. Aqualung and Scubapro set those rules in effect to prevent online sellers from killing them. Student: These are all valid concerns and I appreciate your professional opinion, I guess I'm just looking for the best deal for the best equipment Carlos: I'm here to help you make good scuba choices... Online sometimes can be a good deal on used and older equipment , but for new, you can get screwed. Do you know that the retail store won't give you a better deal? Student: No I don't know that. I have compare the prices though to new and it's a couple hundred dollars savings per Carlos: I can bring you to several shops that sell all the manufacturers... You should let them give you a quote before buying. You never know if their price is better and there is nothing worse than buyers remorse. Student: true Carlos: Again, I don't sell equipment and I don't get any kickback or benefit from bringing you to a retailer, but I've been a retail customer for 8 years too, and I've screwed on both by not being informed. All I ask is for you to slooooow down. Student: The BCD ends at 20:00 tonight It retails for 600 everywhere you look on line Carlos: Manufacturer warranty is a funny thing. it could be useless and it could be invaluable. Some manufacturers also offer free service kits when you buy new. During your annual service that can save you $100. In two years you break even, still have a warranty and start saving going forward... The more you know buddy! I would recommend wait, but its your $$$... I'm not giving wrong info... Student: In light of this new information I will reconsider I am at the mother-in-law's place trying to dog proof the yard today rebuilding some fence sections as I am being deployed for approximately three to four weeks Carlos: There are always specials and deals... Wait... However you do it, I want you to be safe... Money is not everything but buying as is online can be, CAN BE, good or bad... It takes experience. I'm asking you to wait. None of the places I'll bring you will ever make you feel pressured to buy and you will not be suckered into buying more than you need... Be safe during your trip. Student: Until we meet again. Mahalo! Carlos: cheers

Sailfin Sculpin are one of my favorite fish in the Puget Sound...

#scuba #sailfinsculpin #sculpin #pugetsound #nightdive #sunrisemotel