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Diary of a trainee Divemaster Part 2  

Diary of a Trainee Divemaster.

Diving during lockdown

I am sure that we all had great plans for the 2020 dive season that was just opening up when Covid-19 hit and not only the UK but almost the entire world went into lockdown. Travel both domestically and internationally has been and continues to be extremely limited and there is no clear timeframe for when this will come to an end but come to an end it will.

As divers we like to prepare and plan ahead, whether it’s a question of what equipment to take on a dive or for an overseas trip. Planning is an essential part of the sport that we do – train, prepare, anticipate and plan –after all there is that old diving adage – plan the dive then dive the plan !!

As a trainee divemaster there are some aspects of the course that I can do even though I can’t get in the water and that got me to thinking about the things that all divers can do whilst we are waiting for that all important day when we can get back in the water - wherever that might be. It’s true we can’t book any diving trips as we don’t know when the current restriction will end but there are a number of things that we can do in anticipation of that date. So here goes with my list of things that we can do that will either make sure we get back in the water as soon as we can, that make us better divers, identify further training needs or simply just help to pass the time :-

$11                     Fitness – we all know that we need to maintain a reasonable level of fitness to dive. Not only because it puts less strain on our bodies but also because we often have to move around heavy pieces if dive kit. Generally speaking the fitter we are the more efficient our respiratory system is so the less air we breath when we dive so the longer our dives can be. Being fit helps our overall feeling of well being whatever the circumstances but in these times that is even more important. Exercise is one of the reasons we are allowed to leave the house so make the most of it and go for that daily bile ride, run or walk. We also need to make sure that we are still eating a healthy diet and not drinking too much alcohol – both of which can be quite challenging when you are confined to the house. Don’t forget the less you weigh the less weight you will need to carry when you are diving.

$12                     Equipment – dig out al of your kit, check it over and consider whether you need to get it serviced or repaired. Is any of your kit showing signs of excessive wear and tear or in need of repair ? Is there anything that you thought about buying or replacing but didn’t get around to ? f so do some research – what’s available on the market, what exactly do you need that piece of equipment to do / what type of diving are you going to use it for /how often are you going to use it ? The dive centre is able to respond to email enquiries – take some professional advice on it and order it now so that you are not waiting for it to arrive when you should be in the water using and enjoying it.

$13                     Review your dive theory – like all knowledge dive theory fades from the memory if we are not using it. Dig out all those PADI course manuals that you worked through as part of your training and recap the ground that you covered. The rules of physics in diving is always good to go over as is physiology and dive related first aid. Maybe your review will lead you to consider further skills and courses that you might want to do when the world returns to normal. Consider whether the course can be booked now so that you can work through the manual and knowledge reviews – I would suggest that Emergency First Responder might be a good manual to work though now.

$14                     Skills practice1 – as part of the divemaster programme students are required to be able to demonstrate the skills we were all taught on our initial open water course. One thing that is suggested is to stand in front of a mirror to see if you are demonstrating clearly. If you are refreshing your skills there is no need to o that in front of the mirror but there are certainly a number of basic skills that you can practice on your own at home so that you build those movements and processes into your memory e.g. mask removal and replacement, partial mask flood, etc.

$15                     Skills practice 2 – so your diving journey progresses you learn a range of new skills that you might not use very often. Now is a good time to refresh those skills. In particular things such as knot tying, setting a bearing on a compass, etc. All of these can be practiced on the surface so that they become second nature when you are in the water and have enough other things to think about – why make diving harder than it has to be. For example with the knot tying practice until you can tie the knots without thinking, then try and do them with your dive gloves on and then finally with gloves on and eyes closed – after all we have all been in Vobster when the viz has not bee great !!

As well as referring back to your PADI manuals and DVD’s don’t forget that there are a number of helpful and knowledgeable articles and video’s on the Scuba Scene website produced by the instructor team.

Whilst all of this is not as good as actually being in the water at least following some of these suggestions might help to keep your knowledge and skills up to date and whilst doing so give you time to reflect on the next steps that you want to take in your diving journey whether that be a dive trip abroad or another course to build on your existing skills.

Diary of a trainee Divemaster  

Diary of Trainee Divemaster

Why ?

Around 10 years ago I walked into Scuba Scene to start on my PADI Open Water diving course. I had wanted to learn to dive ever since, as a child, I had seen Jacques Cousteau floating around in this mysterious underwater world finding all sorts of weird and wonderful things. However I had never had the time or opportunity to learn - but now was my chance. As I started the course all I wanted to be able to do was dive safely and experience just some of the things that I had seen in those natural history programmes, things that so many people never get to experience for themselves. I had no desire to take my diving any further than this basic but competent level.

However, like so many of my fellow divers that have embarked on this course I was bitten by the diving bug – the lure of the underwater world and by the exciting shiny bits of kit that I could learn to use. And so began my diving journey.

Over the intervening years I have gradually developed my skills and experience by undertaking further courses such as Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver as well as diving in a variety of different places. All of these have taught me different skills and exposed me to new experiences. I was still keen to keep diving and develop my skills further so taking the Divemaster course seemed to be the next logical step.

I have asked around and there seem to be as many reasons for becoming a Divemaster as there are actual Divemasters. Some of the more common reasons, in no particular order are :-

  1. I want to become an instructor
  2. I want to work in the dive industry
  3. I want to keep diving
  4. I want to give something back to future students
  5. I want to develop my skills
  6. I want to become a better diver
  7. I enjoy teaching
  8. I just like diving

And so the list goes on. I am sure you get the picture.

For me the reason was that I wanted to become a better diver with a better awareness of other divers around me, which would mean developing the skills I have already been taught and building on them. I had no wish to carve out a new career in the dive industry.

I realise that I could have taken this course abroad in nice warm clear water and probably have completed it in a couple of weeks by mainly working with other instructors acting as students but what fun would that be when I could work with real students, a team of very experienced instructors and dive in the much colder waters of the UK ?

So the course involves improving my knowledge of dive theory, learning to demonstrate the open water skills to an instructor level, some pool swims and skills, updating my first aid training and more importantly gaining experience of working with real life students both in the pool and in open water dives. I don’t think it is going to be quick to complete this but then I am not looking for that. I am looking to improve all round as a diver and who knows when (if??) I complete the DM course I might change my mind (or be persuaded) and consider some further instructor courses – but that is a long way off for now but never say never in the world of diving. What I can say is I think the course is going to be a lot of fun, hard work at times but ultimately a rewarding experience.

As I work my way through the course I will try and write a couple of further articles so that others who are thinking about doing the DM course will have a better insight into what it involves and hopefully be persuaded to give it a go.

Its all in the trim  

Perfecting Buoyancy Control

It’s not surprising that the most common injuries among divers are related to buoyancy issues—barotrauma, uncontrolled ascents, marine life injuries and more could be prevented with some practice and attention to detail.

Inefficient buoyancy control can result in descending deeper than planned, altering the intended dive profile and potentially increasing air consumption. Constant adjustments to your buoyancy control device can also affect air consumption.

The worst case scenario is an uncontrolled ascent, which places the diver at risk for a lung overexpansion injury (pulmonary barotrauma) and substantially increases the risk for an arterial gas embolism.

Ear injuries are also commonly associated with ineffective buoyancy control. During descent, if you feel uncomfortable pressure in your middle ears or sinuses, you should stop your descent, ascend until the pressure resolves, attempt to equalize and, if successful, continue to descend. If you experience a reverse block on ascent, you should descend a bit and attempt to equalize. These procedures are difficult to execute without proper buoyancy control.

Most marine life injuries result from unintentional contact between a diver and the marine life. Proper buoyancy control is essential to protect ourselves and the environment.

 

Ask any diver or dive professional what skill separate’s the upper and lower echelons of dive proficiency, and you’ll almost always get the same answer Buoyancy control. Divers who master buoyancy control move through the water gracefully. They seem to ascend, st6op, hover and descend at will with hardly any effort. It’s as if they think it and it happens.

By contrast those without such control constantly kick or wave to stay off the bottom. They constantly adjust their BCDs, and visibly expend effort with every depth change. They may dive safely and effectively, but not efficiently.

Few skills can do as much for you as effective buoyancy control. It’s a skill that reaches into every dive, no matter where or what you are doing. It saves you air, it saves you energy and it makes diving more enjoyable. It also helps you to avoid damage to the environment and it distinguishes you as a diver.

A lot of people dive over weighted I have seen dive centres around the world putting on a little too much weight on people just to get them down. An important rule to perfecting buoyancy is don’t wear more weight than you need. Your BCD may be able to offset a bit of excess weight, but every gram you wear that you don’t need adds to your drag and magnifies the adjustments you have to make throughout your dive.

To work out what weight, we need we need to conduct a buoyancy check or a weight check.

$1·         Enter the water fully equipped for a dive

$1·         Go to water to deep to stand up in and completely deflate your BCD (if you are diving in a drysuit ensure any automatic exhaust valve is fully open.

$1·         Hang vertical and motionless holding a normal breath.

$1·         Add/subtract weight until you float at eye level with the water while holding a normal breath.

$1·         When you start to exhale you should slowly start to sink.

It may take a few tries to get this exact, also be aware that at the end of the dive you will be lighter than you were when you started the dive as you use the air from your cylinder so you may want to do a weight check at the end of the dive as well. Remember your weighting will be different when diving in fresh water and salt water so you will need to conduct a weight check in both fresh and salt. You may also want to conduct a weight check when you change your dive equipment for example exposure suit, drysuit to wetsuit.

Fine tuning your buoyancy. When wearing a wetsuit or a drysuit you’ll need to adjust your buoyancy throughout your dive to account for changes firstly you’ll need to adjust as you use air from your cylinder. You will also need to adjust for lost buoyancy as you descend as pressure compresses your wetsuit or the air in your drysuit, and you will need to adjust for increased buoyancy as you ascend as your suit expands.

You can also fine tune your buoyancy with breath control using your lung volume when you inhale you tend to rise slightly, and when you exhale you tend to sink slightly. Weight distribution also plays an important factor in perfecting that buoyancy. As a rule of thumb, you want your weight forward towards your sides and stomach, which helps you maintain a neutral swimming position. Weight distribution will vary from one diver to the next it can also vary from one dive to the next.

To be able to move through the water gracefully and without effort we need to consider what we call streamlining what do I mean here, think about a car with a roof box on the top going down the motorway fully laden the car will use more fuel on its journey because the box is creating a drag as it cuts through the air which puts more effort in the car and results in more thirst for fuel. It’s the same for us in the water the less streamlined we are the more energy we will use cutting through the water. The more energy we use the more air we consume from our cylinder.

Create less drag by keeping equipment tucked in nice and tidy and easy to reach gauges easy accessible to read don’t have equipment hanging off you all over the place, when moving through the water keep as horizontal as you can and visualize how you want to be in the water this all aides to perfecting that buoyancy.

Buoyancy takes time and practise the more you get in the water and practise the more proficient you will become. The better you become with your buoyancy you will then notice differences’ in your diving you become more relaxed, this enables you to enjoy the environment around you and you can take more of it in. you will start to notice your air consumption improve as your buoyancy improves allowing us to enjoy the environment for longer.

All about knots  

This months v-blog looks at knot tying....If  you havent done the search and recovery course then you may not know there are three knots that PADI expect you to know....These are made to look easy under the hands of Al Gorey...plus a few other knots that may be useful to know as divers....

https://youtu.be/-QIEvzkh6A8

A Red Sea Virgin  

My first diving liveaboard

Up to now most of my diving experiences have been in fairly (very !) cold and murky UK dive centres with the occasional dive in the warmer waters of the Med whilst on holiday. However this year I decided to go on one of the liveaboard trips that Scubascene organise every year. I opted for the Red Sea trip in June as I was promised clear warm water with lots to see. I was also told that I would be living life by the bell !!

So on 31st May 13 divers from Scubascene arrived in the Red Sea port of Haghada, laden down with kit including all the shiny new toys they wanted to try out and boarded the Blue Fin along with 6 other divers – strangely enough 4 of which were also from the South West.

First thing to do was to find a place on the dive deck and set up your kit. One advantage of being on a liveaboard is that you don’t have to move your kit around – once it is set up it stays that way throughout the trip and the crew come along a refill your cylinder between dives. We then had a safety briefing on the boat’s procedures and layout before having an evening meal in the salon.

The following morning we had a check dive to sort out weighting and make adjustments to equipment and then we were off. We had up to 4 dives a day, starting with an early morning pre breakfast dive and ending with a night dive. The diving was rarely on the same site and was a variety of reefs and wrecks. There was a stunning array of aquatic life to see and a wide range of wrecks to dive on including some that you could go into if that is your thing. There was the option of doing deeper dives but also plenty to see at shallower depths.

The water was, as promised, crystal clear and warm even at 20 plus metres – though surprisingly some members of the group still felt the need to wear extra layers. There was never any pressure to do all of the dives or do anything that you felt uncomfortable with on a dive. It was always possible to find a buddy that wanted to do the same type of dive as you.

A great aspect of a week on a liveboard is that everything is geared solely towards the diving and it gives you a great chance to develop your diving skills in nice clear warm water, to try out any new kit that you have and to change the way that you have your kit set up so that you can optimise your trim and buoyancy as well as to ask lots of questions about diving from a range of people who are all willing to share their knowledge and experiences. The crew were always on hand to help you get into your kit and into the water and there again to help you out of the water and out of your kit. It could not have been easier.

Some members of the group used the trip as a means completing some of their spec packages such as deep or wreck diving. The conditions or environment could not have been better for these specs. I wish all those years ago I had had the foresight to complete those specs abroad rather than in the cold murky depths of Vobster.

If you were considering a trip on a liveaboard then all I can say as a newbie to this type of holiday is that you will not regret it. It is a chance to dive with like minded people doing something that is enjoyable and gives you the chance to see things that only a few people will see except on the TV and your diving will improve considerably over the course of the week.

So what does living by the bell mean ? Well the bell rings to wake you up, to summon you for a dive briefing, to tell you it’s time to eat and sometimes just because the bell is there. I still miss the routine of the bell.

There are some downsides though. When on deck between dives you have to learn to sleep with one eye open or the chances are you are going to wake up with bright pink nail polish on either your fingers or toes, the shirts Ian got us to wear were of questionable taste but most importantly do not leave your dive buddies waiting for you to get ready when they are fully kitted up and waiting in 40 degree heat or all you will hear for the rest of the week is – “Darren, Darren are you ready yet ? Darren !! “

Don’t hesitate any longer – book that trip – I am sure you will not regret it.

It just doesnt matter...  

This month's blog is all about the continual discussions in diving about the merits of quarries versus sea and courses versus dives for experience. I have split the two parts up but I know that many of the arguments for and against will apply equally but I will start and finish with this point...

'It just doesn't matter!!' You should do the diving YOU want to do - be that courses, general diving, sea or quarry diving....GO OUT and JUST GET WET!!!

Part 1 - quarries versus sea

Ever since divers found that jumping in any kind watery wet hole meant they got to feel the underwater sensations that can only come from SCUBA, then that's what they have done...For the people out there that described this as just not 'proper diving' I have to say why? Just what exactly is proper diving? Yes it is a different type of diving, yes you may need to have a different skill set - but surely diving in the tropical waters with gin clear visibility needs a different skill set to diving in the low visibility cooler waters of the UK. The physics of diving don't change just the personal psychology of the diver. (And the attitude of the divers around them!!)

https://youtu.be/5mMjlJP0GwA

I know that there are various arguments for why someone should dive in the sea...such as the massive abundance of life in the waters in the sea and the chance to challenge yourself to adapting to new skills and experiences (such as the not so rocking of a boat when trying to kit up) but at the end of the day, do what you enjoy not what someone who supposedly knows better (after all as individuals we all have our own opinions - this is just mine) has to say on the matter.......

Part 2 - courses versus dives

Imagine those days when someone whom just got in the water with kit they just picked up..(And yes I know that those people still exist)..to the days when the training came from the ex-military divers wanting to show how real divers dive...to now the days when you have a course for pretty much any kind of diving (and some you hadn't even thought of) with lots of different agencies to choose from.

https://youtu.be/TtaXcP6SU54

As I stated in the clip yes I run a business that depends on people learning to dive and then continuing with their own diving careers (and I don't mean that in a course sense - since my business is also about equipment sales, hire, servicing and generally anything to do with diving!) I offer opportunities for people to get wet for the first time and then get qualified so the can actually get out and dive.

For all the divers that know me I have always said that the ideal place to get to is PADI rescue diver (yes every agency has its own level as equivalency) that way you at least have the skill set to not only to hopefully sort yourself out but at least the basics on what to do if your dive buddy (or another person) gets themselves into difficulty. We as a dive centre, offer opportunities for people to get wet, for some they want to do courses, for others they just want to get qualified so they can go out diving - we do not set the level that is down to them.

I'm going to end with how I started which is to say....

'It just doesn't matter!!' You should do the diving you want to do - be that courses, general diving, sea or quarry diving....go out and just get wet!!!

Is diving expensive?  

Scuba Diving is it an expensive hobby?

 

Being able to experience the diversity of the underwater world is amazing, you can dive the same site 10 times and always find or see something different. When I’m talking to people telling them about my underwater adventures they often ask me is scuba diving expensive? I think it’s how you look at It and what you want to gain. The PADI open water certification is about £445 and this enables you to dive anywhere in the world. Where you wish to take your level of diving is up to you.

It’s like any hobby/sport that you want to get into, there is always an initial cost for equipment and training courses etc. the biggest cost especially for UK diving is a drysuit, BCD and Regulators. When buying a drysuit you want to be able to try one on, get advice on fit, pros and cons of different types of drysuit.

Regulators, there are lots of deals about on the internet but when you look further into it a cheap deal can become expensive when you start to look at servicing costs etc. My advice here would to be buy local from a dealer as you can get first hand advice on servicing and which would suit your needs best. I also tend to say that birthdays and Christmas is a great way of getting dive kit together, expanding or upgrading from existing kit but when thought about and planned it becomes relatively easy.

We could look at mountain biking or golf again the initial cost of a decent bike can be expensive, but once you have laidout the initial cost the rest becomes easier. Once you have made the investment in equipment going out being active with our hobby is easier on the pocket.

Going out diving for the day around any of our wonderful coastline won’t cost anything to get wet. The only cost would be for fuel and the odd cylinder fills (at around £5 a fill). Just like with any sport of hobby you would still have a running cost.

Once we have built our collection of dive kit then there is the annual servicing of the equipment that requires to be done. Servicing generally varies depending on the manufacturers cost of service kits (the labour costs remain the same regardless of manufacturer) so a little homework can save high ongoing costs

So overall when looking at the cost of the sport/hobby it may seem daunting with the cost of equipment but when you look around all hobbies/sports will have an expense - some less than others. Never let cost of equipment hold you back most dive centres will have equipment that you can rent, (for around £35 for a day) so you can still get out diving whilst building up your collection of dive kit whilst enjoying the underwater world.

Like most hobbies you can spend a fortunate in a single hit or you can build kit slowly and hire the rest. Diving is no exception but it doesnt havent to cost the earth once you are certified.

Equipment set up  

It may seem like a strange video to put up....'putting kit together'...however we have seen divers struggle with this basic skill after coming back from overseas diving...so just to help everyone, Lee has put together this handy video clip.

https://youtu.be/Krxv-TeImtQ

Weighting and buoyancy  

As we are at the beginning of new year I thought it may be good time to put some of my observations down on some of the issues new divers commonly suffer with.

The most basic issues, certainly those doing their open water and more generally the newer divers suffer are around weighting and buoyancy control. Whilst on your open water course divers your instructors endeavour to getting your weighting correct at the beginning of dives there are somethings that you can do to help. The first of these come from your open water manual which shows a weighting chart, now the basic talk around your required amount of weight is about 10% of your body weight is not going to be 100% accurate, it is a good starting point. As there are a lot of variables around your correct weighting things like type of exposure suit i.e. drysuit or wetsuit or whether you are diving salt or fresh water along with things like confidence in the water and what types of cylinders are being used as steel cylinders will generally go from negatively buoyant to neutral throughout a dive aluminium cylinders will go from slightly negative to positively buoyant , how old your exposure protection is as a new undersuit will be more buoyant than one that has been washed multiple times, so as the above goes to show weight checks are important to continue throughout your diving journey.

Now going back to the common issues the most basic issue is that open water divers and newer divers tend to kick their fins whilst trying to descend now this is normally subconsciously and is to do with nerves as you are still not use to being able to breath underwater and will go away in time, but in the short term people tend to over weight them selves rather than address the actual issue, the first and easiest thing to do is cross your legs when trying to descend as then you cant kick your fins, other things you can do begin the night before, I personally will pack my kit the night before I go diving, giving myself a chance to do any minor repairs and being able to pack without rushing giving a chance to double check I have packed everything thus me being more relaxed when I get to the dive site in the morning. Another thing is to set yourself a goal to accomplish on a dive but you want to keep this goal simple it can be something like concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply or may be having good look at something your dive guide has mentioned in the briefing this will allow you to focus on the up coming dive.When you are kitting up have check list in place this can be a mental check list or a written check list to go through, so that you set your kit up the same each time in the same order to avoid mistakes, once you have put your kit on and are getting into the water rather than rushing to get below the surface and into the dive take a minute to let your body to adjust to the water temperature and think about the goal you wish to accomplish this will allow you to slow your breathing and relax making it easier to descend. Once you are ready to descend as I said before cross your legs let your self relax and exhale fully whilst deflating your BCD and equalise your ears early and often, once you are about half a meter to a meter down start breathing fully and slowly, think to yourself although you may be in open water now and the dive deeper you have done all this before in the pool.

All of the above will allow you to need less weight to descend and be more relaxed in the water which will promote better air consumption rates and buoyancy control, prolonging your dives and again all this will improve the more dives you do in general allowing you to enjoy your diving, but don’t forget thou that by far the best time to do a weight check is at the end of a dive when you have about 50 to 80 bar left in your cylinder so please feel free to ask your buddy or instructor to allow you to carry out a weight check at the end of the dive. As a last thought when logging your dive remember to log the weight you used as this will create a record of your weighting in different conditions and times of year allowing you to make better estimate of the weight you require when dive in new conditions.

If you like and find the above useful please let us know, we can expand on the above and bring up some new topics as the year progresses.

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