Manta Divers, August, 2015 Diving Pearls
There is a real learning curve to diving. Most students start out awkward, not able to hold our bodies in one position for long, hitting the bottom, then bouncing to the surface and sputtering through the mask clearing skills. Once the students make it through their open water dives, though, they are fairly competent. Building on that, they go on to Advance Open Water, and expand on their skills even more. However, to move beyond “competent” or “pretty good,” it takes lots of dives with concentration on skills. Diving is not just about techniques, though. It is also about the whole dive experience. The more one dives, the more one learns. I thought about the things I’ve picked up along the way as well as the things I wish I had known (or understood) when I was a new diver. Here are my top 12 lessons!
- Practice your basic scuba skills. This is important to do on every dive, but it is especially important on the first dive of a trip or your dive season. Leave your camera behind and review skills, reacquaint yourself with your gear (or meet the gear for the first time if you are renting.), check that you are weighted correctly (including checking your trim), practice alternate air use with your buddy and fine tune your buoyancy.
- Respect your personal limits and be honest with your dive buddy or the dive leader if you have reservations about the
- dive. If you find a lack of confidence/experience keeps you from doing dives you and your buddy would like, consider taking Advanced Open Water, or some the many available specialty courses to bring up your skills and better prepare you for different dive experiences and environments. If you’ve not been diving for a while, definitely take a refresher course.
- Plan your dive, dive your plan. Even if the dive operator has laid out the dive profile and the divemaster will be leading you on the dive, there is still much to plan with your buddy. When will we turn the dive? At half our tanks? One third our tanks? How deep should we go? Where will we be in relation to each other? Side by side? One behind the other? Who will lead? Review hand signals, emergency steps and buddy separation procedures. Dive your plan! Unless you and your buddy are fluent in sign language, it is very difficult to communicate a change in plans underwater. That said, at times, it is necessary to deviate from the plan. That is why it is important that at least one member of the dive team carries a slate so, if necessary, communication can be written and understood.
- Bring a flashlight, even on day dives. I was surprised to learn how many creatures, corals and fish are hiding under ledges and in shaded parts of the dive site. Bring a small, compact dive light on every dive. You can stow it in a pocket and know that it is always there if you need it.
- Mind your gear. Mark every piece of your personal gear. Never assume that you (Or another diver, for that matter) will be able to readily tell your gear from
gear of the same brand that belongs to someone else. Maintain your gear according to the manufacturer’s schedule. If you must rent, don’t settle for ill-fitting gear. Check everything out (Does the BC hold air? Are the batteries in the computer good? Are there any leaks in the regulator hoses? Is the mouthpiece intact?). Make sure you know how to operate everything (How does a diver ditch these weights? What kind of Octo set up does it have?)and that everything is easily reached when you are kitted up. Be responsible for your own gear and pack it with your personal check list in mind.
- Once your mask is defogged and rinsed, put it on your face. This will ensure that your dive is fog free. If you are going to wear your mask around your neck or on the top of your head, don’t bother with defog.
- During your dive, check your air and No Deco time frequently. Even an experienced diver can suddenly be lower on air than anticipated due to equipment malfunction or if they are working harder than they thought during a dive. In addition, in the case of computer failure, it would be comforting to know that you had recently checked your gauges and know about where you are in regard to air pressure and NDL and can plan accordingly.
- Be a good buddy. Establish before you are underwater who will be leading, where you will be in relation to each other and then follow the plan. Do a thorough buddy check prior to entering the water. Air on? No hair in mask? All clips clipped and gear streamlined? Keep your hands to yourself and don’t use them to compensate for poor buoyancy control, lest you knock your buddy’s mask off or regulator out of his mouth. Stick with your buddy throughout the dive.
- When diving from a boat, ask for permission before boarding. The crew may not want you under foot when they are finishing preparations for your group. Set up your kit and secure it with the tank clips or bungie cord provided. Stow all bags, cases, accessories and stuff you brought with you under the bench. Clip your mask to your BC and have your boots and fins out of your bag so they are easily accessible when it is time to gear up.
- Listen carefully to the dive briefing so you know what the plan is and how the operators want you to enter and exit the water. If you choose not to listen to the briefing, at least be courteous to the other divers and be quiet while the dive leader is talking.
- Never take off your fins before you are in contact with the boat, either at the ladder or on the trail line. Never position yourself directly under a diver exiting the water up a ladder. If you can see the bottom of that diver’s tank, you are in danger!
- For the Underwater photographers out there, do not chase the marine life. The best way to photograph a sea creature, is to wait for it approach you. It is not worth stressing the animal just so you can get a photo, and besides, they can out swim you any day of the week. In fact, chasing the animal usually results in a bunch of shots of the back end of fishes! If the divemaster points out a creature you would like to get a photo of, take your shot and get out of the way of the other divers. If you would like more time with the subject, and your buddy is agreeable, allow the rest of the dive group to get a look, then return to the spot and shoot away. Your subject will be calmer and you will have time to compose the shot without being rushed.
In Other News…………..
There are still several spots on Team Manta’s trip to Grenada Feb. 20-27, 2016. Grenada has some of the best and easiest drift diving you can do at some of the most wonderful sites in the Caribbean. Come explore the sunken cruise ship, Bianca C and the underwater sculpture park.
Be sure to get your reservations in for the Lake Wazee trip, Aug 29-30. And the Haigh Quarry trip on Sept. 19 and 20. Either of these trips would be great for completing open water or advanced open water dives.
Congratulations to new Rescue Divers, Sean Bellinger and Anthony Townsend, and new Open water divers, Sam Nudi, Cooper Siudak and Nick Christensen!
Announcing!! We have decided to do a dream dive trip to Fiji in January of 2017. Start saving up now! Details to come!
Manta Divers, May, 2015 Caribbean Explorer trip report
I am the first to admit that I was a little nervous about planning our first live aboard trip. I mean, what if we get sea sick? Will we go stir crazy staying on a boat for a week? Will I want to keelhaul anyone at some time during the trip? (For that matter, will someone want to keelhaul me?) I am happy to report that Team Manta’s adventure aboard the Caribbean Explorer II was a great success with everyone getting their fill of diving and no one being keelhauled.
Our itinerary called for us to meet up with the boat in St Maarten, cross over to Saba, dive there for a few days, cross over to St. Kitts, dive there a few days, and then catch a flight home from St. Kitts. So, in the early morning of April 4, 2015, we headed down to O’Hare to start our journey to St. Maarten. After a long day of travel through various airports, we arrived at the marina. Once given permission to board, we stepped on with our bags and met our crew. There was Captain Bob Magilligan, DM’s Anouk Stroes, from the Netherlands, Josh Farmer from Virginia and Brett Lookhoff from Louisiana. Our chef, and e-book author, was Dave “Tuna” Tunnicliff from Liverpool and our engineer, who worked like a dog the whole week making certain everything was tip top, was Terrence Lavia.
After the introductions, and a tour of the boat, we quickly set to work assembling our dive kits. It would be the last time we would assemble them for the week. After each dive, we disconnected our first stages and the crew filled our tanks right in place from the whips that were above each spot. When it was time to dive again, we analyzed our nitrox, signed the log and reattached our first stages. Good to go!
Once my kit was assembled, I made my way to Mike’s and my room for the week, cabin number one. It had a queen sized bed, a small amount of storage (our bags fit under the bed)and a private bath. One thing you need to understand about live aboard diving is that you need to pack light. A couple of swimsuits and a cover up to wear to meals are about all you need. I also suggest bringing a light jacket, like a Chammyz (Check ‘em out at the shop.) to help you warm up in between dives, though you can do without even that, since fresh, clean towels are provided by CEII staff after each dive. The Caribbean Explorer supplies shower soap, conditioner and shampoo in each cabin, so you don’t need to pack that stuff either. We found that with such tight quarters it was better for one of us to get out of the room while the other was getting up or getting ready for bed. Travel on the boat was most turbulent when crossing from St Maarten to Saba and Saba to St. Kitts, so crossings were always at night. Note! Be sure to be in bed during the crossing because you do not want to have to navigate the stairs or hallways during this time. Except for the crossings, I thought the boat was very stable. It really did not take long to get my legs and become confident walking around the boat. I loved sleeping on the boat. Our bed was comfortable and, by the end of the week, I wondered if I was going to be able to sleep without the gentle to and fro I had become so accustomed to.
Another fact about liveaboard diving is that you must take your anti sea sickness medication about an hour before you get on the boat. People do not die from sea sickness, but if you get it, you may wish that you would. Don’t worry about feeling tired from the medicine, as when you need it most, during the crossings, it will be bedtime. As the days pass, if you are taking oral medication, you can try cutting the dose to decrease the fatigue.
So we were there to dive, and dive we did! There are five dives scheduled daily. Our day was literally, Rise, eat, dive, snack, dive, lunch, dive, snack, dive, supper, dive, bed and repeat. Passengers, of course, choose to do as many or as few dives as they desire. Our group did opt for a land tour on Saba in lieu of one dive, but otherwise, kept to the schedule. The water surrounding both Saba and St Kitts was a consistent 80F. I had been in the habit of taking a 5mm suit on dive trips because with the number of dives I usually do, I would get cold. This trip I opted to use a 3mm jumpsuit with a sharkskin hooded vest. I was very comfortable and the bonus was that packing a lighter suit helped me stay well within the airline’s 50lb. limit for my baggage.
Our first days were spent diving around Saba, a huge monolith rising out of the ocean. If you are familiar with the classic King Kong movie, you may recognize this island. On several of our dives, we spotted reef sharks, southern rays hidden beneath the dark volcanic sand and eagle rays cruising by. Moments into our first night dive, a large nurse shark joined us, following us the entire time, using our lights to find his next snack. We witnessed the demise of several lobsters and a hapless tang. The night dives were all fantastic, but one nice touch from the staff of the CEII made them even better. As we each returned from the dive and started to peel off our wetsuits, the staff was waiting with a warm dry towel fresh from the dryer, and an offer of hot coca or a hot toddy. One of my favorite dives on Saba was her signature site, Third Encounter. This is a 110ft dive around an isolated pinnacle rising up out of the depths. It was breathtaking to see large schools of creole wrasse raining down and around this colorful, coral covered pillar.
After fourteen great dives around Saba, it was time to make our way to St Kitts. While Saba is a public body of the Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis is a two island federation which is a commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth as its head of state. In contrast to Saba, St. Kitts is a lush, green island. My favorite dive was the River Taw wreck. We dove this sight twice during the day and once as a night dive. I loved watching the jaw fish rise out of their holes like genies from a lamp. I was lucky to successfully spot the resident octopus on all the dives, and was awestruck by the size of the lobsters living inside the wreck. One guy was so big, I wondered if he could get out from the inside of it or if he had just grown too big and was now stuck.
Aside from the reef sharks, my favorite critter sightings were a flying gurnard, a yellow seahorse and a crazy remora that seemed to have a crush on one of our divers, Terese. The Caribbean Explorer II and her able staff really sold me on live aboard diving. It is so easy: No transferring gear from one tank to the next, no worries about finding a good restaurant, no worries about what to wear. My fears about everyone getting along for the week were assuaged as well. The Team Manta members were, of course, their usual fun selves, and even the couple who took up the last cabin was great, but on a live aboard, if someone is getting o your nerves, it is never a long wait until you can get away from them underwater!
In Other News...........
There is still time to get in on the Rescue Diver course. Just sign up for the PADI online course, associate yourself with Manta Divers and start working! The open water rescue skills development and scenarios are scheduled for July 11 & 12 at Haigh Quarry. Call the shop for details
You just heard how great our last tropical adventure was, so don't you want to make sure you are not left out next year? Drop off your deposit for Team Manta's trip to Grenada, Feb. 20-27, 2016. See the tropical adventures page for details.
There are only a few spots left for the August 26 Lake Michigan charter to dive the Milwaukee Car Ferry. Payment must accompany reservations.
Manta Divers is proud to announce that Mike has successfully completed his training and is now a certified Scuba Pro regulator technician! We invite all of you proud owners of fine Scuba Pro regulators to bring your regs to Manta Divers for service!
Congratulations to Rosie Herrera and Yanaka Hoffman on their Advanced Open Water and Peak Performance Buoyancy certifications, Josh Parker on earning Night Diver and Deep Diver specialties and our overacheiver, Sue Bailey on earning Advanced Open Water, Night Diver, and Deep Diver specialty certifications.
Finally, Congratulations to Anouk Stroes and Josh Farmer for earning their Solo Diver certifications!
Manta Divers March, 2015 Talking Scuba with Kids
Greetings from Mook!
What? More snow and cold? How have we angered the weather gods? I am so looking forward to leaving next month for our week on the Caribbean Explorer. We are flying into St. Martin where the temperature seems to always be in the 80s. That’s only 72 degrees warmer that it was as I am writing this newsletter. It can’t come soon enough for me.
Recently, I was invited to Frank and Roosevelt Elementary schools to talk to 2nd and 3rd grade students about traveling the world and diving. The teachers wanted me to show the kids were Kenosha was in the world in relationship to where we have traveled. Lisa helped me out by putting together a great power point presentation with maps, pictures and videos. It was a fun outing and really an education for me.
The power point started by showing Wisconsin, then the U.S., then North America, then the world. Most of these young ones never gave much thought to Kenosha as a place in a much bigger world. For example, the kids who had made trips up north in the summer were surprised that the 6 hour drive only took them a half inch on the world map. I went on to talk about the fact that 70% of the world is water and some of it is fresh and some of it saltwater. I talked about the places we dive. It was fun to explain what a quarry was and why were there school busses and airplanes on the bottom. They all loved Therese Rutkowski’s picture of the paddle fish.
Lisa included comparisons of freshwater to ocean fish. Not surprisingly, they loved the pictures of the turtles, octopus and squids. I even brought a kid-sized gear set up with a plastic tank so a volunteer could be outfitted as a scuba diver.
After the presentation the top 5 questions were, have you ever seen a shark, how deep have you gone, have you ever seen a blue gill, do all quarry’s have school busses and how old were you when you started diving. (I must look pretty old to little kids) It is always a thrill to share diving with little kids. I guess they liked it too, because I am working on answering 22 follow up questions!
In Other News………….
Emergency First Response course is scheduled for March 21 at 11am. If you earned your Rescue Diver or Divemaster certification more than 2 years ago, it is time to renew your EFR. A clear advantage for all busy people, this course will be completed in one day. This course is open to anyone, diver or not, who would like to be able to do more than just stand by when accidents and medical emergencies occur.
Once you get through the EFR course, why not go for Rescue Diver? This is a challenging, but truly fun course that will leave you more confident as a diver and rescuer. Academic sessions will be April 30 and May 1 at 6pm in the classroom, open water skills practice and scenario evaluations will be scheduled at the time of the classroom sessions, so be sure to bring your calendars.
If you were unable to make the January Buoyancy Clinic, I still have 2 spots left in the March 22 session. This course is for anyone who wants to improve their air consumption, decrease diving effort and learn to be more relaxed underwater. It is also a favorite of photographers who want to practice hovering while holding a camera. It’s fun, too! Spots are reserved when the course fee is received.
Where do you want to dive this summer? Join us at the shop Saturday, March 28 at 4pm for our Summer Planning Meeting? Come and share ideas for dive events and get our calendar filled in for the summer. This is your chance to make sure that we are going where you want to go when you have time off. We are also vetting ideas for a road trip and some lake charters.