May 14, 2007
Okay, so you've not been diving in a while. The weather's getting warm, the days are getting longer, and your dive gear is getting dusty ... AND ... You are getting rusty!!!
It's time to get wet, folks! For those of us who are not fortunate to live in a place where it's warm all year, diving locally can be a bit limited. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are pieces of equipment that will help extend your scuba diving season. A drysuit being one of them. Hood and gloves are a must this time of year in Tennessee and well as California. As Conrad mentioned in his latest blog entry, it's no fun putting on a wetsuit, but it is a necessity in a lot of cases. So go shake the critters our of your wetsuit, call your local dive shop and set up a time for a refresher, or see if you and a certified buddy can rent the pool for an hour or so of much needed bubble blowing time!
Once you have your pool time scheduled, don't get in a hurry. Remember you're dealing with Life Support Equipment and it needs to be properly hooked up. Oh, and before you do that giant stride into the deep end, be sure to check your buddy's gear and make sure they have checked yours. BEFORE you enter the water is the best time to discover malfunctions, improper assembly, or even differences in equipment and how everything functions.
Once you both are ready, and you've entered the pool, be sure to spend some time in the shallow end just getting used to blowing bubble again. Close your eyes and imagine faraway tropical places ... OK, wake up! It's time to see if you remember all the basic skills. Does your regulator purge properly? Can you recover it if it gets knocked out of your mouth? Can you find it if it's hiding from you? Don't forget, scuba divers don't have immunity from Murphy's Law ... "If is can go wrong, it will." Well, in diving that law should read, "If it can go wrong, it might, and usually at the farthest away point from the entry!"
So your regulator and you are friends once again. Good! And your mask? Flood and clear it a few times ... Remove it and replace it. Don't forget: any hair under the skirt will cause your mask to leak. Oh, and that wetsuit hood? Make sure the skirt of your mask is under the edge of your hood all the way around!
How about sharing air? Do you and your buddy both remember how to do that? Were you trained to do it the same way? Now's the time to find out ... Not 80 feet deep in the ocean when one of you has a catastrophic air failure or just plain gets excited and forgets to check your gauges. Should that ever happen? NOOOooooo!! Check your gauges often! Make sure your buddy checks his, too.
Buoyancy. There's a good one. Practice staying just off the bottom while in the shallow end. We will do more of this once we get to the deep end in a bit. For now, re-familiarize yourself with all the many ways to dump air from your buoyancy compensator. You should have checked all of these when you assembled your equipment before getting in the pool, so everything should function properly.
And now for the deep end. Yep, that 15 foot deep area seems shallow, but remember that buoyancy is the hardest in that range. Spend a lot of time practicing buoyancy control, then try to do all of your basic skills with your buddy while remaining neutrally buoyant ... not so easy, eh? It can be done!
Feeling better about your skills now? Good! You see? It is worth the time and effort to refresh your skills in a confined environment. Now that you are comfortable, even your first dive during your trip will be easy and relaxed.
All too often people who dive infrequently go on dive trips and spend the first day or two getting comfortable in the water again. Why not do that BEFORE you go on that expensive dive vacation where bottom time is limited ... It simply makes perfect sense!
Now, go call your dive shop and get that pool time reserved ... Don't wait!
May 12, 2007
Are you one of the lucky people who suffer from allergies? I sure am! And here I am, living in the allergy capital of the world! Maybe not, but it sure seems that way!
Please remember that I am NOT a doctor, and I'm not offering advice, just telling you little tricks that I do to help me prepare for a dive during allergy season.
For starters, I try not to plan too many dives during the time I know I am going to have problems with allergies. I've never been officially tested for pollen allergies, but many different varieties seem to bother me. So for me, it's safe to assume if it's pollen, it's going to irritate my system. Dogwood tree pollen is awful, as is pine tree pollen. Both look incredibly mean when viewed through a microscope, so I can see why they are such harsh irritants!
If I do want or need to dive during allergy season, I use mild medications that Diver's Alert Network have deemed safe for diving. I also try them out on land, well in advance of the day of my dive. If I suffer from side effects above water, it's better to know well in advance so I can look for alternative methods. Many people don't realize the effects you experience from medicines on land will be amplified when underwater, as well as their effectiveness wears off sooner underwater.
Don't overstay your welcome. What I mean by that is make sure you don't stay down longer than your medication will last. When underwater, we generally don't breathe through our noses very much, except for a little to equalize the pressure inside your mask as you descend. So it's not always easy to tell when your sinuses are blocked ... Well, until you start to ascend, that is!
Believe me, if you've never had a reverse block while ascending, consider yourself lucky! I was in the Bahamas a few years ago and during one of our last dives, my sinuses became clogged up. While ascending, I thought my head was going to explode! Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but it sure did feel like it might! In all honesty, sinuses can be damaged by having a reverse block, so please remember to ascend very slowly and exhale through your nose more freguently to clear your air passages and help any mucus expel on its own.
I will be conducting two weekends of checkout dives beginning this coming weekend. For over a week now I've had problems with my allergies. Please keep your fingers crossed that I will get better before Saturday!