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May 08, 2007

Pool session

Sometimes the desire to dive just becomes overwhelming. Then it's really good to have a pool in your backyard where you at least can go under. I know, I know. It's laughable. Putting on your scuba gear just to get wet in an eight or nine foot deep pool hardly qualifies as diving, but I find it helpful nonetheless. It's certainly better than having to wait another seven weeks, or whatever, to the next dive trip. And at least to me, getting your dive gear together, putting it on, and experiencing being underwater is educational and good practice no matter when and where. Even if it is just a backyard pool.

So that's what I did last Sunday. It was a warm and sunny California day, maybe 85 degrees and the water in the pool was up to 73 or so. The pool water was clear and inviting (after the total nightmare with runoff from the hills behind my house that had left the pool a murky pond!) and just beckoned me to go in. My 11-year-old son shared the feeling and was eager to don his snorkeling gear.

Getting all my stuff together reminded me just how equipment-intense diving is. I try to keep my gear all together in a special dive bag, but even so, I had to search for my 4- and 5-pound weights, the dive computer turned up in my office where I had last uploaded its data into a notebook computer, and my dive light was missing. Not that I needed it, and I have a good idea where it is, but it was not in the dive bag. So much for keeping everything together.

My two big steel-95 compressed air tanks are in my garage, and one was still full. I knew which one was without hooking up a pressure gauge because I had paid attention in class: full cylinders have their plastic cap on, used one have it off. Carrying the steel tank up the stairs into my house and to the back painfully reminded me just how heavy and unwieldy those tanks are. One of them weighs 44 pounds. That's about as much as a wheel from a modern car, including tire. Picking one of those up and carrying it around is no fun, and few attempt it.

So finally I have everything by the pool, and run smack into the first problem. The belt that secures the tank to my Scubapro Knighthawk BC has a patented snap that needs to be adjusted for a particular tank size. They were set for the smallish 65 cu-ft cylinder I had used in Florida, and that, of course, did not fit the steel-95. Adjusting it is not obvious and the way I did it seemed to pull the velcro when I closed the snap. So I may have done it wrong.

Next problem: As usual, I have to think through how the yoke of the regulator goes onto the tank valve. And, also as usual, I wonder why aren't things designed so they only go on the proper way? As is, I can never remember if the longer part of the first stage points up or down, and so I need to make sure the hose with the regulator is on the right, the wireless transmitter that communicates with my UWATEC dive computer is on the left, and the two hoses screwed into the first stage both point slightly forward, and not backward. There.

Now it's on to the wetsuit. I didn't really need to wear it in the 70+ water for a short dive, but felt the experience wouldn't hurt. Well, guess again. Putting that very tight-fitting 7mm thing on was as big a pain as always. By the time I was done, the sides of my fingernails had dug into into the soft part of my fingertips from having to grab and pull the thick neoprene, I was sweating like a pig, and felt like sausage meat stuffed into a casing. Putting on a wetsuit is no fun. Ever.

Then I sat down and put on my dive socks that I first thought looked a bit silly, but make the dive boots go on and (and later off) much easier and also keep your feet nice and warm. I located the mask defogger, applied it and dunked the mask to wash it off. Put on my dive computer and also the funky Timex Helios Depth dive watch, just to see how it would work. Opened the tank valve, pushed the purge button on the second stage to see if I had air, checked the wireless connection between the transmitter and the computer, saw that I had just 2140 psi of air pressure in what I thought was a full 2640 psi tank (always give your dive shop time to fill the bottles so they can let them cool down, which I hadn't).

I put on the BC and am somewhat pleased that all the hooks and belts and snaps and connectors no longer seem quite as intimidating.

Then came the ever-fun task of putting on my TwinJet fins. No matter how many times I put them on, it still does not come naturally and I find myself fighting for balance until the fins are on and secured. Oh, forgot to put the snorkel onto my Frameless mask. Why they call the clip "quick-release" is not quite clear as it is anything but.

My son had been studying all this with the kind of attention you're likely to get from an 11-year-old. At times he seemed to hang on my every word of explanation, at times every bird in the background seemed more important. However, when I later quizzed him on buoyancy concepts, he had all the right answers, so apparently a kid can watch birds and listen to scuba lectures at the same time.

I make him go through a buddy check and find that I had not put the weight bags into the two pouches of the Knighthawk's integrated weight system. So we do that, I feel another 12 pounds heavier, and now it's time to go down. So I grab the scondary air supply, in my case the Knighthawk's AIR2, hold it up above my head, and push the rectangular button. I remember which of the two this way: the round button adds air to the BC, it's "round-up" or "roundup" and always reminds me what to push when I want to go up. It's hokey, but it works for me. I don't have far to go as my pool is only eight feet deep, but its FUN!!! I thoroughly enjoy breathing air through the regulator, feel the weightlessness and the serenity of the water, even in a pool.




I had brought another piece of equipment, a waterproof Pentax Optio W30 digital camera. It's a neat, sleek 7.1 megapixel camera that doesn't need a special case. Its depth-rating is ten feet and you can keep it down there for two hours. That's not as much as the 33 feet rating of the Olympus 770 SW I had tested in depths up to 70 feet in Florida, but more than good enough for snorkeling and even shallow water diving. The Optio is super-simple. It has an underwater still mode and an underwater movie mode. Once in either of those modes, you still have access to other functions, like white balance or exposure compensation or even different ways of autofocus operation. I am taking pictures of my son snorkeling and looking down, and he takes some of me diving. Later I do some movies that come out exceptionally well. It's amazing that simple 640 x 480 pixel movies from an inexpensive digital camera display great even on a 55-inch projection TV!

The night before I had tried to put my DiveOptx lenses back into my Scubapro Frameless so I could better see the readouts of my dive computer. The soft plastic lenses are supposed to be reusable. But even though I followed all instructions, I could not get them to stick. Also, it's nearly impossible to find a good place for the semi-circular plastic lenses in a modern low-volume mask. By a good place I mean one where the lenses do not obscure your vision while looking ahead and they are in the line of sight for both eyes when you look down at the computer on your wrist. I did find one, but the lenses would not stick there (not that they stuck anywhere else) due to very slightly raised lettering along the inside bottom of the mask glass. Ever since Captain Rudy from Bird's Underwater had suggested I get some "Liquid Glass" at Home Depot and glue the lenses on I had been searching for the glue. In vain. There's liquid steel, liquid wood, liquid everything, but not liquid glass. A Google search revealed that "Liquid Glass" is actually a family of car care products, so Rudy may have gotten the name wrong. I could use superglue, but I am afraid of ruining both my mask and the lenses.

It's a very bright day and so I have no problem seeing the dive computer display or even the smaller one of the Timex. The Timex officially starts a dive once it hits five feet and then it keeps track of depth and dive time, and even surface interval. Its depth reading is totally on the mark and in sync with the UWATEC. Later I found that the Timex had actually also stored depth, duration and "surface interval" of the 23 times I got above and below the 5-foot mark in the shallow pool.

While my scuba lectures had a hard time keeping my son's attention, he's totally fascinated with the bubbles that float to the surface. He follows my bubbles around and lets them pop against his mask. He does that for almost the entire 20 or 30 minute dive. We're having fun!

The chlorine in the pool does its usual thing. Though it is not excessive, my eyes burn and get red, and my nose gets stuffed up. So after showing my son how to properly purge his snorkel after a dive, I step out of my gear, hose it all off, and lay things out to dry and stow others away.

One final problem: apparently I tightened the regulator yoke knob too much as it won't budge. I am too pooped to worry about it. But the next morning I still can't get it open, even with one of those rubber sheets you use to open frozen bottle caps and jar lids. I am about ready to take a wrench to it when it occurs to me to push the purge button of the second stage. Pffffft! I thought I'd done that after I closed the tank valve, but apparently I'd opened it again. Now the yoke knob easily opens. I'd be red-faced if that happened on a dive trip. For now, I commit it to memory. Things to remember when diving, #67.

Posted by conradb212 at May 8, 2007 11:12 PM

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