Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Emergency First Response Instructor Training-

New for 2009, effective in March, is a requirement that all prospective PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors be certified as Emergency First Response Instructors. We are offering this course of instruction starting on most Wednesday evenings. Give us a call at 206.396.9221 for details.
This a comprehensive course of instruction teaching you how to teach Emergency First Response programs for adults and children. Your course duration is 16 hours and you will have a fun and exciting time learning how to teach CPR/First-Aid/AED, primary and secondary assessments for adults and children.

GO PRO! PADI Instructor Development Course

We have planned a Spring IDC/IDC Staff Instructor program for the greater Seattle area. We start on March 12, 2010 and we are using a weekend format for this IDC. That means we will be meeting on Friday at 3 pm- 9 pm, Saturday 8 am- 6 pm, Sunday 8 am - 6 pm, for two weekends. IDCs are open to all divers holding a Divemaster, Assistant Instructor or Instructor rating . Regardless of your original certifying agency we can help you obtain your goal. If you want to cross-over to PADI this is an excellent opportunity to become a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.
Seattle Underwater Sports is hosting the IDC as they are a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Facility. You will be participating in a PADI IDC, participation does not mean you are obligated to teach for UWS. But, we ask that you consider Underwater Sports for your professional development and career opportunities.
Keep in mind the IDC is a mandatory materials course, so you will need to have all of the materials listed in your PADI instructor manual. It is easiest if you have purchased the IDC crew pack. This crew pack will have all necessary materials, slates, textbooks, quizzes and exams.
The PADI OWSI program is an outstanding training program that is recognized world-wide for structure and the associated comprehensive programs (e.g. EFR Instructor, Specialty Instructor, Master Scuba Diver Trainer, and Distinctive Specialty Instructor). This program will afford you an opportunity to gain basic instructor level knowledge that will open doors for you throughout the world.

Donna on Technical Diving for Women

On a fairly regular basis I am asked about women and technical diving. The questions vary but most are focused on these few questions. I am often asked: Is technical diving difficult to learn? How do you work with all of that heavy equipment? Is technical diving really worth it? What do you see? Why do you want to dive that deep? Are you technical diving to keep up with the guys?

Let me answer the last question first. By no means is technical diving an out and out competition with men. This is not a statement of "I can do anything you can do better". Nothing could be farther from the starting point than that statement. I have attributes that make me a better technical diver than some and a learning curve that makes me competitive with others. I think you have to realize we are all learning, working to push our individual limits under the guides of understanding diving discipline, depending on your buddy for support and guidance and perpetually diving to apply learned techniques and knowledge. After all, the corner stone of the DSAT program is that we teach redundancy in equipment and teamwork as divers. Two brains are better than one.

Am I competitive? Most definitely! In everything I do I play to win. With technical diving my competition is individual, I want to push my individual limits, but at my pace, and only when I am ready for the additional responsibilities of deep technical diving, greater depths, and overhead environments. But, I too am having a lot of fun learning and experiencing.

Technical diving is not a guy or a girl is a technical diver thing.

That being said, I also know that developing as a technical diver means you have to dive. I am pretty fortunate in that regard as I get to dive on a regular basis. After all, to be good at diving you have to get into the water. Structured education is the corner stone to developing as a technical diver. As a DSAT TecDeep Instructor and DSAT Tec Gas Blender Instructor, I have had the opportunity to work with a wide array of divers with various talents. Education, whether it is obtained through practical applications, textbook learning and or research projects is absolutely priceless. You really need to be able to understand all aspects of technical diving. Gear configuration, gas management, diving physiology, and most importantly decompression theory and procedures are just some of the basics of technical diving.

Is the equipment heavy? No way around that math problem, yes it is, sometimes very heavy. But that is generally from the back of the truck to the beach, or from the dive rack to the dive door on the boat. Once in the water this type of equipment is no more difficult to move and manipulate than most dive equipment configurations. Certainly no more difficult than my rebreather.

In fact I enjoy diving my twin tanks (I dive high pressure 100's) as much, if not more than diving a single tank. I tried the high pressure 80's, but found them to be very difficult to set down and pick up on the boat or in back of the truck due to the short bottle. Deco bottles can be added after you have entered the water from the beach. I really like leaving the boat with all my toys in place. When I enter the water off of a Bandito boat or from Kal's skiff in Sechelt I really like to have all of my toys with me. At the end of the dive, team members from these outstanding dive charters are always there to help me out. Climbing the ladder with a set of twin tanks most assuredly will make your knees wobble. But then again it is only a few steps and Rick or Kal or a crew member are right there to help. To answer in a nut shell, yes the equipment is heavier, but it is so cool to be able to do this type of diving.

Let me see if I can give you a vivid example of what I am talking about. Last year we did a 215 foot dive off of the Pine Trees in Kona, Hawaii. Ken Pfau, Terry and myself entered the water with our deco bottles. We were on a relatively small boat so opted to enter the water one at a time. We did our bubble safety checks and then left the mooring ball behind in 20 feet of water and began swimming down to our depth. Out past the shallow reef and over the ledge.

We were amazed that the bottom dropped away as radically as it did. On this dive we were treated with the experience of diving with a school of nearly 100 False Moorish Idols, we found a pink coral tree and we saw healthy vibrant coral all the way down to 215 feet. To me it was almost immediately evident when we left the area of 100 feet, that divers had not been in this area before. It felt like we were the first divers to visit this depth at this location. The fish weren't concerned, we saw a lot of fish faces, vegetation appeared healthy and undisturbed, and we were exploring.

We completed our dive of 215/20 minutes and began our ascent to the surface. A little over an hour and a half after we left the mooring ball we returned to the surface. This was a wonderful dive full of memories and experiences. I could not have completed this dive without proper training, perpetual diving, and of course disciplined dive buddies.

We all agree training is the key to survival. And when we dive at these depths we dive as our lives depend upon it. Our equipment is maintained, we train often, and we share all aspects of planning these types of dives. We are all on the same sheet of music. We may differ in stature, but we are all technical divers.

If you are thinking about technical diving don't let the guy /girl thing slow you down. Get out there and explore. This is an equal opportunity sport and I enjoy the challenges of technical diving...I really like all of the gear too!

After all- it is all about the toys! Big girls love toys too!


Technical Dive Truk Lagoon

Wrecks, Wrecks, and More Wrecks!

Recreational Diving

Technical Diving

Diving Truk Lagoon is often considered to be a diving opportunity of a lifetime. This is true. It is a fascinating place to visit, steeped in culture, scarred by conflict, and most assuredly remote and isolated.

Terry & Donna Miller have put together a technical dive trip to Truk Lagoon and you are invited to come along. We have only 12 spaces for this trip so signing up early will be an advantage. You can travel for the diving or travel for the training. Better yet do a little of both and travel for the diving, training, and fellowship.

We are offering two options for this adventure. Option 1 is as technical diver. You can continue your dive education in Chuuk. The water will be warm, clear, blue, and no there will be no sand. You can complete your technical diving in the warm clear water of Truk Lagoon, diving some of the world's famous ship wrecks. Can you think of a better place to do mask drills, gas shut-down drills, SMB drills, neutral buoyancy drills, and out of air drills? Now I have to admit that Truk Lagoon may not be the most fun place to take a written exam...but it will be warm and the sunsets are just off the scale. So bring your calculator, manual, and pencil, with an eraser. Starting your technical diving education in Seattle is fun and exciting, finishing your training in Truk completing dives 7-12 in Chuuk is just plain cool. You can train with Donna or Terry on some of the most interesting wrecks in the world.

Option 2 says that you have come to Truk Lagoon to technical dive, enjoy friends, dive, take in the beauty of the islands, dive, enjoy great food, dive, have a beverage of choice, sleep and dive. The pool is open and your diving is entirely up to you.

Included in the $2,945 cost of this trip is your diving, all of your air, meals, drinks, 02 and sleeping accommodations. We are not arranging for airfare as many people have indicated that while in the South Pacific they may want to extend their vaction. Some say they may want to stop off in Guam or Hawaii on their way home, and yet others have air miles they want to use to maybe get a better seat on the plane. Ken likes to ride up front with the we will meet in you Truk Lagoon.

For this trip you may want to budget for treasures. Realistically there are not a lot of places to shop in Chuuk, but you can buy a T-shirt, a really cool book about Truk Lagoon, and some jewelry.

What to bring...your technical dive gear, lights, cameras, some clothes (but they are really overrated and you spend a lot of time in shorts or wet suits) a tropical wet suit 3.5 mm is recommended and a long suit is highly recommended as there as some sharp corners on these wrecks and a few jelly fish...well more than a few. Bring a save a dive kit inclusive with tools; once on the boat dive repairs are left to the divers and the crew, and the crew is not a well stocked dive center. The Blue Lagoon Dive Shop is a long ways away.

Interested in diving Truk Lagoon? A $1,000 non-refundable deposit holds your space. We anticipate this trip to fill up quickly as it is advertised throughout the diving community world wide. So secure your space and let the wreck diving adventure begin.

Questions on expectations? Give us a call at 206.396.9221

Equipment Specialist

Have you ever wondered what goes into a visual inspection? Why is it important? How do you properly maintain the valve on your scuba cylinder? What happens to my tank when they want to tumble the tank? How do you maintain a B.C.? Is it really important that I send my regulator in for service? What can I do to ensure my scuba toys are working properly? Should I do more to my suit than just rinsing it off? How do they clean my tanks to nitrox clean? What does it mean to be nitrox clean? or cleaned for oxygen?
We are going to answer these questions and many more in this equipment maintenance and repair seminar. At the end of the day you will have valuable knowledge regarding your equipment and you will receive a PADI Specialty Equipment Specialist certification. You will need to bring to class your diving suit, buoyancy compensator or harness, regulator (s), and tanks (pony bottles are ok, but you are limited to only two cylinders). We will complete a visual inspection on your cylinders. Those that pass will be refilled. Those that need additional attention will be returned to you with a recommendation for service. So, come to class with two cylinders that are empty or with no greater than 500 psi. We will drain the bottles, (there is a right way and a wrong way to drain them), visually inspect the cylinders, maintain the valves and refill the cylinders. Also, we will be breaking down a regulator displaying the obvious needs and value of an annual service. You will receive hands on practical applications of field tuning and adjusting the intermediate pressure of a first stage regular.
If this class sounds like something you are interested in give me a call. Class sizes are small and personal so you will be able to learn and have fun! 206.396.9221

It's That Time of The Year! Repair and Maintain

Generally speaking our winter months are a little bit slower for divers in the Northwest. Although our water is generally a lot more clear and the tides not as radical there are changes that take place that make diving in the winter months more of a challenge. Most often the weather is a deciding factor in a dive. Northwest weather can be unpredictable, fickle, and certainly a challenge on most winter days. The wind is blowing, the sun is evasive, it is really grey most of the time and it is going to rain. More than likely the rain will be on and off throughout most days during the winter. Do you realize this is the only place in the world that forecasts 'sun breaks'?
So all of that being said, if you are taking a break from diving during the winter months start thinking about maintenance. This is an excellent time to drop off regulators for annual service, inspect tanks, and replace broken or worn equipment and upgrade to the next best greatest piece of diving equipment.
Inspect your tank, valve, regulator and all hose fittings. If these parts have that crusty white or green stuff all around the edges it is pretty indicative that you should have your gear serviced. Remember this is life support equipment and you will be depending on its performance on every dive so an annual inspection and service is really a sound investment.
Even if you don't have some of that crusty stuff on the outside you would be surprised to see what is on the inside of tanks and regulators. So plan ahead, comply with your warranty requirements, and get your toys taken care of by having them serviced.
Just a note when you are having the annual service completed think about your next class. If enriched air (nitrox) is in your future, now is the time to have the shop update your regulator to be compatable with recreational enriched air mixes. For those thinking about technical diving, and in my opinion you should be, don't forget to bring your dedicated deco/stage bottle regulators in for service. One of these regulators will need to be oxygen cleaned.
You just never know...well serviced equipment makes for an outstanding diving experience.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Stage or Not to Stage

To stage or not to stage, that is the question we want to address with this article. To most technical divers this statement will be the start of an interesting and often times lively discussion. Some will tell you that you should NEVER take a gas deeper than the depth you can breath the gas. Say you and your dive buddy plan to make a dive to the depth of 185 feet with a bottom run time of 40 minutes. You are planning to use 50% enriched air mix and oxygen as your decompression gases. Keep in mind that your total run time on this dive will be at least 111 minutes. If you elect to to stage your bottles this means you would leave one bottle behind at 20 feet (oxygen 1.6 ppo) and the another at 70 feet (50% nitrox mix at a 1.56 ppo). Generally speaking this is a not a problem if you are very familiar with your dive location and you are absolutely positive you can find each bottle on the way back home. Remember your life depends on you and your team being able to re-locate your decompression cylinders.

Yet others, including me, will tell you to NEVER leave your decompression cylinders behind. Same dive as before, 185 for 40 minutes, but you carry your decompression cylinders with you throughout the dive. Now you know where your cylinders are, they are your constant companion and these cylinders will be available in the event you would need them. For example, you have an issue during your dive, you now have additional resource(s) available to you to assist in your decision making process. You and your team enter into a dive that has an aggressive current, poor visibility, or the combination of the two. You may not be able to find your way back to your entry/exit point, or you may not be able to get back to your bottles. A drift dive decompression on a SMB (surface marker bag) may be your only option and without your decompression cylinders this may be a difficult if not impossible task.
Now all that being said, whether you elect to stage your cylinders or take them with you, both procedures are correct. This is a diver preference or better stated a dive team preference. Consider this a mandatory function of your dive team, all members of your team must agree on the procedure for the specific dive prior to each and every dive. So talk it out.
I would like to share a story on this topic. There we were diving some of the most interesting wrecks in the world and we got on the topic of staging or not staging cylinders. Our story teller spoke of a life experience that changed his mind forever on the topic of staging.
We had been told of a dive in the South Pacific, he was the team leader and he was taking 5 other divers with him on this dive. All of the divers had planned their dive and as they had done so many times before planned to stage their decompression cylinders on a descent/accent line at each of the appropriate stop locations. They entered the water and began their dive. They staged their decompression cylinders.
It was an exciting dive and the divers have an opportunity to see a vast majority of this deep wreck. Exploring the inside and exterior they use all of their planned time at depth accruing decompression time. They agreed the dive is at its turn point and they began to make their way back to the accent line. When they arrived at the descent/accent line they found that the line was fact the entire bow of the ship was gone. Evidently a freak storm had come up. The combination of strong winds, high seas and the weight of the dive vessel had pulled the anchor line so hard that it severed the dive vessel from the wreck taking with it a portion of the bow of the wreck, all of the decompression cylinders, and the accent line. Now 6 divers were in distress and in vital need of decompression gases. Thankfully another vessel was able to answer the distress call and all divers we given access to additional decompression cylinders.
Obviously this is a dramatic example of why you should take your decompression cylinders with you on your dive.
I too believe that on all deep open ocean dives it is a very prudent decision to take your decompression cylinders with you.

DSAT Technical Diving Program

You have been thinking about technical diving for some time now. But you have questions. I think everyone that explores this type of diving and training does. I know I did when I first started down the road to certification as a technical diver.
For some the enrollment in a technical diving program is a natural progression. They have finished the prerequisites and they are looking to expand their knowledge and diving skill set. Others look at technical diving as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. To go where very few have been before. After all this is an elite group of divers that are exploring depths well beyond traditional recreational diving limits and to some that has an attraction. Regardless of your motivation you more than likely have questions and you most definitely need a comprehensive training program.
You undoubtedly have asked yourself a series of questions similar to these: Is technical diving for me? How much will the equipment cost? What can I do as a technical diver that I couldn't do as a recreational diver? What are the risks? What are the gains? How often will I use my technical diving skills? Where do I dive? What will I learn? Once I have completed my technical training what is next? Trimix? Gas Blending? Trimix Gas Blending? Expeditions? Travel? How do I technical dive in and around shipwrecks? And the list goes on and on. But these are great questions and a very good start.
Probably one of the least expensive ways to answer most of these questions is to buy your instructor a cup of coffee and ask. Plan on at least an hour as the questions will not be answered with a one word responses and your first question will no doubt stimulate additional questions. I would encourage you to write your questions down, that way you won't forget vital topics, and take notes on the responses these notes will help you refresh your memory and help you make your decision on this program.
An addition resource is the DSAT Tec Deep manual. I would recommend that if you are thinking about this course of instruction you purchase the manual and read about the philosophy of the course, course performance requirements, course structure, and equipment requirements. This will be helpful in answering questions you may have about the training process.
And if you want a candid up front discussion on the DSAT Tec Deep Diver program call me at 206.396.9221 or drop me a note at Align Center
We believe in is the key to survival. Not interested? No worries, technical diving is not for everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DSAT Tec Deep Training Program

It is a lot of hard work and some very long hours. But, we have fun and learn a lot about DSAT Technical Diving.