Newsletter: Southeaster

Hi everyone

The strong southeaster has been hampering diving for some weeks now. It’s commonly called the Cape Doctor, but I would prefer to call it something else as it makes me feel ill. Doctors supposedly make you better.

We had very good conditions on Wednesday and the dives were all great with 4-5 metre visibility and 15 degrees celcius water temperatures. Sadly that was the only decent day this week and this wind will blow for the next few days. Monday and Tuesday look promising at this point so I think that is the earliest we will get back in the ocean for Open Water courses.

The guys doing specialties and Advanced dives will all be on the boat tomorrow and we are hoping for good conditions.

For those of you needing to finish your courses before the year gets back into full swing please try and bookmark Monday and/or Tuesday for your last dives. For those of you needing pool time, Sunday and Wednesday are earmarked for that purpose at this point. The pool is indoors and heated so it is very pleasant.

I am currently running Nitrox and Deep specialties with Cecil and we plan to do the first two deep dives next weekend. We will have a hang tank set up at the safety stop and will focus on how Nitrox extends your bottom time as well as how to read, understand and set up a dive computer. This specialty takes you to 40 metres below the surface… Many wrecks lie in deeper water.

It’s not to late to join and if December left you cash strapped I do have payment options, just mail me.

I have a new Zero to Hero student starting on 1 February and this course will be an intense program as he is on a time schedule as Kate was. We will therefore dive almost every day for two months to achieve the 60 dives required for Divemaster certification. Corné and Oscar will also be doing Divemaster with Clare doing Rescue. So if you are diving with me over the next few weeks there will be so many assistants I won’t have to pick up a single cylinder…

Its been a while since we had a night dive. I have torches, cyalumes and my video camera has a light that turns night into day. Night diving is a whole new world of ocean creatures so if you have not tried one, you must.

Another reminder about MPA dive permits, if you don’t have one please get one. Post Office… R94 for a year.

Be good and have fun!

Regards

Learn to Dive Today logoTony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

<strong><a href=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/small-colour-e1284626229322.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-486″ title=”Learn to Dive Today logo” src=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/small-colour-e1284626229322.jpg” alt=”Learn to Dive Today logo” width=”73″ height=”67″ /></a>Tony Lindeque</strong>
076 817 1099
<a href=”http://www.learntodivetoday.co.za” target=”_blank”>www.learntodivetoday.co.za</a>
<a href=”https://www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog” target=”_self”>www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog</a>
<em>Diving is addictive!</em>

Solo diving

There has raged a heated debate for a long time on the merits and dangers of solo diving. Solo diving is the as the title suggests, diving alone, no buddy, no surface support (if boat diving) and most likely no one waiting on the beach.

Off on my own in Sodwana (don't worry - my Clare took this before she caught up with me!)
Off on my own in Sodwana (don't worry - my Clare took this before she caught up with me!)

Very little solo diving takes place in a resort environment, primarily because they want a full boat before they launch. It’s not a common practice, most resort environments have heavy boat traffic as there are often many operators diving the same dive sites, these skippers look for a buoy close to a boat (the boats follow a surface buoy towed by the dive master), and skippers don’t really want divers scattered all over the ocean as it is hard to keep track of them. If the resort you are diving with has an anchored boat it is easier to do a solo dive especially if you loose the group as there is seldom a dive master thats going to come looking for you. You may be lucky to find a skipper that will drop you off separately from the group, but it is rare.

Cape Town is a little different. It is often a case where someone on the boat is doing a mapping project, or some research or looking for a specific feature underwater so solo diving happens. The skipper and sometimes other members of the group know you are down there but not where.

If you want to maximise the number of photos you get on a dive or get some good video footage then solo diving makes this easier. Not having a buddy means you do not need to check up on them, you do not need to periodically look for them and you wont have them yanking on your fin to show you something cool just as you are about to get that ”shot”. By the same token there is then no one looking for you, checking up on you and no one for you to signal ”out of air” for example.

If you are going to go solo diving start small, somewhere where the beach is close, the weather is good and someone knows where you are, how long you plan to dive and what your route will be. It is for some an intimidating experience and your comfort level takes a while to increase.

Once you decide to try solo diving be brutally honest with yourself: do you trust yourself, your equipment and your ability to think rationally in a stressful situation? If not, don’t try it.

If you are okay with all of these aspects make sure you have the right gear. Split your weights over a weight belt and integrated weights. You’ll need a knife, a compass, a dive computer, decent gloves, a hoodie and all the rest to ensure you don’t get cold, tired, uncomfortable or lost. Be sure you know when to turn the dive if you are swimming out somewhere and returning to the same spot. Ensure you plan and monitor your air consumption, checking more often because just knowing you are ”good on air” won’t help you if you have a leak on your first stage that no one tells you about… There is no one there remember. (If you think you have a leak, you can roll onto your back and look up and between breaths you will be able to see if you do.)

Plan your dive and dive your plan.

FAQ: What can I expect on a deep dive?

I was very nervous before my first deep dive. It actually took a few deep dives before I was comfortable with them, and now I even look forward to them. Mental preparation for deep dives is something you might need to work on – it’s easy for one’s imagination to run wild when it’s an unfamiliar skill.

If you haven’t done a deep dive before, there are some things that you might want to know in advance:

  1. There will be a boat ride. You’ll roll over the side of the boat on the skipper’s count, along with the other divers. Don’t roll over late – rather stay on the boat and let the skipper drop you again when everyone has moved clear. If you land on another diver it’s a good way to ensure you won’t get invited for any more boat dives!
  2. You will probably descend on a shot line. This is a weighted line with a buoy on the end, and the skipper will drop it close to the  reef or wreck you plan to explore. You’ll use the line to make sure that you find your dive site – you’ll be descending through a large water column, and a current can easily carry you away from your destination. Circle the shot line gently with two fingers and use it as a guide while you descend. DO NOT grip it like a monkey!
  3. If you’re diving in Cape Town, it’ll be cold. And it’ll get colder the deeper you go. It might even be dark, too. The first 10-15 metres of water may be very murky and green, but down below that the visibility will probably improve, even if it’s dark.
  4. You will feel stupid. At about 25 metres, nitrogen narcosis becomes a noticeable issue. If you feel weird, ascend a bit, wait for it to dissipate, and then resume your descent – SLOWLY. But even if you don’t get it severely, your mental abilities WILL be limited. This is a fact of deep diving on air. You might find your field of vision narrows a bit, that you obsess over things, or that you are very conscious of only being able to do one thing at a time. All this means you need to take extra care, and don’t be reckless. Stay close to your buddy and watch each other carefully.
  5. You will feel heavy at the bottom – no matter how much or how little weight you are wearing. Don’t wait until you’re at 30 metres to start inflating your BCD. Stop at 10 metres, slow your ascent, and inflate your BCD slowly as you continue going down. This way you won’t rocket into the sand at the bottom (assuming there IS a bottom within the range of scuba – not the case if you’re diving a wall) like a cannonball, the chances of severe nitrogen narcosis are minimised, and you can be in control of your buoyancy all the way down.
  6. Colours will be dim and greyish. Take a torch – you may not think it’ll make a difference, but even at 20 metres the reds and oranges are significantly diminished and by 30 metres you just won’t see them at all without artificial light. One of the joys of deep diving is illuminating a very ordinary object and seeing the colours pop out at you.
  7. Swimming will be more of an effort than usual. The water will feel a bit like molasses – thick and viscous. You’re under tremendous pressure, and you simply won’t be able to dart around like a mosquito. Take it slow, don’t over-exert, and move at the speed of natural creatures.
  8. The dive will be short. This is for two reasons: first, you will use your air up very quickly at depth. If it is your first deep dive, this will be especially true – you’ll be nervous, or excited, and you won’t have the experience that enables you to reduce your air consumption. Second, your no-decompression time decreases the deeper you go. So even if you have lots of air, you will only be able to spend 20 minutes or so at the bottom before you have to ascend. If you can’t remember what no-decompression time is, it’s time to revise your dive tables!
  9. You will do a safety stop. Don’t be slack with this – it is absolutely vital. You’ll ascend slowly, maybe stop at 10 or 15 metres for a little bit, and then do a safety stop of at LEAST 3 minutes at 5 metres. Your cylinder will be quite empty, so you’ll be buoyant. Make sure that you control your buoyancy very carefully. Watch the Divemaster, your computer, or the reel on the DM’s buoy line (he may let it hang in the water next to him) to ensure that you stay at a constant depth. Your depth gauge will respond slowly to changes in depth, so it’s not hugely reliable at this stage of the dive.
  10. You might deploy a surface marker buoy (SMB). Your instructor may get you to do this yourself, for practice. An SMB (or as I like to call it, a safety sausage!) is a long tube on a line, usually orange or yellow, that you inflate with air from your octo (NOT your regulator). One end is closed (the top) and one end is open for you to put your octo into and press the purge button to fill it with air. It stands up straight in the water, and warns passing boats that there are divers about to surface. It also shows the skipper of your boat where you are, so that he can be nearby to fetch you. When inflating the SMB, hold onto the line attached to it – not the tube itself, or you might be pulled out of the water with it when you inflate it. Don’t fill it to capacity if you’re still at the safety stop – just a couple of purges of your octo will be enough. As it ascends the air will expand and when it reaches the surface the SMB will be sufficiently inflated to stand vertically out of the water.
    Gerard demonstrates correct safety stop technique in Sodwana
    Gerard demonstrates correct safety stop technique in Sodwana

    In the photo above, note how Gerard is watching his dive computer for depth and while it counts down his safety stop, hanging onto his SMB while he waits to ascend.

  11. There should be a hang tank for you to breathe off at the safety stop. A hang tank is a spare cylinder of air, with several regulators attached. It allows you to complete your safety stop without worrying about being low on air, if that’s the case. It also provides a useful reference for keeping yourself at a constant depth while you’re degassing!

    Divers breathing from a hang tank in Smitswinkel Bay
    Divers breathing from a hang tank in Smitswinkel Bay

What’s in my dive bag

I have travelled around a bit and dived in some very remote places, miles from a dive shop. Over the years I have collected an array of gadgets. Dive shops are full of shiny things you had no idea you needed until you saw them for the first time. There are some very important basic add-ons to your standard battle dress, things that no self respecting diver would dive without, and then there is a range of nice to have items, and then the usual ”not required but I have it anyway” list.

Must have items

DAN medical insurance

DAN tag and spare O ring
DAN tag and spare O ring hidden on the hose protector

Attach the red DAN tag to your BCD or regulator so that in an emergency your rescuer can get you the help you need. DAN will cover you for the expensive possibility that you need recompression in a chamber if you have a suspected case of the bends, as well as for any other diving-related medical emergency treatment that your medical aid refuses to cover. An ordinary medical aid will probably not pay for recompression treatment. Visit the DAN (Divers’ Alert Network) website for details.

A surface marker buoy (SMB)

Reels and surface marker buoy (SMB)
Different sized reels and surface marker buoys (SMB)

Reels come in all shapes and sizes, with thumb reels, small reels and large reels. I use a small reel on shallow dives and a large reel on deeper dives.

In a rough sea or poor conditions an SMB makes you far easier to see than a head and shoulders dressed in black bobbing on the surface. You should not dive without one in Cape Town.

Dive Knife

This should be big enough to cut fishing line in case you or your buddy get tangled up (or need to rescue something or someone). Not to be used for stabbing sharks, or your dive buddy! You can buy huge dagger-type knife, but it may be an overkill, unless you have aspirations to be a pirate. Small cutting tools that you can wear on your gear are more practical.

Dive torches and a handy-sized knife
Dive torches and a handy-sized knife

Torch

This should ideally be small enough to keep in a pocket, unless you’re doing a night dive and need some serious light.

You don’t necessarily need a torch only on night dives – you may want to see something that’s hiding in a dark environment, or it might be an overcast day. On a deep dive, a torch is essential because the colours can look so washed out.

Compass

Knowing where you are going or where you came from is quite useful at the bottom, as on land. Enough said.

Dive compass styles
Dive compass styles

Dive computer

There are many different styles. Some can be worn as everyday watches, and others are only for diving.  Here are three variations:

Dive computers
Dive computers in three styles. The two on the left can be worn as dress watches.

Signalling devices

Signalling devices
Signalling devices, from left to right: shaker, air horn, whistle.

A whistle is required for the surface (many BCDs come with one attached – you may not have noticed it as it might be helpfully coloured black to match the inflator hose). An air horn works above and below the surface and a shaker works best underwater but can be used on the surface.

You can also use a hard object like a dive knife to rap on your cylinder, which will be audible to your buddy underwater, but don’t necessarily rely on having something suitable to hand – or having the presence of mind to look for it – in an emergency.

Slates

Dive slates
Dive slates: the one on the left is useful for compass navigation. The one on the right is a wrist slate (note the mysterious arm it’s mounted on).

Underwater slates come in all shapes and sizes. A wrist slate can be pleasant as it’s always close by but easily accessible. Flat slates must be clipped to a D ring – and don’t forget to secure your pencil!

DIN adaptor and O rings

DIN adaptor and O rings
DIN adaptor and O rings. The little blue cylinder clips to your keychain and can be used to store spare O rings.

Some resorts only have old style aluminum cylinders and if you have a DIN regulator they don’t fit as there is no removable insert. Here you will require a DIN adaptor so make sure you enquire as to type of cylinders available when you book your vacation, if you intend using your personal regulator.

It’s also handy to have an allen key to remove the inserts if you routinely dive with your own regulator.

Nice to have items

Clipping things to your BCD is a surefire way to ensure they do not become lost property. There are many different types of clips available. No matter what I take underwater, it will always have a clip attached that will enable me to clip it to my BCD if I suddenly need both hands for something.

Cyalumes, mouthpiece and spare finstrap
Cyalumes, mouthpiece, clip and spare finstrap

Spare mask and fin straps are nice to have particularly if you have a odd type of fin or mask.

Spare octo clips are handy as well as a few cyalumes in the event of an impromptu night dive.

If you travel to remote locations in your own 4WD you may find yourself with a puncture, so a tyre inflator is a handy addition to the dive bag. Deep divers know the benefits of Nitrox and the risks involved in diving with the wrong mix so a Nitrox analyser helps you to double check the reading reached by the dive store. If you find your reg breathes with difficulty, or you second stages constantly leak, checking the system pressure with your own handy pressure gauge will give you an indication as to the root of the problem.

Nitrox analyser and pressure gauge
Nitrox analyser (top) and pressure gauge