Archive for the ‘Surface Interval’ Category

New KISS Rebreather Website

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

KISS Rebreathers is launching some new gear, and a new web site: www.KissRebreathers.com.  The site makes it easy to find information on KISS equipment, replacement parts and accessories.  They also have media from some of the photographers and videographers that dive using KISS equipment.  Check out the site for more details, and some really stunning photos.

This time I brough the camera!

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Nuidbanch

Nuidbanch

Too often, I’ve had some fantastic diving experiences but can only share them with words.  California is one of those experiences.  I have sworn to myself that I will never again dive without a camera.

Here on the east coast our shore is composed of white sandy beaches.  Great for sunbathers, but not much to look at for divers.  Other coasts have rocky shores.  On rocky shores, fish have places to hide, plants have places to take root.

The west coast enjoys these rocky shores.  Kelp anchors to the seabed, and a variety of sea life thrives in it’s shelter.  While east coast diving is all about shipwrecks, west coast divers can simply drop in the water and enjoy diving the kelp beds.

Last week I had another opportunity to dive California’s underwater forests.  On my first trip to CA, my 35 mm film camera failed me, and I came home with only memories.  My last trip, I was involved in  some intensive training, and did not bring the camera.  This time, I was taking pictures one way or another.

The reason for the trip revolved around training, again.   This time I was working on an instructor cert on the new KISS GEM pSCR.   After diving the unit for many weeks in our local quarry, I felt comfortable in it’s operation.  Now I had to teach others.  My IT set up the class that involved system operation, buildup, pool and open water.  The first portions went quickly, and we were soon discussing open water.

Point Lobos

In the Monterey area, there are many options for open water dives.  After a few discussions, the decision was on Point Lobos, a small peninsula south of Carmel.  The area is mostly state park with some fantastic vistas.  Shore entry is in a small lagoon with a facility for divers.  Upon arrival we were greeted by local divers, and quickly discussed conditions prior to their second dive.  Our entry was uneventful, and we were soon swimming through the kelp beds.  There is no comparable feeling in Northeast diving.

The next day Alan borrowed a friends boat, and we headed to the Monterey marina breakwater.  I’m sure there are better placed to dive, but on my last visit we saw many Rainbow Nudibranchs close to the breakwater.  We have no such creatures here in the Northeast, so I expressed my fascination, and desire for a picture.

While preparing the boat and gearing up, we observed a number of large red jellyfish floating near the surface.  I gathered as many photos as I could on the surface, and anticipated seeing them in the water.  After a quick boat trip and back roll entry, we headed down to find the anchor a few inches from a line Alan placed a few years earlier.  Over on the breakwater we heard the Sea Lions barking above us and the shrimp crackling in the rocks.  Between drills and sea lion fly byes, Alan helped me snap a few shots of the abundant flora and fauna.

After the class, I spent my preflight surface interval photographing the topside environment.  Seals, sea lions, pelicans, … all posing for the tourist.  It was a great trip with lots of things to learn.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend getting wet.

Tribute to Yasuko

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

I was going to write a description of this day, but Rob Infante did a better job than I could:

Memorial

Memorial

Sunday July 31st is a day of very special import, the day we lost our beloved Yasuko.  Yesterday we returned to the site of the Arundo to pay our respects and honor her amazing spirit with a suitable memorial.  After almost a year of planning we steamed out on the Gypsy Blood, filled with friends and family.  We were blessed with optimal conditions, sunny skies and mild seas with just enough of a zephyr to keep things comfortable (I reminded everyone that it would nevertheless be honoring Yasuko’s memory if somebody had to lean over the rail.  And somebody did.)

Memorial

Memorial

The memorial itself is a work of art, a blue granite pyramid carved with her name, messages to her, and a lovely representation of her in her dive kit (one of my favorite pictures of her, as even through her mask you can see her eyes smiling), and even a visual pun.  The logistics involved in the process were complex, starting with the design and creation of the memorial.  Carl Bayer and Sunny Longordo spearheaded the process, and did an absolutely brilliant job of it.  Saturday night it was revealed at a party we had in Yasuko’s honor, and took pride of place.  It was important to us to place the memorial on the spot where she last was, made more difficult by the semi-broken nature of the wreck.  Lowering a 173# stone to the bottom, then transporting it to the spot was also a daunting task.  The crew of the Gypsy Blood did a fantastic job of putting us in the right area. Divers were each assigned to teams.  Everyone had a job to do, everyone’s job was essential, and everyone performed their task flawlessly.  As soon as we were tied in Stephan Francke and Shelly Liu splashed to go find the exact location for the site, and in no time at all a bottle came up to indicate they had done so.  While they did that, Joe Zimmerman, Mike Bender and Sunny Longordo helped guide the piece to the bottom, with Captain Jim belaying it down.  This was one of the more nerve-wracking parts, as a hard bounce could easily have shattered the piece, but with the teamwork of all it was gently lowered.  Dan Wright, master underwater photographer, accompanied the whole process, so we could share the underwater experience and have documentation of this unforgettable day.  Dave Oldham ran a reel, so that there was now a continuous guideline taking us from the memorial to the

Memorial

Memorial

final site.  The last team consisted of Sherwood Probeck, Elliot Bertoni and me, tasked with moving the stone 125 or so feet.  Before splashing I was warned that it had settled into a hole and was going to be difficult to move.  With some trepidation I lifted it from the hole, but our concerns proved baseless.  The descent team had done an ideal job of putting gas in the lift bag on the descent.  Despite the weight it was very easy to control and move, so much so that even with 15 feet of up-and-down crossing the wreck we never needed to add or subtract gas from the bag.  In less than 15 minutes we had the memorial maneuvered into place.

It was only at that moment that I was able to believe that this thing we had thought about and planned for so long had actually come to fruition, that we had managed to honor and remember Yasuko in the exact manner that we had hoped to.  I felt a huge pressure release in my chest.  Seeing the memorial in that place gave voice to my grief, and, floating with my hand on the spire of the pyramid, I was overcome with emotion.

For once I didn’t mind doing deco, as it gave me a quiet time with my thoughts.  Like an oyster with a grain of sand, we try to coat our pain, to soften it so it doesn’t cut so badly.  I don’t want that, for the pain of her loss to diminish.  I want it to be sharp, I want it to cut, because it makes her feel less gone.  That’s unrealistic, and flies in the face of human nature, but for just this day I felt it as keenly as ever, and will be forever grateful for that.

Yasuko in the surf

Yasuko in the surf

During the dives the children onboard splashed about and swam in the warm surface water.  I was proud of how they understood and respected the gravity of the situation, and yet still their irrepressible enthusiasm helped lighten the mood, reaffirming the good in life.  Inside, the cabin table was filled with tasty foods, including Yasuko’s beloved scallops. Laughter and good food were definitely part of how we remembered and appreciated her.

The final piece to the day involved casting flowers onto the waters over the wreck.  Wrapped in our own thoughts, with scarcely a whisper, we took turns placing them.  In the slanting light of dusk a sinuous carpet of petals slipped away on the current.

July 4 Dive and Barbeque

Monday, July 4th, 2011
Click for Gallery

Clear water on the hang

We had lots of family commitments over the July 4 weekend, but we finally got out for a relaxing day of diving with friends. After spending much of the spring with students in the pool and up at Dutch, it was nice to hit the ocean.

Topside, there was just a slight breeze under a hazy sky. Given the small group, Captain George picked a small wreck that is not often hit. Condition reports this spring had been spotty, so we were very pleasantly surprised at the 70 of surface vis, and 30 ft of bottom vis. At 75 ft, the temp was 51 degrees with a very slight surge It was an old wooden barge with chain pile and small donkey boiler. Like most wooden vessels, the barge provided rows of low holes for lobster and seabass. The chain pile had holes large enough for larger seabass and tog. Some nice size lobsters came up along with piles of seabass. While there were a number of fluke on the wreck only one was found large enough to catch.

Back at the dock, we set up tents, and unpacked the grill and beverages. Many tales were told, old and new. After an enjoyable barbeque, we all packed up and headed home. A relaxing end to a very busy week.

Spring in the Pool

Saturday, June 25th, 2011
OW Class

OW Class

When our local shop asked if I could lend a hand with classes this spring, I had no idea what I was in for.

Lately, I’ve only been teaching technical and CCR classes.  These students usually have many dives under their belt, and are looking to take the next step beyond recreational diving by honing their skills, learning new ones and expanding their dive planning and preparation.

It was fun working with newer students that were just learning their dive skills.  Since I was assisting where needed, I had the opportunity to work with a number of classes; Open Water, Advanced, Specialties, Rescue…  Then, to top it all off, the shop had nine Diver Master Candidates this spring.

I must admit, to having a lot more fun than expected.  There are always some new students that struggle with simple skills like mask clearing and U/W gear donning.  However, they’ve never done it.  We all struggled with those skills.  Once we learned how it’s done, and had some time to practice, our fear faded.  That’s when we can relax and enjoy the adventure of diving.  This is exciting to see and be around.

Technical diving involves more complicated skills that are much more demanding.  Some of my Tech students joke that I enjoy torturing them.  Not so.  The skills are required by the standards.  Once learned and practiced they become second nature, and can get you out of a bad situation.  Again, that’s when we can really enjoy the adventure.

To all those students that kept me in the pool and up at Dutch, dive safe, practice your skills, and look me up when you need a dive buddy!  Now I’m off to go diving!