Archive for the ‘Surface Interval’ Category

Diving Bonaire

Saturday, February 5th, 2011
Flamingo snail

Flamingo snail

After a few weekends of being snowed in, I had the opportunity to work through my piles of photos and relate some memories (and pictures) of past trips.Val and I visited Bonaire on two separate trips. I’ve attached some shots of resort (Buddy Dive), and added a new gallery.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bonaire, it is 50 miles north of South America (Venezuela to be exact). The island part of the Nether Antilles. This location of the Caribbean is constantly swept by easterly trade winds. The east side of the island is subject to rough waves and the shoreline is rocky. The western side of the island is protected in the lea. Here is some of the best diving of the Caribbean.

Sunset over Kline

Sunset over Kline

The shore diving really is about as easy as it gets. The dock at Buddy Dive is only a few feet from the dive shop, and the reef is only a few fin strokes away. I spent the first day draining tank after tank poking around the reef. I was working with a new still camera, and practicing with the video housing. Surface intervals were only a quick stop for fresh tanks, batteries, or tape. The top of the reef is about 20 ft deep An Al 80 lasts quite a while at this depth, and decompression is impossible, especially on Nitrox. After 6 tanks, my wife dragged me out of the water for dinner.

The next day we got a map of the island and headed out in our pickup truck (provided with the suite). The west side of the island is rimed with a seemingly continuous reef. In some places it is a double reef with sand in between. On the shore, there are areas where you can park a your truck, gear up, and make an entrance. Some areas have docks and with ladders to facilitate access. These entrance sites have names, which are both on the map, and written on yellow stones along the side of the road.

xxx

Clearner shrimp on a butterfly

Our package included boat a few boat dives. These were mostly spent visiting Kline Bonaire. This is an uninhabited island to the west of Bonaire, also protected from the trade winds. Many of these dives were deeper as the slope to Kline was much steeper.

Many sections of the reef hold different microcosm and wild life. There are many web sites describing, so I’ll just point out some of the highlights. The Hilma Hooker is a shipwreck in the sand between a double reef. It’s a nice dive, and if you’re one of the first there, you will find a few large Tarpon hiding in the holds.

Salt Pier is where the dried sea salt is loaded onto ships. The structure of the pier seems to attract schools of fish, and event the shallows are full of life.

Fish to look for:

Eels: this is the one of the first times I’ve seen eels out hunting during the day.

Frog Fish: Another first for me. They are hard to spot, as their camouflage is nearly perfect.
Tarpon: They are huge, and will follow you on a night dive.

Sea horses: Ask your Dive Master where to find them.

School of fish: There are so many fish, that sometimes you feel like one of the crowd

Spotted Eagle Rays: These majestic rays swim effortless and leave you breathless if you try to follow.

Dolphins: I’m not sure how often these appear, but on one day we got snorkel with them on the surface interval.

The Butterfly Forest

Saturday, January 15th, 2011
Butterfly Forest

Butterfly Forest

Okay, it’s not diving related, but while Val and I were in Florida, we had some time to kill.  Dali recommended the butterfly forest exhibit at the Florida University, Museum of Natural History. Given that Val has planted a butterfly friendly garden in our backyard, she was definitely interested.  As a nature lover, I was happy to join her.  After consulting the GPS, we jumped in the car and headed down.

When we entered the Museum, we discovered that there were several other exhibits.  The butterfly forest was only one of them.  On entry to the butterfly exhibit, the walls are covered floor to ceiling with display cases.  It quickly reminds you of the diversity of this order.

The forest itself was screened in, so the cool weather limited the activity.  Butterflies are most active when the weather is warm.  As the sun warmed the rocks and structure of the building, they became more active.   We walked around the exhibit taking pictures and reading the signs.  Several time a day one of the researchers at the museum come out and releases some of the newly hatched butterflies into the exhibit.  During this period they talked about the different species and the research going on there.

On the way out we stopped by the incubation area, where there were rows of chrysalis were hanging prior to hatching.  Here and there a newly hatched adult could be seen spreading their wings for the first time.

We spent a few hours touring the rest of the museum, learning about stages of Florida’s wildlife development over the past few million years.

If you get a chance, stop by, it’s great fun. Thanks, Dali for the recommendation.

Notes on Diver Etiquette

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The other day, I found myself in a discussion with a group of instructors and experienced divers over the issue of diver etiquette.  Everyone agreed that this varies wildly from diver to diver, and shop to shop.  While there is no explicit place for this discussion in the training curriculum, it is a subject that should be brought up.   We all agreed the best time to teach this is as part of the Open Water class (teach good habits before divers learn bad ones).  Many of us do include a few minutes to discuss this in class, then try to reinforce the concept during the open water dives.

Unfortunately, there are other instructors that do not understand the need, do not have the time, or just have bad etiquette themselves.

Ultimately, a diver’s etiquette will reflect their own personality.   A diver that only thinks of them self, will never follow good etiquette.   Someone that is considerate of others will try their best to be considerate while diving.  However, many of the latter do not know how to do this as new divers.  Here are some points to consider.

  1. On the surface:
    In many dive locations, gear space is limited.  This is especially true on dive boats.  Being conscience of this and trying to minimize the space we use is good etiquette.  Here are some points to consider on a dive boat.  These points also apply to other dive sites, but boats are usually the most space limited.

    • Gear boxes and bags. Try to keep gear containers no larger than necessary.   Try to bring containers that fit neatly under benches.  Divers showing up to a boat with over sized bags or too many bags are being inconsiderate of others, and will often get glares or rebuke from the crew. I recommend three containers:
      1. One for the BC and dry / wet suit
      2. A small one for dry gear.  A backpack works for me  (phone, towel, snacks, a few spare parts …),
      3. A small crate (about the size of a milk crate) for misc Scuba gear (reel, lift bags, lights… with fins on top)
    • This configuration works well in most environments of the North East.  On a boat, the crate  should fit well under the bench where you are setting up your tanks.  The drysuit goes in a dry location until needed.  The backpack is always in a dry location.
    • Put gear away promptly. Once your gear is loaded, set up your tank and stow your gear neatly out of the way.  The same is true after a dive.   As you take your gear off put it back into your crate and stow it neatly out of the way.  Not only is this good etiquette, but it can prevent gear damage or loss on a busy deck.
    • Dive Planning: Keep in mind that your not the only one on the boat. I recall several occasions where the entire boat was waiting over half and hour for one customer to finish his dive. If you plan on doing longer dives, then try to get into the water quickly.
    • Clean up after yourself: It’s amazing to see how much debris is left after the divers remove their gear from a dive boat. Half empty water bottles, cans, partially eaten bags of food … Yes, the crew will clean the boat, but all of this is in everyone’s way during the trip too.
  2. Gearing Up This is a process that takes up both space, and time. Here are some items to consider when working to don our gear in limited space.
    • Timing: If you know that you take longer than others to gear up, then either start gearing up early, or wait for others to go first.
    • Lend a hand: If you decide to wait for the diver next to you, then give them a hand.  That way they are out of your way quicker.
    • Be self sufficient:  This takes some time to learn, and practice. Most boat crews are eager to help in any way they can. However, there are often a lot of divers gearing up at once. Before strapping on tanks, prep the gear so that it is in reach as you don your kit. Watch an experienced crewmen.  Most can gear up with no assistance.   Again, it’s not that assistance is unavailable, but if you need lots of help, then you’re preventing other divers from getting any.
  3. Underwater: This can be difficult, since it’s not easy to know where other divers are in relation to yourself.  However, here are a few items to keep in mind.
    • Look around you. There may be other divers near you that you’re not expecting.   This is especially true on or near the up-line.  Be careful of your finning when you know other divers are near.  Fin slowly until you know your not going to kick a fellow divers.
    • Steer clear of classes. If you see an instructor working with a class, try to keep a reasonable distance.  Otherwise, you may confuse and distract the students from following their instruction.   Also, additional divers in close proximity makes it difficult for the instructor trying to keep watch over his students.
    • Photo ops: This is more of an issue in warm water diving, but keep in mind that other divers may want to take a picture also.  I’ve had video footage ruined by a diver sticking his fin in view while recording.  On the other hand, I try not to take too long, and let the next photographer get a chance.
    • Reels: Keep your line reel low and secure.  On several dives, the wreck looked like spider web with lines draped here and there.  Near the up-line it’s important to tie your reel low and put wraps close to the wreck.  A line 10 ft off the wreck can become an entanglement hazard as it is out of an approaching divers view.  When passing across another line, pass your line underneath.   Assuming your on your way out, the other diver should be on his way back before you, and will not be delayed by your line.

Conclusion:

Again, many of these points apply anywhere, not just to dive boats.  Any time space is limited, we need to work to make maximum use of it.

These were some of the points our group discussed.  Let me know if you have others.

Playing with the camera in the backyard

Sunday, July 11th, 2010
Backyard macro

Backyard macro

It has almost nothing to do with diving, but it is a lot of fun.   Water conditions have not been conducive to photography of late, so I just wanted to take some shots to keep up the camera skills.   Once the heat broke a bit, I headed into the back yard for practice.  Val has been very busy with the garden this year, so there is a lot blooming.   Even the frogs in our pond came out and posed for a while.

Working with various lenses, and waiting for the right light angles, makes for some interesting shots…

Well, I find them interesting.

Click on the image for a quick slide show.

Another casualty of Independence

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Each year the Dina Dee II has a crew day and BBQ.  This year was as fun as usual.  However it was a little hotter than most.   The dive was my standard 2 hour dip on an inshore wreck.  No flat fish this year, but a few lobster, and a lot of anchors came up.   I only send up the new anchors with price tags attached.   Others sent up some rust.   Either way.  It was a fun dive, and a great BBQ.   Lobsters and seabass were put on the grill, and there was even a beer or two passed around.

A great group of divers, and some of the most friendly captains and crew around.   A good time is always had on this boat, and I get to see my family on the way home.   What else could you ask for.

2010 BBQ

2010 BBQ