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As a PADI scuba diving professional and a dive leader with Seattle Dive Tours, I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all from divers getting ready to enter the water. Both shore and boat diving in the Pacific Northwest are hard work, requiring lots of gear and effort just to get in the water to start a dive. Divers will tell me stories of their own unsuccessful dives that end shortly after entering the water or even before descending. I frequently see divers on our local dive sites forgetting gear on shore or failing to make sure they are ready to get into the water. I’ll outline a few helpful steps in order to make sure you are prepared and ready to have a successful dive.
1- The first question to ask yourself is “…Is my gear in good working order and ready for a dive?” Days or even weeks before a scheduled dive, make sure everything has been serviced, then assemble your gear and check for anything that needs to be repaired. Try on your wet suit or dry suit to make sure it fits and is in good working order. Small things can make or break a dive, I’ve seen divers come to the dive site only to discover a torn neck seal on their dry suit, or a seriously leaking regulator hose. Needless to say, these divers couldn’t dive that day and had to return home.
2- Make a packing list and double check before leaving the house for the dive site or boat. There is nothing worse than getting to the dive site and realizing that you have forgotten a critical item. For me, it’s usually fins. If you have forgotten something, the options are to drive back home, drive the nearest dive shop and rent, or try and borrow from another diver. At best, you’ll delay your dive and at worst, your buddies will just start the dive without you. Plus, do you really want to lose your coveted parking spot at the dive site because you forgot your hood or gloves?
3- Discuss the dive plan with your dive buddy. While you don’t have to deliver a Divemaster quality dive briefing to your dive buddy, at least make sure you have talked about the details. What is the general dive plan? What is the agreed upon course of action if someone gets separated? Can everyone agree on a maximum time and depth? If you are planning on bringing the giant camera set that you got for Christmas, is your buddy ok with this being a photography dive?
4- The pre-dive safety check. Remember this from open water? BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Final ok. Bruce Willis Ruins All Films. However you learned it, and whatever silly phrase you invented to remember it, the pre-dive safety check is still around and a critical component of your pre-dive ritual. The best place for the pre-dive safety check is in the parking lot, next to your car. Just make sure you keep the car unlocked and open until you head down to the water, incase you need to grab something. Otherwise you’ll be fishing car keys out of your dry suit or searching for the spare key you hid under the wheel well.
5- There is more to do in the water. Just because you’ve made it from the parking lot to the entry point, this doesn’t mean you are home free just yet. The simple act of putting on your mask & fins can still scuttle a dive before it even starts. Back when I worked as a Divemaster, lost masks and fins were a big reason for aborted dives. Hold on to your gear and assist your buddy to make sure those final pieces of gear don’t get lost in the water.
By following a few basic steps, you should now be ready to kick to the descent point and start your dive. At Seattle Dive Tours, we always triple check gear plus pack at least one extra full set of gear to make sure we don’t have any problems. If you have any tips, or ideas that you use to make sure your are ready to get in the water, feel free to put them in the comments below.
Have you thought about a night dive but just weren’t sure? Here are some great reasons to get you in the water at night!
During a night dive, everything takes on a new look. Your focus changes as you move about the dive site, observing life around your dive light and seeing ambient light from the surface.
At dusk and again at dawn, nocturnal and diurnal species “trade places” on the dive site to seek food and engage in social activities. Rockfish seek out holes and ledges in the reef to sleep while other fish species, such as Ratfish, become more active. Our famous Giant pacific octopus is also more active at night, sometimes venturing out of their dens to hunt for food. Harbor seals are especially enthusiastic, occasionally following divers around Puget Sound dive sites and hunting using diver’s lights to illuminate prey.
Even a familiar dive site can look completely different at night. Wrecks and small boats underwater become compelling and mysterious. Reefs light up with your dive light and display colors not seen in the daytime.
During the fall, billions of small microorganisms in Puget Sound become excited by water movement, which causes light emission in the microorganism. While on a dive safety stop, simply point your light down or towards you (for safety, do not turn your light off) and wave your free hand in the water. You’ll see thousands of light pinpoints, an amazing experience to end your dive.
The PADI Open Water Diver course taught us that colors degrade underwater, first starting on the red end of the spectrum. A dive light can bring back the “true” colors of fish, invertebrates, and corals. Vermilion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) become a beautiful red, Stubby squid (Rossia pacifica) can turn red to deep purple, and California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) reveal their deep reddish-orange to yellow colorings.
Go diving after work or even later in the day. Night diving is great way to squeeze in a dive after work or in the evening hours. We offer night dives every day of the week, and they can be scheduled anytime after sunset. A night dive is a perfect option for visitors to Seattle with a full daytime schedule of meetings, conferences, or even just sightseeing.
You’ve executed a perfect giant stride off the boat, or maybe swam out from shore, and now it’s time to descend and start your dive. You hold your inflator hose up, press the exhaust button, but nothing seems to happen and you are still on the surface. You look around and everyone else seems to be having no problems descending, plus now the boat (or shore) crew is calling out to see if you are all right. What to do?
1- Check your weighting: This needs to be done from shore or the boat, before you even get in the water. As an example, a typical diver in the Northwest diver with a 2-piece 7mm wetsuit or dry suit and steel cylinder would need 10% of their body weight plus 10 pounds to start. Check with your dive leader or open water diver manual for guidance on weighting for your current dive environment.
2- Remember your surface descent method:
3- Body Positioning: You need to be in a head up/feet down position to effectively vent air from your BCD. The BCD cannot vent if you are lying on your stomach or you are not holding your inflator hose up all the way.
4- No Kicking or Sculling: Many divers experiencing problems with their initial descent may be kicking with their fins or rapidly moving their arms (sculling) without realizing it. The kicking and sculling motion act to keep you on the surface.
5- Breath Holding: Keeping an excessive amount of air in your lungs can contribute to difficult descent. Remember to relax, breathe normally, and never hold your breath.
6- Check for the bottom: Once you have begun your initial descent, look down and locate the bottom so that you can gauge your rate of travel.
7- Slow Your Descent: Add small amounts of air to your BCD (or dry suit) to help show your descent. Again, don’t forget to continuously equalize your ears.
8- Avoid Touching the Bottom: Slow your descent enough so that you stop about 2-3 feet from the bottom. Don’t hit or touch the bottom, never “turtle” or land hard to avoid damaging marine life or stirring up substrate.
Now you are neutrally buoyant and ready to continue scuba diving adventure.
As July closes out this week, our Seattle Dive Tours summer season is in full swing. Visibility has been averaging 30′ or more on most dives and wildlife sightings are plentiful. In addition to our Giant pacific octopus, we are also seeing a related, smaller species, Red octopus (Octopus rubescens). Not sure how to tell them apart? The Seattle Aquarium has a handy cheat sheet to help. The great visibility also allows us to see more mid-water schooling fish, such as perch and some Rockfish species. Our most abundant marine mammal at the dive sites right now is the Harbor seal. Last week one delighted our divers by swimming on the surface and diving to catch fish throughout the morning. Our California and Stellar sea lions are at their breeding rookeries along the Oregon and Washington coasts, and we expect them to return around mid-August.
Divers continue to arrive from the United States and Canada, and this summer we’ve also had divers visiting and scuba diving with us from Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Singapore, and the Netherlands. Most divers have commented on the clarity of the water and bright ambient light from the summer sun. We’ve had several divers request PADI courses, with Dry Suit Diver, Enriched Air Diver (Nitrox) and Advanced Open Water being the most popular. Don’t forget that while we regularly schedule all of our PADI classes monthly, we can also teach any class any day of the week for divers visiting Seattle.
Looking ahead, our warm summer should continue through August, then transition to fall in the Pacific Northwest, featuring cool, clear nights and warm, sunny days. Don’t forget to book your dive now to experience the beauty of Pacific Northwest waters for yourself.
Over the past few weeks we have made some new additions to our scuba rental gear selection for dive tours. First up we have purchased more our our 7mm Neo Sport 2 piece wet suits and accessories. The last suit in our order, a men’s extra small, just arrived today. We offer women’s even sizes 4-14, and men’s sizes XS through 3XL! With our larger wet suit size range, almost everyone will have the best fit possible, which in turn will mean greater warmth and comfort while on a dive tour. We also now have multiple suits in our most popular sizes, so each wet suit can go out fewer times and have more time to “rest” between uses.
We’ve also added new 7mm booties, hoods and gloves. Our largest bootie is now a men’s size 14, and I’m just waiting for a diver to need a size that big so we can use it. Four new DUI weight harnesses also arrived recently. For anyone who has struggled with a traditional weight belt (and that includes almost everyone), a weight harnesses is a miracle. They work by distributing the weight over your shoulders for extra support and security, plus they can be worn lower on the hips than a weight belt, improving buoyancy and trim. Our DUI weight harnesses are available in small, medium, or large so each diver has the best possible fit.
Cylinders have also been upgraded, and we are now using low-pressure steel XS Scuba 80’s. We chose steel cylinders for their better buoyancy characteristics over aluminum. Steel cylinders are also heavier at the start of the dive and do not become negatively buoyant at the end of the dive, so the diver can carry less weight in their BCD or weight belt. Low pressure means that behind the scenes our cylinders will fill faster with our needing to be “topped off”. The lower fill pressure also benefits compressors, as they don’t have to work as hard to fill each cylinder and maintenance costs will be reduced. Finally, increasing our cylinder size to 80- cubit feet (our older cylinders had a slightly smaller volume) allows a longer dive to for our divers.
Our goal of continuously updating and improving our scuba rental gear selection means that you can relax and enjoy your dive tour while visiting Seattle. When you are ready, visit our Guided Dive Tours page and join us for an adventure!
December has been busy with divers coming in from the West Coast, the Great Lakes, and the East Coast to experience scuba diving in Puget Sound. Some were on business trips while others had made a special trip out to Seattle just for diving. While most of our divers chose our popular day dive tour, we also had night dives, a PADI Advanced Open Water class, and a PADI Deep Diver class.
An unusual cold snap here in Seattle brought dive site air temperatures down to the low 20’s on many days, but our divers kept warm in the water with our new 7mm Neo Sport 2 piece step in wetsuits and hot soup during surface intervals. Our divers were rewarded with Giant pacific octopus (GPO) sightings on almost every dive, with an especially large Giant pacific octopus at Seacrest Park, just across Elliot Bay from downtown Seattle. During one night dive we had Harbor seals swimming with us for the entire dive, playfully darting in front of us to forage for Spot prawn, Dungeness crab, and flounder. We also observed several pairs of Grunt sculpin sitting on their eggs, Wolf eel, and more than 80 other fish & invertebrate species.
By the 15th, the cold snap had finally broke, bringing Seattle temperatures back to normal. Looking ahead, we tour openings still available for the rest of December and January. You can also find out more about our tour options, see more of the amazing fish & invertebrate life in Puget Sound, or drop us a line with a question.