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  • March 24, 2022 10:19 AM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Educational Blog

    Boat Diving Etiquette - SDI | TDI | ERDI | PFI (

    This article represents the views of the author.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.


    By Jay King

    I learned to dive many years ago (before dirt I think). My instructor at the time, Scott, insisted on our final two checkout dives being off of a boat in the ocean – because this was Wrightsville Beach, NC. North Carolina wreck diving was my goal and he wanted me to be prepared for it, so I was lectured on boat diving etiquette before I ever set foot on a dive boat.

    Over the years, I’ve progressed in my diving (Hypoxic Trimix, CCR) and in my preferences of boats. Most of my diving now is on 6-packs (maximum of 6 divers) with other divers at or near my experience level. Recently, I’ve been on a few dives on some larger boats (12-18 divers) with a mixture of divers, some who are just beginning their adventures to others that are more advanced.  Many of these divers are only now trying out NC wreck diving. One thing that is obvious is that many of them did not get the introduction to boat diving etiquette that I did.  I thought I’d sit down today and share some of the knowledge that I’ve picked up over the years.

    Communicate with the dive center or charter company

    First and foremost is: call/message/email and ask questions. Whatever your question is, just reach out to the shop or charter company. Want to know if your rental gear will be on the boat or if you have to pick it up yourself? Call. You don’t want to be underway and find out your rental tanks aren’t on the boat and are still at the shop waiting for you to pick them up. Want to know if the boat will be providing a 3-course meal? Call. You don’t want to be out on the water for 8+ hours with nothing to eat between dives. You’ll see this mantra throughout. Why? Because boats operating in the Caribbean, for example, will be very different from a 6-pack running out of Hatteras, NC.


    Next, planning for a boat trip.  What gear should you bring? Diving from a boat isn’t like going to a local lake, river, spring, or quarry where you’re only limited by the amount of gear your vehicle can haul. Space on a boat is limited and you should only bring what you need for the dive you’re doing. Think hard about what you bring.  Do you really need that scooter if you’re diving a small in-shore tug?  Do you need that lionfish gear if you’re diving shallow spots that don’t normally have lionfish? Do you need to bring that briefcase sized hard case with your laptop for a half-day trip, or could you wait and edit your videos and pictures on shore? Do you need to bring a bag of spare regs, parts, and hoses along with your super-sized toolbox?  For a dive boat, most people normally have one dive bag worth of gear and a dry bag that will fit under the bench.  Some boats have specific space for cameras and specific storage spots for deco/bailout bottles.  Call ahead of time and find out.

    If you aren’t familiar with the wrecks or reefs you’re going to be diving, which might influence what gear you want to bring, just call and ask. All good charter operators will have emergency gear on board and most of them will have a well-stocked toolbox and spare gear. The bottom line is that there is no need to bring gear that the boat has or that you won’t use/need. You need to find out how much space there is on the boat as well as what equipment the boat has on board.

    Don’t forget to ask about food and water! If you’re used to diving boats in the Caribbean, then this may be a foreign concept. Most charters on the US East Coast will provide water and nothing more. You need to find out what they do provide and plan accordingly. Water, snacks, and something even more substantial if it’s a full-day charter.

    Lastly, make sure to know what time to be at the dock and if there are parking restrictions, then be there on time. Is 7:30 am the time to be at the dock, or is it when the boat plans on leaving? Don’t be the person that shows up late and holds up the boat and don’t be the person who gets back to the dock to discover their car has been towed.

    On the boat…

    Once you’re on the boat, get your gear set up. In many vacation destinations with “valet” diving, someone else may be carrying your gear to the boat and setting it up. From my experience, every dive operator I’ve ever used from West Palm Beach to Cape Hatterasexpects you to carry your own gear on board and set it up yourself.  Often these boats will be passing through rough inlets and into an ocean that is a bit “bouncy”. Trying to get a BC on a tank is no fun on a rolling boat – get it all done before you leave the dock and stow everything out of the way.

    How I like to unpack on a boat

    My personal preference is to unpack:

    • My wetsuit, fins, etc.
    • Put my gear bag under the bench
    • Stack gear on top of it in the opposite order that I will need it.
      • So, bottom to top we have:
        • Empty gear bag, fins (with boots in the foot pockets)
        • Pocket shorts
        • Wetsuit

    Something to note

    There is a key phrase here that some of you may have missed. That phrase was “under the bench”. I have recently seen several divers using large, semi-hard sided bags that are so big they would be checked luggage at the airport. If your gear bag or bin can’t fit under the bench where your gear is, then it shouldn’t be on the boat. Huge gear bags, or lots of bags that won’t fit under the bench, take up valuable space on an already crowded boat.  Other people won’t be as careful with your gear as you are, so leaving it in the way is asking for trouble.


    Next, where is the other stuff you’ve brought going to go? I often bring spare batteries (for lights, dive computers, and the CCR) that the boats don’t have. I also might bring a towel and maybe some dry clothes to change into. These items need to go somewhere dry and out of everyone’s way. Just ask the crew where the best spot is.

    Stow and secure

    Finally, before the boat gets underway, make sure that all of your gear is stowed and secure. Make sure that tanks are bungeed in so that they don’t fall, for example. Many of the dives I do are technical, so I bring decompression or bail out tanks – boats will normally have specific spots for these that will keep them safe. As the saying goes, if your tank falls and breaks someone else’s mask, they are still going diving, but you may not be.

    Underway and Diving

    I think the main thing to know at this point is to listen to crew instructions. Especially listen to the boat safety briefing – there may be rules about staying seated when going through an inlet or in rough seas, and I’m sure that there will be important information about the head and the best “fish feeding” spots.

    Once you’re at or very close to the dive spot, begin gearing up, but stay out of the way of the crew. The crew needs to get the boat tied in and prepped for your dive. Typically, once the boat is tied in and prepped, the captain or one of the crew will give a site briefing and discuss any specific procedures. For example, what to do if you can’t find the anchor at the end of your dive – listen to them!

    One procedure that I see ignored far too often off the NC coast is to not hang around at the surface. Often, we have current, and hanging around on the surface, especially not paying attention to the tag line trailing behind the boat, can get you into trouble quickly. Work with gear on the boat or under the water is what most captains will say.  You do not want to ruin a dive by jumping in and floating away because you were too busy fixing how a piece of gear is attached.

    Be aware of time

    Although no captain or crew is going to rush you into the water before you’re ready, be cognizant of time. Half-day charters in particular may be on a schedule. Even a full-day charter may be trying to get back before dark or before dead low tide at the inlet. Problems can certainly hold you up, but if everyone else is off the boat 5 minutes before you’re even thinking about standing up, then the crew is starting to wonder if you’re mentally ready for the dive (typically divers who gear up slowly are nervous about the dive). At a minimum, the captain is starting to think about the difference in surface intervals between you and the other divers.

    If you know that you are slow at gearing up, start gearing up sooner. When I switched from OC to CCR and had to do a pre-breathe, I adjusted when I started gearing up so that I could still get in the water quickly.

    Heading in

    Heading Home is the easy part. Personally, I try to get all of my gear packed up and stowed while the crew is getting the boat ready to leave the dive site, but as long as your gear is stowed and out of the way, most operators don’t mind if you wait to pack your gear bag back at the dock.

    Tip your mates

    Once you are back at the dock, get your gear off of the boat as quickly as possible. The crew has to clean the boat at a minimum and may need to prep it for another charter. And don’t forget to tip the mates! Every charter I’ve ever been on mentions this. I’ve heard some people say $10/tank but I personally opt for something closer to 20% of the charter cost. Tipping is a personal choice and may only be expected in the US and Caribbean. Just be prepared.

    A note on cancellations

    One final thought is that you should always read the charter policy on refunds. Reputable charters will refund your money if they cancel for some reason (e.g. weather or mechanical issues). Most charters will also have a policy about what happens if you cancel. That policy typically means that if you cancel within some time frame (1 week, 2 days, etc.) then you still have to pay for the spot if it can’t be filled. If an individual, or a dive shop, is responsible for the charter and you cancel on them at the last minute, then the individual or shop may have to pay for the spot even if it can’t be filled – don’t be the guy that doesn’t cover your spot after canceling because you may not be invited back.

  • February 22, 2022 9:56 AM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Educational Blog

    DIVER TEST: Nautilus LifeLine GPS Personal Locator Beacon - Divernet

    This article represents the views of the author.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    TAKE EIGHT DIVERS AND SUBTRACT TWO. You’re left with six, right?

    And that’s the simple arithmetic that the crew of a luxury-resort speedboat couldn’t manage. They returned to shore with only six people.

    Across the table at a London pizza-house, I sat interviewing Olga and Robert, the pair abandoned off the coast of Cuba.

    That they had survived was down to luck. A fisherman had spotted them bobbing in the water three hours after they’d surfaced.

    In the packed restaurant, there were no raised voices complaining about wrong dishes from any of the busy tables surrounding us, because the waiters had logged the orders. Olga and Robert were not logged out of or into their boat, and were not missed.

    The first the dive-centre knew of their clients’ near-fatal ordeal was when the couple walked in and told them.

    My resulting feature, Missing, was published in 2003. It reviewed a handful of incidents in which divers and boats became separated. I’d worked on the story for two years. That the article was so delayed was partly down to a long-gone Florida dive-operator refusing to discuss how it also forgot two of its customers, who spent 24 hours on a light-tower before being spotted by a yacht.

    A lawsuit followed and sentencing required the operator to share advice on how to avoid a repeat with anyone interested. I thought diver readers would be very interested, but the company wasn’t sharing, so my report stalled.

    Exasperated, and with the imminent release of Open Water (the fictionalised film inspired by two divers left behind and never found off Australia in 1999) the Editor pushed me to finish the piece.

    He also pointed out the topicality of a dozen divers going missing from their liveaboard in the Red Sea just as the movie was hitting the cinemas. The truth is, however, that when it came to such incidents, I was spoilt for choice.

    And, all these years later, I still would be.

    Causes of Separation

    Divers get separated from boats for many reasons. They don’t always follow briefings, and surface in the wrong place, or get caught in unexpected current and swept away.

    A skipper makes a mistake, or the boat breaks down. If the boat has a proper accounting system, the crew know that they have divers missing and should get searching quickly, but this isn’t always the case.

    In some incidents, boat-crew had no radio to summon help. In others, they delayed reporting the incident for hours, hoping to find the divers themselves. In that time a diver can drift for miles, and night can fall. A diver’s head is a tiny target, even under ideal sea conditions (“you’re looking for a cabbage”, a sailing instructor told me).

    Flags, DSMBs and signal mirrors can help searchers; an air siren might be heard at short distances over quiet engines. But luck plays a scarily big part in being found. The worst scenario, as with Robert and Olga, is not to be missed at all and have no-one looking for you.

    The Product

    The Nautilus LifeLine is one of the most important safety aids ever made for divers. It’s a personal location beacon (PLB), a radio transmitter that can signal for help and reveal your exact position to a searching boat or aircraft. It empowers you to do something positive towards surviving a separation.

    PLBs are not new, and the LifeLine itself has been around for some years, but the version I tested is a new model although, as I’ll explain, it isn’t necessarily an upgrade.

    It was developed by Mike Lever, owner of well-known liveaboard Nautilus Explorer, following a scare. “The Nautilus LifeLine was the culmination of spending 20 years in dive skiffs in the chilly, current-swept waters of British Columbia and Alaska,” he explains. “Wondering. Hoping that all my divers were going to surface where I expected them to.

    “I always worried about losing a diver and then one day, off Wooden Island in the Gulf of Alaska, one of my divers didn’t surface when they should have. We started searching. The current was increasing as we got further from slack. I tracked out into the open gulf in a 6-8ft swell with no joy.

    “I called the US Coast Guard for help and they told me that it wasn’t an emergency yet (in other words, piss off and don’t bug us until it’s too late). It took us 50 minutes to find the diver drifting several miles from shore.

    “We were all in tears – except for the missing diver. He was calm and fine, because he had seen us searching for him and assumed that we would find him.”

    I have helmed small boats but have no formal boat-handling training. I see boats as either taxis or wrecks so, to help test the LifeLine, I turned to Nick Balban, a diver of some 25 years experience, BSAC instructor and former Gibraltar SAC Diving Officer. He is professionally qualified to skipper vessels of up to 24m.

    The Design

    The LifeLine’s electronics are integrated into a compact polycarbonate housing that’s watertight to 130m. A single catch, easily operated with a gloved hand, lets you open the O-ring-sealed lid on the surface.

    This exposes the aerial and three push-button controls. These parts are waterproof, but not pressure-resistant. Two Philips-head screws give you access to the battery chamber, which takes two CR123 cells.

    The LifeLine is not an electronic positioning indicating radio beacon. EPIRBs work over much longer distances, by relaying their signal via a satellite, alerting call-centres that can co-ordinate a rescue. Standard safety equipment for operating far from land, they are found on aircraft and yachts because they can summon help anywhere in the world, even though that help might take days to arrive.

    The LifeLine transmits a radio signal limited by both its power and antennae, and has a claimed range of 34 miles. In many diving locations, the closest and fastest responder is likely to be your own or another dive-boat, given the lack of search and rescue infrastructure and time needed to deploy the device in many destinations. So the range should suffice.

    Once you’ve flipped open the lid, removing a slip-off safety guard allows the aerial to automatically uncoil (watch that it doesn’t flick into your eyes) and reveals the red emergency push-button control. Hold this in for five seconds to send out a distress signal.

    It attempts to contact suitably equipped craft within range and, if it succeeds, your GPS co-ordinates will be displayed on their navigation instruments.

    There’s a 20-second window between pressing the call button and the unit transmitting its emergency signal, during which time you can turn the unit off in case of accidental operation.

    Along with the distress button, two other buttons control the LifeLine. These can be accessed without removing the cover, which is basically a safety lock and should, along with the five-second press, prevent misfires.

    One is the on/off button, the other a test button, used to check that the battery is functional. Waterproof user instructions are printed on the unit.

    The previous LifeLine allowed you to talk to rescuers via a built-in walkie-talkie. I can see how reassuring this could be, because the current model has no way of indicating that your distress signal has been received and is being acted upon.

    However, in some parts of the world a radio licence was required to use the LifeLine so, for practical reasons, it’s been dropped to remove that barrier to ownership. This is why the change in specification isn’t an upgrade, even though the electronics have been improved.

    What is a major improvement is that the LifeLine now has a function that broadcasts your position, not as an emergency alarm but as an advisory measure.

    The psychological benefit of this option is that it removes the conflict divers might feel if they’re concerned that they have not been seen, but are reluctant to set off a full-blown search until sure that they’ve been lost or abandoned!

    For me, that’s a huge selling-point.

    The LifeLine is now basically an AIS (Automatic Identification System), commonly used on ships to prevent collisions by making them visible to other sea traffic. Each AIS is specific to the vessel and you can check the ship’s name, tonnage and other details online.

    Set off the LifeLine’s AIS function and your position is indicated by a numbered icon on the screen of the boat’s chart-plotter, allowing each individual LifeLine to be identified.

    In theory, in advisory mode the AIS function can also be linked to your boat’s radio, so it automatically sets off an ear-splitting alarm that can be silenced only by acknowledging it.

    Otherwise, the on-screen display is passive – someone has to notice it.

    Again, to me, the unignorable audible alarm was a persuasive selling point, knowing how lax “cover” can be. However, for unclear reasons, legislation makes this safety feature inoperable in European and some other waters, and so it proved in Gib.

    Pairing the LifeLine with your boat requires use of a free app and is straightforward.

    It can be used to train on the unit or, as Nick and I did, to get a feel for how it works from the boat-crew’s perspective by checking the helm instrument read-outs.

    Because the LifeLine’s capabilities depend on local regulations, and these affect how it should be programmed, it’s essential to check the manual before use, especially as a dive-traveller.

    As a guest on a dive-boat, you’d need to ask the skipper to agree to pair your unit, but it’s difficult to see any reasonable objection to doing this. You should then follow the crew’s instructions regarding using the LifeLine.

    Depending on where you are in the world and whether you have paired your unit with your boat, the LifeLine might first try to alert only your vessel of your location before, 30 minutes later, sending out a distress signal to all ships within range and able to receive the transmission.

    This will set off an audible alarm, which should be treated as an emergency by these craft. They should immediately head for the GPS co-ordinates provided by the LifeLine.

    Within those 30 minutes you can cancel the transmission if your own boat has found you.

    To help rescuers locate you in the dark, a white LED flashing beacon automatically switches on as daylight fades.

    The LifeLine stores easily in a BC pocket, though a dedicated pouch is also available.

    This has a coiled lanyard to which to secure the LifeLine, so if you fumble and let go of the unit, you’ll still be attached to it when the cavalry rocks up.

    It also allows for mounting the LifeLine high on a shoulder-strap, so it’s clear of the water and you don’t need to hold it while you await rescue.


    Does owning a PLB guarantee your rescue? No, there are issues, not with the LifeLine itself but with use and misuse of PLBs in general, and these might affect how much attention gets paid to its alarms.

    Accidentally activated PLBs and EPIRBs are floating around that have been washed into the sea or are going off on seaworthy yachts unnoticed. Another concern is that smugglers deliberately set off PLBs to lure patrol-boats away from their trafficking routes, creating false alarms and making would-be rescuers sceptical.

    So, as with car alarms, a crew-member on a passing boat might glance out to see if he can see a sinking superyacht, but not start searching for a person in the water. Nick said that he would like to see a display that informs a vessel what the PLB is attached to – in our case a diver – so that look-outs know what to search for.

    Even so, the unit adds a huge line of defence. We came away highly impressed with the Nautilus LifeLine, a unit that a number of dive-boats now issue to guests.

    Is getting lost and found at sea a lottery?

    I DON’T KNOW any big-money lottery winners, but I do know a disturbing number of divers who’ve spent a few hours adrift.

    That can be all the time in the world to wish you’d bought a Nautilus Lifeline.

    As Dan Orr, former president of Divers Alert Network, told me: “Even the best divers make mistakes, but the most safety-conscious divers have a Nautilus LifeLine to help keep those mistakes from turning into a tragedy.”

  • January 22, 2022 1:22 PM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Scuba Diver Editor-in-Chief Mark Evans

    3 Ways To Beat Seasickness When Diving | Scuba Diver Mag

    This article represents the views of the authors.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.


    If there is one thing guaranteed to ruin a day, a weekend or a week of diving, it is feeling seasick. There is no magic bullet or cure-all for seasickness, but I will offer up some hints and advice gleaned from 25 plus years of dive travel to help you deal with the demon of seasickness.

    There can be nothing worse than feeling seasick. I have seen far too many burly blokes reduced to dribbling wrecks on dive boats because of the effects of seasickness. I thank my lucky stars that I seem particularly resilient to seasickness, and however rough it gets, I seem to be fine. The same cannot be said for some of my boat mates over the years, and I thought collating all of the tips and tricks I had seen used in that time to combat seasickness would be very useful for anyone who is prone to this ghastly condition.

    Seasickness can mean the difference between an epic day of diving and wishing someone would put you out of your misery. I distinctly remember two young students who joined us on a boat for a great white shark cage dive out of Gansbaai in South Africa. They looked a little green about the gills when they got on board, and given we were in the calm of the harbour, I didn’t think this boded well for the rest of the day. Sure enough, as we left the confines of the harbour and headed out towards Dyer Island across huge rolling swells, they curled up in fetal balls on the deck and make quiet mewling sounds.

    Things only got worse for them when we reached our dive site and moored up side-on to the swell. Once the chum was being ladled into the water, and the scent of fish guts and other delights blended with the smell of thousands of cape fur seals sat on the nearby rocks, this heady aroma had them retching over the side of the boat for what seemed like hours on end. They felt so lousy they didn’t even attempt to suit up and do a cage dive, and instead alternated between barfing and wanting to die until we returned to the harbour. I swear one of them crawled on to the shore and kissed the ground. You really don’t want to be in that position.

    So, how can deal with seasickness?

    Firstly, don’t be afraid to turn to your friendly neighbourhood pharmacist to tackle seasickness head-on. Trying to prevent the onset of seasickness in the first place is by far the better plan of action than attempting to deal with it once you are well and truly in its throes. There are a multitude of seasickness pills available wherever you are in the world, but the most important thing you need to look at is whether it causes drowsiness. Many meds have this warning, and you do not want to be drifting off for a nap while you are on a dive, so it is vital you only use motion-sickness medicine that doesn’t cause drowsiness.

    Once you have found pills suitable for use while diving, it will be a case of trial-and-error. You will probably find that certain products will work better for you than others. I have the same issue with hayfever – most of the big-name brands do not work, but a cheap-and-cheerful one-a-day pill from a local discount store sorts me right out. So try different pills across a few dive trips and whichever one comes out on top for stopping any queasy feelings, make that your go-to medicine.

    Regardless of the brand of pill you opt for, make sure you give it time to work! It is no good taking it as you step on the boat, you need it to be in your system, so either take it early that morning, or if you are having a particularly early start, even pop one the night before.

    My wife Penney can suffer from seasickness and routinely takes pills as a precaution – the way she sees it, better to have the assistance of proven medicine and have a great time out on the water than risk her trip being ruined. She also utilises bands which go around her wrists. These have a little plastic fitment which presses on to pressure points on the wrists and is supposed to ease motion-sickness. She leaves these on right up until it is time to kit up and get in the water, and puts them back on as soon as she is out of her wetsuit after the dive. Pills and bands might seem overkill, but she says if she can stack the odds in her favour of not feeling any effects of seasickness, she is all for it.

    Where you sit on a boat makes a difference

    Right, let’s move on to actually being on the boat. Where you sit can also make a big difference to how queasy you will feel out on the water. If you are on a small boat, like a RIB, obviously your seating options are limited, but I would suggest aiming for being halfway down the tubes on either side. You don’t want to be near the bow, which will be going up and down the most, and you don’t want to be right at the stern as you will be near the outboard, and fuel fumes are not the most pleasant smell at the best of times, never mind when you are feeling rough anyway.

    If you are on a bigger day boat, then you have a bit more scope. I’d suggest avoiding the flybridge and the bow, and if there is a cabin of sorts, stay out of this in the fresh air. Being cooped upside where it can get hot and sticky, and there is no through-flow of air, is a sure-fire way to bring on seasickness. Stand or sit where you are in the breeze, and don’t sit with your head down or looking at the deck – try to look at the horizon.

    There are even more options on a liveaboard. Again, I’d suggest trying to avoid the higher deck levels – yes, you might get a nice breeze up on that top sundeck, but you will also be more susceptible to whatever swell you are motoring into. Aim for a lower deck where you can still feel that fresh air. I\ have seen people retire to their cabins when underway and they are feeling a little nauseous, and to me, this is the worst thing you can do – be closeted away in an enclosed space.

    What to do when you reach the Dive Site?

    Ok, so that’s travelling on the boat, but what do you do when you reach the dive site? My business partner Ross says that the best place to be is in the water, and he is like a lemming when we are diving off a boat – as soon as the boat is anchored up and the crew have said the pool is open, he is over the side and into the water. Even just floating on the surface he feels substantially better than being sat on the deck of the boat, even though he will still be moving with any surface swell.

    However, actually being underwater away from any surface conditions is the ideal place to be, so if you are prone to seasickness, don’t faff about getting ready. Make sure you are kitted up and ready to go so you can be among the first off the boat. That said, don’t be fully ready too early – sat down in full dive regalia and starting to overheat is a surefire way to start feeling ill even if you aren’t prone to seasickness!

    Once the dive is underway, you should be over any effects of seasickness, but if you do take a turn for the worse and the urge to chunder becomes too much – keep your regulator in your mouth! Yes, you can throw up through your second stage. No, it is not pleasant, but at least when you retch and then take involuntary gasps, you will get air, albeit not particularly tasty air. Once you have finished being sick, you can calm yourself down, swap over to your octopus while you give your primary a good purge and slosh about to clear away any final bits of barf debris, then go back on to your original second stage and continue the dive. Do not under any circumstances take the reg out of your mouth while you throw up.

    If you suffer terribly from seasickness and the thought of going on a boat fills you with dread, then you might be better off sticking with shore diving. As you will have seen from our top shore dive video, there are many places around the world where you can dive world-class sites without ever setting foot on a boat. But I’d urge you to try all of the above before you ditch boat diving forever – you are shutting yourself off from some amazing diving destinations.

  • December 23, 2021 9:29 AM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Educational Blog

    DAN would only allow this to be downloaded via PDF. Use the link at bottom.

    This article represents the views of the author.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    DAN’s Smart Guide to Safe Diving

    • Learn safety guidelines
    • Become conscientious and responsible divers
    • Prepare smarter so we can enjoy our dives

    Here are the top seven mistakes to avoid:

    Download this guide (PDF)

  • November 22, 2021 8:11 AM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    What To Do When You Run Out Of Air While Scuba Diving | Scuba Diving

    By Scuba Diving Editors

    This article represents the views of the authors.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    What should you do if you run out of air? This has always been one of the most frequently asked and significant questions for new and experienced divers. Even more so today. Not because the answers have changed, but rather because our understanding of the out-of-air situation and the way divers are equipped has evolved. As a result, the choice of which ascent you make and how you make it may be different today than it was years ago.

    Are You Really Out of Air?

    Probably not. What you sense as an out-of-air situation is usually a low-on-air situation. Indeed, in nearly all scuba accidents, the victim still has air and the regulator still functions. What usually happens is that a diver breathes his air supply down so low that the regulator can no longer provide air at the effort level required by the diver. In theory, this occurs when ambient (surrounding) pressure equals tank pressure. At 100 feet, this would be about 60 psi. Regulator studies and diver experience have shown that because of the mechanics and maintenance of regulators, diver breathing habits and rates, and the inaccuracies of submersible pressure gauges, the diver will feel out of air at a tank pressure higher than ambient pressure and that this disparity increases with depth. It's not as simple as that, though, because regulators reduce cylinder pressure in two stages, and because of breathing habits, exertion levels and so on. These are among the reasons why the current practice is to surface with 500 to 800 psi remaining rather than 300 psi.

    Equipment or Human Failure?

    Equipment can fail, but does so rarely. With a regulator, failure usually takes the form of an air leak, a water leak or a free flow. If there is a problem with the regulator, it usually still delivers air, creating an inconvenience rather than a serious situation. In spite of what textbooks and instructors might say, we do not learn to make emergency ascents because of the possibility of equipment failures, but because 99% of the time the errors are human errors. This significant fact does not change the ascent options available, but it may change which options the diver chooses and how that ascent is performed.

    The Power Inflator

    The use of power inflators and alternate or octopus regulators has become nearly universal. Both have a significant bearing on emergency ascent choices. A little-known fact about power inflators is that they will continue to function at a lower tank pressure than that at which a diver can comfortably continue to breathe from a regulator. At low tank pressures and greater depths, the flow rate is slower, but the power inflator still works even when the demand-valve regulator produces an out-of-air sensation for the diver. It's important to note that if you're at or nearly neutral, you don't need BCD air added anyway. As soon as you start up, buoyancy increases just like on any ascent. You may however need to orally inflate once at the surface to get enough buoyancy.

    Don’t Forget To Inhale

    Another misunderstood rule concerns breathing during ascents. It sounds so simple in the textbooks: “Always exhale while you ascend.” But this is only half the story. The only way you can hold your breath during an ascent is to do so forcefully, as what happens in a state of panic.

    Otherwise, a relaxed diver is continuously venting. Excess air will flow out of the lungs as long as the airway is kept open through inhaling or exhaling. Continuing to breathe in and out is the best possible way to surface, as it is closest to a normal ascent. Ideally, you do not want your lungs to approach being either full or empty.

    Speed Rules

    In low-air or out-of-air situations, the speed of ascent is not nearly as important as was once thought. With healthy lungs and a clear airway (normal breathing/exhaling), divers can ascend at remarkably high speeds without significant risk of lung overexpansion injury. Today the recommended normal ascent rate is 30 feet per minute. Yet during out-of-control ascents performed while testing BCs, members of ScubaLab have achieved rates of 540 feet per minute, and the Royal Navy has achieved even higher rates, both with no harm to the divers. The point: ascent rate is more critical to avoiding decompression sickness than lung overpressure. While avoiding it should always be a concern, DCS is less of a danger than having no air to breathe at depth. Of course, using a buddy’s alternate air source can eliminate the need to ascend quickly.

    Out-of-Air Options

    Whether you take independent action or dependent action depends primarily on three factors: your gear configuration, your depth and your proximity to a properly equipped buddy.


    Option 1: NormalAscent

    Or as normal as possible. This is the easiest and safest way to surface when low on air. You can push off the bottom, kick and use the power inflator on your BC. Remember, more air will become available from the tank, from the regulator and from within your body as you ascend. Also, your buoyancy will increase as the air in the BC or dry suit expands, or as your neoprene suit expands. With the additional air that becomes available, you will be able to continue breathing on the way to the surface. With the additional buoyancy, you may even need to dump air from the BC and/or flare (stretch out your arms and legs as wide as possible and arch your back so you face the surface) to slow the ascent. The ascent should be made with as much control as possible.

    Option 2: Emergency Swimming Ascent

    An emergency swimming ascent is similar to the normal ascent, but faster, so you have less control.

    Option 3: Emergency Buoyant Ascent

    If for any reason you feel you can’t make the surface by swimming and using the BC, then simply ditch your weights. The ascent now becomes an emergency buoyant ascent. You will go faster and have less control, yet you can still breathe in and out, dump air from your BC and flare as necessary. Emergency buoyant ascents are a faster and surer method, but they are not nearly as fast as some divers believe. You can still slow down (but not stop) and you do not pop out of the water as you arrive at the surface. With all these ascents, the key is to look up, relax and continue breathing in and out.


    Option 1: Redundant Air

    Redundant air systems, such as a pony bottle or Spare Air, eliminate the need to share air and can be used by more than one octopus. If you or your buddy has one, it should be your first choice.

    Option 2: Sharing Air

    If your buddy has an alternate air source, is closer than you are to the surface, and you have an agreed-upon plan, then go to your buddy and share air. You may also need to use an alternate air source because of an obstruction preventing a direct ascent to the surface, such as swimming in a wreck, under heavy kelp, inside a cave, under ice, needing to decompress, or being at great depth. Remember your power inflator will still work while you are using your buddy’s alternate air source, so each of you can become neutrally buoyant and then make a controlled ascent using buoyancy to assist you.

    Option 3: Sharing Air (Buddy Breathing)

    Buddy breathing should be your last resort. This is an obsolete skill that is still taught in some classes. Many divers do not understand how much easier it is to make an independent ascent (normal, emergency swimming or emergency buoyant) or to use an alternate air source or redundant system. The skill of buddy breathing is far too difficult for most divers to be able to remember and use under stress while ascending. Accident reports indicate that we’d be better off if we never have to attempt buddy breathing in an emergency. Divers have an obligation to equip themselves properly, and that means having access to an alternate air source on every dive.

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  • October 22, 2021 1:12 PM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Tips for Scuba Diving in Low Visibility

    How to improve your skills and make the most out of poor viz.

    By Eric Michael June 22, 2019

    Pro Tips for Low Visibility Scuba Diving | Scuba Diving

    This article represents the views of the author.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    Perfect is a shifting ­base line, ­especially when it comes to ­diving. Despite the challenges of ­raging current, bone-aching cold or snotty ­visibility, some among us can find the best in even the worst. Those silver-lining divers can be an envied bunch, enjoying the messiest of conditions like it was a screensaver fantasy. However, this relentless optimism isn’t necessarily an innate ability. Perspective is completely relative. And making the most of the marginal can be a learned skill. Just ask Glen Faith.

    “The first two years of my diving ­career, I didn’t know you could even see underwater,” says the former ­Illinois ­Secretary of State Police diver, who now owns and operates Mermet Springs, a popular quarry site and full-service ­scuba ­training facility in southern Illinois. “I thought a mask was just something to keep the mud out.”

    Becoming a certified search-and-recovery diver meant feeling his way through murky farm ponds and performing skills in near-blackout situations.

    “It was diving by Braille. You couldn’t see a thing,” Faith says. “I guess the instructor trusted us when we did our skills because I don’t think he could see us.”

    Thankfully, almost 24 years of finding guns, stolen cars and sometimes ­bodies in highly challenging marine environments from lakes to the Mississippi River didn’t ruin his enthusiasm for diving. Today, his former limestone quarry, which features sunken attractions—­including a 727 passenger jet from the 1998 film U.S. Marshals, a full-size train car, a fire truck, a pedal-powered submarine and a submerged petting zoo—draws more than 6,000 divers annually to get certified and share the love of diving.

    Tips for Scuba Diving in Low-Visibility or Silt-Out Situations

    “The first time I breathed ­underwater, I never wanted to come back up,” Faith says. “It was one of the most addictive things I’ve ever done in my life. If I could live underwater, you’d never see me again.”

    Faith is definitely a glass-­perpetually-overflowing type of diver, a living example of the adage that the best diver is the one having the most fun—even if he can’t see much. From his example, we can all learn lessons about how to prepare for and get the most enjoyment from less-than-­optimal conditions. So, when the pristine, 100-foot visibility you anticipated turns out to be a cloudy, can-barely-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face kind of day, try these simple hacks.

    Pack a positive attitude

    The most important piece of your ­foul-visibility kit is your own attitude. Disappointment can kill a good vibe ­instantly, so shedding the burden of expectation can make the difference ­between diving under a dark cloud or laughing through your regulator. Rather than obsessing so heavily on what might have been, focus on the possibilities—the challenge of operating in poor visibility will not only make you a better diver, it also might actually be fun.

    “Anybody can dive in 100-foot ­visibility, but the challenge of diving where you can barely see your fins or you have to use a light to see your gauges—that’s another level,” Faith says. “People who ­practice in reduced visibility are really opened up to a lot more diving opportunities. ­Sometimes when the viz is blown out, that’s when some of the coolest marine life come out of hiding.”

    According to Faith, the right training can seriously improve your outlook. A night diving or limited visibility ­specialty course will not only improve your skills and preparation, but it will also raise your level of comfort in poor conditions, which will deliver greater enjoyment.

    Dive the right gear

    Often the solution for a difficult problem is having the right tool for the job. Diving in poor visibility is no different.

    A quality dive light is paramount for navigating, reading gauges and ­other critical tasks in ­limited-visibility ­situations, along with a trusty backup that can be safely stowed and easily accessed. Faith advises not to be blinded by power when choosing a torch because sometimes lumens can be outshined by ergonomics. Make sure your light fits comfortably and securely in your hand. And beyond the point-and-shoot ­varieties, consider a strobe for your tank.

    “Not just a tank light, but a strobe light, so if you get displaced from your buddy, they can see that blink underwater and make their way back to you,” says Faith.

    Color is another key factor when ­arming for low viz. “I dive yellow fins and a yellow mask for a reason,” he says. “When visibility is reduced, I need my students or my buddy to see me, and light colors that reflect light underwater make a big difference.”

    Dive computers typically offer some type of illumination; recent advances in LED and OLED technology deliver bright, colorful displays that are highly ­effective in low-viz situations, as well as more ­affordable.

    Slow it all down

    The excitement of exploration can often drive divers to dangerous speeds underwater. Just like on the road, speed can quickly escalate challenging ­low-visibility conditions into a dangerous ­situation. Planning for a reduced pace on your dive—and being mindful of it during your dive—can be the difference between ­surfacing with a smile on your face or ending up in the back of an ambulance. Besides being safer, slowing down offers other benefits.

    “Most divers, as a rule, swim too fast,” Faith says. “Low-visibility diving forces people to slow down—and even stop—to appreciate the little things along the way.”

    Slowing down can also facilitate better discipline and increased performance in other important aspects of diving. Buoyancy is easier to control when you’re not kicking like mad. Your air consumption will improve. And you’ll get lost less often.

    “Navigation is key in limited visibility because you can’t look out and see ahead of you for 100 feet, so your compass skills have to be absolutely proficient,” Faith says. “Sometimes you’ll have to make a midwater swim back to the dock or the boat, and you won’t be able to see anything. In aviation, it’s called flying by your instruments—and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing underwater.”

    Overall, a successful dive in poor ­visibility requires a combination of the right equipment, the ability to slow yourself down, and an attitude optimized to make the best of less-than-optimal conditions. It might seem like a difficult equation, but the payoff will be that silver lining we all covet.

    The Hack: Best Buddies

    Buddy diving is fundamental. But when conditions are pristine and you can seemingly see forever, how many of us really stick to strict buddy protocol? ­Increasing your discipline to stay within easy reach of your buddy, communicate more often, and truly dive like a team is crucial to a successful dive in low visibility. When conditions are challenging, the added safety and redundancy that optimal collaboration provides is well worth the effort. ­Because if two eyes are better than one—wouldn’t you really rather have four?

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  • September 22, 2021 11:00 AM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Educational Blog

    Dive Training: Save Your Breath | Scuba Diving

    By John Francis

    This article represents the views of the author.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    Diving Tips: Save Your Breath

    During the surface interval, the divemaster makes his rounds, recording each diver's air consumption. You admit to having only 300 psi left, which is cutting it a little close, though you made a slow, safe ascent and a complete safety stop.

    But most of the other divers have 600, 800 even 1,100 psi left! What's up with that? Are they hanging out at the surface for half the dive? Sipping from a hidden pony bottle? Stealing from your octopus?

    More likely, they've learned not to waste air. But cheer up: We can get you back in the game and save you as much as 500 psi. You need only follow three simple diving tips: 1. Think slow. 2. Think slippery. 3. And act sleepy. Now, how hard can that be?

    1. Think Slow

    Water is some 800 times denser than air, and your speed is proportional to the square of the energy it takes to produce it. You already know how hard it is to wade across a swimming pool, even slowly. Doubling your speed requires about four times as much energy. Or turn that around: Wading across the pool half as fast takes one-fourth as much energy.

    So go slow. Swim slow, turn slowly, reach slowly for your console--do everything in slow motion.

    Several changes to your normal pattern will save energy and air, but swimming slowly is the obvious air-saver. Also, don't forget to move your hands, arms, head and torso slowly. Unless you pay attention, you'll try to make movements at "normal" speeds, which, having been learned in air, are too fast under water.

    Other Ways To Go Slow

    • Duck currents. They're usually weaker at the bottom or along a wall.
    • Use your hands. Where appropriate, pull yourself rock-to-rock, hand-over-hand, across the bottom. (Don't touch coral and other living things, of course.)
    • Stay warm. Your body burns calories and consumes oxygen to generate heat, so conserve it. Wear a hood or beanie, even in warm water.
    • Make short fin strokes. Besides finning slowly, keep the strokes short. Wide fin strokes move a lot of water but give only a little more propulsion.
    • Get better fins. Some fins are more efficient at translating muscle power into movement. A good pair means you'll kick with less effort, and less often.
    • Be physically fit. When even a slow speed is an all-out effort, you'll burn more energy than a fit diver for whom the same speed is easier. The more fit you are the more energy-efficient (and air-efficient) you'll be.

    2. Think Slippery

    Save energy and air by reducing drag. It's no coincidence that fish, whales and seals have smooth bodies with very few appendages. Divers, by contrast, start out with long, lanky appendages, then load themselves down with lots of bulky gear. Masks, BCs, tanks and the rest of it present rough, complicated shapes that cause lots of turbulence and drag.

    There are many steps you can take to streamline yourself, but if you do only one thing, do this: Fine-tune the amount of lead you carry and where you carry it. Your goal is neutral buoyancy with minimum BC inflation and a perfectly horizontal position. This will allow your torso, hips and legs to follow through the "hole" made in the water by your head, shoulders and the end of your tank, while enlarging it as little as possible.

    If you are negative, for example, you will have to fin yourself upward a little, as well as forward, to maintain a constant depth. You'll look like a "tail-dragger" airplane taxiing on the runway: Your feet and legs will be lower than your shoulders, enlarging the "hole" in the water and causing drag. If you are positively buoyant, you'll have to fin downward, with the same result.

    Carrying the minimum amount of weight is important because if you are heavy (the usual case), you'll have to inflate your BC to compensate for the extra lead. The inflated BC is physically bigger and enlarges the "hole" you make in the water.

    Once you have the right amount of weight, you'll need to distribute it so that, without moving or finning, your body will assume a horizontal position. That's correct "trim." Many divers are heavy at the head and shoulders and light at the hips and legs, so they swim in a bent-waist, butt-up posture or with their fins high to drive their hips down. In either case, they're pushing more water aside than necessary, causing drag and wasting air.

    Other Ways To Reduce Drag

    • Clip your console and octopus close to your body. Keep as much gear as possible in the slipstream of your body.
    • Adjust hose routings. Choose different ports and shorter hoses to keep hoses close to your body. Just don't make them so short they restrict your head movement or your ability to read your console.
    • Get a better BC. Look for the combination of fit and just the right amount of buoyancy. A BC that's too large or has excess lift will create a surprising amount of drag. An oversized model will also tend to shift, throwing off proper trim.
    • Fin with short strokes. Not only are shortened fin kicks more efficient, they keep your fins inside your slipstream.
    • Keep your hands to your sides. And keep them still.
    • Hide your snorkel. Strap it to your calf, tuck it under your BC, put a foldable snorkel in a pocket, or leave it behind.
    • Put small accessories in BC pockets. Small objects like lights, whistles and safety sausages cause disproportionate amounts of drag when fluttering in the "breeze."

    3. Act Sleepy

    Here, we're talking about your breathing pattern — not your sleeping habits. If you do only one thing to make your breathing pattern more efficient, do this: Breathe almost as if you were asleep — slowly and deeply. This saves air by promoting the most complete exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

    You might think that taking shallow breaths, as if sipping from your tank, would conserve air. In fact, it wastes air. Every breath first brings to your lungs the "dead air" that remained in your throat and trachea from your last exhalation. This dead air has a high concentration of carbon dioxide and a low concentration of oxygen. The high carbon-dioxide concentration triggers the urge to take another breath, even before you need more oxygen.

    Deep breaths, on the other hand, dilute the dead air with fresh air and deliver more oxygen to the lungs. That not only promotes quicker gas exchange, it also delays the urge to take another breath. A tank lasts longer when you take deeper breaths because you need fewer of them.

    Breathe slowly too. That increases your uptake of oxygen and your discharge of carbon dioxide simply because each breath stays in your lungs longer. It gives more time for gas molecules to pass between the air sacs in your lungs and your bloodstream.

    Other Ways To Breathe Sleepy

    • Exhale completely. This reduces the "dead air" volume and eliminates as much carbon dioxide as possible, thus delaying the urge to take another breath.
    • Pause after inhaling. Use your diaphragm to hold air in your lungs a few extra seconds while keeping your throat open. This allows even more time for gas exchange. Your breathing pattern should be: Exhale, inhale, pause. Exhale, inhale, pause.
      Note: Every time we describe this breathing pattern, someone writes us, "Isn't this skip breathing?" It's not. Skip breathing involves holding your breath by closing your epiglottis (like when you grunt) and holding it for much longer. Closing your throat creates a closed air space that is vulnerable to embolism if you ascend. Keeping your throat open avoids that risk. Besides, skip breathing doesn't work. Holding your breath too long means retaining too much carbon dioxide, triggering the urge to breathe sooner than necessary and resulting in rapid shallow breathing. The net result: You use more air by skip breathing, not less.
    • Buy a high-performance regulator. With the best models, considerable engineering has gone into reducing the work of breathing induced by the regulator itself.

    Comparing Gauges
    If you finish the dive with less air than the next diver, does it really mean you aren't as skilled or experienced or in tune with nature?

    Maybe, but it's just as likely you're bigger than the other diver. Or that you followed a slightly deeper profile or carried a camera. Or that you have different genes. It might even mean that somebody's pressure gauge is inaccurate, or that somebody's tank got a better fill.

    Sure, if you use 1,000 pounds more than your buddy on the same profile, you've got a problem you should correct. But a 200- or 300-pound difference? It's meaningless.

    And when faced with a choice between cutting into your 500-psi reserve or cutting short a safety stop — cut into the reserve. A safer profile is more important than a well-intentioned guideline. Just do a better job of gas management on the next dive.

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  • August 23, 2021 2:08 PM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    How To Identify Decompression Sickness — AKA The Bends

    By Scuba Diving Editors

    This article represents the views of the authors.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    "I'm bent." They're the two hardest words any diver ever says. But denying the symptoms of decompression sickness (DCS) could mean you end up with the four hardest to hear: "Can never dive again."

    Relaxing at the pool after a morning of diving, you notice a nagging ache in your shoulder. Is it DCS or a muscle strain from lugging gear bags? Time for a little self-diagnosis:

    Do I have any symptoms of DCS?

    These include but are not limited to:

    • Joint or limb pain
    • Itching
    • Skin rash
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Dizziness
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Extreme exhaustion

    Clearly, these symptoms are not specific to DCS, so move to the next question:


    How Likely Are These To Be Symptoms of DCS?

    You did only a single half-hour dive to 40 feet that morning — how could it be DCS? Easy: during the last five days you’ve done 15 dives. The more diving you’ve been doing, the more likely it is to be DCS. The more you’ve pushed the edge of no-decompression status, the more likely it is DCS. The more safety stops you’ve blown off, the more likely it is to be DCS. Any of those apply?

    I'm Still Not Sure. What Can I Do?

    This is easy: Call DAN’s emergency number (+1-919-684-9111) if you need some expert assistance

    in deciphering your symptoms. DAN has doctors on call 24 hours a day who can help you arrive at a decision about your symptoms.

    I Know I Have The Bends. What Should I Do?

    Start breathing oxygen and have someone call DAN’s emergency number immediately: (919-684-8111). The DAN staff can help you arrange for transportation to the nearest chamber. DAN will help you even if you have not purchased DAN insurance, but you won’t like the five-figure bill you may have to pay. Or the possible delay in emergency evacuation because the helicopter company wants its money up front since you don’t have insurance, Considering how little we actually know about the mechanism of DCS, anyone diving without dive accident insurance is taking unnecessary health and financial risks.

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  • July 22, 2021 2:54 PM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Educational Blog

    Safety Tips for Diving During COVID-19 | Scuba Diving

    Advice from PADI and DAN on how divers can get back in the water safely.

    By Alexandra Gillespie

    This article represents the views of the authors.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    Stay six feet apart on land.

    Maintaining social distancing while topside will help reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus when diving.

    Scuba divers around the world are eager to get back in the water. As operators reopen globally, PADI is encouraging divers to #DiveLocal.

    To help divers prepare for the new reality of diving during COVID-19, PADI and the Divers Alert Network (DAN) each recently issued advice to dive operators on how to safely resume operations.

    While this guidance gives divers an inkling of what they can expect when returning to their dive shop—reduced boat capacity, a possible disappearance of communal rinse barrels and simulated air sharing in training courses—the best practices also include ideas for what divers can do to keep the industry healthy and operating.

    Please note: While these actions can reduce the likelihood of coronavirus transmission, the risk cannot be entirely eliminated when interacting with other people.

    Stay distant at the surface

    Stay six feet away from other divers until you are underwater, such as when riding a boat out to the drop, checking your buddy’s kit or renting equipment. This means, for example, you should inspect your buddy’s equipment visually before getting in the water, but not reach out to adjust any of their straps.

    Keep at least six feet between you and other divers when in the water as well until you are securely below the surface. Once submerged, “breathing from scuba substantially reduces respiratory transmission concerns,” says PADI in the best practices document posted on the PADI Pros website. “This is obviously important underwater because close contact is important for safety, control, skill conduct and maintaining buddy contact.”

    Kit up solo

    Putting on all of your equipment by yourself enables social distancing and minimizes the number of people who touch your gear. Sitting on a bench or putting on your BCD once you are in the water will make this easier. It may become a necessary skill—tour operators, usually happy to help you wrangle equipment into place, are being advised not to touch customers or their gear if it can be avoided.

    Diving with a member of your household allows more interaction with your buddy, like kitting up or sitting by each other on a boat, as “couples, families and others already socially exposed to each other have more latitude in distancing/contact restrictions,” says PADI on the basis of broadly accepted best practices.

    Breathe through regulators in close quarters

    Some situations require proximity to other divers when at the surface, like dealing with a panicked diver or doing a tired diver exercise. While a regulator does not protect those around you from your exhalations, warns PADI, breathing through your regulator allows you to pull from your tank air, reducing the chance of inhaling respiratory particles floating around you.

    Wash or sanitize hands while topside

    “Divers should avoid touching each other's gear, but sometimes it is necessary before, during or after a dive,” says PADI. “The best practice is for divers to wash/sanitize hands before and after touching their own and someone else's gear, meaning before and after the dive in most instances.”

    Exercise caution with sanitizer around canister fills

    Frequent disinfection of hands and equipment is key to limiting transmission. But DAN warns divers to keep alcohol away from canister fills in order to avoid accidentally igniting a fire.

    “Note that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are incompatible with compressed gas,” DAN says in its online FAQ. If you are filling your own tank, “alcohol-based substances should not come into contact with...cylinders and fill whips that are used with any compressed gas but especially oxygen-enriched gas. This would increase the risk of fire and explosion due to the high volatility of alcohol and its ability to ignite at relatively low temperatures.”

    Washing hands with soap and water is a far preferable route. If hand sanitizer must be used, DAN urges divers to make sure their hands are “completely dry and all alcohol has evaporated.”

    Smear defog, not saliva

    Some divers swear spit clears a mask better than any defog. That debate will have to wait. Spitting nearby other people—especially into a rented mask—could increase the risk of transmitting coronavirus. Rely on defog for the foreseeable future to get a clear view underwater.

    Watch where you’re pointing that snorkel

    Coronavirus can pass through respiratory droplets carried through the air. PADI advises keeping an eye on where the wind is blowing and in what direction other divers are breathing. After surfacing, divers should separate to at least six feet before switching from a regulator to a snorkel, which should only be used when pointed away from other divers. When on a boat, wear a mask over your mouth to mitigate the spread of coronavirus from wind off the water or from the movement of the boat.

    Limit trying on rentals

    If the operator is properly sanitizing rentals, they should be safe to use. Nothing is foolproof, however, so only try on multiple pieces of rental equipment when strictly necessary. This restricts how much rental equipment you are exposed to, and, respectively, how much equipment you contaminate that could expose other divers.

    Dive conservatively

    Diving beyond your limits or absentmindedly can cause an emergency. Common emergency procedures, like sharing air or performing CPR, bring divers in close contact and swaps saliva, increasing the chance of transmission. Dive well within your limits to avoid forcing a close encounter.

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  • June 22, 2021 8:36 AM | Howard Ratsch (Administrator)

    Educational Blog

    In which part of the scuba diving industry should I invest? | by Darcy Kieran | Scubanomics | May, 2021 | Medium

    This article represents the views of the authors.  The article has not been fact checked by myself, the Board of Directors or any member of the USA Dive Club.

    Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

    Updated on May 31, 2021.

    The scuba diving industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and was already facing copious challenges before this ordeal. But running for the hills is not always the only choice in difficult times! In many cases, problems are opportunities — for real! I believe it is the case in the dive industry.

    Our biggest opportunity lies in redesign the scuba diving industry business model using a blue ocean strategy. It’s also a big challenge!

    But it will happen, so… Where should I put my money to be ready to benefit from a ‘new’ dive industry? Better yet, in which part of the scuba diving industry should I invest if I want to be part of the solution and cash in on a renewed growth trajectory?


    Before getting any further into this discussion, let’s clarify that the information contained in this article is not intended as, and shall not be understood as construed as, financial advice. I am not an attorney, accountant, or financial advisor, nor am I holding myself to be. The information contained here is not a substitute for financial advice from a professional who is aware of the facts and circumstances of your individual situation.

    Furthermore, in this article, I am looking at investments in different parts of the scuba diving industry, at the macro level, not in particular companies, even if I use some of them as examples of general concepts.

    Macro-Trends That Will Lead Growth in The Scuba Diving Industry

    For real growth to happen in the dive industry, we need a renewed focus on the experience of scuba diving and much less on c-cards (certification courses) and dive gear which is simply a means to an end.

    Currently, our business model relies on local dive shops as the entry door into scuba diving. And for dive store owners to be able to pay the rent and buy groceries for their family, they must sell courses and dive gear. It explains why the dive industry focus has been so much on selling courses and scuba equipment. Local advertising for dive shops is usually about dive certification courses, and competition between dive centers is usually on the pricing of courses and gear.

    This model doesn’t work anymore for all the reasons we’ve discussed numerous times in Scubanomics. For the dive industry to grow, we need to adapt to today’s consumers' expectations and deliver experiences worth reliving over and over again instead of peddling c-cards to people who wanted to cross that off their bucket lists.

    In fact, we shouldn’t be so focused on the words “scuba diving.”

    Hiking doesn’t advertise itself as “walking.” In our case, scuba diving is like walking — it’s a way to do something else. And that “something else” may be many different activities, including discovering reef fish (the equivalent to bird watching) or visiting deep wrecks (much more adventurous).

    The market is not homogeneous. People have different interests and aspirations. There may be many different reasons why people would be drawn to experiencing the underwater world. And strictly promoting the act of breathing underwater (which is what scuba diving is) will leave a lot of potential clients behind.

    We need to identify these motivations and advertise them — not “scuba diving” — just like bird watching is not promoting walking and breathing. Scuba diving needs to become an “oh, by the way, we need to be scuba diving to do that.”

    Similarly, we should stop talking about “the dive industry” and talk about “the underwater world industry.”

    In such a renewed focus, where will current stakeholders stand? Who will gain and who will lose?

    Scuba Diving Certification Agencies

    As we analyzed before, dive training agencies currently maintain a chokehold on the rest of the dive industry. In our Porter’s Five Forces Analysis of the Scuba Diving Industry, we concluded that dive training agencies were extracting and pocketing an inordinate proportion of the dive industry value chain.

    It is unlikely that they can maintain such a position and even less likely improve on it. No matter how much we squeeze a lemon, there is a limited amount of juice in it! That’s why we see dive training agencies fighting over market shares in a desperate attempt to please their shareholders during this fiscal quarter. They are not growing the industry.

    On top of that, we believe that a renewed dive industry can only be built on a much lesser focus on issuing certification cards. It is not inconceivable to think of a world where there wouldn’t be much more than an entry-level certification course in recreational diving (not talking of tech diving).

    The rest of the dive abilities could be developed by spending more on experience and less on the training material.

    All arrows point toward dive certification agencies losing their grip on the industry. In fact, it may be a requirement for significant growth for the rest of us. It’s the last place I would currently invest money. We’ve seen numerous private equity firms rushing to throw money at them, but that was based on a very traditional look at past results.

    Footnote: These observations are based on the certification part of dive training agencies. These companies could do well if they diversify away from relying on selling course material and online access to training. We see PADI heading in that direction with their acquisition of Bonnier publications and Diviac. They appear to be focused on pocketing more profits from the “activity” of scuba diving by selling dive experiences directly to consumers in competition with local dive shops. I think we can expect further developments in that direction.

    Dive Gear Manufacturers and Brands

    In a world where our focus is on a wider segment of the population casually experiencing the underwater world, selling dive gear to scuba diving fanatics will no longer be front and center.

    Our traditional core market in the dive industry has been — and to a certain extend, remains — the baby boomers. For them, scuba diving was a lifelong dream, and once they learned to scuba dive, they defined themselves as scuba divers. They went on dive trips in which there was nothing else to do but scuba diving and drinking beer.

    The younger generations tend to “do” scuba diving without “being” a scuba diver.

    They could be interested in visiting the underwater world once or twice in a trip that also includes hiking and stand-up paddling.

    This new generation will not travel around the world with a huge duffel bag of heavy scuba gear for a day or two of diving here and there.

    We already see a trend toward fewer dive gear sales. On top of a reduction in the number of dive certifications, we see fewer dive gear sales per new student diver trained. Therefore, the future is as bleak for dive gear manufacturers as it is for traditional dive training agencies — if they do not adapt.

    But there are new opportunities on that front.

    First, we can expect a growing demand for dive adventure operators to provide quality rental gear. We will come back to the importance of consistency in the quality of the experience in the next section, and what opportunities it will create for dive gear brands.

    Second, I would invest in a company focused on redefining dive gear to help bring more people to experience the underwater world.

    Future dive gear needs to be lighter, easier to use, and much more “cool”.

    Nothing has really changed in the basic configuration of the scuba unit in years. Well… Somebody, somewhere, will innovate — and cash in.

    One glaring example is surface-supplied air (SSA) that we discussed recently. It looks pretty good on the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Blue Ocean Strategy’s grid. And with the introduction of the battery-operated surface-supplied air units, SSA gives us a very convenient way of providing air to people underwater for them to experience “the first atmosphere” (up to 10 meters/30 feet), which is where most underwater tourists will find interesting stuff to see and do.

    It means that a good investor would keep an eye on innovative companies like Brownie’s Marine Group. It is notable that they had a 53.5% increase in revenues in 2020 — unlike the dive industry! And just like the rest of the outdoor industry!

    A good way to make money, in the long run, has always been to invest in innovative companies at the start of their innovation cycle. Remember Apple? Google? Just saying!

    In parallel to that, we have companies providing very specialized dive gear like rebreathers and other tech diving equipment. This market should remain a valid one. It’s the casual recreational scuba diving segment that is most likely to witness significant changes in the short term.

    With that kind of pressure on recreational dive gear brands, we can expect further diversification and consolidation — which has already been happening very aggressively over the last 10 years.

    Diversification is like the recent acquisition of the triathlon wetsuit company Aquaman by French dive, snorkeling, and freediving brand Beuchat. Consolidation is like the acquisitions of Atomic Aquatics, Zeagle, Bare, Hollis, Stahlsac, and Oceanic by Huish Outdoors in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    What does it mean in terms of investment?

    Whenever a company acquires another one, the shares of the acquiring one drop while the shares of the acquired one jump up in value. We see that in the stock exchange almost every day.

    Therefore, a good investment strategy in dive gear brands would be to place money into smaller dive gear manufacturers, especially if they provide something unique — like SSA and dive computers — something that a larger dive gear brand would benefit from adding to their product line-up.

    Another option is investing in regional dive gear brands. For instance, a Huish Outdoor is firmly established in the USA but lacks a solid presence in Europe. I would not be surprised to see Huish acquiring a company well-positioned in Europe but with a weak presence in the USA. This could be a Beuchat or a Poseidon, for instance.

    Disclaimer: I have no financial investments in any of the companies mentioned above, and I used them only to represent a general idea and direction.

    Dive Travel

    Dive travel is very segmented at the moment. Numerous travel agencies are specializing in scuba diving adventures. The destination can be one of many dive resorts or liveaboards. Local dive shops also sell dive travel. And any tourist resort or regular travel agency can add scuba diving to their offerings.

    Scuba diving can be done anywhere there’s water, and therefore, the dive operators will most likely remain a series of independent operators. The biggest opportunity on this front is not on consolidation or vertical integration.

    The two biggest opportunities on this front are related to diversification and branding.

    Diversification means offering more than scuba diving, as we discussed above. Growth would come if we manage to offer the experience of the underwater world to a wider segment of casual divers. This can be achieved by providing the experience in more destinations outside the traditional dive-focused resorts. Surface-supplied air units could be a useful tool to achieve this goal, as is the development of a reliable brand.

    Consistency in the quality of the experience has been a recurring problem in the dive industry. It fuels a huge drop-out rate, as we have seen in a recent Scubanomics survey on scuba diving and snorkeling.

    Therefore, the biggest opportunity in dive travel — and the dive industry as a whole — is the development of a trusted brand offering consistency in the quality of the experience at all locations operating under its flag. I do not see any company currently investing in that direction. That is what I will keep my eyes (and wallet) open for!

    Dive Gear vs. Dive Travel

    Consistency in the quality of the experience means that I would expect quality dive gear at every location. Not only that, I would expect the gear to be pretty much the same so that I know how to best operate it — and I know that a size ML Tall is what I always fit best into.

    That requirement for increased reliability in the quality of the experience and the fact that younger generations tend to be more casual divers, open up an opportunity for a dive gear brand willing to satisfy these needs. For instance, here is one: a rental dive gear system allowing divers to have access to the same gear everywhere they dive, without having to travel with it and without having to take care of the annual maintenance.

    Time to think outside the box!

    Local Dive Shops

    Traditionally, local dive shops have been the entry door to scuba diving. Yet, they’ve also been the weak link.

    I don’t want to insult anybody here! I owned and operated dive shops, and I know how difficult it is to offer quality in all six of the business units we try to operate under one roof: a school, a retail store, a travel agency, a fill station, a garage for dive gear, and a rental business.

    A local dive shop is a tiny business, and that level of diversification naturally leads to sub-par performance in all 6 business units.

    On top of that quality issue, these small businesses do not have the financial means to maintain a level of dive gear inventory that would satisfy today’s consumers.

    Therefore, the opportunity on this front relies on a complete re-design of the business model.

    Purchasing or investing in a local dive shop is not a smart money move at the moment — if it ever was!

    If I want to offer scuba diving in an urban (non-tourist) location, I would invest in developing my personal dive instructor brand around the quality of the experience and forego selling dive gear.

    Eventually, training agencies and dive gear brands will all be selling directly to my clients. Therefore, the investment should be in my personal brand (my name), not on promoting PADI, SSI, Aqualung, 10W30, or XYZ.

    Once a global brand has established itself as the one providing consistency in the quality of the experience (as discussed under dive travel), that is the brand I would want to operate under and invest into.

    The only big investment needed in this local diving scenario is a fill station, but we can skip the heavy gear inventory and the expensive commercial lease. And if the market is too small for a full-blown fill station, I would look at surface-supplied air units and/or portable compressors.

    Summary: Investing In The Dive Industry

    I would not invest in:

    ·      Traditional dive training agencies

    ·      Large, established, and non-innovative dive gear brands

    ·      Local dive shops

    ·      Dive resorts offering only scuba diving

    I would invest in:

    ·      Innovative dive gear brands

    ·      Specialized dive gear brands

    ·      Dive gear brands with a strong presence in a region not well serviced by large brands

    ·      Locally: My personal dive instructor brand (my name)

    And the big investment would be in a project to develop a global experience brand offering consistency in the quality of the experience.

    Let’s make a good living out of our passion for scuba diving!

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