president's waves

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  • October 22, 2020 3:25 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    The Board of Directors has decided to hold the annual election at our General Meeting in December. Yes, this December we will have a General Meeting over Zoom rather than having a Christmas party. Hopefully next year we can all get a vaccine and start getting back together in person again.

    Club Bylaws require that the Board’s proposed slate of officers be presented to you in the two newsletters before the election.  Presented for your consideration are the following:

     President:  Chris Hardham
     VP Programs:  Rick Dayan
     VP Overseas Diving:  Nils Jacobsen
     VP Local Diving:  Ryan Goheen
     VP Social:  Alan Feuerman
     Secretary:  Amy Wellman
     Treasurer:  Ronnie Farr

    Anyone interested in running for an elected position on the Board should notify me, either at a General Meeting or by email (president@usadiveclub.org).

    Appointed officers will be selected during the first Board meeting in January.

  • September 16, 2020 3:52 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    I have more good news to announce. The proposed bylaws have been approved by over 70% of the 90 members who participated in the recent online vote. Thank you to everyone who voted. This Club has a new set of bylaws that you can see by clicking here.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet virtually Oct. 7 and 8 beginning at 9 a.m. ET each day. The meeting is open to the public. This meeting is being held by communications media technology, specifically using Adobe Connect with a telephone conference line for accepting public comments during the meeting. The Florida Channel will be broadcasting live video coverage at TheFloridaChannel.org and participants watching via the Florida Channel can utilize the telephone conference line to call in for public comment.

    For the full Oct. 7-8 agenda, links to background reports, and ways to participate, go to MyFWC.com/About and click on “The Commission” and “Commission Meetings.”

  • August 25, 2020 1:53 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    I have good news to announce. The Bylaws Committee has completed their work creating a proposed set of bylaws for the USA Dive Club. Over 75% of the Club's Board of Directors approved the proposed bylaws and the Board has scheduled an online vote by the membership beginning September 4. We will have a question and answer session with the Bylaws Committee at the September 3rd meeting after the speaker's presentation.

    We have created a summary of the changes. Click here to view the summary.

    Click here to view the complete proposed bylaws.

    The biggest change in these proposed bylaws is that members of the Hall of Fame will no longer have lifetime memberships on the Board of Directors. A majority of the Board of Directors, including many members of the Hall of Fame, support this change as the best way to help the Club get and keep volunteers into the future.

    Under the proposed bylaws, members of the Hall of Fame can still be elected and appointed Board members. Currently a number of members of the Hall of Fame hold Board positions, including Clare Anthon, Ronnie Farr, John Ficarra, Ryan Goheen, Nils Jacobsen, Julie Manhold, and Robert Shearer. Therefore, the Hall of Fame will continue to be represented on the Board of Directors.

    The Board of Directors recommends that members vote "Yes" to support the proposed bylaws.

    And, here are two other news items from the Board of Directors.

    • The date of the annual election has been set as December 3. We are not planning to have a Christmas party this year due to the pandemic. Therefore, we will conduct the annual election during a Zoom meeting on December 3.
    • The Board voted to eliminate the $10 initiation fee for new members. This will remove a small barrier to new member applications and has no financial impact on the Club.
  • July 30, 2020 3:58 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    With the pandemic going on, Club activities have been limited to Zoom meetings for the past few months. It looks like that is going to continue until the pandemic is under control. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to extend paid memberships through 2021. Hopefully, we will be able to get back to something closer to normal next year. We currently have three overseas dive trips scheduled in 2021, so we are counting on things improving considerably.

    Also, several months ago the Board decided that newly certified Open Water divers would get their first year of membership free if they apply for membership in our Club within one year of earning their certification. If you know any new divers, this would be a good time for them to join our Club and get a free membership through 2021.

    Some of us are still keeping in touch and going diving together, even though we are not doing official Club trips. Recently we got together to do three shark dives in one day. We went to Jupiter, FL, and were introduced to Jenny the Tiger Shark. Click here to view a video captured by Laura Moran. The video shows the shark circling around in a group of divers. You may think we are petting the shark, but that is not the case. We are redirecting the shark by pushing on the top of its head to keep it from running into us. Laura was behind me, so that is me occasionally blocking the view of the shark.

  • June 28, 2020 4:23 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    We have been learning more about the best ways to conduct Zoom meetings. Therefore, let's set down some ground rules that should make for a better meeting all around.

    Zoom Meeting Ground Rules:

    • We will have 20 minutes of social time before the presentation starts. Everyone will be able to mute and unmute themselves to speak during that time. It will be great to see everyone! Keeping your mic muted while listening is common courtesy for meetings over 8-10 attendees.
    • When it is time for the presentation, the host will mute everyone except for the presenter. After that, you will not be able to unmute yourself.
    • Use Chat to send questions and comments during the presentation. The presenter will respond to questions at the appropriate time in the presentation.
    • If you wish to speak, use the Raise Hand feature in Zoom (see below) to let the host know. The host will unmute you when it is your turn to speak. Please keep comments to a minute or two. The host will mute your microphone before moving to the next raised hand.

     How to use the Raise Hand feature in the Zoom App on a computer:

    1. At the bottom of the Zoom window, click on the Participants button.
    2. That will open the Participants window. At the bottom of that window you should find the Raise hand button. Click that button.
    3. Then in the list of participants, everyone will see a blue hand symbol next to your name. Also, in Gallery view, a white hand within a blue square appears in the corner of your picture. The host will see those symbols and know you wish to speak. The host can lower your hand when you are done speaking.
  • May 26, 2020 10:57 AM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    Until it is safe for groups of people to meet in person, we will conduct virtual meetings using Zoom.

    Both members and guests must register in advance for these meetings. Once meeting invitations have been sent, you will be able to click on a link in the invitation or the Calendar entry to register. Members bringing a guest should send the guest's name and email address to president@usadiveclub.org so the guest's registration will be approved. Registration helps prevent "Zoombombing" attacks.

    After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information you will need to join the meeting. You must register before 5:00 PM on the day of the meeting.

    Please join the meeting a little early to allow time to admit people from the Waiting Room before the meeting starts. Directing all attendees to a Waiting Room before they are admitted to the meeting also helps prevent "Zoombombing" attacks.

    We will start the meeting with 30 minutes of social time so we can catch up with our friends. Then we will turn the meeting over to our speaker.

    Zoom client software will download automatically when you join a meeting. If you would like to speed up the process of joining a meeting, you can download client software here. Note that Zoom updates their client software fairly frequently.

    If you would like to view free Zoom tutorials, you can find them here. Or you can take a free Zoom class from Geeks On Tour here.

  • May 02, 2020 9:36 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    Things are starting to open up, but restrictions vary depending on the county. Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in Florida. Therefore, they also have more restrictions. However, as I write this, Palm Beach County is allowing dive boats to operate with restrictions.

    You can read the Palm Beach County document telling what is allowed and what is restricted here. Be prepared for the following restrictions.

    • Maximum of 10 people on the boat
    • Divers must be seated at least six feet apart
    • Everyone on the boat must wear a face covering before, between, and after diving
    • Social distancing rules apply on the boat
    • Dive shops may only operate to fill dive tanks, by appointment only
    • Restaurants at marinas are limited to take-out service only
    • Beaches are still not open (no beach diving at the Blue Heron Bridge)

    I know of several dive boats that are operating at about half their normal capacity. I recommend signing up to go diving as much as possible to help out our local dive operations.

    By the time you read this, some things may have changed. In fact, change seems to be the only thing that is certain now. Therefore, in that spirit, I have decided to host a Zoom virtual meeting for our May General Membership Meeting. We can hear about the status of planned overseas dive trips, and see how our friends are holding up during the lockdown.

  • March 26, 2020 3:42 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    Fiji - A Truncated Trip

    First, let me say that the Nai'a is a top-notch liveaboard. The cabins are great. The crew is great. The food is great. And the service is great. They wrote a blog entry describing the days we were diving with them. Click here to read their blog.

    The first time I went to Fiji, the water was clear and cold, giving amazing visibility. The days were sunny, making the pinnacle tops bright fairylands of beautiful marine life. We scheduled this trip for warmer water, but along with that we got clouds and rainy days. The rain washed silt into the ocean, so visibility was sometimes quite bad. Fortunately, pinnacle tops are still fairylands of beautiful marine life, and the underwater world of Fiji is still stunning. I have a picture of a seahorse that was smaller than a pencil eraser. I also have lots of pictures of colorful soft corals and teaming sea life. I hope to go back soon, but hopefully not during a pandemic.

    One thing about liveaboard trips, you are out of touch with the rest of the world. We did not know how bad things were getting. Therefore, we were surprised on Thursday to learn that Americans had been called home. We found that the only flight we could get out of Fiji was the one we had originally booked at the end of our two-week stay. All the other flights were over booked by 100 people. Nai'a was going to pass close to Volivoli Beach Resort on Friday, so they dropped us off there Friday afternoon. That saved us from making a long bus ride back to Volivoli, because the short route was closed due to a lock-down caused by two Fiji COVID-19 cases.

    When we landed on Friday afternoon, we thought we were going to have a week of diving at the resort. That plan didn't last very long. We found out almost immediately that an American Airlines flight had been added on Monday morning, all other flights after that had been canceled, and our travel agent (MaryAnne Hines - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) had changed our booking so we could get out on the Monday morning flight. So all we had to do was get to the Nadi airport before Monday morning, and the resort already had a group of 20 people they planned to send to the airport on Sunday afternoon, taking the short route with police escort. We could join that group.

    Yes, we could join that group, but on Saturday we learned that the short route was out of the question. We had to make an eight-hour bus ride starting Sunday morning by 7:00 AM because we couldn't get permission to pass through the lock-down area. So we spent Saturday drying gear and catching up with the rest of the world. The bus ride on Sunday was long but uneventful, getting us to our hotel next to the Nadi airport on Sunday afternoon. We got a few hours sleep, but got up at 1:00 AM to get in line to check-in for our flight. We knew it would be a full flight and we needed to be on that plane.

    The flight left Fiji at 7:00 Monday morning. Thanks to the magic of the International Dateline, it arrived at LAX at 11:00 PM Sunday night. For some reason it took an hour for them to get us to a gate, so we got off the plane at midnight. Everything was closed, and we had to sit on stone window sills in the airport waiting to check-in at 3:20 AM for our flight to Miami. After that check-in, things improved. We moved to a nice waiting area inside security. Also, we had been able to upgrade our seats on the Miami flight to First Class for a small fee, so that four-hour flight was comfortable and we had a good meal. We got home Monday afternoon, tired but happy to be back.

    We weren't at Volivoli Beach Resort very long, but clearly it is a beautiful resort. The rooms were large and well equipped. The food in the restaurant was excellent. The staff was extremely helpful. I hope to go back soon and spend that week of diving that I missed. Both the resort and Nai'a closed up after we left because they had no other bookings. Hopefully they won't be closed too long and their owners can restart business soon.

  • February 29, 2020 8:51 AM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    If you read undercurrent, you may have noticed an article titled "The Ins and Outs of Trip Insurance" in the February issue. Local member Bob Weybrecht was quoted in the article due to his difficulty in renewing his DAN Guardian dive insurance plan in January. Unfortunately, the underwriter of the Guardian plan decided stop covering people over 70, and DAN has been forced to find new underwriters for that plan on a state-by-state basis. However, this did not affect their Preferred and Master plans, which are available for divers of any age. Also, this had nothing to do with trip insurance. The editors of undercurrent have published a correction, which can be found here.

    Six of us traveled to Bimini on February 19th through the 23rd to see hammerhead sharks. We took the ferry from Fort Lauderdale and we were supposed to return on the 22nd, but sea conditions were too bad for the ferry to run on that day. The ferry trip on Wednesday the 19th took about two hours. Then we made our way to the Big Game Club Resort. After checking in, we spent the afternoon exploring a bit and preparing to dive the next day. We did two dives on Thursday. The first dive explored a wreck, much or which is still above water due to the shallow wreck site. For the second dive, they put out a bait box and we got an up close view of a lot of reef sharks.

    While sea conditions were almost flat on Thursday, they were getting steadily worse on Friday. Neal Watson's Bimini Scuba Center had planned for a late morning start of the Great Hammerhead Shark safari, but we had to move up the time to right after breakfast. They took us on a 10-minute trip to the feeding location and put out a bait box to attract sharks. Then we waited for hammerheads to show up. And we waited. And we waited some more. There is no guarantee that hammerheads will show, though they typically do show up this time of year. Finally, two hammerhead sharks arrived.

    Once the hammerheads arrived, the crew presented a briefing about the dive. If you do the Great Hammerhead Shark safari, I suggest that you pay careful attention during the briefing. Every diver gets a three or four-foot piece of PVC pipe, and the briefing tells you how to use the pipe to protect yourself from various types of sharks. For hammerheads, you hold the pipe upright and let them run into the pipe and go around you. For nurse sharks, you can use the pipe to push them away. I don't remember what they said about bull and tiger sharks, so you better listen to the whole briefing in case my memory is faulty on hammerheads and nurse sharks.

    They do one dive that is two hours long. The dive is very shallow, so some divers may not have to change tanks. Others may change tanks and go back. Everyone should wear at least 24 pounds of weight, and more is recommended. The divers kneel in a line with the bait box in the middle of the line. A crew member feeds hammerhead sharks that approach from one direction, and pushes away nurse sharks that try to sneak in for food. For our dive, visibility was bad at the start and got worse. Sea conditions also got worse, and the crew ended the dive after an hour and a half. By then, getting back on the boat was not something I wanted to do more than once.

    On Saturday, we were supposed to do two dives in the morning and take the ferry home in the evening. Sea conditions were too bad for any of that. Instead, we visited the Bimini Sharklab for an interesting presentation about sharks and what the research station is doing. I recommend a visit if you find the time.

    The first picture shows a hammerhead shark, the bait box, and the crewman who was feeding the sharks. They are 15 to 20 feet away. The second picture shows a hammerhead shark that went by me during the dive. It is two to four feet from my camera and I used Adobe Lightroom to make improvements. You can see other pictures from the trip here.

    shark feeding hammerhead shark

  • January 23, 2020 4:29 PM | Roger Cooper (Administrator)

    The Board of Directors has approved changes to the Club Rules and Bylaws. The membership will be asked to approve those changes during the February meeting. Please click on the following links to review the changes.

    Rules: Article II - Application for Membership

    Bylaws: Article VII - Membership

    The major change is to the rules having to do with Application for Membership. The changes remove Section 1, which requires an applicant to attend one Club event before being eligible for membership. The current Section 4 is also changed to remove the need for a three-fourths vote of the Board by substituting approval of a Membership Committee consisting of at least three Board members. Here are the reasons for these changes.

    Requiring a three-fourths vote of the Board should be limited to extremely important and sensitive issues. Approving new membership applications does not fit that profile. In fact, as far as I know, the Board has always approved membership applications. Sometimes it takes a while for us to collect the appropriate documentation and payments, but we want new members and are happy to approve their applications. In fact, we would like to allow new members to apply online, which would make it easier for them and us. However, that brings us to the reason for removing Section 1.

    The requirement in Section 1 that an applicant must attend one Club event in order to be eligible for membership, along with the requirement in Section 4 for a three-fourths vote of the Board to approve an application, makes it appear that we are extremely picky about who joins the Club. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want new members and we are happy to see them whoever they are. We would even like to have new members who live pretty much anywhere in the world and want to go diving with us. Removing Section 1 would allow us to create an online application process that could be used by local and remote applicants.

    The Rules changes would give us a membership approval process that is more in line with other organization like ours. The resulting process would make it faster and easier for new members to join. There would still be a Membership Committee made up of Board members, but approvals would not require an official Board meeting.

    Some might have a question about what happens if a new member turns out to be a bad fit for our Club. That is already handled in Article VII of our Bylaws. Section 3 allows for revoking membership under certain circumstances. There is just one change that was made to that Section. Revoking membership for non-payment of dues was removed from the list of things that require a three-fourths vote of the Board and moved to a section of its own.

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