What’s the best way to dive the Blue Heron Bridge? Here we outline a few suggestions to ensure an enjoyable dive adventure.
by Sean Harrison:
As divers who catch the “bug” we are always looking for the next reason to go for a dive or to meet up with other divers and start building our list of dive buddies. Building this network is a must so when the urge hits and the conditions are right you can send that text, email or make that call, “weather is perfect for a dive…you in?”. One of the greatest forms of networking is continuing education, hanging out at your local dive shop is not too bad either, and the logical course to take after Open Water is Advanced, or is it?
The first question you need to ask yourself is, am I getting advanced certified so I can show my “advanced card” or so I can truly be a more capable diver? These are two very different things. The commonly referred to advanced certification (by most course requirements) is an introduction to five different types of diving and in most cases, two of the five introductions are core requirements such as deep and navigation. While this course provides you with an introduction, basic knowledge and additional dives, it does not truly provide you with in-depth knowledge on any of the five specialties or an opportunity to apply the knowledge you have learned.
Just like any learning experience, knowledge learned under the guidance of an instructor is only part of the equation. Taking this new knowledge and the skills associated with it, you need to get with that group of dive buddies and apply it. Furthermore, figure out what works and does not work for you, then take that feedback and give it to your instructor or dive center and have them coach you through what will make your diving experience better. All of this takes time and cannot be accomplished in five dives, in the same conditions, with the same instructor and the same dive buddies.
To build your comfort in the water you need a few things: different environments (ocean, fresh water, currents, boats, shore, to name a few); different dive buddies, some with the same diving abilities, some that are better; and most importantly… you need DIVES! Becoming a competent and efficient diver takes time and dives, and isn’t that why you wanted to learn in the first place, so you could dive?
In short let’s go back to the original question – are you taking your advanced diver course for the card or so you can be a better diver? If your answer is so you can be a better diver, and I hope it is, consider this: take your time, take more courses, spend time in the water with your instructor, and more importantly go diving with your dive buddies and log some dives. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll see cool stuff, meet fun like-minded people, and you’ll become a better diver!
SDI’s Advanced Diver Development course starts the minute you finish your Open Water Scuba Diver course and in fact, includes the four dives you did during your course! The philosophy is pretty simple, earning credits for your fun dives mixed with training from an SDI instructor.
Follow this link then go to your local dive center and map out the best path for you to become a better diver and a better dive buddy. Don’t forget to pick-up some marine life identification books too so you can identify all those great things you are going to see.
by Lauren Kieren:
Drift diving is like flying underwater. When you are soaring along the bottom contour, neutrally buoyant, guided by a gentle current, watching the marine life; it gives you a perspective of the underwater world that is difficult to obtain any other way.
Depending on where you dive, Divemasters (DM’s) and dive operations may use different techniques for drift diving. In many cases, drift dives are conducted off a boat while a DM guides the direction of the dive while towing a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) to mark the divers’ location in the water. Meanwhile, a boat might be following the group to pick up divers as they surface (keep in mind, drift diving from a boat requires a skilled boat operator to conduct drift diving procedures properly).
Prior to participating in drift diving activities, you should be extremely proficient in your diving skills. If you have not participated in diving activities for a period of six months or longer, we highly encourage a diver to go through the SDI Inactive Diver Course before considering this type of advanced dive. Setting up a drift dive can be a fast paced activity that requires your diving skills and techniques to be dialed in – the ascents and descents can be challenging but once you are on the bottom… It’s your time to cruise along the ocean floor.
So what should you consider before drift diving? Here are a few tips and tricks before you hit the water:
STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME – Prior to entering the water, ensure all of your dive equipment is on, functioning, and you have completed a pre-dive safety check. Make sure you are properly weighted so you can descend with the group. If you are having difficulties equalizing on the descent – signal to your buddy and be aware of the divers’ location on the bottom, and the surface marker buoy signaling your location. If conditions allow (good visibility and manageable current) slow your descent to catch up with the group. If conditions do not allow for this and you cannot catch up with the group, surface with your buddy to abort the dive.
GO WITH THE FLOW – Once you are on the bottom, it’s important to “go with the flow.” Avoid swimming against the current, as this will increase your work load and air consumption rate. Streamline yourself and your gear to glide effortlessly through the water. Keep an eye out in front of you to plan your moves accordingly. If you see obstructions ahead of you – whether it’s a coral head, a wreck, or a cluster of fishing line – it’s important to plan your moves ahead of time to avoid a collision.
SELF AWARENESS – As previously mentioned, the descents of a drift dive can be fast paced. It is extremely important during all dives (especially drift dives), to monitor your depth gauge to ensure you are staying at a consistent depth versus drifting downward or upward without realizing it. Also, keep a close eye on your no decompression limit (NDL), as you glide along the bottom your air consumption rate may be reduced due to the lack of physical exertion required during this phase of the dive. Remember, just because you have ample an amount of cylinder pressure remaining, does not mean your NDL, or bottom time hasn’t exceeded the limits. Finally, check your tank pressure early and often and make sure you will have an ample supply of breathing gas to make a slow ascent, conduct a safety stop, and safely surface with some remaining tank reserve.
MAKE YOURSELF NOTICEABLE! – No, we’re not talking about wearing flashy dive gear… Prior to ascending, make sure to keep your eyes open and your ears tuned for boat traffic. If you and your buddy are surfacing before the group, ascend in sight of the SMB the DM is towing. Once at the surface, deploy your own Surface Marker Buoy, give yourself some distance from the SMB marking the divers underwater, then signal to the dive boat for pick up. If necessary, carry a whistle or audible alarm to be heard from a distance if you are not seen. When the boat makes its way towards you, stay put and do not swim towards the boat unless instructed by the boat operator.
Drift diving is a fun and exciting way to explore the underwater world, however, it can also lead to increased stress and anxiety if you are not prepared. This text is not intended to replace proper dive training, nor does it cover all aspects and requirements of drift diving. Following these tips along with proper training will ensure you get the most out of your drift diving experience.