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"I'm curious: is the visibility issue about staying oriented? Keeping track of your buddy? Not panicking?"
It really depends on the diver. Low visibility can raise the stress level in some divers and does make for a greater effort to stay in contact with a buddy. Some people don't like the feeling of diving alone in low vis even though after some experience a diver develops a sense of where the buddy is. The other thing with low vis is when it combines with all the other "first time" stressors of equipment, cold water, conditions on the surface, new big boat dive techniques, it can create a cascading effect of discomfort. I have seen this on boats I worked on as DM. The secret to successful growth in diving is to have a suitable challenge to improve skills without being overwhelmed by multiple challenges. Panic is the response to too many challenges too quickly making us feel like we are not in control, then a tipping point is reached when one too many seemingly random event hits and takes us from beyond aprhension to panic. It can be addressed with some planning.
For example, when I moved to Alaska, I about 1000 dives in all different conditions from Baja to Vancouver, but mostly at the Channel Islands. But with the cold water (38 degrees on my first dive), new equipment (drysuit and heavier weights), lower ambient light (we can do a night dive at 9 in the morning in December), new buddies, and unfamiliar dive sites I felt like a novice diver. It did not take long to get my comfort level established, but it was done in increments--getting familiar with my drysuit, weight harness and larger steel tank, diving the same spots with the same people who were kind enough to coach me, etc. I controlled what I could and accepted the challenge of things I needed to become familiar with. It worked. I got better with a little help from my friends.
"Just out of curiosity, does colder water affect one's equilization differently from warm water?" I am not certain if I will characterize the physiology correctly, but cold water can cause constriction of nasal passages but I have only noticed a difference in real cold (35 degree) water. I have several techniques for equalizing and have not really noticed an effects from moderate water temps versus florida temps. I suppose a real tight fitting hood could cause constriction of the eustacean tube with could make equalizing more difficult.
I do hope you have the opportunity to dive with TA. In my book, they simply are the best, in part because they offer challenging diving on some trips (I am kicking myself for not having done their Big Sur and points south trips a few years ago) but mostly because it is a class operation.
I agree with all the advice above Lisa, Truth is a great op, but some familiarization in semi-warm (that what we call it) water will help a bunch. I have dove it in drysuits without undergarments, and 3mm full with light hood..............everyone is different, so it would be good for you to find out before hand what exposure protection you need. In fact last year, just for fun, we dove it in trunks on one dive...............but we are used to 40 degree water...........and we usually see low 60's down there in September! Get some practice and do the trip, it is a lot of fun!
That all sounds totally right. Interestingly enough, I swim in Carmel bay in a swimsuit, and I do okay there, but then I am moving a lot more strenuously than I would in deeper water on a dive!
Now that was very useful info, because I am still at a point where I want to have either a very experienced buddy (who'd be saddled with a green diver) or a guided trip...excellent point. And I have no navigation skills! Yikers. I have work to do >
You are confirming what my instincts were telling me... to tackle one or two challenges at a time, and then take on more. Very interesting about the water temp and the hood potentially affecting the equalizing. I can't wait to try TA when I am ready!
Last edited by onebadasslass; August 20th, 2011 at 02:36 AM.
Reason: forgot to address it to poster!
I'm pretty much a warm water wimp, but diving the Channel Islands is a great time. If you have never been in a kelp forest, you are missing one of the best experiences of your diving life...and this comes from a diver who really, really likes warm water. And diving with juvenile sea lions is like being underwater with a bunch of puppies.
One thing that I would like to mention in relation to skills however, is air management. Very important. Now, I suck at navigation (need to take a specialty class sometime) so usually, when I was out on a dive, when I would end it with about 1000psi left, I would surface and locate the dive boat. Then dip back underwater and swim over to it. It is virtually impossible to swim on the surface through kelp with dive gear on. So, be sure you have plenty of air to sustain you if you need to make a swim to the boat.
...................One thing that I would like to mention in relation to skills however, is air management. Very important. Now, I suck at navigation (need to take a specialty class sometime) so usually, when I was out on a dive, when I would end it with about 1000psi left, I would surface and locate the dive boat. Then dip back underwater and swim over to it. It is virtually impossible to swim on the surface through kelp with dive gear on. So, be sure you have plenty of air to sustain you if you need to make a swim to the boat.
This is a great piece of advice. Many new divers resist popping up and looking for the boat, and spend so much time and effort (and building their anxiety) that it speeds up how fast you run through air. But if you plan for that as a possibility, like ASA said just have plenty of gas left. Yo-yoing up and down is to be avoided, but if you do your slow ascent, find the boat, take a heading and return underwater at 10-15ft it's not the worse thing you can do. It should not be used as a crutch to not learn navigation, but as an option until your nav skills improve.
You can also plan on getting back to the boat early (avoid the rush ), to avoid the anxiety of finding the boat when you feel like you are running low on air. Everyone's comform level is different about that. But just because you are back to the boat doesn't mean you have to end the dive, If you follow the rule of thirds, and start heading back at 2000 psi (on a 3000 psi tank), you could theoretically get back to the boat with 1000 psi or more. Most of the time around the islands there is still a lot to see right under the boat, and you could burn 400-500 psi looking around there, practicing skills (a great place to practice your trim and hovering, or air sharing drills).
One trip to Santa Barbara Island last year we came back to the boat "early" (i.e. plenty of air left) and just as we were starting our safety stop had a Giant Sea Bass hang with us. So we dropped back down from 15ft to about 30ft for another 10 minutes or so to watch it. Now that's a great safety stop!
"The world is changed by your example, not by your opinions" - Paulo Coelho
"Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong"....Leo Buscaglia
"Where there is shouting there is no true knowledge......Leonardo da Vinci
More wonderful tips! (I love the galley-water-glove/bootie trick.) And of course I'll be sure to think of you when I puke over the stern. I've never tried meds, you mean Dramamine? They probably affect each person differently under water. I haven't noticed any underwater exacerbation, I just notice it affects people differently. In my case, if I use Scopolomine patches, I don't feel well the first day & a ½ patch isn't effective, so I put the patch on a day early, once my body is used to it and saturated I can continue the treatment for the rest of the trip. YMMV
With regard to gear: not sure what you mean by my "actively seeking things that don't work"..? What's your process for selecting the right stuff? Unfortunately, I've gotten some bad advice here in stores before and have the ill-fitting gear to show for it. Once it's out of the store, it's yours, esp. if you've used it. Two things may apply here. First, some stores have a fresh water policy for return, in other words, if you try it out in a pool, you may return it; if you take it into the ocean, then you own it. It is worth asking about. Second, when I evaluate gear, I note what I like, but also what I would like different. Also, having a network of fellow divers sometimes allows you to try some gear out. I have several pairs of fins, sometimes people borrow one of the spare sets (sometimes my primary set & I use the spare). That is where clubs etc. become very valuable. Lots of experience and advice sometimes gear you can try out. Sometimes equipment reps present to club meetings & will have arrangement for test equipment available for dives etc.
Someone else just recommended the Sea Otters Club so I'll have to check them out. Thanks!
Sorry for the slow response, it has been a busy week.
RE: your posts on navigation, one good way to practice the skills that you received during your certification class, you had to do reciprocal courses (out and back). You can use that method off of the anchor line of a boat. First note EXACTLY the depth of the anchor (if you think you are close tracking to the right depth helps). Pick a heading, head out a little ways, do something fun that encourages good skills like go out 300psi. (with a depth limit) look around for 200psi and follow your reciprocal course back, should take about 300psi back (look up when you get close to see if you can see the anchor line silhouetted against the surface0. Got lots of air? Great! You went North/South last time? Now go East/West (or West/East) with the same plan. You are tracking air consumption, depth, direction and watching the differences in the terrain (natural navigation), and if you miss, you are only going to be a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet away from the boat (don't forget to look up, I once couldn't find the anchor line but as I was doing my safety stop I realized I was under the boat ). (Hint: boats often anchor in the best places, so look around where they stop.)
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." -- Mark Twain
ASA and Mike
I wouldn't have thought of that with the kelp, so thank you!
ASA, as one warm-water wimp (sheesh, what's wrong with liking warm water!) speaking to another, you make diving here sound pretty amazing.
My first trip after being certified - and I mean 4 days after certification - was a 4 day on TA. It was the first week of August, 9 years ago. My buddy was my son-in-law. TA does a great job. The biggest most comfortable boats down here, great food and crew. There will be plenty of varied diving. Enjoy yourself. Don't exceed your comfort level. Bring lots of seasick meds just in case. A five day trip is a nice relaxing vacation, not the rush of a one day. If you're into it, bring a bottle of brandy, sit up on the upper deck and night and stargaze.
You've been getting some awesome advice and you really should check out the waters in monterey. Kelp is too much fun... Post in the NorCal forum when you're looking for a buddy and you're sure to find someone.