Friday, May 28, 2010

Scuba diving Kona Hawaii with Wanna Dive... a typical day...

Looks like I've got the weekend off the boat, I've been going out every day since the 14th (one day off in there somewhere). I'm expecting a busy summer, been getting lots of bookings already. I thought I'd try to describe a "typical" day on the boat...

I'm in town about 8am on most days running errands, filling tanks and such. I ask my customers to meet us at 9 on their first day, or if they've got their gear with them. If we've already got the paperwork out of the way and have our customer's gear sized up and ready for Bob, Cathy and I to set up before the charter, I'll ask that they show up around 9:15 - 9:20 or so so they don't have a long wait before launching. When everyone arrives on schedule we can usually launch at 9:30, surprisingly, early arrivals can slow the process down as I can't get up on the boat and help set up gear. We may be fiddling with the starting time in the next couple of weeks, we're trying to get the new customers to meet us at the shop for paperwork and gear sizing and see if we can bump the launch time up by 15-30 minutes.

At launch we give the boat safety briefing for new customers then head out the harbor. We're generally trying to get an idea of what the divers have already seen, and what they'd like to see, and once we're outside the harbor and can get a good look at water conditions, we can figure out a couple of good likely dive spots. I'll never commit to a dive site 'til we see conditions, one of the typical questions we get at the boat in the morning is "where are we diving?" Best I can say is "out there somewhere" because you just don't know if sites are even available 'til you get to them. We try to pick sites based on best available conditions and what people on the boat want to see.

Once we reach our first dive site one of the crew will jump the mooring, then whichever of us is guiding the first dive will give a briefing. We break out the book and try to show people what to expect to see on the dive, most sites have their resident critters that we've come to know. After the briefing it's time to suit up and get ready to dive. We'll have you in your wetsuits, fins and with mask ready at the rear of the boat, then the Captain or crew will bring your BC setup to you so you won't be walking around with heavy gear on. Preferred entry is a back roll off the side (safest entry from smaller boats), we can have you do a giant stride off the swimstep or hand your gear down to you in the water to don there if desired.

Once everyone's in (usually goes fast because we max out at 6 divers and typical group size is closer to 3-4) it's time to descend. We take our dives SLOW, so people can get a good look at things and have time to take photos and such. We're always looking for critters to show you and carry eraseable magnetic slates to write down names of what we're showing. If you see something interesting and wonder what it is, just let us know and we can tell you right there. Our routine is to ask to be notified when you reach 1500psi and 700psi in the tank so we can drop off divers at the boat as they reach 500psi for their safety stops. Divers who have plenty of air remaining can stay down and tour other areas of the site we've not shown yet. It's pretty easy to give good tours to people of all breathing capacities, and we go by air and computer NDL time remaining so we're getting long dives from those that are good on air. 75-90 minute dives are not unusual for the good breathers on the day outings. Note: the night dives are a timed dive, usually in the 50-60 minute range depending on the mooring situation.

End of the dive it's back to the boat, hand up fins to the captain and up the ladder (if you've got back, hip or leg issues and need us to pull your gear out of the water, just let us know), our ladder goes down in the water fairly deep and it's easy to navigate with gear on for most divers. We'll get your gear off your back when get to the top of the ladder and switch out the tanks for the next dive. Between dives it's talk story about the things we saw, pass out dry towels (we keep a stack on board) water, sport drink, sandwich or salad, and we generally try to keep some snack stuff (trail mix, etc) on board to munch on too.

During lunch (usually about an hour) we move to a second site.... we try to vary the type of divng you see each dive. Kona has lots of different types of sites to offer, you can keep diving without repeating sites for quite a while as long as the conditions don't pin us down to a few sites. Once we're to the second site and moored off, it's time to give the briefing for the second site and then the routine repeats itself. One note: On the twilight/night trip, we generally don't move, they're essentially two completely different type of dives without changing sites.

After the second dive, it's towels again, along with more water or sport drink if wanted, then it's back to the harbor. We typically meet up at the boat wash after the dives, we've got wash buckets and we'll be rinsing off customer's gear and handing it down. We do keep big gear stored overnight for customers that don't want to haul their stuff back to their hotels or condos between dives if requested. We can store wetsuits, BCs and regs and have it back the next charter, we do ask that customers take their masks, fins, booties and other small items with them.

Typical days are from 9am to about 2:30 to 3:00 or so (depending on how many on the boat and how much ground we cover).

The photo above is one I took on a night dive about a month back. We've been doing the dive 1-2 nights a week lately, probably 2-3 nights a week once it picks up for summer. The mantas have been around fairly consistantly.

Thought I'd mention water conditions.... it's warming up nicely, we're seeing 78 and even 79 degrees now. The last week or so the viz has been FABULOUS... over 200' much of the time. I did a dive at "Hoovers" two days ago and it was "down" to about 150' viz for that dive. We had some wierd currents the other day and have been seeing some pelagic stuff float in... lots of Crown Jellyfish and such. I had my camera the other day, then realized I left the memory card out - bummer - I might have some good jelly photos if I'd pay a litlle more attention with the memory cards after I download them.



Friday, May 21, 2010

Hey, let's talk about seasickness... cures or remedies anyone???

I don't remember ever writing a post about seasickness yet. It's one of those things we see from time to time on the boat, not as often as you'd think, but it does happen.

I'll start off by saying... I'm not a Doctor! Take anything I say as being anecdotal speculation.

Now that that's over, let me tell you about myself. I used to get sick bigtime when I first started diving. I just put up with it. One day I had chocolate donettes before the dive... I lost it, tasted more like a milkshake than bile. I ate chocolate donettes before every dive boat outing from then on 'til I got turned on to Bonine. Some friends recommended Bonine and it worked for me, stuck with it for quite a while.

When I moved over here I worked in a now defuct dive shop down on Alii Drive and the manager was recommending taking 1 Bonine tablet in the evening, then one again in the morning about two hours before the charter. When I moved over to another dive shop to start working on a boat, they had the exact same recommendation. Pretty much every dive boat I've worked on had the exact same recommendation. It works pretty darned well for most people. I was on Bonine for the first couple weeks I worked on the boat, then we had some glassy flat days and I tried it without it and found I'm pretty much over the seasickness thing, on small boats anyway.

On every boat I've worked on over the years, we've seen our share of people feeling ill. Typically, we'll see people who say nothing works for them, they've tried everything, then we ask if they've tried Bonine or less-drowsy Dramamine (same active ingredient - meclizine hydrochloride) taking one pill in the evening and one pill in the morning. A lot of people are resistant to even trying it, but those that do generally feel pretty good the next day. A lot of people say it won't work because they've tried any number of things, usually with the active ingredient dipenhydramine hydrochloride, and can't stand the side effects. Well, dipenhydramin Hcl is used not only in sea sickness meds, but in Sominex, Nytol, Benedryl and other things not related to motion sickness... no wonder they're getting tired. It's primarily sold as an anti-histamine.

Anyway, from anecdotal observation, the meclizine hydrochloride pills, taken 1 the night before and 1 the morning of (so it's in your system) seems to work wonders for most people. I have seen it fail with about a half dozen people over the course of the last 11 years, for them it's time to visit the doctor and get a prescription for the patch and hope it works (nothing's fail proof, everyone's body's different).

Anyway, I managed to get past my sea sickness, except when I'm helping out on bigger boats or taking in diesel fumes on boats with older diesel engines. I'm not sure what it is about size, possibly a change in motion I'm not acclimated to, but I have a rough time of it on the big catamarans. I helped out with a now gone dive company that had a double decker catamaran a few years ago for a bit, and the second deck of that boat was really tough on me. My suspicion is that different people are set off by different motions. I talked with a Captain that worked multiple boats a few years back and he said his worst boat for people losing it was the biggest boat he drove, didn't think it was the boat so much as having that many people on board, someone's gonna get ill and then the sympathetic puking starts happening. He said he eventually broke down and brought a paint spatula to work with him during the winter months when working that boat - not sure if he was kidding or not.

Nowadays, about the only time I feel off is when eaten nothing before the charter. A little food goes a long way to fix that. I'd probably discourage a big meal, or loadiing up on bacon and grapefruit right before the dive too.

The underwater photo above is of a Yellow Margin Moray down at a coral head in the sand. When you find a nice coral head out in the sand, it can be an oasis of life. This one had bicolor anthias, cleaner shrimp, banded coral shrimp and more on this visit.



Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Olympus PEN e-pl1 Micro four thirds camera and underwater housing.... I want....


Haven't posted in a while. I've been busy with work and life lately, and haven't had new photos to work with too much since my camera died early last fall, so I got away from posting the last couple weeks. I have been researching camera choices though, and I've pretty much got a camera targeted.

My early forays into underwater digital photography were with Olympus cameras, I kept upgrading... easy habit to do once you get the bug... and ended up with an Olympus 8080. At the time I thought, gee, too bad someone doesn't make a camera about this size with interchangeable lenses.... After the 8080 I picked up an SP350, very easy to use and small... loved it. After that I picked up a Canon G9... loved it too, although the learning curve wasn't immediate for me with the new menus and such. When it died last fall (around August/September) I planned on waiting to see what was around the corner for cameras.

The Canon G11 had been announced, then I found out about the Canon S90 (sort of a G11 crammed into a small package). Both cameras are great and I was very interested in the S90 because of the size.... Well, a couple of falls ago Olympus and Panasonic got together and announced a new format of camera, Micro 4/3rds, which sort of is a hybrid between a high end point and shoot and an interchangeable lens DSLR. When I heard that I've been keenly watching the progress of the camera lines. Then, earlier this year, it happened.... Olympus announced and has just put out a micro 4/3 camera with an underwater housing. I think it's been decided which camera I make the move to next.

I've been researching the camera and housing a bit. Since they just came out, there's a huge lack of anything about them to be found readily on the net, coming at it from an underwater hobbyist's viewpoint at least. You've pretty much got to glean through Olympus' site and a couple of the online camera catalogs and try to figure it out your own at this point as far as for underwater use goes. The camera is getting good user reviews on, that's a plus, but it's all above water stuff. There's tons of 1 page "reviews" by gadget gurus which are little more than announcements, nothing that really gets into readily listing what you need to really get this camera water ready. Coming from the point and shoot world and into the world of trays, strobe arms, strobes and such it's quite a bit to sift through. I'm gonna give it a try myself... and once I've got it all together (could be weeks or months, you never know) I'll report back on my experience. I'm looking forward to another new camera learning experience that'll keep my UW photo hobby exciting for me 'til I get the next bug to upgrade.... of course this all assumes I'm getting the camera - Pat's amazed I've held off this long, but I've got a shop to put together for the summer.

I hope to be displaying some photos from a new camera sometime in the next month or so. For now, here's a repeat posting of one of my favorite shots that Pat has taken with her G9. It's of a frogfish. We've started seeing the juveniles appear again, it's that time of year. They're sooooo cool!!!