Open water through ISDA in 1994, and open water recertification
through SSI in 2001. I also have a basic nitrox certification with
TDI, and a solo certification from SDI, and scientific certification
with AAUS. I'm also halfway through my DiveCon with SSI (it's a
divemaster/assistant instructor rating). Oh, and Stress and Rescue
(including first aid, and CPR), and a DAN O2 provider class. I carry
O2 with me in my truck at all times). I'm scheduling advanced nitrox
and deco procedures as well.
I've been diving since '94, and as of April 2003 I have logged over
1000 dives, 70 of which were scientific research dives off the north
coast of Jamaica. Most of the rest of the dives have been cold water
dives in Washington State, and British Columbia, Canada.
Despite all the training listed above, I do have problem with most
dive training. I usually feel as if the agencies train divers as if we
are all warm-water novices. This inevitably leads to training that is
dumbed down to a low common denominator. I'm not saying that there is
nothing to learn, but in the majority of the specialty classes, the
information is mostly just common sense. I'm guessing that lots of
divers have common sense, and would like to learn more than that. It
makes going through the classes sort of painful.
I started out with a no-name 7mm wetsuit, and logged almost 300 dives in it
before I was able to afford a drysuit. I bought a semi-custom OS
Systems drysuit, and dove very rarely in it, as it didn't fit right.
With the suit on, I was unable to reach my feet, as it bound in a very
After a couple years of not diving much (because of the suit), when
Keith bought his DUI, I went along, and have diving almost twice weekly
since. It's a CF200X, the crushed neoprene suit, and I can't say enough
good things about it (it doesn't fit perfectly either, but I'm starting
to think it's me...:)) I've been washed up on barnacle encrusted rocks
in this suit while snorkeling at Salt
Creek, and it didn't abrade or get punctured. It's nice and tough,
which for me is essential. The one drawback I've noticed is it takes
forever to dry, and when it is wet, it weighs about 35 pounds. No fun
to try to sling over a drying rack...
- I have five tanks, two high pressure steel 100s,
two aluminum 80s, and a aluminum pony bottle. I almost exclusively dive
the steels and the pony bottle. Redundant air systems is a must,
especially if you are a photographer, as you end doing almost a solo
dive most of the time anyway. All the tanks I dive are nitrox prepped
(o-ring only--not o2 clean) and I dive almost exclusively nitrox
(my default mix is 34) these days. It's a little more expensive, but I
really like having that much more space between me and the chamber...:)
It also opens up the possibilities once under water. If I find
something really interesting at 80 feet, I've got the no-decompression
limits to stay down deeper and check things out. I very rarely come
close to my no-decomp limits, so some folks would say that I'm wasting
my money by diving nitrox all the time. Whatever. I like having
options, and nitrox provides them.
- I started out with a cheaper BC, and dove it
until it was falling apart. I don't even remember the brand, and the
name has worn off it now. I recently bought a Dive-Rite BC, with 45
pounds of lift. It's wonderful, the harness keeps the weight on my
hips, and it's very comfortable. 4 D rings is enough for all my gear,
and it keeps the air bubble right where I need it. My trim is so good
with the BC (no ankle weights) that I can hover motionless and
horizontal over a muddy bottom and shoot pictures. That's pretty much
what I want from a BC as far as weight and trim goes.
The only downside to the BC is that on the surface, unless I make a
conscious effort to get on my back, it does float me on my face. This
has obvious drawbacks if I were to surface and pass out for some
reason. There isn't really a way around this problem with the design of
- Everyone's favorite thing to explore when out on
boat dives is other how other divers have rigged all this goddamn
equipment. I guess you can't be half-way DIR, but over the years before
discovering DIR, I've done some of the things that they preach. Despite
this, however, I don't believe everything that they proclaim.
My gear is rigged with my pony bottle strapped to my main tank with
the valve up top. Some people mount it with the valve down, but mine is
up. It has a low-performance regulator and a SPG plugged into the first
stage. The regulator is bungied to the pony bottle with surgical
tubing, and comes under my right arm, and hangs under my chin from a
tubing necklace. The depth gauge is likewise held close to the pony
bottle with tubing, and comes down to clip to my right hand lower D
My computer (Cochran Commander with one nitrox mix) is mounted to my
wrist, and my compass is mounted on a retractor, and lives on my right
upper D-ring. My main tank's SPG is clipped to my left-hand lower
I tried diving with a long hose recently, but can't think of any real
good reason to contine, so I'm back to a short hose for my primary
regulator. I don't dive in confined spaces, so being able to have a
buddy breathing off my tank behind me or in front of me doesn't make any
sense. If my buddy has an out-of-air emergency, I want him right in my
face, and close by, I don't want him floating out somewhere, and for
this reason, the short hose is just fine with me...:)
The widest part of my rig is my shoulders, and all hoses are kept to
a minimum length, and strapped down where possible (although with a yank
they will free up and have a little extra length).
- I used high-volume masks forever and a day and then
Keith turned me on to the Cressi-sub Horizon, and man, what a mask. It
doesn't leak nearly as much as other masks I've tried, and if it does, a
short breath clears the whole thing. I love this mask. Thanks Keith!
- I have big feet. I use Scuba-pro Turtle fins (like
the jet fins, but slightly bigger). I also carry a Dive-Alert, and a safety
sausage on all dives.
- Scuba-pro throughout. I started out with a
used set of Beuchat VX-10 regs with an Aladdin computer, but have now
upgraded to Scubapro S600 primary, a 190 on my pony bottle, and a
Cochran Commander Nitrox computer. I love all of it. Lying on my back
on bottom at 80 feet, looking up, I can breathe as easily as I can in my
truck driving to the dive site. These regs provide such a nice balance
that I can breathe and not even realize I'm breathing no matter what
position I am in.
- It's all over but the shouting about whether to
dive computers or not (unless you are DIR). There is no question in my
mind. The US NAVY tables were designed for very specific task oriented
dives: "go down 40 feet and take the shackle off, and replace it with a
new one". Square profiles, like those used in the tables are perfectly
suited for a dive like that. The problem is that most divers that I
know don't dive like that. They dive at varying depths over the course
of the dive, and the ONLY way to safely do this and have a decent amount
of bottom time is to use a computer. Do a good set of safety stops (I
personally do 2 minutes at 20 feet and 3-5 at 10 feet, unless of course
I'm on a deco schedule), and it's a nice safe way to dive.
That said, I started out with a Alladdin Pro, and have since switched
to a Cochran Commander (with one nitrox mix). It's a neat little
machine, most of the parameters are adjustable in the field (topside,
before a dive). You can adjust things like the conservancy, depth
alarms, ascent rate model, gas mix, etc. It's got a great sampling rate
(also user configurable) from 1 sample per second to one sample every 30
seconds, and will store plenty of dives between downloads.
The PC software that you use to download dives and configure some of
the more esoteric settings is one of the most horrendous pieces of
software that I've ever used. The user interface is totally horrible.
It gets the job done, but it's painful to use.
The software can export dives into the format DAN prefers for their
log database, and I've written a little perl program that will read those and
produce nice summaries of your dive,
including a nice graph. Contact me if you're interested in
getting the script, and know what perl is.
Summary:Nice computer, shitty PC software.
- Dive-Rite 17w HID wreck II canister light.
Lower profile design of the can keeps me out of the kelp tanglies,
extremely bright, 6500 kelvin light, good head design (no protruding
bulbs), nice hand grip, 3 hour burn time is good for a full day of
diving between charges. Great, great light. I had a video head on the
first light, and kept dropping it and breaking the bulb. I wrote a
semi-nasty letter to dive-rite complaining about the design, and they
ended up swapping the entire head for an enclosed head, even though it
was probably mostly a case of me being a dumbass. I only paid for
shipping. I would buy all my gear from Dive-Rite if I could. That is
I also carry a backup light in the form of a small UK light (the C
I use a Canon D60 digital SLR in an Ikelite housing, and absolutely LOVE
it. It's heavy and bulky, but takes beautiful shots. A little more
- Vendors and Customer Service
I haven't dealt with too many different shops, so I don't have a ton
of experience with lots of different places like Keith. I buy most of
my gear through Starfish
Enterprise, here in Seattle. They cater to advanced recreational
and technical divers, and only carry good quality gear. Angela, the
owner is an experienced technical diver, and knows her diving as well as