Useful Information from CPA
The information expressed herein should be treated as opinion. No guarantee is given or implied that any advice on the CPA website is necessarily correct. Nor might it best suit other divers and clubs due to regional and personal differences. Diving is a risk sport. All advice herein should be validated with advice from your own diving club, governing body, or approved published material before being adopted.
Some things work for most people: Don’t look down, or at kit for too long – keep eyes on horizon whenever possible. Kit up as much as possible while in calm water/on land. Allow plenty of time to kit up on boat – do a bit at a time then look at the horizon for a few mins. Don’t stand rigid and hang on – bend knees and ride the waves. Only go down into hardboats if vital. Keep clear of diesel/2-stroke fumes and other unpleasant smells. If other divers are throwing up, don’t watch, and stand upwind! Go easy on greasy breakfast food. Keep dry suit neck-seals off neck until last minute (use stretch rings for neoprene). Be careful with drugs – avoid ones warning of drowsiness and use others with care until you know how they affect you personally. “Stugeron” has a good reputation with many seafarers. Other things are personal. A few that work for me: Get plenty of sleep before the trip. Be relaxed – allow plenty of time for everything rather than rush at last minute. Don’t eat within a couple of hours of diving. Coffee ok for breakfast but not tea, orange juice great. Oddly: be happy – days with a positive, cheery attitude seem good, feeling glum makes it worse. Find your own things that work. It’s not just comfort, but safety too. Feel rough and you will skip kit and buddy checks, but feeling like this is exactly when you’re most likely to not do things right, and exactly when you’re least likely to react well to problems. Be extra careful if queasy.
Avoid post-dive headaches
Two common causes – CO2 build-up and microbubbles. First is usually due to skip or shallow breathing, smoking before dive, or high workload. Breathe normally on dive. Don’t have pre-dive smoke. Relax (see “… Safely reduce air consumption”). If persists, flush lungs (breathe fully out) a couple of times before dive, then flush every minute or two throughout dive. Microbubbles due to bad diving. Dive more defensively – surface well before Bottom Time used up; watch ascent rate like a hawk – stay less than 10m/min; don’t do yo-yo dive profiles; follow the multi-dive rules (deepest first, 3 max a day, 7th day off…)
Pack diving kit effectively
A few odd tips. Pack in reverse order of donning. Put fins at bottom of bag – you’ll need them last and they protect other kit when bag thrown around. Make sure mask, computer, & any other fragile items are in tough containers. For RIB dives, pack your boat bag (e.g. big net goody bag) for the RIB then put this inside main dive bag – saves time on site.
Keep warm in a semi-dry
Modern semi-drys are good. During the dive, only normally a problem in coldest water (fresh water, northern waters, south coast in Feb/March etc.) or long-deco dives (that our club doesn’t do anyway). Post-dive is the main problem. Get a thick plastic coat – road worker jackets are ideal – for in the boat post-dive. Can be used to keep warm while changing later too. Wear a thick woollen hat. Stay out of the wind where possible. Drink hot drinks. Wear warm gloves. Find things to do, not just sit still.
Avoid feeling tired after a dive
Usually cause by mild hypothermia during the day and/or microbubbles from the diving. If in conjunction with headaches, more likely to be the latter. See “… Avoid post-dive headaches”.
Put a “dive-saver” kit together
Easy to lose out on a dive through trivial kit failures. Common problems are: mask strap breaks; o-ring blows, torch bulb goes, fin strap breaks, something seized up, dry suit leaks, LP hose leaks, regulator adjustment needed… Get small box (like sandwich box). Put in: mask strap, fin strap, set of o-rings, suit patches, spare bulbs, needle & tough polyester thread, tube of neoprene glue, LP port blanking plugs, set of hex wrenches, small adjustable spanner, sharp knife, small screw drivers, variety of cable ties, and some silicone spray. If LP hose leaks, can sometimes blank it off safely enough (e.g. if for octopus and buddy has alternative air). HP only safe to blank if blanking pony contents gauge when contents known. For dry-suit leaks, can now get press-on tyre patches from motor/cycling shops (“Leeches” is one brand name) – can press on & wait a couple of minutes to make sound temporary fix. This lot copes with most problems and saves the dive.
Avoid feeling rushed just before a dive
Experienced divers do lots of little things well before final dive prep. In harbour, rig & test the stab, cylinder and regulator and lash to bulkhead rigged. On trip out to dive site, stow last-fitted kit like weight belt, fins mask & hood in one place near where you will kit up. Pre de-mist mask. Prep, check and fit small items to rig, like folding flag, torch, goody bag, DSMB reel, lifting bag, whatever. When almost ready to dive, all that’s left to do is zip up the suit and throw the gear on. Stops you feeling stressed (especially good in rough seas), and makes sure nothing done wrongly in a rush.
Prevent mask loss
Especially costly prescription masks. Backward roll off boat can easily wash strap off back of head. Sticks on with air pressure but not safe, can drop off and sink. First thing to check after entry is mask strap still secure. After surfacing, don’t put mask on forehead – easily drops off and sinks. Pull down over chin – gets in the way a bit, but safe. Better still, stitch/glue small strip of Velcro, anchored at one end, to back of hood. Stick flap over mask strap after fitting mask. Won’t come off on entry and can put mask on forehead safely on exit. Much safer underwater too – mask can’t get kicked off and lost making ascent dangerous.
Avoid shot line crowding
Chuck twelve similar divers off a hardboat onto a wreck and most surface at similar time. Deco/safety stops hard on crowded line. Two simple fixes. Use a DSMB, and deco while drifting; or use a Jon line – just fix SMB line to shot line at desired depth, then reel off a few metres to deco.
Dive conveniently with poor eyesight
For the short sighted, prescription masks ok, but where do you put specs just before dive? Make sure well ahead someone can take them off you and has safe place to put them where you can get them back straight after dive. Contact lenses better generally. Can get lost, but rare. No problems finding specs though and no expensive prescription mask. Daily disposables ideal. Always bring spare lenses. Should change lenses if exposed to raw open water, as some risk of infection. Wear spray protection on RIB (sun specs with side shades, or diving mask). Some lenses prone to getting bent! Can form tiny bubbles behind or in lenses, causing foggy vision for a few minutes after dive. If happens may be just the lenses, but make sure dive your profiles are correct as could be bad diving.
Keep feet from slipping out of fins in dry boots
Depends on your suit, but if membrane dry boots too big, try wearing thin wetsuit boots inside drysuit. Packs out dry boots and gives solid, high friction heel grip for strap through dry boot material.
Keep alive the memories of dives
Writing any log book is good. But hard to really remember dive later if just write “fast drift, saw wrasse and two crabs” etc. Get more enjoyment when looking back on dives by recording memory hooks. Things that work are: feelings and atmosphere and what caused them (apprehensive – green & gloomy; startled when sea-bed loomed on descent and rock swished past in current, that sort of thing). Note unusual things like bubbles streaming out of holes in rock, or cuckoo wrasse got close & bumped mask and so on. Jot down unusual events and how you reacted – buddy too close all dive, irritating All helps cement memory. Will enjoy reading later as whole dive flashes back into view.
Estimate the viz on a dive
Watch to see when fins of diver ahead just start to disappear. Judge how many other divers would fit between you. Double it and that’s about the viz in metres. Works ok down to a metre or so (half a diver). Good viz hard to judge. Also rare in UK though!