May

26

As instructors we hear the following question almost daily: What piece of equipment should I buy first? I usually respond by asking a few questions to get an idea what kind of diving they expect to do. The equipment demands vary depending on whether the new diver expects to limit their diving to shallow water, deep diving, spearfishing, cavern/ cave diving, beach diving or travel only. Many pieces of equipment are application specific and others can be configured for different diving conditions.

The short answer to the above question is, “everything”. If you want to be a comfortable, confident diver, then you need to learn to dive on your own gear. I don’t know anyone who is learning to dive, so they can go underwater and fiddle with their equipment. Ideally you want to don your system and then forget about it. Your BC and most of the things attached to it are out of sight when you are wearing it. You want to be able to locate important pieces by feel. That means those items need to be in the same spot all the time. It is similar to the comfort level you have when driving your car. Think about the last time you turned your blinkers on: Did you look for the lever first? How about any of the last 100 times you turned them on? Now think of the last time you drove an unfamiliar vehicle. Everytime I drive my wife’s car (which I’ve driven 100’s of times) it feels less comfortable than my truck, because things are in different places, I can never get the seat adjustment perfect, even my perspective on the road and the view in the mirrors is different.

As divers’ we rely on learned, conditioned responses to react to underwater situations, the less you have to think about the “proper” response and the more you develop and rely on muscle memory, the quicker your response time. This comes in handy when reacting to changing conditions such as grabbing your light to get a quick glimpse of a moray dissappearing in a hole, or grabbing your knife to cut monofilament away. These conditioned responses can even contribute to your safety by being able to quickly respond to another divers “out-of-air” signal.

Comfort and performance work together to contribute to relaxed diving. It is critical to have a scuba system that is sized and styled for your body shape. Most of the innovations in BC’s over the past 10 years have addressed the unique demands of female divers. Weight integration in the vests has become the mainstream design in men’s and women’s BC’s. But it originated with ladies seeking a way to get the dive weights off their hips.

I often hear occasional divers say, ” I can’t justify having my own gear because I only dive once or twice a year.” Most dive professionals will respond, “That is why it is more important for you to have your own system!” The more experienced and comfortable a diver, the less important changes in equipment become. Experienced divers can quickly adapt to whatever gear they are wearing. Novice divers spend their precious few dives a year, just trying to relax and get their mind off gear and into the scenery. If you only get the opportunity to make several dives a year, it becomes more important for you to use the same gear everytime, so some degree of familiarity exists. Plus, many divers don’t totally trust unfamiliar rental gear that you don’t know the service history on or who had it in their mouth last. YUCK!

The added bonus…Divers who own their own scuba system dive more often. This may be because they are more comfortable, therefore, enjoy the dives more so seek out more opportunites to dive. It may be because they have the visual reminder of a gear bag in the garage, that is saying “Let’s Get Wet”. Maybe even a little guilty feeling that they spent the money, so I want to get the most out of my investment.

Whatever the reason, our dive charter captains like to see your initials on your gear, not the dive shops rental number. Ask any divemaster and they’ll agree…Divers who dive with their own, properly fitted gear are better divers. Relax and Enjoy your underwater experience.

Call Gulf Coast Divers @ (251) 342-2970 and speak with a system consultant before your next dive excursion.

May

19

Divers do some amazing things but most of the experiences are rather personal. The thrill of seeing your first Manta Ray, swimming over the wall on the north side of Grand Cayman for the first time, or shooting a big fish. Occasionally we are provided the opportunity to do something for others. Sometimes your diving skills can make a difference in another persons life. Here is a perfect opportunity to create smiles…underwater.

Camp Rap-A-Hope is an organization that provides a week-long summer camp at Camp Grace in Mobile, Alabama, open to children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have or have had cancer.  Many of these children have forgotten what it’s like to be a ‘kid’ because much of their childhood has been filled with the sights and sounds of hospitals. The camp provides swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, arts and crafts and many other activities depending on the theme for the year. This year scuba diving is included in the activities being offered to campers.

We Need Your Help!

On Friday June 10th Gulf Coast Divers is providing a scuba experience to adventurous campers. We  need volunteers to help get the kids into and out of scuba gear. You don’t have to be an instructor or dive master. All you need is the time and the desire to help. We will need some divers to get in the water and help with the kids.

We’ll be at the camp from 8:30 to 5:30 on Friday, June 10th and expect at least 70 campers that want to try diving.  We have been fortunate enough to provide experiences and smiles with our scuba experience many times and it is always hugely rewarding.

If you are interested in making a difference please call Lewis Philips at Gulf Coast Divers (251) 342-2970. You must complete a Volunteer Disclosure Form before the event.  We have copies at the shop, so stop by and fill one out.

May

17

Researchers at Dauphin Island Sea Lab need your help studying the migratory behavior and habitat use of the Atlantic Manta. If you dive the gulf regularly you probably have seen these creatures before. Report you sightings so the Sea Lab can complete their study.


YOU CAN HELP. If you see a Manta call Matt Ajemian at (251) 861.2141 x 2384. They would like to know about your sighting immediately so they can send a boat to collect data.

Information they need: Date, time; Location (GPS), Approximate wingspan, Group size, Behaviors, Associated species, Photos/video are helpful.

May

14

Shooting Line:

Shooting line is the line that attaches your spear shaft to your gun, float line or reel (depending on your setup). The ideal shooting line is very light (to reduce the drag on the spear while it is in-flight) and fairly stiff (to avoid tangles and knotting). There are two popular choices for shooting line: big-game monofilament fishing line and 49 strand stainless steel cable. The cable may be coated with a thin layer of vinyl to make it easier to handle. Uncoated cable has a little less drag than coated cable but the plastic coating tends to protect the strands from breaking for longer.

The stainless cable is the strongest system for attachment, but has it’s own list of drawbacks. Because the cable is heavier it has increased drag on the shaft which can limit the flight of the shaft on long shots. Also, when the cable strands start breaking they make it impossible to slide the cable through your hand without tearing gloves and skin. Another important consideration with cable is a weaklink or clip in-line, to allow the hunter to release a poorly shot, large fish without losing the entire gun. I won’t rig any diver’s gun with stainless cable without putting a small brass clip at the muzzle attachment point. I may never be able to figure out how my wife’s mind works, but I do understand how a spearo thinks…he may hold on to that gun a little too long, and risk getting hurt, with a $600 speargun on the line. But be more likely to release that monster fish sooner, if only losing a shaft and tip.

I rigged all my guns with stainless cable for 15 years, until I discovered 450lb. monofilament. I prefer the lightness of mono, plus it is very resistant to tangles. Heavy monofilament wants to be straight, so springs off the guns line drop quickly and doesn’t kink as deeply as cable. The added bonus is I don’t have to rig a clip in-line because I can cut the shaft free at any point in the shooting line. Mono isn’t as durable as cable so it needs to be inspected often for nicks. I keep several measured and pre-crimped lines in my save-a-dive kit to quickly change out a frayed line.

Mono is durable and will last for many spearfishing trips, even shooting around barnacle encrusted oil/ gas rigs on the gulf coast. I feel my guns shoot more accurately with the lighter mono and there is no question it is safer than cable.

Another economical option is a pre-rigged shooting line with built in shock cord. There are many good options available from nylon, tuna cord, kevlar or spectra. I carry a pre-rigged spectra shooting line for a quick fix on the boat. They are economical and are cut to length to fit any gun. While this all sounds great, the major drawback to them for permanent rigging is that they tangle bad. You don’t want to be staring at a 30lb. red snapper at 5′ away while sorting through a hopelessly tangled rig. 

Shock Cord:

Shock absorbers are usually located on the muzzle end of the shooting line when attached to the gun. This piece of thick rubber absorbs the energy from the shaft when it reaches the full extent of it’s length. This keeps the shaft from jerking violently on the muzzle when you miss a fish. When properly rigged, the stretch of the shock cord will also, keep the shooting line snugged on the gun’s line drop.  Only invest in a top quality shock cord with line running thru the rubber absorber.  The “el cheapo” shock cords are just tubing with a loop of string in each end that just ties on.  As soon as the rubber dry rots or breaks you say goodbye to shooting line, shaft and tip.  How bad would it feel to think your $8.00 savings just cost you $90.00!

I use a heavy duty shock cord with stainless snap swivel that allows me to release and reattach the shooting line with a quick snap.  This is a much quicker way to get the fish off the shaft than closing the tip barbs and pulling it back thru the fish. The swivel on the shock cord will keep your shooting line from getting twisted when that amberjack starts his powerful, twisting fight.

For more information on spearfishing call Gulf Coast Divers @ (251) 342-2970 and make sure and read our monthly spearfishing articles in mobile’s Coastal Angler magazine.