Oct

26

What is a Local Explorer?  Well, we are the lucky ones who don’t need to wait for our next vacation to blow bubbles. We don’t worry about packing our gear into the smallest bag possible.  And even then, checking and organizing to stay under the constantly changing and progressively more restrictive baggage weight limits. The bed of our truck has become our gear bag.

Those divers who are lucky enough to have boats (or diving friends with boats) have an advantage to be able to access hundreds of neat, interesting sites to explore.  There are dozens of dive charter boats on the gulf coast and many shore access sites.  The shore sites are the most economical dive sites to explore.  Some have small park entrance fees but most in our area are FREE.

Conditions vary with weather and tides so local knowledge and an orientation are advised.  The Gulf Coast Diving Society is a great source for this knowledge and a fun way to meet new dive buddies that are familiar with close, accessible sites.  The fresh water springs are a great destination for almost any day.  Because you don’t have to dive during a short tidal window, springs are popular places to meet for all day events.

So what if you’ve walked in off the same beach three weekends in a row; You are still diving and there are thousands of divers that would change places in a second.  Last month I meet a couple in the shop from Indiana that were in town to hop on the cruise ship bound for Cozumel. The ship would be in port only long enough for them to do 2 dives.  They were thrilled, because at home they drove 6 hours every other weekend to dive in a 25′ deep, mud bottom lake where visibility averaged 2 feet.  They mostly looked at rocks, and a fish sighting was an event to talk about.  Oh yea, they also regularly stayed overnight in a motel to do it again the next day!

So appreciate having such close proximity and easy access to a variety of local dive sites. We are in it for the adventure and we know something great is just around the corner.  See y’all next weekend. For information on local sites and condition reports call Gulf Coast Divers (251) 342-2970.

Oct

19

Dear Alabama Spearfisherman,

Please do your part to protect our resource by completing a survey related to your experiences diving and spearfishing in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This information will be valuable to a group researchers at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, that are interested in the abundance of Indo-Pacific lionfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico. They would appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge and dive/spearfishing experiences by taking a short, 12-15 question survey. Just for participating, you will be entered into a drawing for gift cards to Bass Pro Shops.

The Sea Lab has sent emails to registered Alabama spearfishermen.  You do not need to have observed lionfish to take the survey or be entered in the raffle. Please check your email and, if you have not already done so, take the lionfish survey. If you have any problems with the survey you can contact the Sea Lab at coastalsurveys@usouthal.edu.

Thanks for taking the time to provide information on your diving habits and lionfish sightings.  The Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Gulf Coast Divers are committed to protecting the resource that is our back yard.  You can also, report lionfish sighting at www.reef.org.  The more information you can share re: depth, lat./lon., date and time the better.

Oct

15

The power went out a couple of mornings ago which sent me searching for a flash light. Showers can be awfully dark at 5:30am. The only flashlight with good batteries I could lay my hands on was a crevice light from my dive bag.  Like many divers, and every dive instructor I know,  those new household lights must do double duty as dive lights.

You might think buying a new light would be very simple, but there really are a lot of things to consider. There are hundreds of lights to choose, so you will have to do some weeding out to come up with the one that is right for you. To get started you should set up a list of criteria, that will, hopefully, sort  the scores of lights available and bring you down to your ultimate choice. Here are few considerations to get you pointed in the right direction:

  1. Type of diving you do (day, night, cavern, cave, wreck)
  2. Lights you already own (crevice, full size, canister)
  3. Type of bulb (Halogen, Xenon, LED, HID)
  4. Battery type (standard, lithium, rechargeable)
  5. Size/ Power (1.5W- 15W)
  6. Price ($15-$1000)

If midday dives are all you do, you might be thinking you don’t even need a light. My personal feeling is, if you aren’t diving with a light on every dive you are missing out on more than you realize. Virtually every dive site is loaded with nooks and crannies that hide strange and fascinating creatures just waiting to be discovered. Without a crevice light all you see when you peer into that crevice is darkness. A small crevice light, that easily fits in the pocket of your BC is all you need to reveal all of those hidden critters. In addition, since reds and oranges are filtered out of natural light at very shallow depths, most dives appear blue-green. You will be surprised how colorful that “green” reef really is when you shine your light.

Night dives require something more than your small crevice light, although that light can be a sufficient back-up. With the advances in LED technology your primary night light selection is no longer limited to huge honkin’ light cannons. Technology has contributed to more light in a smaller package. Before the advent of LED light technology, brightness and power depended on battery size. The really powerful dive lights held (8) D cell or lantern batteries that you really needed to consider part of your weight system.

Light gloves are becoming very popular with divers seeking hands-free illumination.  Whether a canister light (separate battery pack and light head) or traditional light, I recommend having a back-up, if you rely on it.  Cave divers and night dives require light to dive safely, so a minimum of 3 lights is standard.

Whether it is hand held, clipped on your BC, head mounted or attached to a speargun, it has to work.  Check your batteries the day before you dive, so you have time to purchase new ones if they are weak.  I have robbed batteries out of radios and household lights to power a dive light at the last minute.  I don’t like rechargeable batteries because they discharge while being stored and give little warning before dying.  Traditional batteries become weaker as they discharge which dims the light.  This is my warning to deploy a back-up or plan on replacing batteries soon.

Dive lights can be as little as $15 and go to over $1000 on some canister lights.  Call Gulf Coast Divers (251) 342-2970 and talk to a light expert about the best light for your diving style.

Oct

7

We get calls almost daily regarding questions on the worth of a piece of used equipment someone is considering buying.  Putting a value on a piece of used equipment is a tough task because there are many things to consider.  I always suggest that you mentally add the cost of service to the price of anything you are buying.

Even if the owner says it was recently serviced, I recommend a complete overhaul.  This insures that you KNOW it was serviced.  Being totally confident of the service will give you an idea of how it has been maintained which can tell you a lot about it’s remaining life.  Servicing can expose any deteriorating diaphragms and hoses and gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling that your new piece of equipment will perform properly.

I suggest that divers only buy used equipment post-servicing.  The regulator that you got for a good deal may not be, after inspection.  If inspection reveals that you need service AND all new hoses AND inhalation diaphragms AND mouthpieces, you can easily be over $250 just to make it safe to dive.  Now your $200 “deal” has become a $450 regulator!

It is also important to know “What” you are buying.  The question is usually posed to me like this, “My buddies neighbor has a dive regulator he wants to sell for $200.  I know regulators can be expensive, is that a good deal?”  My response is “That’s like asking if $1000 is a good deal on a used car?”  If it’s a Yugo, then no.  If it’s a Porsche 911 Turbo, then probably.

I don’t intend to turn anyone off of the idea of buying used gear.  It is a good way to get a scuba system to fit a smaller budget.  That way someone who can’t just drop a cool $2500 on the credit card, can still get what they need to get out and get wet.  But you need to know what you are getting.  Your best option is to buy from a dive shop that sells used equipment.  That way you get someone and somewhere to go if you have any issues with the equipment.

Gulf Coast Divers has a large selection of used gear spanning many makes and models and can help with the decision making process.  Everything we sell is serviced prior to putting it out.  We put it in the best shape it can be in and it comes with a 1 year service contract.  That means that we stand behind it for a year.  So you get the gear and our service departments guarantee.  This takes the worry out of used gear.  The used inventory changes daily as new gear comes in and others are sold.  It runs the spectrum from the top of the line to the Yugo.  But we guarantee it will be the safest, best performing Yugo, you can find!

To get away from the Yugo comparison, we don’t buy or sell junk.  We turn away more equipment than we actually buy because it isn’t serviceble or someone wants too much for it.  We only sell good quality and we want it to be a good value for the next owner.  It is because of all these reasons that our “pre-loved” gear sells quick.  The next owner knows they have nothing to worry about with our used equipment.

On more than one occasion we have had someone bring in a Craig’s list purchased regulator to find out that it is unserviceable.  This can be because the manufacturer is out of business, the model isn’t supported anymore, or that the cost of repair way exceeds the value of the regulator.  I deliver the bad news and tell them that is the second time we have delivered the news re: this same regulator!  Yep, the last guy that bought it got the bad news, and listed it again. I’m sure the first guy learned his lesson,  but still wanted to try and recoup some of his bad investment.  I can’t remember seeing the same regulator three times, but I’m sure it is coming.

Be careful,  invest wisely and try before you buy.  Ultimately, your best DEAL on used equipment is going to be from a dive shop with an in-house service department and a pool to try BEFORE you buy.  For answers and advise on purchasing used equipment call Lawren @ Gulf Coast Divers (251) 342-2970.