Jan

25

New divers are surprised to learn that diving along the gulf coast takes place year round, not just during the heat of the summer. Believe it or not, the beaches don’t close in the winter, the Gulf of Mexico still has water in it when all the leaves have fallen from the trees and there are a lot of dedicated divers getting wet all winter.

If you want to keep diving in the winter months, but are not one of the fortunate few who can slip off to some warm and exotic location while the rest of us sit around watching our breath freeze in the air, read on and learn the basics of winter diving on the gulf coast.

So just what are the alternatives for winter diving and what can you expect for conditions? Obviously colder temperatures, both in the water and out, but not so cold that you can’t go diving. That doesn’t mean you have to gear up for an arctic expedition. Back in December we published a blog article about the importance of staying warm which provided many suggestions for dealing with winter temperatures.

Water temperatures in the gulf are a little cooler than what you are used to in the summer months. You can expect water in the low-mid 60’s at times.  Also, most of the high tides during winter months, fall at night. This is great news for the spearos that target flounder.

These tidal differences are not as much  a consideration offshore but they will affect beach dives like Perdido Pass, Fort Pickens, Destin Jetties and St. Andrews Park.  We have some of the lowest tides of the year during winter months and the strong north winds can make for especially low tides.

The local springs are virtually unaffected by winter temperatures. In other words springs water temperatures stay the same year round. The same 68 degrees that seemed cold and maybe a little forbidding in the summer is now warm and toasty.

One big consideration, just as important as staying warm during the dive, is keeping warm before the dive and getting warm between dives.  Bundle up and stay warm before you get in the water and certainly bundle up between dives. Bring a thermos of hot tea or coffee to warm you from the inside and stay out of the wind.  A misconception with inexperienced winter divers, is they will stay warm if they keep their wetsuit on between dives.  You will only make this mistake once!  The water evaporating off the suit is taking heat with it, chilling you very fast.  You will stay much warmer by getting out of your suit and dressing in warm clothes.  The more common method is to peel your wetsuit top off, dry off, and put on a jacket. Many divers exit the water, quickly peel their wetsuit off and climb back in their vehicle for a toasty, warm surface interval.

Recently my phoned chimed, announcing a text message from a dive buddy headed to the Pass for a night dive. Sorry I couldn’t make it Joe, too many work and family commitments, but it reminded me, many people are getting wet this winter and you should too.  Call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970 to learn more about winter diving.

Jan

19

Masks

To minimize mold and algae build-up, rinse your mask with fresh water after each dive and allow it to dry completely before storing.  Store your mask in a hard case to protect it from dirt, abrasives, trauma during transport and roaches.  Yes, roaches…not only does the thought of bugs crawling in my mask give me the whillies, but roaches will nibble on the silicone skirt.  You need to pre-clean new masks with a mild abrasive to remove the silicone leeched from the mask skirt and other factory residues on the lens.  We’ve found Soft Scrub to be the best pre-cleaner, but toothpaste or some of the commercial mask scrubs will work, too.

Drysuit seals

With exposure to sunlight, saltwater, and chlorine, synthetic gaskets degrade over time.  This degradation is due to the loss of structural oils called plasticizers.  Proper care should include treating the latex with Seal Saver and inspecting all seals prior to use.  Minor repairs can be made with Aquaseal but require careful preparation, treatment and drying time.  Drysuit seal replacement is a critical repair and should be left to a professional suit technician.  If a seal completely fails then the suit will flood which can lead to a dangerous situation.

Zippers

Regular cleaning and lubrication helps zippers last the lifetime of the gear.  Dirt, sand and salt deposits are harmful to zippers and can cause them to jam and corrode requiring expensive replacement.  Use Zip Care to clean and pre-treat zippers and Zip Tech to lubricate and protect watertight zippers.  Whether on a wetsuit, drysuit, booties or gear bag, the zipper is the most abused component.

Neoprene items

Wetsuits, booties, hoods and gloves need regular cleaning with a suit shampoo and conditioner.  Regular cleaning maintains suit suppleness, keeps colors bright and eases suit entry.  To remove residual odors and bacteria from your suit add 1/2 oz. of MiraZyme or Sink The Stink to 5 gallons of water and soak your suit, then hang on proper hanger. Do not rinse. It is important to hang gear so it will dry completely and is properly supported so the weight of the suit doesn’t crush the neoprene.

Watch this blog and follow us on facebook for more installments in this equipment care and maintenance series.  You can also, call Gulf Coast Divers @ (251) 342-2970 and speak with an equipment technician.

Jan

10

How Anti-fogs work

Mask fogging results from warm humid air inside the mask meeting a lens surface cooled by water. Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapor (water in gas form) than cooler air. Therefore, when air is cooled, a portion of its water vapor condenses into tiny liquid droplets, or “fog”.  Anti-Fogs prevent fogging by creating a thin, invisible film on the lens which creates a “sheeting effect” – eliminating the formation of condensation droplets.

Divers that say, “Defog doesn’t work for me” are usually not applying it properly or are washing it out.  The procedure that I have always had the best luck with is to apply an oily-style defog (orange-top Sea Drops are my favorite) to a dry lens, rub around the inside of the lenses to fully coat, then scoop some water in the mask and swish.  I dump the suds out and scoop and swish one more time, then empty the mask put it on my face and don’t take it off until I’m done diving.  Many divers prefer the 500 PSI brand defog because it lasts longer.  It is much thicker so you have to rub a lot to coat and clean.  It is a slightly longer process to treat the lens, but the reward is 2-3 fog-free dives.

Remember for any defog to work the lens needs to be clean and ALL new mask must be scrubbed prior to using.

Jan

3

Well the time has finally come. Our beloved pool got it’s first facelift in almost 40 years.  It has seen thousands of divers, tens of thousands of dives and hundreds of dropped weights.

We have been talking about resurfacing for years, but it has been impossible to schedule 2 weeks that we didn’t have any classes.  As it is, we had to move the New Years week classes off until next week.  Thanks to Lewis for letting the crew in every day while the rest of us were out of the country diving.  Come by the store to view Lewis’s construction pics,  Todd’s Honduras pics, and meet the shark and turtle tiles in the pool.  We welcome suggestions for names of our new pool critters.

Wayne and Rick at Deep South Pools did an awesome job, giving up a portion of their Christmas and New Years holiday to get their crew in and get it done.

It actually took longer to refill the pool than it took for the work.  To get an idea how much water 125,000 gallons is…it took 120 hours to refill.  That’s 5 full days of hoses running full on, 24 hours a day! Anybody that thinks water is cheap, can cover our water bill for January!  Another week of filtering, heating, balancing pH, alkalinity, and chlorine and we will be up and running.