Jan

11

The days of group trips; meeting new divers, that shared excitement, adventure, fulfillment; are giving way to rock bottom pricing.  In the days of ‘Expedia’ and ‘Priceline’ consumers are going it alone.  Some are getting great deals, others just think they are.  Many have never experienced the fun and social aspects of group travel.

Think back to an activity you enjoyed with a group, such as going to a concert.  I don’t mean the Philharmonic, I’m talking about the last big country, rock or R&B show you attended.  Yes, it’s great to have that one on one time with your special someone, but tailgating before the show, everyone singing FreeeeeeBiiiiiiird for 12 minutes, and carrying the excitement out into the parking lot together afterward!  The enthusiasm and excitement is contagious.  This group dynamic is the main appeal to traveling with like-minded friends.

Sure there are those bad experiences, bad weather, delayed flights, that one group member who just seems to get on everyone’s nerves, but those things also happen when you go it alone and a good trip leader knows how to ease tensions and always has plans B, C, & D up his sleeve.  You might be surprised how competitively priced these trips can be and you get the added benefit of an experienced trip director who is usually familiar with the destination.

We had a blast in Turks & Caicos last month and are looking forward to great diving in Roatan, Honduras in March.  We have a few spots left, so make your spring break vacation plans now.

March 9 – 16, 2013         Roatan, Honduras      $1425     unlimited diving, all-inclusive resort

For additional information on these featured trips and others call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970.

Nov

12

If you don’t dive yet, some of what you “know” about diving might actually be wrong. A lot of these “myths’ are perpetuated in the media and movies, and you might be surprised at what is right and what myths are “busted!” Which one of these myths have you been believing all along?

MYTH: You have to be in top physical condition to dive.

TRUTH: Like any active sport, diving is more enjoyable if you’re physically fit. And you do need some basic swimming skills in order to learn. But it’s nothing extreme; if you’re comfortable in the deep end of a pool, can swim, and you can walk for several minutes without getting winded, you can learn to dive.

MYTH: Becoming a certified diver takes too long.

TRUTH: You can become a certified diver in a very short period of time, or you can take your time and learn at your own pace. Gulf Coast Diver’s VIP-PACE training program can accomodate anyone’s schedule, or you can sign up for private sessions. Our Variable Investment Program-Paced According to Capability and Enjoyment says it all.  You’ll be diving in less time than you think!

MYTH: Diving is complicated and difficult to learn.

TRUTH:  Learning to dive is easy. Our professional diving instructors use all the learning materials and proven strategies to make it simple and fun to learn. Before you know it you’ll be breathing underwater and using all the cool “toys” that make diving easier than ever.

MYTH: I’m too old to learn.

TRUTH:  We regularly hear about people diving, and learning to dive, well into their eighties. In fact one of the most active “groups” of divers is in the age range from 38 to 53. On the whole, this group dives more regularly, travels more to dive, and even takes more classes than most other “groups.”  Our own repair technician, Capt. Bill, is 77 years old and usually logs around 40 dives a year!

MYTH: I have no one to dive with.

TRUTH:  Diving is an exciting and unique experience that many people take up while on vacation or as a life-long activity. Finding buddies with which to dive is as easy as participating in one of our group dives and showing up for the regular Gulf Coast Diving Society social events. You’ll probably have ready-to-dive buddies that you’ll meet during your scuba certification course. Chances are you’ll find that you have lots in common with these other divers, usually more than the diving experience itself!  Plus, you probably have friends now that are certified divers, you just didn’t know they dove. Join Gulf Coast Dive Society on facebook and you will have dozens of dive and snorkel buddies.

MYTH: When you dive you breathe differently than you do on land.

TRUTH: Breathing naturally while underwater is one of the most terrific sensations you’ll ever experience, and one of the first things you’ll learn in your certification course. You will find that about the only difference between breathing air on land and underwater is that you must breathe through the regulator in your mouth – and since today’s regulators are so well made that breathing is made very simple and natural, even this part is easy.  You will be breathing underwater in your very first session, for only $24.

MYTH: It’s dark and murky underwater and difficult to see.

TRUTH: Most dives do not require a light since sunlight penetrates far deeper than the depth to which most divers go. Even when diving in very deep water, beyond 100 feet, divers can see quite well without any artificial light. Interestingly, colors are absorbed by the water, so while it may be very easy to see, most of the color begins to be absorbed beyond 30 to 50 feet of depth, rendering most everything blue.

Most divers do not dive in water with limited visibility unless they are looking for something special, like a lost wedding ring or an outboard motor from a neighbor’s boat. Some of these locations can give the diver the opportunity to see wrecks or find treasures, and with the proper training, limited visibility is not a significant diving obstacle. When diving from the beach the visibility will vary with the tides, but just a few miles from Mobile Bay, the clearer gulf waters will surprise you.  Or maybe, you are only interested in travel diving on vacation, each can provide their own brand of fun!

Whatever your reasons for not learning to dive, rethink them and consider giving it a try.  You can experience the thrill of being underwater for only $24, then decide whether you really want to miss out on the wonders of our oceans.

 

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.

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.

Mar

22

Cozumel, Calica, Progresso are mystical sounding Mayan sites and Mexican destinations with beautiful reefs.  Imagine being at work on wednesday and dreaming of diving Mexican reefs on friday.  Too good to be true, no way.  This is exactly what dozens of divers do every week.  The cruise ship Carnival Elation departs weekly from downtown Mobile to the Mayan Riviera and several great diving destinations.

Cozumel is a well-known diving destination and home to the world famous Palancar Reef, which gives divers and snorkelers the opportunity to view thousands of brilliantly colored fish. Non-divers can kick back on a sun-drenched beach, kayak, swim, shop in colorful marketplaces, dine in an open-air café, or hiking mayan ruins.  All this starting around $300.  A 4 day western caribbean cruise including a full day of diving is cheaper than a long weekend in Destin!

Carnival Cruise Lines should continue the weekly cruises from Mobile until october this year, so book you trip soon to save the drive to New Orleans.    The 3-4 day cruises have become very popular with busy famalies.  It is easier to fit a couple of 3 day cruises into the kids soccer schedule, than to block off an entire week for summer vacation.  Call us at (251) 342-2970 for advice on what to see and do on the Mayan Riviera this spring.

Jan

28


My trip to Papua New Guinea started with a week long stay at the land based resort Tufi.  This is a very remote destination with no real civilization nearby other than some small primitive local villages, but the diving is spectacular.  We saw lots of unusual creatures and plenty of healthy reefs and fish.  On one of our dive excursions we were accompanied to our dive site by a pod of dolphins, which made the day special.  Tufi Resort provides an opportunity for some cultural tourism as well as great diving.  During my trip I opted to spend a night and day in one of the local villages.  This was definitely a different experience from our quality of life in the US.  There was no electricity or running water in the guest house, which was really more of a thatch roofed hut.  I did have a foam pad on the bed which was considered a luxury.  Our host was nice, the food was good, in particular, the local pineapple was truly amazing.  We spent the next day hanging around the village and handing out toys and trinkets we had brought along to the local children, by days end I felt like the pied piper.After a week at Tufi Resort we caught a plane to Port Moresby and on to our boat the Golden Dawn.  We traveled overnight to a little known area called the Eastern Fields.  Capt. Craig is the only dive operator running trips to this remote destination, which is comprised of a large area of coral reefs between P.N.G. and Australia.  The remoteness and weather only allows for a few trips a year, so the reefs are largely untouched and pristine.  We began the week at a dive site called Manchuria, known for manta rays. 
Throughout the week we had wonderful experiences with beautiful sharks.  It was nice to see an area where they havent been fished into oblivion.  We saw them on almost every dive and I was even able to get close enough on one dive to have a 9 ft silvertip brush my camera rig while I was taking pictures of her.  She was very photo friendly to say the least.Another highlight of the trip was a site called Carl’s Ultimate, which was a thriving bommie with thousands of schooling fish and a few giant groupers known locally as potato cod. These guys were very friendly, even coming up and brushing up against divers as if to say, “Take my picture”.
All in all this was a very good vacation and I enjoyed many”once in a lifetime” experiences.  I highly reccomend this kind of dive travel if you have the chance.  If you are considering a dive trip to southeast Asia and the south Pacific, please stop by Gulf Coast Divers and talk with me about some of the trips I have made.  Perhaps I can help you to make a decision on where to go based on my experiences abroad.