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.

Mar

5

Dive Problem Anticipation, Avoidance and Management training is one of the most important continuing education classes for developing self-reliance and good diving skills.  All divers can benefit from the skills learned in this class, especially divers diving from their own boat.  If you are diving without professional diver supervision (ie. from your own boat) then you are responsible for making all the decisions and need to recognize an accident or stress scenario before it happens and intervene with positive results.  Early recognition is what our divemasters and instructors are trained for and you should be too.

Some of the topics we cover in this essential class are:

  1. self-reliance and self rescue
  2. environmental awareness
  3. physical, mental and equipment preparation
  4. Pre-dive planning and complete buddy check
  5. dealing with pre-dive anxiety
  6. recognizing stress in yourself and others
  7. assisting a stressed or panicky diver
  8. accident prevention
  9. rescue scenarios and dive emergency
  10. oxygen administration
  11. dive physiology and recompression therapy
  12. “What to do if…” scenarios

As the name of the course states, problem anticipation, avoidance and management are vital skills to insure a safe, fun, stress free day on the water.  Many instructors teach a “Rescue” course, but nobody else teaches D.P.A.A. M.  This program covers rescue scenarios, but the most observant divers will address an issue before it ever escalates to a rescue situation.

For information on the next D.P.A.A.M. course call (251) 342-2970.

Feb

3

Give the gift of adventure with a Gulf Coast Divers Cash Card!

Load it with any amount and give it as a Gift Card or use it yourself as your scuba shopping card.  Our Adventure Gift cards were a popular stocking stuffer at Christmas, but y’all came up with another use that we didn’t anticipate.  Divers are buying Adventure Cards and reloading them each payday as a way to save towards a new piece of equipment.  “If I keep the cash, I’ll spend it and regret it.  If I put my extra dollars on my gift card, then it is like I am saving towards my scuba system,”  explained Mike.  Great idea, dude.

The Adventure cards can be used to purchase new gear, training, a dive trip, anything…it is like cash. We know how hard it is to buy for a diver, why not make it easy and let them choose what they want? Or encourage friends and family to come and contribute to your Adventure Card rather than buy you a pair of socks that you are going to return to Target anyway.

Christmas, birthdays, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Arbor Day, Just Because Day…any event is a good time to ask for dive gear.

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

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.

Dec

20

True to Atomic’s name, this mask is super-engineered and was all the talk at this year’s dive-industry trade show.

Atomic Aquatics is calling this mask the Venom, and it’s a blending of their SubFrame and Frameless masks. It has a reinforcing internal frame that’s molded directly beneath the surface of the silicone rubber skirt, like the Subframe, yet it offers the relatively low profile of the Frameless. Also, its faceplate is single window like the Frameless, but it has a high bridge and tear-drop shape similar to the SubFrame’s dual-window design.

The Venom comes across as a high-concept, stylish-looking piece of gear when it’s being held in your hand, and it’s really comfortable when mounted on your face. Its easy-to-use squeeze-to-adjust buckles are soft-mounted to the mask skirt, which allows a little bit of flexibility in strap positioning, plus they can be folded flat for packing.

Where the Venom differs from its SubFrame and Frameless cousins is in its faceplate construction. While the SubFrame and Frameless lenses use Ultraclear glass, which has quite a rep for optical quality in its own right,  the Venom mask uses an even higher-quality glass imported from Germany. Called Schott Superwite glass, it allows more light to penetrate than even Ultraclear glass.

In the water, we find a testament to a good mask is that you don’t notice it on your face. The Venom does a good job of getting there. Like its cousins, it offers a superior field of view, and the soft skirt and watertight seal combined to make the Venom feel like a part of our face. Looking at the sights through this bright distortion-free Superwite glass is like looking through no glass at all.

It’s called the Venom and the only antidote is salt water, and lots of it!  Come by Gulf Coast Divers and check it this awesome new mask, just in time for your Christmas stocking!

Dec

10

Even though the modern personal dive computers are very reliable and rarely malfunction, the possibility still exists.  Looking down at your computer in the middle of a dive and seeing a blank screen can be stressful sight.  Most computer issues are battery related or caused by flooding.  The flooding usually follows an improperly sealed battery compartment or a crack in the housing caused by trauma to the computer.  The problem is the crack was probably suffered in your gear bag during transport and you don’t even realize it until it is too late.

Because of the possibility of a dive, or entire dive day, being ruined because of a computer issue, most divers dive with 2 personal computers.  Oceanic’s new B.U.D. (Back-Up Dive) computer is the perfect addition to your dive kit.  It clips to your B/C and tracks all your dive info. and can be used as a primary computer, quick-glance status, back-up or spare.

The B.U.D. is small enough to clip to any d-ring on your B/C and you will hardly even know it is there, but has an easy to read display.  It has full computer functions, including nitrox compatibility.  Economically priced at $329.00.

Nov

25

At Gulf Coast Divers, we’re never content with the status quo… continually expanding and improving every product line. That’s why we suggest these “Essentials” line of accessories. Each is perfectly designed to work with your Atomic product to further enhance your diving enjoyment.
Comfort Swivel Hose
A significant innovation for Atomic Aquatics regulator owners, this unique device eliminates cumbersome binding that some divers experience from their second stage. Available in either mirror-polished stainless steel or lightweight Titanium, the Atomic Aquatics “comfort swivel” increases your comfort on every dive! We can install the lightweight Atomic Aquatics Comfort Swivel in less than 20 minutes. Once you dive with it, you’ll wonder why no one else ever thought of this highly comfortable and useful innovation.
Universal Comfort Swivel Hose
One of the most popular innovations for the Atomic Aquatics regulators is now available to fit other regulator brands. The Universal Comfort Swivel will fit virtually any second stage on the market today. If your regulator uses a standard 9/16″-18 low pressure hose fitting as most do, the Universal Comfort Swivel simply replaces your existing hose assembly. Constructed of chrome plated brass and stainless steel.

Dual-silicone Comfort-fit Mouthpiece
Atomic Aquatics’ engineers and award-winning designers are always listening to diver’s requests for product upgrades and enhancements. One such request was for a mouthpiece that would be both durable and comfortable. The result is the popular dual-silicone mouthpiece that was introduced with the M1 regulator. Made from two types of silicone material, this mouthpiece is incredibly durable, yet easily one of the most comfortable mouthpieces a diver will ever use.

Exhaust Deflector
Since the dawn of diving, divers have sought ways to keep exhaust bubbles away from their field of view. Different designs have offered different solutions. But Atomic Aquatics’s latest design, first introduced with the M1, offers a different and effective solution to bubble interference. This new design, one of several Atomic Aquatics innovations first introduced with the popular M1 model, is constructed from two-tone molded material specially-engineered to steer bubbles away from a diver’s face. Extended areas on both sides provide a wider area of dispersal – perfect for allowing a diver to truly enjoy their dives. This upgrade is a must for photographers. Fits all Atomic second stage models.
M1 Stainless Steel Cave Ring
An important accessory for cave divers, the Atomic Aquatics Cave Ring is designed to work with the M1 regulator. This important tool allows divers to disassemble their regulators underwater during a dive to clean out sand and sediment. Made from stainless steel, the Atomic Aquatics Cave Ring is another innovation that keeps Atomic Aquatics at the top when it comes to diving technology and performance.  This is a popular upgrade for many spearfisherman, too.  It eliminates that 2nd stage hissing caused by the fast flow of water over the inhalation diaphragm while racing your buddy to the bottom.

Deluxe Padded Regulator Bag
You’ve made a wise investment purchasing an Atomic Aquatics regulator. We want to help you protect your regulator so you can enjoy diving with it for years to come. The Regulator Bag is spacious and built for any model Atomic Aquatics regulator.  I have 2 of these bags.  I use one as a photo bag and the other for a regulator bag with enough extra space to accommodate most of my save-a-dive kit items.

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.

Feb

7

Lawren and I decided to make a mid-week dive at Morrrison Springs  last thursday. While the weather wasn’t exactly inviting, with rain and temps in the 40’s, we stuck to the plan and arrived at Morrison’s around midday.  We commenced to setting up our camera rigs and dry suits.  After getting all kitted up we started our dive, upon entering we found that the conditions were a bit green in the spring pool, but once we descended into the cavern things cleared up and visibility was great.  Lawren and I took turns snapping pics and posing for each other and generally had a good dive,  logging a max depth of 90 ft. and a dive time of 54 min.  This was my first dive at Morrison’s and I was suprised to see the depth of 90 ft.  After a few more photo ops we came out of the cavern and did our safety stop on “the log”.  The entire safety stop I was mentally preparing for a quick and chilly break down of dive and photo gear.  All in all it was a great day of diving and a suprisingly fun way to get in the water during a dreary and cold winter day.  In the past I’ve always turned down invitations to join others at the numerous springs on the gulf coast, always opting for a trip on my boat to shoot fish.  But, I’ll admit for this salty spearo, I enjoyed the spring diving experience alot.  So next time the seas keep us in the slip…I’ll load up and venture to the local springs for some freshwater fun.

 

Feb

6

If you don’t live in Florida you may not have heard the state of Florida is considering closing 53 state parks and aquatic preserves in order to save money. The list of proposed closures spans the state and, if the closures actually take place, could directly affect diving in Florida, particularly diving along the gulf coast. The proposed closures have been widely reported in Florida media. The following are links to some of the stories that have appeared.

Holmes County Times Advisor, Chipley, Florida

Examine.com

Audubon of Florida

Tallahassee.com

Some of the proposed park and aquatic preserve closures that would directly affected divers, snorkelers, swimmers, kayaking, boating and beach activities along the gulf coast are:

State Parks

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, Ponce de Leon
Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Crystal River
Madison Blue Spring State Park, Lee
Peacock Springs State Park, Luraville

Aquatic Preserves

Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve
Apalachicola Bay Aquatic Preserve
St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve
Fort Pickens Aquatic Preserve
(Fort Pickens)
Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve
St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve
(St. Andrews jetties)
Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve

Many of these locations have been diving destinations for decades. Closure of these and other parks and aquatic preserves will decimate diving and outdoor opportunities all along the Florida gulf coast. Not only will divers loose popular dive sites but the local economies surrounding these sites will pay a further price in an already difficult economy. You should also note there are numerous dive sites, Morrisson Springs for instance, that appear to meet the criteria for closure but do not appear on the list. Such sites may also be at risk for closure.

All divers, not just those in Florida, need to act quickly to express their dissatisfaction with the proposed closures. Let new Florida governor, Rick Scott, and the Florida legislature hear from you now before it is to late.

Gulf Coast Divers
1284 Hutson Drive
Mobile, AL 36609
(251) 342.2970

Jan

26

Divers on the gulf coast seem to be conditioned for summer time diving. Warm salt water, it seems, is the only way to go. Cooler temperatures and the prevailing winter weather patterns that make the Gulf of Mexico a less than friendly place for diving means dive gear get pushed to the back of the closet in favor of other diversions like football, hunting, and the holiday season. The problem with that is sometimes the dive gear never makes it back out of the closet at the return of warm weather and, if it does, it takes awhile to brush the dust of the diving skills you honed the season before.

Just because the gulf is unavailable doesn’t mean you have to forget about diving and, in this part of the country, it doesn’t mean your only diving alternatives are expensive international trips or swimming pools. There are quite a few dive destinations on the gulf coast that are open year round and not subject to weather that makes the gulf a no go.

Vortex Springs in Ponce De Leon, Florida is the perfect winter dive destination and is one of my favorites.

Vortex Springs between dives

Vortex Springs

Vortex Springs is open for diving 364 days a year and is only about 2 hours and 15 minutes from the front door of Gulf Coast Divers shop. You can make a day trip, stay in a local motel or stay right at Vortex Springs. Vortex offers several large lodges, cabins, cottages and a campground if you want to stay on site.

The entry fee is $19.00 for each diver and $10.00 for non divers. You can also rent canoes or kayaks and there is even a motocross and ATV track, $20.00 per day, when you are ready for a break from diving.

Crystal clear waters of the springs provide excellent diving.  If you have the appropriate certifications you can gain access to the cave system at Vortex Springs. Without the proper cave diving certification you are limited to the artificial caves and other things in the spring as well as Blue Creek which leads out of the spring. The spring is also full of a variety of fresh water marine life. Carp, crappie, bass, eels, turtles and crawfish call the spring home and are quite used to divers. Bring a little offering for the fish and you can have a great time and get some great photos.

Keep in mind the springs are no secret. It seems divers from all over the country find their way there. Things can get a little crowded on some days. It pays to get there early or you can stay late to get the best visibility. Bad buoyancy control can cloud the water quickly but, since there is a constant outflow of clear fresh water from the spring, the visibility improves quickly when divers exercise good buoyancy control. Weekday dives provide the greatest possibility of encountering crystal clear water and unlimited visibility for all of your dives.

Make sure you dress appropriately for your dives. The water at Vortex Springs is a constant 68 degrees. In the summer it can feel a little cool. In the winter it can feel downright warm. You will see some guys in dry suits but for most, a good fitting full wetsuit (3 or 5 mil as you desire) and hood is enough. I’ve even seen divers making repeated dives in nothing more than a bathing suit. To each his own I guess.

If you get the chance visit Vortex Springs for an excellent day of diving.

Contact Info:

Vortex Springs
1517 Vortex Spring Ln.
Ponce De Leon,
Florida 32455

Phone: (800) 342 – 0640
Phone: (850) 836 – 4979

Gulf Coast Divers: (251) 342-2970