Sub Arctic Scuba's Tips & Bits
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This page is a place to locate the various little tips and ideas that help make our sport of scuba diving more exciting. If you have a tip that should be here, drop me an e-mail with your tip so it can be included here.
I've separated the tips into categories to make it easier, hopefully, to find.Click on the category you are looking for, or just scroll down the page.
Your suggestions are welcome.
Wetsuit Tips   Drysuit Tips   Mask, Snorkle, Fin Tips   Equipment Tips   Swimmng Tips    Breathing & Headaches.    Bouyancy, etc.   Warm to Cold Diving Tips
Some general tips about wetsuits:Return to Top
- Storing your Suit - Neoprene wet suits (are there any other kind?)should always be hung to
dry and hung in between dives. Folding neoprene will crush the bubbles along the fold line, resulting in a fold line that remains visible and a loss of insulation along that fold-line. You'll probably have to fold it to transport it home, but the suit should be hung on a thick, preferably plastic, hanger as soon as possible. After rinsing and drying, the suit should be stored in a cool, dark, dry area, away from sunlight, etc.
- A Good Fitting Suit - The most common problems facing wet-suit divers is the fit of their suit. The secret to a good-fitting wet-suit is to have the suit snug enough to prevent water flow into and through the suit but not so tight as to cut off surface circulation, resulting in getting cold. For most people, the extra cost of a custom-made suit will pay off with the first couple of cold-water dives (note-this does not apply to warm-water suits, unless diving in cooler waters). Other considerations for a warmer suit are seals on the wrist openings, along where the zipper closes, an attached hood and a cold-water neck - where the neck opening can be pulled snug around the base of the hood and fastened, usually, with a velcro - type material.
- Making an older suit warmer - All neoprene looses its insulating properties with age and time. As you dive more, the tiny bubbles in the neoprene tend to get crushed, thereby loosing their insulating properties. This also, often, results in a softer neoprene, thus a more comfortable suit. Well, you should know that you can't have both - comfort and warmth - or can you? How about adding a 3 mm neoprene hooded vest under your wet-suit jacket - now you still have your older, comfortable wet suit along with the added warmth of another layer of neoprene (this time, though, titanium neoprene) with an attached hood to help prevent water flow down your neck and back. This also works well if the older suit seems a little too large now - the extra layer of neoprene will help fill up the space within the suit, making it much warmer.
Some general tips about Drysuits
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- Storing your Suit - Neoprene dry suits should always be hung to dry and hung in between dives. Folding neoprene will crush the bubbles that make up the neoprene, along the fold line, resulting in a fold line that remains visible and a loss of insulation along that fold-line. You may have to fold it to transport it, but the suit should be hung on a thick, preferably plastic, hanger as soon as possible. This, of course, does not apply to dry suits made out of vulcanized rubber or from other coated-type fabrics, such as those used in fabric or tri-laminate suits, but care should still be used with transporting the suit, such as care when folding the suit to minimize damage to the zipper(s), etc. After rinsing and drying, the suit should be stored in a cool, dark, dry area, away from sunlight, etc., always with the waterproof zipper(s) open. This not only allows the suit to air out, but it also alows the zipper material to relax between uses, keeping it sealing better when used. Just be sure to remember to close that convenience zipper before stepping into the water!
- Transporting a Neoprene Dry Suit - When transporting a neoprene dry suit, it is necesary to protect the very expensive zipper from getting any kinks or sharp bends in it, as this may cause stress on the material within the zipper, resulting in an early zipper failure (and an expensive repair bill). Since we, most often, cannot transport the suit laying it flat and open, we must try to fold it up in such a manner as not to cause undue stress on the zipper. The best method I have found begins with laying the suit down on a flat surface, front side up. I then fold the legs up, over the top of the suit, then back down, again, in an accordian fashion, so the fold lines coincide with the top of the suit and so the boots are near the bottom fold. I then take the arms and carefully fold them towards the front, over the legs of the suit, so the open zipper does not fold but forms a curve where it comes around the front of the suit. The suit can, then, be slipped into its own carry bag for transport to and from the dive site. Be sure to unfold and hang the suit as soon as possible, allowing any potential fold marks to come right out. Even rubberized material type of dry suits (vulcanized, tri-lam, etc.) should also be hung to store, allowing them to air out and to prevent any possibilty of moulds, etc. starting within the folds of the stored suit. Always store all dry suits with the zipper(s) open, allowing the materials to relax in between uses.
- A Good Fitting Suit - A neoprene dry suit should not fit as snugly as a wet suit. Because the seals at the wrists and neck keep the water out of the suit, a looser fit will be much more comfortable, allowing extra room for warm under-garments and for future personal growth. For most people, the slight extra cost of a custom-made suit will pay off with the first couple of dives. If the legs, for example, are too long, the boots and fins may tend to slip off your foot underwater, causing problems and discomfort while your buddy (who's always with you, right?) tries to work your foot back into the squished foot pocket. While the fit of the suit should be looser than a wet suit, comfort still requires a proper fit.
Some Tips on Masks, Snorkels & Fins
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- New Masks - New masks have a film left on the inside of the lens from the manufacturing process. If left on, the mask will fog up very quickly after being submerged - even in warm water, such as a pool. To prevent this instant fogging of the mask lens, you need to remove this film before using the mask. One simple and effective method is to rub the inside of the mask lens with your finger, using common toothpaste as the scrubbing agent. Toothpaste is abrasive enough to remove this film but will not harm the glass lens. Then you need to use a wetting agent on the inside of the lens prior to your dive. The best agent is the commercially produced anti-fog compounds, such as McNett's Sea Drops. Other products that will work include baby shampoo (so it won't sting your eyes) or common spittle. Just rub the wetting agent around to coat the inside of the lens, then rinse the inside of the mask very slightly. The better products may last for several dives, spit may last only one dive.
- Leaking Mask - If you find your mask leaks during your dive, there are a few things to try. Firstly, have your dive buddy check to make sure you didn't catch any hair or the edge of your hood under the mask skirt. Another trick is check that the mask strap is not too tight - a mask strap that is too tight will, often, cause a mask to leak more, rather than less. The strap should be just tight enough to prevent the mask from falling off. Also, sometimes, if the mask strap is not placed correctly on the back of the head, the mask may be pulling up on the face and, if your nose is being forced into the bottom of the mask skirt, it could be causing the mask skirt to lift away from the upper lip, allowing water to enter. This will also tend to force what water does enter the mask to run up your nose, causing a lot of discomfort by a little water. One last thing, if all the above appear fine is to try to keep a little positive pressure in the mask and to keep your mind off the water in your mask by keeping busy looking at the wonderful underwater world.
- Clearing your mask - Many divers have problems with this, seemingly simple, task and most don't like the skill. I know I did. The first thing to do is to practice diving with some water in your mask, ignoring it by concentrating on other aspects of your dive until it begins to obscure your vision. This will help you deal with a leaking mask so it becomes a minor inconvenience, not an underwater problem. The best method I have found to clear my mask is, when diving, to roll over onto my back, facing the surface. I then hold the top of my mask in against my face and slightly ease the pressure along the bottom of my mask (do not lift the mask away - just ease the pressure on your face), then breathe out, allowing the air to push the water out from the edges of my mask. Most of the problems I have seen people have when attempting to clear their masks include not looking up enough, holding the mask too tight up against their nose so the air bubbles out rather than into the mask or lifting the bottom of the mask away from their face so water rushes in as fast as they can blow it out. Like any skill, mask clearing should be practiced on every dive and looked at as an opportunity to help you feel more at ease under the water and better able to handle any problems that might arise.
Some Tips on Regulators, B.C.D.'s, etc.
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- Bouyancy Compensators (B.C.D.'s):
- Fit - B.C.D.'s should fit you, just as any other piece of your personal dive gear. Most B.C.'s have a fair range of adjustability to allow for different divers and for diving under different conditions - such as warm water to cold water. Take into consideration, when you are shopping for a B.C.D., that it should fit you when you are dressed for warm-water diving and it should, also, be able to adjust to fit over heavier cold-water suits - either wet suits or a dry suit with under-garments.
- Correct Fit - The B.C.D. should fit around your body so the unit is held in place - not tightly but snug enought that it will not ride up under your neck. The cummerbund should still have some adjustment room left, both ways. If it is adjustable, then it should be adjusted as such. The shoulder straps should be tightened up, while your buddy is holding your cylinder up, to snug up the shoulder straps. There should, also, be some room left to adjust these straps - they should not be pulled as tight as possible and they should never be adjusted with the weight of your cylinder hanging from your shoulders - have your buddy lift the weight of the cylinder off your shoulders, else the buckles may well break from the addded strain. The chest strap, if present, should be adjusted so you can, easily, fit your clenched fist, on edge, between the strap and your chest. This strap is only intended to help stop the jacket splaying outwards as you move through the water, not to hold the B.C.D. tight onto you. Otherwise, as you add air to the B.C.D., particularly on the surface, it will restrict your ability to take in full breaths of air.
- Basics: - What should you look for in a regulator? It really depends on what type of diving you plan on doing - but don't forget, the regulator you buy today should still be serving your needs 15 years from now! I suggest buying a good quality regulator with some of the features that you might want in the future and make sure that you will be able to get it serviced where ever you are - in other words, stick to a known brand name. I also recommend buying a regulator that will work well in our cold waters - the same regulator will also work well in warmer waters. All regulators should be equipped with an octopus and a 3-gauge console - which should include, at the minimum, a compass.
- Options: -Do I need a computer? How about an adjustable second stage? Maybe an alternate inflator-regulator? These are all options that only you can decide.
Should you get a dive computer? If you are only planning the odd, single dive, a dive computer is, probably, a luxury, but if you plan on doing multiple dives each day, either at home or on vacation, a dive computer is well worth the investment. Because it tracks evey dive every minute and can calculate your actual nitrogen levels based on your exact dive profile, you will be a safer diver and will get much more underwater time with a dive computer. Many live-aboard dive boats and many resorts urge their customers to use a dive computer because it will, for one thing, mean the diver will get much more diving for their money.
What is the advantage to adjustable 2nd stages? How about these adjustable vanes? Both of these vary with individual tastes and preferences. One theory is that if a regulator is set up correctly, an adjustable 2nd stage is unnecesary. The arguement to that is that you should be able to adjust your breathing effort at various depths. The vanes (venturi assist, etc.) on some regulators helps to reduce breathng effort after the breath has started. These arguements all have merit.
What about an alternate inflator-regulator? These come in several different configurations, but all have one thing in common. They combine the functions of your B.C.D. inflator with that of a spare regulator or octopus. The main advantages of this configuration is that you eliminate one hose coming off your first stage, you always know exactly where your spare regulator is because you should be be handling your inflator on a somewhat regular basis and one out-of-air theory says that by the time an out-of-air diver gets to you, they are going to want an air source they can see and find immediately - your main regulator, in other words. Your actions, then, should be to let them take your main regulator while you switch to your alternate regulator that is with your inflator. Should you choose this configuration, ensure your buddy(ies) is/are aware of which regulator they should take in an emergency. This configuration is becoming much more common than in the past.
- Maintenance: - Your regulator should, with a little care, last you for many years. As a piece of life-support equipment, your regulator should be looked after and kept in good shape to ensure it is always working as it was designed to. You should always, then, ensure your regulator is rinsed after every dive, hung up to dry, kept free of sand and silt, dry the dust cap and make sure it is in position whenever the regulator is not on a cylinder, visually checked prior to every dive, operationally checked prior to every dive and serviced regularly. Do not attempt to open your regulators yourself, as there are no user-serviceable parts inside and special tools and gauges are required to set up the regulators so they will operate as designed. Don't forget - this is life-support equipment and your life may be on-the-line if something goes wrong. Regulators still require regular servicing, even if they have not been used (much) as o-rings still dry out and seats still get imprinted with time.
Some Tips on Swimming, Use of Fins, etc.
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- What can be difficult about kicking your feet? While finning looks very easy, it is another skill and, like many other skills, requires some technique and practice to master the skill. The main problem I often see with using fins is trying to keep the legs straight. It is very important to keep your legs straight with very little bending of the knee. The swimmer must concentrate on swinging his legs from the hip - the lower and upper part of the leg must be moving in the same direction at the same time. That means concentrating on keeping your knee stiff and keeping your whole leg swinging, slowly, as a unit. As soon as your knee begins bending during the kick cycle, your foot will begin moving in a back-and-forth motion - or bicycling, as we call it. As hard as you work at this motion, there is very little forward movement and it becomes very tiring. One other point - Do not use your hands! Divers must concentrate on keeping their hands out of the way - either hold you hands in front of you or fold them behind your back. Moving your hands will only slow you down and will tend to move you upwards. Your legs have all the power - use them to your advantage.
Some General Tips on Breathing
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- Breathing and Headaches - How to Prevent Dive-Related Headaches
- Symptom: Dull, throbbing headache after diving that does not respond to analgesics or migraine medications.
- Cause: Carbon dioxide may buildup in the body, usually due to improper breathing, which triggers increased blood flow to the brain.
- How to Prevent It: Take deeper breaths. Check the fit of your gear. A too-tight wetsuit or jacket-style BC could prevent your lungs from fully expanding.Take more breaths. An abnormal time between breaths allows carbon dioxide buildup in the lungs and blood. Don't skip-breathe.
Some General Tips on Bouyancy
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- General Bouyancy Contol
- Bouyancy control in colder waters, when wearing full, thick wet suits or dry suits, is much more demanding than when diving in the tropics, wearing just a T-shirt or a thin shorty wet suit with no hood, mitts, etc. When wearing thicker neoprene suits, there is much greater compression of the suit material when descending in the water than when wearing very thin suits. As you found out, we must wear much more weight on our belts when diving in colder waters to compensate for the thick wet suits - as we descend, the air bubbles within the neoprene compress, causing us to become heavier in the water. This will become very apparent even at a shallow depth - even less than 10 feet. As the neoprene compresses, we become heavier and must, therefore, keep adding air to our B.C.D.'s to maintain neutral bouyancy. Since, as we descend, we keep adding air to our B.C.D.'s, it then follows that, as we ascend, we are going to have to let this air out before it takes over control and we begin an uncontrolled ascent. It is important to maintain vigilance over your bouyancy and be pro-active by letting excess air out of your B.C.D. when ascending before you loose control. This becomes much more important when diving in a dry suit because you, now, have two air chambers to control - your suit and your B.C.D. As with any skill, practice will make your bouyancy control automatic - you will do it without even thinking about it - usually.
- Fine tuning your bouyancy:
- How do you maintain bouyancy control - I seldom see you touch your inflator? The answer to this question is very simple - use your lungs! The average person's lungs can affect their bouyancy by 4 - 6 pounds. This is a lot of change - especially when you are neutrally bouyant to begin with! When I dive, I adjust the air in my B.C.D. to achieve basic neutral bouyancy, then I adjust the mid-point of my breathing to fine-tune my bouyancy. If I find I become a bit heavy, I'll begin breathing a little deeper to compensate. When this becomes noticeable to me, I'll reach over and add a touch more air to my B.C.D. or to my dry suit, as required, to take me back to neutral bouyancy. This way, if I want to look closely at something on the bottom, I simply lift my feet up and let excess air out of my lungs until I descend a little, then I breathe in deeper to rise back away from the bottom again, never using my hands to propel me. Perecting this technique will give you much more confidence in your ability to control yourself in this water world.
- Bouyancy Control with a Dry Suit:
- This is a topic that is almost as bad as politics to generate various points-of-view and opinions. One thought is you should'nt use your B.C.D. at all when diving and only use your dry suit to maintain your bouyancy control, thereby only having one source of bouyancy to control. This sounds, on the surface, perfectly logical and should present the least problems when diving dry. The trouble with this practice is you have to keep rolling over to exhaust air from your dry suit when ascending, even a little. This is much more inconvenient than just lifting your inflator hose a little and letting a little air out. Also, on many dry suits, excess air will tend to leak out from around the neck and wrist seals, especially when the suits contain more than a minimum amount of air. This means you will always be adding air just to maintain neutral bouyancy - a definite inconvenience, at the least. Also, should you begin to ascend even a little out-of-control, most dry suits are quite slow in exhausting excess air and you will have to assume an upright position to get most of the excess air out of the suit. It is much easier to let excess air out of your B.C.D. by using the pull dump, if required, to regain bouyancy control.
My preference on diving with a dry suit and B.C.D. is to continue, as we have learnt, to use my B.C.D. for bouyancy control and just add enough air to my dry suit to eliminate suit squeeze and keep the fit comfortable. This also eliminates the odd feeling of having a large air bubble moving around me as I change positions and will help prevent the inconvenience of having my dry suit boots blow off my feet (very inconvenient and, maybe, dangerous) whenever I become inverted. This way, as I ascend, I just let air out of my B.C.D., as normal, to maintain bouyancy control. Every so often, I just roll over and exhaust any excess air out of my suit, as necesary, to stop the suit from expanding too much. I may have to add a touch more air to my B.C.D. whenever I do this, but this method gives me better control of my changing bouyancy when I am diving in a cold-water environment using my dry suit. Better control = more comfortable dive = more fun!!
Some insights about going from warm water diving to cold water:
- What is the difference between warm- and cold-water diving?
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- Gnerally, it is all about the equipment - and that can be very serious. Many divers complete their course in warm-water locales and many of these people only dive in warm, clear waters. The minimal equipment requirements lead to easy, relaxed diving and the clearer waters typical of tropical destinations mean it is easier to stay with a group or buddy ('same ocean' buddy system). Equipment requirements often mean a very thin wet suit (or just a bathing suit), a light-wieght B.C.D., up to about 10 pounds of weight, no hood or gloves. This means the diver's comfort envelope is formed by these equipment requirements and by the enviromental conditions the diver becomes accustomed to. Also many divers just use rental equipment when travelling to vacation destinations rather than buying and hauling their own B.C.D., regulators and fins along with them. Rental equipment can be, at some locations, in less-than-ideal condition.
- Cold water diving has very different equipment requirements as well as additional training considerations. First off, thermal protection is, likely, the most obvious difference - a much thicker wet suit or a dry suit is required and a hood & gloves or mitts become part of the diving package. The thicker wet suit (usually a 'farmer john/jane' with overlapping jacket) means somewhat restricted movements and then adding the hood further restricts head and neck movement and narrows the field of vision. Adding thick gloves or mitts further challenges the diver's dexterity.
"How do you dive with all that restricitve gear on?? It must make diving really hard!"