Friday, February 10, 2017

This ain't Fundies 2!! Yeah, but it is though

Day 2 was all about building confidence diving doubles and a drysuit while task loaded. I've dilly-dallied for over a year and a half after finishing Fundamentals 1 so there was a fair bit of new stuff for me - S drill, DSMB, deployment, no mask swim, etc. I had seen videos of all of this but it was really good to go over it step by step with an instructor and practice all of those in the water a couple of times. A bunch of skills run-throughs and ascents later, I was feeling a lot better about my ability to dive this setup.

Not a whole lot to say about the dive. Viz had dropped to a murky 15ft or so. We stayed inside the cove and didn't see much life until our swim back in the end when we happened upon a huge ling cod.
-> 2hr 9min, 48ft, 55F

We covered a lot of lecture material that's in Fundies that evening as well as a lot of details and dive profiles specific to our area that are now viable for me with doubles. Granite Point Wall, Sea Mount and the 3 Sisters are all within reach now. I still need to find Hole in the Wall but having this much gas now should give me plenty of time in the area.

New lessons learned (for me) from the dives and the ensuing video reviews -
  • Back kick - If your hips move significantly and it looks like you're humping an imaginary something, you're not going to move backwards.
  • Helicopter kick - Jerking your torso violently to the side and muscling the tanks into position kinda gets you moving in the right direction but is not recommended more than a couple of times a day. Also, if you rely on the frog kick half of the helicopter turn instead of the back kick half, you end up moving in a small circle instead of turning in place.
  • DSMB deployment - I am now extremely familiar with task fixation. Also, I have giant lungs or something. Even with a half breath from the reg to inflate the DSMB, I got it all the way full and was still going until I noticed Beto signaling me to stop and let it practically rocket out of my hand.
  • Valve drill - Staying within the vicinity of where you started the drill is preferable. Definitely do not end up 30ft away.
  • No mask swim - If you have your eyes open during this drill and look comfortable doing it, Beto will attempt to run you into a rock.
  • Stretch those legs out - Dual HP100s want to put you head down and having your heels touch your butt doesn't help.

After the debrief, Beto told me I had a good grasp of the steps for all the skills required in Fundies and should practice them for a couple of months so I can aim for a tech pass when I come back to finish the class.
The photos below are far more flattering than how I actually looked and felt in the water. Beto cherrypicks screen captures of moments when you look good and sends them to you post-class to make you feel better about yourself.

It was a great couple of days overall. Days with GUE instructors are long, jam packed and super busy but I got so much figured out with the doubles and drysuit with Beto that I don't think would have been possible on my own. Next stop - Fundamentals 2!

 - U

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Horny harbor seals

Day 1 of the doubles clinic with Beto!! An early drive down to Monterey started off with prayers for not-a-crap-ton of rain (the forecast called for constant rain for a couple of days) and not-a-frick-ton of traffic (the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was happening at the same time). Both were answered.

We started off with equipment setup and going over the working of the manifold, regulator setup, what's on which post and why, weighting options, etc. I had done a fair bit of reading on this and so it went pretty quickly. All this was done on Beto's already setup rig, following which we set mine up from the ground up. Turns out not having the bottom 5th port on the DST meant that I needed slightly different hose lengths than what I had on my singles setup. Some pawing through the random parts bin, and harness adjusting, later I was good to go. The main things we were going to work on today were just getting used to having two tanks on my back and the dreaded valve drill. I was a little nervous about this because of everything I'd read about it and specifically gotten the DGX long neck manifold to make things easier. The land drills went fine but the real test would be once I had the drysuit on.

After some lolly-gagging to play with the cat (and waiting for the rain to subside a bit), we headed to the Breakwater. The plan was to do one dive to feel things out a bit and try a valve drill, come back out to adjust the harness as needed and dive again to work on the skills some more and figure out weighting and any trim adjustments with close to empty tanks. I have to say that after the first few minutes, it didn't feel that much different than what I was used to in singles (apart from the "oh crap" moment when I realized I needed to add a LOT more gas to the wing during the descent to avoid cratering in the sand). Basic 5 and the kicks went totally fine. And then came the signal for the valve drill. If there's one thing I can honestly say I impressed Beto with it's the range of motion in my shoulders. Even with my elbow sticking out perpendicular to my body and my head not quite looking up, I was easily able to do the valve drill. Not that I'm satisfied with doing it this way, it's just a huge mental sigh of relief knowing now that I can do it without killing myself in my drysuit and thick Thinsulate undies.

I also found out exactly how sneaky GUE instructors are. I've read reports from tech and cave classes where they sidle up next to/above/below you unnoticed to steal stuff and initiate all kinds of failures. In my case, it was unexpected drysuit inflation - not a little puff either, he had my inflator activated for a few seconds while I was attempting a back kick before I realized what was happening. Doesn't sound like a lot but at 20ft it required some concerted action on my part to not pop up to the surface. I had specifically spoken to him earlier about working on drysuit skills so I guess I was asking for it.

The other thing I need to mention was just how insanely amazing of a dive it was. We had at least 40-50ft viz in blue water and tons of jellies everywhere - salp chains, pyrosomes, hula skirt jellies, sea butterflies, egg yolk jellies and the ubiquitous sea nettles. Probably a lot more species that I just don't remember or can't ID. And, um, a couple of seals that decided our doubles were super attractive and started humping them. Beto showed me a way to drive them off - go head down, stretch your legs out and try to get 'em in a scissor hold. True story.
-> 1hr 48min, 20ft, 53F

Beto was very satisfied with the setup and my ability to manage it in the water so we decided day 2 would essentially be a sneak peek into Fundies 2.

- U

Monday, February 6, 2017


My aspirations are starting to exceed the limits I'm under diving single tanks, primarily wanting to do DPV shore diving to sites slightly farther away and kinda-sorta-maybe cave(rn) training. With this in mind, I went about converting my gear to dive double tanks.

I got the bands from Dive Gear Express as well as their long neck manifold - both were well reviewed and significantly cheaper than the offerings from the big name brands. In addition, the long neck manifold reputedly makes the dreaded valve reachability easier. 2 of my 4 HP100s got conscripted into doubles duty after AWS measured and matched them up.

The regulator conversion was pretty straight forward as well, I already had an extra Apeks DST 1st stage which matched the one on my singles rig. A couple of hoses got moved around and that was it. The 1st stages don't have the bottom 5th port, which is supposed to make hose routing a little better, but I think this is a very workable solution to start off.

I'm a big fan of Deep Sea Supply and wanted to stick with their products for the backplate and wing. I could have used my existing steel plate but HP100s are a little short and tend to make you want to faceplant - a steel plate would have potentially exacerbated the problem by adding weight forward. I dug around the used gear listings and found the kydex plate for less than half the retail price - it was a shop display and in insanely good condition. I had spoken to Tobin about the wing and he recommended the Torus 49 for the HP100s, not just for the amount of lift but the shape of the wing. It's top biased and helps counteract the faceplant behavior of the tanks and is especially useful for newer divers. I got super lucky again and got one of these from a local GUE diver, again, for less than half of retail.
This is what the full rig looks like without any weights on it. I've signed up for a doubles workshop with Beto later this week - can't wait!!!

 - U