Thursday, November 21, 2013

You know you're a local NYC diver when...

You know you're a local NYC diver when...

  • You walk into the dive shop and recognize the names on every tank tag
  • The dive shop employees all know your name
  • You've wondered how many other people have pony bottles under their desks and regs in their filing cabinents
  • You've had to explain to someone that yes, people dive around here and yes, there is plenty of stuff to see
  • You've carried scuba tanks on a city bus/train or had to leave your tanks on the sidewalk so you could hail a cab
  • Your choice of apartment is dependent upon availability of storage space for your gear
  • You've lost a very expensive piece of equipment somewhere in the ocean
I'm going to leave this as a work in progress... let me know some of your ideas!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lessons from Dutch, 11/9/13

The most intimidating part of starting, or restarting, a blog is the fear that you will run out of ideas for it, or run out of the will to write in it. I miss the days of LiveJournal where I wrote as much as I wanted to do, daily, about any old thing, with no pressure. Well why can't this blog be the same? Within reason, of course. I'm going to try to keep to the topic of diving, animals, and the environment.

I went diving at Dutch Springs on Saturday, for the usual practice, but also to try out my dry suit, which was freshly back from DUI after a full retrofit of silicone zip seals and cargo pockets. The suit came with the neck seal cut a little and the wrist seals completely uncut. I had to trim the neck seal down to the lowest point it was cut, and was worried when my finger slipped into the seal easily. But my dive buddies told me that silicone doesn't feel as tight, so I hoped for the best. And it didn't leak at all. The problem, I discovered, is getting the neck seal off my head. The smallest part of the seal is big enough for my neck, but not as big as the middle (face) part of my head. Silicone stretches, but not very easily. The first time I tried it on, after a small panic attack, I needed my boyfriend's help to get it off. At Dutch, I also needed help -- including a mortifying instance of me insisting on doing it myself, only to get it stuck in the middle of my face and have a full on sobbing panic attack in front of several people (including the lifeguard) who then came to my rescue. After that experience, I wanted to destroy that seal with my bare hands. However, as these things cost upwards of $100, I feel like I should practice a bit more before giving up and going back to the latex seal. I'm wondering if pulling the sides and then turning my head 90 degrees and lifting will work. But I will wait to do this until I'm with someone I trust, because my expectation is that I will have a claustrophobic panic attack again. I don't plan to be diving in it again until New Year's Eve.

The other thing I learned: I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to underwater navigation. It sounds so simple. Take a compass heading, follow it, making sure it stays between the lines, and get to where you need to be. But it's not. Compasses are shifty, unstable things. Probably didn't help that I was also wearing my compass on my left wrist, instead of my right, where I usually do. But I failed to navigate us from the Silver Comet wreck to the school bus. It's hard to keep your eyes on your compass, monitor your depth, and keep looking ahead for your destination to appear out of the murk. Next time I do it, I will make sure my buddy is swimming alongside me and not behind me, so they can worry about our depth and looking for the wreck. Apparently one of my buddies did see the school bus, but I was too far ahead for her to alert me.

The next thing I learned is that throwing a surface marker buoy in midwater is not easy. Especially when you're already feeling lost and disoriented and you know you've got less than half a tank of gas. Upon giving up on finding the school bus, I decided to end the dive. I signalled to my buddy and started to take out my SMB and spool. I felt too stressed floating in midwater trying to hook the spool up to the SMB, so I sunk down a few feet to rest on the sandy, sloping bottom, where at once I started to kick up a cloud of vis-limiting sand. My spool, which I had in my new cargo pocket, started to unravel immediately. Line wants nothing more than to become a tangled mess as soon as it touches water. I had already unfurled the SMB and now, with 6 feet of flapping orange plastic in one hand and a tangled mess of line in the other, I thought, f* this, I'm not doing it. I might have been wise to drop both items in order to feel like less of a mess, especially in a place like Dutch where there's actually a chance of retrieving them, but I thought I could handle it. I'm still not super comfortable with my buoyancy in my dry suit though, and am often afraid of a runaway ascent. My buddy and I went up to 15 ft, and then I realized I was continuing to go up. I hit 9 feet and started to panic. I made it back down, grabbing my buddy's hand, managed to complete the 3-minute deco stop, and then ascended.

My buddy claims I was in better control than I realized and was just panicking, but I think I may have still been a little underweighted. But I also need to find a better way of storing my spool. Or ditch the spool for a wreck reel and just use that. I should really have a reel anyway, so I can practice navigating wrecks with it.


It was brought to my attention this weekend that despite its very short (active) life, my blog has had a positive impact on the world. I had forgotten completely that Liz, a friend who volunteers at the NY Aquarium, first found me through a simple Internet search that led her to my little blog. I later met her at a NYC Sea Gypsies meeting, and thought that was where she came from, and forgot all about the blog thing till this weekend when Liz and I spent the day diving at Dutch Springs together. I gotta say, after 2+ years of my own dedicated volunteer service, the single greatest thing I ever did for the aquarium was helping Liz get there. She is amazingly dedicated and was especially so in the months after Hurricane Sandy totaled the place. She's been a dive team leader/mentor and now educator. She plans to become an open-water instructor and I think she'll be absolutely awesome at it.

So I think it makes sense that I don't abandon this blog. There's always the feeling of, no one's reading this, and I have to be careful of what I say lest I upset someone (which also happened after one of my posts) but I think the benefit of leading people to discover more about diving and volunteering is worth the occasional wrath of cranky boat captains. Still not sure if I'm going to really promote it, or even cross-post on Facebook or LJ -- first let's see if I can actually keep something up.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Beneath the Sea!

Just got back from a fabulously successful Beneath the Sea weekend in lovely Secaucus, NJ. This year both the NYC Sea Gypsies and the NY Aquarium Dive Team had booths. I split my time between manning the booths and wandering around the exhibit floor. Picked up several needed items and a few unneeded items too!

My two biggest purchases were some soft fleece drysuit underwear (which I hope will be warm enough -- will be good as a layer anyway!) and a surface marker buoy, specifically this one from Diver's Alert Network. I still need to get a spool for it. So excited for local dive season to start! I'm doing a "tryout" doubles class (that means diving with double tanks) in a couple of weeks at Scuba Connection in NJ. Then Dutch Springs opens a week later. Oh, and I almost forgot -- I'm signed up for the all-women Aquawoman dive this summer!

The weekend's most exciting development for me, however, was that on Sunday morning the head of the NY Aquarium Dive Team asked me if I'd like to become a Dive Team Leader. That means I would be one of a few divers on my day who oversees the team for the day and generally takes charge. It's a promotion I figured I would be given eventually, but I really wasn't expecting it now! The best part is, it seems the event that precipitated my being asked is one where I showed chutzpah and gave the Dive Team head a piece of my mind. He could have been furious, but he loved it, and promoted me!

There will more exciting things to report about my diving adventures in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring means dive season starts soon!

Just a brief post to convey my excitement for Beneath the Sea this weekend and the upcoming dive season. So excited to get back in the water, be back on a boat, be among divers! This year I've got a drysuit and am psyched to start the dive season earlier. I'll have lots to post about soon!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Diving the wreck of the Oregon

First of all, my apologies at neglecting this blog. I have missed many opportunities to write about my diving, including my trips to North Carolina and Grand Bahama and my drysuit certification at DUI Dog Days. I've been diving lots and loving it -- though I've also been rescheduling a lot of shifts at the aquarium and will probably incur the displeasure of the volunteer coordinators as a result! It's just so hard when the local dive season is so short (for us wetsuit divers, anyway).

Today I'll talk about my dives on the wreck of the Oregon, a passenger ship that sunk in 1886 about 22 miles southeast of Fire Island. You can read all about it here. For such an old wreck, there are still several cool things to see on it. My reason for wanting to go was because I wanted to see the steering quadrant, a huge cool wheel that I had seen in pictures from when some of my dive buddies went last year. Even though I am still pretty new to northeast diving, and shouldn't really be attempting anything too ambitious, I was hoping to get to the steering quadrant by following someone else's line. Unfortunately that wasn't meant to be since when we got there, another boat had tied on to the usual mooring, and we had to tie on in a place that was too far from the steering quadrant. I dove with 28% nitrox hoping that would increase my bottom time by a bit, but diving wet it was really the cold for me that was a limiting factor. My computer registered 48 degrees F. Somehow though, I used all the bottom time allotted to me on both dives (15 minutes, I think). I could have rented a drysuit but I really didn't expect it to be that cold! And yeah I didn't like the last experience I had with a rental drysuit. But ohmygosh, 48 degrees HURTS. I was swimming around paddling my feet just to keep them from going numb, and my hands were painful and tingling as we reached the end of our bottom time. On the second dive the cold was already unbearable at 50 feet, and that was only halfway down!

Photos by Mike Rothschild.

I must add a special thank you here to Rich, one of the newest Sea Gypsies, for lending me a spare mask when I realized I forgot mine. (It's not in my house either...really hope I just left it at the aquarium.)

Still, it was a nice dive, and a good experience for me. I set a new personal depth record -- 116 feet, and I could have gone deeper. Saw lots of starfish, of all different sizes, and a fish that looked like it had antlers, which my buddy Dr Mike said was a hake. I was not really looking forward to getting in the water for a 2nd dive, but the 2nd turned out to be better than the first, because I swam around and made the best of it. There was one other diver in a wetsuit, but it was a 2-piece and probably warmer than my full suit. Everyone else dove dry. I'm torn on the drysuit issue. I know I would be much more comfortable diving locally in a drysuit, and that they last a long time. But the diving around here is so far kind of one-note to me. You see pretty much the same animals everywhere, and the wrecks often don't look like much but heaps of rubble. Still, I get a kick out of diving in my own "backyard." I could go on a dive trip to somewhere warm and beautiful for the price of a drysuit. I'm looking into getting one for a discount, on Ebay or from a local shop.

Starfish (sea stars)


The boat we went on was the Garloo, which I went on once before last year when I did the USS San Diego wreck. Again we arrived night before and slept on the boat, since it departs at 6 am. It has private cabins, which is nice, but it smells not so very nice. Someone had told me the smell was fixed, but it smelled exactly the same to me -- kind of like moldy wood, bad enough that I breathed through my mouth most of the time. I guess it used to be even worse. It was also extremely hot inside, but I slept better than I expected to. The power went out several times and toward the end the water crapped out too. There are a lot of things I take for granted on dive boats that this one didn't have -- like a hose or a cooler of drinking water. We also never got a boat orientation or a dive briefing from the crew. I guess most people didn't need it, but it was strange not to have that. The worst thing though was the exponentially increasing contingent of biting black flies we shared the boat with. They seemed to be attracted to our wet gear, and bug spray didn't help much.

Last year at an Oceanblue Divers party I won a silent auction prize for another trip to the San Diego on this boat. I want to do it, but I must admit I am not a huge fan of this boat! Next time I will bring perfume or something to combat the smell. Not sure what can be done about the flies though.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Word of mouth!

Had a lovely morning scrubbing structures in Glover's Reef today. Stayed down for 2 hours! The massive (about 3 ft long) hogfish startled me a couple times, suddenly showing up in front of me or next to me as if to say "Hi. Whatcha doin'?" Luckily they seem harmless.

It made me very happy today to learn that one of the people I spoke to at the last Sea Gypsies meeting has started the process of joining the dive team. The dive coordinator is very happy with me as a result and even gave me shout-out in an email to the entire dive team for my recruiting skills. :) So happy to know that all my babbling about the dive team is spreading the word and helping the aquarium!

Always working out the kinks in my gear set-up. I had considered bringing the BP/W for a test dive in a wetsuit, as I've only worn it with a drysuit, but in the end decided against it. The Zeagle BC works great for the aquarium and it's much lighter to carry. Still, I should make sure that BP/W works well for me before I take it to North Carolina. It still felt a little awkward when I practiced with it in the pool on Tuesday. Today I wore my 3 mm wetsuit with hooded vest like last time. Stayed down for 2 hours and wasn't cold! Next time I have to remember to bring my octo holder, and maybe something to keep my inflator hose in place. I also need to remember that I don't have to wear as much weight when I'm in a lighter wetsuit. When I left today, I left all my gear in the dive shack because I forgot about wanting to go to Dutch in 2 weeks for White's demo day. Ideally, I would have one set of gear at the aquarium and one at home (at least during local dive season), but I will still need to carry my regulator back and forth, as it's too expensive to get another at this point. I also don't have a spare mask or booties, but those are easier to get. Oy, so much stuff!