Florida Keys Alligator Reef Was Spectacular!

Florida Keys Aligator ReefWe first set off on our voyage about 7 weeks ago in Kemah, TX and we made it to the Florida Keys 3 weeks ago.  We docked Miss Lone Star and delayed filling her up with fuel because she was empty and we wanted to experience some of the amenities of our new dockage.  We were fortunate and thankful to have our car and my trusty Harley when we arrived, which make shopping so much easier.  It was sad for us not to have to walk everywhere because it was fun but now we don’t have to worry about lugging groceries back to the boat by hand with whining kids in tow.

Miss Lone Star in the Florida KeysI start up her engines every few days and I definitely noticed that she had accumulated algae on her hull.  It was sad.  We are located in the bay-side of our Key and the water, although clear, is not blue.  We don’t feel much rocking on our boat because we are in a protected harbor.  It’s nice to have air conditioning and laundry close by but we felt like we were missing out.  I suggested that we take her out for a few days and Aubrey jumped at the idea, saying that she was going to suggest it earlier but didn’t want to complain.  We filled her up with water, cleaned her decks and made the dreaded trip to the fuel dock.  190 gallons later, we set off to the East towards all of the most wonderful reefs of the Florida Keys. Continue reading

Why I’m Taking My PADI IDC in the Florida Keys- Key Largo

It won’t be long and I will be starting my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) to teach scuba.  I chose Florida Keys Dive Center in Key Largo, Florida.  Tom Witmer is the Course Director who will lead the IDC and he has been a course director for about twenty years.   I’ve wanted to teach scuba since I first took my PADI Open Water certification class in Austin, TX.  It didn’t take me long to become a Divemaster because I trained really hard.  I enjoyed being a Divemaster but it is time to go further in my study of scuba.

scba padi diving cuba caribbean travel blog

I start the IDC in early August and I look forward to taking my instructor examination (IE) directly after.  The IDC taught by Florida Keys Dive Center is an intensive, boot-camp 10 day course.  I plan to start my Master Scuba Diver Trainer course directly thereafter and we decided to stay in Key Largo until December.

I did a lot of research on different IDC’s offered in Florida and I am happy with my decision.  There are a lot of options out there for people wanting to become instructors.  Many of the different schools have several options for IDC including all-inclusive, housing, meals, different types of advanced training or certifications, a certain number of dives allowed during training, etc.  Several of the schools offer internships that seemed to offer the student a way to pay for the non-PADI fees through a work exchange to pay for the education.  I’ve heard from a lot of instructors who chose this route for their education and others who stayed away from this practice.   Continue reading

Scuba Diving for Veterans Who Have PTSD and TBI

I am a 100% Service Disabled Veteran with PTSD and a TBI.  I am a PADI DIvemaster and I scuba dive on a regular basis.  I overheard a complete idiot telling a person that Veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries can’t scuba dive.  This moron went on to explain that Veterans with PTSD and TBI’s who do scuba dive are faking disabilities because of the obvious evidence that scuba diving is a stressful experience and exacerbates symptoms related to PTSD.

veteran ptsd tbi scuba divingI really hate it when people make strong statements with no actual or accurate knowledge on a topic.  It is no wonder why scores of Veterans, including the severely disabled, flock to scuba diving because of its calming and therapeutic effects on the body.  The Veteran’s Administration (VA) recognizes the value of scuba diving for disabled Veterans and has in-house programs in place to provide certification programs free-of-charge throughout the country.  There are additional programs that are directly funded by the VA.

It is no wonder that many large Veteran organizations including: The Wounded Warrior Project, Project Rebirth, Veterans of Foreign Wars and others, offer scuba diving certification to their members.  It is no wonder that one of the most popular VA Vocational Rehabilitation educational program is Scuba Diving Instruction.  The Veteran community has long known the positive effects of scuba diving for disabled Veterans.  I can’t count the amount of disabled veterans that I’ve met while diving.  The instructor who taught me Rescue Diving and Divemaster (DM) is a 100% service disabled Veteran and his primary Divemaster is 90%.  I finished my DM program with a retired Army Colonel who is also 100%.  It should be noted that all persons receiving or giving training were service disabled Veterans.

Like most Veterans, it just pisses me off when I hear people talking out their ass about what disabled Vets can and can’t do.  This moron solidified his ignorance when I overheard him say “you can’t prove PTSD and TBI- the VA just rubber stamps those claims.”  In reality, the VA denies upwards of 80% of all claims for disability.

Why is Scuba Diving so beneficial to Disabled Veterans?

I feel happy and calm when I am in the water scuba diving.  It feels completely different from swimming or sitting on a beach.  I notice significant decreases in anxiety and depression that exists in much of my daily life.  It is common for Veterans to discuss challenges with each other and I have heard many others who have the feelings.  We often feel a strong relief of symptoms for days to come after diving.  Like many Vets, I have sleep problems that have persisted for decades.  I can safely say that my sleep is much improved after diving.  A good night’s sleep has many benefits that carry forward into my life.

Washington Post article: The researchers speculate that the physical improvements may have something to do with an interaction between nitrogen, which is pumped into a diver’s bloodstream at a high rate, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter well-known for its feel-good effects but less known for its role in the spinal cord. The theory, Becker says, goes like this: “The increased levels of nitrogen will translate in your nervous system into increased levels of serotonin, and these increased levels of serotonin act on the cells in the spinal cord and the brain, which seems to improve their function.”

An expert of the John’s Hopkins Medicine research (9/2011) “But the most striking psychological impact was seen in PTSD symptoms, which decreased, on average, by 80 percent in those veterans who went diving. Escaping to a tranquil beach setting, Kaplin says, wouldn’t be enough to account for such an apparent escape from PTSD symptoms.”

“On 16 DEC 2009 a briefing was held by former Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffman in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in the treatment of brain injuries. During the presentation, Sec. Hoffman highlighted the need for additional funding and research into the treatment of the numerous traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from Iraq and Afghanistan by Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT 1.5). The 1.5 in the acronym represents the treatment atmospheric pressure of 1.5 atmospheres. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a well-tested option in treating at least 13 other medical conditions.

The Army Warrior Transition Unit began scuba therapy for soldiers transitioning out of the Army who had PTSD and TBI injuries.

I hope that all Veterans continue to explore the many benefits of scuba diving for fun and therapy.  I would love to hear from other Veterans who have had positive experiences with scuba diving.  Please comment below!

Dive Master In-Training- What Is It?

dive master training padu scuba robb hamicI officially became a Dive Master in training yesterday when I completed my 40 required dives to enter the program.  It was easy for me to get all of the various certifications through Rescue Diver because there was a formal class and I set aside blocks of time to study.  I amassed a number of additional dives but I was still 25 short.  I think that this is a common problem for dive master candidates.

How Do You Get Additional Dives

It was hard for me to get the dives, in a way because it is just turning spring in Texas and it is cold.  On the other hand, I have a boat so I can take diving friends along to get dives in.  I went out over the weekend but the water was really cold and I only got five dives in.  I was really anxious to get my underwater time taken care of so I could officially start the program.  People who live on the ocean have a big advantage over people who live inland because the ocean is right there.  I ultimately found a warm water spring where I could live underwater for about six combined hours over the past couple days.  i was so happy when i saw dive #40 in my log book!

Start DM Training

I start my training full-throttle tomorrow.  I will be assisting with a class of open water and certified scuba divers.  There are many required learning skills that must be completed in order to take the dive master test and complete the program.  I set my sights on finishing the program in a month so I will be working hard.  During the training I will be working side by side with my instructor’s dive master.  They work together really closely and I feel like I am getting two teachers for the price of one.  I understand that a lot of instructors teach solo.

I am really looking forward to working on my program and gaining a lot of experience each week as I assist in class.  I look at my Dive Master friend Jason.  He handles so much for the instructor.  It is interesting to observe the different roles in scuba diving.  A class really moves really smooth with a  good DM.  They handle so many problems underwater, which frees up the instructors time to teach and lead dives in the training area.  Students have a lot of questions and it is hard for an instructor to be there to answer them all.  That is where a good DM comes in.  An instructor can teach a beggar class with the assistance of a DM and that is also a plus.

Dive Master Pay Sucks
ride to dive harley diving scuba master

Ride to Dive! I loaded up my Harley for a trip to the springs in my Dive Master training.

Dive Masters are a bit underpaid in the industry, from what I have seen.  There is the ability to teach Emergency First Aid and CPR classes and they can also become an instructor for underwater photography to earn money.  Otherwise a DM works for tips.  The industry standard is $10 per tank of air used, but that seems low to me.  A lot of time is spent, when you calculate the time that a DM takes out of his schedule to commute to class, teach, answer questions after and then go to lunch to do log books.  DM’s often work more than anyone at the dive spot.  Who do you think hauls all of the tanks and equipment around?

My advice for scuba students is to look to the dive master as a resource and pick their brain.  They are very knowledgable and helpful.  You’ll get more out of your learning experience.

Scubapro Knighthawk BCD User Review

I decided it was time to write a review of the Scubapro Knighthawk BCD that I purchased a few months ago.  I think this is a great BC and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about purchasing a high-end product.  I’ve used it on my last 20 dives and I am completely satisfied.

I bought this BC in my first open water class and I wanted to get a top of the line item that I could use for a long time.  It cost about $700, including my discount.  I bought it from my local dive shop and the price was less than I found online.  I liked the comfort of the BC in the showroom but I had no knowledge of how it would work underwater.

Scubapro Knighthawk BCD review

The Scubapro Knighthawk BC is comfortable, even fully -loaded.

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5 Ways To Raise Your Core Temperature After Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving In Austin Texas

Scuba diving in Lake Travis, TX can be cold!

I went diving with my friends yesterday and the water was really cold.  Diver’s core temperatures drop throughout the day after diving even in water most people consider warm.  I spent over 100 minutes in the water yesterday in 48 degree temperatures and I was definitely cold after the dive.  Here are a few ways I warmed my core temperature that I recommend for all divers. Continue reading

Becoming a PADI Divemaster

I decided that I would detail my research, experiences and process of becoming a PADI Divemaster because there is little information on the Internet from the perspective of a candidate dive master.  In doing my research, I Googled various search terms that all lead me to pages of websites selling the opportunity to become a Divemaster.  I find that it is hard to actually glean much information from programs trying to sell a service.  I asked a number of my previous instructors to give me details of the program offered through my local dive center.  The responses I received were varied and different, even at the same school because much of the program is self-paced.  I learned that the training varies from school to school, which further confuses things.  I thought that there might be others out there in the same position, thus my blog series on becoming a Divemaster was decided.

North Shore, St. Croix, USVI

North Shore, St. Croix, USVI

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So You Want to be a PADI Divemaster…

The Shores of St. Croix

The Shores of St. Croix, USVI

I recently decided that I wanted to take the training to become a PADI Divemaster.  The Divemaster rating is the first professional certification in the PADI evolution for divers and most people never contemplate it.  After doing a little research on the program, I can see why!  It makes sense to me that a Divemaster’s skills need to be really solid to teach and lead dives.  While every diver is responsible for their own safety, a Divemaster is responsible for everyone’s collective well-being.  My Divemasters have been jack of all trades and have a great deal of knowledge.  I decided to pursue the course last night as I contemplate finishing my Rescue Diver certification in a couple of weeks.

I figured that the learning curve would be pretty steep but after a little research, I saw that a Divemaster’s endurance and swimming assessment is certainly no joke.  One portion of the training is this assessment, which is daunting.  It is completed on the same day with no rest between the watermanship stamina exercises.  All skills are timed and points are awarded for performance.  A candidate must pass with a minimum of 12 points out of a possible 20.  I have never settled for mediocre or barely passing so I set the following goals for myself.  If I complete it as stated, I will get 19/20 points.

400 M swim with no gear or goggles- 6-8 minutes

800 M swim with snorkel gear, face down and not using hands- 13-15 minutes

15 minutes of treading water and or floating, hold arms out of water for the last 2 minutes

100 M diver pull in full gear, pulling a tired diver who wears full gear- less than 2 minutes

I think this will be fun to train.  I have never been a swimmer and frankly, I have never swam laps.  I am going to take a few swim lessons to hone my skills.  Luckily, we have been working out regularly and my cardio is getting much better.  Thankfully, I have lost about 20 lb. in the last 3 months, which makes me want to run like Forrest.    I will need to incorporate about 5 days worth of pool time per week into what I am already doing for exercise.  I love the fact that Aubrey gets in the pool with me and swims laps.  The kids are even swimming a few times per week and making good progress.  We are turning into a pod of dolphins!

It is strange to think of our transformation from land dwellers to being in the water so much in just a few short months.  We will be leaving dry land for the boat and uncharted waters in less than five months.  We are so excited!