Sunken Treasure.

Last weekend was the annual Scuba Show down in Long Beach. Like last year my time was spent meeting people, exploring new gear options, drooling over camera equipment I can’t afford and entering trip raffle after trip raffle…none of which I won (again). This year I also tried to pass along some business cards that I had recently had made, in an effort to showcase my little blog project and maybe gain a few more readers.

I enjoyed walking around the Scuba show, its much of the same as years past…tons of travel booths…(seriously, if you plan to do a drive trip, this would be the best spot to try and book, SO many discount options were offered from a variety of groups for travel across the globe). I spent some time hanging out with my friends from Eco Dive Center who had a booth this year and were offering class and gear discounts. I even ran into the Scuba Shack folks from Maui… the shop where I earned my Open Water certification back in 2003!

I picked up a couple items that were planned, like a new set of wetsuit heaters, after one of mine popped a few months ago, and a second handle for my camera tray. In addition, there were the spur of the moment impulse purchases both of which I think are great. The first, is a very small but awesome accessory for my camera gear. On the Inon strobe I own there is a small knob to turn to set the aperature for the strobe’s TTL to fire at the proper power setting. This knob is fine and easy to turn, until you toss on gloves and head down underwater. While over at the Backscatter booth, I picked up the same strobe and flipped it over to see this large, easy to grasp red knob on the back. “Genius! This knob would make it easy to adjust the strobe setting, I must have it!” Went through my head, so of course, I bought one. Its going to be great, I can’t wait to get back under the water just so I can adjust my strobe!

Earlier I had happened by the Miss Scuba Booth as they always have fun jewelry and I do enjoy shiny things. Unfortunately this time one really caught my eye, so after debating the purchase while I toured the rest of the show I returned and picked up a really beautiful little necklace of Egyptian turqoise with a mermaid pendant. I love it.

So thanks again for putting on a fun show, and looking forward to next year!

All Knotted Up.

Classic Square Knot. An oldie and a goodie, easy to tie, best used for securing two lines together.

Last night I took part in a  knot tying class that was being offered by Eco Dive Center.

The class was taught by a retired Navy Admiral from the US Coast Guard school.

Our fearless instructor, whose name I didn't catch. 😦

While I knew most of the knots he covered, the gentleman himself made the class entertaining and fun. He started off by reviewing parts of a line, such as the dead end, or the end that is tied off to something, the bitter end…a loose untied end (think how bitter it would be if you toss your anchor over the edge and didn’t secure the “bitter end”!). If you put a loop in the middle of a line, thats known as a bight or bite in the line. From there, in his casual and often “old man” meandering fashion we moved into tying several different knots. I wouldn’t say it was really an “advanced” knot tying class, he reviewed mostly the basic knots that are useful in any ocean related activity, such as diving, sailing, etc.

We started with simple overhand knots, then expounded that into the figure 8 knot, one I was familiar with from rock climbing. Both those knots are useful as quick and simple ways to tie a looped end that can be secured around anything. You can also use a longer line with several looped “bites” to create a quick makeshift ladder out of a single line.

A figure 8 knot tied into the bight of the line. I learned that the "bight" is the looped end.

Moving on from there he went into more knots such as the square knot, one that I’ve used many times, though often I just think of it as the “over – under” knot since its quickly tied correctly by remembering that you place the right end over the left, then the left over the right. Otherwise you can end up with a granny knot that will start to slip once tension is applied. We reviewed the sheet bend, another knot primarily used for tying two lines together. Its stronger than the square knot, and you can modify it by adding in additional loops which adds even more strength.

When it came to the bowline, the real fun began. This is a knot that is often used in diving for rigging lift bags, or tying off to different objects. Our instructor attempted to teach us a way to tie this knot one handed, which is quite complicated, and led to much amusement as everyone worked at it.

Triple Sheet Bend. A modification upon a regular sheet bend, the additional loops add strength to the knot

He also wowed everyone by swinging the rope around a few times then pulling it taught revealing a perfect bowline, then garnered laughter by teaching us the very difficult knot, a “Dragon Bowline” (or so I thought he said). Turns out it’s a play on words as he set his bowline on the ground and pulled it along…get it? A dragging bowline!

The night ended with adrenaline rushing as we all competed to be the first to tie which ever knot he called out to the group. I’ll admit I held my own, coming in first on several knots and earning myself a nice Eco Dive ball cap (which is good, because I didn’t have one yet!).

Hello OWSI!

I did it! Last weekend I went up to Monterey and kicked butt at the PADI Instructor Examination. Shane and I both passed spectacularily and are now officially (well officially once we get the email from PADI in about a week) OWSI! (Open Water Scuba Instructor). Pretty soon I’ll be able to spread my knowledge and love of the underwater world with all the new folks looking to get certified! I’m very excited and extremely happy. I’ll have a full write up of the weekend and the tests once I have some time, but just wanted to get the word out! Hooray!

Time to go go go.

Its here… finally. My PADI Instructor Exam weekend. While I’ve been feeling like this weekend has been a long time coming, suddenly today it seems as though it snuck right up on me. In a couple of hours Shane and I will pile as much Scuba related gear, books, accessories and anything else we feel may just come in handy into Shane’s car and hit the road for Monterey.

I feel ready and I am ready, or at least I keep telling myself that. Everyone that has been helping us and supporting us through the IDC classes says we’re going to be fine, we just need to take our time and relax. I know I’ve got the theory in my head, my biggest fear on the written exams is making mistakes like filling in the wrong bubble. With the knowledge presentation I worry only about getting a topic I’m not too familiar with, or have little experience in, such as securing a lift bag for the Search and Recovery dive in the Adventures in Diving program. Its a possibility, and I know the basics, but I’ve never actually worked with a lift bag in my Scuba career yet… I don’t even own a lift bag. Luckily though, Shane and I are associated with an awesome shop and I’m able to borrow one for the test, just in case. I feel confident in my confined water skills and just have to remember to use the assistant, and really think through my organization so that the students stay in order and I don’t lose points for not keeping everyone together. Finally there is the open water portion. This is a big one for me, as I’ve been promised some new gear if I pass with flying colors (aka: a 5… a perfect score). I feel confident in my ocean skills, I just really need to focus on the briefing and debriefing to make sure I don’t miss any important steps. Lastly, we’re going to be in the ocean in Monterey. where the average water temperature is 53 degrees! Give or take 5 degrees for fluctuation and however you look at it, thats still cold! I have an extra vest and will be hoping that the waves are small, the water is on the warm side of that 53 degrees and we have some resemblance of decent visibility!

So it all comes down to this weekend, 2 days of testing, 5 sections to pass to become certified as a professional scuba diving instructor from PADI. Cross your fingers, hold your breath (I sure won’t be, at least not underwater) and say a prayer as I hit the road to destiny. (ha that was lame…it is only a test after all!) 🙂

Scuba Show, Super Cool.

Last Saturday I headed down to Long Beach with a group of scuba fanatic friends to take in all the glories of the annual Scuba Show. This event highlights all the different gear, clothing, accessories, travel opportunities and toys that are out in the Scuba world. Anything from cute little Scuba teddy bears to high tech rebreathers; from travel as close as Ventura to as far as Fiji. It was one giant room packed with more diving related paraphernalia than any one person should be expected to handle. Always wanting to be prepared, my friends and I arrived just after it opened at 10am. Parking was a pain but once inside it was great. We kept the game plan simple, start at one end of the show and work our way up and down the rows until we reached the other side.

This was easier said than done. We began pouring over the different gear, looking at new BCD designs, masks with silicone linings so soft it forms to your face so well (making me think my awesome slightly retro mask is in need of an upgrade), and custom wetsuits (had some great features but sadly the design left a lot to be desired). We cruised past travel booth after travel booth, entering trip raffles (sadly I’ve received no “you’re a winner” calls or emails yet) and ogling the bright and beautiful tropical locales, someday… someday. We all took a turn spinning the “wheel of fortune” for the Hermosa Inn and each won between 25-50% off a 2 night stay. We took our sweet time admiring the strobes and nice cameras at the first of several photography booths, both Carolyn and Lawrence eyeing new lights but hesitant to drop the dough right away. I managed to keep my wallet safely in my purse with the exception of a key not so necessary items. I bought a DAN mat, which is a big woven mat that works great for beach diving to lay next to your car and keep your gear from getting all dirty and gross from the parking lot. I also picked up one of those previously mentioned Scuba Teddy-Bears. C’mon, it was $4 and SOOOOO cute.

After what seemed like mere minutes we realized that we had been submerged in the show for nearly 3 hours and our stomachs were rumbling. We took a short surface interval at the Yard House with some much need food and a beer to refuel and tackle the remaining half of the show. Continuing around we looked at the great art of Wyland who was there and had just painted a wicked looking great white shark piece. We tried on some high tech full face masks that included a communications system so you could talk with your buddy. Not only were they techy and neat looking, but they came in a variety of colors so you could keep the gear color coordination going!

Caryoln and I eyed a great looking 1-2mm skin suit by Fourth Element that looked warm, comfortable and fashionable…always helpful in the world of thick wetsuits and clunky gear! We got sucked in by probably what I feel was the coolest accessory at the show, the Dive Caddy. This is no gear bag. As the rep called it, its more of a “gear wrap”. This wrap is specially designed to take a light packers 3-4 days worth of clothes, a wetsuit (3mm), BCD, regs, fins, mask, snorkel,  toiletries, etc and package it perfectly for carry-on airline travel. No more having to check your gear and hope it arrives and arrives intact. It was genius! I wanted one right then and there. Of course then my brain clicked in and said hey Kelli! You’re not traveling anywhere this year, and maybe not even next year, why do you need this thing? Of course the answer was, I don’t… but its so cool. So being a smart little shopper, I added it to my mental must have list for the day when I’m jet-setting around the world on Scuba adventures.

Rounding off the show were a few more gear booths including Atomic where, because Carolyn and Lawrence knew the rep we got a sneak peek at their new computer, the Cobalt, which looks crazy amazing. We stopped by Titan Dive gear where Randy and Web were showing off the amazing rebreather, then we hit up several more photography booths where Carolyn and Lawrence both broke down and got the second strobe and video light they each wanted. Some how we managed to be at the show the entire day, not leaving the convention center until after 5:00PM. I was exhausted, but overall it was a very fun, educating and exciting day!

Living the high life.

Last Wednesday marked the large fundraiser dinner for the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber known as Chamber Eve. Held at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the dive community comes together each year for a nice dinner, private access to the aquarium after hours, fantastic raffle and in general to support the hyperbaric chamber.

I barely made the Eco limo, but arrived in the nick of time to madly change in the bathroom and sprint to catch up with everyone heading to the cars. We rolled into the event in style and had a blast in the limo. Touring the aquarium was fantastic, and what I really enjoyed was the lack of rowdy kids running around from tank to tank, there should be adult nights at the aquarium where kids are not allowed!

Dinner was simple and good, I didn’t win any of the awesome raffle prizes, but I’m sure those who did were stoked. This year the event (including the Chamber Day diving activities) raised $117,000.00 for the chamber, almost half of its yearly operating budget.

After the festivities we went over to Mai Tai’s for the after party, another drink and some delicious street tacos really capped the evening nicely.

Happy (belated) Earth Day!!

Last Thursday was Earth Day, and to celebrate and help keep our Earth and oceans clean I participated in a beach clean up with Eco Dive Center. Our local California beaches really get trashed by the multitudes of people who show up, enjoy the day and take off without doing a good sweep of their area. People also are lazy and don't take the the time to walk 50 ft up the beach to one of the hundreds of trash cans available. We all want to our beaches to be clean and pristine, and from a distance they don't look too bad.

Its when you get in the sand and take a closer look that you see all the trash left by people. This trash gets washed out to sea and drifts into the oceans, or washed back up on shore.

You can find almost every type of trash on the beach, from straws, plastic bags, food wrappers, balloons, styrofoam, paper, condoms, band aids, even discarded toys, you name it its probably out there.

You even find things you wouldn't expect like discarded quarts of motor oil. Something like this probably fell off someones boat carelessly then was washed ashore with the tide.

What amazes me, is while these pics may make is seem like this is a horrible, really dirty beach it really wasn't. Our clean up was in the middle of April, which is before the times when these beaches are heavily used by summer visitors. One day of heavy beach traffic will produce so much more waste and garbage along our shores than you can imagine. All of this because most people are too lazy to keep their trash contained, or to even bother with packing it all up and tossing it on their way out of the beach.

Of course, part of the fun in taking part of an ocean clean up is the little treasures you discover along with all the trash. I came across an itty bitty snorkel, rose gem hair thing, shovel, and an animated character compass (looked like it came from a Happy Meal) all eventually went into the trash, but they were fun to find!

A few of the more interesting finds...

At the end of the trash pickup we all celebrated, drank and relaxed as the sun went down with a huge bonfire. Time to get rid of some of those huge pallets that start build up around the shop! Of course burning something seems odd for an Earth Day activity, but its fun, and who doesn't love watching a big 'ol bonfire!

And besides, bonfires are also great for roasting marshmallows! mmmmm s'mores!

Humpback Whales

I totally forgot to mention one of the BEST aspects of the diving last weekend. Rescue Course training was great, finishing with enough time to get in two recreational dives was awesome, but then to put the icing on the cake we ran across a small pod of Humpback Whales swimming along.

This was my first time seeing humpbacks outside television or movies. They were magnificent. We saw a few from far off, then a few minutes later intersected paths with with two more. One of the two was thoroughly enjoying the day and kept breaching, surging out of the water before plunging back down.

As we passed by, they were swimming around each other slapping their pectoral fins on the surface as they spun around in the water. All in all it was an incredible experience. The sheer size and grace of these creatures is just amazing!

Eco Night @ Santa Monica Aquarium

I feel like my blog is turning into a showcase of Eco Dive Center events… not that it’s a bad thing, its only because that is what’s going on right now. I’m sure more posts about all the reading, and notecard making and knowledge review taking that i’ve been doing wouldn’t be very exciting, so I’m trying to post my other dive/ocean related goings on.

One of the touch tanks, filled with sea stars.

My rescue dive class starts on March 15th and I am ready to go. I have all my reading done and have started going through the Divemaster materials. Based on talking with another guy doing the courses with me I might be acting a bit like an overachiever, but oh well, I really want to do well with these courses. Anyways, I digress.

Last night I spent the evening with folks from Eco Dive Center, at the Santa Monica Bay Aquarium. This is a tiny little aquarium nestled underneath the Santa Monica Pier. I had never been before, and if you haven’t either I would say go check it out. Its $2.00 to get in and it is very fun. The aquarium focuses on local marine life so you’re not going to find anything huge or exotic inside. What you will get is an up close look at some great animals, the opportunity to touch some (find the large black sea hare, its really soft and squishy) and a chance to talk with some awesome and knowledgeable people.

Aquarists Nick, Jose and Seth were there to answer questions and guide us around the aquarium. We got to play with the animals in the touch tanks, sea stars, sea hares, crabs, sea cucumbers, anemones, etc, it was neat to actually feel these animals that I normally just look at (or on the rare occasion touch with my neoprene gloved hand).

Aquarist Nick shows how to tell the difference between male and female sharks by looking for the claspsers.

After that we sat down for a quick Fish ID and local area information talk. Nick and Jose went through the basics of what fish we find out here, how to identify them, and some of their behaviors and characteristics. It was Ichthyology 101 in about 30 minutes. Awesome. Next they spoke on some of the problems our oceans, both globally and locally, are facing such as over fishing. Did you realize that if the current fishing practices are allowed to continue as is there will be no more fish (that we eat) in the ocean in approximately 30 years. That means that we could be the last generation to eat wild caught fish. Now I love some seafood and sushi, mmm, and would hate to see this happen so that fact really hit home. They also talked briefly on shark finning (a huge travesty! Check out the documentary Shark Water if you want to learn more about it). Ending on a good note, they brought up the new bills that folks are working to get passed which will set up Marine Protected Areas along the California coast, including places like Point Dume and Rocky Point in Palos Verdes. These protected areas are great because they will allow the ecosystem to restore itself without us constantly taking out and destroying.

The evening closed with a chance to learn more about some of the smaller local sharks, like the horn shark and swell shark, and a chance to get to feel these amazing animals. After that we got a “backstage” tour to see the how the aquarium functions. We ended the event wandering the pier from restaraunt to restaraunt until we found the one left open after 9:00pm and settled down at Bubba Gumps for a margarita and some food.