Saturday, October 31, 2009

Instructor Specialty training for October 2009

Instructor Specialty training for October 2009

It's almost completed and it was a busy month on top of that, for Specialty training. We started out with the Emergency Oxygen provider and instructor courses, pretty much directly followed by the Gas Blender and Gas Blender Instructor courses. The latter two are very challenging but also a lot of fun to participate in and to teach. We also completed the Equipment specialty, so lots of land based activities.
The reason is that there are plenty of participants in the Go Pro CDC and Platinum packages and these very comprehensive packages have a lot of specialties in them.
Craig is now also starting his MSDT internship soon, during which he gets to certify 25 PADI students at various levels.

By now it was to get wet and we went to Chaweng Beach to take some Underwater Navigation, Search & Recovery and Night diving courses under attack. Yesterday evening we id the night dive!

Working with a lift bag and learning the proper procedures on how to correctly fill and use a lift bag were being practiced during the Search & Recovery course.

Here's an interesting shot of squid eggs, that get deposited all over the region and loads of them can be found on Chaweng beach. Mmm, makes for some yummy 'plaa meuk' dishes! Specialty training has it's advantages.

For two deep dives we went to Sail Rock and the visibility was great and two great dives were had by all of us. With a bit of luck, the weather will hold on tomorrow, since we'll be back there to complete a DUP-, Multilevel- and Aware Fish ID dive.
On top of all this action we (Craig, Bruno, Olivier and me) also went to Pattaya to do some Wreck diving and they also completed Underwater Naturalist dives. All month long we had lovely weather which made the diving so much more enjoyable. Dives here were made on Nitrox and by now they're all Nitrox instructors.

At the end of a days diving, almost back home, the Big Buddha can be seen from it's back, near the pier.
Jut a few more days and the new IDC is about to start already. See you and stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Diving with sharks in Bangkok

Diving with sharks in Bangkok

How is that possible, diving with sharks in Bangkok? It's not that difficult actually, Planet Scuba, the dive company I work with, their office in Bangkok runs the aquarium dives at Siam Ocean World and it's a great experience.

First I met with Toby, one of my former and also one of my very first IDC candidates at the Planet Scuba Bangkok shop on Sukhumvit, near BTS station Phrom Phong and we made our way over to Siam Paragon, where Siam Ocean World is located.

A view outside of the tank with some ragged tooth sharks swimming by, in a moment I'll be in the midst among them!

The entrance fee for Siam Ocean World is included in the fee for the shark dive and it's well worth checking out the various tanks and fish that are on display. There's a also a section where a lot of yet to be identified species are displayed and amongst those species is this rather rare longnosed stargazer.

The actual dive, a ragged tooth shark or grey nurse shark swims within inches from me, on various occasions. Currently there are 11 of them in the tank! The tank itself is really big and you can easily dive around for a good bit, sit down for a while and enjoy the view of these great predators cruising by and take the environment in. There are also leopard sharks, tawny nurse sharks and a couple of blacktips.

An Eagle ray, cruising by in a section of the aquarium. The animals kind of split up the areas in the aquarium so each has it's own territories, more or less. These eagle rays can change color and turn completely black which is an amazing sight. There are also blotched marble ray's and various other ray species. It's also great to interact with the spectators outside of the tank, who seem to be waving non stop and are seemingly almost more excited about seeing divers than I was seeing the sharks and rays! Besides the sharks and rays there are also plenty of trevallys and snappers.

After the dive, Toby and me with big smiles on our faces. Thanks Toby, it was a great 40 minute dive and I enjoyed it very much! The instructors that take you on the shark dives are all very experienced and will make sure that you have a good time.

Here's my logbook, with some shark tooth that Toby picked up.

It's official, I dived with the sharks in Bangkok!

To top it off, here's my first uploaded video on my blogs, with footage of a ragged tooth shark.

It's a real great experience and I enjoyed every moment of it and time flew by when you're in the aquarium. If you're interested, you can book online or just sign up at the spur of the moment whilst visiting Siam Ocean World at Siam Paragon, an instructor will be there all day long and you can pretty much jump in at any time, except during feeding times although Toby recommended the morning as the best time of the day to dive with the sharks in Bangkok and Discover Scuba Diving is also on offer, what better way of taking your breaths underwater can you think of, than doing it with some real life sharks!


Monday, October 26, 2009

One more wreck diving trip in Pattaya completed

One more wreck diving trip in Pattaya completed

Yesterday it was in the bag after two days of wreck diving the HTMS Khraam in Pattaya, pictured below. It was the second trip this year and the fourth time in total that I was able to organize this trip.

We dived three times on the HTMS Khraam, which gave my three students, Bruno, Craig and Olivier plenty of opportunity to familiarize themselves with the wreck and hence, the third dive of the series was the most relaxed and enjoyable dive which generated most pictures.

How colorful it can be inside shows this picture of some bright purple fan, however, without the flash on the camera it looks rather drab at the depth we went to, around 25 to 20 meters in average. Visibility in Pattaya is not always that great but it adds to the experience and gives an additional challenge on these otherwise rather easy diveable wrecks in the area.

All wrecks cater as home to plenty of undersea live, including lots of scorpion fish, as this profile shot of one of them shows.

The one non wreck dive we did was also very enjoyable and during the Aware Fish ID dive we encountered this lovely cuttle fish. We completed more specialties besides the wreck diving specialty, also Underwater Naturalist was completed and we used Nitrox on a few dives.

During the ascent, hanging out during the safety stop. At 12, 9 and 5 meters we had safety stops to off gas nitrogen in our bodies.
A great way to spend the weekend and I'm looking forward to the next trip. Thanks guys for embarking on this adventure.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mares Lab equipment seminar

Mares Lab equipment seminar

The last two days I participated in a Mares Lab equipment seminar. Yes right, this time around I was the student and had to watch someone else do all the talking and explaining and on top of that, today I had to sit an exam!
I've done two or three Mares seminars before but this was the first time that any exams were involved.

If you're looking for exciting fish pictures and the like, this isn't the right post for it, this is mainly about looking at dive equipment, taking it apart, spotting problems along the way and than putting it all back together again, ideally in such a way that it works under pressure.

The Mares Lab equipment seminar is unique for that right now, Mares is the only dive equipment manufacturer who make sit compulsory to sit through actual exams with set pass rates before you're authorized to maintain Mares equipment. This seminar was held over two days, day one being an introduction to various Mares equipment, like the MR 2 regulator, the MR 22/Abyss regulator first and second stages and the Ergo inflator.

This picture shows some of the very specialized pieces of equipment that are used during the seminar.

During day one we took amongst others, this fantastic Mares Abyss first stage apart. The Abyss was my first regulator ever and I still am very fond of this regulator, despite it's heavy weight.
Nowadays I do use a an updated version of the Abyss, the Proton 42 Metal a very good regulator and a lot lighter than the good ol' Abyss!

This is how the Abyss first stage looks like when it's completely stripped down. The challenge is to put it all back together again after you strip it down.

This shows how the Abyss 2nd stage looks like when stripped down. This was just a repetition for the second day, when we had to strip the regulator down again but this time there were problems put inside our regulator.

These problems we had to find and we also had to fill out trouble shooting reports, learn the various order codes of all the various parts and practice with a service pack and change all items that will be changed during a service, which Mares recommends at least to be done once a year or every 100 hours that you use your gear.
It got pretty serious with exploded drawings and service packs et all!

The highlight was a hands on practical test where we had to strip down a MR12 first and second stage to all it's components and list all parts that would be changed during a service and on top of that, at the end of two very long and interesting but also tiring days, we had to complete a theoretical exam. This picture shows my fellow seminar participants, Kai, Becci and Geoff with our presenter and host David.
The third day would involve stripping a regulators first and second stage down and find all inserted problems and list them correctly! A real challenge which I hope to be able to take one day but for now, two days was although very interesting, it was also enough!!
Now I'm ready again and fully charged to start teaching my own equipment repair courses like I've just done earlier this week. Scuba equipment and tools are an interesting topic and I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn some news bits and pieces over the last two days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

DSAT Gas blending and Equipment repair courses

DSAT Gas blending and Equipment repair courses

Were on the menu today. We started off with the static part of the Gas Blending course, academics; some slides to reinforce the information followed by reviewing the knowledge reviews and to top it off, an exam. For non native English speakers, this always seems to be a tough one. It's also the only exam in the PADI system at 'beginner' level that I know of, which has a 80% passing rate.

The new Mares retail shop in Bang Rak has a beautiful and brand new filling station attached to it and the picture above gives you an idea how the good old partial pressure mixing desk and the brand new Oxygen stik fit in, with on the right hand the air bank.

Craig, Olivier and Bruno working out what mixes we need to get with a great view of the also brand new Coltri Sub compressor. David is just out of the picture, but he's also taking this course, although he will have to wait for completing his Gas Blender Instructor course until he completes his IDC later in December, in contrast to Bruno, Craig and Olivier who will complete this course this coming Sunday.
A prerequisite for the Gas Blender course is that you need to be a Nitrox diver.

This is the Gas Mix calculator they were looking at, it tells you how much Oxygen needs to go in a tank in order to get the required mix. The Gas Blender course makes you either use the electronic mixer or you can use the good old tables and calculate everything the good old way.

As part of the Gas Blender course we also did some Oxygen cleaning and Bruno has his own idea of how that can be achieved. Good thinking Bruno!

As part of the equipment repair course and the Gas Blender course we used the sonic bath to clean parts of a 1st stage of a regulator. Usually I conduct the equipment repair course simultaneously with the blender course, since it takes time in between Nitrox tanks to fill up, time we use for having a closer look at some pieces of equipment.

After a long day of academics, exams, hands on cleaning and tank fills we were glad to get the group picture out of the way and finish the day, from left to right, Olivier, Bruno, me, David and Craig.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PADI Emergency Oxygen providers and Instructors

PADI Emergency Oxygen providers and Instructors

Were tumbling over each other so to speak today. The day started out with 4 students taking the PADI Emergency Provider course.

Craig and Grainne are setting up and testing a non rebreather mask. The Emergency Oxygen provider course is part of Grainne's Divemaster package. Besides being certified for the Oxygen course, she will be completing her Divemaster course today as well. Congrats Grainne and see you soon for your IDC again, early next year.

Four brand new certified PADI Oxygen Providers, from left to right; Craig, Grainne, me, David and Olivier.

After the Provider course we continued with the Instructor course, David and Grainne left us to be replaced by Rob, Bruno and Geoff.
A busy but fun and interesting day!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

PADI IE for October; over and done with!

PADI IE for October; over and done with!

Today the PADI IE was completed at Centara Resort on Chaweng Beach and all did very well. After three action filled and nerve wrecking days for the candidates, they now know what they achieved! Congratulations to all!
Just for the record, Gregory decided to wait for the next IDC to jump in again and is planning to attend the next IE.

Here's the official picture, plenty of new OWSI's and IDCS floating around, from left to right in the back row; Aiko Kamiya (MI), Paul Meredith (IDCS), Bruno de Cocker, Olivier Nelis, Rob Scammell (PADI Examiner), myself, James Donald (IDCS) and Nobuhiko Abe (MI).
Front row; Craig Balmer, Mio Yoshii, Naoko Komaki, Manami Tatsumi and Naoki Arakawa.

This the unofficial picture but a lot more fun! Jump up and down!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Been there, done that, the October IDC has been bagged

Been there, done that, the October IDC has been bagged

Today was our last day of the current IDC, at Centara in Chaweng on the beach for the OWSI course's Open Water dive. Tomorrow morning is review and remedial training time and sees the closing of this IDC and in the afternoon at 2pm, PADI Examiner Rob will kick off the PADI IE.

This IDC had some luxury for me in it, Paul, already being an IDCS instructor was staffing this IDC and took some workload off my shoulders, and here he's in full swing during one of the presentations. With James completing his IDCS course, it was also interesting for me to have people participate at various levels.

As usual we enjoyed some great lunches during our lunch breaks at World Resort. From left to right; Paul, Craig, Olivier, Bruno, Myself, Gregory and James.
Today during their Open Water debriefing, all ears for our feedback. Besides Open Water and class room presentations, they also had more Confined Water presentations to attend and to prepare!

The Japanese candidates, Tatsumi, Naoko, Yoshii, Naoki, Nobu and Iko.
Thanks for the good time and see you all tomorrow!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

EFRI October 2009; mission completed

EFRI October 2009; mission completed

Before we can enjoy our day off during the current IDC tomorrow, we completed the EFRI course today at the usual location of the local recompression chamber in Bang Rak.

This is what part of the course is about, protocols for delivering CPR and how to teach it.

One of the things less highlighted is that there's an exam during the EFRI course besides the hands on skill practice. Here the participants are sweating it out over said exam.

At the end they all passed successfully with a theoretical part during the morning and a lot more action and fun during the afternoon with the skill practice. Here we all are in front of the pot, from left to right; Olivier, Bruno, Craig, Gregory and myself.
Monday we continue again with the IDC, business as usual. Now first let's kick back for a day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

PADI Specialty of the month for October 2009; Night Diving

PADI Specialty of the month for October 2009; Night Diving

When the sun is about to set and you change into your dive gear and you descent on the same site that you dived regularly during the day time, this time around it's going to be a very different site because you're night diving and everything will look different and you will see different sea creatures and critters.

Chaweng Beach, where I do most of my night dives during the Instructor Specialty training, does become a different site since the amount of crabs on this reef is something I don't see anywhere else.

Giant Murray Eel at the Similan islands during a night dive
With a main torch, a back up torch and ideally also a small blinking light or chemical glow stick attached to your BCD or tank valve you're ready to hit the water.
You learn about night dive planning, equipment, communication and navigation and you practice these on three different night dives.

Blue spotted stingray at Chaweng Beach during a night dive
It's a very popular specialty the Night dive specialty and I've logged a lot of night dives already, closing in on a hundred but once you committed yourself to a night dive, you will understand why.
Shrimp at Chaweng Reef during a night dive
On Chaweng Reef and during night dives in general I've seen plenty of interesting things, like a dark shadow somewhere next to me moving around and as soon as I catch a small fish in my spotlight of the torch, a barracuda jumps out of the dark and catches the small fish in my light or a crab dining on a gills of a barely alive scorpion fish. Very interesting and unusual sights indeed and they can keep you glued to a spot.
Another interesting thing to try is to plan a dusk dive, where you start the dive at dusk and you not necessarily need a torch and during the dive the sun sets, it becomes dark and you see the scenery at the reef change. A very nice experience.
If you haven't done a night dive yet, it's time to get started and if you've done some already, you know you'll be back in the dark water surroundings of a night dive. Enjoy!