Taking Control of Your Buoyancy

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I’m not embarrassed to admit I was severely overweight for my first 40-plus dives as an open water diver. Even the best low-fat diet wouldn’t have helped me. I needed to shed more than ten pounds of lead weight. During those first dives I discovered the aerobic side to diving — kicking constantly and struggling to stay off the bottom, leaving a cloud of silt in my wake. I burned a lot of calories (and damaged a lot of coral) but somehow it wasn’t quite what I had expected.

Later, thanks to the advice of a local dive guide, I was able to leave the extra pounds behind and discover the remarkable sensation of diving while properly weighted. I only needed four pounds. What a difference! No longer an aerobic sport, diving is now a relaxing experience.

Today, I’m the local dive guide and I’d like to share with you a few tips sure to enhance your diving adventures and help protect the reef. The goal is to take control of your buoyancy. To do this we need to consider the many variables that influence a diver’s buoyancy.

Conditions – Are you diving in calm water or rough seas with heavy surge? Are Currents present? Is it fresh water or salt? Keep in mind surge and current can cause Lift and salt water is more buoyant than Fresh.

Exposure Protection – Are you wearing a Wetsuit or dive skin? The material used to make wetsuits, neoprene foam, is positively buoyant. Just how buoyant depends on the thickness of the suit and how many dives it’s been on (causing suit compression). Just like divers, wetsuits require less weight with experience! Dive skins, whether made from lycra, darlexx and / or PolarTek are neutrally buoyant and do not require any additional weight.

Equipment – has a huge impact an buoyancy. Become familiar with all the features, benefits, even the drawbacks of your equipment. When I ask questions about what type of equipment someone is using, the usual answer is, “it’s pink.” Now, I agree color is important but it really doesn’t help you dive better, regardless of what the salesperson told you. Here are a few facts (not opinions) about dive gear.

Buoyancy Compensator Devices (BCD) have changed considerable over the years. The older “bladder” style BCs tend to fold and trap air making a diver more buoyant. Most BCDs today are bladderless. Padding in the shoulder straps, back support or tummy band can also add to a diver’s buoyancy by a pound or two. When releasing air from the BCD the deflator unit or dump valve must be the highest point on your body or all of the air cannot come out. For releasing air from the dump valve located on the left shoulder you need to get vertical and lean to the right, raising your left shoulder. Also, some BCDs have Velcro “keepers” over the deflator hose – these need to be undone so the path of escaping air is not obstructed.

Tanks have a constantly changing buoyancy of their own. When full, all tanks whether steel or aluminum, are negatively buoyant, (anywhere from -2 to -14 pounds). When empty, most steel tanks remain slightly negative whereas most aluminum tanks become positively buoyant (from + 1 to + 5 pounds). As a tank’s buoyancy changes, so does a diver’s!

A few other equipment facts that affect buoyancy are the size and weight of fins (heavy fins cause feet and legs to sink); neoprene weight belts; and gloves and booties (the thicker they are, the more buoyant). Accessories such as knives, dive lights and photography equipment can go either way on the buoyancy scale —find out the facts about your equipment.

Comfort Level and Breathing Control – Do you really have to be “experienced” to breathe comfortably underwater? Do you consider 40-plus dives “experienced?” for me those 40-plus dives meant that I had gotten really good at being really bad! That’s not experience, it’s endurance!

The more comfortable you are diving, the more controlled your breathing will be and vice versa. Your “Internal BC” (your lungs) is a very useful tool in buoyancy control. Always try to inhale slowly, and exhale slowly —• it’s a “Zen Thing” and very relaxing. Change your breathing when you change depth. A good rule of thumb is “when deep, breathe deep — when shallow, breathe shallow.” For me, deep breaths in shallow water usually means popping to the surface.

Proper Weighting – There are several things you need to keep in mind when setting up or making adjustments to your weight system.

  •  Remove or add weight slowly. One or two pounds at a time “ usually works best.
  •  Use small increments of weight whenever possible (four 2 TM pound weights versus two 4 pound weights).
  • Weights should be evenly balanced on both sides of your body.
  • It’s usually best to wear weights towards the front of the body. Positioning weight on your back forces the lower body TM down. A less than horizontal position is not nearly as efficient.
  • Your center of gravity can be adjusted by raising or lowering g the location of the weight belt. Feet too low? Move the belthigher. Feet too high? Move the belt lower.

“How much weight should I be wearing?” I hear this question over and over, the truth is I have no idea. Sure, I can take a guess but only you can determine the amount of weight that works for you. To do this, you need to take a very simple Weight Test.

Take the test in 15-20 feet of water (with delicate marine life at a safe distance). This is best done at the end of your dive with 800-1000 psi of air remaining in your tank (to account for the tank’s buoyancy).

Next, completely deflate your BCD, making sure you’re in the proper position to get all of the air out.

Then, without kicking or sculling, attempt to hover motionless in either a vertical or horizontal position. As you breathe in and out, observe the changes your lung volume has on buoyancy. Take your time, relax and see what happens.

That’s all there is to it. Interpreting the results is just as simple. If you slowly begin to sink, you’re probably a little over-weighted. If you sink like a stone, you’re definitely over-weighted! On the other hand, if you slowly begin to ascend, you may be a little under-weighted. After returning to the surface, adjust your weights accordingly (remember to do this slowly) and take the weight test again on your next dive. Keep repeating these steps until you find the amount of weight that’s right for you.

 

This article its reprinted courtesy of the author, instructor, and our friend, Patty Grier. She offers workshops in buoyancy at the fabulous Coco View Dive Resort in Roatan. Make sure to join in this class the next time you stay there!

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Can Killer Robots Save Ocean Ecosystems?

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Lionfish can reduce a flourishing coral reef to a wasteland in a matter of weeks. Native fish, unfamiliar with the new arrival, do not know to avoid it, and the predator gorges to the point of obesity.

The Lionfish sits at the top of the food chain, unthreatened by any other creature. They breed rapidly, and are extremely resilient and adaptable. No solution has been found to control their advance yet, but conservationists could soon have a new tool at their disposal: killer robots. Enter iRobot CEO Colin Angle, who met with Bermudan conservationists and learned about the extent of the damage caused by lionfish.

One of the group suggested that he create a machine to kill the fish, and another offered to provide funding. Angle returned home and wrote a proposal, which swiftly became the non-profit company “Robots in Service of the Environment (RISE).” The design for a lionfish killer combines a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), using technology which iRobot had developed for the automatic vacuum cleaner Roomba, with an attached electrocution device.

Local scientists believe the machines could play a critical role in restoring the health of marine ecosystems. If the robot is successful, it could have a major impact on our ability to manage this invasive population.

Prototypes of the robot are undergoing tests to assess how many fish can be killed, power requirements, and variations of the design. The trials will continue for the next year, before the first commercial models are assembled and sent out to hunt. Rizzi says the company is fully focused on the lionfish project, but similar designs could be used to cull other nuisance species in future.

by Keiron Monks for CNN
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Leo Carrillo Camp Weekend

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September 8-10th are the dates for the club’s annual Leo Carrillo Camp/Dive trip. This a great, local getaway weekend that offers our members the chance to chill and enjoy some of the best things that the California Coastal Region has to offer.

Just 28 miles north of Santa Monica, Leo Carrillo State Beach sits 1.5 miles of beautiful state beach. The site is perfect for hours of relaxing exploration; beach combing, surf fishing, kite boarding, wind surfing and swimming. For the more ambitious, there are some challenging hiking trails as well. Conditions permitting, the club sponsors a beach dive on Saturday morning. Just off shore there are numerous small kelp beds interspersed with sand beds and rocky shoals that host a healthy variety of sea life like perch, bat rays, lobsters, garibaldi, and even octopus. After a tranquil day at the beach and a sundown cocktail (or two), the evening the meal is on us. We’ll provide the appetizers, main course and dessert.

Some members take advantage of the site’s proximity and opt to come out for part of the weekend or just the day. It’s all good to us! Just please be aware that we need to know if you plan on joining us for Saturday’s catered dinner so we have enough on hand to feed everyone. If you want to overnight with us, you can sign up here. The cost just $25 dollars for the entire weekend. Space is somewhat limited, but we have managed to squeeze multiple tents into some pretty small spaces!  Don’t have a tent you say? Well if you let us know what you need, we may be able to help you out!

 

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Membership Renewal Just Got Simpler

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Thanks to club members Scott Weber, Rex Theobald, and Gary Nugent, renewing your Barnacle Busters membership just became a whole lot easier! We now offer an online renewal option for our members. Before your membership expires, you will receive an email from us letting you know its time to renew. Within that email will be a summary of the contact information that we have on file for you. This is the perfect time to let us know if anything has changed in your life over the past year. Just reply to the email with any corrections that you’d like us to make.

Also included in the email will be a reminder of the waiver that you originally signed when you joined. Simply click the link to the website (indicating that you agree the terms of the waiver) and you’ll be taken to a page on our secure website when you can use your credit card to renew your membership before it expires. No postage or check writing required! Pretty simple, right!

 

Catalina Dive August 5th

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As part of Buck’s monthly PADI certification classes, there will be a contingent of new divers (and instructors) heading over to dive Casino Point this weekend. If you’d like to join them, make a reservation on the Catalina Express and then email Buck letting him know you plan to join. If there are any last minute schedule changes, he’ll email to let you know. Make sure to book the boat leaving Long Beach at 7:15am and returning from Avalon at 5pm. Hope you can make it!

Monthly Club Meeting

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This month we’ll be back in Silver Lake for our monthly club meeting. The date is Wednesday, August 16th and we’ll be gathering at Casita del Campo. Join us to see what’s new and reconnect with the membership. Also this evening we plan to screen the first half of the Netflix documentary “Chasing Coral” about the decline in healthy marine ecosystems. Can you think of a better excuse to justify that hump day margarita?

October Cee Ray date change!!!

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We need to give everyone a “heads up” about a date change in the works. The Cee Ray has changed our October dive boat date from Sunday, October 22nd to Saturday, October 21st.  Our members typically prefer to dive on Saturday so that they can have Sundays free.  The date change should be good news to most of you! If you are already booked on this boat for the 22nd and can not make the 21st, let us know at rainbowdive@sbcglobal.net and we will try to help you re-sell your spot.

July 4th Boat Re-cap

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The fireworks started the moment we stepped aboard: eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, hot coffee and friendly greetings. This was the Barnacle Busters’ fifth Independence Day dive trip to Catalina aboard the Cee Ray. Ten club members set up their gear and settled in for the two hour trip to the island. In addition to our group, the guest list included friends we only get to see once a year on the 4th. Scuba diving creates eclectic tribes.

We wound up with a buddy team of six, including a couple of new divers and one lapsed, so the first site, Bird Rock was a “settle-in” dive which went well: rich healthy kelp with all the usual SoCal marine life and one giant black sea bass sighted.

Next was Yellowtail Point. I love the rocky reef structures there, stratified and dramatic. We spotted no fewer than a dozen spiny lobsters in one crevice, several Spanish Shawls and numerous large, healthy abalone, thanks to the moratorium. Welcome back, we’ve missed you.

The final dive, Lulu Reef, was the best. While most of the other divers headed for the rocky reef, we cruised the sand flats, searching for bat rays. And…we weren’t disappointed, spotting the first “dust storm” moments into the dive. Carefully edging closer, we found a good sized ray foraging in the silt. He looked at us and leisurely flew away. Then they were everywhere, probably 10 or 12, some sleeping, some burrowing, some swimming and all seemingly posing for us. A few round rays were also spotted. We loved this dive.

Some of us napped on the way home, others enjoyed a cocktail and socialized, and we were all happy as could be! Back in Long Beach, we anchored in the harbor, opened another cider and waited for dinner and fireworks.

Tri-tip and salmon were on the menu with plenty of side dishes, created by the always fabulous Kim Lancaster. As usual, fireworks over the Queen Mary were spectacular, a great way to finish off perfect day.

Always thinking ahead, we had parked our RV in the Cee Ray parking lot to avoid traffic on the 710. So nice to snuggle in your own bed after a full day of diving and celebration.

Many thanks to Mike & Kim Lancaster for providing a memorable 4th of July, as always. Our reservations have already been made for next year!! Join us!

 

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Legendary Bingo

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It’s certainly NOT a night of your parents’ bingo…and that’s a good thing!

Hamburger Mary’s Legendary Bingo featured a very full house on Sunday the 25th. Club members and a surprising number of single women celebrating birthdays with their gal pals made sure that the house was rocking and ready to roll for the evening’s festivities. Bingo-Boy was not able to be there, but we were treated to the quick-witted very cute Joel as our emcee. Trans icon Calpernia Addams herself served as our ball caller for the evening!

It was all great fun and we were very fortunate to have the club benefit from the evening’s take at the door. Those funds are crucial to ensuring that the club can continue to book our charter boats throughout the year as well as offering our other free events and gatherings. Thanks to everyone who showed up and made the night such a great party!

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SPLISH SPLASH

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By all measures our latest SPLASH Day gathering was a huge success!  Following close on the heels of PRIDE, we managed to welcome over 60 people who were interested in diving. That is a new record for us!  Some were members (lapsed and otherwise), some were previously certified divers who just found out about us and a large number were people who are interested in becoming certified divers. All of that bodes well for the sport and for the long-term health of our LGBTQ club. Buck has already booked quite a few in his upcoming classes. If you weren’t able to attend, why not join us at one of our upcoming local dives and meet some of these new divers as they complete their open water skills demonstration?

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