Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Author: leslie wang (page 2 of 3)

I love you, Global Entry!

southwest boarding tsa precheck

One item I invested in before I left my job was Global Entry. I was on the fence about it for a year. I wasn’t sure if it was worth my time and effort to spend $100. Global Entry is card that gets Americans a “front of the line” pass when coming from international flights and a “front of the line” pass going through security when flying domestically.

The application process is similar to a job security clearance screening. You will have to give information on your job, you previous addresses, income and other similar information.  I had most of it already since I had to have it for my defense contracting job, so it wasn’t that inconvenient.  If approved, the $100 fee is valid for 5 years. I was approved within a month and then kept checking the interview website for openings for a few days before I got my appointment.  Within another week of the interview I got my shiny ID card.

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The Truth will set you free- Overstaying a Visa

map-of-the-schengen-area-svg_orig

Key:Blue area are countries within Schengen and Orange Areas are “to be added” countries. Grey Countries are not part of this treaty.  (Map from Wikipedia)

This map would have been useful to me before I started traveling. Whoops. When I took a leave of absence, I flew to Finland, then Holland, then to Africa, then to Madrid, then to France before settling down to Iceland.

When I had planned my Iceland Divemaster program, I checked the Icelandic immigration website and found that I could stay in the country on Tourist Visa for 90 days. This worked for me because I was paying for the Divemaster program and I was not working. I didn’t need any special visa. Once I got to Iceland I met a lot of tourists. One couple in particular told me of their one year sabbatical and how it was hard to get around the Schengen area. Huh? That’s when I felt a deep lump forming in my belly.  I went home and googled “Schengen.” Oh to my stupid American surprise that I found this map.

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Divemaster Project Completion: Big Crack in Davidsgja, Pingvellier National Park Map

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I channeled my old “worker bee self” and used powerpoint to do my divemaster mapping project.  As promised, here is the final submittal I gave to Dive.Is to satisfy my divemaster training requirement.

If anyone sees any errors, please comment down below!

Takeaways from the Divemaster Program

divemaster celebration cakeWow. There are so many things that I want to say that I don’t know where to start.

First, the divemaster program was completely the opposite of what I expected. I imagined myself having tons of time for myself, doing yoga, discover iceland, everything except for Diving. (haha) Other PADI programs like advanced Open water, Deep Diver, and Rescue focus on your own development and improvement on diving.

The divemaster course is a big transition from being that vacationer diver to a full time diver that takes cares of others. Yes- you can still enjoy a dive and point out cute little crabs, but its not the main focus of the dive anymore. Instead, you are to focus on helping other divers, give them guidance, and if necessary, save their life. I guess I wasn’t prepared for that BIG transition.

During my three months in Iceland, I was able to dive for fun and dive for work. My fun dives brought back the relaxation and fun in diving. My work dives made me a better leader and stronger person.

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I’m done! Well Kinda…

divemaster collage iceland Yay! I’m done! Well kinda… I finished all my internship hours yesterday. These three months in Iceland have really flown by. There were definitely days where I missed America, but there were many more days hat I was really happy to be learning something new and be in a new environment.

For the last week- it’s been a real rush to finish my program. On July 4th- a fellow DMT and I took our final exams. The exam consisted of 120 questions. At lest half of the questions were easy things that were was or watched in the DVD and Divemaster manual. About 20 of the questions- I really just guessed on. I had read the manual but didn’t memorize these little details. The good part is that after the exam we went over each wrong answer, so now I know what I didn’t know.For example, if a diver comes out of the water with bright red lips, what does that? Carbon Monoxide poisoning!  ( I didn’t know that prior to the exam, but now I will never forget!)

Over the weekend we did our Divemaster workshops. The discover scuba pool session was pretty fun. Patrik was able to find a real student for us. (Thanks Deb!) We all then watched him conduct a DSD and then did our simulated sessions. This practice made it easy when we went to the open water. Continue reading

Divemaster Mapping Project Day

On Tuesday, we (3 DMTs) all went to Davidsgja to do our mapping project.  The day started off really beautiful. Here’s a snapshot:

davidsgja 2    davidsgja 1

We planned to one person stay at depth of the “Big Crack”, another person holding the measuring tape, and then another person using the measuring tape.  We would measure the width of the crack and then also use a buoy to mark every 20 meters.  We practiced a couple times on how everything would play out in the water.

The water at Davidsgja was about 6-8 deg.C. A nice warm up from Silfra. The visibility was about 15 meters.  I think the visibility at the bottom of the crack (approximately 160 meters from our starting point) was about 20-30 meters. Very Beautiful.

We had a couple of hiccups during the task.  For one, the diveshop didn’t have a measuring tape, so we had created our own from a line and some electrical tape.  This made measuring easy to spot the 1 meter tags, but difficult when trying to reel the line back in.  Consequently, it took us longer to measure out 20 meter increments.  We also had to split the task into two separate dives because of the length of the task.

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Stykkishólmur: Diving on my day off


Stykkishólmur is a city in the west area of Iceland where most people come to take a ferry to the West Fjords. About 1000 people live in this small city. After speaking to the harbor master we learned we could dive right next to the bay and at the surrounding islands. The visibility was pretty good- maybe 5-10meters, but the currents were pretty strong. We spotted some cod, many many crabs, medusa jelly fish, sea urchins, and star fish.
I’m getting hungry. We hop on Seatours on the Viking sushi sea tour. The ship took us to various islands along the bay. It starts to rain lightly rain. Bad idea to wear jeans.  The boat stops at various islands and talks about the region and points out a lot of different birds.  Like most tourists, I’m most interested in Puffins.  In Reykjavik, the puffins are all on one island and kinda far away. On this tour, I can really see these cute little birdies! Look at those cute beaks!

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Learning how to Demonstrate Scuba Skills

Ok- now time to turn the boys into men, I mean turn these guppies into sharks, I mean turn these divers into divemasters.

Divemasters are required to learn and demonstrate a total of 24 skills. It’s late into my program, but we finally got around to doing these skills. If I would have a recommendation to others doing the divemaster program, I would try to do these skills before the Open Water Course. This was some fun stuff. It made me feel like I was advancing to a new level of scuba diving.

Here are the skills we learned:
1. Equipment assembly, adjustment, preparation, donning and disassembly
2. Predive safety check (BWRAF)
3. Deep-water entry
4. Buoyancy check at surface
5. Snorkel-regulator/regulator-snorkel exchange
6. Five-point descent
7. Regulator recovery and clearing
8. Mask removal, replacement and clearing
9. Air depletion exercise and alternate air source use (stationary)
10. Alternate air source-assisted ascent
11. Free-flowing regulator breathing
12. Neutral buoyancy
13. Five-point ascent
14. Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent
15. Hover motionless for 30 seconds
16. Underwater swim without a mask
17. Remove and replace weight system underwater
18. Remove and replace scuba unit underwater
19. Remove and replace scuba unit on the surface
20. Remove and replace weight system on the surface
21. Vertical, head first skin dive
22. Swim at least 15 metres/50 feet underwater on a single breath while skin diving.
23. Snorkel clear using the blast method after ascending from a skin dive.
24. Snorkel clear using the displacement method after ascending from a skin dive.

We split the skills into 2 pool sessions.  While we (the DMTs) all knew how to do these skills, it was another experience to demonstrate them clearly.  I kept doing the skills to fast, and got dinged for it. Slower. no, Slower. Slower. SLOWER…. perfect!

The best tip I can tell others is to slow down, exaggerate, and practice a lot before the evaluation is given.

Overall, this was one of the most beneficial and fun times during the divemaster program at Dive.Is. After the sessions, I wanted to go slow and over demonstrate everything.  Do…. you…. want.. to eat? (insert hand signal for “You” and “eat”)

Click this link For more information on my ongoing divemaster experience at dive.is

Benefits of doing your DMT at Dive.Is – Dive Expeditions

Dive.Is Divemaster program advertises the “opportunity to join dive expeditions to a number of locations around the country.” Dive Expeditions (part of Dive.Is) organizes 3, 5, and 10 day tours around Iceland.

Recently a fellow DMT was able to go on a 5 day tour to the West Fjords and Northern Iceland.His trip included Strytan- the only location in the world where you can dive a Geothermal Chimney/cone.

Unfortunately for me- my program ends before the next trip starts.  (insert sad scuba tears here)

A note for future DMTs at Dive.Is!!!! Check the expeditions as soon as you arrive. I wasn’t informed about this experience until another DMT was on his trip.  By then, my DMT program only had less than 1 month left, and little time to join such a fun opportunity.

Here is a picture of instructor Patrik enjoying Strytan.

strytan geothermal cone

Strytan is the only geothermal cone found in the world you can scuba dive to, the others are found at 2000m or deeper.

Leading a Tour Group – nobody puts baby in the back

kleifervatn scuba 3This week has been a whole lot of diving. I went to Kleifarvatn again and had my first free flowing regulator problem, followed by a diver requiring to manual inflate his BCD and use my alternate air source.

Here’s what happened: The winds created a pretty strong current at the dive site. Patrik chose to swim diagonally past the exit point so that we could drift back to the shore. We were almost there when one diver floated to the top, then her husband went up to check on her. I came up as well to  make sure everything was ok.

At the surface his regulator started to free flow. I tried to turn it down and stop it, but was unsuccessful. The diver started to manually inflate his BCD. I came behind him and told him i was going to turn off his tank and turn it back on. Once back on, the pressure was almost NIL. I gave him my alternate air source while he leaned back to fight the waves and rest.

Patrik was with the other diver and then we all did a surface swim/ drift back to shore. Later I double checked with Patrik that I did everything correctly.

The good news is that everyone was safe and happy and I got to practice helping someone in distress solo.

The geothermal activity at Kleifervatn was above average. The visibility was also in our favor despite the wind.

The next day, I led our dive group (did the dive briefing and took photos).  There were minor problems for each dive…. preventing a diver from rapid ascent, loose weight belt, and a cranky dry suit hose, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

It’s finally happening! I’m finally becoming confident. I’m feel like I can help people. I’m less nervous and I’ve actually started enjoying the environment. I feel like a little caterpillar coming out of cocoon.  Where are my butterfly wings?

Now, if I can only get Patrik to come over and lift me like Patrick Swayze/ Jennifer Grey and dance  to “The Time of my Life” the scuba divemaster movie would be complete.

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