Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

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

Category: Scuba (page 1 of 4)

Blogs relating to scuba diving

Diving in Myanmar with Smiling Seahorse

At peace. That’s how I feel when I am underwater. Fishes swimming. Plants swaying to the swell of the ocean. Weightless. With only my air bubbles to tell me which way is up.

Outside of the water, I’m awkward. I don’t know what I want in life. I forgot something. Where am I going? Its too much to think about.  Diving is much easier.

My parents phoned me with hesitations in their voice. I imagine they think I’m venturing into Somalian pirated waters or something. Danger lurking over each wave. Is it safe? Where will you be? Is there cell service?

Yes, its safe. In the middle of nowhere. No connections to civilization whatsoever. No need to worry.

The Dive Group for Trip 3 – Hosted by the Smiling Seahorse

The Smiling Seahorse

MV Thai Sea – my home for the next 5 days. The owner, Frank, works as the dive instructor on the boat, and his wife does the business side. It’s a nice and small independent diving operation. The boat has room for 12 guests, with a ratio of 4 divers to one divemaster/instructor.

At first, I have my hesitations. I get on the boat and its French. Like Tres Tres Tres French. All the other divers minus one other diver- Choy, are French. Queue La Vie en Rose please.

Le Bienvenue speech. The Suisse dive instructor (Julien) translates. I’m somewhat irritated. My spoiled Americanness kicks in.  Why can’t everyone just speak English. Then I think about Trump and realize I’m being stupid. Relax.

The first night I’m a little cranky and shy, so I take some seasickness pills and go to sleep.

The next morning I wake up to the sound of “630! Dive briefing!”

I put on my swim suit and a shirt dress and head to the back of the boat. We form our groups and prepare for diving. Each day will follow this schedule -Dive. Eat Breakfast. Sleep. Dive. Eat Lunch. Sleep. Dive. Eat a snack. Relax. Dive. Eat Dinner. Drink.

The Dive Group: Me, Luc, Julien, Choy

A day later, I start warming up to my new French family. We exchange stories about all our travels and drink Richard, the drink of the Bordeaux French men. It’s Licorice tasting madness.  The 4 divers in their mid 50’s traveling sans wives brought a huge bottle of Richard for all to drink. The perfect recipe for laughter and fun. After some shots of Rum, a dance party with flashing lights forms on the top deck.

By the third day, all my stupid American prejudice about the French boat are gone. We exchange stories of the fish we see underwater while eating all the delicious treats the Thai team cooks for us. One day banana fritters and ice cream. Next Day, crepes with fruit.

Night falls and we jump in for another night dive. I float around flashing my light at fishes. A lonely barracuda passes by. I name him Mr.B. Mr.B is rather curious and swims towards me. Maybe a little too close. At first it feels fun, but now its makes me uneasy.   Circling me, I can feel his irritation.

My heart rate is up. I’m afraid to shine my light into the darkness. I’m unsure if I want to see Mr.B staring back at me. I swim over to my guide and hope that Mr.B disappears.

Moments later, Choy swims up next to me and Julian. He’s rubbing his shoulder. Forming a fist into a palm, Choy signals to me that a barracuda shoulder checked him. Or at least that’s what I interpret. It must be Mr.B. Like 2 young kids afraid to cross the street, we stay close to Julien and look both ways before swimming ahead.

Not seeing Mr.B anywhere, I start doing my own thing again. Rock here. Fish there. Mr.B. … WHAT? I quickly flash my light somewhere else. Swimming away,  scared.

A minute passes. I see a distant light shaking frantically. I swim over and Choy signals to me that he sees Mr.B again. We stay close together and search the seas. No sign of an imminent attack.

The dive ends and we pop up to the surface. Instantly we are two kids chatting to Julien about this barracuda. Julien laughs.

I have to laugh at myself. Like what is this fish going to do to me? I have a knife for Christ sake.  A big knife. One slice and its sashimi time.

The rest of the dives, we kept an eye out for Mr. B, but he must have found someone else to punk. Instead we saw more seahorses, octopus, puffer fish, and angel fish. Each time we circle reefs the song of the little mermaid pops into my head.  The schools of fish seem to freeze at times. Every clown fish is named Nemo. Every blue angel fish is named Dory.

Unable to explain the vastness of the sea, I’ll use my video to show my the rest of my trip experiences from under the sea:

Special Thanks to Luc for his photos and video. Thanks to Smiling Seahorse for providing such a great experience!

Warm Weather Ruins Monterey Diving

Red Tide – Algae Growth

Hmm. The water looks like God spilled his coffee in it and is now shaking it to get it to dissipate. Its horrible. I talk to my Instructor and he says he’s never seen it “this bad.” Monterey usually sits at mid 60’s during October. Two weeks before leading up to our course, its been high 60’s to mid 70’s. The warm weather has allowed a growth of algae to grow at many of the Monterey Bay Dive sites. To make matters worse, some how there is a swell.

The first time I prepared to dive Monterey Bay, I asked my buddy about tides, currents, and wind. He laughed and told me that Monterey Bay is flat and you can dive it any time. Well, not this weekend.

The plan for the Advanced Open Water course is 5 dives: 3 shore dives with one at night, and 2 boat dives.  I even book an AirBnB to stay over night.

I get to Lover’s Point #3 and it looks like surf’s up. Its definitely upsetting to look out at the beautiful ocean and not be able to get in the water.  Scuba rule to follow- If conditions are bad, cancel the dive. Don’t risk it.

Instead we (the instructor and divemasters) talk to the students and explain to them the situation.  The shore dives are pushed to a different week in November. Boat dives are still on because they are planned for an estimated 80 feet depth.

The rest of the day we spend taking the students to some of nearby dive sites. While I won’t go into specific dive sites (private message me if you would like more information). Here’s the general information.

Monterey Bay Dive Sites

Monastery Beach

This beach is for advanced divers only. So much so the city even put out a warning sign:

monastery-warning

If you dive Monastery, its either going to be on the North or South side. There’s nothing to see in the middle.  The break is very steep. One minute you are on the beach, the next step you are neck deep in water. If there is any swell, like 1ft, then the dive should be called off. Why?  Well, getting out of the water can be extremely difficult if you are trying to climb out as the waves break on you. The image shows a diver tumbling down- imagine a washing machine full of sand and ocean. Thats Monastery.   The last note gave me the chills “At least 30 people have died at this beach.”

monastery

Looks nice and flat… but underneath its a washing machine waiting to grab you.

Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach includes a wetlands area. Over here there is a small free parking lot.  This is close to  Monastery Beach, but not as difficult.

carmel-river

Lover’s Cove / Lover’s Point


There’s three places to dive here. 1. Lover’s Cove 2. Lover’s Point 3. Lover’s Point #3. The third one is on the other side opposite of Lover’s cove and has a stairway down to a beach.

If you go down Ocean View Blvd towards Naiad St, you can dive Otters Beach.

The downside of lover’s cove is that it is very shallow 15-20ft for 200-300 yards. You have to surface swim quite far if you want to dive deep.  Another disadvantage is that you can only park here for a max of 2 hours before having to move your car.

McAbee Beach


Right on Cannery Row, this beach is great if you already have a hotel room nearby.  We parked at the El Torrito to check out conditions.  This dive site is also close to Breakwater Cover, so one could do a dive at breakwater first then drive over during a surface interval and dive again.

Of course there are many other dive sites, but if you want to know something specific, send me a message and I will give you details.

Happy Diving!

Fantasy versus Reality – How much work does it take to earn $70?

breakwater_beach

This weekend I got my first private lesson for a Drysuit Orientation. I’m pretty excited because I got to do these drysuit orientations every day in Silfra. Now I get money for this? Hooray.

Frank arrives just past 1pm. I’m already at Breakwater Cove relaxing after my open water course. He’s just finished doing a feeding show at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I find out that you can sign up to be a volunteer to clean the tanks or feed the fish. Its a year and a half waiting list, but he says its worth it.
We swap stories about diving and sabbaticals. He took one when he was younger biking around Europe for 3 months. I’m beginning to think that everyone in their lifetime should take a sabbatical to have fun instead of working 30 years (and then retiring to have fun).

I do my typical speech about drysuits…. Drysuits are a new factor of bouyancy… dive as if you are superman and keep horizontal… lift your left arm up with your elbow bent to release air…. kick your feet up a little bit to give yourself a better trim, press the center button to add air to your suit if you feel compression at deeper depths. Remember that the air will expand as we rise so if you have added air, remember to release the air via your left arm valve. And on and on I go.

By the time I finish, I start to see Frank sweating. Its a hot day to be in a drysuit. I help him put on his gear and then I go to put on my gear. I’m wearing my new backplacte Halcyon wing. I’m a little unsure about my weight distribution.

The first 20 minutes of the dive goes great…. then I test out my wing inflator valve at 35 ft and it starts to auto inflate due to a sticky spring. I try to quickly dump air out but its not helping. I start to ascend and feel helpless as I watch Frank fade away. I pop up to the surface where the Seals start barking at me. Frank pops out of the water and I explain to him what happens. I’m pretty embarrassed and feel my cheeks turn hot. I stop using my wing for inflation and rely on my drysuit instead. I wonder if it was smart of me to spend so much money on this backplate wing.

The rest of the dive we spend doing some drills and test out diving with out ankle weights. I also show him differences with diving with the dry suit valve closed versus open. As we walk out- Frank can’t believe how warm it is.  The 55 degree water had nothing on him. The sun is shining and it feels like a nice hot summer day.
beautiful-day-montery

We get back to my car and I help explain to Frank how to get out of his suit. He struggles. Wriggling like he’s got a monkey on his back. I show him how I get out of my suit and then slowly assist him. He keeps saying- shouldn’t I be able to do this on my own? I tell him when I first started working in Iceland that I used to hide behind a van so that customers wouldn’t see my misery trying to get out of my drysuit. Like a crazy person escaping an asylum wearing a straitjacket. Frank, like most people, is intrigued by my travels to Iceland. I tell him all the great memories I have on the island. I wish I could go back but there are other places I want to dive… like the Galapagos and much of South America.

At the end of the session he pays me $50 a dive and a $20 tip. I’m really excited because it was a really fun day and it didn’t feel like working. I did this on my own. Frank asks me if I can do more privates with his 12 year old daughter. I respond that I hadn’t thought about it, but sure. I would love to dive and be a role model to his daughter.

A few days later I meet my dad and tell him about my weekend. His first remark- “didn’t you used to earn that much in a hour?” I know he didn’t mean any harm in it. But yeah, I did. And I know I can’t survive off of scuba diving. But really, What’s better: sitting in a cushy office and pushing around powerpoint presentations for an hour or 3 hours of Scuba Diving at Monterey Bay and smiling when you realize all the  truth-isms of Finding Dory.  (don’t mind this pirated secret ending…. hilarious)

To celebrate my gig completion, I took my hard earned $70 to San Francisco and met up with one of my besties from college, Habib. We go to at least 3 cocktail bars where I paid on average $14 a drink.  A whole day’s work in exchange for great conversations and tasty drinks. Totally worth my scuba diving hardwork.

fancy-cocktail-bar-sf

 Be a responsible diver and remember to drink afterwards!

And in case you haven’t used a taxi, download uber and use my promotional code “8tlu0” for a free $20 ride or my lyft code “LESLIE40”

Quitting an Open Water Course

Perspective. Yesterday, I had a student diver that was debating on completing the open water course. He simply said “I can do the exercises. That’s not the problem. The problem is that I don’t like being under water. I don’t think I like scuba diving.” Hmm. I tred to sway him and tell him what a great job he did on day 1 of the pool session.
But then I thought, does he want to be convinced? Or should i lay off an just let him quit? I tried to tell him that I would do all the review skills privately and he could swim around the bottom of the pool and enjoy scuba diving without pressure. He was resistant. The more I try to be nice, the more he resisted.
The worst part was that I forgot his name. I asked him again, and he gave me a half laugh / half frustated remark. He was done. At this instance, I realized that I can’t force someone to finish a program. That’s something he needs to figure out. Maybe one day he will wake up with regret, and call the shop and finish the program. Maybe he will decide he loves to snorkel instead. Who knows.
I felt like I had failed as a divemaster.

Continue reading

Continuing Scuba Education – PADI or GUE

PADI DiveMaster

I thought becoming a PADI divemaster would put me into an elite stage in scuba diving. However, after a few dives in Monterey, CA, I’m quickly learning that I have barely scraped the surface into scuba diving. There are so many more things that I need to learn. I feel confident that I can help other PADI open water divers and advanced open water divers, but I want to challenge myself.

Global Underwater Explorers (GUE)

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.18.59 PMUp until a few weeks ago, I had no idea GUE even existed.  Another divemaster at my new shop introduced me to his fellow GUE divers.  He explained to me that this was another diving organization.  His short explanation to me was that it teaches all divers to dive use the same equipment configuration, dive in group formation, and a higher level of buoyancy and trim requirements.  Essentially it means, whenever you dive with another GUE person, you always expect the same type of diver.  You could dive with someone you just met, and feel like you have been dive buddies for years.

Comparison between PADI and GUE

Continue reading

Any Water Sports (AWS) Open Water Course Ocean Dives

A week later and its time for  Ocean Dives of the Open Water Course. I missed Saturday’s session because I had family in town. On Sunday, I woke up at 5:30am and drove down to Monterey, CA. The popular dive spot for open water courses is Breakwater Cove. It looked like there was about 4 different classes going on. Any Water Sports (AWS) had 7 divers. Diver Dan’s had 16 divers.  I don’t know the ratio for Diver Dan’s, but we had 7 divers, 2 instructors and 2 divemasters.  Claude (the DM that lent me tanks) was hanging out before his tech course. oh la la, tech course anyone?

The AWS folks are in the center of the grassy area. Everyone in good spirits. Well Kinda. The students had minor complaints about the wetsuits still being wet and geese poop everywhere. It was about 7:30am on a Sunday, so I would be cranky about goose poop and wet wetsuits as well.

Green Eyes. Dry Suits.

I felt pretty bad wearing my sweatpants and putting on my drysuit. The students were a pack of seals eyeing a sweet piece of fish. Every now and again they would look over at the instructors and DM. Sigh, drool, yelp. Yoga posing to get into the wetsuits.  Did I mention how much I love my drysuit?? I pull on my suspenders a bit and take a step back to hang out while waiting for the students to suit up.

Dive 3 Navigation and More

The instructors did a quick briefing on compass navigation and I walked around and helped out turning the bezel and explaining where “N” goes. Then the instructors went over  what we all needed to do for Dive 3. Surface Navigation, 5 point descent, followed by under water navigation, demonstrating Hover, Safety Stop, and 4 point ascent. Boom. End Dive.

Continue reading

My new Job: Divemaster in the Bay Area California

It’s been about a month since I left Iceland. I left the island not knowing what or where I would be going next. For now, I’ve decided to chill out with my family and take some time to catch up on everything I’ve been missing in the states. Besides eating In N’ Out everyday, I figured I better start diving again to work off all those burgers.

I yelped a few places around San Jose and found Any Water Sports. I went by one day just to rent some tanks. Everyone in the store was really attentive and friendly. Almost too helpful!  There wasn’t a minute that went by where someone didn’t ask me if I needed something. At first, I didn’t know how to react. Then I gave in and engaged in the art of small talk. Refreshing. I know that sounds weird, but visit Iceland and try to small talk with anyone in a shop. Crickets. It doesn’t happen. I left the store feeling like they were a group of scuba nerds just hanging out. Good times.

After a few tank rentals, I spoke with the owner and expressed my interest in being a divemaster for the store. We had a really informal chat about the business and BOOM. I found a job!

Continue reading

Scuba Diving with the Imperial System versus the Metric System

imperial metric scubaComing back to America, I never realized the horrible pain of the Imperial measurement system. Not to knockdown my fellow Americans, but why do we measure stuff like this? WHY?

Ok, that was my rant. Now here is some useful information that I have been noting between diving in Europe, Asia and America.

Continue reading

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Continue reading

Older posts