September: Hurricane Dorian

Sept 2019, Hurricane Dorian

I write this September 1, 2019 as Hurricane Dorian is pounding Marsh Harbor and the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas. The storm is unprecedentedly powerful and promises to produce a formidable death count in the islands.

The drubbing the islands are taking from this storm could be a precursor to what Florida and/or the Carolinas has to deal with in a day or 2 or 3. The radar picture looks ominous. The reports from the Bahamas include 180 mile per hour sustained winds and gusts to 225 mph. I have heard that storm surges as high as 20 feet may have hit some locations. None of us have witnessed a storm of this magnitude.

This slow-moving storm has caused us to take week or more off from our diving schedule. It seems that is caused us to take a week or more out of our life schedule for all the preparation before the storm and the cleanup afterwards. I wish you all the best!

Remember that powerful hurricanes can rearrange and relocate some of our shipwreck and other artificial reef dive sites. Don’t be surprised if a shipwreck looks a bit different after a storm. Discuss the possibility before the dive and don’t be surprised if you see some changes.

As with any disaster, this hurricane will provide us with many opportunities to help our neighbors in the Bahamas, in Florida, and likely in Georgia and the Carolinas.

Count your blessings! And enjoy the diving after the storm!

Be safe. Dive safe.

Dave Wills

August: Before You Jump!! Last Minute Dive Checklist

What are the most important things you should be doing in the last minutes before jumping off a dive boat into the water?  Let’s call this list our last minute checklist.  These points are key, but you may wish to add some for your circumstances.

  • Have you had the appropriate conversations with your dive buddy and with the boat captain?

  • Are you wearing the correct dive weights?

  • Is your buoyancy inflation/deflation equipment working?

  • Are you wearing your mask and fins?

  • Have you taken one or 2 quick breaths from your mouthpiece while watching your pressure gage?

  • Is your octopus or secondary mouthpiece working?

  • Is your air cylinder full of known breathing mix?

  • Is your buoyancy adjusted for your desired descent (rapid descent vs floating on the surface)?

  • Are you stressed out, or are you wearing a smile because you’re doing what you love to do?

  • Is your dive buddy stressed out, or is he/she smiling back at you?

Be Safe & Dive with a Smile!

Dave Wills

July: Fine Tune Your Dive Weights

What type of dive weight system do you dive with?

  • How quickly can you remove and discard your weights?

  • Do you have integrated weight pockets?

  • Does your BC have fixed weight pockets?

  • Do you use a combination of captive and discardable weights?

  • Are all of your weights on a single belt?

  • Are your weights comfortable?

  • Do they allow you to float horizontally at neutral buoyancy?

  • Have you ever tried tank weights?

  • Have you ever tried ankle weights?

  • Do you adjust your weight for a wet suite change?

  • Do you notice when dive buddies have weight issues?

  • Do you carry a portable weight that you could pass to a dive buddy?

You and your dive buddy might benefit from a buoyancy tune up!

Let’s talk!

Be Safe, Dive Safe

Dave Wills

June: What Can Go Wrong!?

An SFDI buddy recently provided this true account of a dive trip gone very wrong.  The names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent.

This dive trip occurred when our buddy (let’s call him Leo) was a beginner.

Leo had become certified some years earlier but had not done any diving, so when he decided he wanted to get back into the sport he booked a refresher course with a dive shop in Miami-Dade County. 

For some unknown reason, the dive was a night dive… and Leo had never before been night diving.

Leo was provided rental gear at the dive shop and then rode together in a van with some other divers who were chatting in Spanish, to the dive boat where he was assigned a dive buddy who spoke little English.  Unfortunately, Leo is an English speaker with minimal Spanish language skills…so there was a significant communication gap.

Leo recalls the diving conditions as being somewhat rough and very dark. 

When he dropped into the water he found the tagline was well above the surface, just out of reach.  He expended a significant amount of energy bobbing up and down before he got a hand on the tagline.  And the water was very dark!

There were people in front and behind Leo on the tagline. Unfortunately, he lost track of his buddy.

When he finally reached the descent line he was out of breath and hyperventilating.   He paused there for 30 seconds or more in an attempt to calm himself, but the hyperventilation persisted. 

Fortunately, Leo decided to terminate the dive and re-boarded the dive boat.  He stripped off his gear and continued to hyperventilate for nearly 10 minutes aboard the dive boat.  He was thereafter completely exhausted.

Leo’s dive experience progressed from isolation in the van, to uncertainty in the boat, anxiety and a fear of drowning in the water, and a panic attack.  Fortunately Leo made it back aboard the boat. This situation could have ended very differently!

There are lots of things we can all learn from Leo’s account of his worst day of diving.  I’d say two of the most significant are:

1) Preparation is everything!

2) Always look out for your dive buddy, and your boating buddies, and your SFDI buddies!

Leo tells me this experience, years ago, still effects the way he dives, and his tolerance for the unexpected during dives.

Please, always be the best dive buddy you are able to be, above water and below.

Be safe!  Dive safe!
Dave Wills

May: Your Dive Mask….Can you still put it back on underwater?

Hey do you remember way back when you were certified to SCUBA dive? During the class the instructor almost certainly ask you to take your mask off and put it back on underwater. This is standard training in all certification classes.

But, when was the last time you did this? Do you still remember how? Do you need a refresher?

If it’s been a few years since you did this exercise I recommend you try it with your dive buddy watching to keep you out of trouble. Or even better, practice in a swimming pool sometime.

I recommend that all you lobster divers practices before the season opens again. You never know when you’re lobster diving buddy might accidentally kick you in the face and knock your mask off.

Be Safe…Dive Safe

Dave Wills

April: Drift Flag or Marker

During a Private Boat Dive on Saturday 3/16/2019 divers on Randy’s boat and on mine witnessed 3 young men free diving on the 2nd reef off Hallandale using only a small float - about 3 times the size of a football - as a marker.  These guys were very inconspicuous, and had a close call with a speeding powerboat while we watched.

We’ve all been trained to take care of our dive buddy.  But when you drift dive, it’s also important to take care of your other dive buddy…your drift diving flag or marker.  It’s the only thing that allows your boat captain to know where you’re at.  And, it’s your 1st line of defense against passing boats. 

Take care not to pull it underwater.  This happens most often when there is current. To prevent submersion of the floating marker, the line should scope out much like an anchor line.  If you are diving in 50 feet of water, you should have about 100 feet of line between you and your dive marker.

In the open ocean a diver is required to stay within 300 feet of the dive flag, and passing boats are required to stay more than 300 feet away from a dive flag.  But, I recommend you stay as close as possible to the dive flag when you surface.  Also, be aware of how the wind is orienting your dive flag.  Does an oncoming boater have a broadside view of your flag…or not?  If not, you can raise the flag above the water and wave it from side to side to get the attention of oncoming boaters.

Be Safe…Dive Safe

Dave Wills

March: Where is That Propeller…And Who Controls It?

Let’s face the facts! The most dangerous thing in the ocean is man-made. It’s the propeller on the dive boat you’re riding on or the propeller on the passing speedboat or yacht. Divers Beware!

What can you do?

  • First, always have an understanding of the configuration of the boat you are diving from. Is it an outboard boat with propeller(s) at the stern? Is it an inboard boat with propellers under the aft part of the hull? Does the boat have waterjet propulsion (with no exposed propeller(s)).

  • Second, listen attentively to any crew instructions. Ask questions if anything is unclear. How and when will you enter the water from the dive boat? Will it be moving or stationary? Will the propeller(s) be moving or stationary?

  • Third, what’s the re-boarding procedure when the dive is finished? How are you to approach the boat? How will the boat approach you? What signals or other communication should you initiate or anticipate from the helmsman or mate? Will the engine(s) be running are shut down when you re-board the vessel?

  • Fourth, when you surface after the dive, be as conspicuous as possible. You may blow a whistle to announce your presence to the dive boat crew. Watch and listen for oncoming vessels with operators that may not be aware of your presence. It may be wise to wave your dive flag or dive sausage side to side to make it more conspicuous to an oncoming vessel. You may even consider practicing rapid re-submersion skills. How quickly can you re-submerse from the surface to 4 or 5 feet below the surface in response to an oncoming vessel? Good luck with that!

Watch Those Props!

Be Safe!


February: Watch that Line!

SCUBA divers and free divers use lines and strings to stay attached to all sorts of things.

Lanyards attach our dive lights, our cameras and other gear to our bodies.

Retractable lanyards are sometimes attached to lobster bags, lights and other fishing or diving gear.

Spear guns typically have lengthy pieces of heavy line between the gunstock and the spear.

Drift divers have float lines that keep them attached to the diver down flag. Some drift lines float while some sink.

Normally all these lines are very beneficial to the user, but things can go wrong in a hurry. Divers can become entangled in these lines in all sorts of ways that can be baffling to the diver, who is usually wearing gloves and has tunnel vision. The tangle can even be baffling to a dive buddy who doesn’t always know the intended function of the line.

Fortunately, there’s a easy solution. Always carry a knife or scissor! I prefer a scissor. Make sure it’s readily available to your dominant hand. And, don’t hesitate to cut that string if you get into a tangle!

Be Safe! Dive Safe!

Dave Wills

January: Tell Me About Your Most Significant Diving Safety Incident

Hi everybody, Dave Wills here.
I hope you all had a wonderful year 2018, including a lot of world-class SCUBA diving!!

I will be writing/presenting the safety minute for calendar year 2019. And, I’d like your assistance. Could I ask each and every one of you to consider sharing with me your most significant diving safety issue? I’d like to hear your story and possibly turn it into a safety minute that would be meaningful to our membership during 2019.

It may be the way some of us dive here in South Florida presents unique risks that are somewhat different than for other divers or for other dive locations. Let’s learn from our members experiences.

By the way, I can keep a secret. If you’d like to remain anonymous, simply let me know. I’ll tell your story without divulging your name.

Dive Safe!