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Entries in scuba (5)


the black nettle jellyfish are back in san diego

click to enlargeThe black nettle jellyfish are back in San Diego Bay. Their real name is Chrysaora achlyos, and you should count yourself lucky if you ever even seen one as it wasn't until 1997 that they were designated as a specie. 

They tend to coincide with red tides, and swarms of the black nettles seem to happen every few years. About 200 people a day got stung along the San Diego county coastline the last time these weird creatures from the deep showed up. They mysteriously show up, then quickly vanish again.

While not as nasty as the Portugese man o' war, (which isn't actually a jellyfish at all), black nettles have millions of "nematocysts", tiny little venom pods that when touched by you (or a fish) release. 

For the full details on jellyfish sting management, check out Diver's Alert Network:

1) Flush with tons of sea water. Get any residual stingers off.

2) Get some vinegar on there.

3) Immerse in warm/hot water to neutralize any remaining badness.

click to enlargeSo as your friendly neighborhood sea captain, give some extra thought to your time in the water this summer. It's certainly not a reason to avoid going to the beach or hopping in the drink, but more just some things to consider so you know what they are, what they can do, and what you can do about them.

The sting from a black nettle will vanish in under an hour if you don't do anything at all, but if you'll be spending time at the beach especially with kids, consider bringing some white vinegar even if just in a little spray bottle. It's a cheap and effective way to knock down a jellyfish sting in no time flat.

I took the pictures with my GoPro, and then popped a little video so you can see what they look like underwater. Be safe bros!


video of cleaning the bottom of the boat hull, replacing zincs

I'm a big believer in doing your own hull maintenance. From a cost perspective, you can estimate about $1,500 to get certified in scuba via PADI and get a full set of reasonable equipment. At ~$50 per cleaning, you can do the math on when it would pay for itself, and that's beyond the fun and enjoyment you can have scuba diving as a recreation. 

The bottom of this hull is fouled, and the paint is pretty much gone, so I'm not going into the proper way to care for ablative paint. That depends quite a bit on your bottom paint type, and you should really contact your paint manufacturer for their advice. The techniques I'm using are not recommended for anyone with a good paint job. If you have anti-fouling paint still on your boat, stick to a piece of 1'x1' shag-type carpet.

The knowledge of what your hull looks like, the condition of thru-hulls, how your rudder is holding up, and various other hull appendetures really helps to make you aware of your own vessel. You probably personally inspect your rig and engine to some extent: the hull should be no different.


scuba, captain'ing, and fixing our bowsprit

So minus the normal routine of my life, those three have been pretty active lately.

In the realm of scuba diving, I'm just about finished with my divemaster packet to send up to PADI. Initially I thought about keeping going up through Instructor but for now I'm happy doing the DM job and diving with friends. 

The Internet has actually helped me quite a bit with scuba diving, first getting a dive buddy off of at last minute's notice, and then (through that guy) learning about Power Scuba

I need to do some yearly maintenance on my regulators but other than that I can officially say it's a rather cheap sport once you have all your gear (and you're not chasing gear trends).

In the professional maritime world, I've been picking up shifts where I can. As pretty much the bottom guy on the totem pole I can't exactly demand an awesome schedule but I'm learning a ton and getting much more comfortable at the helm.

As a I mentioned earlier, I got a regular job as the captain of the Pronto, a local sport fisher. That's definitely the hardest job I've had on the water in quite some time. It's difficult because of watch schedules, expectations, and getting a single screw two-stroke diesel engine from the Korean War in and out of a tight slip is never trival. 

On our boat, I'm currently yanking the bowsprit off in total. It has a bit of rot in it, just so much that I need to yank it off to repair it. Instead of that, I found a place up in Oregon that stocks old growth Douglas Fir. I'm having a friend of mine shape the new timber to match the existing and then hopefully (knock on wood, pardon the pun) everything works just perfectly after that.

Pulling off parts of the rig gets a bit spooky since both the outer and inner forestays rely on the bowsprit to be there. It's a workable problem, but not exactly making a ham sandwich. 

Additionally, and I know this will cause an infinite firestorm on message boards one day in the future, I'm pulling the roller furler off. I'll make a whole post specifically about it later.


my first lesson in the difference between recreational and professional scuba


The guy with the blurred out face there taught me a few lessons today. We’ll call him Ned. As a Divemaster candidate, my job was to act as a divemaster for a group of open water students. Herding the cats, as they say.

My day started with a lady who dropped her mask in 55’ of water. No big deal, go down and grab it for her. There was one student who from working with him yesterday I knew he was a bit of a spaz (that’s the technical term used to denote people lacking all forms of grace and elegance in the subsea environment), so when I head “Eric, buddy up with Ned and get him down!” I knew I was in trouble.

Ned has two ways of moving in the water: dropping like a stone or flying up like a child’s balloon soaring to the heavens. Trying to keep pace with this, the current set us off, so there I was all alone with Ned as he went high and low and low and high again.

As a recreational diver, you learn your limits. You learn a way to descend (both in rate and technique) that works for you, and likewise for ascending. But with student divers, you have to deal with their often crazy behavior. If they shoot to the surface over buoyant, you need to slow them down by grabbing a fin and trying to slow their rate of ascent. Likewise if they’re bombing into the depths, you need to arrest their downward progress. Both of these maneuvers require you to alter your normal way of doing business and quickly have both ascents and descents that you weren’t planning on making. Ears giving you trouble that day? Tough shit, you can’t let your students drown.

So here I sit with a nice cause of sinus barotrauma,  unable to smell or taste anything, never mind the pain of whatever damage happened deep inside my face. Caused by chasing Ned around as he flew up and down in the ocean, I need to get some rest and have sweet dreams about how to manage myself underwater so that I don’t get injured and my students learn how to dive and don’t get injured themselves.

Ugh. File this blogpost in the “what the hell am I doing this again for?” category.


got my "advanced open water" scuba certification


With about a million people a year getting certified from PADI alone, I can't take myself too seriously. But hey, it was a great class and I was able to do it with my friend Brian. We pushed ahead into the Advanced Open Water course, which had us doing five extra dives in total:

  • A "deep dive", where we got down to about 100' on the Yukon, a wreck off of Mission Bay.
  • A "wreck dive", on the Ruby E, another wreck in the same area.
  • A "night dive" on the Ruby E, and I got to do a solo assent without a line in the dark which was pretty cool/spooky.
  • A "peak performance bouyancy" dive which was very valuable as you spend more time focusing on bouyancy control, which is really one of the most important things when diving.
  • A "navigation" dive, which had us counting kick cycles, doing more work with our compasses, and estimating distances.

There are several reasons why I wanted to get certified not the least of which is that I'm obviously around the water a lot and diving opportunities are somewhat endless. But it also looks like underwater services (and all dockside services) are about to get even more expensive. We've been getting gouged by our bottom diving company as of late, and I never liked not knowing what's going on underwater anyway. The cost of renting all my gear will be about the same as paying someone else to do it, but I have a funny feeling that the old adage of "if you want something done right do it yourself" is going to hold true to the wet part of our boat as much as it does the dry part.