Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The basics of a good configuration

Keeping an open mind about gear configuration Part 2

On our last blog we talked about Cavern and Intro-To-Cave diver's gear configuration. Today let's talk and review the cave diver configuration using double tanks.

The basics of the "Hogarth configuration"

William "Bill" Hogarth Main is a cave diving pioneer who is best known as a developer in the 1980s, and the namesake of, the "Hogarthian gear configuration" that is a component of the "Doing It Right" (DIR) holistic approach to scuba diving. According to Jarrod Jablonski, the Hogarthian style "has many minor variations, yet its focus asserts a policy of minimalism."[1] The configuration was refined in the 1990s, partially through the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP),[2] established in 1985 and considered among the most aggressive cave diving initiatives in the world.

It has been taught in the IANTD Essentials there is still some minor variations based on preferences, and personal safety. As the world is made of different colors, taste and thoughts, it is important to keep a "thinking cave diver" instead of a "following cave diver" who uses techniques not based on his personal experiences and way of thinking.
What works works:
Let's not reinvent the wheel but consoled it if needed.
The main recommendations to a good gear configuration are:

Let's see the differences between Recreational, Sport and cave diving (Technical diving configuration)

 The Author personal configuration:

- Low Pressure Doubles 85's gives me plenty of gas for most of my diving, an Aluminum plate with a "purist" harness mounted on a Dive-Rite Classic wing.
- Regulators Mk 25 Scubapro with S-600 and G-250 second stages for the easy fixing on the spot works very well in warm to temperate water temperature since I do not dive cold water much.
- First regulator on the right post connected with a long hose and a MP hose for my dry suit connection. Most of people will have the MP dry suit inflation on the left post.
- Second regulator with shorter hose attached with a bungee around my neck, with a MP hose connected to my wing inflator.

Advantages for me of MP Dry suit hose on the right:
- If one of the first stage fails, that would probably be the one I use most, the one with the long hose. (happens to me twice in 20 years of teaching) in that case if i must isolate that regulator, I will not lose my BCD but only my Drysuit. I like to be able to keep my buoyancy without having to disconnect hoses.
-If I have a roll-off cave diving, and I have developed a bad habit of not checking my left post enough, I should be able to see it, because I'am using my power inflator more than my dry suit inflator at depth.
- I like to use both regulator during the dive, specially on deep dive where my primary regulator would work better if I do not ask him to much. Breathing and adding gas in the wings may sometime be too much, even if today's regulators are pretty efficient at depht I follow the "Eggs principles". Do not put them all in the same basket.

Once again there is different ways of configuring the Equipment, as we can see on the Essentials video. The main idea is to know why we use a system instead of  of the other. This is one of the valuable way of thinking I have learned with my different cave mentors from the NACD, NSS/CDS and IANTD. what works for you may not work for me because humans are different in theirs habits and way of thinking.

Georges Gawinowski
WDT dive

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The basics of a good foundation

Keeping an open mind about gear configuration Part 1
Cavern and Intro-to-Cave Primary Equipment 
The basics of a good foundation are inherent to the quality of the material or tools that are used in the building of that foundation. Gear configuration is one of the tools that will shape a cave diver career.
Gear configuration is an essential topic. This is basic for all cave training. Remember what we talked about on our last “Tips and Technique” column. 2013 Underwater Speleology The journal of the cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society NSS/CDS

 “Gear configuration is an important factor. Remember your training. Look around and ask other divers why they use a specific type of equipment or configuration. Be open-minded.”
We need the best possible tools to do the perfect job. If I visualize a cave diver in the 80’s the gear set was limited to the basics. The equipment is probably safer today but divers in the past paid more attention on what they had, and I am sure it was taking long hours to get the best on their gear configuration set up. Given the fact that gear donned was minimal, streamlining was commonly and easily achieved. So let’s go back to the minimum gear requirements for Cavern, Intro Cave and Cave Diving dives.
Practice in a pool or in a confined Water, with your equipment helps to understand it better. (see IANTD Essentials Recreational Scuba Diver video gear removal practice)

The main recommendations to a good gear configuration are:

Cavern Diver Equipment

Steel Tanks 80s or 85s are recommended; the weight of the tank will minimize the weight on the belt, while maintaining slightly negative buoyancy at your safety decompression stop. These tanks are also easier to adjust on the diver’s body. If you choose aluminum tanks, you will have to position the weights forward of the body on your weight belt, for proper balance.

DIN valves are highly recommended, because they allow a better connection that reduces the risk of leaks.

It is a good practice today to use wings and harness such as Transpac from Dive Rite, or a standard aluminum back-plate with wings such as OMS, or Halcyon. The advantages are enormous: it is easier to attach the pressure gauge with large D-rings and you will have better horizontal position swimming underwater.

Regulators and Hoses
Well maintained regulators are fine, I would go with the main brands such as: Apex, Aqualung, Atomics, Dive Rite, Poseidon, Scubapro, and make sure that parts will be available when traveling. I will recommend a short hose with a back-up regulator attached with a bungee around the neck, and a 5‟ to 7‟ long hose wrapped also around the neck.

Gauges and Console
One SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge) is a good idea. I suggest removing the plastic cover on the SPG itself that has a tendency to keep moisture in, even if it protects the SPG from shocks; it then becomes easier to see and control leaks.
Personally I do not like consoles. They are too bulky - even the smaller ones. Also, in case of an emergency, the diver needs both hands, so they can easily have access to control their depth and stop time. I strongly recommend wearing everything on the wrists.

Knifes and cutters
Cutting devices are very important pieces of equipment, small and located on the harness or waist strap. would recommend Z-knives, which are easier to use with one hand and they cut almost everything (monofilament, cave-line, nets, etc.)

The Intro-cave diver gear configuration

We would use the same basics but we will add and dual first and second stage as seen in picture.
Original Article was published in the Volume 40 Oct/Nov/Dec/ 2013 Underwater Speleology The journal of the cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society NSS/CDS

Monday, January 09, 2017

Rebreather check-list diver's responsibility!

We have already talked and shared opinions on Rebreather diver's check list, I believe this is something that we must emphasize and remind ourselves and people the importance of it. I still today see so many Rebreather divers rushing with the manufacturer checks and being complacent with their personal check. 

A Scuba diver has many responsibilities before jumping in the water. We know that one should be mentally and physically fit, and that the equipment should be set for the "mission". This is what we learned from our Technical diver  courses. It also means being able to use and reproduce the skills acquired; the rebreather diver's check list is one of them and part of the solution to reduce CCR divers complacency. 

We all know that an airliner pilot who has been flying for years keeps going over basic checklists before take off. So it is one of the main responsibilities for a CCR diver to follow the check list recommended by the manufacturer and by the diving agency.

The IANTD Essentials program work on 4 different control points:

1) Manufacturer's check list:
Even if it seems that some of the points mentioned on the manufacturer's check list are redundant, I trust the manufacturer, who knows the machine pretty well. There is a reason behind a check list. Let's just follow it! Megalodon manufacturer has made a detailed pre-dive and post-dive check list that helps the Megalodon diver to control and pinpoint issues before they happen underwater.

2) Agency check list:
Agencies like TDI, IANTD, PADI and probably others have developed a check list for their divers, it is a pedagogical tool that can help the diver detect changes after the manufacturer's check list has been completed. If we follow the agency philosophy and use their material, let's do it completely and use the tools created by professionals trainer who know student's mistakes and errors.

3) Personal check list.
Just before jumping in the water, I call it a "personal survival check list", every individual is different, and it is important to develop a personal muscular memory with one's unit by controlling our equipment on land. Recheck primary and secondary equipment, such as valve opening, manual O2 addition, automatic diluent valve open and functioning, safe partial pressure of oxygen in the loop, BCD inflate and deflate... 
It helps the diver to review his equipment and confirm that he has all what he needs for the dive.

4) In water-check.
Cave divers have been using these techniques for a long time. Check for leaks and others detectable problems that we can only be detected in the water. Bail-Out first and second stages regulators, primary and back up lights must be checked in the water, dive buddies must check for leaks tant can appear on tanks valves, first stages regulators, pressure gauges, hoses connections, dry-suit inflation. 

"In order to sustain training, divers must be able to “do something about something,” or remaining instrumental in their own lives. As divers we must realize that no one else can act on our behalf, and that no one can think for us, practice for us, or react for us. To help us develop a factually-based sense of instrumentality, we will start by devising an outline that draws on individual progress. Our plan of the first steps seems obvious- they are: reflection, motivation, planning, and training. However, the last step, repetition, is often set aside- to the diver’s detriment. Building an initial plan of action around the concepts mentioned above may serve to reduce accidents and increase diver safety". IANTD Essentials manual Georges Gawinowski

The rebreather diver responsibility is to eliminate problems related to their CCR unit through a methodic practice, and by setting a good example for the community.
Safe CCR diving
IANTD SE Training director.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Technical diver education, and mental training

Rebreather diver courses chart -
Technical diver education, and mental training  
In a new series of blogs, we are going to think, talk, and evaluate about instructor and diver's behavior in today's society. Can we keep jumping from course to course without getting enough experience and practice between scuba diver courses?  Can we participate in classes where time spent with the instructor and number of dives may get shorter and shorter?
If we believe on the statement above, we also can believe that we have missed some important pedagogical points, in our training as a diver, instructor, or instructor trainer.

We ought to evaluate what we are doing, without culpability, and maybe change things for the better, we all can improve our techniques and our behavior as a diver or professional. We just need to recognize our mistakes and correct them. I am sincerely confident that we know whether we are doing a good job or not either in our training, teaching, and/or dive planning . 

- Technical diver education and mental training- The Training "Trap"- The Path to self-sufficiency- To a new education?

Technical diver education and mental training
Discussing about diving preparation and diver’s self-sufficiency, we have noticed that the lack of self-awareness in the matter along with a poor stress and risks management are often hidden causes of scuba diving accidents and fatalities.
As the diver requirements become stronger about the choice of a diving school that provides with adequate training and adapted to the diver personality, other requirements are also to be considered. When it comes to choosing diving gear to comply with technical, comfort and aestheticism criteria. We believe that the diver should be in the same way exigent with dives preparation.

Tools to help with diver preparation:
1) Personal evaluation:  physical and mental, Am I ready to make that dive today?  How do I feel about that dive?
2) Motivations: Am I focus on the dive's objectives? What are my sincere motivations for that dive?
3) Responsibility: What are my personal and my team responsibilities? Is it a "solo team" dive? or is it a "team diving as a team" dive?
4) Equipment needed: do we have what we need? For the dive and in case of an emergency?
5) Emergency scenario review and land drills practice: especially when diving on a rebreather.
6) Pre-dive preparations: like athletes a Technical diver should get ready physically and mentally, and should be focused. It is a good idea for the team to warm-up with some stretching techniques, rest the mental with some breathing exercises and visualization techniques.
7) Land drill practice with check-list followed by in water safety drills, where last gear and buoyancy adjustments are made before the dive.

Most of the cave divers are pretty familiar with a well-detailed pre-dive technique preparation routine. Technical diver agencies are pushing this way, but this is not always the case with recreational divers, and sometime forgotten by experienced technical or cave divers!

“Safety is our concern”.

To be continued.....

Georges Gawinowski @ WDT dive facility in cave country live-oak, Florida.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Let's start 2015 with some personal training

This is the time for the good resolutions for 2015, where we could incorporate in-water training skills in our physical and mental fitness routine.

The evidence is that in diving in general, and specialized areas of diving such as technical or cave diving, and even recreational diving, physical training is strongly associated with mental training. Training refers to the regular and sustained practice of designed skills and exercises that increase the diver’s capacity to perform at his or her level. The need to perform in-water drills and absorb knowledge is present in all forms of diving. The difference lies in the actual skills and information needed, and how to incorporate such skills into muscle memory. Sadly, divers often consider fairly regular “pleasure” diving with no emphasis on skills and drills as sufficient enough to maintain his or her training level.
However scuba diving, like all athletic activities, requires constant training and skills repetition to maintain competency.  Although divers do not “compete” on a playing field against other divers, they definitely “compete” with Mother Nature and have to adjust themselves to the underwater world, an environment not suited to the human body.  To accomplish this task, divers must reduce certain “stress factors” such as feelings of discomfort or insecurity in the diving environment, factors which, if improperly managed, can lead to a total loss of control. 
I believe that 10 to 15 minutes before or after each dive could be enough to improve our technique. Reviewing emergencies skills such as bail-out  from a Rebreather, repeating hyperoxia, hypoxia, situations and working on different rescue scenario with buddy. That should be fun, right!
Happy New Year 2015  to all and safe diving.
IANTD SE USA Training Director

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Keeping an open mind about gear configuration

Photo Georges Gawinowski

The basics of a good foundation are inherent to the quality of the material or tools that are used in the building of that foundation. Gear configuration is one of the tools that will shape a cave diver career. Gear configuration is an essential topic. This is basic for all cave training. “Gear configuration is an important factor. Remember your training. Look around and ask other divers why they use a specific type of equipment or configuration. Be open-minded”. We need the best possible tools to do the perfect job. If I visualize a cave diver in the 80’s the gear set was limited to the basics. The equipment is probably safer today but divers in the past paid more attention on what they had, and I am sure it was taking long hours to get the best on their gear configuration set up. The main recommendations for a good gear configuration are redundancy, streamlining, accessibility and comfort. So let’s go back to the minimum gear requirements for Cavern diving, Intro-Cave to cave diving and Cave DivingOriginal Article was published in the Volume 40 Oct/Nov/Dec/ 2013 Underwater Speleology The journal of the cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society NSS/CDS

 Georges Gawinowski NSS/CDS Instructor
IANTD SE Training Director

Friday, August 29, 2014

Congratulations to new certified students!

I sincerely would like to congratulate my new certified students who worked hard for their certifications.

They were well prepared to discover new challenge encounters that are part of new courses; cave diving and closed circuit Megalodon rebreather are not easy courses regardless the diver or instructor level we are at.

At WDT Dive I do not take the easiest route to certify people. Like most of my fellow cave diver instructors, I want to make sure that the new certified diver understands the reality about becoming a new cave diver certified.
Alex Gilson (CMAS instructor certified, GUE diver and IANTD Trimix diver) and Rick Thomas (former commercial diver, GUE diver and IANTD Trimix diver) showed both a great attitude and developed great cave diving skills during the course. 18 dives and long hours of training, combined with mental and physical and underwater skills made them certified has NSS/CDS and IANTD full cave divers.

Evgeny Komko became a Megalodon rebreather Instructor, what a dedication from somebody who decided to travel all the way from Ukraine to get his training. Evgeny is already a CCR Inspiration mixed gas diving Instructor up to 100 meters (330 fsw), a NSS/CDS cave diver and a CCR diver on different units such as Megalodon and JJ. It was nice to have him at our WDT dive facility for a week of training and hours in-water time practicing. I am pleased to announce that we registered a new IANTD CCR Megalodon Instructor in Ukraine.

After 8 days of training with Kenny Kipper, a number of dives, in water training practice, Kenny earned his CCR Megalodon diver certification. Kenny is a NSS/CDS cave diver, a TDI decompression procedures diver and TDI Advanced Nitrox diver. He is our new CCR Megalodon diver certified.

Congratulations to all of you and Thank You again for choosing me as your diving instructor.

Georges Gawinowski
IANTD USA South East Training Director 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Mastering Buoyancy In cave diving

Mastering buoyancy in cave diving is like having a cup of iced tea in a hot summer day, it is so sweet!
Whether we are a cavern or experienced cave diver buoyancy and swimming techniques have to be mastered. Controlled buoyancy is critical to avoid silting out passages which results in the inability for the diver to freely navigate back out of the cave due to being blinded by percolates along the exit tunnel. Remember that we are not in our environment when cave diving and we should pay attention to minimize the negative impact we could have on our surroundings, on our buddies, others teams and; the cave will appreciate it!
Mastering buoyancy will help us also to:
·      Reduce gas consumption,
·      Reduce the risk of over exhaustion,
·      Reduce the risk of loss of visibility,
·      Reduce the risks of decompression sickness,
·      Reduce the risk of aeroembolism,
·      Reduce the risk of O2 toxicity.

Personal evaluation phase:
When you see a cave diver in the ocean you notice a perfect trim and buoyancy, easy to recognize.
In a cave system things can change dramatically because of human errors. All of us can make mistakes often when our buoyancy is not what it should be. Every time we are diving in a cave we need 100% awareness and focus on our buoyancy while keeping the dive and our buddy in mind.  For instance, during the dive we may be thinking about something else such as tasks on the dive, our equipment or a physical un-comfort, or be preoccupied by something we have in mind and lose our cave and buoyancy awareness. We know we make a mistake when it’s already done. The ideal would be to see, anticipate, the mistake before it happens. I mean to be aware of any changes in our breathing, posture or swimming pattern and depth changes.
One of the best ways I have found to evaluate my buoyancy is simply by practicing in an open water area such as a spring, quarries or in the ocean. My technique is comprised of the following steps:
·      Lay down a line at the bottom,
·      Swim on top of that line the body centered in the middle on the line,
·      Swim using 90 degrees turn, then 120 and 180 turn without any changes in posture.
·     Practice for 30 minutes or more and see if the technique remains persistent and constant.

Once you are comfortable with that technique go practice on your cave dive with one mission in mind: to keep a perfect trim at all times, to choose the correct tie off and line placement, to jump without moving any silt after your passage.
Each time you notice something is wrong whether it be with you or your buddy just call that dive, surface and discuss about the mistakes that were made and find solutions on how to improve the technique in order to avoid the mistake next time.
Georges Gawinowski
IANTD USA SE Training Director
Picture Above: Georges Gawinowski at Eagles Nest Cave, Florida

 Parts of This Article was published on the "Journal of the Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society." "Skills, Tips and Techniques by Georges Gawinowski Volume 40 Number 3. July/August/September 2013