Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Chico at Cian Ka'an Park Mexico

Category — Dive Training

An Approach to mounting stage bottles or bailout bottles with a backplate.

This morning there was a post on Cave Diver’s Forum asking:

When I’m swimming a stage, horizontal of course, the bottom hangs down too low to my liking. I use an aluminum 80 but the bottom doesn’t float up at all. My lower clip is wrapped around the handle strap to take up all the slack, but I still have to hold the bottle up when I’m close to the bottom. Anybody ever use a bungee to hold it in line with the body? …

To start, I cave dive CCR back mounted, doubles and side mount. The following information focuses on carrying stages or bailout bottles in a back mounted configuration. My current approach has been heavily informed by my experience diving sidemount. I have gone through at least three major evolutions in this process and it is still evolving. This article is based on my personal experience. I have stolen or purchased ideas from a number of people I dive with here in Mexico and in New Jersey. Those people are: Steve Bogaerts, Andrew Driver, Patrick Widmann, Rob Infante, Nando and others. Sorry if I don’t credit you properly. And remember to click on the images!

I remember asking myself the very same question over and over. When I started to sling a bottle, I learned how to do it from my Deco Procedures class and the north east wreck divers. The approach was to buy/make a sling kit for the respective bottle and mount the bottle to your chest d-ring and the waist strap d-ring. Depending on the buoyancy of the bottle, the position of your waist d-ring and the length of your clip lines, this might put it sticking up at a 45 degree angle or leave it dragging in the mud. It was never streamline with my horizontal body. However, in NJ I could get away with this non-sense. I knew it wasn’t right. So I started to look for another solution. When I moved to Mexico and started to dive my CCR in the caves, the inefficiency of this system was magnified. I remember picking up the tank to pass small areas. I remember the tank swinging to and fro as I kicked. It was maddening.

Armadillio Side Mount SystemThe second evolution was to purchase a butt-plate. I selected the ArmadilloCCR Sidemount System. I mounted the butt-plate to the back plate on my rebreather. I decided to use a neck clip instead of the bungee. My neck clip is just a loop of bungee with a clip attached. I put the neck clip on the tank before I install the regulator. I found this easier to deal with then the bungee loops. As soon as I mounted an AL 80 to this setup, I discovered I was woefully leg heavy. The butt-plate transfers the negativity of the tank to your thighs. Neck clip for stage bottle.It was intolerable. It made cave diving frustrating, because I was fighting with my trim the whole time. I like to be able to float in mid water without making adjustments, this was impossible.

As luck would have it, I dropped my CCR head and broke it. While my unit was being repaired, I had to dive backmount which forced me to use a buddy bottle or a stage bottle. I was in sling bottle hell again. However, I started to smarten up. After a couple of dives, I put my butt-plate on my doubles back plate. That failed to live up to the promise. The door handles were in the way. I couldn’t reach my butt ring and my trim was off. However, the tanks were sitting in a much nicer position.

After some discussion with Patrick and going through training with Steve, I finally figured out the problem.Customized Aramdillio Butt-Plate The door handles are the wrong solution. They put the tanks too far back on my body and are inflexible. They can’t help but be in the way.

For evolution three I removed the door handles and installed two d-rings on the butt-plate. The d-rings move the bottle down my body just enough to balance me and put the tank in the correct position. Eureka! The mobility of the d-rings allows me access to my butt ring. Without the door handles gearing up is much easier and the d-rings are much more accessible.

The d-rings are in the correct position when the tanks are negative.Custom adjustable d-ring campared to a standard d-ring. However, when you breathe down the tanks to about 1500, they become buoyant and you need to move their clip position. Or suffer tanks that are bouncing off the ceiling. I use adjustable homemade d-rings on my waist strap for this job. I picked this one up from Steve.

One more thing I learned is, “Balance is key.” I make an effort to always carrying two stages, one on each side. If all I need is 80cuft of gas, then I carry two Al40’s. If I need more gas, then I add bottles in a sequential way. I up one bottle to an 80 and then the other bottle. I have not found a balanced and streamlined solution to carrying only 1 bottle. If all I need is a Al40, then I suffer with one bottle. An AL40 doesn’t throw my balance off wildly.

My rig will continue to evolve as the diving I do demands different configurations and optimizations. I believe there are at least two ways to approach a problem like this: trial-and-error or training. The trial-and-error approach is valid and is time tested, but damn it takes a long time to figure things out and we have a finite number of dives available to experiment. I would prefer to spend my time diving and not hating my gear. If you don’t live in cave country, how will you ever have the time to get it right?

The training method takes years of experimentation and distills it down into the state-of-the-art. It has been demonstrated to me over and over, that this is the most efficient route. I could have gone out and self taught side mount, but after going through training I now know why that is stupid. I estimate that training evolved my skill and gear configuration by at least 50 dives or more.

Find an instructor who is practicing and teaching the state-of-the-art in your desired disciple and schedule a couple of days with him/her. You will be amazed how some of these fundamental issues are resolved immediately and how your diving improves dramatically.

May 11, 2008   Comments Off on An Approach to mounting stage bottles or bailout bottles with a backplate.

Dive the cave my young warrior. Sage advice for a dive at Pet Cemetery. Dive: 420

I have had more then one person tell me to dive the cave.  At minimum, both Patrick and Steve have told me that.  Some other guidance I have received:

  • I shouldn’t rely solely on the line and markers.
  • I shouldn’t play tourist in the cave.
  • I shouldn’t put my life in the trust of a plastic disk.

This is sage advice, because on my return leg of a dive at Pet Cemetery the line ended short.

I drove out to Pet Cemetery for a cave dive in search of Blue Abyss.  When I got in the water, I met two divers that were returning from the Blue Abyss.  One of the divers is relatively famous in the cave diving world and the other a guide from a local shop.  We talked for five or ten minutes while I strapped on my gear.  I told them my plan to head for “Tanks on. Tanks off” restriction and look for the jump to head to Blue Abyss.  They exited the water and I started my dive.

The first thing I found was that the primary line that used to end in open water was cut back.  I thought that was weird and continued.  I jumped on the cavern line.  When I arrived at a natural spot to install a jump, I went looking for the primary cave line and quickly installed a jump with an arrow.  I followed the cave line over two T’s and marked them appropriately with my personalized non-directional markers.

About 10 minutes into the dive, I came to the end of the main cave line. It was cut and hanging in mid water.  I thought, “hmm…. That is weird. Who would cut the line and just leave it hanging in mid water?  Jerks!”  I tied my spool to the end of the line and found the other end of the cave line tied off to a stalactite.  I very graciously repaired the continuous guideline and continued on.  I have to admit that I had a very uneasy feeling at this point.  For the next 80 minutes the voice in my head was chattering away.  I just never felt right.  I eventually had to turn the dive on nerves.  I just wasn’t right.  I was a little spooked.

The return swim went much faster then the penetration.  I still hadn’t found the Blue Abyss, so not only was I spooked, but I was disappointed.  When I arrived at the stalactite at which the repair was made, I found the line had been cut again.  This time one inch of my line was hanging out.  Someone had removed my repair.

I swam past the end of the line a little looking for the other end of the main cave line and it was gone.  I returned to my stub and hovered for a second.  I was at least 10 minutes or 500 feet from the Cenote which I entered at and all I had was a 1 inch stub.  I cursed whoever removed the cave line and started to develop a plan.

The next thing I noticed was a thick red line on the floor perpendicular to the original line.  I assumed it might be the cavern line, but I had never swum it and didn’t really want to experiment on it.  I considered tying in my reel for a minute and swimming in the direction of the line, but I elected not to.  As I swam around a little, I saw a light a hundred feet away.  I decided to swim over to the divers.  I was familiar with this section of cave and it was in an air dome.

When I reached the divers, I gave them thumbs up and asked them to surface.  I asked them, “What happened to the cave line?” They told me they were performing a re-lining of the cavern and they had told everyone.  Well, I didn’t know about it.  And the divers that I had spoken to earlier hadn’t said anything to me.  They said they had cut the cave line earlier and had seen it was repaired.  They thanked me for repairing it.  They told me which way to go on the cavern line and that I should exit the cave.

I was completely taken back by the whole situation.  I was in disbelief that anyone would remove a line that had 2 fresh non-direction markers on it and was freshly repaired.  Oh, and they had parked right in front of my truck.  If you had been to Pet Cemetery, you would understand there are not a lot of vehicles out there.  I am not sure what to say about the whole thing, other then it could have gone so much worse.

I was lucky that I had been in that section of cave before and knew how to get out, with or without the primary line.  I had been paying attention on my previous dives and was familiar with the route.  I had been diving the cave.

This should serve as a warning, the line you installed, may not be there when you return.   As I have said in previous posts, the lines here in Mexico change all the time and sometimes without warning.  They can change while you are diving!  Don’t trust your life to a guideline. Dive the cave and practice progressive penetration.  Learn the cave you are diving and carry a compass.  You never know when you might want to know which general direction to head.

May 11, 2008   3 Comments

Transitioning from Open Circuit to CCR for Cave Diving.

I wrote the following in response to someone asking about my experience in making the transition from Open Circuit (OC) Cave Diving to Close Circuit (CCR or eCCR) Cave Diving.

When I decided to take my Megalodon cave diving, I had about 50 OC cave dives and about 40.5 hours doing open water deco and wreck penetrations in New Jersey and the Saint Lawrence Sea Way. By this time, I felt very comfortable in my unit and had dived it in some very demanding environments. I was OC Cave Certified from NACD and IANTD certified on the Meg for Open Water to 145′.

When I moved to Mexico, I was very committed to getting Cave CCR trained. However, draw was just to great to wait for the instructor I wanted to be available. Plus, I was starstruck with my eCCR. I thought it was the perfect solution for everything and I just didn’t want to wait to dive it. So, I talked to a handful of people here and made the decision to go cave diving with it. I started off slow. I did dives I could on a single 80 bailout. Luckily, most of the diving I do here is shallow, less then 50-60 feet, so you can do a lot of diving on a single 80. I dove in very forgiving systems and really put a lot of time and effort into it. I spoke to people who were diving their rebreathers in the caves and came up with my own procedures. Slowly, I progressed into ever more difficult and demanding dives. I discovered that what I thought was reasonable level of buoyancy control was crap when the cave magnified it. I also discovered that as the dives grew in length, my ability to dive the unit degraded as I got tired and my concentration weakened. At this point, I was diving the Meg exclusively and had abandoned OC.

Then I went for OC Side Mount training and my eyes opened up again. I learned my Meg is not the best tool for every job. Really, it is a horrible tool for many many of the jobs. For instance, diving Taj Mahal on the Meg sucks; it is shallow and there is a lot of up and down. Or Joe’s line at Ponderosa, another horrible ride. Or Minotauro, too tight to take the CCR and appropriate BO and be comfortable.

I started to split my time between OC and CCR. Today, I spend more time in OC then I do CCR. It is just easier for me. I try to choose the right tool for the right job. For instance, today I went for a nice 2:40 dive at Naharon on the Meg.  I dove a 1.2 set point and plumbed my 80cuft BO into my manifold to drive my BOV, wing and diluent.  At a 1.2 you get an amazing amount of no stop time.  That place is perfect, the passages are larger and the depth is pretty much constant 50-65ffw. This is one of the places that makes me love my unit. The eCCR is the right tool for that job. I could see a lot of dive sites in Florida being perfect for a rebreather, like Little Rivers.

The short of the story is that I am still up in the air on whether I am going to go for the training. I have a bunch of people around me who have a lot experience and I am learning from them. I get to dive with some really committed folks. Unfortunately, I know that you don’t know what you don’t know, until you learn it. So, I am really torn, normally I am all over getting the training, here I am having trouble seeing the value.

I guess there are some other points:

  1. Everything is more complicated with a rebreather. There is more equipment and more checks. If you dive 3-4 times a week, this can be a burden. I like to throw my regs in a basket, pickup the tanks and go for a dive. The rebreather takes prep and breakdown and care onsite. I had to plan accordingly; I had to build in more time into all my budgets.
  2. I had to become very conscious of mixed team diving. I dive with open circuit divers, like my wife. I need to be aware of that when doing my risk analysis and preparation. She needs to be aware of it and know the procedures. I now mostly dive OC when I am with other OC divers, unless it is a big dive that is eCCR appropriate. If you have to donate your bailout, it is gone. You can’t get it back. You need to think about a solution for that. Are you going to make everyone carry a buddy bottle, or are you not going to be part of the team? Your team needs to decide.
  3. I dive open circuit pretty regularly, so I am maintaining my SAC rate. I monitor it continually to ensure my gas planning is correct. If you abandon OC totally, your SAC rate will suffer and you need to take that into account when gas planning. Plus, diving a location OC, gives you a very clear picture for BO planning.
  4. I have to be willing to pick the best tool for the job. Some times it is OC, sometimes it is CCR.
  5. There is a fine art to loop volume/buoyancy management. I haven’t mastered it yet. I am still working on how much dil or o2 to add given a change in the loop volume. I hate hearing the solenoid fire all the time. You can’t just dump dil in, it will drive down the PO2, you can just dump O2 in, it will drive the PO2 up.
  6. Sometimes air isn’t the best diluent. A little Nitrox can dampen the swings in the PO2 when you have to adjust the loop volume because of the ups and downs in the cave.
  7. If you are a solo diver or reject the idea of team bailout; Diluent/BO is the limiting factor. Every dive turns into effectively a stage dive. You have the CCR on plus you have a bunch of BO tanks. What a pita. Sometimes I can go just as far on my 80’s side mounted.
  8. Your rebreather’s open water configuration may not work in the cave. If you don’t live in cave country, plan on spending the first couple of days figuring out how to trim yourself out. I loved my tanks inverted when diving open water; with two SS backplates my trim was perfect. Recently, I had to deinvert them to fix my trim in the cave. I needed to change the balance point and I didn’t want to add any weight. I am still looking for way to remove weight from the system. I am still working on my bailout mounting. The rails on the butt plate suck and are in the way and don’t work well with 80’s. I need something more like the original Nomad buttplate with the d-rings. Plus, fighting even the slightest problem in trim will wear you down. The loop really magnifies any energy you put into the system when finning to compensate. The change between cold water and warm fresh water can play havoc on your configuration.

Rebreathers are amazing tools, sometimes I want to sell mine and sometimes I want to hug it. I always have to respect it! It is like any high performance piece of equipment, it can harm you much faster then you can imagine.

April 20, 2008   Comments Off on Transitioning from Open Circuit to CCR for Cave Diving.

Hans and the Handy HID Lights. Part II

Yesterday Allie and I went to Naharon to complete her full cave class. Those of you have been down there know how unbelievably dark this cave is. We went with two Dive Rite MR11’s and three battery packs. Again I was very proud of myself having charged the batteries per Dive Rite’s recommendations.

The first dive went as planned. We spent 87 minutes in the water and did the three jumps that lead to The Road to Mayan Blue and then turned the dive. We did our surface interval and planned a significantly shorter dive with a run time of about 54 minutes. As soon as we hit the darkness there was trouble in the wind. Allie’s light’s color was a little blue but not that bad. My light was in great shape. At about the 25 minute mark my light crapped out, well it flickered and I switched it off. At this point Allie’s HID was dimmer then my Photon Torpedeo. We exited safely on my backup light and her HID.

I have concluded the light gremlins are out to get me right now and that I should be careful and take extra lights. I also started to play with my chargers and compare the results of charging and I think I have a bad charger. The two new lights came with two new chargers. One charger seems to charge the batteries and leave them feeling warm. The other charger reports a full charge after 20 minutes and the battery is cold. I have checked this a couple of times with some consistency. I will get a hold of the shop and get an opinion on this issue and report back to you later.

I have to say this is complete load of cow dung and I guess you get what you pay for. In 4-5 years traveling to Asia, Mexico, Australia and in the states I have never had this much trouble with my Sartek batteries or chargers. It is infinitely frustrating and I am regretful that I didn’t lay down the bucks (Or have access to.) and get two more Sarteks. I can’t believe a major dive company produces a product like HID lights that has some many caveats about how to use it. End rant.

March 28, 2008   4 Comments

Hans and the Handy HID Lights.

I have been diving for the last 4 years with two 10 Watt Sartek HID lights. I love my Sarteks. The build quality is excellent and the batteries rock. The lights have been all over the word and have spent a lot of time off the coast of NJ wreck diving and cave diving. They have really taken a beating. Each light has been back to Sartek once in those 4 years. The first went back because I blew the ballast in my bag. It was returned to me in 4 days, all fixed up and with a new rotor switch. I was very happy. The second light went back because the switch boot failed. It flooded just a tiny bit; just enough to let the wires and switch corrode. As far as I am concerned both light have served me well.

About two weeks ago, after a dive at Chac Mol, I opened the canister on one of the Sartek’s and found a little moister in the can. I thought to myself, “Oh, that must be some condensation. Interesting.” The battery was a little corroded. I decided to switch out batteries the next day and go for two more dives at Sac Aktun (Grand Cenote). I dove with Patrick and Katie, we did two dives totaling 169 minutes. One run was up to Lithium Sunset and the other over to the Cuzan Ha loop. At the end when I was cleaning up, I opened the light to disconnect the battery and I found about 1/8 cup of water in the can. I definitely had a flood. The light was still functioning; however the battery connectors were looking pretty bad. I examined the unit and found that I had punctured the cable at just outside the elbow. I think I put the can on butt mount and then pull the cord to get more slack and I was pulling on it when it had a nasty twist in it. Or the thing just wore out after being abused for so long. The score is now 1 Sartek HID out of order and two batteries.

I switched over to Allie’s Sartek and kept diving. I immediately bought a new HID from Protec for Allie, an MR11. I used Allie’s light a couple of times and it died on two dives in less then ½ hour. This was a complete bummer. Additionally, a new phenomenon developed, it only starts about 85% of the time.

The first time this non-starting issue occurred was when Patrick was borrowing the light during my side mount class. He turned it on and nothing. We waited a couple of minutes, he flipped the switch and it worked. This same thing happened to me while I was shadowing Allie’s full cave. We finished a lights out drill, I flipped the switch and nothing. I tapped the head and it came on. The score is now 2 lights dead and three batteries. Luckily, it was the end of the day. That night I went to Aquanauts and bought myself a second MR11.

Aquanauts didn’t want me to dive the new battery the next day, so they lent me a battery. That battery lasted 12 minutes on the first dive. The dead light prompted a light trade underwater with Steve. We completed the trade in 3-4 minutes in the cave. It was a cool experience. Now, I have Steve’s 21watt light saber. All goes well for the dive. Then we start the second dive. It is down stream at Taj. It was a training dive. We do another lights out drill. I switch the light saber on and it lasts about 4-5 minutes and dies. We exit the cave on backup lights and all is well. The score is now: 2 dead Sarteks, 1 dead Dive Rite and 1 dead Halcyon.

I go home and very dutiful charge the loaner battery from Aquanauts. I show up at Minotauro today very confident and proud that I am sure I have a charged battery. My chest was all puffed up. I know I did the right thing. Allie and I get in the water to do our S drill for dive one and guess what? My MR11 has a very nice blue light. It is the sign of another dead battery. This one lasted just about an hour before dying. This prompted my second light exchange with Steve, who was very understanding.

It is almost comical, every day this week, we actually had a light failure during Allie’s full cave. No need to simulate a light failure, I was providing them. The Sartek’s are going back to the states on Friday. I now own 2 Sarteks and 2 Dive Right MR11 lights. Tomorrow, I will bring 1 extra MR11 battery, courtesy of Patrick. With my luck, two out of three Dive Rite batteries will work. I hope.

My opinion is the Sartek lights are superior to the Dive Right lights. The build on the Sarteks is better. The charger actually works correctly without any fudging. And the batteries are way less finicky. If I purchase anymore big lights, I am going to spend the money and go with Sartek. Additionally, I think I am going to convert both lights into LION. It is a couple of hundred bucks, but the burn time goes up significantly.

How is that for some awesome alliteration in the title? I just tickle myself.

March 28, 2008   1 Comment

Why do I take a Buddy Bottle?

A friend of mine, who happens to be a newly minted Cave Diver and an experienced north east wreck diver, asked me the following:

I was wondering about your reference to a “buddy bottle”. Are you diving doubles backmount and bringing and extra bottle for tertiaryredundancy?

The answer is, “Yes”. I have a couple of reasons for this decision. But before we get into the reasons, let me tell you about my diving. I dive 3-5 days a week. Normally, all but one of those days I am alone. I dive CCR, side mount and backmount, so I am very familiar/practiced with carrying a sling/sidemount bottle already. Plus, I did a bunch of diving in NJ/NY that required carrying a stage bottle with a set of doubles.

I carry a buddy bottle when I am in backmount doubles because:

  • It makes me feel more comfortable.
  • I like to have the extra gas
  • I consider the isolator valve a potential failure point.
  • And it makes good practice for when I am staging.
  • It isn’t an inconvenience for me.

In the past, I used to cave dive without a buddy bottle. I considered doubles as redundant and safe enough for me. Then I started reading and listening to other OLD divers. And I decided I wanted to be an old diver. When I got to Mexico, I decided that with the frequency of my diving, the chance there could be a complete gas loss at the worst possible time, would increase with the increase in the total time underwater. So I committed to myself to carry a buddy bottle when in doubles. I have to carry the same bottle(s) when I am on the CCR, so what is the difference?

My risk assessment indicated to me, that I should carry the buddy bottle as a hedge against total gas lost. I don’t want to drown because I broke the stem of my isolator valve.

It should also be considered, that you will suffer your uncontrolled gas loss while in a nasty restriction. The gas will rush out of the cylinders while you try to squirm out. You will not be able to get your hands up to close the isolator, because you are in a nasty restriction. Unfortunately, you will not suffer your gas loss some place convenient like a wide open cave, where you can reach the valve. It will happen at the worst possible moment, when you will be seriously delayed in doing anything about it. In comes the buddy bottle with the gas you need to exit in a sane and controlled manner.

March 27, 2008   1 Comment

Diving, Fitness and a Decision.

Fat people shouldn’t dive. They shouldn’t technical dive or do extremely demanding dives. I believe they put themselves and others at risk. And this belief poses a huge dilemma for me. My opinion of myself is that I am pretty fat and it seems that the NIH (Nation Institute of Health) would agree. The NIH defines obese as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or more. BMI is a correlation of height and weight. As of today, I weigh 246lbs or 112Kilos. At my height of 5’10” or 1.7 meters, I have a BMI of 35.4. I am surprised I didn’t keel over and have a heart attack while making those calculations.

The NIH suggests that the ideal BMI is 19 to 25, that gives me an ideal weight range of about 132 (60) to 174 lbs (79Kilos). Now, I have a target and I can attempt to resolve this dilemma. I have made a decision to loose 10lbs ( 4.5 kilos) before my next training session with Steve. I have gone ahead and announced this to Steve, Patrick, Katie, Allie, Scott, Pietro and some random customers at Protec. Everyone had a good laugh and asked when my next trianing session was? When I told them a month, they had another good laugh. They suggested I might need till 2009.

In my mind the only other option was to quit diving all together and blot out my miserable existence by eating myself to death. And however appealing that might be here in Mexico, I love Pastor, it just doesn’t seem like a reasonable solution. Who would I give my Meg to? Who would spend the day at Grand Cenote making fun of Patrick the Austrian Cave Extraordinare?

I am sure you are wondering what the plan will involve? Aren’t you? The plan is to spend more time in the gym and less time eating my favorite foods: chips, ice cream, gummy bears, pastor, fried shrimp tacos, twix, butter, and butter. I know this this completely laughable. However, I have already started on my path. In 2006, I lost 60lbs. I used a system called Leanness Life Style. It concentrated on defining achievable goals and then creating a food plan and a workout schedule that delivered the appropriate caloric deficits to achieve the desired weight loss. When I followed the plan closely, I regularly beat my projected losses. I was able to loose the 60lbs in about 5 months. So, I am committing to the Leanness system. No matter what happens, I will post regular updates on my progress.

I believe that I cannot make my weight loss contingent on anyone or anything. I will have to find a way to eat in a healthy way here in Mexico. To be honest, my life depends on it. Plus, there is a pool at Protec.

March 18, 2008   1 Comment

Introduction and Personal Dive History

My name is Hans and I like to scuba dive. I discovered diving through my parents and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. When I was young, we would go to the Florida Keys and dive Loo Key and the canals. We would pick up some lobsters in season and chase Parrot Fish and French Angel fish all over the reef. I loved diving from the very start. I always wanted one of those boxes that Cousteau wore on his back in his movies in the 80’s. In my teens I had to suspend that dream as I turned into a bratty young adult. Diving ceased to be a priority and I didn’t dive for about 15 years.

My wife, Allie, and I got certified by Tom Lee of Hoboken Dive Center in May 2003. We immediately did Advanced Open Water and Nitrox. Then we did Rescue diver. At this point we had a decision to make; were we going to be dive professionals or not? We decided against becoming dive masters as we watched many of our friends descend into PADI hell. Instead of diving for themselves, they teach, teach and teach. We decided to pursue a technical path. Our inspiration was a friend name Paul and some really cool pictures and stories about cave diving. I am one of those bozos that read all of the recent hero dive books. Those stories really amped me up and got me excited.

Allie and I got our Advanced Nitrox and Deco Procedures from Elite Divers in Rockaway, NJ. Then we went on to get Cavern and Intro to Cave Diving training from Michael O’leary. A year later, I finished my Full Cave with a friend named Jeff under the tutelage of Michael.

Then at the end of 2006 I got the bug to get a rebreather. I did a discover CCR class with Andrew Driver of Blue Foot Diving. We tried the Kiss and the Meg. At the end of the day, I was sold on the Meg. I ordered one. Three months later and I got it. Two months later and I was trained and making hours on the unit.

While all of this was going on, in 2006 Allie and I decided we should move to Mexico. We had been traveling to Mexico and other beautiful places and we didn’t really want to go home after 7 days. So we started to make preparations. The original plan was to move in 2007. Due to work and other life issues, it took us until January of 2008 to make the move.

That is how I got here. Here is living in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico cave diving three or four days a week. Diving has really shaped our life. It has taken us all over the world and I expect it will continue too.

Since we arrived here, Allie and I have gotten hooked up with Pietro of Karst Diving, Patrick, Scott and the crew at Protec Mexico, and Steve Bogaerts. In March, I spent three days training under Steve for side mount. Which, is about the coolest way to dive. If only I could side mount my Meg! This is the first step in a series of classes that will prepare me to do some exploration. I plan to stretch this training out over the next year so I have plenty of time to practice skills and develop appropriate levels of comfort.

That leads us to the objective for this blog. I will detail my experiences diving and living here in Mexico. In the next year, I will be training and practicing with the express objective of directly performing exploration and mapping or assisting in those efforts. One of my goals is to contribute to the community that has given me so much by increasing the breadth of knowledge about the underwater rivers here in Mexico. Another of my goals is to fulfill my deep desire to explore places where no other human has been before. And finally, I want to take a shot at writing.

March 17, 2008   Comments Off on Introduction and Personal Dive History