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Tips of the week 2017

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

Most weeks we have included a “tip of the week” in our regular members email. Here we have collected them together – worth a read through in a dark winter evening?

Are you “in test”

Don't miss your first dive of the season. Take a moment as check your cylinders, nothing worse than being rejected from the filling station because your cylinder is out of date and having to miss your dive. Diving cylinders need to be visually inspected every TWO and a HALF years and subjected to a hydraulic test every FIVE years.


Gas management

Divers should calculate their gas requirements based on their cylinder configuration for the planned dive demonstrating that they have an adequate reserve of gas should an incident occur. The amount of gas deemed to be an adequate ‘reserve’ will obviously depend on a number of factors including the size and working pressure of your main cylinder(s) together with the depth and type of the dive. The recommended practice is to have a reserve of one third of the primary cylinder’s or cylinders’ capacity on surfacing. When a single or small capacity cylinder or a deeper dive is anticipated a greater pressure reserve than one third may be more appropriate. The reserve should be sufficient for an ascent, accounting for the increased breathing rate that is likely to occur during an incident (note: rates greater than 50 litres per minute have been observed) from the beginning of the incident to the first point of safety, plus any decompression stops, allowing adequate amounts for surface swimming and allowing for the potential need for the buddy to use the diver’s alternate gas source throughout the ascent.

Rates of gas consumption can vary enormously with the effects of exertion, anxiety, cold, fitness, experience and depth, and you should monitor your own and your buddy’s gas supply regularly and consider terminating the dive early if a diver’s gas consumption rate is higher than predicted.



Divers should ensure they are fit and healthy to dive and diving must not be undertaken until the diver has completed an annual medical self-declaration form on renewal of membership. Here are some interesting additional facts you should be aware of

  • If a medical condition arises after your annual completion of the medical self-declaration form, it is necessary to recomplete the medical form. Remember, you need medical clearance to dive from a UK Sports Diving Medical Committee approved referee. where:

  • you are taking prescribed medication of any kind (excluding the contraceptive pill);

  • you are receiving medical care or have to consult a doctor other than for trivial issues e.g. common cold, infection or minor injury; and

  • you have been the subject of a decompression accident.

If you sign the self certification form and do not make a disclosure, you should be aware that the form is a legal declaration. If you are found to have been untruthful and an accident occurs then you will be uninsured and may be held liable for the consequences.


DSMB deployment

This is a really essential skill for all sports divers and above whether diving in the UK or abroad. Your boat (and other boats!) needs to know where you are. Make sure you are confident in putting one up. Don’t rely on your buddy. Practice makes perfect and don’t wait until you need to put one up in anger.


Rusty Dive knife?

Monofilament netting, is a real hazard to divers around our coast, especially on wreck sites, because it is difficult to spot According to BSAC, experiments have shown that the average diver’s knife is very ineffective in cutting it. . Trauma shears, a line cutter, or a curved blade ‘dinghy’ knife, with a blunt end, are probably the most effective They should to be worn on the arm or on the BC so they are accessible. A knife with a sharp point is an obvious stab hazard.

So, what do you do if you are caught in the net? Consider partially inflating your BC, so you rise inside the net, putting it under tension and making it easier to cut. The positive buoyancy will also help to ‘tear’ you away. Your buddy, if free of the netting, may find it easier to cut you away from the bulk of the netting.


Dive Computers

So, as the dive season starts to ramp up, take a look at your dive computer and check both that the battery has enough power in it and you remember how to work it. Cannot find the manual? – then Google will no doubt be able to help you or bring it down on a Monday evening and I am sure another diver will show you which buttons to press. BSAC recommend that you learn how to use the planning function on your own computer and apply this practice prior to every dive. Do you?

Remember, the use of a dive computer during a dive is no substitute for proper dive planning, including proper attention to gas requirements and dive time


The nirvana of neutral buoyancy

This is achieved when you are able to rise or fall about a static position in the water as a result of breathing in and out. Safe and comfortable diving means the achievement of neutral buoyancy - Finning to stay at a fixed depth on a safety stop or worse, a long deco stop is not good. Statistics show that buoyancy problems are a frequent cause of incidents, with over-weighting being a major contributor. Correct weighting is critical to gaining neutral buoyancy easily; you should carry just enough weight to hold a 6m decompression stop with a nearly empty cylinder.


Diver recall systems

So, you are on a dive and the skipper needs you to end your dive early and get back on the surface. For example, there has been an incident with a diver in another buddy pair and the skipper needs to get them to shore to get help asap. Given your mobile is unlikely to work at 25m, do you know how the skipper will recall you? The widely recognised signal is four pulls on your dsmb. Another option is a note or coloured tab on a karabiner sent down your dsmb line – but that assumes the skipper has them available.

If you think you are being recalled, commence your ascent immediately. Be calm, no rapids ascents and don’t miss any deco nor your safety stop – the skipper doesn’t want more hurt divers to deal with.

Are you in (the right) gear?

A reminder to all boat drivers who are about to drop divers in the water that the engine must be in neutral BEFORE you start the countdown to the command GO. The reason is that if for any reason a diver goes early (and they often do) there is no risk of encountering a moving prop. When recovering divers, the engine must be switched off as soon as contact has been established. This is to prevent the accidental engagement of gear, followed by disastrous consequences.

Things to remember on a the first rib trip of the year- don’t forget your undersuit, - get drysuit mended before going diving, - plans always change,- follow the skippers checklist word for word and British diving is great!

Also, mid-water DSMB deployment is an important skill, especially when divers get separated on ascent, with boat traffic overhead.


Build up dives

Planning an exciting dive trip? Remember, when you've had a lay-off from diving for a period of time, or are planning a dive to a depth significantly deeper than that to which you have recently dived, a planned program of dives progressively building up to the target depth is recommended. You must be physically and (very importantly) mentally dive fit for the depth you plan to dive. Think about your self and buddy rescue skills, dsmb use, etc etc. Diving should be fun, not stressful - this is in your hands.


Look around you

When we start out, our diving is focused on learning to simply get underwater and survive! Once you have achieved that, look around you. Even in the murky depths of Wraysbury, there are things to see. Once you progress to the open sea there are even more surprises waiting for you. Check out the Facebook Group “UK VIZ REPORTS” where you will find lots of photos and videos of UK diving. As the name suggests, you can also find out what the underwater visibility is like around the UK.

Progress your training at your own pace, but don’t let it dominate your diving. Look around you for

  1. Exploring new places

  2. Pretty fish

  3. gold ingots

  4. Relaxing

  5. Purple starfish

  6. The fun of a strong drift dive

  7. Getting away from work

  8. Silence, except of the noise of bubbles



So, after pouring the sea water out of my drysuit at Scubafest, I decided that maybe it is time to get a new drysuit. Apart from the trauma of being measured (although I am sure it was much worse for the measurer!), it made me think about whether I would need to alter the amount of lead I carry to avoid being one of those divers who is seen stuffing pockets with rocks as the dive progresses, or nailed to the bottom.. Given this, I thought I would share BSAC’s method to perfecting your weighting:

  • Initially guess the weight and set up a belt accordingly

  • Kit up in full diving equipment – including your undersuit if using a drysuit

  • Enter water with spare weights within reach, submerge vertically (this removes air from the drysuit if worn).

  • Attempt buoyancy check – breathe out, sink, breathe in, float up.

  • Adjust weight on the belt to achieve neutral buoyancy within the span of breathing, with no air in the suit.

  • Now add sufficient weight to the weight belt to allow for the buoyancy change due to air consumption as if the cylinders were almost emptied. (This is about 2-3 kg for a steel 12 liter – or see here

Don’t forget you need 2-3 Kg more in seawater than in fresh



They are very useful for holding your glasses on your face, hearing your buddy tell you how awesome your trim is or wiggling them to entertain a crowd. However, underwater, they can be troublesome. Equalisation issues and ear infections can be awful.

Equalisation – there are a few common techniques which you all should know – ask you instructor if you need help. Don’t forget that if you are having trouble equalising, the only way to resolve this is to ascend a little to relieve the discomfort and try ear clearing again. Call the dive if you can't.

Ear infections – My Mum always told me never to stick anything in your ear other than your elbow… Good advice. However, something I think is worth putting in your ear prior to diving that I know a number of us use are preventative ear drops prior to diving, such as Swim-Ear, SwimSeal or Earol Swim. Ear Calm from a pharmacy can also help.


Underwater photography.

Give it a go! It's great to have a permanent record of your dive, impress your friends with the simply amazing underwater world and help identify weird sea life. Of course, managing your diving equipment and plan need to be second nature. The distraction the camera means that you will not be focused 100% on your diving. If an issue does occur, you need to be confident in your ability to respond quickly and correctly. Buoyancy first, and take care not to get so preoccupied that you endanger yourself or others or risk damaging the marine environment. And remember, you don't need to spend millions on fancy kit. It is you that makes the picture great, not the camera - you never have an amazing meal and put it down to the expensive pans used rather than the chef's skill!.


Can you hear me?

Always good practice to call the coastguard before starting an offshore dive. You get a chance to practice using the radio, and a chance to check it is working at the same time. The coastguard always asks you to call them back when your divers are safely back on board, or sometimes when you get back to shore. Don’t forget. On Saturday couple of weeks’ ago, the coastguard asked for a call back when our boat returned to shore – in this case to Castletown. When Dave tried to call – no answer. The beach at Castletown is a marine radio dead zone!

Moral - next time, call them while still out in the harbour. They were contacted them by phone – always a good idea to have their number which is 02392552100. Put it in your phone now!


About gloves

After a more than unsuccessful attempt to put my dry gloves back onto my drysuit (which led to the drysuit being a wetsuit!) I thought I would share the things I’ve learnt about gloves over the years.

  1. Cold hands are miserable and painful

  2. Stiff thick gloves are a nightmare to put on cold damp hands. The stretchier the better – I like the Northern Diver Superstretch ones.

  3. First putting on thin plastic gloves (like those given away in petrol stations) can help you put on wet gloves. .

  4. Thin gloves when wreck diving prevent nasty cuts as you squeeze through gaps.

  5. Test your dry gloves are dry before going on a big dive

  6. Your buddy cannot signal easily to you when wearing three finger mitts

  7. Practice using your dive computer and putting up a dsmb etc with your gloves on

  8. If you have two pairs, you can treat yourself to a lovely dry pair on your second dive.

Getting dry gloves to work with neoprene cuffs is like rocket science. (actually harder than rocket science)



Now for those of you who have dived with Chris, our DO, you might see that there are holes either side of his hood where his ears are. He thinks these were cut out so he could hear Fiona nagging him underwater, but actually, they are there so that he can hear his computer when the alarm goes off. (very important to react fast to such an alert on a rebreather). Can you hear your computer alarm?

Also for those of you with a UK dive coming up, I know the top-side weather has been very hot, but you really do still need to wear a hood under the water. If you try without, you are likely to have to call the dive and miss out on the great viz we have been having.



Many of us have a tendency to go lime green at the sight of a white horse and are considered total landlubbers by those fortunate enough to not mind the horizon flying all over the place. To stop this ruining your diving day, there are a number of things you can do:

  1. Eat breakfast (carbs are good), but not acidic and greasy foods. Some people also swear by ginger based snacks too, be it crystallised, snaps etc

  2. Medicate, but first, work out which ones to take. Some sea-sickness tablets can make you drowsy so check yours don’t by trying out on dry land first.

  3. Watch the horizon - so your eyes see what you ears feel. Try to face the direction the boat is travelling too.

  4. Avoid fumes - fresh air helps lots.

  5. Minimize movement and stay topside, close to the centre of the vessel.

  6. Keep hydrated and cool.

Of course, if the worst happens and the fish need feeding, then my top tip is to use the side of the boat where the wind is on your back.

Or you could try the Training Officer’s cure. Place a £2 coin between your teeth and hang over the side.....If that fails, try a £5 note.............


You learn something new on every dive

Picture the scene – Instructor and student kneeling on the 6m platform at Wraysbury, ready to go through some drills. Instructor begins to demonstrate regulator ditch & retrieve in the approved manner. Brings arm forward. No regulator. Does it again – no reg. And again. Student looks puzzled. Instructor gives the “what the f.....” signal and starts to reach for his AAS. Student Melissa (first open water dive for 20 years) calmly reaches up and retrieves instructor’s regulator which is floating vertically above his head. Why? After it was removed and thrown away, it started to freeflow, and that presumably caused it to become buoyant, and up it went Your training Officer learnt something new on dive number 640.


Drysuits?...... More like Damp Suits

In reality they are never dry. 100% humidity is reached inside your suit within minutes and you will produce between 60ml-1500ml of sweat during a 40 minute dive. Most will be held in your undersuit, but your drysuit will be damp at least. So, two rules,

  1. always turn your drysuit inside out after diving to let it fully dry. You often see divers pointless drying off the outside of their suits between dives, when drying the inside would be more useful

  2. always hold your breath when unzipping other people's suits...


How to solve pointy head syndrome under water

The scene: First dive with a new hood which is a nice comfortable fit, not too tight. Not long into the dive, 10m down on the Portland Dredger, our hero develops a pointy head – some of his exhaled gas bubbles, instead of making their way to the surface, have collected inside the nice new hood, and the air bubble is affecting buoyancy & trim. Solution? Take out scissors – hand them to buddy (who happens to be on his first UK sea dive) and get him to cut a snip on top. Out comes a big bubble, and normal buoyancy is restored.

Moral 1 – always carry a cutting tool – preferably scissors because they do less collateral damage

Moral 2 – if you buy a new piece of kit – try it in the pool first!


Is it on? Or off?

The Dive Manager is responsible for ensuring the conditions are safe for diving. Whilst you can do all the excellent planning in world, risk assessments, pep talks etc, most of us cannot control the weather. So in the week running up to the dive, you need to start looking at the forecast to start to build the picture of you might face. But how you decide whether you call the dive or not? BSAC state, “A wind of over Beaufort Force 4 (with the consequential sea state) can affect diving comfort and safety on unprotected sites”. But it is not that