Introducing our new project - a 1998 VW Transporter T4 - I guess we are joining #VANLIFE

A while ago I wrote about #projectsailboat. This was a desire to learn more about the “systems” of a boat prior to purchase. Such as a means of producing power (solar), storage options in limited space etc. Greater discussions with my partner led us to move away from the idea of a boat - we simply would not get the use of it, being some 150km from the ocean. The next option was a camper - we enjoy camping and exploring but due to weather this limits our options. A camper would extend the 'season' as well as offer a support vehicle for scuba diving. After much searching we settled on a relatively old 1998 VW camper van. It had been roughly converted - allowing us to add many of our own touches. The video below gives you a look at the van after we have had it for only 2 weeks.


Check out the video and don't forget to like, comment or subscribe.

Gear: Scuba - Second Hand BCD Self inflating

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I have just finished washing and putting my dive gear away following another day of double fun dives on the South Coast of NSW. For me this was dive 18 & 19.

Fresh from my tropical dives of Phi Phi Island in Thailand (and admittedly filled with false bravado), I kitted up just before the first dive as I have always done.

As with most of our club fun dives, today we were entering from the rocks so I added air to my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and entered the water with the rest of the group. After the usual awkward aqua-aerobics that is putting on your fins in a slightly surging wave group we pushed away from the rocks to the decent point. My BCD was making a funny sound and I thought “hmm maybe I have an air leak from an air hose”, I had my buddy check and she confirmed there was no visible air leak.

As we descended, my buddies started slowly sinking as they should but I could not go below one metre. I was weighted the same as other successful dives but was unsure why I could not drop down to the bottom at 7m. Luckily one of the Dive Masters (DMs) for the club dive was on hand and clipped an extra weight to me.

After getting down with my buddy we set off on exploring the underwater landscape - my video from Australia Day 2015 is shot at the same spot


I noticed my buoyancy was not very stable - all in one direction - UP. It was at that point I realised what the funny sound was on the surface - the safety valve on my BCD letting air out as it had over inflated. I know I only put a squirt or two in prior to entry and now the BDC was continuing to self inflate while diving - slowly but still inflating. to top this off my DIY Dive Tray was beginning to loosen and the camera and light set up was wobbling. I could not let go of it for fear of losing both GoPro and my brand new Knog Qudos Dive light. Review coming soon.

 

This dive was rapidly turning into a cluster. I was not in any immediate danger due to the relatively shallow depths - however I did need to continuously dump air from my slowly inflating BCD.

At the 35 minute mark I pulled the pin. I was not enjoying myself, so knew it was time to end the dive. I indicated my intentions to my buddy and the DM and up I went - metres from the accent point - perfect.

I still managed to record a great clip of a sleepy Port Jackson Shark snoozing on the sandy bottom.


The second dive was much easier as the issue was known, after the dives I discussed the issue with the DMs and they indicated that one solution would have been to disconnect the low pressure inflator hose and manually inflate the BCD with my mouth - all stuff every PADI diver is trained to do - I didn’t know I could disconnect it underwater - I know now for next time!

I will however be taking my BCD in for a service soon to fix the problem.

 

Thailand: Scuba Diving Koh Phi Phi from 3 angles

During our recent visit to Thailand I was fortunate enough to dive some of the most amazing places. Funnily enough they all centred around Koh Phi Phi Don in the middle of the Andaman Sea

I did not know this at the time, but the dives from Phuket and Ao Naung both required 2 hours of travel each way by boat. Not as horrible as it sounds as both trips were fully catered!

Having learnt to dive in the cooler waters off South East NSW, the 30 degree tropical waters were a real shock. All the dive guides could not believe ever diving in the cold temps of 18-24 that I dove here.

I will let the images speak for themselves. I will however add - I did not take them. The local dive guides thankfully have far better skills than I and provided them either for free or at a small cost.

The dive shops I dived with, I could not recommend highly enough. There were some shocking reviews on trip advisor about some shonky operators, particularly on Phi Phi Island.

I dove with:

The Dive, Ao Naung

Phi Phi Diving, Koh Phi Phi AKA Phi Phi Island

 

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Starting to feel like a real Scuba Diver

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I have now finished 6 dives following my PADI Open Water Diver Qualification. Of those 6, I have had to share air (essentially, I nearly ran out of air due to hyperventilation and excitement) if you would like to see this process, here is a Youtube clip showing the underwater process

I have now finished the final two, number 5 & 6. Only during these dives did I start to feel like a “real” scuba diver. Not just some one pretending. I was able to settle in to the dive. Enjoy it.

Here is a video of those dives (click on the picture)

“Diving

Gear update - Scuba Diving February 2015

Recently I was offered the opportunity to purchase some very good quality second hand Scuba Diving equipment. I managed to snap up a family new Buoyancy Control Device (BCD), first and second stage regulator (the hoses you breath through) along with a dive knife, a surface marker (an orange sausage that you inflate to get noticed on the surface) along with a really good quality mesh bag.

Some new kit include a Suunto Zoop Dive watch and a DIY GoPro Dive Tray that will hopefully stabilise some more of my dive videos

Here is a short video using all of the gear above along in addition to the standard here included in my “learning to dive” pack mentioned here

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Seal Diving - Montague Island, South Coast NSW

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Diving with Seals on the NSW South Coast

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As you know I recently learnt to scuba dive. I also became a member of my local scuba club, which offers a few times a year, trips to Montague Island off the coast of Narooma NSW to dive with the Australian Fur Seals that inhabit the island .

The boat ride out to the island was choppy to say the least, we anchored in the lee of the sou'easter that was creating the chop, which as (bad) luck would have it was directly down wind from the seal colony.

 

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The day was split into 2 dives with the dive boat captain supplying soup and rolls to fend off the chill (temps were low teens out of the water, even less with the wind, while the water was 17-14ºc degrees depending on depth).

I really can see the ease that having a regular dive buddy creates. I joined a small group of 3 experiences divers.

Any one was more experienced as me - I have not dived since my open water qualification.

Dive 1

I remembered all the safety checks, the buddy checks, the equipment checks - I was feeling pretty cocksure of myself. I entered the water using perfect 'giant stride'

[youtube http://youtu.be/PIsX9jFORNw"]

Almost immediately upon reforming in out little group of four at the bow of the dive boat I realised I was breathing too fast. Looking back at the GoPro video I took of Dive 1, I could actually count I was breathing 1 breath every 2 seconds - basically hyperventilating.

On getting away from the boat under water the Australian Fur Seals come straight up to us and started screaming around like some jet powered underwater labrador. With big brown eyes looking at you.. calling you to come play.

As the dive progressed I could I tell that as a group when we did 'air checks' I was using far more air than the other 3. About 23 minutes into the dive when we did another 'air check', the look on the small group leader's face when I indicated I had 80 bar (started with 230 bar) showed me that something was really wrong. He gave me the hand signal to take his emergency hose and 'share air'. This is a scary sign to receive on my first dive, but I was not going to argue.

We started slowly heading back to the anchor line of the dive boat on the shared air, holding the arm of the dive leader. Once we got to the site were we were going to do a 'safety stop' before ascending, I went back onto my air.

I surfaced with 40 bar remaining.

After drying off and putting some warmer clothes on to have some soup, I got talking to the group leader, he agreed yes I was breathing too fast, mainly because I was nervous. I also removed a weight from my weight belt as I felt weighted down, which adds to the unsettled leading to further nervousness underwater

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Dive 2

As soon as I got under water this time, I felt more relaxed, more natural

The video also backs this up to my breathing halving. One breath every 4 seconds.

During this dive we stayed around the 16m mark, seeing a Port Jackson Shark, large rays cruising the rock ledges and of course the seals.

I can see how much easier having your own gear is along with adding to a sense of security- knowing your gear.

I think my next purchase will be a dive computer - I am thinking of a simple Mares Puck for around $180 on Amazon

  UPDATE: Now with videos

[youtube http://youtu.be/gZAyz0g89xU]

[youtube http://youtu.be/En5lFUf4C20]

 

 

 

 

A massive 6 months!

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Starting around Sept 2013 I finished a 6 month rotation to Darwin, where I found a new found love of jogging and exercise.  I was lucky enough to meet great friends and go  to places I never would have the option of going to if it was not for work .

 

Read more about my time in Darwin here

Almost as soon as I arrived back in Canberra we were off again. Thanks to my  amazing partner lead me on a tour of his incredible country – Myanmar. We spent an unforgettable 3 weeks traveling the lengths and breadth of this nation. Even after all the sights and experiences his FAMILY was the true highlight for me. His mother’s warmth and care, his father’s intelligence and willingness to share and ask questions about my life too. 

A more in-depth write up of our time in Myanmar is here
 
Then the “ experience “ of meeting my parents in Kuala Lumpur and catching up with my good friend Ron who then joined the four of us traveling to Redang Island (Palau Redang) off the north east coast of Malaysia. It was the second time Frankie and I had been to the Lagoon Redang resort. After the ferry ride from Kuala Terraganu on the mainland over to the resort (where my father’s sea sickness came to a head) and check in, the island is really just a water sports playground. 
All expenses paid apart from alcohol and diving services. After snorkelling every day and also trying SCUBA I was HOOKED. The resort is a PADI accredited resort which means they have instructors and Dive Masters who can facilitate everything from the minimal training ‘Discover SCUBA’ right through to your ‘Dive Master’ qualification. Frankie, Ron and I decided finally we would try the ‘Discover SCUBA’ – which is essentially being kitted up and thrust under water. 
 
Frankie and Ron could not get get more than 10cm under the surface before pulling the pin. I managed to get all the way through the experience – roughly 15mins getting to a depth of 5.5m. I was so excited to be doing it I forgot to actually take my GoPro3 from the dive bag on the beach before getting in the water. 
 
Back in KL the ‘experience’ of travelling with my parents again reached crescendo with the all important family yelling match in an international airport. Don’t be shocked. Its rather common for my family. We get over it faster than our words echoing around departures. 
 
  
 
A more in-depth write up of our time in Malaysia is here
On return back to Canberra I started in a new role with a new team in the a new office. 
 
 Not long after our return from our big overseas adventure we decided to start thinking about buying a house. When I say thinking, we looked at one and brought it. A 2br, split level east facing townhouse. Requiring 5% down in Nov 13, and the rest in around Nov 2014. Perfectly suited for what we needed. Also keeps my NBN dry. 
 
 
 So because I am swimming in cash *COUGH COUGH* I then booked my PADI Open Water Dive Course. 
 
 I nearly didn’t get to do the course! 
 
The doctor was worried my lungs were almost not up to the minimum capacity. But don’t worry, I managed to get over the line. 
 
 The first weekend was half theory and half practising in the pool! I don’t know about you but I am never lucky when it comes to being partnered up in anything sporty, usually picked last. Well there was this one mega cutie on our group – and for once guess who I was partnered with!! JACKPOT! He was a great guy, sweet and innocent of the ways of the world. It wasn’t until the pool technique practising that my inner filter turned off. I couldn’t stop giggling when our instructor was inadvertently saying things with MASSIVE innuendo such as “ right team lets get under water, get on our knees and have some fun’ I looked at our assistant instructor with my ‘trying not to laugh’ face – which is hard in full mask and regulator in your mouth’ Sadly his mouth was level with the water and it caused him to inhale and cough with the biggest smile. The laughs only continued.. 
For those that are not divers, there is a requirement to learn how to tow your buddy should they become fatigued or injured, this cryptically is called the ’Tired Diver Tow’ which involves you laying on your back and your buddy laying between your legs face up, you hold their tank and kick – pushing you both forward. I simply said ‘ I don’t open my legs for every one this easy, buy a boy a drink first sailor’ He too could not control his giggles The second weekend was the in water component, unlike the current Australian government immigration policy, as it was under water rather than on water I can talk about it. The first day was 3 dives at 6m practicing skills we learnt in the pool. The second day was at a site called Toll Gates – read about that bit here
 
 
 

All was going well, a little too well.

 

I was getting ready to finally sell my maxi road scooter – 500cc – on consignment with a local dealer.
 
 
 
 
The fates intervened again. I was crossing an intersection with a green light, I stopped as a cyclist crossed my path and was collected right in-between my passenger front and rear doors. Causing $6000 worth of damage. I am insured however the insurance company is still ‘determining fault’ hmmmm. 
 
 
To top of a roller coaster of emotions. I was voted by an overwhelming majority to lead my employers Gay & Lesbian Network. A total of 1/2 of the overall votes came to me. A lot of pressure is now on me – some will say ‘its just a volunteer thing, no extra pay, why bother’ – It is important to make changes, drive the changes. You can’t do that from the outside.

 

If this was the last 6 months, I wonder what the next will bring.

Hopefully you will also see some changes on the site coming soon. I hope you will enjoy.  As always, please like, comment or subscribe.

 
 

Padi Dive Course Complete!

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What a weekend!

As you know I have been completing my Open Water Diver Certificate through INDEPTH Scuba here in Canberra.

The past weekend saw the second and final weekend component.  Heading down the coast on friday night with all our gear packed, my dive buddy and I arrived at the dive lodge to start fresh and early on saturday.

Saturday saw 3 dives, mostly concentrating on practicing and demonstrating skills we learned in the pool the weekend before. My biggest apprehension was the component relating to removing my mask in the water, and replacing it. This simulates your mask being kicked off and you need to recover it. I just could not calm down enough to process not breathing through my nose! Well in the open water (a 6m deep shore dive location at Bawley Point NSW) I nailed it. Taking it slow and not rushing.

The following day was the 4th and final dive was a boat dive at a location off Batemans Bay called ‘The Tunnel’ The current from the north was described by our boat captain along with our dive instructor and dive master was ‘ the strongest they have seen’. Descending the 10m down the boats anchor line to the lip of  ‘The Tunnel’ the divers looked more like a flags in a storm. But once crossing into the ‘The Tunnel’ it was calm. Reaching our max depth of 18m – the max depth of our PADI qualification – we saw a lot of sea urchins and the Blue Rass that love to eat their creamy insides.

Sadly I was unable to capture any video or images of the dives as they were learning dives and I wanted to concentrate on the actual skills needed.

Below is the group and our instructors.

PADI Open Water Diver Certification -Learning to dive pt 1

So its started!!  

I have been wanting to learn to dive since the PADI “discover diving” in Redang Island Malaysia. I found my local store here in Canberra offer a 2 weekend package that combines theory, “confined water dive practice” - code for swimming pool, and then finishing with a weekend demonstrating and exploring those skills in the open ocean to give me the base qualification of “PADI Open Water Diver”. For those that done know PADI is the Professional Association Of Divers International. Back in the early days of diving they set the standards and benchmarks for the training of new divers. They currently train 90% if the worlds divers. I have to say I didn't really have any understanding of the technicalities of this when I signed up.  One of the benefits of the standards is that if I ever want to go diving with a buddy ( you should never dive alone) if they have the PADI base qualification, I know they have been trained in the same safety procedures, same checks, same under water hand signals the whole works.

The process starts when you approach your dive centre to learn to dive. Mine is located in Belconnen, Canberra  - some 1 and a half hours from the ocean.  The intro night is where you meet, are talked thought the forthcoming course, measure up for wetsuits and other gear as well as the all important Dive Medical. No use getting down to 18m and realising your lungs are shot.

Starting bright and early the next saturday - the theory starts. Hardly arduous concepts but none the less it must be learnt.

The next day it time to put that knowledge to the test on the pool with all the equipment on. I have to say the most daunting thing isn't removing my respirator underwater effectively leaving me without air for a few seconds.. its the removing my mask completely - knowing to clear it I need to not breath through my nose until I need to breath out to clear the mask - oh sure that sound simple - but my body keeps wanting to breath in throughout my nose.  I managed to demonstrate the required skills to pass that section.

So that leads us to the open ocean. Today is Wednesday,  tomorrow evening I need to swing past the shop and pick up my dive gear as well as my buddy’s as we are driving down to the coast Friday night, to start mega early on Saturday in the real wet stuff!

Until then - keep thinking about me and not breathing through your nose!

 

 

 

Dive has been booked!!

As you know I am trying to crowd fund my PADI Open Water certification through InDepth Scuba here in Canberra. It consists a dive medical, introduction and info session followed by theory and session in the pool to become familiar with the kit and training. The course culminates in 3 shore dives and a boat dive down on the South Coast of NSW.


  Don’t forget that you can help here: http://www.pozible.com/project/177993

Crowd funding my #PADI Open Water Certificate

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As you know we are buying a house. That has pretty much locked up any spare cash we have until after November. After the introduction dive we ( read I, Frankie chickened out just as his head got under the water) did in Redang Island last year I have been looking at doing my PADI open water certification. That is the first step of the whole qualification process.

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I know it sounds a little odd but I am hoping that you might like to chip in some cash to help get me on the course along be part of the journey. The course is hosted half her in Canberra and the remainder down the south coast of NSW. The course is being run by Indepth Scuba here in Canberra and is split over two weekend, the first being theory and pool practice followed by a second weekend down the coast having 2 shore dives and one boat dive.

Including equipment, accommodation and training the entire course is $1300aud. I simply can't spring for that all in one lump and I am trying to get it done before winter starts and the water moves to being almost liquid ice (for me any way).

If you can help, that would be great, individuals / businesses who provide decent chunks of cash will get specific mentions in the video I will make.

If you are unable to help financially please share the link to all your friends on Facebook and twitter. Get WADE HIS DIVE CERT

My first dive

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This afternoon I did my first dive! It was a beach dive directly off from the Lagoona Redang Resort beach. While only to a depth of 6m, it was fully guided. My group was meant to be 3 plus a guide but Frankie and Ron both aborted after a depth of about 30cm. After all the fiddling around and briefing I forgot the GoPros so can’t actually show you what I saw but the dive was over a reef with trigger fish, clown fish and whole host of others all just doing their fishy thing. 20131024-165927.jpg

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