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AOW Specialty Selections


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#1 DriftWood

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:00 PM

At the end of the month I am getting my AOW cert. I am looking for advice as to which specialty dives to choose for the three optional dives.

Background: I am 45 and grew up around the water, swimming, snorkeling, skiing, and sailing. I have finally gotten my OW cert in March of this year. During the class I won a free Peak Performance Buoyancy class from the shop and have completed that as well as my Nitrox cert. I am in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so the spectacular diving opportunities are during trips. I am comfortable in the water and really looked at the OW as requirement to enter the adventures of diving as opposed to any real challenge. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for the sea and she will punish you unforgivably if you take her for granted. I am joining the SD group in Athens this weekend and with a little effort will more than double my actual diving experience.

Currently I am leaning towards the Wreck and Night dives. I believe these are special environments that will significantly benefit from the instruction and guided introduction.

Because of location drift and altitude really are not practical options. I am not concerned about Boat ( I can read the book and one trip will provide enough experience).

My LDS is having a trip the end of July to dive the Oriskany in Pensacola. I have discussed participating with them. My instructor has said we can complete my Deep specialty on the dive if I would like.

My primary purpose with the AOW is more diving experience. I will probably pursue a Wreck specialty when the opportunity presents.

Yes, this is a PADI AOW and no I don't need a discussion about the other AOW programs. I have found some of the discussions on here already. The AOW simply advances my training and will not be the end of my pursuits.

Thanks for your advice in advance

Jeff

#2 WreckWench

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:26 PM

Night and wreck are GREAT choices for all the reasons you've mentioned and a few more. Keep in mind this is like an appetizer and not a meal...so you will 'taste' wreck diving but will not in any shape manner or form be ready after one intro/exploratory wreck dive to do a pinnacle wreck such as the Oriskany. Some of the other wrecks in FL are possibly suited for a novice diver with less than 20 dives but NOT THE ORISKANY.

I would be happy to talk to you on the phone...they don't call me the 'wreck' wench for nothing! Wrecks are my love and my specialty! Please do not do this dive until you have more dives in general under your belt and certainly more wreck dives under your belt.

You would not do the Indy 500 as your first car race would you? You would not climb Everest as your first mountain climb would you? And you would not run a 10k marathon if you just started jogging a few weeks ago...yet diving the Oriskany is at those levels to a new diver EVEN WITH AN INSTRUCTOR CLOSELY MONITORING THEM.

I mean you can do it...but do you really want to do a 'trust me' dive hoping your instructor can ensure nothing happens to you in these extreme diving conditions when you have other options?

And I'm sure LOTS of people do it all the time? But I doubt they are as well prepared and thoughtful as you are. The biggest obstacle in diving is rapidly learning what you don't know before it sneaks up on you and hurts you.

Plesae call me either this evening or before 10am Eastern time tomorrow or anytime after June 18th when I get back from Barbados and we can talk! Kamala

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#3 georoc01

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 05:17 PM

If you have nitrox and peak, that's two. Deep and Nav are required, so IMHO, you are down to one more.

I agree with WW on Night. My LDS does dry suit and altitude at the blue hole in New Mexico.

Part of the decision is also what you are interested in. Photography isn't a bad choice.

Many of the PADI specialties are really instructor driven. When I did my wreck specialty it met the minimal requirements. When my buddy did it, her instructor was far more thorough. I wish I had done it with her instructor, it would have prepared me better for my tech classes.

#4 DriftWood

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 06:42 PM

Night and wreck are GREAT choices for all the reasons you've mentioned and a few more. Keep in mind this is like an appetizer and not a meal...so you will 'taste' wreck diving but will not in any shape manner or form be ready after one intro/exploratory wreck dive to do a pinnacle wreck such as the Oriskany. Some of the other wrecks in FL are possibly suited for a novice diver with less than 20 dives but NOT THE ORISKANY.

I would be happy to talk to you on the phone...they don't call me the 'wreck' wench for nothing! Wrecks are my love and my specialty! Please do not do this dive until you have more dives in general under your belt and certainly more wreck dives under your belt.

You would not do the Indy 500 as your first car race would you? You would not climb Everest as your first mountain climb would you? And you would not run a 10k marathon if you just started jogging a few weeks ago...yet diving the Oriskany is at those levels to a new diver EVEN WITH AN INSTRUCTOR CLOSELY MONITORING THEM.

I mean you can do it...but do you really want to do a 'trust me' dive hoping your instructor can ensure nothing happens to you in these extreme diving conditions when you have other options?

And I'm sure LOTS of people do it all the time? But I doubt they are as well prepared and thoughtful as you are. The biggest obstacle in diving is rapidly learning what you don't know before it sneaks up on you and hurts you.

Plesae call me either this evening or before 10am Eastern time tomorrow or anytime after June 18th when I get back from Barbados and we can talk! Kamala


Kamala

I am aware the Oriskany is an advanced dive and I will be evaluating whether to participate as my experience grows. If they were leaving tomorrow, I would stay home. But I am prepared to put in the work to raise my experience to an acceptable level before going. This weekend I am joining the SD group at Athens for two days and plan to spend as much time as I possibly can in the water and learning from those that have more experience. The guys from my shop are also at Athens doing an OW class so I should be able to find plenty of buddies to work with. I am also going to Florida (the Destin area) the week following the 4 of July. I should have my AOW complete before going. As you said these specialty dives are more of a survey than a course, and I appreciate that. I am hoping to make at least two dive trips that week in Florida. This is all before the Oriskany trip. If I can put in another weekend in Clear Springs or Athens, I should be around 30 dives. I know that it does take time to gain the knowledge and experience, but I am also not the average student.

Also, the Oriskany would also not be a real wreck dive for me (no overhead environments). The flight deck is or was at 145 ft, which is too deep. The first dive would be a deep training dive to 130. We can view the deck but not reach it. At that depth there is very little bottom time, so if narcosis does not turn me back up sooner its down, do the deep exercise, wave to the fish and head back up. The second dive would explore around the tower at about 100 ft. The third dive would be up around the top of the tower at 70-80 ft.

Again this is all contingent on getting the training dives done, making some easier actual dives, getting extra practice time, and feeling comfortable with all of the incremental environments. I am sure my instructor will have no issue telling me no if he doesn't feel I can do it after evaluating my AOW dives.

If you still feel this should be a non-dive for me I would be happy to hear why you think so. I am getting into diving for adventure and fun. I have no death wish.

Jeff

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 07:28 PM

Driftwood,

AOW is just an opportunity to get a little bit more experience under supervision and that is all it is. I think the wreck dive is a good choice. You need to be very careful about doing a night dive until you have very good buoyancy control. If it goes poorly, you could be scarred for life and never do another one. That is not uncommon. Hone your skills then add the extra stress of night diving after the other skills are already there. Patience is the key, number of classes doesn't really mean much or make you a better diver. I've seen DM's that were horrible divers. You learn diving by diving with responsible people and in the end AOW is just a card allowing you to take other classes. Don't get me wrong, education is good and you should take AOW but don't think it will make you a better diver instantly. Only time will do that for you so don't think too hard about this.

I know the dive shop you are talking about. I used them when I first got back into diving and I checked their website to confirm they did have the Oriskany trip (July 22) you are talking about so I am pretty sure its them. That particular shop is a tech oriented shop. They went out of business a few years ago and sold out to an independently wealthy cave diver. He owns several other profitable non-scuba businesses in town also. I have learned from one of their instructors that he bought it both as a means of adding a tax deduction to his cave diving habit as well as having access to all the latest equipment for free. It must be nice to be rich. At the time, he wasn't even an instructor and I am not sure he is now. It is probably the most disorganized shop in town. I gave up trying to take AOW there since they could not even get me a book after 6 weeks and I just left. Several YEARS later I got a phone call one day to confirm that I was taking basic OW from them that weekend. Don't know where that came from, but at the time of the call I was rescue certified and had over 100 dives so I politely declined. Then they tried to argue with me about it. Like I said, they are extremely disorganized... vastly more so than the average dive shop.

They offer the Oriskany trip as their signature trip and have for many years. That is because they are mainly a tech shop and that is a low end relatively easily accessible tech dive. It is not suitable for a new diver but they have to fill the trip, and in this economy they will do what it takes to make that happen. That is just the economics of a dive shop... which is another thread. Most instructors will not teach deep on that wreck and there is a reason for that. The currents are unpredictable and most of it is below the depth standards for the deep class or even rec diving for that matter. When it was first sunk the fight deck was at a recreational depth but it has since moved due to storms and most is now inaccessible to all but tech divers. Recreational divers do that dive but only the very experienced ones and it comes at a big risk to them due to the depths and lack of tech training. Don't be a casualty because your shop has slots to fill!!! Have patience and find another place to take AOW. You may end up as an article in Alert Diver otherwise and that would just suck.

My biggest suggestion is to move on to another shop since this one caters to tech divers and not recreational divers so they really will not meet your needs at this point in your diving career. There are several good ones in that area. Tiger Shark comes to mind but its about 15 minutes farther south. University Scuba is very nearby and Arlington Scuba has been around for decades. Maybe you should look around a little and see what else is out there.

#6 peterbj7

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 08:18 PM

The night dive used to be mandatory under the PADI system, and was only dropped because far northern dive centers complained they couldn't do it and hence couldn't do the AOW course at all in the winter, ie. for purely commercial reasons. When I teach AOW I regard that dive as one of the mandatory ones, and I recommend you do it as well. If there's any likelihood that the dive would "phase" you then I'd do more research on it and choose a different instructor.

Remember, as some people have said, that the AOW course is merely a "taster". Don't regard yourself as in any way "experienced" or "qualified" on the basis of this course.

Once you have completed the AOW course you will be allowed to do 100ft dives. I strongly recommend you do quite a few of these in varying circumstances and conditions before you consider going deeper. Then, when you're ready, you can if you wish do the PADI Deep Diver course, but I wouldn't do it the way the book says - it gives you just one dive deeper than 100ft (101ft meets course requirements). I teach the course over a week, with the first dive on days 2-5 being all the way to 130ft, and not brief panicked ventures to that depth either. You should develop over the week (the course involves four dives) so that you're comfortable staying at 130ft for a few minutes and then slowly ascending. You should do the dives on a computer, not the PADI tables, so you need to be experienced in the use of a particular computer before you do this course.

I haven't dived the Oriskany but I have dived and penetrated many wrecks, some of them very deep (trimix depths), and I agree with WW's exhortation that you don't even consider serious wreck diving until you're an awful lot more experienced.

If your current instructor suggests diving the Oriskany as part of a PADI Deep course I think you should find another instructor, immediately. He sounds to me as if he's on an ego-trip. If you are not yet even at the 30-dive level he is being irresponsible.

I have quite a few dives, with a lot of those being deep and in cold and unfriendly waters. I have experience to back up my views.

Edited by peterbj7, 10 June 2011 - 08:21 PM.


#7 WreckWench

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 08:32 PM

It is great to have ambitions...but again I should stress this is NOT a beginners dive in ANY stretch of the imagination. Why potentially mess up something you obviously LOVE before you've had a chance to get good at it.

How would you feel if you got a bmw, jag, mercedes or your dream car right after getting your learners permit? If you are the kid with the new car you'd be pretty jazzed and think it was great. If it were you at 45 and YEARS of driving experience telling a new driver that perhaps he should get some more real world experience before he drives that brand new car...you *might* understand more where we are coming from.

The kid may be *very* mature...but usually 16-18 year old teens do not fall into that category.

You *may* be VERY competent, a quick study, able to go from new diver to savvy diver in 20-30 dives *FAR FASTER* than the average diver. However normally this does not happen.

So please understand our words of caution. They are nothing against you personally...they are based upon *YEARS* of experience watching people fail to beat the odds. Its just part of the process... don't rush the process or you may ruin diving if not something worse.

The smart grasshopper knows to get good at each and every phase AND NOT overextend. Just enjoy the ride and do your deep dives etc on a more sane wreck. Its an expensive trip...long ride to sit outside basically and watch everyone else...unless you enjoy being on a diet and going to candy stores to window shop. :wacko:

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#8 WreckWench

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 08:42 PM

I guess I should add that I am tech certified, have over 2400 dives and I am a dive master. (Never had much desire to be an instructor but I could if I wanted too.) I've been diving since 1993 and I'm inexperienced compared to Peterbj7.

My husband is a tech instructor, dives REGULARLY to over 350 feet, dives trimix, dives LOTS OF WRECKS, teachess SERIOUS wreck diving, teaches all tech including Trimix and he was floored that ANY instructor would consider taking someone with 30-ish dives or even 40-ish dives to the Oriskany.

Again it is your decision and you may be able to defy the odds...but what if you can't? Diving WELL beyond your training and skills and relying on an instructor or anyone else to *get you back safely* is like drinking and diving...its just asking for trouble.

Tell me this? How long can you last on a cf 80 at 309ft? At 50ft? At 80ft? How about a cf100? Do you know your air consumption parameters? Have you dove in salt water yet? Do you know how to deal with current? Do you know what you would do if you were swept away on the Oriskany? Do you know how to blow a bag? Do you know what that means? Do you know how to signal the boat? Are you prepared to drift for potentially 1-2 hours while others finish their dive and they pull up anchor or release the mooring and then come to find you?

If you can answer all these questions then you may be better prepared to dive the type of dives you are considering. If not then do yourself a favor and be able to answer these questions before you tackle such a massive dive pinnacle.

Just some things to ponder...

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#9 Jerrymxz

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 09:27 PM

I guess I should add that I am tech certified, have over 2400 dives and I am a dive master. (Never had much desire to be an instructor but I could if I wanted too.) I've been diving since 1993 and I'm inexperienced compared to Peterbj7.

My husband is a tech instructor, dives REGULARLY to over 350 feet, dives trimix, dives LOTS OF WRECKS, teachess SERIOUS wreck diving, teaches all tech including Trimix and he was floored that ANY instructor would consider taking someone with 30-ish dives or even 40-ish dives to the Oriskany.

Again it is your decision and you may be able to defy the odds...but what if you can't? Diving WELL beyond your training and skills and relying on an instructor or anyone else to *get you back safely* is like drinking and diving...its just asking for trouble.

Tell me this? How long can you last on a cf 80 at 309ft? At 50ft? At 80ft? How about a cf100? Do you know your air consumption parameters? Have you dove in salt water yet? Do you know how to deal with current? Do you know what you would do if you were swept away on the Oriskany? Do you know how to blow a bag? Do you know what that means? Do you know how to signal the boat? Are you prepared to drift for potentially 1-2 hours while others finish their dive and they pull up anchor or release the mooring and then come to find you?

If you can answer all these questions then you may be better prepared to dive the type of dives you are considering. If not then do yourself a favor and be able to answer these questions before you tackle such a massive dive pinnacle.

Just some things to ponder...


Well said Kamala.

The VAST majority of people who dive "The Big O" do it on an al80 but since it was rocked and settled the Flight deck is 142 fsw. With my double steel HP100's and a 40 of 80% it's a no brainer. but I also have a lift bag attached to a reel and a backup 7foot surface marker with a finger spool on every dive to these depths. In addition to these I have a strobe light, an air powered horn, and a starflash mirror.

The O is a great dive and If you limit yourself to your certification level you should have a great dive. but that means you will miss the bottom two decks on the island as an AOW diver. you'll need advanced nitrox and deco just to get to the flight deck. I have 5 dives on the O and have never been "over the rail"

Take your time and enjoy the dives while you gain the experience and expertise to handle the what if's that may arise. It's a great trip!!

As to the original question, My 2psi is wreck and search and recovery. learn to use a reel and a lift bag. These are skills that will pay off.

Each wreck has a tale to tell about its life and its demise. 

If you are observant while diving in dark places listen to the account each has to tell, You cannot come away unaffected.   
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Posted 11 June 2011 - 09:35 AM

I had thoughts similar to yours when I got back into diving 3-4 years ago. I took AOW and Rescue back to back with nothing but my OW I took twelves years earlier . At the end of that I had a whopping 12 dives to my name but I thought I was ok. I asked my instructor about doing a DM class. His response was less than positive. He politely told me to be a good DM you need at least 50-80 dives in various parts of the world under varying conditions. He said 500 dives in Clear Springs or Athens does not equal one week in real open water. He also said that when the time is right I would know it. I thought that was a dubious statement at the time but since I respected him and he refused to go farther with me I had no choice but to relent and get some practical experience.

I learned on dive 13 in Roatan with Kamala by my side that did not know jack about diving. Luckily that was shallow water and I had a good DM right by me. By the end of the week though I had done my first real deep dive, again with Kamala. Now I do them routinely at big boy sites and she does not have to watch me anymore.

Knowing what I know now, I would say that instructor was almost spot on. I needed more than 80 though. I'm pushing 200 dives now and just now getting to a point where I feel like I could do a good job as a DM. That is because almost all of them have been in saltwater and most have been deep and a large number have had noticeable current. You will not get current at Clear Springs or Athens. You get cold but not current. Clear Springs and Athens are both backyard wading pools with alot of algae in comparison to open water. You won't even get real waves on the surface which is equally important to be able to handle. It would be faulty to cite that experience as qualifications for deep saltwater diving on something like an aircraft carrier where the conning tower really is your only point of reference.

My suggestion, and I'm not saying this because I work here, is to 1) do the AOW at Clear Springs, 2) take an SD trip, and 3) hire Kamala as a Rent-a-Buddy on that trip before you go any farther. I have done this and I feel like it was a better learning experience than any class I could take. You will get practical experience in saltwater that way and learn a ton. Many people on the site have done this and i know at least one that has risen to be a competent DM afterwards.

The big problem with diving is you don't know how much you don't know until it smacks you in the face at 130ft so going by your judgement of much you THINK you know really doesn't work well. You learn it gradually. I'm still learning and don't have anywhere near the skills of Peter, Kamala, or Jerry. I have seen enough to not argue with them about that. I could do the Oriskany safely but would not today since I haven't finished my deco cert yet (hopefully this year) and I feel like there is too much risk for me to make it worth my while. It would just be a costly exercise for me.

I am not you though and your experience may differ.

#11 peterbj7

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 10:44 AM

Tell me this? How long can you last on a cf 80 at 309ft?


Possibly not too long, and that wouldn't be down to his inexperience :P

#12 peterbj7

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 10:46 AM

I learned on dive 13 in Roatan with Kamala by my side that did not know jack about diving


You're being very harsh on Kamala :lmao:

#13 peterbj7

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 11:15 AM

Back to serious matters for a moment. We've all been where you are now., and it all looks so easy once you've mastered the basics of breathing and swimming underwater. But really there's an awful lot that matters that you haven't yet been exposed to, and I'm talking about really serious things that can make the difference between life and death. I don't know if you realised just what Kamala was getting at - do you know how to estimate gas consumption at different depths and under different conditions? Do you know what happens to you physiologically when you're put under severe stress? Do you know what can provoke such stress? Have you ever found yourself completely alone and in conditions you're not sure how to handle?

Have you ever handled a DSMB? Simple once you know how but there are pitfalls - one of my early deployments went sufficiently wrong that I ended up in a recompression chamber. And as Kamala asked, have you ever surfaced into rough seas and a stonking current and not had a clue where your boat might be, or your buddy?

Every one of these things happens to divers regularly, and you have to know up-front how to deal with them. The tech body I used to teach for, and may yet again, has a mantra "in an emergency it's the poorly learned skills that are forgotten first". That probably doesn't tell you a lot UNTIL you suddenly find yourself there - and that can happen without warning.

Diving is a lot of fun, and that includes extreme tech diving. We wouldn't do it otherwise. But you need to learn it gradually. The best thing you can do is join a diving club, and here I'm not thinking of SD but of a local active club that dives every weekend and has active and skilled members. You'll learn far more from your peers in such an environment than you'll ever learn from formal classes - though you need those as well. My first 2000 dives were mostly in cold rough British coastal waters (think PNW) on club dives. I learned so much just from watching people far more experienced than I could ever dream of becoming. It was there that learned how to deploy a DSMB. It was there that I learned how to dive a drysuit - and it was the combination of those two that initially put me in the chamber! It was there that I first became accustomed to diving in the 100ft - 170ft range. It was there that I became familiar with wreck diving and (later) wreck penetration, and it was there that I learned how to dive in high currents. Another was learning to dive in busy shipping lanes, where surfacing is NOT an option no matter what goes wrong - I've looked DOWN on a supertanker's propeller from 30ft! And it was there that I learned to be self sufficient so I could dive by myself.

And of course trips such as Kamala runs are also invaluable and great fun, and being mentored by her so useful and educational. Welcome to a new and exciting world!

#14 DriftWood

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 06:36 PM

If your current instructor suggests diving the Oriskany as part of a PADI Deep course I think you should find another instructor, immediately. He sounds to me as if he's on an ego-trip. If you are not yet even at the 30-dive level he is being irresponsible.


Just to be clear, it was not suggested that the Oriskany dive be part of a course. I asked if I could use the dive(s) as part of the Deep specialty course if I went. And he didn't answer until after he had seen me dive and I had take a second class from him.

#15 DriftWood

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 06:53 PM

Tell me this? How long can you last on a cf 80 at 309ft?


Possibly not too long, and that wouldn't be down to his inexperience :P


The oxygen partial pressure of air is over 2.1 at that depth. (2.7 of a EaN 27%) So there is a significant likelyhood that there is no consumption. But if you assume a SAC rate of 1 then its bit less than 8 minutes.




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