Have you ever driven, ridden, walked by a dive site, or what you think could be a dive site; that you have not explored yet? What’s stopping you from trying? Knowledge, courage or ambition? For me, it was the preparation that kept me from the site I have been wanting to try.
This year, with only a couple of years of diving under my belt, I decided to explore a site underwater that I had been exploring above the water line for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, I frequently visited a place in the North Atlantic. A small island in the Bay of Fundy called White Head island. My family is from there and I frequently explored the shores from the time I could leave the house alone until the time I could introduce my children to the adventures I had. When I began scuba diving, I got the itch to begin exploring the Island from below the waterline.
This summer (2019), I was able to make portions of that dream (Goal) come true. How does this happen? How do you explore a new site ? Especially in the ocean. Here are some tips from this semi-pro.
When planning to scuba dive in a familiar or unfamiliar place our priority should be on safety. This usually includes things like SAC (Surface Air Consumption), Max Depth, Direction (Compass Heading), and duration. Sometimes there is no better place to gather some of the important information for your dive plan, than from the locals (no offense to Google, but local knowledge trumps all Web Knowledge).
Check Local knowledge
Local knowledge is, in my opinion, the most important data point you can gather, you can look at satellite images, online maps, electronic tide, and current charts but nothing beats the local. Especially the local who has been on the water for years and understands how the tides run and what the current like, and where you can safely dive.
For my adventure I spoke to the locals about the location, especially when looking at tides and currents. If you are un-aware, the tides in the Bay of Fundy are some of the highest in the world. A high tide means fast-moving water, which can impact the currents you are diving in. Leveraging the local knowledge of the currents and tides I was able to select the best time of day to dive, the optimal direction to head and how long I should be in the water.
What are some skills we need when exploring new sites? Well, as I just mentioned, Tides and Currents. Understanding these are important to our safety, we don’t want to get dragged out to sea or end up missing the best part of the dive due to the amount of tide.
In the last few weeks, I visited a site at about mid-tide and by the time we finished the dive the return to our entrance point was completely different. Our depth readings were completely off. What geologic structures were at 10′ feet when went out were not 10′ when we returned.
The next important skill is understanding how to navigate. What direction are we heading, how do we return? What can we use as navigation points? Does this sound familiar? “The guy at the dive shop sold me this compass thing when I bought my kit but how do I use it?” Navigation class will teach you to read a marine compass correctly, use geographic structures and other items to navigate safely around the site.
Where do you get the aforementioned skills? Well. at your Local Dive Shop. Local dive shops can hook you up with a couple of classes to assist you and your buddy in exploring new sites. First would be a Navigation Class, second would be a Tides and Current Class. These classes would help you develop the skills necessary to explore new and exciting sites.
If you are in the Southern NH or Northern MA area, Aquatic Specialties in Merrimack, NH can help with the training, offering advanced training classes. Call them at (603) 889-7655.