NEW DIVER, OLD TEETH
I contacted my local school for a try dive, thoroughly enjoyed myself and decided I had to get qualified. I had just missed the London Dive Show so headed north from the Isle of Wight to the Scottish Show. I wanted to see just how expensive diving could be.
The show was fantastic, and many bargains bought, to my wife's delight, but more importantly I came back with a burning desire to fulfil this ambition, started training with the BSAC and finished my Open Water training in Lanzarote.
However, this is where the problems started. I have always had a real fear of dentists, not just because they can cause pain but because I feel that when you go to see them they like you to come back, even if the work is not necessary. So my teeth have never been in A1 condition, with many fillings and the odd one missing.
Diving to 20m during my training I found I had something cracking away in my mouth, just like the old Stardust sweets I had as a kid. On the flight home one of my back teeth just fell apart in the plane. The pain was immense, and I couldn't understand why this had happened. Was my dental work that bad?
On my return I plucked up courage to see my dentist, who explained that the tooth broke because of air expansion. Bloody hell, I thought, am I going to lose the rest? He did some repair work and sent me on my way.
Everything was fine for many more dives until recently. We had dived the Great Mew Stone off Plymouth, down to 17-18m, and once again I had the Stardust feeling in my mouth. This time it was three days before the problem started. My face swelled up like the Godfather's; I even sounded like Marlon Brando.
I had a massive abscess above my front teeth, but this time I didn't lose any teeth. The infection was cured and diving resumed. My only worry is that, having recently qualified as a Sports Diver and now working towards Dive Leader, I want to do some more adventurous diving, and don't want it cut short because I don't have any gnashers with which to to grip my demand valve.
I had no idea teeth could be such a problem for divers. Is there any kind of mouthwash that can be used after diving to help get rid of possible causes of infections. Does anyone know of some good denture-makers? If other divers have suffered this kind of pain, I would love to know how they have resolved the problem.
Ian Gregory, Newport, Isle of Wight
Editor's reply: Your prize dive lamp and strobe might help ease the pain, but you could also try looking at this month's visualisation feature to help overcome your fear of dentists!
Air-fill customers just won't wait
With reference to Dene Woodman's letter Robbed Of Dive Time (May), I agree that if you are paying for your cylinder(s) to be filled you should be getting a full cylinder back, but I have been doing air and nitrox fills for many years now and one side of the argument is that the customer is impatient.
The customer wants the cylinder filled as soon as possible (and as a diver I agree), so it gets filled quickly and becomes very warm. You reach the final pressure (250 bar) and it will go down to 232 bar as it cools, and another couple of bar again when in cold water.
So the emptier the cylinder is at the start and the quicker it's filled, the hotter it gets.
A nitrox fill needs to be done more slowly, because in partial-pressure blending you are dealing with 100 per cent pure oxygen, so the final pressure when cooled is sometimes greater than normal air (21 per cent).
Dene made a point about getting to the kitting-up stage before realising you are 30 bar short, but in my opinion that is very bad dive preparation and should not happen, especially if you have (and I quote) "driven miles to an out-of-the-way site".
Making sure that you have enough air in your cylinder is a major part of dive-planning. And as a very wise person once said: "Plan your dive and dive your plan."
Teadch Galloway, Dorset
Leeway in the Red Sea
With reference to the letter Why I Felt Like A Schoolboy (June), about experienced divers being given a degree of freedom by dive centres, last year a small group of us travelled to Sharm el Sheikh for the first time.
We were land-based with Ocean College. Our group included four club instructors, and after a check dive we were given useful information, points of interest and possible routes to take on our dive. Then we were left to our own devices. We planned our dives, informed the guide of our intentions and then stuck to those intentions.
During our stay we heard of many who had disregarded all that they were taught. Why? Too much sun, excellent viz, I don't know!
I do know that with so many dive centres to choose from and the lure of the almighty dollar, sometimes corners are cut, but my friends and I found that if we played by the rules, Ocean College would do everything it could to make our stay all that it should be.
Andy Bradshaw, Billingham, Cleveland
Scubapro in free-flow
In reply to the letter from Mick Robertson of Scubapro (Taking Issue with Regulator Test, April), I would like to relay my recent experience with a Scubapro MK20/R380 regulator. I was at Stoney Cove on 18 May completing my PADI Advanced course with several other divers from my club.
The first dive was my compulsory deep dive to 30m, and all went well until I hit the 30m mark. I could feel the regulator starting to force air through the valve, and before I could do anything it went into full free-flow. The result? An aborted dive which could easily have turned into something more serious.
Mr Robertson's clever use of language ensures that what he says cannot be argued with. He points out that comments made in an earlier Diver were "technically incorrect", especially John Bantin's point that the S550 is "unsuitable for use in Stoney Cove in the winter". He goes on to mention that the regulators are "fully certified for coldwater usage surpassing the European standard EN250 300 bar coldwater rating".
What does he make of the fact that my Scubapro regulator went into free-flow in Stoney Cove in May in water at 8¡C? I further note that the Scubapro marketing literature comments that its patented TIS on the first stages "virtually eliminates the potential for freezing".
There are two common usages for the word "virtually". The first means "practically" or "to all intents and purposes". I made six dives with this regulator and experienced one free-flow, so I don't think this definition would suit.
The second, which means "not real" (as in virtual reality), seems more applicable, as the EN250 test is, as I understand it, done on a machine.
The TIS might "virtually" eliminate the potential for freezing, but it actually did nothing of the sort. Mr Robertson notes that he is concerned that the comments made in Diver were "potentially damaging to sales of the product in the UK". I would like to ask how much more damaging the death or serious injury of a diver would be to future sales?
Jay Bolt, Huddersfield
I am an Italian, had my first try at diving in Australia and did most of my scuba training in Belgium, where I live.
When I set off to Australia in December 1998, I never dreamt I would become a diving addict in less than two years. After a six-month course with a club affiliated to LIFRAS, the Belgian branch of CMAS, with weekly pool training, theory sessions and final exams for both, I was finally due to do my first real dive in a local quarry in April, 2000, the first of five I needed to get certified.
What I didn't take into account was a big panic attack. After jumping into the water and swimming on the surface to a shallower part of the quarry, my instructor asked if I was ready. I said yes, but was unable to descend. My instructor was forced to call for help and I was literally dragged to the little beach. The dive was cancelled.
The following Sunday, at an artificial lake not far from the quarry, everything went smoothly. Since then I have moved to PADI, taken my Advanced and Rescue Diver certifications, celebrated my 50th dive and shortly leave for Sharm for the second time in six months.
I'm sure I'm not the only eager future diver to have experienced such an episode, especially in northern Europe, where the water is cold, dark and muddy, but would like other people to know that you can overcome your fears and enjoy a great sport.
Chiara Fantoni, Belgium
In the light of recent Diver news articles regarding the denial of lottery funds to diving clubs established by PADI-trained divers, and the follow-up article in which the Government washed its hands of the issue (Sports Minister Calls For Diving Bodies to Join Forces, News, May), I thought the following might be of interest.
I have just applied for an additional mortgage to cover an extension to my home. I have been a PADI-certified diver for five years, so expected yet another "diving questionnaire" for the associated term assurance life policy. However, unlike those I have filled in before, this one from Friends Provident starts by asking if I am a member of a BSAC Club and continues: "Do all your non-club-diving activities follow BSAC procedures?"
Call me a cynic, but as the group of 10 with which I dive are all PADI-trained and I don't know what BSAC procedures are, I can't answer yes to either question.
I'm concerned that the negative score this will give could cause Friends Provident to deny me this life policy or impose special terms. If it does either of those things, I will be obliged to tell any company I ever approach in future, which will make me about as insurable as an AIDS sufferer.
Not telling any future insurer is not an option - Friends Provident will certainly record its denial of a policy on the industry-wide database and that will allow any claim to be disallowed.
At a stroke the BSAC has made sure that any UK diver requiring life insurance gets told "Join BSAC or else". It's certainly one way to boost the membership fees. I would welcome anyone's opinion on where to go for £20,000-worth of term assurance for 20 years which doesn't require me to join BSAC.
John Voisey, Newport, S Wales
David Dicker, Senior Underwriter, Friends Provident replies: This question was based on a misunderstanding. We are now changing the questionnaire to make it clear that we have no intention of discriminating against PADI or any other qualified divers who do not belong to the BSAC.
I love the mag, keep up the good work. It's a great read in the bath.
I've just read the April Diver Test Extra (Take A Cheap Breath) in which you test out cheaper regs. I think testing cheaper equipment is a really great idea, especially for us divers who aren't that flush but who want to start building up our own kit. Could this become a regular article, with different products tried and tested each time?
Editor's reply: This test has received a very positive reaction from readers, quite apart from another magazine paying it the compliment of coming up with a close imitation! We will probably do similar types of test in the future.
Don't go without a boat-handler
On a daily basis here in Tenerife, British divers seem happy to dive with operations which leave their RIBs anchored and without boat-handlers.
In all my years of experience I have yet to see an instructor or divemaster who is able to tow an unconscious, non-breathing victim while administering AV, remove kit, recover the casualty into an empty boat, carry out CPR while setting up the oxygen kit, radio for help (assuming he has both on board), recall other divers and navigate to port.
None of us is infallible, so if something happens to the instructor, should it be the client's responsibility to effect a rescue? There have been several instances here where anchors have broken free, causing the boat to drift onshore or out to sea, with divers left in the water to be rescued by a passing fisherman.
It seems today's divers are taught that nothing will happen to them and that their instructors have all the answers. Not in the real world!
The solution is simple - ask questions before you dive. Where is the recompression chamber? Do you have oxygen and a first-aid kit on the dive boat? Watch the boat being loaded - if there is the same amount of kit as there are divers, who will handle the boat? If there is no boat-handler, my advice is to take your kit off the boat!
There are diving centres here and elsewhere that "follow the rules" and try to make our sport as safe as possible. Seek them out, holiday divers. Don't leave your brains on the plane!
Graham Levett, Island Divers, Tenerife
Are there any dive shops out there?
Why is it so difficult to buy diving equipment online? I went through Diver ads and tried out all the dealers that boasted a website. I found what I was looking for, but I had a query so I e-mailed to clarify details. There was no reply and I e-mailed three times in all, but still no reply, so I am no further forward.
Because of where I live, I use the Internet a lot to purchase items and until I tried to buy diving equipment (I am about 100 miles from the nearest dive shop) I never had a problem. Why do these retailers go to so much trouble to set up a website, then fail even to acknowledge an e-mail? It looks as if I will have to go back to ordering over the phone as far as dive gear is concerned.
Pete Miller, Ardwell, Stranraer
PADI approach to diabetic divers
I found Eric Albinsson's reply to the letter from a diabetic diver (Diving With Diabetes, April) a little inadequate. As a PADI Dive Master and previously a BSAC diver and a doctor who, while not qualified for HSE professional diving medicals, has performed many BSAC and required PADI medicals, I have to agree with Linda Button that PADI makes it very difficult for a doctor to certify an insulin-dependant diabetic as fit to dive.
The medical statement before an Open Water course is a very good tool for screening those who need to consult a doctor prior to diver training, and if truthfully filled out is in my view as good as the compulsory BSAC medical.
However, the doctor certifying an individual as fit to dive has to sign that he has read the relevant sections in the Instructor Manual on PADI's views on fitness to dive, and the manual states that insulin-dependant diabetes is an absolute contra-indication to diving. So while it is the doctor's responsibility to determine fitness to dive, to do so in this situation leaves him (but not of course PADI), open to criticism by the courts in the event of an incident.
I have been in this situation and received scant help from PADI when I contacted them.
After discussing the situation with both Dr Chris Edge and doctors at DAN Aberdeen, I felt able to certify the individual as fit for training. I also gave oral and written information to the trainee diver and instructor re special provisions and possible problems. This is a lot more than can be expected of a non-diving doctor in usual circumstances.
BSAC has a well-tried and worked-out system for assessing, training, reviewing and supporting insulin-dependant diabetics. This aspect of fitness to dive needs revision within PADI, as the current situation neither fits with the motto Diving for All nor supports optimally those diabetics who manage to get certified.
T J Digger, Stourbridge
HMS Dasher, an Archer-class aircraft-carrier on Lend Lease from the USA, blew up and sank in the Firth of Clyde on 27 March 1943 with the loss of 379 officers and men. It lies at 55 38 00N, 04 57 00W, five miles south of Little Cumbrae Island.
Last year the wreck was dived twice, the first time to place a blessed remembrance plaque as close to it as possible, a dive carried out with the knowledge of the HMS Dasher (1943) Association.
The second dive was made without our knowledge, and it is not known whether articles were removed or the wreck entered during this dive. We ask all members of the diving fraternity to please refrain from diving on this wreck and to treat it with the reverence it deserves, so that the survivors and relatives will know that their former shipmates and loved ones may rest in piece.
Ron Marston, Secretary, HMS Dasher (1943) Association, Reading
The cardiac test
On hearing about proposed changes to diving medicals (Problems With Medicals, News, May), my initial view was that self-declaration questionnaires might lead to more incidents, due to health problems unknown to the individual.
Then I went for an updated diving medical examination and my GP assured me he knew the procedure because he had ex-military experience. He gave me a very basic medical, relying on my own answers to many of the questions on the form, and told me to report to the reception desk to pay, for which I was prepared.
Luckily the examination had found me fit - had I been found to have a weak heart, seeing the charge might have finished me off!
I thought I had heard incorrectly when I was told it was £92.50. I contacted the health authority, only to be told that GPs could set the charge at their own discretion. I have since found that other divers from my club have paid as little as £15 locally - now they tell me!
I now wholeheartedly support the change to self-declaration medical questionnaires. It will be just as effective as the medical given by my GP, and financially beneficial.
C M Lawson, Burgh-le-Marsh, Lincs