Wedding Day Diving

July 11th, 2015 two of our club divers were getting OK signal on descentmarried on the beach where so many of us met.  The day and night before was filled with exciting events.  Some of these events were price changes on the cake, a cake mishap and even a flat tire on the way to the event.  Needless to say we all needed a bit of a stress relief and were looking forward to getting into the water.

Saturday morning came extremely early for me because I was the one that got a flat tire in the middle of the night on the way to the resort.  We arrived around 0130 early Saturday morning and woke up around 0700 to start preparing for the dive day.  Despite waking up a bit later I was the first one up and around getting our tanks ready laying out gear.  Jeff was the next one to arrive.  We were lucky to get on the first boat dive (which is usually the best dive of the day) and it was going to be a deep dive.

38th Parallel Divers going to dive siteJeff needed to reach 100′ for some future course pre-req’s so we planned to dive down to 100′ and swim around the base of the Steel House (dive site) structure and then slowly return focusing on his drysuit skills and getting use to his new ANTARES dry gloves.  On the way out to the site we met a new diver who dove as part of our team.  The dive went almost as planned and we were rewarded with some good visibility and water temps (9 C).  I say almost as planned because on my giant stride entry into the water I quickly discovered that my drysuit zipper was not 100% sealed…yep you guessed it, I got soaked.  Once I felt the water I closed the suit and continued the dive since there wasn’t enough water in the suit to be a danger, just an annoyance.

Austin ready for ascentAfter we got back from our first dive many of the wedding guests (bride & groom included) had finally woken up and were slowly getting ready.  The bride and groom joined us on our 2nd dive which was another deep dive and this one would be the bride’s deepest dive to date, congrats Mandy!  This dive site was 30 – 34M deep and the descent line ended on concrete cubes with small sealife and growth on it.  Jeff, Austin and I descended to the bottom in one team and the bride and groom made up the other team.  The visibility on this dive was even better however it was much colder at 5 C.  Once our computers were nearing our no decompression limit we all returned to the surface making a very slow and deliberate ascent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 14.02.59Once we returned from the second dive we cleaned and dried gear and began preparing for the wedding ceremony and reception.  With the gear drying and time closing in we had to go and pickup 2 more people from the bus terminal and on the way back we ate some great Kimchi Jiggae and got to meet everyone that has traveled from around the world…wow what a crew indeed.  We met some great people this weekend and some very talented musicians!

Running a bit late we all drove back to the hotel to finish getting ready for the wedding.  Showers, getting dressed, doing hair, wedding picturesetting tables and food and of course bride pampering…oh yea and LOTS of up and down the stairs…we were finally ready just as the final moments of day were getting ready to come to an end.   With the bride in my car and the groom waiting on the beach Eric walked Mandy down and gave her away to George.  The ceremony was shared by close friends from Hong Kong, Fiji, Korea and the US and many 38th Parallel Divers too.  Vows and rings exchanged, a kiss and an introduction the newly married couple was ready to begin their lives together.  Congratulation Mandy and George!  We are honored to be part of this day.

Now bring on the reception and make Laura Kenny sing another song…I will happily plug her music (on iTunes).

Memorial Day & Buddha’s Birthday 2015

Post-Dive Picture 38th Parallel DiversPADI Drysuit Specialty diver and PADI Divemaster were the two certifications earned this weekend.  There is no doubt that we made the most of a 3 day weekend. For the American’s it was Memorial Day weekend and for the Korean’s it was Buddha’s Birthday. Needless to say the dive shop and hotels at the coast were packed!  We got to meet some of our South Korean Facebook Followers and dive with some new friends as well…welcome to the 38th Parallel Divers Club Dave, glad to log some dives with you.

Despite some pretty strong winds the waters on the east coast were amazing.  This weekend probably ranked in the top 5 weekends for visibility in the past 5 years.  Definitely nice to jump into the water with conditions like this.  The ocean was super flat all weekend and little to no surge or current, even at the dive sites.

New Divemaster Dan with Instructor LarrySince most of us have been steadily knocking out certifications of students we decided to take this weekend for ourselves and make is a calm, lazy fun weekend.Congratulations to Dan on finishing his Divemaster certification (we know this was a long time coming), welcome to the pro ranks!  Congrats to Divemaster Jeff on earning his drysuit specialty as well.

We did several beach dives at Namae-ri Beach as well as several boat dives.  Our first boat dive was at Steel House.  Steel House is a 10m tall structure that rests in 30m of water.  Great for buoyancy practice swimming through all the beams.  We also dove Concrete Cubes, and just like the name says it was a Jeff and George Safety Stopbunch of concrete open cubes that allow for divers to swim in-between and around.  We saw a nice school of smaller sized fish and lost of small growth.  West Ridge was another dive site that we were able to log some time onto.  This site offered a natural rock formation and minor wall to swim around.  A nice dive to see rock formations and small growth, even some nudibranchs.

It would be an understatement to say the shop was packed.  Namae Scuba had extra staff on hand and both boats in the water for divers.  They also shuttled divers back and forth to the beach for shore diving.  There were several clubs diving with 38th Parallel Divers as well as 80+ college girls from the Suwon Women’s college.  Most of the girls were doing PADI Open Water Diver with some finishing up Advanced, Rescue and Divermaster.  Namae’s resident Course Director was also conducting an IDC (Instructor Development Course) for a few future dive instructors.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 16.29.53Despite all of this going on we can’t say enough how great their staff is.  They always make sure to keep us informed on dive conditions and dive times.  Namae staff also makes sure we have everything we need and make every attempt to help us work out any minor equipment issues anyone might have.  These guys are a great operation indeed…thanks Namae Scuba!

Dry Suit Confined Water Training

There is not much that can prepare a diver for the feeling of their first drysuit dive.  This is true whether it is in a pool or in the ocean.  The closest feeling would be to put your hand into a plastic bag and put it in the kitchen sink or bathtub.  No matter how many times we describe this to new students they are always amazed at the initial feeling (as we were).

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 13.44.35This past weekend we got in the pool to do some PADI Drysuit Specialty Diver training.  Once introductions & paperwork were done we watched a few videos on drysuit repair and care.  Next we tried on equipment and went over gear setup and donning/doffing the drysuit.  We conducted final kit checks and got into our drysuits for a short drive to the pool.

At the pool we went over the required skills as well as some additional skills that are always good to keep well oiled. Jeff did an excellent job in the pool and we are looking forward to getting in the ocean.

ANTARES Dry Glove System

 with the Hollis DX300 Drysuit

ANTARES dryglove kit on Hollis DX300First off I have to say this is quite possibly one of the easiest projects I have done related to scuba diving.  At first it does seem intimidating but it is easy I promise.  If you have been following our blog then you know that I recently reviewed the Hollis DX300 drysuit.  This suit was super comfortable with it’s silicone seals and material.  The major benefit of this suit is that is utilizes quick change SiTech QCS Oval Ring system that is completely compatible with the SiTech ANTARES system.

Oval Stiff Ring for ANTARESIf you don’t have a new Hollis DX300 and you are using this on an older QCS Oval system then you need to verify if you have the new or old QCS system; the older version requires the additional purchase of the Oval Stiff Ring which replaces the thinner older (non-ANTARES-compatible) rings that attach the seals (this is an extra step but it is as simple as changing your silicone seals).  

If you are lucky enough to have the new QCS seals (any QCS Ovals manufactured after May 2013) or the Hollis DX300 then you are a mere 10 minutes away from dry hands.

Total Cost of Project:

  • $124 for parts (not including shipping)
  • 10-15 minutes of your time

Items you need to purchase:

  1. BLUE PVC Dry Suit Glove Replacement ($24)
  2. Antares Oval Dryglove System ($100)

I highly recommend the blue/orange gloves because it is easy to see hand signals if you have a darker drysuit or black gear, or limited visibility.  The black gloves look great on the surface however they aren’t as functional underwater for signaling.

Installation:

 

  1. Find the spacer ring that creates a snug fit with your glove (if you purchased the blue gloves above then it will be the blue spacer).  Thinner gloves like rubber only (no fabric on the inside) should take the green spacer.
  2. Tuck the glove wrists into themselves to fold over the spacer ring.
  3. Check to see fit on writs and verify oval is properly placed for wrist and movement.
  4. Hold glove and ring in place and press firmly into the quick connect cuff ring that attaches the glove to the drysuit ensuring there are no creases in the glove as the ring seats itself.
  5. Push the ring all the way against the quick connect cuff ring.
  6. Pull the glove and the quick connect cuff ring in opposite directions to ensure proper installation.
  7. Trim excess material from glove cuffs.  (1.5cm/1.25in should be enough)
  8. (Optional) install ANTARES support ring into the drysuit sleeve.  This is included in the ANTARES kit (previous kits required an additional purchase).
  9. Lubricate the glove seals with the lubrication stick provided
  10. Test glove to suit fit by pressing the glove into the suit.
  11. Relax…your done.

Surprisingly easy huh?.  That’s exactly what I thought and it was truly simple.  The modular system is amazing and it really makes the Hollis Drysuit even better.  Now you can quickly (within 1 minute) change from wet to dry gloves or back.  Even better you can swap out QCS Oval Kitgloves should a previous pair become damaged, torn or flooded.

I can’t stress enough what an amazing system this is, especially when paired with the Hollis DX300.  I think that my next project will be installing the SiTech QCS Oval system on my Hollis BioDry 100 so stay tuned.

If you purchase these and doe this easy project let us know how it went for you and what your thoughts are on this system.  If you have questions drop us a line as well.

Hollis DX300 Drysuit Review

Hollis DX300 DrysuitRecently I got my hands on the illusive Hollis DX300 and I was excited to try it out.  Once unpacked it took all of about 5 minutes for me to start trying it on.  Before I go into the suit let me first say that I have been previously diving the Hollis BioDry 100 (front entry) for about 2 1/2 years and it was going to be very hard to top that suit.  The level of comfort that the BioDry 100 has is simply amazing.

Specifications

  • Entry: Front
  • Seals: Replaceable (silicone)
    • SiTech Neck Tite system
    • SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval
  • Pockets: 2 large velcro (1 on each thigh)
  • Foot Type: 5mm Neoprene Sock
  • Material: trilaminate (light weight) double diamond weave
  • Knees: thick padding
  • Zipper: YKK plastic, flexible
  • 3M reflective safety strips on each arm
  • Price: $1899.95 (MAP)

Test Conditions

  • surface temperatures: 15-21 C (60-70 F) and windy
  • Water temperature: 6-10 C (43-50 F)
  • dove drysuit using the PRISM2 eCCR
  • shore (shallow) & boat (deep) dives

With that preface out of the way lets begin the review.  Fist I was super excited to have neoprene socks (my BioDry will be going back to Hollis to have these added shortly).  The socks are amazingly comfortable and add a bit of cushion inside the rock boots.  This made for a really comfortable weekend in the suit for several hours each time.

Pros

11084398_787843441269441_1785072992_nThe next thing the wearer notices is that is is an updated plastic YKK zipper.  Now at first I was very disappointed and thought…”oh great plastic…I can see I will have to replace this when it breaks teeth”.  After a few uses the zipper is definitely more comfortable than most other dry suits and even tops the Biodry 100’s metal zipper for comfort.  I am hoping that the DX300’s zipper is every bit as durable as the Biodry 100’s zipper.

Finally, and this is absolutely the best feature, the user-replaceable silicone seals.  When anyone first uses this suit and carefully slides the seals on they will instantly notice the difference and be extremely happy.  These silicone seals are amazing…let me say that again…amazing.  First off zero trimming was necessary to get them to comfortably fit, secondly they are comfortable (in case you weren’t sure if I really meant it the first few times I said it). Replaceable seals are a big plus for me because of living overseas and so far away from AUP/Hollis.  The seals in the BioDry 100 must be replaced by Hollis.  This means that each time I need new seals I must send to my Authorized Dealer and they in turn send it back to the US to get serviced.  Needless to say this simply takes too long.  This was the whole reason why I wanted a second drysuit and luckily my second drysuit had user replaceable silicone seals.

The overall fit was great especially since it was an off-the-shelf size and not custom tailored.  All pieces work together to allow very comfortable movement and facilitate and nice range of motion.  This is especially important in technical diving because of all of the equipment that is worn and the range of motion needed to react in real/simulated emergencies.

One other benefit of the suit is that it was extremely comfortable on and below the surface.  Normally I can’t wait to take the suit top off and get out of the wrist and neck seals.  This wasn’t the case at all this past weekend (which was nice).  Because the suit was so comfortable I was able to wear it (as you dive it) all day without any discomfort.

As far as in-water handling the DX300 worked perfectly.  The inflator valve worked with the same precision as the BioDry 100.  The dump valve was the same, worked without any issues.  The drysuit material appears that it will hold up just as well if not better than the BioDry 100, however time will provide the ultimate test.

Being extremely familiar with the cold water diving of South Korea I was able to see one more benefit to the suit.  The DX300 material appears to provide a slightly warmer dive than the BioDry.  I am sure this is due to the thicker material.  I dove the suit in 6-10 C (43-50 F) water using only the lavacore undergarments and I wasn’t cold (except for my hands).  Usually I must add an additional top and bottom piece on top of the lavacore in the winter here.  I also think that this suit will be much easier to get into and out of for pool/warm water where a diver wouldn’t use full bottoms (i.e. shorts or underwear only).  This is because the BioDry has a rubber inside that tends to stick / rip out leg hairs and the DX300 has more of a nylon feeling interior.

Updated 08 April 2015: This suit is 100% compatible with the ANTARES Oval Dryglove System.  Read our installation and review here.

Cons

Unfortunately there are some negatives to the suit.  One that is immediately noticeable is the oval plastic cuffs that can dig into the wrists during wrist movement if not properly positioned prior to devices being put on the wrists (slates, computers etc).  The cuff also reduce arm space available for these items.  This was something that was rather irritating, especially since I was diving my rebreather and needed the arm space for my Predator (primary) Petrel (backup), wrist slates and compass.  Perhaps I need to rethink wrist slates that I love so much.  The other down side to the DX300 was the fact that the cuffs and in combination with the suit material (not 38th Parallel Divers just before a cold water divebeing wearforce stretchable) there were some instances where It was more difficult to reach the drysuit dump shoulder dump valve.  This would not have been a problem had I been diving OC (backmount singles/doubles or sidemount); this was directly related to the PRISM2’s counter lungs and harness system.  I am not sure if it is fair to subtract points from the DX300 for this but I don’t experience this with the BioDry 100 so it is a thought that will run though my head when selecting which drysuit to wear on a dive.

The other downside to the silicone cuffs is related to Hollis’s policy itself.  The Hollis website clearly states, “Fitted with SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval wrist system with silicone seals as standard (comes with spare seals)” however this was not the case.  I even contacted Hollis and they stated they weren’t aware that the suit was supposed to come with spare seals.  I also informed them that the site stated it was supposed to however not sure which is correct at this point since the site still states “yes” (as of 25 March 2015) to spares and I didn’t receive any or an indication that some would be sent to future purchasers.

I’m not really upset that there are no spares, it would just be nice to know in advance so that I could have purchased them to have on-hand. Since they are SiTech seals you can purchase them directly from a SiTech dealer.  I bought replacement wrist seals from Amazon (see right).

Modifications Recommended

Light Monkey P Valve on Hollis DX300 drysuitThe only modification needed for this suit is the addition of a P-valve.  I like to make sure that me and all my divers stay hydrated, especially in the cold waters on technical dives.

If you already have a P-Valve the quick disconnect is quite possibly the best add-on you can get. It allows for easy detachment from the suit without having to remove the device from the diver (works with both male and female systems).

Summary

All in all the suit has some amazing features that make it an excellent buy:

  • user replaceable neck and wrist seals
  • extremely comfortable silicone seals
  • standard neoprene feet
  • flexible plastic zipper

I definitely would recommend this suit to anyone, especially those who find themselves in situations where they cannot easily send back a suit to replace seals.

The only downside to this suit is that the wrist cuffs and neck cuff will take some getting use to since it does make a diver re-think arm device setups and feels slightly different in the next area.