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David "Rainmaker" Mauldin's
Scuba Certification Info

Open Water

The certification process for Scuba Diving International has 4 steps. First comes home study, then classroom instruction, followed by additional instruction and practice in a swimming pool. After that, 4 dives are required in "open water" (large lake or the ocean).

The home study portion was more intense than I'd anticipated. I studied 1 - 3 hours per night for 5 nights, completing the course (and tests) in about 15 hours.

On January 22, 2005 I drove to Bermuda Triangle in Greenville for the classroom instruction portion of the course, and for the first day of lessons in the swimming pool. The instructor was a very capable and experienced diver named Todd Criswell, and I liked him immediately. The classroom work took about 5 hours. After an hour's break for lunch, it was time to draw dive gear and head to the YMCA pool that is located a few miles from the dive shop.

Before my small class of 6 was allowed to put on scuba gear, it was necessary that we demonstrate to Todd that we were all capable swimmers, and that we were comfortable in the water. We each did 8 end-to-end laps in the Olympic-size pool, and then we treaded water for 10 minutes. With our instructor convinced, we assembled our dive gear and made final checks before heading off into the 10 ft. deep pool.

I learned a lot of new skills, including how to clear a flooded mask while underwater and how to find and clear my regulator after taking it out of my mouth and dropping it (imitating having the mouthpiece knocked out of my mouth or otherwise losing it while underwater). We learned about breathing techniques, maintaining buoyancy and how to decpiher the life-sustaining data that was supplied by our dive computers and gauges. The long, hard but interesting (and fun) day finally ended about 5:30 p.m.

The next day, I returned for another session in the pool. This was another intense day of learning and applying new skills, including "buddy breathing", underwater swimming techniques, avoiding decompression sickness, taking off all gear while underwater (and putting it all back on without surfacing), equalizing and clearing ear pressure (necessary to avoid ear damage when making descents) and emergency ascents.

Our instructor seemed pleased with everyone in the class. At the end of the day, Todd told us that we were all "pool certified", and that he would be happy to dive with any of us. "Pool Certified" means that we satisfactorily demonstrated all necessary skills to become certified divers. However, the process must be repeated in 4 actual open water dives.

I was scheduled to make my 4 "cert" dives the week-end of January 29 - 30. However, because of an ice storm, the dives were rescheduled for the following week-end.

On Saturday, February 5, I drove to Lake Keowee near Pickens, SC. It was a sunny and clear (but cool) day. The air temperature was about 60 degrees. The dive site is what the locals call "The Hot Hole". It is located near the area where the Oconee Nuclear Power Plant discharges the water that is used to cool the reactor. The water is warmed by the reactor to about 65 degrees. I made 2 dives on Saturday, and two more the next day. At the end of my 4th dive, my instructor (Randy Bayne) told me that I had passed, and that I was now a certified Open Water diver.

Visability in the lake was never more than 8 feet, and really there wasn't much to see. However, I enjoyed the underwater rock formations and the fish that were moving near us. Overall, it was fun and exciting, and it left me hungry for more. I feel that a whole new world has been opened to me.

The total cost of the course was $224.00. That included everything except a $10 donation for dive boat expenses.

Regardless of where someone dives, they must show their diver certification card in order to get his or her air tanks filled. One great thing about going through the certification process (in addition to being able to buy air), is that the certification never expires (doesn't need to be renewed). Unless a diver screws up very badly, it is not going to be taken away or revoked.

To see additional information about my certification dives, see "Dives 1 - 4" in my dive log.

Advanced Open Water

I enrolled in an Advanced Open Water course (to be taught by the folks at Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Greenville, SC) on June 20, 2005. The agency I'll be certified with is SDI/TDI (Scuba Diving International/Technical Diving International).

The SDI/TDI course requires 4 "specialty" areas, and two of them must be Deep Diving and Underwater Navigation. My two electives are Night Diving and Computer Diving. I also will be required to read two books and provide written answers to various questions at the end of each chapter. For each specialty area I must make 2 dives, except for the computer course which requires book work only and passing a written test.

I made my 2 night dives on June 25. I met instructor Reese Davis at the main boat ramp at Lake Jocassee about 7:00 pm. After everyone loaded their gear on board his boat, we went to The Wall. After it got dark we put on gear and got into the water. When I put on my mask and put my face in the water, I was surprised that I couldn't see my fins. It was then that I realized that the viz was under 2 ft. Thankfully, we all had at least 2 dive lights each.

After instructions and warnings from Reese concerning what to expect, we began our descent on the line near the wreck that we call The Junk. Except for the illumination provided by our lights, we descended to 63 ft. in total darkness. It was a strange experience. I had problems with buoyancy control at first (in the near total darkness, there were no visual reference points) and so did my partner. As a result, we didn't find each other for several minutes (there were other divers in the water, and everyone looked alike). Finally, I was able to distinguish him from the other divers because of the way his back-up light was attached to his BC (I'd noticed this before the dive). After a few minutes of swimming around the wreck, we began our ascent.

After a surface interval of about 27 minutes, we basically repeated the dive. However, my partner had too many problems with his buoyancy control, and elected not to make the 2nd dive. As a result, I was partnered with Reese. The experience of night diving was eerie and exciting, but I'll admit to being happy to get back on the boat when all the diving was over. To see additional information concerning these dives see "Dives 25 - 26" in the Dive Log portion of this page.

On June 26, I made the first of my 2 deep dives. Reese and I descended to a depth of 97 ft. on the wall that is directly behind The Junk. I waited on the descent line while Reese and another student descended to 120 ft. I passed the time shining my light around. Reese and the other diver were back in about 3 minutes, and we began our ascent.

Later that day, I made 2 navigation dives. However, I had problems reading my compass underwater. It is obvious that I'll need a corrective lens in my mask before I can pass the navigation portion of the course. To see additional information concerning these 3 dives, see "Dives 27 - 29" in the Dive Log portion.

I made the second deep dive with instructors Randy Bayne and Ben Miller on July 3. We descended to 121 ft. and briefly inspected an old airplane wing and propeller. It was a "bounce" dive (no time spent at the destination; just turn around and begin the ascent). According to my dive computer, if I had spent only 6 more minutes at that depth, I would have been in a decompression situation and I had no extra air for any decompression stops. After a 3 minute safety stop at 18 ft. and a total dive time of 22 minutes, I surfaced with about 500 psi of air in my tank. That's about as close as I want to cut it concerning decompression and air consumption. To see more information about this dive, see "Dive 30" in the Dive Log. I recently completed the book work and written tests for the Advanced Open Water course and I gave my answer sheets to Randy, who agreed to give them to Reese Davis in Greenville, SC when he (Randy) went to the dive shop the next day.

On July 9, I made additional navigation dives after meeting instructor Amy Mayfield at the diver's ramp at Lake Jocassee. The corrective lens for my mask had arrived the previous day, and it made quite a difference. My first task was navigating to an underwater platform and attaching a dive float. Later, I traversed 1 "box" course and 1 "triangle" course using the coordinates that Amy furnished. My last task was using a slate and drawing a small underwater map of the platform area. Amy then told me that I had satisfactorily completed all the navigation requirements. To see additional information concerning these dives, see "Dives 31 - 32".

On July 13, Reese Davis told me that I had completed the Advanced Open Water course. The total cost was $238. This included everything except for the $10 donations I made for each dive trip on Reese's boat. Also, I furnished all my own gear, including tanks and air fills.

Basic Nitrox

Nitrox is a special blend of air than contains more oxygen (and less nitrogen) than the air that we normally breathe. It extends the bottom time on dives and reduces surface intervals between dives.

I enrolled in a Basic Computer Nitrox course on July 23, 2005 and completed the book work and written tests on July 24. On the evening of July 25, I drove to Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Greenville, SC for the classroom portion.

The course was taught by Reese Davis after he closed the dive shop at 7:00 p.m. My class of 5 gathered at a table in the rear of the shop and we went over each chapter of the training manual. After that, Reese handed out a fascinating little sheet containing mathematical formulas (Dalton's Diamond) for doing our own calculations concerning the length of our Nitrox dives, the oxygen mixture needed and maximum operating depths. This gives each diver the tools to do his or her own calculations, instead of depending solely on the tables in the instruction manual and dive computer.

To see an online Dalton's Diamond calculator
click here, then use the "Back" button on your browser to return to this page.

Later, we used dive computers to do various calculations concerning simulated Nitrox dives. The last task was analysing the oxygen content of a Nitrox cylinder. At the end of the exercise, Reese told everyone that they were certified in the use of Basic Nitrox. The class ended about 10:00.

The total cost of the course was $99. This included the training manual, classroom instruction, certification card and first tank fill of Nitrox.

Rescue Diver

The training for this class actually began in March 2007 when I completed CPR and First-Aid training with the Red Cross in Clayton, GA. The classes lasted 1 day, and the written tests were a bit more difficult than I anticipated. The total cost was about $65.00. CPR and First-Aid certification are prerequisites for the SDI Rescue Diver class.

I signed up for the Rescue class in July 2007, and received my training manual from Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Greenville, SC only a few days before the classroom session was to begin. I read and studied the book for a total of about 15 hours, then drove to Greenville on July 27 for the class. The instructor was Randy Bayne, and he did a very thorough job of going over every chapter in the book. The class lasted about 4 hours.

The next day, I joined Randy, 2 other students (Micah and Chad) and our "victim", (a divemaster trainee named Cooper) for the in-water portion of the course. Randy and Cooper played the roles of either panicked divers on the surface, panicked divers underwater or unconscious victims on the bottom. Micah, Chad and I had to react to various scenarios that Randy created, and the training got very physical and very intense. Even though I knew that Cooper was only pretending, seeing an "unconscious" victim on the bottom after conducting a sweep-search is an image that will stay with me for a while. I made a total of 9 dives during the day, and I lost count of how many times Randy and Cooper got "rescued". At the end of the day, we were all very tired and it was very nice to hear Randy say that we were all certified Rescue Divers.

The total cost for the Bermuda Triangle course was $189, and I furnished all my own gear (including air) for the in-water portion of the training.

Master Scuba Diver

In early August 2007, Reese Davis (owner of Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Greenville, SC) informed me that when I completed by Rescue Diver course, that I had also qualified as a TDI/SDI Master Scuba Diver.

My Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver certifications, along with my specialties of Deep Diver, Navigation, Computer Diver, Night/Low Visability Diver and Basic Nitrox, and my 357 logged dives were more than enough to be certified as a Master Scuba Diver.

Reese submitted the paperwork to SDI/TDI, and since I'd received all my training through Bermuda Triangle, he even waived the fee involved. I received my Master Scuba Diver certification card from SDI/TDI on August 22, 2007.

Solo Diver

When I picked up the thin little training manual for the SDI Solo Diver Course from Bill Routh of Off The Wall Diving near Salem, SC, I thought I'd breeze through the book in a couple of hours. Several hours later, mired down with loads of technical info and mathematical formulas in Chapter 2, I began to wonder if I'd EVER get through the "little" book. Eventually I did, but it took 10 - 12 hours of reading, studying and providing written answers to the quiz questions at the end of each chapter.

It took a while for Bill and I to get together on a date to do the classroom and in-water portions of the course, but we finally agreed on Sept. 3, 2009. I met him at his shop about 10:30 a.m. on an absolutely beautiful day. We took a couple of hours to go over the training manual and complete the classroom requirements, then we took his boat to Lake Jocassee and went diving.

We spent a mostly pleasant afternoon in the water near the dam, making 2 dives of about 40 minutes each. Surprisingly, navigation is a major part of this course. After taking 5 minutes to measure my fin cycles on a 100-ft. line, Bill asked me to traverse a box course, starting from the line. After swimming east along the line 50 feet (17 fin cycles), I then went north, west and south for 50 feet in each direction, and ended up within 8 feet of my starting point. Thankfully, Bill was satisfied with that.

Next, it was measuring my air consumption while at rest, while swimming relaxed, and then swimming strenuously. After that, I reacted to various simulated emergency situations that Bill conjured up (including switching regulators and masks underwater). Then we did the "fun" part (at least for me), which was shooting lift bags. I shot my bag twice and Bill's once.

After we left the water and went back to Bill's shop, he showed me how to use my air consumption rates to estimate how much gas I'd use on any given dive. After that, he told me that I had passed the course and issued a temporary card for me.

The total cost of the course (including the training manual and sales tax) was $162.50. I furnished all my own gear (including air) for the in-water portion of the course. I learned a lot, and I believe that the course is very worthwhile for anyone who is contemplating solo diving.