All Posts By

John Sanders

Diving in Kona, Hawaii

By | Dive Sites | No Comments

I absolutely LOVE diving in Kona, Hawaii (the Big Island).

The fish are colorful, much of the diving is accessible from shore, and the water is warm and blue.

Most of my love of Kona, and my experience with the many dive sites, I can credit to my friends Terry & Donna Miller (of Black Rock Scuba). They used to annually travel to Kona for a month for vacation, and now they live there.

Top Dive Operators:

  1. Black Rock Scuba [great for instruction and boat chartering]
  2. Jack’s Dive Locker [gorgeous show room, great selection]
  3. Hawaiian Scuba Shack [good for steel tank and weight rental]
  4. Kona Honu Divers

Top Shore Diving Sites [links go to]:

  1. Puako Church or Puako Village End
  2. Place of Refuge (also known as Honaunau Bay or Two Step)
    • Leave time to enjoy the sunset before travelling back over the mountains after your dive, the sun sets directly into the ocean.
  3. Honokohau Harbor (aka Alua or Crescent Beach, Naia Bay, Manta or Eagle Ray Bay, etc.)
    • The beach is just to the south of the harbor. Drive out the road past the harbor, park at the end. Gear up.
    • Walk to the beach you see on your left.
    • Warning: It’s a winding trial, walking on lava rock.
  4. Outside the Sheraton at Keauhou
  5. Mile Marker 4

Top Boat Dive

  • The Manta Ray Night dive is simply amazing. Do Not Miss It!
  • You can book through Black Rock or Jack’s above.
  • Bring a big Pacific Northwest Light

Other Sites to Research:

  1. ScubaBoard Hawai’i Forum
  2. Northwest Dive Club
  3. UW Photography Guide


Alki Fishing Reef

By | Dive Sites | No Comments

There are two main ways to do this dive, from a boat or scooter from shore.  As a boat dive compared to other spots in the PNW it’s good, but as a shore dive it’s awesome!

Plan for a high tide, using Plan Your Dive (embedded here):

Puget Sound Tides

Park on the road in front of the stairs across from Me-Kwa-Mooks Park ( 4503 Beach Drive Southwest, Seattle, WA,  98116).

Get your gear down to the water using the stairs on the north end that head into the water.


Take a heading of about 165 on your compass and scoot for 12-15 minutes. You’ll stay shallow for the first 8-10 minutes and then it will start to open up in depth.  You’ll likely intersect the middle row of boulder piles around 50-60′.

Look at the bathymetry maps below to note how the 14 big Rock piles don’t actually parallel the shore.

We typically head down to the row of the deepest piles and head toward the far end… Making our way along the long edge of each pile,  go all the way around it and then head to the next pile.  At the end of the row,  do the same on the next shallowness,  heading back toward home and reverse at each row.

You need to watch your time and air on this dive in particular as you also need to scoot home for 12-15 minutes after you’re “done”.

Have fun and be safe!




There’s also a nice set of pictures over on NWDiveClub

Floating Deco Station

By | Resources | No Comments

The shipwreck diving platform is a combination of two elements: the down line system and the free floating deco station.

It requires four people to easily deploy these two apparatus. Surface Support, Safety & Expedition Divers will all help deploy these tools.

To setup the down line system, the first thing you need to do is hook the wreck.

  1. To hook the wreck we use a large anchor/hook made from a car axle with 3 prongs of rebar welded to it on 200-350′ of rope.
  2. Once we hook the wreck, we remove as much slack from the line as possible and tie a knot to clip on the floats.
  3. Any extra rope is bunched up and placed in a rope bag which is also attached to the knot
  4. Finally someone attaches the two large floats (buoys).
  5. We back the boat off and make sure the wreck is actually hooked (lesson learned the hard way).

Once you’re sure you’ve hooked the wreck, you start to assemble the floating deco station on board and prepare to hook your floats.

  1. One person prepares the carabiner and weight on the long rope side of the deco station while someone hooks the floats.
  2. Once the floats are pulled up, you hook the carabiner under the rope bag (or else it won’t slide down to 120′ where we want it to be).
  3. Now you have two teams working in unison on the two sides of the deco station to mount the cross beams that make up the 10′ increments for 20 -50′.
  4. Every 10 foot of deco station rope has a ring tied into it; the rings are color coded to match on each side.
  5. The team working the long line of the deco station calls out a color as they clip a cross beam to that ring.
    • Often the first cross piece beam (at 50′) also has a bag of goodies included with it (e.g. water, headphones, etc.) and an additional Oxygen bottle + reg (charged and off)
  6. The short line team repeats the color as they clip the other end of the cross beam to that color coded ring.
    • 50′ red – red
    • 40′ blue – blue
    • 30′ yellow – yellow
    • 20′ green – green
  7. The final step is for each team to attach the orange float balls to the top of the line (before they let it go into the water).
Floating Deco Station

Floating Deco Station

Surface Support Team Member

By | Skills | No Comments

We are always looking for energetic individuals to assist in our dive operations.

Surface support and safety divers are an integral part of our team and their assistance is greatly appreciated. A single individual will often carry out both positions of surface support and safety diver due to limited space on the boat.

Pre Dive

  • Over 18
  • Willingness to work with boat Captain to ensure safety of all team members.
  • Work with Captain to ensure boat is correctly loaded.
  • Ensure all deco-station components are present and in good working order.
  • Assist team in loading gear and dive platform onto boat.
  • Deploy and set grapple on direction of boat Captain.
  • Rigging of deco station.
  • Assist team members in gearing up. This is not as easy as it may seem, each team member may have several tanks that will need to be clipped on.
    • Small details such as orientation of gate clips is crucial.
    • Attention to detail is critical as each diver will have specific requests that the surface support team member will need to address.
  • Assist heavily laden divers to swim step.
  • Help divers with fins as requested/needed.
  • Inform Captain if diver has extra gear that will be handed down after water entry such as cameras or scooters.
  • Communicate between Captain and diver to ensure divers safe entry into water.
  • Ensure no part of divers gear hangs up and inform Captain of ‘diver in the water’.
  • Hand down and assist diver with remaining gear.

Assisting Teams while Surfacing

NOTE: This is a very busy time, while assisting a surfaced team, another team may surface. Communication and organizational skills are very helpful.

  • Inform Captain that divers have surfaced.
  • Liaison between divers and Captain to ensure safe positioning of boat.
  • Inform Captain when divers are on the swim step.
  • Assist divers in removing and lifting stage tanks onto boat.
    • Tanks cannot be left on the deck to roll around and must be properly stored.
  • When divers reach top of platform, help with removal of fins.
  • Assist diver to seated position if requested.
  • Assist diver with rig removal if requested.

After All Team Members are On Board

  • Recover and stow deco platform.
  • Recover and stow grapple and lines.
  • Ensure all gear is safely stored.
  • Enjoy ‘post dive libations’ that will be presented to the surface support crew by the exploration team members.

Safety Diver

By | Skills | No Comments

The role of the safety diver is a critical one for deep diving operations. It helps ensure the safety of everyone involved and generally makes the exploration diver’s lives a whole lot easier while doing the deco time on the line. Often the safety diver also plays the role of surface support team member before diving commences.

We’ve divided the procedures below into standard things you’ll do… and things you’ll be prepared for but hopefully won’t ever use in real life.

Standard Procedures

Pre Dive Requirements

  • Over 18.
  • DAN insurance or equivalent.
  • Certified diver with a rating of rescue diver or higher.
  • Good buoyancy control.
  • Ability to react to fluid situations.
  • Willingness to learn about team members specific gear.
    • Rebreathers from different manufacturers, open circuit divers, and flux capacitors.
  • Willingness to work with boat Captain to ensure safety of all team members.
  • List dive teams and deco schedules on wall chart.
  • Verify return times and 70 foot travel times.
  • Safety diver will be responsible for the documentation of all expected team run times and be able to communicate to the Captain any deviances from the projected times.

During the Dive

  • When the last member of a team leaves the surface document the exact dive start time.
    • It is helpful to use a single time piece throughout the dive operations to ensure everyone is on the same schedule.
  • While team members are diving, maintain vigilance for any deployed SMBs.
    • SMB deployment will be covered under non-standard procedures.
  • Enter water to coincide with last teams projected 70 foot stop time. This might be a bounce dive.
  • Count each diver and ensure all team members are on the deco-station.
    • No ok’s or extra communication is required.
    • To ensure promptness of emergent situations, each diver is responsible of informing safety diver of problems.
    • Emergent needs will be covered under non-standard procedures.
  • If safety diver notices anything out of the norm or divers in distress, do not hesitate to notify other team members or render aid as necessary.
  • Ensure deco-platform is free of grapple lines.
  • After completion of diver count, divers may request/hand off unneeded equipment such as cameras, scooters or extra tanks.
  • When a scooter is handed off donating diver is responsible for trigger being locked and prop backed off.
  • Do not, under any circumstances allow divers to encumber you with more equipment than you can safely handle.
    • Make multiple trips if necessary.
  • Return extra equipment to boat and inform Captain of diver count.

 Non Standard Procedures

 SMB (Surface Marker Buoy)

  1. Check to see name on bag, this will tell you which team.
  2. Check slate on bags for needs or problems as listed by the dive team that deployed the smb.
  3. If slate lists gasses or equipment needed, bring them with you on descent.
  4. Descend down smb line no greater than depth required. Do not incur any decompression requirements. Check on divers, deliver any requested equipment/gasses.
  5. Retrieve any unnecessary gear as requested by divers.
  6. Ascend and report to Captain.
  7. Co-ordinate any further assistance as needed.

Bail Out from a Rebreather

  1. Immediately check bailed out diver for an ‘ok’ sign.
  2. It is the bailed out divers responsibility to inform safety diver of any needs. Most likely this will be extra gasses.
  3. Safety diver co-ordinates gas donation.
    • Other members of the team will have extra tanks, but safety diver might be tasked with tank shuffling between divers.
    • Safety diver might also be tasked with returning to the boat for more gasses.

Injured diver

  1. Assist injured diver back onto boat.
  2. Keep written list of all information regarding diver condition and injury.
  3. Keep track of injured divers equipment.
  4. Assist Captain and emergency personnel as requested.
  5. Injured divers are placed on O2.

Decompression Sickness

  1. In a suspect case of dcs, injured diver cannot make non-dcs call.
    • If symptoms or concerns are present, safety diver can call it as a dcs hit and all divers on the boat will treat it as such.
  2. If safety diver calls a dcs hit, this is a final judgment and there will be no argument.
  3. All suspect/confirmed cases of dcs will be evacuated on Captains and safety diver’s direction at the earliest opportunity.

My Favorite Pacific Northwest Shore Dives

By | Dive Sites | No Comments

One of the best things about the Puget Sound is that we have a ton of good to great local shore diving.

I’m told by divers that have moved away to Oregon or even some areas of the tropics like Thailand, it’s the biggest thing they miss. Always having to plan for a boat to go for a splash (while tons of fun) increases cost and decreases when you can go.

Please remember to plan your dives to account for currents, tides, weather and other hazards (e.g. darkness for exits, boat traffic, etc.). I use these sites to help plan my dives:

Dive Planning Tools

Recreational Dive Sites

  • Alki Cove 2
  • Keystone Jetty
  • Three Tree Point
  • Sund Rock South Wall
  • Sunrise Beach

Great Scooter Dives

Fun Technical Dives

Other Great Resources

Dive Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs)

By | Gear | No Comments

There are a number of great Dive Propulsion Vehicles (DPVs) available. I personally love my Dive-X CUDA 400. If I had more loot when I bought my scooter, I’d probably have an 1150 just for the increased run time. I rarely use what I have, but when you’re trying to plan thirds, a CUDA 1150 sure gives you plenty of time. Then again, you should probbly just drag along a second CUDA 400. But I digress…

There are a lot of options when it comes to scooters, with different trade offs based on the money you’re willing to spend, the scooter size & weight, battery chemistry (NiMH, LiPro), and range desired.

Depending upon your application, some scooters may be entirely out of the running (e.g. a Dive X Sierra doesn’t provide you very much range, therefore isn’t a great cave scooter.)

Scooter Benchmarks

The Tahoma Benchmark Tests are your best bet for raw data. Each year different scooters were tested, so if you’re trying to read up on all of them, you’ll have to read all three reports.

My recommendation would be to find a friend with the scooter you’re interested in diving, and dive it.

While I love my CUDA, everyone that spends $2500+ dollars on a tool loves the one they selected. So asking people which one is best isn’t going to yield you too much of a delta from simply looking at the scooter they purchased already.

Scooter Manufacturer Links

Pacific Northwest Dive Clubs and Groups

By | Resources | No Comments

Online dive forums and resources can be a great source of information and help you get excited about learning new techniques, exploring new dive sites or areas, and meeting new dive buddies.

Always remember that people’s opinions vary, as does their actual experience and knowledge on a just be aware of that as you get advice.

Recreational Forums

  • Northwest Dive Club: Local pacific northwest focused dive forum. Lots of folks talking about diving, good place to find regular local dives.
  • Scubaboard: Scubaboard covers recreational diving all over the world. Need advice on diving in the Caymans, they’ve got a sub-forum for that. Want to know about diving in Fiji, no worries…they have a Pacific Islands Forum too.

Technical, Rebreather & Cave Forums

  • The Deco Stop: A forum focused on technical and cave diving. Great info and a wealth of info, but comments can get snarky for novices asking questions who haven’t done their research independently.
  • Rebreather World: Community focused on rebreathers. Great place to learn and ask questions about rebreathers.
  • CCR Explorers: Rebreather focused forum, also heavily leaning toward cave discussions.
  • Cave Diver’s Forum: As the name implies, all about the caves.

Local Groups & Clubs

Archaeological & Exploration Teams

Other Great Local Technical Training

PB4Y Privateer

By | Dive Sites | No Comments

One of my favorite local tech dives is the PB4Y Privateer in Lake Washington, which I affectionately call just “the bomber”. It sits in roughly 150′ and is only about a 15-17 minute scooter ride from Warren G Magnuson Park.

This is NOT a tech-reational dive, nor one I’d do on deep air. The lake is dark, not like a night dive… like I put a bag over your head. This tends to increase narcosis greatly 🙂

Additionally the “bottom” of the lake is very fine grained silt. If you manage to kick it up (or lawn dart into it from a boat), plan on the silt cloud obscuring visibility for quite some time (easily an hour +).

The entrance is just North of the boat ramp (the next turn in the road).

PB4Y Shore Diving Entrance

PB4Y Shore Diving Entrance

Here is a typical dive profile diving the wreck from shore. This is a CCR profile, on doubles I would dive 21/35 + 50% for deco.

PB4Y Dive Profile

PB4Y Dive Profile

There is a ton of great info and videos available from local wreck divers on the PB4Y:

As always with any dives: be safe, be prepared and don’t dive beyond your limits.

SS Admiral Sampson

By | Videos | No Comments

I had the pleasure of diving with the guys from Maritime Documentation Society (MDS) on the SS Admiral Sampson for two days last week. What an amazing wreck!

Quick stats:

  • 296 feet x 36 feet
  • Born: December 1898
  • Sunk: August 26th, 1914
  • Lies in 320 fsw off Point No Point

Day 1 Diving

~ 8 minutes on the bottom (turned for severe current and equipment failure)

Day 2 Diving

~18 Minutes on the bottom (planned bottom time of 20 min), 120 min total run time.

Other Resources

For some great historical research and much more polished (awesome) videos, see the work of Dan Warter with DCS Films: