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   by Fred D. Garth

"Garth on the sat phone in Costa Rica."

A professional journalist since 1980, Fred D. Garth has been crafting dive travel articles for more than 15 years. He's held editor's positions at a variety of magazines including, Skin Diver, Southern Diver, Scuba Times and DeepTech Journal. In 1995, Garth helped launch the first online diving magazine, Scuba Times Online. His ground-breaking live web article in 1998 using a housed digital camera, lap top computer, satellite telephone and a modified wire coat hanger, allowed Internet potatoes to sit at home and follow a diving expedition at Cocos Island, 350-miles off of Costa Rica's pacific coast. A full-time writer living in Florida, Garth claims to be a registered voter. His last article for Skin Diver Online was "Scuba Trek Through the Florida Keys" in 1999.

Skin Diver Online presents
C A Y M A N     T E K

DAY 3

"Nancy and turtle fly in formation."
It's the next to last day of my Caymanian quest of technical diving and it kicks off with a zinger. With the morning sun low on the horizon, Nancy Romanica of Divetech and I suit up with doubles, deco bottles with 80% O2, scooters and digital photo gear and head for Cayman's famous north wall. I've done this wall more times than I can count and have always savored its sweet nectar. Yet, I never thought I'd be able to barrel down past 100 feet (the Island's official depth limit). Au contraire, mon frere. We buzzed out from the shop at Cobalt Coast Resort?an easy shore dive?to the wall a hundred yards or so offshore. At 60 feet, from the leading edge of the wall, we pointed down*and down*and down, to 160 feet. The profile called for a max depth of 160 feet for a few minutes, then up to 130 for 10 minutes (give or take), then 100 feet for awhile longer. After that we eased up and over the wall, explored the shallows on our deco gas and hit the resort's dock after a mind-blowing!

"Healthy stands of elkhorn coral in the shallows make decompression a pleasure."
70-minute dive. This is tech diving as it was meant to be*virgin territory, great viz, dozens of cement-mixer-sized barrel sponges, endless red and purple rope sponges, broad stands of lettuce coral, and all in pristine condition. It's quintessential Cayman wall diving, the way it ought to be. Don't get me wrong, you don't have to go deep to get spectacular wall diving in Cayman, even though some west side sites have been loved hard by crowds of divers. But the entire point here is that you can go deep in Cayman if you do it with proper training and as safely as possible. An argument could even be made that our diving*experienced divers with backup regs, deco gas, etc., is actually safer than a novice diver at 100 feet with a single aluminum-80 and no backup. But, that's a pile of gristle others can chew on. I'm going to keep my focus on having fun.

With two dive shops and a serious focus on tek, Nancy can be given most of the credit for the technical awareness down here. And, while it's not yet a revolution the troops are growing. You know something's happening when the folks at Sunset House have thrown their chips in. Cayman's oldest dedicated dive hotel has always been about serious diving, but disregarded tek in the early years. Now, with Reg Creighton and Erika Haley on board (both leading progenitors of Canada's technical surge), Sunset House has the A-Team. Reg even assumed Mr. T's hairstyle, and the diving they do is nothing short of amazing.

"Reg Creighton shows off his new haircut and Inspiration rebreather."
The big news (as I've mentioned in earlier dispatches) is the Inspiration rebreather. Here's a typical dive from Reg and Erika. Cruise down to 200 feet along the wall for 50 minutes, ease up to 100 for 30 or 40 minutes, slide up to 50 feet for an hour or so, then hang out at 30 feet for 20 minutes. They're getting 200 to 240 minutes of dive time (bring your 7mm wetsuit). And, because the rebreather maximizes their oxygen, the decompression time is negligible. They have another secret weapon as well, the VR3 computer from Delta Technologies in England. Just like air computers, it calculates nitrogen loading and off-loading, but also takes oxygen consumption into consideration. That spells loooong dives and short decos. Reg and Erika are obviously sold on the Inspiration (as am I), but also offer a full range of tek diving including nitrox, mixed gases and Drager Dolphin semi-closed diving.

Well kids, that's it until tomorrow. I hope you, like me, will be dreaming of your favorite wet spot.

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"Ian Thomas setting up Inspiration Rebreather and tech rigs at Divetech."



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