Sunday, May 28, 2006


zen and the art of scuba instruction

i've been sitting here trying to think of something witty to write and i've just had a flash of insight. an epiphany you might say.

i'm just not that witty.

so i've decided to babble on about something i know a little bit about and like a lot.

teaching people how to teach people how to scuba dive.

utila is a small island about 7 miles long by about 3 miles wide. there are 10 dive shops along a stretch of road about a mile long.

three of these shops are registered PADI 5-Star IDCs. this means they can teach instructor candidates and prepare them for an Instructor Examination. in order for this to work each of these shops has to be represented by a PADI Course Director.

there are currently five CDs on utila.

myself (the best one) at Bay Islands College of Diving
peter (the tallest one) at Bay Islands College of Diving
phil (the most aussie one) at Deep Blue
andy (the most prolific one) at Utila Dive Centre
and neil (the soon to be one) at Utila Dive Centre --- neil has been accepted into the Course Director Training Class in california and deserves a hearty congratulations for that.

needless to say the competition for instructor candidates is somewhat fierce. this means the CDs on utila have to be at the top of their game. and they all are. as a result of this utila boasts one of the highest (if not THE highest) pass rates in the world for instructor exams. this is a good thing.

no CD wants their student to fail the IE. especially on utila. whoever has a student fail the IE has to buy beer for the other CDs ... and, believe me, these guys can drink!

everyone is gearing up for another round of competition beginning on june 10 for another IDC.
making sure each candidate has a solid theory foundation, great water skills, exemplary rescue skills, and the right tool kit for being successful in their new career in diving.

let the games begin!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

time change

Honduras has decided to go to daylight savings time again. it's been several years since the last time they tried this. it makes life more interesting on the small island of utila for a lot of different reasons.

it affects the dive shops in a big way due to the fact that the sun generally sets at about 7:30pm now. this means that the night dives that used to leave the dock at 5:30pm and get back at 7:30pm are now having to wait until 7:30 - 8:00pm to begin their dives.

this can be very trying for an instructor/divemaster with less than average scheduling and flexibility quotients. for one thing; it throws your drinking routine way out of whack. it used to be possible to start relatively early and get to bed in plenty of time for a nice, restful sleep before starting the next day. now you have to deal with starting your going away party (and this happens frequently here) as late as 9 or 10pm instead of 4 or 5pm.

this is a problem.

not everyone in Honduras follows daylight savings time. general laborers, farmers, builders , and fishermen work from sunrise to sunset anyway. they don't much care about clocks. when they do it's usually "old time" instead of "new time".

this is an annoyance for people who think that the whole world is structured exactly the way it is "back home".

these people should probably either go to Disneyland or stay "back home".

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Dwight declares his intention to "Go Pro"

and a stellar job he did, too. see how well he conforms to the dress code on utila. a veritable poster boy (well, next to me anyway). Dwight will begin his career as an Open Water Scuba Instructor right here at Bay Islands College of Diving and from there...well, the sky's the limit.
(or should that be the cayman trench?) anyway,

welcome aboard, Dwight!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


it's done

i'm responsible (at least partially) for the existence of one more PADI scuba instructor. or OWSI. soon to be an MSDT. and an EFRI. so many letters.

dwight sailed through the confined water teaching and the prescriptive teaching presentations.

now it's on to the wonderful world of teaching people how to properly enjoy the underwater world.

after the celebration of course.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

and so it goes

the ongoing saga...

my candidate successfully negotiated the labyrinth of "general standards and procedures" and the dreaded "theory" exams. the hardest and most stressful part of the IE is over.

today consists of open water teaching (briefing, control and delivery, problem solving, and debriefing of two open water skills), rescue evaluation, and knowledge development (prescriptive teaching).

his open water skills are 'controlled descent' from open water dive 2 and 'distressed diver under water' out of air diver in a stationary position (rescue diver course exercise 4).

the rescue evaluation consists of demonstrating how to deal with an unresponsive diver at the surface.

his prescriptive teaching assignment is from the divemaster course. "how to help divemaster candidates achieve skill mastery".

to top it all off a squall is moving throught the area. just to make it a little more distracting.

i expect he'll do just fine.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


IE Orientation

today is the beginning of the instructor examination. my candidate will go through a testing process that will allow him to demonstrate mastery of every step required for his inclusion into the wonderful world of scuba instruction.

the official orientation starts at 1400 hrs this afternoon and, if the examiner follows the pattern of the last few months, will be followed by a standards and procedures exam and the theory exams.

during the orientation the examiner explains every single thing the candidates can expect over the course of the exam. they are given the schedule of the different modules they will be tested on and the assignments and skills they will be expected to teach and demonstrate.

a very anxious time for most.

they will have this evening and tonight to prepare their teaching presentations, briefings and debriefings, and review their skill requirements.

the fact that the written exams will be out of the way up front will take a tremendous amount of the stress off.

of course most of the course directors, myself included, will spend the whole two days pacing like expectant fathers.

you gotta love it.

and i do.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

another lawyer

Congratulations Dave!

my friend dave is celebrating a momentous day today.

he's graduating from law school and has been freed from the surly bonds of lubbock,texas.

it's also a momentous occasion for me in that, for the first time in my long life (some would say it's too long already), i have finally met a lawyer i like and respect. (and you have no idea how hard that is for me to say.)

i believe this is also auspicious for the rest of the world because to my knowledge this has never happened before.

a harbinger of hope for humanity.

now he has one less excuse for avoiding utila.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

good people

good times with good people

this is megan (instructor), chris (divemaster), jeremy (instructor) and myself at tranquila bar, our favorite watering hole.

megan is now teaching in africa, chris has gone back to sweden and jeremy is back in the states recuperating for his next round of adventures in paradise.

one of the true blessings of being a dive instructor is the people you meet. and they come from, literally, all over the world. sadly, they also leave.

thanks for the pictures, jeremy. thanks for the salvas, megan.

i'm not sure what i need to thank chris for but it must have been good because i can't remember those last two days...thanks, chris.

(i just remembered that this blog is being transmitted into space. i'm not sure that ET seeing this picture is neccessarily a good thing for the future of mankind.)

Friday, May 05, 2006


every once in a while (every sunday in high season) we try to show our customers that we appreciate them sharing a part of our lives.

we call this event "sunday funday" and the staff of the dive shop gets together with our diving family, goes diving, looks for whale sharks, and has beer and bbq on the beach. it's pretty much an all day thing.

a friend of mine who's graduating from law school next saturday sent me this picture to remind me just how good my life is. (thanks, dave!)

this is me "at the office" on a sunday funday.

my life is so good i just have to flip out once in a while.

Monday, May 01, 2006

utila redux

well, it's been somewhat of an interesting week.

power black outs (this is becoming something of a tradition this time of year), a trip to roatan (trying to drum up a little business for instructor development courses), and a reality check or two.

the power outages have not really been all that inconvenient. it's been out during the day but on through the night so people could at least sleep and keep their food from spoiling. it's the utila of the old days when you had to watch tv by candlelight. the hardest part is getting home from tranquila bar because no one carries little maglights for blackout navigation exercises anymore. it's a good thing i've spent all these years practicing for just such an event.

it's a good thing i took that celestial navigation course.

my flip flops know the way home.

and the stars are right there. spectacular apres sunset viewing. an excellent excuse for that extra beer. no hurry to get home. candlelight beers and an open sky. you gotta love it.

the trip to roatan was interesting. i'd forgotten just how different (and, at the same time, alike) these two islands are. we spent most of our time talking to dive shops in west end (because that's where the backpackers go while on roatan and that's our customer base). a comparatively expensive place compared to utila when you get over the differences in costs involved in actually getting to the islands from la ceiba.

one of the things i noticed was that a lot of ex-pats on roatan (i'm talking about business owners here) go out in town (instead of staying at home) and freely mingle with the backpackers and dive shop staff. a different mentality.

another thing i noticed was, in west end, two pancakes and a cup of coffee will set you back US$10. and this is not even cruise ship season. i won't talk about the price of beer. just let me say that there are things that shouldn't be messed with.

business on roatan is much more focused than it is on utila. utila is still far and away the more chilled out, laid back younger sister of the bay islands. it heightens my appreciation for this place i call home.

and i love it.