Support your local Dive Shop!

 fred headshot  In this day where Amazon will deliver just about anything to your door step, we, have become accustomed to shopping from the comforts of our homes. Need soap? One click away from delivery the same day. Want to book a flight? Multitude of websites to do just that in the blink of an eye.

     But, have you ever thought about the repercussions? Remember Travel Agents? Been to a mall lately? Macy’s is closing stores left and right, Sears has declared bankruptcy, and JC Penney is looking like it will go under soon. The look of malls are changing and their survivability, at least in traditional aspect as we remember them is questionable.  Bad thing? Probably not, as we are a capitalistic economy and the market takes care of itself, Old stores die, new one’s flourish.

     Now enter the dive shop. Dive Shops, in general, have been suffering over the years from declining sale losses to the internet. Some stores have adapted by adding online sales, and it may very well be the model of the future successful Dive Center.

     Is this bad? Is not competition good? Well, yes…., until you try to get an air fill on the internet. Need to rent tanks for your fundive or class?  Or return a faulty part under warranty, only to find the vendor is an unauthorized dealer, or you need your tanks hydro’ d , or perhaps the need to speak to someone about their experience with a certain brand of BCD. Regulator serviced? See a pattern here?

     Over the past ten years, North King County and Snohomish County has lost four dive shops, leaving just one in Everett and nothing North until you get to Bellingham, or West to Anacortes.  Concerned?  You should be if you are a diver..

     Dive Shops not only provide valuable services we cannot find on the Internet but are also dive communities. We need them! Their success is and should be important to us. And, more often than not their prices are competitive. Especially if you factor in the service and warranty aspect of their service departments, etc.

     As divers, we need to be aware of this and make the effort to support your local dive shop. I, for one, do not wish to invest in an air compressor, nor have to worry where I will get my regulator serviced for its annual checkup. Do you?

fred headshotI frequently get asked, where is your favorite place to dive?  Which is your favorite dive?  My answers often vary depending upon upon where I have been most recently or what happens to be in the forefront of my mind.  I should note that I enjoy tropical warm diving equally as well as cold water diving.  Giving up either for the other would be akin to giving up a limb.  Recently, I gave it some considered thought.  I have had the fortune to dive many places around the world and logged thousands of dives..  So here is a list of my top five dives, in no particular order.

Baitball house sea cortez 2000 A Baitball House - Sea of Cortez.  August 2000  Viz 100+ ft, water temp 88 degree F.  On this dive in the gorgeous Sea of Cortex, Baja Mexico, we had a bait ball of fish approach us that was the size of a large house.  It literally blackened out the sun from above.  Of course that was just a prelude to a Manta swimming circles around us for 40 minutes after the bait ball dispersed.  Once on the surface forced by diminishing air supplies, we snorkeled above the Manta for another hour. An amazing dive!

Magical Mystery TourSund Rock, Hood Canal, WA. August 31st,  2009 . Viz 40+ ft, water temp 48 degrees F.   Yes, you will notice that two of the top five are actually here in the Pacific NW in cold water!  Sund Rock is a great dive anytime you make the trek over to the Hood!   However, every once in a long while you will catch this site with the right tides, right viz, sun shining, and the site goes from really good to epic.  This late summer day we were there was one such day.  Above the reef wall is an area that is called the bowl.  Late in the season the bowl fills with all sorts of small hatch-ling fish and critters to become a virtual aquarium representation of the entire Puget Sound eco system.  Add the sun filtering down through the ripples on the surface and you get "Magical".  Wolf eels out in the open, schooling fish, and an octopus or two..., all that is missing is a good meal and beer after the dive...., and unicorns!.

Fujikawa Maru 3 Compressor 1024x819Fujikawa Maru - Truk Lagoon, Chuuk Micronesia 2002.   Viz 80 + ft, water temp 85 degrees F.  This wreck is one of the iconic ones of Truk, and is one of the most popular wreck dives in the lagoon.  The abundance of life on this structure that has now been under water for over 70 years, is difficult to measure.  Throw in the ships history and the background of Word War 2, you have the ingredients to make an avid scuba diver who studied naval warfare in college,all giddy!  Throw in a silt out at 110 feet depth within the bowls of the beast (wreck), well now you have heart pounding adventure as well.  The silt out story I will leave for another telling.

Ghost Manta - Raja Ampat, Indonesia 2019. Viz 50+ ft., Water temp 82 degrees F.    The seas of Raja Ampat, Indonesia rank first in the world for diversity of wildlife.  And a couple of weeks ago, they did not disappoint.  With almost 30 dives wrapped up over ten days, the last dive proved to be keeper of the trip.  In only 40 ft depth, viz not too great for that area, this gentle giant of a creature with an estimated wing span approaching twenty feet came out of the gloom and flew over me with about 6 inches to spare.  I literally stopped breathing for about 30 seconds.  But don't believe me, watch the video!  Ghost Manta of Raja Ampat - 2019

moon jelliesMoon Jellies in a snow globe dive - British Columbia Sunshine Coast, 2005.  Viz 90+ ft, Water Temp 46 degrees.  We had just completed a most fabulous dive on the Canadian Frigate wreck Chaudiere.  As we are heading to our next site, Captain Kal (Porpoise Bay Charters) calls me aside and points out a white discoloration on the surface about a mile off the starboard bow.  Intrigued, he motors on over to the site to reveal a massive up welling of thousands of Moon Jellyfish. He asks if we would like to dive with them.  I retorted that I could think of better things to do with my afternoon than suffer a million jellyfish stings.  "No no" he informed me, Moon jellies do not sting.  Within minutes all of us were in our gear hovering in 25 ft dept surrounded by thousand of these Jellies.  Evidently this occurrence only happens once every ten plus years.  The picture says it all!

Honorable mentions:

*     Thunderball Grotto, Exuma Cayes, Bahamas, 2017.  100ft + vis, 85 degree water temp. Where the filming of the James Bond Movie, Thunderball with Sean Connery.  My father took me to see this movie when I was 11 or 12.  Saw the underwater action scenes and decided I wanted to to that!  Fitting that when I dove here it was on Fathers Day.

*     The Manatees of Crystal Springs, Florida, 2003, 50 ft viz, 72 degree water temp.  Cute and very passive, only a mother would love these mugs.

*     Ragged (Sand Tigers) Tooth Shark Migration, Aliwal Shoals, Indian Ocean, South Africa, 2004.  70+ ft viz, 73 degree F water temp.  Did six dives here over three days.  Each dive surrounded by these sharks.  Amazing animals.

*     Dive #1 with dead salmon Sam at Cove #3, WA . Feb 8th, 1976.  Viz 20 ft. Water temp "cold"  and I noted that it was "colder at the bottom.  Keep in mind, in those days no temp gauges.  And yes, before you ask, we did tie rags around our feet and walked to school ten miles, in the snow, uphill, both ways!  LOL!.  How could I not mention my first dive, where I sat on the bottom next to a dead salmon which I named Sam.  My first under ocean experience not one baby eagle raysweek after seeing the movie jaws for the first time.  What the heck was I getting into??  

 *     Wreck of the Mahi Mahi, Oahu, HI, March 7th, 1986.   Viz 100 ft.  Water temp 80 degrees F.   My first tropical warm water dive.  Nothing more notable about it other than I did prove that air consumption is more rapid at depth, especially after you see your first school of eagle rays! 


Hope you enjoyed!

Dive smart, dive safe!

Fred Doner
PADI Master Instructor
Argonaut Diving

Want to be a better Leader? Try SCUBA Diving…

   travis 2             I’m SCUBA Diving 100 feet underwater, enjoying the crystal-clear waters of Porpoise Bay, BC, when suddenly my regulator makes a strange noise and goes in to free flow. For those of you who may not know, a free flow from your SCUBA air system is akin to a vein in your arm painlessly popping open and you watch your life’s blood spray about. A SCUBA regulator provides air on demand. You inhale, the diaphragm opens and provides air; you exhale, the diaphragm closes and allows your exhaled air to escape. Regulators are designed to fail open so you can continue to breath. My brain, I found out, is designed to freak out when this happens…

                My chosen career is in Software Development. I am a Senior Manager of Tech Products & Solutions for a large corporation. My day-to-day includes leading multiple development teams creating a suite of applications using numerous technologies. Budgets, deadlines, stress, difficult personalities, corporate politics, successes, failures, you name it I live it. Many of you reading this, I’m sure are in similar positions. It is incredibly important for us who are blessed enough to have high paying albeit high pressure careers to have our escapes. I have found one of my favorite stress relievers is SCUBA diving. I also found that SCUBA has provided an opportunity to be both a better leader and a better follower. And, per the above, forcing me in to situations where circumstances dictate which of those two roles I must choose.

It was not my intent that SCUBA be a stress outlet when I enrolled to obtain my Open Water SCUBA Certification. My family was headed to Mexico on a cruise ship and I told my brother I wanted to snorkel in Cabo. He eloquently stated, “Snorkeling is for “weenies” who can’t SCUBA dive.” (He used a way more colorful term than weenies, but you get the picture.) Nothing like sibling rivalry to push you in to an extreme sport! But, after my first certification I was hooked. By the time he and I dove in Cabo, I had obtained my Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver certifications, with almost three times as many dives logged over three months in the frigid waters of Puget Sound as he had in almost ten years.

What really got me hooked was the diving community created by Argonaut Diving ( where I was taking my courses. The mostly volunteer Instructors made learning and practicing SCUBA such a great experience. Having been in a Leadership position for nearly fifteen years, it was an incredible journey of surrender to those with superior knowledge and practice.   Moreover, I was observing Leaders who were literally taking their followers lives in to their hands. If I have a bad day, other than feelings nobody gets hurt. My SCUBA Instructors don’t have that luxury. It’s a huge responsibility, but one that is rewarded by big smiles and amazing experiences for the students.

The other critical component to SCUBA diving is that it’s a Buddy Sport. From your first lesson in the pool, you learn to dive with someone. In order to even consider diving solo, you must have a ridiculous amount of both training and equipment. All your early training dives and the significant majority of recreational dives are performed as a Buddy Team.   What makes that even more interesting is that you may not know the person with whom you are diving. The only commonality you have to each other is trust in your respective training and subsequent experience.

So back to Porpoise Bay. This just happens to be my logged dive number 40. 40 dives is a lot like a pilot with 100 hours: just enough knowledge to be both cocky and dangerous. My regulator is now free flowing and my brain is freewheeling. My body does me no favor in juicing me up with a healthy dose of adrenaline and I kick like hell over to my Dive Buddy. And, did I mention he and I have been paired together for the first time EVER? He doesn’t know me or my style and I don’t know his. I claw at his leg and he turns to see my regulator roiling air and flapping like a fish caught in my mouth. He tries to help by offering his alternate air source.

I’m flailing and knock it from his hands.

He calmly tries to obtain control of me by grabbing the shoulder strap of my BCD. I’m still flailing, I go to grab his hand and accidentally purge my deflator valve. Now I’m sinking. I hit my mask on his knee, it fills with water. Now I’m blind and panicking. My brain whispers I need to clear my mask, so with eyes squeezed as tightly closed as possible, I attempt to do so. My Dive Buddy sees my eyes closed; he thinks I’m out cold.

Now he’s panicking.

His training kicks in and he grabs my BCD where I can’t push him away and he hits my inflator. My mask is cleared just in time for another diver to swim over to help. She is someone I had dove with often and she had been a big part of my training. She tries to help calm me down, but my brain is in such a state I can’t even recognize her. I push her away and my Dive Buddy and I rocket to the surface. Yes, from 100 feet. Our saving grace is that we had been down less than 5 minutes, so minimal risk of the dreaded “bends.” I’m hyperventilating to the point I couldn’t have held my breath if I tried.

We surface and the dive boat is right there. The captain had seen the violent surge of bubbles and was at the ready. My Dive Buddy is breathless and sheet white. I can barely breathe and can feel my heart pounding like a jackhammer. The captain is a volunteer EMT, he asks the pertinent questions. Are you OK? Are either of you hurt? Do you need Oxygen? Since neither of us can speak, we both signal “OK.” After a few minutes recovery, we climb back on to the boat. At this point the adrenaline has worn off and my shame is palpable. He and I remove our equipment, both visibly shaking.

This was not a training dive, but my Instructor Fred was on the trip. As he and everyone else climb back aboard, they all want to know what happened. My Dive Buddy and I tell our respective tales of the incident. With the danger passed, we can laugh now. I still feel like an idiot. As the boat moves to the next dive site, others offer comfort and a knowing smile. Many chime in with their tales of learning under similar conditions.

We get to the next dive site, I’m not sure I want to dive again. Fred provides an alternate solution. He pulls my Dive Buddy over along with another Instructor. He says we’re all diving together and we’re going to perform a training exercise. When we hit 60 feet, he wants me to signal freeflow and he wants me and my Dive Buddy to do it right this time. Reluctantly, in we go. At about 55 feet, my regulator decides to help and again goes in to freeflow. With less pressure, the flow is minimal, but makes for a nice kickoff. I swim up to my Dive Buddy, who has been watching me like a hawk, and signal freeflow. He is at the ready with his alternate. I take it, we share his air. We start to go up. Fred signals stop. He signals for a 3 minute safety stop; exactly what we should have done coming up from 100 feet. Together, we hover at 15 feet. While breathing from his alternate, we can look at mine. We get it to stop freeflowing. I switch to my alternate; again, exactly what I should have done the first go around. But as you know, hindsight and all that…

After the safety stop, we surface with my Dive Buddy and I feeling much better. Fred does a quick debrief and then sends him off with the other Instructor to go enjoy a fun dive. Fred and I return to the boat. He explains there is no way I should be diving with a faulty regulator, so if I want to keep diving I’ll need a different one. While we wait for the other divers to return he has me perform the exercise with him again on the boat. Drill it until it becomes natural. Once I feel comfortable, he gets me a new regulator and my Dive Buddy and I get 5 more successful dives in that weekend.

Pretty intense, huh? I can hear your thoughts: “Uhh, Travis, I’m really not sure that is the kind of story one tells in an article titled, ‘Want to be a better Leader? Try SCUBA Diving…’” Well, stay with me.

SCUBA is now my sport of choice. I’m nearing 200 logged dives and am now a certified SCUBA Instructor, thanks to mentoring under Fred. My Dive Buddy and I are great friends and we dive often. But, here’s the crazy part, SCUBA has influenced my leadership style immensely and propelled my career forward. I have been promoted twice since starting SCUBA diving just over a year and a half ago. My teams and Senior Leaders have been giving me positive feedback like never before, and it’s because I am a better leader than ever before. When I receive constructive feedback I assimilate it faster and more effectively. I can boil it down to 5 reasons:

Humility – with SCUBA diving you are choosing to surrender to your environment. Like the story above, if you fight it, you are not going to win. Learn to give up your ego, listen to others, and watch yourself improve. When I learned to employ this in my corporate role, it became as easy as swimming with a current over fighting against one.

Confidence – SCUBA Diving is unnatural. Your brain says underwater = no air, no air = bad. As you master SCUBA, your anxiety around this rapidly dwindles and you feel the magic of controlling yourself in an unfamiliar way. Giving yourself permission to feel insecure about this new endeavor and then experiencing what it feels like to succeed is what we all strive for in our everyday life. It makes you fearless in a leadership role, because you know whatever the task or assignment may be, you can knock it out of the park.

Peer Power – you cannot succeed alone, and to even attempt to do so in SCUBA is fraught with danger. Also, you don’t always get the same Dive Buddy. SCUBA teaches you to build your network of peers, find your commonalities, and watch as you make each other better.

Serenity – SCUBA truly is an escape. It is otherworldly. You see things that 98% of the global population will never see. Phones don’t ring underwater, emails don’t send, text messages don’t receive. Enjoy the time away. Understand that ‘unplugging’ has more value than can be described in words.

Gratitude – over drinks one night, my Dive Buddy in the story above thanked me for the lessons learned. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked Fred and he’s thanked me. I feel appreciated by my SCUBA friends and I learn the importance of showing appreciation. We all should show more gratitude, and what better avenue than for the person diving beside you who literally has your life in his/her hands?

Written by Travis A Sterner

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fred1 picSo a few years back, I was at Daytona Beach, Florida, with a companion, mid Summer time.  Typical beach scene.  Lot’s of sunbathers, kids frolicking in the water.  As it happened, we were in the water, cooling down ourselves when suddenly my companion asked me, rather abruptly, kinda like the possibility suddenly hit her.  Are there sharks in these waters?

Now being that we were in the Atlantic Ocean, and that I am not prone to lie or mislead.  And also knowing by the tone of the question, she (my companion) was not comfortable with the realization that she already knew the answer to the question and even then was pondering a dignified exit strategy.   Soooo, I paused and carefully thought out my answer.



Fred1 picA most excellent question.  There is a misnomer in the industry that once you become an Open Water (OW) Diver, you should first log some dives before going for you Advance Open Water (AOW) Card.  Though that is certainly an option, it is not the rule.  In Open Water class we teach you the basics.  To be good, like in many sports, you need practice, and repetition is king!


Once you have graduated from Open Water (OW) you need to get back into the water.  If you wait four to six months, or even longer, you will forget what you were taught.  Not only will you be a danger to yourself, but to your buddy as well.   How to get back into the water is the question.  You can grab one of your classmates or a diver friend and go.  But a more popular option is to enroll in the PADI Advance Open Water Class right away.  Many Argonaut Diving OW graduates take the AOW class within weeks of graduating from OW.  Don't wait.  sign up soon!