Question: ¬†Who’s the oldest person to have ever passed the PADI Standards and Procedures exam with a perfect score?
Answer: I’m not sure, but I am certainly in the running. ūüôā

Now that I have that exam behind me, I have the PADI Dive Theory exam to look forward to.  It is actually a set of five mini-tests on physics, physiology, equipment, skills & the environment and decompression theory & the Recreational Dive Planner.  The good news is I can take those on-line.  The bad news is I need to study a LOT and take the exams as soon as possible.

As far as I know there were no issues yesterday at the Florida Sea Base. ¬†I returned to base just in time for flags but went to the boat and didn’t make time to talk with anyone. ¬†No news is good news.

There are no crew arrivals today. ¬†Our next arrival is a week from today. ¬†Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras and I will keep the scuba staff busy visually inspecting scuba tanks. ¬†This job has to be performed at least once a year. ¬†Here’s the process:

The hard plastic boots on the bottom of the tank, the old inspection sticker and any paint must be removed from the tank.

Any remaining air must be slowly drained from the tanks.  This can be a long and incredibly noisy process.  (Bear in mind that we have over 400 tanks to drain.)  Since the scuba tanks contain compressed air (approximately 100 times the air pressure in a common automobile tire), the tanks cool as the pressure is released.  If it is released too quickly, condensation is formed.  The inside of the tank needs to stay dry to protect it from oxidation.  Therefore, condensation is a no-no.  The air is released through the valve that allows a regulator to be attached to the tank.  The hole in the valve is less than 1/8 inch in diameter.  Discharging the air quickly causes noise that can cause ear damage; another reason the tanks need to be drained slowly.  Even if the tanks are being drained slowly, you can only drain a few at a time or the noise still becomes deafening.

Once ALL of the air pressure has drained the valve can be removed. ¬†(That is not a correct statement. ¬†All of the air is not evacuated from the tank, that would be a vacuum. ¬†The tanks are drained until the internal pressure equalizes with ¬†ambient air pressure.) ¬†Removing the valve can be challenging. ¬†We use a 24″ crescent style adjustable wrench and a hammer. ¬†The valves are made of very soft brass that has been nickel plated. ¬†Hammering on the tank valve or gripping the valve inappropriately with the wrench can destroy it. ¬†Valves are not cheap.

After removing the valve, any silicone or dielectric grease residue is scraped off the top of the tank with a razor blade and wire brush.  The outside of the tank is inspected for saltwater pitting or signs of damage from being dropped.  A long, skinny light is inserted through the neck of the tank so the inside can be examined for saltwater pitting.  Significant pitting, whether internal or external, can cause the tank to be condemned and removed from service.  A special (expensive) device is used to illuminate and magnify the threads of the tank.  Damaged threads can also cause the tank to be condemned.

If any debris (salt crystals or aluminum oxide for example) is found inside the tank, the tank is pulled and goes through a special cleaning process to remove said debris and allow for an investigation of the cause.  The cleaning process usually takes a day or two.

Once the tank is determined to be acceptable for duty, a new o-ring (with just a tiny smear of silicone grease) is placed onto the valve.  A dab of dielectric grease is placed on the valve threads.  This helps prevent galvanic action between the brass threads of the valve and the aluminum threads of the tank.  The valve is then reattached to the tank and tightened securely (with care to not over torque it) to the tank.  The tank is tapped off so the lower several inches can be painted.  This is a sacrificial paint that protects the tank from saltwater pitting that can occur from the tank boot retaining tiny amounts of saltwater.  After the paint dries (frequently overnight) the boots are put back in place.

Finally, the tanks have to be filled.  We can fill about 20 tanks at a time and it takes about 20 minutes to fill a set of tanks.  That makes the math easy.  400 tanks need to be filled.  We can fill 20 at a time.  400 divided by 20 = 20 sets to fill.  20 sets times 20 minutes per set = 400 minutes.  400 minutes divided by 60 = 6.6 hours to refill 400 tanks.  But when you add in time to move, connect and disconnect, move the tanks again, fill the air storage banks, and so on, the reality is that it takes almost two full days to refill all of the tanks.

It will take a serious team effort for us to visually inspect all of the Florida Sea Base scuba tanks in a week. ¬†Our team will consist of Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras, Scuba Instructor Meghann Michalski, Divemaster Steven Raymond and will be supervised by Captain Dennis “slop on more silicone” Wyatt and me since we are both certified in the safe management of the process. ¬†We may draft some help from the sailing staff if they run out of chores. ¬†And if we are still working on tanks next week, Scuba Instructor Dave Ball and Divemaster Mike Roesel will be available to help. ¬†It’s a family affair of sorts.

In case you can’t tell by the length of this post, I woke up a little early this morning (around 0300). ¬†I’m going to lay back down for an hour and then get up for the 0730 staff meeting. ¬†Don’t forget the Daytona 500 is running today. ¬†It will be broadcast on the FOX network starting around noon Eastern Time. ¬†(I am not a huge fan, but I do have the recorder set so I can fast-forward to the crashes and watch the last 10 or 20 laps.)

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum‚ĄĘ
Aboard S/V Escape

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