Scuba Diving Instruction

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Lee is an SSI Dive Master Instructor

Our vision is to teach other cruisers how to successfully and safely dive from their boats.

SV Unladen Swallow is an SSI Dive Boat. What that means is we are licensed to bring the world of SSI Scuba Diving (including Snorkeling and FreeDiving (coming soon)) instruction to you.

Lee can teach the following courses:

The first Certification for a Scuba Diver is called Open Water Diver

In this course you will learn the fundamentals of Scuba Diving including good basic skills to successfully and safely dive, equipment basics and finally understand some of the effects scuba diving has on us physically.

The course is a combination of online academics, basic skills and gear instruction and finally your first Open Water dives where you get to demonstrate what you have learned.

We are all concerned about our environment – especially the marine environment that hosts our adventures as full time cruisers. Brownie & Lee are proud to say that we are active supporters of Mission Deep Blue and we invite you to check out the free specialty course in your SSI App.

Just like learning how to sail only opens you up to the limitless possibilities of sailing, your Open Water Certification is your gateway to exploring more deeply the world of Scuba Diving. We really recommend a basic set of specialties to make you better prepared to dive from your boat safely and responsibly. These are:


NOTE: If your Open Water Certification is from another certifying agency (e.g. PADI, SDI, YMCA, etc) we can still continue your training using the SSI curriculum. Once you present me with proof of your certification, that’s all we need to continue!

Perfect Buoyancy will pickup where Open Water left off. We will focus on dialing in your weight and trim. We will focus on how your gear and your breathing effect you in the water column.

Since diving is all about buoyancy and we care deeply about the reefs on which we dive, this course will improve your control of yourself while diving.

Since finding our way back to our boat is pretty important to us, we then turn our attention to Navigation. While you learned the basics of using a compass underwater to find your way around, this course will provide the opportunity to practice with more difficult navigation problems, as well as introducing the effects of current on our diving – yes Set/Drift matter underwater. We will also learn how to use underwater landmarks to guide us to and from our objectives.

Boat Diving is the course where we focus on what you need to successfully and safely dive from YOUR boat. We will focus on required safety gear, developing procedures to get in and out of the water and bring your Dinghy into the mix as we can’t or don’t want to bring the big boat onto some of the dive locations due to depth and closeness to sensitive environments.

We are all very aware of the effects of Salt Water on our boats. Learning the basics of servicing and troubleshooting our scuba diving gear in Equipment Techniques will allow you to keep diving long after you would have stopped without the extra care our dive gear requires.

We will pay particular attention to the gear you own or will be buying.

Diver Stress and Rescue is the course where we get to explore scenarios involving when things don’t go so well and how to safely recover from that situation. It’s a great course for a couple or a family to take to work as a team and build confidence in each other as you work through the various problems. Again we will focus the scenarios around your boat so you can incorporate those lessons learned into your own diving procedures.

The React Right course is paired with Stress and Rescue as it focuses on CPR, First Aid and O2. It also will prepare you to use an AED. We will talk about the AED as part of your boat kit. Everyone should be certified to administer CPR and since you will likely want O2 on board to handle emergencies, this course will provide the necessary certification to buy and have O2 cylinders filled. This course can be taught as either an initial certification or a refresher (every 2 years). Your insurance company may even give you a bit of a break on your premium based on having this course

Congratulations you are now a MASTER Diver

Under SSI – Master Diver is a recognition of a diver who has completed at least 50 dives and has continued their diving education having completed 5 specialties, one of which must be Diver Stress and Rescue. Each year SSI has a contest in which all the divers achieving the Master Diver certification are eligible for drawings to go on a week-long Live-Aboard cruise to some great locations.

So far SV Unladen Swallow has seen one diver complete their Master Diver Recognition – Congratulations to Brownie!

So what are some other specialties worth considering?

Deep Diving

Your basic Open Water certification allows you to safely dive to 60′. This advanced certification will provide the training and knowledge to safely dive to the full recreational limit of 130′.

Night & Limited Visibility

This is one of my favorite diving activities. I love watching critters and at night the reef residents completely change as the daylight critters seek places to hide to rest and the night time residents emerge. This is the time to see lobsters, crabs, shrimp and octopus.

But since this is a more risky environment, it’s important we get some more training to go into it safely!

Waves, Tides & Currents

This specialty is designed to prepare you to safely dive in water that is moving. We all know how dangerous a Rip current can be. We will often be diving in water that has some flow to it and when that’s the case we need to take special precautions to enable us to safely get back to our boat!

Wreck Diving

What’s cooler than exploring the remains of someone else’s misfortune? Everyone loves a great story of how some vessel met its watery demise and to go see the remains of that vessel years later is pretty amazing. Brownie and I have amazing memories of diving on a U-Boat from World War II off of Moorehead City in North Carolina.

Diving on wrecks is very dangerous. These 2 specialties are designed to make you aware of those dangers, and to learn the use of special gear and procedures to safely explore a wreck inside and out!

Search and Recovery

We have all donated stuff to Neptune from our boats. This is the course to learn how to dive search patterns and then, for heavy items, how to safely lift them to the surface.

Finding something lost overboard is exhilarating and can frankly save some money. Having said that, there are plenty of occasions when something is lost overboard even in a shallow calm anchorage and all the searching possible simply wasn’t enough to find it. But let’s focus on the positive and this is the course to give you the best chance of success!

The next batch of courses are focused on becoming more aware of the underwater critters we love to watch. These courses won’t necessarily turn you into a marine biologist – while I occasionally stay at a Holiday Inn Express, my degree is Computer Science.

Our First course, Marine Ecology, is the overview of the other courses.

Fish ID

This course is focused on how to figure out if that was a Wrasse, Shark or Angel Fish…..

Shark Ecology

Sharks have gotten a bad rap over the years especially after the wild success of the Jaws movies.

Unfortunately for our oceans, that led to shark hunting for sport and Shark Fin soup.

Sharks are a vital part of the overall marine ecosystem and without them, our reefs and oceans will become very unhealthy.

We will also learn how to dive safely with them.

Coral Identification

This is a fascinating course as we explore what coral is (and is not), its importance to the health of the oceans and our planet. We also get to explore the different types of coral, their place in the ecosystem and how to properly interact with a coral reef.

Sea Turtle Ecology

We are all aware of how endangered Sea Turtles are. It is illegal to capture, kill and eat Sea Turtles now in most countries.

Encountering a turtle in the water is exciting and if you want to win a photo contest involving underwater critters with other divers, you can’t go wrong with a great pic of a sea turtle.

We will learn about the life and times of the various types of sea turtles we are likely to encounter while diving.

Manta & Ray Ecology

I can’t teach this one yet, but I have included it to be complete. Some time in the next year I will get the OK to teach this one….

OK let’s explore some other options

Science of Diving

OK this is going to sound strange, but this is one of my favorite classes to teach. We get to pull the covers back and look at the Physics and Physiology of diving in greater detail. Why is this important? Well you are going to run across those situations where you are going to see or experience something and the big WHY???? is going to be screaming at you from behind your mask. We are going to take the time to explore the how, so when you get to the why question, you will already know the answer!

Besides, this course will delve into the why behind the theory, so you will be a more informed diver.

Full Face Mask Diving

So believe it or not, this is one of my favorite pieces of my kit. It allows me to nose breath, have better visibility and virtually no water inside my mask. If it’s fitted with a comm transmitter, I can even talk to another diver underwater.

Dry Suit Diving

OK so I don’t expect to get too many takers on this one while we are in the Caribbean due to the temps of the water, but if you are going somewhere where the water is less than 70 and certainly less than 60 degrees a Dry Suit should be something you want to learn how to use. I hate being cold. My dry suit is my go to piece of gear anytime I need 5mil or more of wetsuit protection.

Enriched Air Nitrox

Most other divers looking at this page have wondered why this course isn’t featured much earlier. Well for those of us diving off of our own boats, Nitrox is not something we can make easily on our own. Yes if we pay someone to provide tanks, they can provide us nitrox, but the point is to be diving for next to nothing on our own boat!

Yes, I can teach nitrox, but we will need access to nitrox filled cylinders and an analyzer to complete the course.

Oh, for the rest of you, the gas known as Nitrox is composed of a higher percentage of oxygen than our atmosphere. Since there is less nitrogen present (more oxygen instead), we accumulate nitrogen in our systems slower, thus giving us more bottom time. We just can’t go as deep. I will explain all of that in detail in this course as well as Science of Diving.

By the way – when Brownie and I are doing lots of repetitive diving on a dive vacation, we use Nitrox.

Independent Diving

This is the controversial course. All of our training to date has focused on the need for a dive buddy. Well this course is going to focus how to safely and successfully dive on your own – no buddy. It takes special (and extra) gear, special precautions and has a prerequisite of 50 logged open water dives.

OK, I have saved this next one until now, because I have a whole page and school dedicated to taking great pictures underwater.

Photo and Video

This is the starting point of what I have found to be the most challenging and rewarding activity I can do underwater. This course will focus on the basics of light, buoyancy, the camera and its use and how adding a camera effects your task loading.

I do ask that you save this course for a bit later in your training so that you have the instilled in your underwater experience great skills and habits so that when we place a camera in your hands you can continue to be a safe diver that can operate in a delicate environment without damaging it. No picture is worth dying for or damaging reef that will take centuries to recover.

I am also a stickler on your picture composition involves no touching! If the composition isn’t exactly right, you don’t get to reach down and move something!

See the U/W Photography section for Lee’s U/W Photography School – Red Fish Underwater Photography.

Let’s talk about becoming a Diving Professional

I am a Divemaster Instructor. That means I can teach divers to become Dive Guides and Dive Masters. For those aspiring to become Assistant or full Instructors, I can get you started, but I will have to send you to an Instructor Trainer to complete that part of your training. And yes, I know a guy who can do that for you!

Dive Guide

This certification was created to create professional dive guides without the need to take Science of Diving. A dive guide can only lead certified divers, they can not provide any instruction. This certification was created to meet the needs of dive shops in places where local divers did not have access to the education to enable them to be successful with the Science of Diving course material but grew up diving and likely have more dives than most of us combined.


So really the only difference between Divemaster and Dive Guide is that Divemaster requires completing the Science of Diving course.

Now having said that, Divemasters can teach certified divers some specialties and can assist instructors with some of the skills during Open Water training.

Towards that end, if you wish to become a Divemaster, we are going to be spending a lot of time learning how to present instructional material the SSI way and also improving your diving skills and their underwater presentation so that you are providing the best example to new students that you can possibly be.

I look forward to helping you start on your professional journey!

Finally, in the mean time, Lee is working with Aqua Action Dive Center in Secret Harbor, St Thomas, USVI as a Divemaster on their boats and handling any SSI students that might show up to an otherwise PADI ITC.

Please use the Contact Form to reach out to arrange time to talk and we can customize our program to your needs. I know this can be a bit overwhelming. There’s literally endless possibilities here. Let’s start a conversation about you, your abilities, your boat and your goals and aspirations and then we can make recommendations on how you can proceed.