Oct 302013

If you ask me at any given time what piece of dive (or snorkel) equipment I am most selective about, I will cite with unwavering certainty that it is my mask.  My mask is to me what knives are to an iron chef.  It’s that one piece of indispensable equipment that could provoke a full blown panic attack should I lose it or forget it at home.  After all, we all know that wearing a leaky mask is a surefire way to ensure a less than stellar dive and equally terrible underwater photos.

At this year’s Beneath the Sea dive show in New Jersey, I went on a quest to find the perfect mask.  I strolled from booth to booth, donning mask after mask, until I found The One.

Scubapro Spectra Mini

Scubapro Spectra Mini

That’s when I discovered the Scubapro Spectra Mini.  Its soft silicone skirt and bold color instantly grabbed my attention, but would it perform?

Scuba Do Rag's CoCo Big Oh on my head

I’ve now logged about 30 underwater hours with this mask, and I feel qualified to report that it is a winner.  I’ve had no problems with leaking, fogging or fit.  Here are some of its many virtues-

-Ultra soft silicone skirt which comfortably molds to the skin

-Low volume is great for photography

-Large nose pocket makes it very easy to clear


-Available with clear skirt or black skirt (some photographers prefer the black skirt)

-No leaking

-It looks super cool

Scubapro spectra mask

I chose the Scubapro Spectra Mini which is great for small-medium face sizes.  Those with wider or larger faces may want to try the original Spectra mask.  It has the same look and feel with a slightly larger size.  Mr. Reeftraveler uses this mask (with black skirt), and he is a big fan of its function and design.

If you are in the market for a new mask, here are some tips to help you choose the best mask for you.

-Know that human face sizes and shapes vary widely, as do mask openings.

-Go to a reputable dive shop, if possible, and try on several styles.  If you do not have access to a local dive shop, make sure your online provider allows for exchanges should the mask not fit.

-Put the mask on your face, without attaching the strap in the back, and breathe in gently through your nose. The mask should mold to your face and stay put.

-Ask the dive shop sales person to assist you with your selection.  Sometimes a mask may feel OK on the face, so you may not realize that it isn’t the best fit.

-Try the mask on (with the strap attached to the back of the head), and make sure that you can fit your fingers into the nose pocket to pinch your nose.  Several masks that I tried on earlier this year had nose pockets so small that I could not reach in far enough to pinch my nose.  What a strange design flaw?  I suppose this less of a problem if you are a snorkeler who does not dive.

What mask do you use, and what do you like about it?  If you are a photographer, do you prefer a black or clear skirt?

Oct 262013

One of my geekier hobbies is taking aerial photos from the airplane window seat.  I guess you could say I like to photograph things which fall well above, and well below, sea level.

Charlotte Amalie

Charlotte Amalie

Charlotte Amalie Harbor - cruise ship docs on the lower right

Charlotte Amalie Harbor – cruise ship docks on the lower right

East End, St. Thomas

East End, St. Thomas

Approaching Puerto Rico

Approaching Puerto Rico

If aerial photos are your thing, you might want to check out these posts-

An Aerial Tour of Fiji

Islands from 38,000 Feet

Oct 212013

On Thursday, October 24th at 9:00 pm EST, CNN will air the acclaimed documentary “Blackfish”.  For those unfamiliar with this film, “Blackfish” examines the matter of orcas in captivity, a controversial issue which surged to the forefront of the American conscience in 2010 when Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau was tragically killed by an orca named Tillikum.

Oracas in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska - Source: NOAA

Oracas in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska – Source: NOAA

I’ve been following the issue of marine mammals in captivity since the Sea World accident occurred in 2010.  I highly recommend reading “The Killer in the Pool”, an Outside Magazine feature by Tim Zimmerman which delves deep into the heart of this polarizing issue.  This is not light reading, rather, it is a well-researched, robust piece guaranteed to provoke an emotional response.

For more information –

The Orca Network

Smart, Social and Erratic in Captivity, New York Times

Death at Sea World, by David Kirby

Oct 182013

…and I don’t mean rest and relaxation, although that’s welcome too.

I’m referring to the Rum & Root Beer – made famous by the guys at St. John Brewers.

Root Beer

When I first saw it on their drink menu, it seemed to me like a strange (and frankly unwelcome) combination.  I quickly changed my mind at the very first sip.

The simplicity of this concoction is part of its appeal.  St. John Brewers uses its own handcrafted root beer (see photo above) and Cruzan Rum.

To make it at home, I’ve been using Virgil’s Root Beer (we don’t have St. John Brewers root beer at home) and Rom Rincon, (a handcrafted, boutique rum from Bonaire).

Have you tried R&R?