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The offshore Gulf waters are dirty and diving is fruitless. Now, here comes Hurricane Jeanne. Use this down time to check your dive gear. Your regulator, gauges, dive computer and buoyancy compensator are life-support equipment. So, take time to have your gear checked at your local dive shop.

The shop's equipment technicians can usually perform the needed checkup and pressure tests while you wait. Gear problems, or potential problems, can quickly be detected and your safety assured.

Storage of gear, even for short periods, doesn't usually cause scuba equipment to develop performance problems, but sometimes it does. If the O-rings, seats and seals on the inside of your equipment are somewhat worn, the storage of this gear could promote leaks that show up next time you use your gear.

Many divers rinse their gear with a fresh-water hose. But soaking it for a few hours in fresh water is a better way to dissolve the salt and minerals that seep into the cracks and crevices of your gear. You dive with your gear for hours, so you should soak it in fresh water for hours, not just a couple minutes.

It is important to remember that this equipment is "life support" equipment, so treat it with the care your life deserves.

Bill Hardman teaches scuba, free diving and spearfishing through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 344-3483.