To dive or not to dive. One of the axioms we learn early in our dive training is that any diver can cancel any dive for any reason. However, many times we forget that and shirk off concerns and dive anyway.
Dive within Your Comfort Zone
While sitting in our arm chair and reading about dive incidents that take a divers life, it is very easy to play Monday morning quarterback and point out where the diver made an fatal error in judgment. When you are on a dive boat and all caught up in the activity it is not as easy always. While we know we can cancel a dive for any reason, often we will not act upon the feeling that we should cancel. We all know that to grow we need to move out of our comfort zone. However, we need to do it in small steps. Do not let ego place you in a bad situation. Have a good feel for your skill and experience level and if the diving conditions greatly exceeds those, then cancel the dive or at least modify it in possible. When you make this evaluation consider also your physical fitness and the frequency of your diving. If you have not exercised and not dived in a few years, start with a relax shallow dive to get back into the diving.
No Diving When sick
If you are not feeling well consider canceling the dive. There are a couple of reasons. First you may be dehydrated as a result of your illness. This will increase your risk of DCS. Also the illness and /or the medicine you may be taking to treat it can also increase your risk of DCS and may also impact on your ability to reason and react. Decongestant may open up your sinus before dive but may weaken during the dive leading to equalization problems. While speaking about medicine, male divers taking those little “blue pills” should consider restricting their depths if using Nitrox. There have been cases of oxygen toxicity in divers using them at only 1.2pp. Much below the level considered a safe exposure.
Respect Mother Nature
Earlier this year in the Philippines, three technical divers from Japan including one instructor died. The three divers went missing after a shore dive, but that was not known until one of the bodies washed ashore. With all due respect,The divers made a number of mistakes that lead to their deaths. There was no shore party and no one really knew they were diving. They had never dived in the area and did not have a local guide. The biggest mistake was not respecting the power of mother nature. They went shore diving because the boat dive they had scheduled was canceled. Sever storm warning and dangerous storm surges brought all small boats to shore or protected anchorage. Knowing of the dangerous conditions they went into the water anyway.
I have a personal story about respecting mother nature, happily no on died but it was mostly luck that no one did. Here is the short version. In July 1999, my dive buddy and I took a trip to the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef that included a short Liveaboard. The liveaboard was a 29 meter sailing ketch, with myself and my dive buddy, two experienced divers, five open water students, a dive master and an instructor. The “crew” was the captain and the cook. The evening we departed from the port going to the outer reefs, we were told that the weather was not very good so we would just head to Hook Island for the night. In the morning we woke to fine that we were in a calm protected bay, but we could see a mean sea outside of the protection of the bay. We spent the day diving there and have great dives.
The next morning the captain told us that there was a break in the weather and we would be able to make a fast trip out to the outer reefs before the wind picked back up. He stated, “You paid for a outer reef adventure and I will make sure you have one”. The first hour of the trip was windy and the sea rough but not very bad. Then it all changed, the gale force winds returned and waves were breaking over the bow. At one point, the ship pitched and tilted at about a 45° angle. I slid from where I was sitting, under the seats at the rail and barely grabbed the railing, from the waist down I was in the water. The other divers pulled me back aboard. Eventually we made it to the reef we were headed to. There the winds was still strong, but the water was not too rough. Everyone was seasick, but the instructor was telling everyone they would feel better once we were in the water. My dive buddy and I disagreed and did not dive but went to the cabin to recover from the trip in. The two certified divers went in first and shortly after the five students with the two dive professionals. The certified divers returned within minutes saying the conditions were not to their liking. A little more than a hour later, we were called back on deck as the remaining divers were over 20 minutes late returning to the boat. The boat captain had taken the small RIB looking around the reef and saw no signs of them. He believed that they must of past the boat on their return and got caught in the current. We joined the current and went looking for them in high seas and high winds. After looking for three hours, one of the other divers saw the safety sausages. It took us another 2 hours to catch the group. In total those divers were in the water for almost 7 hours and by the time we got them aboard only had about 30 minutes of sunlight left for the day. My dive buddy was an emergency room nurse and had everything ready to treat them for hypothermia.
Do Not Just Make Do
If your dive equipment is not 100% operational, consider canceling the dive. Something simple as a frequently flooding mask can distract you and lead to an compounding mistake.
Diving is a safe sport, but you need to know when it is not a safe dive, and only you can make that judgment for you.