…Heavy Be The Crown?
If you have ever been a leader in one of your dives then you know exactly what I mean. Leading can be as much fun as it is an instructive tool. The few times I have happened to lead a dive this far in my diving experience it has taught me many many things, most of all, choose your dive crew carefully or die stressed and shriveled! No seriously, dive guides are specially trained divers usually to the level of Dive Masters across the board of dive schools with differing requirements depending on school such as SSI, Padi, Naui and others the general idea is of course being that at the end of training an experienced Dive Master can foresee and avoid most dive emergencies by enforcing preventative safety protocols and measures. Taking all things into consideration and adapting to all new challenges in real time while the dive is in progress is the short description of a dive leader. This might seem simple and it is, in simple dives with comfortable crews which I admit it has been my experience so far…
The most important thing above and below the water is knowing where you are and where everything you need is whether that is an oxygen therapy chamber at the nearest hospital or your buddy’s octopus. Knowing where and how soon emergency services are at each dive site you use is paramount. Always make sure at least one of you has a mobile phone with a strong signal and charged battery for emergencies. Always let people know where you are going. Check all your equipment thoroughly before each dive, even repetitive dives! Always check weather conditions before your outing to avoid disappointment when you arrive at a stormy wavy sea! You can check weather forecasts for Cyprus using the local Oceanographic Institute’s Website! Its correct 95% of the time! Remember to attach a dive float or buoy at your entry point if necessary, mark anchor depth and compass bearing for shore (usually done for beach entry dive sites with little or no recognizable features).
People sometimes mention a few words about the dive site area if there are any amenities nearby such as showers or toilets and of course if there is anything worthwhile seeing during the dive, whether rock formation or brilliant fish! Most people will already know where they are and at least it has been my experience here in Cyprus that the best dive sites are in the middle of nowhere or quite far from any facilities. “Take what you need” are words crafted with wisdom.
Review a rough or neat dive site map with your group and present the dive plan making sure you make it understood that no deviation from the dive plan is allowed barring serious emergency. Make sure you make the maximum dive depth clearly known to all. One other safe way to ensure a great dive, is to say that YOUR depth is the maximum depth for the dive. No diver should look up at you. Shallower is allowed, deeper is not. Ensure that signing for “Problem”, “OK”, “STOP”, “Safety Stop”, “Check Air” are well known to all your party members. If group is an even number, pair everyone. If the group is an odd number pair everyone and buddy up with the remaining diver yourself.
During Your Dive
While descending make sure you memorize each fellow divers unique colours or identifying features. Faces will not be much help below the waves. Memorize fin shape and colour aswell as wetsuit logos or patterns. Once starting depth is reaches perform a check. Once everyone is OK and comfortable, proceed with the dive. Swim slowly letting people adjust to the surrounding and to you pointing out any interesting features or fish along the way. Remember to check air consumption more frequently at the beginning of the dive to figure out an average air consumption estimate for each diver or better yet figure out which of the divers is the air hog on who the dive duration will ultimately depend. When the Air Hog reaches 50% air, the dive is over and you should start the return journey back. This is assuming that you plan your dive in such a manner to circumnavigate the available dive site area allowing for a nice viewing while remaining well into safety limits for air consumption. If no one is an Air Hog the dive is concluded when the allotted time for the dive has run out. That is if you planned a 40 minute dive, the midpoint of the dive would be at 50% Air Hog Air, or at 20 minutes, which ever comes first. Swimming slowly keeps your group together and avoids air wastage. Monitor your groups ascent and safety stop carefully and if necessary extend the safety stop to accommodate various people arriving a bit late to the safety stop depth, but its better to try and ascend as a group allowing you to go through the safety stop together. (One trick while diving, is to swim slowly upside down. You can see your whole group quite well this way)
Post-Dive & Debrief
Exit the water as a group and help eachother removing fins and equipment if necessary. Stow your equipment as required and talk a bit about the dive spotting interesting areas to explore in the future, mistakes made that should be corrected in future dives and generally have a constructive dive debriefing as described in our previous post here. Keeping to tradition…every dive crew is cursed by the Midnight Soloist, usually!
The Curse Of The Midnight Soloist
What does this curse entail you ask? Well, this is a diver that does not care that you are a group or buddies. He is in a trance with the melody of nature around him. This isn’t a potentially dangerous environment, this is his back yard…plus breathing equipment and around 20 degrees colder! Why would he give you the time of day to keep an eye out for ya or check your air? You did all those things yourself on the surface…In short, he is an accident waiting to happen. Added to this the mentality of the “OH Fish, OH Rock, OH Itch”, may create problems in any dive crew or team. The simple matter of taking care of those who are in line is made nearly impossible if you have someone paying hide and seek on a rough reef.
Is Murder Really A Solution?
NO! Are you crazy! Clear cut limits, THAT is your solution. Firm understanding that as dive leader you command the dive and need not confer with anyone on any decision whether it is depth, time or navigation of the dive (allow leeway of course for reasonable input from your dive crew). Before you even start the dive, make it abundantly clear what the max depth of the dive should be and in the absence of any reading or depth measure the dive leader’s depth is the maximum depth. Simple? Yes.
Even so, there are times that some divers will not conform. That rests on judgement of any dive leader at the spot. Most dive guides I have met simply take the stress of stupid actions by people in the group and simply carry on. As a leisure activity though diving can be dangerous enough without having people who cannot follow simple depth or direction instructions. People will make their own choices as to who they bring on their dives that is for sure…but if you are one of those people who has left people out of your crew because they were reckless and failed to comply on more than one occasion to simple safety protocols set forth in the dive plan agreed upon, then stop feeling bad because you are in the company of thousands. If on the other hand you are one of those divers who never follows instruction or never sticks to the dive plan…shape up. If you won’t kill yourself at some future juncture, you might kill someone that is diving with you. Get your act together, follow your dive guide’s instruction to the letter so that you may relax and let someone else worry his arse off while you enjoy the wonders of the deep!