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First-hand account of down current, with video footage

Discussion in 'Near Misses & Lessons Learned' started by Quero, Apr 20, 2012.

  1. yarik83

    yarik83 Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Florida
    I was going to write a critique of the video but I feel that my input will be more valuable if I provided a little more information about the dive site.

    I dove Santa Rosa exactly 6 times and every experience have been favorable. You are dropped on a huge patch of sand at depth of 45 feet. Once every diver is down DM usually leads the way through one of many swim throughs in the reef. From initial drop off reef looks no more than 15 feet tall but once you get around the other side you are overwhelmed with how drastically different everything looks. Reef starts at about 50-55 feet (where it goes about 15 feet up) and there is a 60 degree slope with very menacing looking dark blue water as far as eyes can see. Once you get to the other side of swim through... you have about 10-15 horizontal feet of clearance that very suddenly becomes a 60-70 degree slope down to about 130 feet or so. That ledge down below looks like its within arm's reach but because of how clear waters are... many new divers and divers that dive once in 25 years or so... very very very quickly lose track of how deep they really are. Last time I got down to 90 feet and was filming a parrot fish who nibbled on the reef. Out of corner of my eye I saw the 130ft ledge and thought to myself that it was not far. So fish does a twirly thing and then poops and I watch poop go down and down and down and down and down.. could not believe my eyes. I saw poop sink for about 40 feet in perfect clarity as if it was right next to me. Amazingly at 130ft ledge extends for probably 100ft horizontally after which there is a sheer drop off to (from what I heard 6000ft).

    Dive site lasts for about 30 minutes as far as I am concerned so with current we usually lingered towards the very last reef patch passing the time. I do very vividly remember that on days when current was particularly strong it was very difficult swimming in open areas between coral patches.

    Another thing is that Santa Rosa IS NOT a good place for beginning divers. It looks very doable on "inside" of the reef but not at all doable on outside. You have to be able to read the landscape and not overshoot into deep areas.

    Looking at your video... if it was me... I would have descended to the reef and continued from there. Looking at the video you were at the edge of 130ft ledge... or about 120ft away from where reef begins at 55ft.

    If I was in that situation I would have made the mistake of trying to cling to the reef. When I would have failed at that... I would have tried to swim out. But all and all.. my first thought would be to drop weights and get out of dodge. weight belt is not worth more to me than my life. I also carry a bag with me at all times so I can always use sand for weight in case I need more weight or if I ever have to ditch weight.

    Most importantly... I never ever ever ever ever descend by myself. Every time I go scuba diving I see divers time and again drop to 60ft and wait for group. I descend at my pace, check the gauges, twiddle with camera, check if buddies are ok, check compass and all that stuff.

    Thankfully in your situation nobody got hurt so do use this unfortunate event to modify your diving behavior. For better or for worse you know what can happen on dives that you are not trained for. In my case I had to sit out a 135 punta sur dive swim through because I knew I was not trained to dive deeper than 90ft and objected to diving. My dive crew, however did the dive and along and behold there were problems ranging from buoyancy to air consumption.
  2. Sorrows

    Sorrows Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Yarik, carrying a bag for sand weight is a very good idea! Have you ever had to use it? Is it hard to get sand in the bag--I mean, does the sand co-operate? I guess you could use rubble too, if it was available.

    My experience has been that (nearly always) the dive guide is down before the group, and definitely before I am. I MUST take my time getting down (women tend to carry their own flotation devices) and I can't go head first (ears). Thankfully, my husband is even slower than I am. (ears) But if you "take your time" how is it that you have never ended up descending by yourself? There are three of us diving together, but it is dammed hard to be truly together the whole way down, if you see what I mean. I like this leisurely process you describe, but usually by the time we slowpokes get to the group, they are already heading out.

    This is one of my major peeves with boat/DM-led dives, btw. What is the freaking hurry? When I was a new diver, I equated the experience with preparing to drop into France on D-Day. Go, go, go!!! I understand sometimes the hurry is because of challenging conditions or the DM is concerned with keeping everybody together, etc. etc. but sometimes I think they just want to get in and out already. IMHO, the rushing and stress and hurry to get to one point (and back again) is at least partly to blame for the problem of the air hog. Of course, if I'm (nearly) the last one down I'm also almost always the last person back on the boat --whatever! I just wish everybody would slow the heck down and enjoy the scenery!

    But back to Santa Rosa wall--I agree the visibility can mislead divers as to how deep they are. But it's also the very nature of being on a wall, don't you think? You don't feel the depth the way you do when you've got a gently sloping bottom.
  3. Heath Sapp

    Heath Sapp Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Crystal River , Florida, United States
    Marked 10.

    ---------- Post added ----------

    Thank you for posting this I read the entire thread, and watched the video, Eventhough there were mistakes I bet the poster will not make them again. Go take more classes and dive all the time, time underwater equals exp, and knowledge. Glad everyone made it home.
  4. yarik83

    yarik83 Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Florida
    I have had to use my sand bag on multiple occasions, mostly when my dive shop trainer is having a class and students are lacking weight after their checkout dives. We usually end up going to Boynton Beach where I sometimes have to take out a few pounds.

    My descend rate is about 2ft per second so in 1 minute I make my way down to 60ft. I do that for many reasons and here is why. I have literally just came from my 2 day trip to Boynton Beach. Today on our second morning dive (I had to abort due to regulator breaking again)... myself and I guess... 16 of us descend down. We have 2 dive flags with us and goal was to drop to the bottom and float. Normally students go up when they hit 1000psi so our group of 16 becomes 5 in less than half an hour. Well today we were dropped on top of the reef and along and behold students dropped like rocks, others were having problems equalizing, next thing you know I completely loose track of the dive flag carries because they started swimming west as they descended. Next thing you know we are all spread out like unregulated flock of young geese. I realize that I am having problem with my regulator again and look at my air dwindle 5 times faster. One hand on my pony bottle, other on my computers... my dive buddy loops around and lets me know what the problem is. I tell him that I am ok to continue and that I will leave him with the dive flag. Of course dive flag was gooooone. Off in the distance I see a fin. I swim there and see a newbie looking around rather nervously. My first instinct was to calm him down. I left my buddy with him and sprinted after another newbie who went in a completely different direction. I bring her back and let them know my dive plan. We would look for 60 seconds and then go up. By that time 5 minutes into dive my tank is at 2000psi with air leaking like crazy. I have been blowing o-rings for months and we could not figure out whether it was my new tanks or my 1st stage. Turns out it was not the tanks. In any event I rounded up the troops and we all went up... did the safety stop and by that time my air was at 960psi. We surface and I use my whistle to signal the boat. I see flags waaaaaaaaaay out there in a completely different direction. They were on inside of reef while rest of us were on outside where current was going the other way. We get back to the boat and my dive buddy and 2 newbies grab a flag and descend. I spent the rest of the trip (thankfully this was our second dive of the day) eating watermelon.

    What has gone wrong?
    #1 Half the group dropped like stones and were not paying attention to dive flag carries.
    #2 quarter of group had issues equalizing so were sinking a lot slower.
    #3 dive flag carries did not swim down but west and down. Horizontal visibility was maybe 20 feet on the surface so they were not to be seen.
    #4 one dive flag surfaced and stayed there for a few minutes.
    #5 by time we surfaced they all started surfacing while dive flag carriers were each swimming with 2 other people. That means 10 people had to surface, be picked up without a dive flag.
    #6 having 2 currents only complicates things because inside and outside both go different ways while top side current goes in 3rd direction.
  5. SBP Studios

    SBP Studios Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: SW USA
    Are there any shore dives or non drift type Dives in Cozumel that might be a good idea for a beginning Teens first dives?
  6. DandyDon

    DandyDon Old men ought to be explorers ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: One kilometer high on the Texas Central Plains
    I guess you could do some diving at Chankanaab park. You'd have to inquire directly or on the Coz forum, tho - as I haven't done it.

    The currents & eddies can be challenging at Cozumel, but very rarely dangerous. I know you want to keep your family safe, but I guess you let your daughter have a drivers license? My grandson totaled 2 vehicles early in his driving career, then nearly killed himself on a bicycle - there is just so much we can do.
  7. pughio83

    pughio83 Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Nottingham
    The video was certainly an eye opener, looks horrible and having been in a downcurrent in Palau I can appreciate how the diver must have felt. Great info on the following posts as well, very informative.

    Can anyone recommend any good fins for strong current diving. I currently have tusa full foot splits and although I love these for macro dive destinations, they aren't old enough from my experience in strong currents. Diving nusa penida next month so want to have fins up for the job. Tnx
  8. yarik83

    yarik83 Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Florida
    Having been diving in Cozumel quite a few times there are few things you should take under advisement.

    #1 there is almost always a current.
    #2 More often than not there is a general current from south to north and in between reefs you also get a cross current that either sucks you in or spits you out.

    As far as shore diving goes my last and only shore dive was here:

    We stayed at Casa Del Mar where you had to cross the road using walkway. On one side (you can use google street view) we would go ahead and use the stairs and dove along the pier. Current there was pretty much non existent and it was actually kind of interesting to look at 2 submarines parked there. We swam under the pier for a bit catching sight of small octopus and some small patches of coral with a fish or two. The second we got over to the other side current took us like crazy. We were swimming probably 20 feet away from rocky shore and ended up here:

    We traveled about 3 kilometers in about 5 minutes with the current. That was our night dive. As soon as we got out it was about 100 degrees farenheight out there and about 3 in the morning. We had to walk back wearing gear, tanks, wetsuits and all for 3km to get back to the pier we left from.

    In my experience there is really not much shore diving to be done at cozumel unless you are around resort places like paradise beach. Be careful though, boat traffic is crazy and number of divers measures by hundreds.

    I dove off paradise and I kind you not I could barely see the reef. There must have been about 100 boats out and probably close to a 1000 divers there. Bubbles, fins, bodies everywhere. We were doing our safety stop after diving in deeper spot and due to amazing vis we had perfect view of paradise reef area.
  9. frontiernurse

    frontiernurse Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: san francisco
    Why was my recent post removed? I'm not mad, just wondering if I said something weird? Thanks.
  10. Quero

    Quero Will be missed Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Phuket, Thailand
    If you posted it between the 22nd and the 27th, your post was lost with all other posts published during that period due to a data corruption problem on SB. Feel free to repost your thoughts! FWIW, I saw your post by way of the email notification function, and there was nothing weird about it. IIRC, you mentioned that you had experienced a down current someplace (Solomons?) and remembering the thread, you were able to keep your head and not let stress get the better of you. Is that correct?

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