Pretty New Diver Looking for Tips to Better Handle Future "Situations"

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

Pittsburgh_Mom

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
110
Reaction score
42
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
# of dives
0 - 24
Hiya, all! Very new here. I have been reading all through the posts on these boards so have already gotten some tips and ideas, but I would really like to reach out for more support. I had a rough few dives the last few days, including one that left me feeling a bit scared and upset while it was occurring. I'm looking forward to diving again in the future (not scared of) but would greatly appreciate some (hopefully kind, but true) insight into areas I may not have considered and tips for what I could have done differently/better so that, if these sort of situations come up in the future, I can handle them better. Sorry for such a long post, but I'd love help with Day 1 or Day 2 troubleshooting.

So, about me: I am basically steady and comfortable as a new diver, with tons to learn and grow towards, of course. The few dives I had previously were training dives to get my OW and then some diving in Jamaica, which was great--great vis, fairly calm water, great DM/guides with our little group, etc. My dive buddy is my husband. He dove a lot years ago, then took a hiatus, and now we're starting to dive together.

Setting up for the dives: We booked a trip to come down to Key Largo this past week, and we really excited to get some diving in this past week in Key Largo. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Elsa came through right before we got there--it was still lashing through parts of Florida the day our plane came in. We called the dive operators where we had our dives scheduled over 2 days, and they both said everyone was still diving and it would be fine.

Dive Day 1: We had 2 dives planned. Overall, it went well for the first dive. After the first dive, we had to wait on the surface while the entire group got back on the boat. I was last, and found that bobbing on the surface made me really sick. I got back on the boat but could not clear my ears for the second dive because I could not stop vomiting and was getting congested. Of note, of maybe 11 diver passengers, 3 of us were vomiting, including 2 divers who noted they each had around 500 dives (when I chatted with them later). This made me feel better... I'm not the only one affected, though I'm new. Based on reading this forum a lot, I think waiting outside after check-in and before the boat left (we waited for about 1 hour in 95ish degree heat) was a big contributor. Maybe some stress or nervousness about doing well. Taking lots of salt water in the face while bobbing on the surface in the heat waiting to get back in the boat. Looks like a scopamine patch may be great to help me not get sick in the future (as I learned from day 2, below, Bonine does not quite do it for me in rough waters or lots of surge). Anything else I'm missing here?

Dive Day 2: Horrible. Here's where I'd really like some troubleshooting so I don't have a repeat. We went to a different operator for day 2 because the operator from day 1 had been fully booked on this day. We had 4 dives planned: 2 AM (I went down for both), 2 PM (we canceled).

In the AM, they did not have enough gear for us and we were held up a bit while they went to find a spare regulator and some other gear other folks needed. Not too long of a wait in the heat, though... maybe 15 minutes, so probably typical? As soon as we were away from the shore, the waters were clearly rough. Tanks kept raising and slamming. Something glass at the front of the boat flipped to the floor and shattered. The captain warned that vis was fairly bad and they had to pick a new site than originally planned. On dive 1, like the previous day, I had no problems, though I was not feeling emotionally thrilled with the operator. Mostly little things and I told myself I was being a baby and they were not there to coddle me. Our assigned DM/guide (not sure what to call him) did not really speak to any of us--I was put into a group of 5 divers, and he was supposed to brief us and stay with us. They had to go find him to brief us, which he did not really do, and then had to find him again when it was time for us to go in. Also, there was no downline, and a crew member chuckled at me when I asked if I could descend on it, telling me "our boats don't do that... you just descend where you jump in. You'll be fine." Turns out, I was. No issues with my ears--hooray! I guess I just felt like the crew basically did not care about the divers, but again, I am sure I was being oversensitive as a new diver hoping to do well and feel more confident.

Regardless, dive 1 went okay... though vis was worse than the day before (MAYBE 10-15 feet tops), and current was way stronger. We were at a shallow reef, and there was a fair amount of surge. There was not as much to see except when we were inside of coral "cave" areas (not really caves, but some swim unders and swim throughs and such that seemed to shelter us a smidge from the surge. Overall, I felt good about how I handled myself. When we surfaced, I got back on the boat and managed to not get sick (I'd taken 2 Bonine 1 hour 30 minutes before diving based on package directions).

When we reached the second dive site a bit later, the captain let us know he also could not make it to the originally planned site so had circled back to a spot on the first reef. I was starting to get incredibly nauseous, so my buddy/husband helped me to gear up, and the first mate told me to get in quickly and go under the mooring ball and wait on the bottom. I asked about my husband and the guide, and she told me I should hurry in and under so I did not get sick, and assured me they would send my guide right after and he would come to me, and we'd join our little group of 5 (3 divers together, plus my husband and I as a pair). I noticed my guide did not have his fins on, but did not have much time to think about it, as they were assisting us with pushes because they wanted us to hurry because of how high many waves were and gave me a shove into my long stride before I could say anything else. I went in and did a free descent again, staying as close to under the mooring ball as possible.

I waited at the bottom for about 5 minutes, looking up constantly and adjusting my position the best I could, as the current (surge?) was much stronger than I had ever experienced. No one came besides fish. After about 5 minutes, I went to the surface to look around. I was within about 10 feet of the ball, but no one else was at the surface near me, and no one in the boat was looking my way. I stayed on the surface, getting bounced in the waves. After a moment, the first mate on the ship saw me and waved and shouted to ask where my group was. I shouted back that no one had come. She shrugged and pointed off to the side and indicated I should swim that way and look for the group again. I descended and did so, but I could not find anyone.

After 5 minutes or so, I went back to the surface. I was in the general direction she'd sent me, but further from the boat. She indicated I should descend again, so I did, and waited at the bottom. The clouds had come out and so sunlight was not coming down through the water as much; it was much darker and I was starting to feel scared but trying hard to stay calm. Vis was even worse where I was now, and I could not see much more than 5 feet or so ahead of me, and even at 5 feet it was murky. I was also feeling really sick to my stomach from my time on the surface and my time in the surge underwater pulling me around. I ascended a third time, and this time tried to signal that I was not okay.

The waves were high and smashing my face. I was having a hard time keeping my regulator in, and my mask kept getting knocked hard, flooding my contact lenses with salt water. At some point a few minutes later, while trying to stay on the surface with my eyes on the boat, a diver approached me with an orange flotation device with a line attached to it. It was my "guide", who told me to hurry up and follow the line, and then he'd go back down. I asked him where my husband was, and he disappeared and then resurfaced with my husband when I was halfway back on the line. I got a cramp in my leg, tried not to vomit, and eventually got back on the boat. I just clung miserably to the side ladder and vomited repeatedly. My husband stayed with me on the boat. A few other divers returned alone, early, also sick. I observed other boats nearby with divers struggling to get on boats, divers being sick, etc., and the other boats left one-by-one, and then we left. Basically everyone who dove from my boat on dive 2 said there was nothing to see, and most people seemed to feel some level of seasick. Several others vomited. The highlight were some reef sharks that apparently surfaced next to the boat over where the group was diving, but no one in the water saw them.
  • This day, I took 2 Bonine in the morning before diving--I don't think it helped much, but maybe it did some.
  • The DM who was assigned to my little group never came to find me underwater. Husband said the DM & our group splashed about 5 minutes after I went in, but they did not move towards the mooring ball at any point. Apparently, the guide had only come to find me when my husband surfaced and no one knew where I was.
  • I felt so alone and unprepared for this. I was starting to feel really scared both under water and on the surface, as I started getting pushed further and further from the boat, and no one seemed to see me for awhile when I first surfaced.
  • Am I doomed to not be able to become a good diver? Diving 2 (ha, maybe 2.5) of 6 dives planned makes me feel awful!

Sorry for that novel.... Hoping for some insight to help me feel better in the future, and to hopefully avoid these sort of "dives lost" in the future. Thank you!
 

tridacna

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Scuba Instructor
Divemaster
Messages
8,207
Reaction score
5,815
Location
New Jersey
# of dives
2500 - 4999
Sounds like a horrible time. Who was the operator?
 

Marie13

Great Lakes Mermaid
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
10,446
Reaction score
9,281
Location
Great Lakes
# of dives
200 - 499
Take your preferred seasickness meds the night before diving AND the morning of. Made a huge difference for me with Great Lakes chop (I don’t dive tropical).

If you aren’t getting warm fuzzies on the boat, don’t dive. There have been plenty of times when I’ve called dives on charters I’ve paid for.

Anyone can call a dive - even before it happens - at any time, for any reason.
 

Diverlady13

Contributor
Messages
252
Reaction score
170
Location
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
# of dives
50 - 99
That sounds dreadful! We had a not-so-awesome experience with a dive op in Key Largo...could be the same one. On that trip (in December) what struck me is that some of the crews were fantastic and others were not great. One of the big things was the OP rushing us into the water. It was all hurry hurry hurry. Now that I have more experience, I'd be more firm about taking my time. I'm not slow to get ready, but I will not be hurried along before doing my own safety checks.

So, a few things. First, ignore the directions on the box of bonine or Dramamine. You need to take it a lot earlier - like the night before for morning dives. I am prone to seasickness. I usually use the less-drowsy Dramamine (but sometimes generic bonine). I take it every night while on a diving trip and then again in the morning because I don't want it to wear off for afternoon or night dives. Only after I started taking it at night did it help me.

Second, you are a certified diver and are responsible for your kit and entry. I would be livid if someone pushed me into the water before I was quite ready to make the jump. This happened to me in Key Largo and I was pretty damn mad about it. I don't mind someone helping a bit if it's an odd entry, but don't push me to hurry me along. I'm not slow to enter. I've done some dives where a seated entry was the best way to enter (mostly cenotes in Mexico) and then I did appreciate a little lift and push, but it was offered in advance, not thrust upon me (ha ha).

If you are every uncomfortable, scared, or just not feeling it, it is perfectly OK to call the dive. Better to be on deck and wishing you were in the water than in the water and wishing you were on the boat! I've had a couple of dives that I absolutely hated. I really dislike night diving, so I avoid it. I do love diving just before dusk, so if I'm going out on a boat and those are the 2 dives, I'm happy to sit out the second. I'm going to give it one more try in August and if I still hate it thats OK.

I don't think you're doomed as a diver. You will gain confidence as you dive more and will likely be more confident in standing up for yourself in certain situations and also knowing when to call the dive. Just keep diving and recognize that just because some DM or boat captain tries to tell you what to do, (to a certain extent) you don't have to do it. (I mean, the captain is in charge of the boat, so you need to follow boat related rules, but if you're not comfortable waiting on the bottom, then wait on the surface. Yes, this may make you more seasick.) I'll note that something similar happened with me and my husband. Another diver managed to jump in with a gear issue...something that should have been caught by the diver before entry, but again, we were being rushed. So the DM told us to wait on the bottom. We waited for at least 10 minutes which really shortened the overall dive. It was super disorganized. The DM should have ensured the diver got back to the boat and then come down. That diver could have gone with the next group (he wasn't with a buddy). Next time I'd refuse and wait on the surface so as not to use up a bunch of gas before even starting the dive.

I'm really sorry you had such a bad experience. We were in Key Largo in December and the vis was really good, despite the weather not being great. (It was mostly cold and rainy.) Since we were there, several people have recommended different dive ops. I'd like to go back and dive with one of those ops instead, especially now that I do have more experience and more confidence. I really want to dive the Speigel Grove again with a smaller group.
 

James79

Reinventor of Wheels
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
1,131
Reaction score
1,596
Location
Lower Alabama
# of dives
50 - 99
I'm not a pro by any means, but my 2 cents:

Sick is sick... not anything you did wrong, and from the description it was the conditions (not you) as evidenced by how many others were ill.

As others have said, anyone can call the dive at any time.... better to be on the boat (or shore) wishing you were in the water, than in the water wishing you were on the boat!

Regarding the operator... rushing you (to the point of pushing you in) would have me angry. If they did that to my wife, we would have serious words (or more). That was just an unacceptable behavior for the dive op to do.

Alone and unprepared feelings... you're new to operating in an environment the human body wasn't designed for. Nothing wrong with how you felt, I'd even say it's a normal response to the situation you were put in.

So, in a nutshell, sounds like you made pretty good judgement calls ( I might have called the dive on dive 2 of day 2 sooner, but that's just me) and just had a crap dive op on day 2. Your comfort level will grow with experience, but that will also mean getting comfortable with calling the dive sometimes. You're not "doomed," you just had a bad trip. Enjoy the dives to come.... it just gets better!

Respectfully,

James
 

Centrals

Contributor
Messages
11,128
Reaction score
4,229
Location
Hong Kong
# of dives
I am afraid it is part of the learning curve for new divers or even the experienced. A competent operator can make or break your fun but there is NO easy way to know that.
At least the OP has found out that she is prone to sea-sickness and will take necessary precaution to avoid it happen again. Imagine if she only finds out in an expensive LoB trip.
To call the dive is the most sensitive thing under those conditions.
Choose the location carefully next time. There are many places with benign conditions for the relative inexperienced.
 

Diverlady13

Contributor
Messages
252
Reaction score
170
Location
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
# of dives
50 - 99
One more thing...knowing when to call the dive is a skill that you will develop. I've called a few dives when I just wasn't into it for whatever reason and I've seen much more experienced divers do the same. I think, for very new divers, many feel that it's not OK or that it makes them look inexperienced. It's OK to not have experience. In fact, when I meet very experienced divers that I may be diving with on boats, I will let them know that I don't have nearly their experience. People are often so helpful when they know you are open to learning and hearing suggestions. You don't have to follow those suggestions (I often don't), but it sure is nice to hear about different techniques.

Anyway, where I was going with this is that as a newer diver it's sometimes more difficult to discern whether you should call the dive. It is particularly so when others (DMs or other divers) are encouraging you to go. If you're unsure, ask enough questions to either be comfortable splashing or bow out. Early this year I witnessed something that could have ended very very badly and it really hit home that one should recognize their experience or lack thereof and make decisions based on both experience and comfort level....not just do the dive because someone else says it's OK. TL:DR basically a brand new diver was on a dive that he never should have been on. He (and his wife) shouldn't have been let to do the dive in the first place, but they were encouraged to do so even though the dive had some pretty big red flags for people with only 5 dives that had been certified the afternoon before. So the guy did surface on his own (thankfully!!!), but was completely OOA. I mean, zero air in the cylinder. He looked pretty panicked and later commented that it was too early to be doing the dive. He learned an important lesson, but the way he learned it was pretty scary.
 

Curious_George

Green water guy
Messages
376
Reaction score
346
Location
Arkansas
# of dives
100 - 199
I think you did great. Nothing to feel bad about. As has been said, work on how you take your nausea meds. Plus, keep diving - it will get easier and less stressful as your experience increases.

A couple thoughts: 1) I would not agree to splash or submerge unless your buddy is with you. 2) Think about the optimum time to start kitting up. If you know how long to the dive site, use that info to make sure you don’t have to rush and are ready don BC/fins and splash as soon as the boat stops. May not be feasible in every situation, but a good goal.
 

Marie13

Great Lakes Mermaid
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
10,446
Reaction score
9,281
Location
Great Lakes
# of dives
200 - 499
Just read they PUSHED you into the water? :rant:
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/teric/

Top Bottom