Some interesting dives

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R.Chisholm

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Location
Switzerland
# of dives
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I thought I’d contribute a story in the spirit of some light reading for the weekend.

I am a member of a diving club and we decided on a weeklong trip to a country with a rugged western Atlantic coast in Europe.

It wasn’t at all easy to find an operator – given the areas reputation for strong surges, high tides & cold water but we finally found a shop that agreed to offer a trip for a week.

We headed out that and met the operator on the evening of our flight – he asked everyone to contribute their most advanced cert card.

Many of the cards of various club members turned out to be a mystery to him – Helium – you can dive with that?

We agreed to meet at the dive shop and drive to the local harbour on the next day.

Below follows a report on some interesting dives

Dive #1
The first dive didn’t get off to a good start after one of the staff dropped all the weight belts in to the harbour. Who would volunteer to fetch them in the murky oil slick covered water?

After 5 minutes with no paying customer volunteers the skipper went to fetch them himself with somewhat bad grace.

We then went out to sea in a RIB for ca 20 minutes.

The skipper then announces that this will be a very advanced drift dive suitable for us holders of dual OWD AND AOWD cards as well as great training opportunity aspirants to the exalted AOWD status doing their deep dive like the guest he has brought along.

Now I am diving air with a 12 l steel tank in a configuration I have never dived before – shell dry suit, thick under suit, salt water, a single first stage regulator, and travel wing with light aluminium back plate.

How much lead do I need? I am not entirely sure but calculate an approximation and take 10 kg.

The conditions are a bit choppy. We all enter the water and descend to 30 m. We start swimming quite rapidly along a series of pretty but confusing canyons following the dive guide – and stay at this depth for 15 minutes.

I keep watching the NDL time run down on my dive computer. I don’t mind a little deco but hate doing it in a rec configuration.

The dive guide is swimming well ahead of me now at some speed and not looking back. I could ascend but he probably won’t notice. The constant turns in the canyon are confusing – if I swim any higher will I lose the guide ? Will the RIB find us if I ascend in these conditions?

We keep going and ascend a bit to 25m taking multiple turns in the canyons. I now have six minutes of deco to do and 40 bars left.

Turns out I didn’t have enough weight so I rocketed to the surface while frantically dumping all the air I can from the wing and dry suit.

The guide has ascended as well and was entering the boat without looking back.

I decided to descend again finning rapidly against the buoyant tank, suit and wing. I managed to hold on to some kelp at a depth of 10m.

Having missed six minutes of deco I then breathed the tank dry before ascending figuring CESA was probably an improvement on a missed deco stop (I do a bit of free diving).

On ascending the boat I told the guide I wasn’t pleased about having to do decompression diving with a rec setup on a checkout dive – apparently that never happened because as a professional with the professionally association of diving instructors ™ we would have been exceeding his agency limits which he wasn’t allowed to do.

Clearly therefore my computer was wrong or set up incorrectly. As were the other 4 computers of the other divers – all of which exceeded NDL limits – all different models.

Dive #2
The next day we would be doing a shore dive with another dive guide who turned out to be on a course to become a dive master. This will be a nice dive in a protected cove apparently.

We will enter from the shore, swim through the surf and start our dive along the base of a cliff.

The sky is dark and cloudy. The soon to be PAID^h^h^h^hPADI dive master is staring with no eye contact at a piece of paper and going through his site briefing.

He is rather hard to understand – he is mumbling and there is a strong wind. Something about an arch and a swim through. Clearly he has never been here before.

We enter the water. There are 3 m waves breaking on the rocks. I am glad I didn’t bring the camera.

We make it through the rocks and descend. Visibility is very poor – there is a lot of debris – sand and torn kelp in the water and not much light. We follow the guide. I take out and switch on a torch.

We get to the swim through ? arch ? cave ?– a black hole with no light. The guide who has no light disappears.

We follow. It isn’t very deep and at least we are no longer being battered by the surge – after a few minutes I can dimly see a bit of light at what must be the end of the swim through but not the guide.

We arrive at the end of the arch and find the guide. I offer him a spare torch but he is off. We follow.

We get to the other end of the arch and the surf is now really tough – I’ finning like mad and using incredible amounts of air especially due to having to continually adjust buoyancy in the dry suit.

I signal to the guide that I am down to 40 bars. He makes the upwards sign and swims off – I decide to follow him - it isn’t safe splitting up in these conditions. I get down to 10 bars and am just about to ascend on my own when he aborts the dive.

Getting through the surf without injury or damaging the dry suit wasn’t easy either.

I gave the guide a lecture after getting back to shore – lack of torch – he says he can’t afford one.

But can apparently afford a zero2hero course that will give him a shiny new dive master cert card which is clearly much more useful.

Oh – apparently the ascend sign means ascend sometime in the next 15 minutes – we live and learn.

Lessons learned

The operator we found turned out retroactively to have a bread and butter business largely focused on swimming pool based OWD certification as well as taking a mark-up on trips on cattle boats to warmer climes.

Don’t assume that a local dive shop has staff qualified to dive – let alone lead - local dives – especially if this isn’t a popular destination.

No aggressive checkout dives in an unknown configuration with an unknown weight configuration.

Dive lights are not only for caves, night dives and looking in to holes - for some dives all participants need one even during daylight.

You may think you will never run out of air - sometimes however the choice is risking that vs. losing your group or missing a deco stop.
 
Last edited:

yle

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Sounds like you were willingly led into dives in very challenging conditions with little or no planning beforehand. Your narrative seems to imply that the decision to dive and to plan for them was entirely the responsibility of your guides. My OW course emphasized that a diver's decision to dive belongs exclusively to the diver.

I like the "lecturing" of the guides afterward also.
 
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