Plan Your Dive and Dive Your Plan: Buddy Check

When I was working through my Divemaster internship I assisted my Instructor (Don) with a night dive at Five Graves here on Maui. There were several divers in the group as well as the two of us. My job was to be the last one to descend and to stay in the rear of the group so that I could keep everyone together, as well as be in a position to help if a problem occurred.

Well, we worked our way down to the water through the rocks in the dark, we all got in, put our fins on, and descended…except me. It took me a while to realize that I had forgotten my weightbelt (BTW: This is an occupational hazard for Divemasters and Instructors. We take care of everyone else and forget about ourselves:)).

Don appeared at the surface to find out what the problem was. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to happen on this dive was that I would be the one with the problem! When I told him that I had left my weightbelt in my car, he asked if I could get out by myself, retrieve my weights, and return to the dive…I said I could.

Now, he descends back to the group, I work my way back to the entry, by myself, in the dark, (of course I had my light, but it felt freaky!) crawled back up the rocks, and walked back to my car. One more little problem…I could see my weightbelt on the floor of my car, but I had placed my car keys in my Instructor’s vehicle!

Now what!?! I didn’t want my instructor to be wondering and worrying where I was, soI looked around and found some rocks on the ground and began filling my BCD with them. I looked pretty weird, and of course there would be no opportunity for quick release in the event of a problem during my dive, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So I climbed back down into the water, alone, at night (I had always heard that was when sharks might be lurking about…) and luckily located the dive group by the glow of their lights. I descended to join them…er, attempted to descend! Turns out that the rocks here on Maui are volcanic, and so are porous. Not much weight to them! I struggled and finally made it down to the group, but I was very buoyant. I searched all around to find more rocks and finally found one big rock that I held onto and carried like a baby in my arms!

Of course, I would not have been much use to myself or to the other divers if a problem occurred, but at least I was down!

So, in spite of all the rocks, I was still having buoyancy problems. Any Instructor will tell you that fighting buoyancy leads to excessive air usage. Yep, I was the FIRST diver to run low on air. I was afraid to tell the Instructor, but when I finally had to do it, I could hear him shout “WHAT?” through his regulator.

He made me go to the surface and snorkel above the group until the end of the dive (I could hear that JAWS soundtrack in my mind the whole time…).

Well, no sharks showed up (Whew:)). I survived but I hated that I had been the problem and that I was of little use if someone else had a problem. I thought to myself that I did not deserve to be a Divemaster…But, after all was said and done, I learned from my many mistakes that night (No buddy check on myself before the dive? Exit and enter the water by myself? No quick release for my weight system?).

My instructor assured me that I would make a fine Divemaster regardless of my issues on this dive. Just take what I learned forward through my future experiences and try to not repeat mistakes (at least not too often :)).

Aloha, Teri

p.s. The photos in this entry are from some smart new divers, proving that they do indeed know how to do a buddy check. Thanks Jaison and Brandi!