Today was an amazing day for diving, sunny day, no waves, great visibility, warm water, slow current…all the elements for a perfect dive at Santa Rosa wall.
I have a group of 8 divers and even that by standards I am allowed to take them all on my own, I listened to that little voice inside my head ( the same one that at times spoke with me and convinced me that nothing will happen if i drink 10 tequila shots in 30 min ) and decided to bring another Instructor to give me a hand and divide the group of 8 in two small groups of 5 and 3.
I have in my group 3 divers that were diving with me for the very first time and a couple that have being diving with me for several years already. Raul, the other instructor, had 3 divers that were diving also for the first time with us.
We jumped in the water with a small gap in time between each group, mine was the first …
The descent was very smooth and without problems and short after i was drifting slowly over the edge of Santa Rosa wall… in fact more over the “inside” edge of wall rather that the drop off since I wanted to give some time to my “new divers” ( new in the sense that it was their first wall/drift dive) to get used to the drift…around 5 or 6 minutes into the dive I took my group into a tunnel that began on the sandy area and opened up to the wall, a magnificent view coming out of that dark swim through to find yourself hanging above 500 ft of deep water!!!
All my divers were doing fine and having a good time and it was then when I noticed that one of the divers from Raul’s group was way ahead of him…so… I signaled to Raul asking what the deal was just at the same time that he was banging the hell out of his tank trying to get the diver’s attention with one hand while with the other signaling to me that the diver was kind of just..a wanderer to say it in a polite way..meanwhile the other 2 divers were…mmmm…lets put it this way: surviving the dive. At this point I was so happy of not being Raul and having to deal with a diver that just takes off and 2 divers that need a lot of attention.
The dive carried on and after a while and one more swim through I saw Raul leading his group towards the shallows and away from the drop off, well…let me rephrase this: I saw Raul swimming towards the sandy area, 2 divers trying to follow him while performing a sort of dance/swim/wrestling act and another diver just going along the wall completely oblivious about where his group and Divemaster was…just to make this picture a little more crispy: Divemaster is already at 55 ft swimming between 2 massive corals, breakdance divers are at 40 ft keeping their buoyancy within the limits of safety…and Mr. I am in my own is at 80 ft cruising along the wall… mmmmm…
As you can imagine I did what a Divemaster has to do…I used my quackersoundmaking device and got the attention of this diver…I was around 65 ft to 70 ft. He looked at me, I showed him that his group was on the way to leave the wall and what did he do?? He turned around, took a look at his group going away, turned back and regained his course along the wall !!! I was like: “Holy sponge Bob !!! “…so, I did the quacking deal again, he looked at me, I pointed AGAIN to his group and signaled for him to go and join them and…HE IGNORED ME AGAIN !!! ok…now he is poking at the dark side of the force on me…so… for the third time I signaled to him to go and follow his Divemaster and this time he gave a signal that I interpreted as: I am planning on going around the reef or could also mean: I just saw a huge eel..or maybe he was only stretching his arm… since I couldn’t tell exactly what that gesture meant and he was not changing his course or depth ( by now Raul is at 40 ft and on the top of the reef dealing with the other 2 divers ) I had to go and check in a closer way what was going on there…so i did! I approached the diver and very gently I held his arm and gave him a little squeeze to get his attention ( ok ! ok!!! sorry…my bad… I have being working out lately so… may be the squeeze was not as gentle as I intended ), of course he turned around just to face me as I was pointing clearly that I wanted him to go and join his group… and here is where I began to consider another potential problem, maybe the diver was under the effect of Nitrogen Narcosis at 80 ft!! OMG !!! First he yanked his arm trying to set himself free of my hand to follow the siren’s songs, second his regulator began to malfunction and produced sounds similar to words and sentences such as: “get your hand off me” “im going..im going”, then he turned around and as he was swimming toward the wall… I heard something that begin with an F and end up with a U..and with other letters such as U,C,K Y and O in between…ok…now Im very concerned about his mental state but also mine since I may be hearing weird stuff underwater too!!! so… not willing to let a diver under the influence of the Nitrogen Narcosis ( and notice that I was all the time contemplating Nitrogen Narcosis as the cause of his behavior and not the possibility that he was just a jerk ) to go on his own, I reached and hold his arm again ( ok..yes..this time I did squeeze it hard…BUT ONLY because I didn’t want to lose the diver on the depths of Santa Rosa Wall !!! ) and looked straight into his deep blue eyes trying to asses his level of awarenes…nope..nobody home…just the evil Nitrogen taking control over every single neuron of his brain…and just like a cherry on top of the cake, a final but blunt proof of the Nitrogen presence: he removed the regulator from his mouth and I saw his lips moving ( probably gasping for air ) while the regulator kept producing bubbles that sounded as a F….YOU !!! Thanks to all the mighty gods of the sea he managed to put his regulator back in his mouth (before i had a chance to shove it in) and he proceeded to follow my instructions and swam back towards his Divemaster… I felt so relieved!!!
So… here are the lessons to be learned.
Not because the ocean is calm, clear and warm it means that you should not keep in mind that conditions can and they do change day by day, hour to hour and without a warning. Keeping yourself close to your dive group and Divemaster is a good, safe and polite practice…and please…think outside your little box..its not all about you!!!! think how it feels to turn around and find out that you are “missing” a diver… or having to hold the rest of the group just waiting for you to show up!!!
Second, if you really want to “lead” the dives…become a Divemaster!! until then…stay behind us.
Third, when a Divemaster gives you a signal or instruction…it’s not a suggestion, it’s a command with the pure intention to keep you safe. So.. we are not asking you, we are telling you.
Fourth, diving is like a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship…be nice, polite, show manners and brush your teeth…. sure… I DO give a lot of freedom to my divers as long as I know them, their level of training and experience, their limitations and also what are they capable to do….dont go out rogue until you prove that you are a good diver…unless you want to piss off your Divemaster.
Seventh ( because I don’t know how to spell the position 5 and 6 ) Remember that accidents happen in the moment that we least expect them… and you will need the help of somebody NEAR to you…meaning 5 to 10 ft away from you..losing your weights, running out of air, hoses that fail or regulators that produce funny noises very similar to cursing words…you name it.
So… at the end of the day everything went right… I believe that we all learned a lesson and nobody got hurt…come on!! a bruise on the arm is nothing to cry about!!!!