Doing it wrong
John Bantin, making a score of mistakes and openly admitting to them Surely not! Yet here, for the first time, our Technical Editor shares with us 20 of his ripest bloopers, from each of which he gleaned another valuable nugget of experience

PEOPLE LIKE TO COVER UP THEIR MISTAKES. Its only natural. But errors occur, especially when diving, and its how you deal with them that counts. Most mistakes do no more than make us look ridiculous, yet ridicule from our peers can rank among our greatest fears.
Diving has a way of deflating our pomposity. However you like to talk it up, everything changes when you hit the water.
I remember with fondness, back when I was a dive guide on a Red Sea liveaboard, a cocky young American deckhand making a perfect feet-first descent to join me, making a precision compass-bearing of his intended route, signalling OK clearly, and then attempting to swim off - without any fins.
Its the sort of thing that can happen to any of us. But while some mistakes make you laugh, others can have serious consequences. Instead of telling you more about the mistakes of others, why dont I tell you about my own
Apart from jumping in without a weightbelt, without a mask, without a computer, without fins, with my drysuit unzipped, and even without an aqua-lung on my back (all of which I have done at some time) heres a catalogue of some of the mistakes I have made during the past 20 years of diving, and the simple lessons I have learnt from them.

1 Plan ahead
Teaching a group of six novices to dive, we decided to add a dropped-weightbelt ascent to the syllabus. We were in about 8m of gin-clear water. I volunteered to demonstrate. From the surface, I watched as my fellow-instructor got the novices to do likewise and then, to my horror, dropped his own weightbelt too. Everyone ended up safely at the surface - our problem was how to retrieve the weightbelts! Thank goodness we had plenty of spare anchor-chain aboard.

2 More haste means less speed
During a night dive at Maya Thila in the Maldives, a strong current was running and it was important to jump in quickly and pull ourselves down the mooring line or we would miss the site. Halfway down, I wished I had remembered to turn my tank on in the darkness of the diving dhoni. It was only 10m to the bottom, but I had to wait until I was hooked on with my reef-hook before I could pull my tank over my head and open the valve.

3 Read the instructions
It was the first time that I had used a new Seaquest weightbelt but I had foolishly simplified installing the lead by dispensing with the spacers provided. Unbeknown to me, the weights had slipped forward, pushing the belt-buckle undone. Swimming oceanwards from Maltas Inland Sea, I decided to swap masks for a second one I had in my BC pocket. As I went from horizontal to vertical, and at the moment when I had no mask on my face, the belt fell off. I swam down strongly to look for it, my companions assuming that I had seen something really interesting on the rock-strewn bottom. The absence of a mask made locating it quite difficult.

4 Pride comes before a fall
Sneering at the failure of the others to get onto the current point of a reef in the Red Seas Seven Brothers, I asked the boat-handler to drop me in before returning to where they had drifted on the surface. During my hard swim down, I noted that I had not tightened the cable-tie on my regulator mouthpiece sufficiently, so that the regulator was dragged away somewhere behind me. The mouthpiece alone gave me a rather wet breathe and I had to scoop the regulator hose from behind me before refitting it.

5 Look but also see
Diving off Barra Island in the Outer Hebrides, my wife posed charmingly with a dull starfish. I humoured her and reluctantly took what I thought to be a rather uninteresting photograph. She insisted that I took more. I ended up with about 20 shots of her with the starfish. On seeing the results, she expressed disappointment that I had ignored the massive anglerfish she had been indicating, lying there between us.

hspace=5 6 Cameras can ruin everything
There seems to be no rhyme or reason why cameras flood at times, but they do. Sometimes it is pure stupidity on the part of the photographer. I was in the Bahamas and experiencing my very first shark-feed dive. In a state of high excitement, I reloaded my camera on the boat, halfway through the event, and plunged back in for more shots. Glug, glug, glug, went the camera. The major O-ring of my housing had been hanging out like the inner-tube of a blown bicycle tyre. I wont repeat what I said.

7 Integrated weights are there to humiliate
I told a fellow-diver on a dive-boat in Majorca that the latest stud-system from Italy did away with any doubts about the security of an integrated weight-pocket that might otherwise be secured only by Velcro. I then reinstalled mine incorrectly. I flipped back over the side of the boat, and had to spend the first part of my dive looking for the weights.

8 Closed-circuit needs discipline
At Cocos Island, distracted by the vast amount of animal life directly under the boat, I failed to change my Inspiration rebreather to its high setpoint at depth, then compounded the mistake by failing to look at my ppO2 display for around 40 minutes. I had done the whole dive with higher than normal levels of nitrogen, instead of the converse, as is normally the case. I recompressed myself with the unit set at the highest ppO2 setpoint in 9m of water for 40 minutes. It certainly put the wind up the dive-guide, though he is now an Inspiration owner.

9 If youre sure, youre sure to be wrong
In the Egyptian Red Sea, during a night dive, I attempted to navigate back to the boat following my compass, despite my buddys protests that we were going the wrong way. I was confident that I knew how to use a compass. When we finally surfaced, the lights from our mothership were a mere speck on the horizon. The revolving compass card had jammed onto the needle when under pressure, preventing it from swinging freely. It was a long and depressing swim back.

10Strange things happen in the dark
I surfaced after a night dive along the mountainous west coast of Majorca. It was pitch dark and I was unable to see the navigation lights of my own boat. I thought it had somehow become detached from its mooring and drifted off. I calmly collected everyone in a group and told them to wait under the cliffs while I swam out to sea in pursuit of the boat. They looked at me as if I was crazy. They could all see the boat, waiting where we had left it. It was obscured from my vision by a small rock that broke the surface between us.

11 Boats can be dangerous
Coxns should keep hold of the lanyard to the kill-switch of the boat engine. One of the most popular stories told in Diver was called Rogue RIB. It resulted from a sheered steering cable allowing the single outboard to swing with the torque of the prop, turning the boat suddenly and tossing us all into the water. The boat then circled at high speed, trying to run us down. It was probably the single most dangerous event to happen to me while out diving. Im glad that there were no casualties and eventually I managed to reboard the boat.

12 Confidence can kill
Early on in my days as an instructor, I took a group of novices out from the shore at Ras Um Sid, Egypt. We swam down through a coral chimney in the reef, through a cave and out onto the reef wall. That night I did the same thing. On returning from this night-dive, I swam back into the cave and up the chimney, only to find that there was no exit wide enough for me to pass through. In the dark, I had entered the wrong cave. Visibility in there was such that to return was out of the question. I had to take off all my gear and pass it up into the shallow water on the reef-top, before squeezing painfully through the narrow hole. Fortunately, none of my students had been foolhardy enough to follow me. It could have been fatal for someone with wider hips.

13 Know your buddy
My first article for Diver was written after a rented upstream regulator failed by locking up on me inside a wreck. My buddy was disinclined to help when I asked him to give me his octopus rig. It was in this way that I discovered how relatively easy it was to make a free ascent from more than 30m, providing one didnt panic. It was also the first time I heard those fateful words: I dont know what happened to him. He just disappeared, which is what I overheard him say later when I was back on the boat and he was at the surface, being questioned about my whereabouts.

14 Dive guides can get it wrong
During my first week as a Sharm el Sheikh liveaboard dive guide, I put a group of divers from Keighthly Sub-Aqua Club in at the Shark Observatory and told them to swim to Anemone City. The deckhand cautioned that it was a bit far, but I ignored him. I realised how far it was when, after 45 minutes of hard swimming, we were still not there. I will never forget the sight of 16 divers, all low on air, asking me what to do next. I suggested that we surface.

15 Beware whose advice you take
I was about to dive on the wreck of the Kyarra, outside Swanage. My club buddy derided me for taking a torch. You wont need that, he said. Bowing to his greater expertise, I stupidly left it on the boat. Later, I found myself, down at 30m in the gloom, navigating by means of a small back-up torch, and dragging around a very frightened, lampless buddy, who would not ease his tight grip on my arm.

16 Dont pretend to be an expert
It was during an early dive on the Thistlegorm wreck in 1993 when two so-called expert camera buffs advised me on what I was doing wrong. One suggested that I had screwed the two halves of my clamshell housing together too tightly. The other said that I should leave the O-rings out of my housing overnight, so that they did not become deformed. The first of these guys had his housing come apart disastrously under water, while the second admitted that his O-rings might have been more effective had they not been hanging safely on a peg in his cabin while he was under water with his camera.

17 Redundancy is a good idea
My biggest letdown was in Egypt, wetsuit-diving out of Hurghada with a new wing BC. I returned to the boat after the dive. I was wearing twin 12 litre aluminium cylinders and a steel 10 litre sling tank. I fully inflated the BC to be comfortable while I waited for another diver to climb the ladder. There was a depressing whoopee-cushion noise as the inner bag of the BC split along a weld, and I enjoyed a deflated feeling. I had the presence of mind to grab the ladder of the boat as I passed down it. I was certainly let down, but I should have had a second BC wing for that configuration of equipment.

18 Manage your air-supply
A first dive in Tahiti saw me at 50m-plus with the enthusiastic local dive operator, looking at some small gorgonians. Foolishly, I allowed him to keep me there until I was running perilously low on air. By the time I had ascended to 6m, my air-integrated computer still indicated mandatory deco-stops in excess of my remaining air-time. I had to reduce my heart-rate, and with it my breathing-rate, to reverse matters. It was no time to get hot and bothered about running out of air. I was able to do 11 minutes of stops and still hit the surface with around 30 bar left in my tank, but I had given myself no leeway for unforeseen circumstances. It didnt help that my deco-stop had been spent surrounded by blacktip reef sharks.

19 Let sleeping dogs lie
Underwater photography can push task-loading too far. Once I dived accompanied by a helpful guide who posed perfectly and worked very hard at giving me the best photo-opportunity possible. I didnt have the heart to tell him that I had remembered about 15 minutes into the dive that I took the last exposed roll of film out of the camera but had omitted to replace it with an unused one. So I shot 36 imaginary pictures instead.

20 Take a breath before jumping
I was in the Red Sea, and had been discussing the usefulness of octopus rigs with TV diver Martha Holmes. She did not have one, but I remembered at the last minute that I had a new Aqua-Lung regulator in my bag to test, so I quickly swapped it for the one I was using and plunged over the side of the boat after her. Alas, it was a dealers demonstration model with no working parts, though the hp gauge registered pressure. It became a short bounce dive. The gentleman from the distributor (now retired) later said that it was sent only for me to write about, not to use. He wanted me to keep the episode secret. Me

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