Stupid things divers do...
THERE ARE SOME INSTANCES OF DIVING stupidity that get repeated again and again. Im not talking about little things like not turning gas on (as long as it is detected before jumping in) or forgetting to put a weightbelt on. Most of us have done these things, and learned from the experience.
But there are really daft things that some divers do over and over again, repeatedly, despite training, advice and experience telling them otherwise. The experts on spotting it are the skippers who take us diving.
TIME AND TIDE
Much UK diving is governed by tides and slack water, but some divers seem to think that tides dont apply to them.
When told to turn up at 9am sharp, the same stragglers always arrive at 9.15, and wonder why the boat has left, says Chris Lowe, skipper of Atlantic Diver from Newquay.
Still on the subject of time, Chris comments that divers ask again and again: What time is the dive Itll be at the same time as I told them five minutes ago.
You would think such divers would be ready to jump in. Not so, says Steve Lewis of Pembrokeshire Dive Charters.
With 15 minutes to slack, they insist on a 20-minute chat, followed by a 10-minute buddy check. The tide is halfway through slack by now.
Some divers have the opposite problem.
I once said: Its slack, you can go in as soon as youre ready, says Douglas Lanfear, skipper of Blue Turtle from Lyme Regis. Next I heard a splash, and a voice shouting: Wheres the shot, skipper I said: About half a mile uptide!
ALL THAT KIT
The stupidity starts well before divers get to the boat. Divers turn up with drysuits and hoses that dont fit the suit, says Mark Deane from Celtic Diving in Fishguard, They also arrive with mis-matching cylinder and regulator, without checking if theyre DIN or A-clamp. Then they lose the inserts.
Given this, the next comment comes as little surprise. Mike Rowley, now retired from the liveaboard Maureen but still teaching technical diving, had an on-board compressor and offered gas-mixing. They tell you their cylinders need filling just as you approach the dive site, he says.
Another issue is the way in which divers transport their kit. Twelve divers turn up with huge kit boxes and bags that they have just unloaded from 12 vehicles, thinking it should fit on one boat, says Steve Lewis.
Once the kit is on board, the next issue is how they secure it. Despite the straps provided, they fail to secure cylinders to the bench, and are then surprised when it falls over, snaps the regs off and digs a hole in the deck, says Mike Rowley.
I always ask if their sets are properly secured before we set off, says Dave Wendes, skipper of Wight Spirit from Lymington. I even offer to tie them in for them if necessary, he continues.
This usually happens on a flat-calm sea as we head off towards the Needles. Then a gin palace steams past at 30 knots, and the unsecured cylinders go flying. Nice new dents will have appeared in my deck.
Therell be a loud rush of escaping gas as the first stages fracture, amid frantic efforts to shut off the flow. To cap it all, the offenders will ask me for spares to repair their broken kit.
The opposite problem is less severe, but more amusing. As they kit up, they forget their kit is secured to the bench, then struggle to stand, says Martin Jones of Swanage Boat Charters.
Its most fun when their friends pretend it is already untied, and make a big show of helping them up.
Some are even dense enough to attempt to put their kit on while standing up on a rolling boat. I have had several divers stand up and walk about when putting kit on. Despite continued requests to sit down, one lady would not listen. The boat rolled and she fell over, cracking her head open. There was blood everywhere, says Douglas Lanfear.
MAGIC WITH MASKS
As well as a hardboat, Celtic Diving also has a RIB. While kitting up, they lay their mask on the tube and it just drops in, says Mark Deane.
The benches of some hard boats run along the side. They hook their masks over the pillar valve. As the boat rolls, they go over the side, says Douglas Lanfear.
They put those stupid neoprene pads on their mask straps, which makes them come off every time they roll in, says Elfyn Jones, skipper of Julie-Anne from Anglesey.
Returning from the dive, Steve Lewis notes: They leave their masks on the bench. The next diver sits down and lands their tank bottoms on the mask.
Another place that seems to gather small items such as masks, torches and computers is the shot crate. You cant throw the shot without it all going flying, says Dave Ronnan, skipper of Our-W from Eastbourne. Then, after the dive, you cant recover the shot without burying it all.
As the boat nears the dive site, the skipper will be getting ready to find the wreck and throw the shot. Some people stand in front of the GPS or fishfinder and ask: Are we there yet I dont know, because I cant see a damn thing! says Chris Lowe.
The skipper then needs to get out of the wheelhouse to throw the shot.
They stand in the wheelhouse door and block the way, says Richard Tibbs, skipper of Chieftain out of Exmouth. A similar problem occurs when returning to harbour. I need to get out to tie on - then, when I get out, there are two more standing by the cleats.
SHOT AND GO
After the trouble that skippers take to get the shot onto a wreck, its a shame divers dont take similar care. Boats drop divers uptide of a shot buoy, with instructions to hold the line and descend quickly so as not to pull it off the wreck. This assumes that divers will actually get to the line.
We tell divers to turn and swim towards the shot, as there is a bit of surface current. There is always a pair who take no notice. You see them swimming frantically to grab the line after theyve drifted past the buoy, says Martin Jones.
They have a conversation on the surface as they drift past the shotline, adds Steve Lewis.
Elfyn Jones observes: They drift with their heads down in the water and straight past the shot. I have to pick them up and drop them all over again.
Once at the shot, they have a group meeting and chat while slack is slowly ticking away, says Elfyn.
Hanging about on the surface can pull a shot off the wreck. Due to surface current, they need to grab the line and start down fast, says Steve Lewis. So why do they fully inflate their BC before jumping in, then spend five minutes trying to dump air while dragging the line off the wreck
Having begun their descent, they leave the shotline before reaching the bottom and miss the wreck, observes Mark Deane.
I know I stipulated repeated stupidity, but one instructor obviously new to UK waters tried to impress Steve Lewis.
He inflated and threw his BC overboard to put it on in the water, then drifted away in the Pembrokeshire tide, says Steve.
With decompression stops accumulated and a growing tide, skippers like to keep a group close enough together that they can follow them.
When the plan is for everyone to bag off (ascend on a DSMB), there is always one clever bugger who decompresses on the shotline.
I cant recover it with him hanging there, and I cant stay with the shot and follow the others at the same time, says Ivan Warren, skipper of Michelle Mary out of Littlehampton.
With longer stops, many skippers ask divers to return up the shot to a decompression station, which is then unclipped to drift.
There is always one who decides to bag off rather than come back to the station, says Ivan.
When I ask them to return to the shotline, it is usually for a very good safety reason, such as density of traffic, says Mike Rowley, yet some are still stupid enough to refuse.
These problems dont happen only with technical divers.
On a drift dive, they agree to send up SMBs as soon as they reach the bottom, then eventually send them up just before surfacing - and wonder why you lose them, says Rod Thompson, skipper of Out-Rage from Weymouth.
They are told that if they drift off-site they need to send up a DSMB to show the boat they are moving, but they dont. They often drift for 30 minutes at two knots, and wonder why the boat is a mile away when they surface, says Steve Lewis.
It seems that not paying attention to the skippers briefing is the root cause of many a stupid mistake.
I explain which direction they should take, and how deep the dive site is. A lot of the time I tell them which shoulder to put to the cliff-face, or provide a compass bearing, but they still seem to go the other way, says Andrew Douglas of Sovereign Diving in Seahouses.
It all comes from not listening, or fiddling with gear during the dive briefing adds Mark Deane. Then they blame the skipper.
GETTING THE SKIPPER MAD
If you really want to upset a skipper, there are some things that are universally guaranteed to get them going.
On surfacing after a night dive, as I approach to pick the divers up they shine a 12 million candle power torch straight at me to show where they are, completely wiping out my vision, says Rod Thompson. And they wonder why I nearly run them over.
But there is something even worse. I could go on about divers blocking heads after being told what not to put down there, but its a family magazine, says Dave Wendes.
Douglas Lanfear is less discreet. Because the boat rolls, I tell divers to sit down when having a poo. One guy squatted, and it ended up all over the floor.
BRINGING A SMILE TO THE SKIPPERS FACE
If you want to entertain a skipper, and have him remember you, they all get a laugh when divers forget to zip up their drysuit or convenience zip.
They get a bigger laugh when divers forget to connect a P-valve.