You’ve paid for the boat ride, you’re ten miles off shore with other divers, the ocean is rocking, you’re a little seasick (or a lot seasick), your buddies are gearing up and ready to take a giant stride or roll over the gunwales, but something doesn’t feel right to you.
If you’ve read the Diver’s Alert Network’s (DAN) Annual Diving Report, “Most situations that end badly are the result of a chain of events, one that can often be easily broken at several points during its development.” In essence, we get into these complex situations where something goes wrong when we could have listened to that little voice in the back of our head that tried to warn us something wasn’t right. Instead we remember how much the boat ride is costing us or we don’t want to disappoint our diving buddy or we just don’t want to look like the weak link in the chain.
If you take the PADI Rescue Diver Certification, one thing the course stresses is diver safety even before we get into our neoprene. If something doesn’t feel right, something isn’t right. This may be nothing more than nervousness in diving a new location or it could be something more your brain and/or body is trying to tell you. We want to try to listen to that voice and evaluate what is going on with us and make that determination to call the dive.
I went on an expensive boat ride off Murrells Inlet. The seas were high and the boat was rocking and I spent the entire time clinging to the gunwales and yelling “Europe” at the waves. When we anchored off the wreck, the boat was rocking and pitching and I didn’t think I could even get into my kit. Four divers went in, one circled the boat, got back in, got off his gear, and grabbed up a fishing rod. When the others surfaced, they told us visibility was nil and there was a surge that made them queasy. While I understand you can exhale your breakfast through your regulator, I personally have no interest in testing that and I’m glad I remained topside chewing Bonine tablets like they were Skittles and placing Scopolamine patches behind my ears. When we got back to the dock, I still had to fork over my roll of dead presidents for the boat ride even though it wasn’t what I had intended. These things happen and hopefully we learn something from them. I’m glad I didn’t try to get in and dive; I had a bad vibe gnawing at me and I’m sure it was a good warning for me.
Of course, the rule should be that anyone can call a dive at any time for any reason without question – and I don’t dive with anyone who doesn’t subscribe to that basic tenant. If you are nervous about calling a dive, the easiest way to do so gracefully is to simply say you can’t equalize. No one can argue or challenge the validity of that statement and you get to exit the water to dive another day.