Dumb things divers do.
I think one of our “dumbest” diving moments occurred just before we left on our first trip to Cozumel. We had never been any deeper than 60’, and new we’d be diving to at least 80’ in Coz. I wanted to make sure Janet was comfortable with the extra depth, so we made a practice dive a Steilicoom.
I was doing only my second dive in a drysuit, so we swam out to the buoy marking the end of the pipeline, and descended to the bottom. We were only in about 40’ of water, so we began swimming south (as advised by the divers we’d just met coming out of the water). Visibility was less than 20’.
After covering quite a bit of ground, I knew we’d missed the pipeline, so we headed west (away from shore), then north (parallel to shore), looking for the pipeline. We eventually got bored with searching, and decided to just head for deeper water. Unfortunately, the slope is very gentle and we swam for a long, long time before we even hit 60’. I checked Janet’s air, and it was about our usual time to turn around (and time for my first BAD decision). I decided to continue swimming till we quickly hit 70’ and them turn.
We continued what was beginning to seem like a marathon swim, and we never did hit 70’. The bottom had leveled out at about 66’, and wasn’t getting any deeper. I decided to turn as we were too far out, with too little air (Janet’s computer was actually Flashing at this point). We headed back to the beach, finning as fast as we could go.
As we finally crossed back into the 40 – 50 foot water (after what seemed like an eternity), I could see Janet was getting pretty low on air, which made me just fin harder, trying to get to shallow water (my second BAD decision) to do our safety stop. I figured she could breath off my tank at the safety stop if she needed to.
Finally, I saw Janet’s computer FLASHING and noticed she was down to 400 psi. I stopped and signaled that we should go ahead and ascend to the surface. She gave me the thumbs-up sign for an ascent, and then the “out-of-air” sign. I thought she was indicating we should ascend because she was “LOW” on air, but NO, she meant she was “OUT” of air. I gave her the OK, and the thumbs-up again (which pissed her off as she thought I was ignoring her “out of air” signal). Then she “gave me the LOOK”, and made regulator motions with her hand that plainly said, “Boydski, you %&*! idiot, give me your regulator, and give it to me NOW!!! I want AIR and I want it NOW!” It’s amazing how well that LOOK works, even in the dark, murky waters of Puget Sound.
I immediately gave her my regulator and switched to my Integrated Air Source, and we made a safe ascent to the surface together and made the long swim in. She lit into me on the surface for “running her out of air”, and then for not giving her my regulator when she wanted it.
Lessons learned: There were several bad decisions made that eventually lead to the “out of air” situation. The 2 primary causes were that we were working/finning much too hard, and waited too long to turn around. Most of our shore dives are made pretty close to shore, so we can often wait till around 1000 psi to turn and head for shore, with plenty of air for a safety stop. We were way, way out on this dive, so should have turned at half tank pressure ( 1700 psi). The dive plan itself was questionable, and we probably should have abandoned it after spending nearly 20 minutes searching for, and missing the pipeline (which was actually NORTH of our descent – we had bad information from some local divers).