The Doubles Story (Admitting My Mistakes)
By the diver
So I got the toys. I bought the regs, the tanks and the right kind of BC. (Avoid the ones with bungees). This is all paid for with money I saved by not smoking. I quit and waited a year to start diving. I have now been diving for almost a year.
I read the posts, the web articles and I even bought the books. I had over 40 dives under my belt at the time. I really enjoy diving.
I had located an article of interest about support divers hanging at 80' or so to help guys coming up from deeper tech dives. I wanted to learn technical diving skills. So I contacted the people. This led me to Capt. JT Barker.
One month later, I had the opportunity to dive with him in North Carolina. No drysuit is needed there. I usually dive with a dry suit in cold and murky quarries where I train.
I trained for about eight dives using my doubles and a wetsuit. My gear is Hogarth/DIR. I have read and studied the system. The simplicity of it appeals to me. I recommend anyone that wants to dive to read and consider the "Do It Right" philosophy.
After a nine hour drive to North Carolina, I found the boat. My double tanks went up front. Lugging steel 95s around a crew boat isn't easy.
I went to sleep and vaguely remember Capt. JT and Don Mason stopping in sometime that evening.
The next day we geared up and headed out. I spoke with Capt. JT. He explained the procedure. It seemed like a routine dive. I wore a 7mm shorty top from my quarry wetsuit.
I had a 28% mix Nitrox to give me an edge against getting bent. My computer only runs air. Note that I am not out for bottom time. I wanted this to be a safe dive. I gave myself a margin for error.
I had spent several hours in quarries doing just this type of dive. I felt ready for it.
We dropped anchor and divers began to go over the side. I had already breathed off each reg and checked my BC for proper operation. I felt ready. Gearing up was hard and the tanks were heavy, but I made it to the rail and from there, the water.
On the surface I started to swim for the anchor line. There was a current. I did not make progress. I swam harder but was being pushed away from the anchor line. In fact, I was being pushed back to where the other divers were doing their giant strides from the starboard rail. That added the stress of possibly being stepped on by another diver to the fact that I was getting tired.
Well, I did have a line under me. I grabbed my inflator and began the descent to grab that line. I thought I'd follow it to the anchorline. I was descending and my ears started to pop so I tried to grab my inflator and slow my descent. This is where the final problem set in. I could not find my inflator.
Now for the record, I want to state emphatically, one of the dumbest sounding things, a new diver hears is, "We can fix that on the bottom.". This is in reference to the fact that there is often less current below and there is a stable place to fix your problems.
It requires a leap of faith to correct things on the bottom. I had no mind to descend one hundred feet and then search for my inflator. In retrospect I had 190 cubic feet of air. I could have taken my time down the line and fixed the problem easily.
I had no weights to jetison and I was too heavy. So I swam to the anchor line. When I grabbed it I notice just how negative I was. The rig was pulling me down. I was not wearing as much neoprene as I had trained with so this left me overweighted for the dive.
So I hand over hand, climbed the anchor line up. Someone (Capt. JT) sends me the "You OK ?" signal. I try to gesture "No" and signal that I couldn't find my inflator. I was scared by then. An uncontrolled descent is not a great feeling. At that point in time I should have stopped breathed deep a few times and reached back to my BC to grab the inflator hose at its base and find the inflator. But I was almost paniced. I wanted the surface.
The other diver did not get my chaotic signals, so up the rope I climbed. At the surface I felt relieved, but I still couldn't find my inflator. So I started to search for it. It was under my chin. It must have got stuck in the rubber tubing that holds my octopus.
I grabbed it and hit it. The Halcyon wing inflated and gave me enough buoyancy to easily float. The stress began to disappear.
Then Capt. JT surfaced. He was not happy nor impressed.
My confidence was shaken. I was exhausted from fighting current and panic. The dive was aborted. So much for my skills.
I quit for the day and did some introspection. Why did that happen ? How could I prevent it from happening again ? The gear was right. What was I missing ?
Experience was missing. The combination of currents and loss of inflator undid what little experience I had. Combined with the heavy weight of the tanks and the threat of uncontrolled descent, my skills were not enough.
The next day I geared up as before, but dove with the dive masters, 'escorted'. This helped my shattered confidence, and was an exceptional curtesy on their part. Everything went perfect. I appreciate their effort, but I don't like to impose on someone else's dive.
So what will I do now ? This season, I will train with my doubles in the quarries and dive singles in the ocean. I must remind myself to SLOW DOWN and gain experience. diving doubles is harder than it looks.
The wrecks will still be there.
The main lesson from this ought to be the gear, even if done right, can become a liability if you aren't ready for it. Gradual progression and experience is the only path. Also quarries and lakes are controlled environment. The ocean is more demanding.
Unfortunately, as I read the books, web sites and posts, a lot of lessons aren't clear. What looks simple and intuitive, breaks down under pressure. It all looks like "Strap these on and go !". But it doesn't work that way.
My basic training is not complete. I need time in the water and nothing else can substitute. My objective is not to be a DEEP diver. It is not to be a TOUGH diver. I want to be a SAFE diver.
Safe Diving !