Not Ready to Dive Without a "Dive Guide"?

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by krukster86, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. krukster86

    krukster86 Barracuda

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    I am a recently certified open water diver and I am now always looking to do more trips here and there with my girlfriend as my diving buddy (same experience level). When we dove on an excursion right after certification (Dominican Republic), it was led by one of the dive shop instructors. No navigation skills required, no dive computer needed, the instructor took care of all that.

    Now that I am looking at new adventures around the US (specifically Florida in May), it seems like all of that will be my responsibility, unless I dish out an extra fee for a guide to escort us.

    Am I freaking out too much about this? I just feel like if the boat dumps us at a location, I am bound to be distracted by reefs/wildlife and not pay attention to direction/fin strokes/current and end up far from the boat. I just think that right now, I should be working on breathing control and bouyancy control. Adding navigation into the mix seems like too much for a beginner. Am I right?

    That said, at what point do you feel confident enough to dive without a guide?
     
  2. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

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    Why not do some local diving? Is there anywhere near you where you can do some simple shore diving (quarries?) and work on your buoyancy where navigation isn't a big issue?

    In most places where I have dived off a boat, navigation is not that difficult. You usually dive on some kind of structure that helps you get oriented. The dives I've done that were difficult from a navigation standpoint were 1) wreck dives where the shot line didn't hit the wreck, and you had to find it in low viz and in the dark; 2) dives where the structure is just scattered junk, and the bottom has no significant depth contour, and 3) dives where conditions (eg. current) prevented us from getting back to our upline. Other than that, the vast majority of the dives I've done off boats have been in water with reasonable viz, and where there was a well-defined area of structure to follow. (As our briefer in the Red Sea would say, "Reef on the left shoulder going out, coming back, reef on the RIGHT shoulder.")
     
  3. Altamira

    Altamira Barracuda

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    I use a DM at least for the first couple of dives when diving in an area that I am not familiar with so that I can get a better knowledge base of the local diving environment. A guided dive or two should give you some good tips as to where to dive, and more important, where not to dive. Remember, you are recently certified OW diver, and while some on this board think you should be fully self sufficient at that point, you are still just a beginner, and have a lifetime of learning ahead of you. I compare a new OW certified diver to newly licensed private pilots that should be able to do OK as long as they don't put themselves in a position that is beyond their skill or knowledge level. There is no magic number of dives before you feel confident enough to dive without a guide. I have friends that have dived for more than 5 years and still use a DM on every dive. You will know when you are confident enough to dive without a guide.
     
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  4. krukster86

    krukster86 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Chicago, IL
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    Thanks all for the reassurance. I have a 2 day dive trip planned in May. I will use a DM guide for the first day for sure and see how I feel the second day.
     
  5. krukster86

    krukster86 Barracuda

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    Location: Chicago, IL
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    TSandM:
    Actually I was thinking about trying out local diving myself sometime in the near future just to practice essential skills. My roommate has a bit more experience than me and I think he would be up for something like that. My gf likes to dive only in the tropics :p
     
  6. vancouverdiver

    vancouverdiver Nassau Grouper

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    You'll know when you are confident. It will likely be a return trip to the same dive spot that you know. Start slow, keep the dives simple. By the way, you commented that "all of it will be your responsibility". Both dive buddies should be monitoring and be self aware what's going on, even if there is a DM. I would encourage you and your girlfriend to approach diving as equals. Each are equally responsible for monitoring depth, time, position etc. If she becomes dependent on you, she doesn't learn. If she somehow gets separated from you on a dive, it could lead to further problems....
    Each of you can take turns leading the dive, with the other monitoring the dive profile.
     
  7. fisheater

    fisheater Divemaster Candidate

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    In addition to the above, the next time you're on a DM-led dive, TELL THE DM THAT YOU WANT TO BRUSH UP ON YOUR NAVIGATION.

    He or she will surely assist.
     
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  8. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Divemaster

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    Yes to all of the above. You always want to be responsible for yourself, period. However, I did follow a dive guide (DM) for a week once (just me & him most days) and that added a lot to the dives, as he obviously knew the sites and I didn't. It was interesting when HE strapped on a near empty tank and we found out at depth.
     
  9. krukster86

    krukster86 Barracuda

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    Very true. I will keep this in mind when planning this trip.
     
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  10. bwbake

    bwbake Angel Fish

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    Location: Iowa
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    Krukster86, welcome to diving, I'm sure you have already started to feel the addiction that comes along with it. Curious where you thinking of going to in Florida? If you go to Key Largo there is a Dive Shop there called Scuba-do and they always provide a guide with their dives. They cater a lot to newer divers and might be a good start to diving around that area. If you start to get more comfortable and decide to venture out on your own then I would just keep in mind to keep it simple. Start out with some pretty basically natural navigation just swimming with one shoulder along the reef, then turn and follow same line back with other shoulder. You'll find that especially around Key Largo a lot of the diving is pretty shallow and you don't have to go far off the anchor line, or venture far from the boat to start finding some cool things.
     
  11. herbdb

    herbdb Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Allentown, PA
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    Rainbow Reef in Key Largo also always has a dive guide at no charge. You can stay with the guide or not, your choice.
     
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  12. spectrum

    spectrum Dive Bum Wannabe ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
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    That said, at what point do you feel confident enough to dive without a guide?

    From dive 1. But you need to pick your battles. Our first dive was in a pond we knew well from skin diving. It was comfortable and we got to go down into space we could never visit for more than a quick breath hold peek.

    Dive 2 was at a local ocean beach in a sheltered cove. We headed straight out until a turn pressure was reached, turned 180 degrees and walked out :40 latter.

    From there we slowly expanded the scope and complexity of our dives eventually getting a feel for what the bottom of many sites were like.

    As for being overwhelmed, first things first. You won't be that good at picking out the eye candy since you will be focused on your diving. As you become more capable it will all work out. In the meantime you can trade off on being the lead with the other diver watching for the cool stuff. However even the follower should be maintaining awareness of the route taken. Breathing, buoyancy and such will come to you as you relax and enjoy the dives.

    Unless you have a killer travel budget frequent local diving is the way to become safe and proficient.

    Pete
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012
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  13. theduckguru

    theduckguru Manta Ray

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    The Florida keys handles a lot of newbies. Some of the dives there are in 15-20 ft of water. Shop some charters, tell them your concerns/experiance level, and you'll be fine.
     
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  14. USFpsychDiver

    USFpsychDiver Barracuda

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    My OW training was immediately followed by a week long dive trip to the Bahamas. I no way felt confident to deal with underwater problems with that limited experience. My buddy was my daughter who had the same experience level. So I paid the extra to have a guide with us for all our dives. Was much more comfortable and got to see some things I wouldn't have otherwise seen because the guide knew the area. Now, with 40 - 50 dives under my belt and a few more classes, while I'm still a novice diver I feel quite comfortable diving with a buddy. It comes. After spending what it takes for travel, gear, training, boat, why not pay the little extra to make the dive comfortable and fun.

    Many of the dive operators put a DM in the water and you're welcome to stay with with him. That's what I did in my transition from guided to independent dives (and still do sometimes, especially in a new place).

    Enjoy your trip! We'll be diving the keys for the first time the beginning of April and chose Rainbow Reef; they come well recommended.
     
  15. Hawkwood

    Hawkwood MSDT Staff Member

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    We never really consciously planned our first dive without a guide. All our early dives were either with friends who were DMs and the like, or on trips were we had DMs or Dive Leaders in the water. It was just the way it was.

    My son and I went on a trip with friends to Victoria and we did the MacKenzie and the DB Church. After the pre-dive briefing before the Church we decided what we were going to do and we did the dive. When we got back, we both realized that "hey, we just did this on our own". It was pretty cool.
     
  16. grantwiscour

    grantwiscour Regular of the Pub

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    Congrats on your OW certification. You have taken the first step to becoming a good and safe diver. IMHO, I would recommend a dive guide. A guide can help boost your skills and make sure that you see the good parts of the dive site. If you are going to Key Largo, Rainbow Reef always offers free guide service. We have dived with them several times and have always enjoyed their dive trips.
     
  17. FPDocMatt

    FPDocMatt Barracuda

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    Location: Middletown, Maryland, USA
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    You know, this is a very good point. In the classroom portion (or online portion) of the OW class, the topics of dealing with currents and waves and surge are addressed nicely. But when I was taking the course, I had no idea how important these concepts were. Now that I've had the experience of jumping off a boat and being carried away from the boat by the current, and how scary that is, I realize how important it really is. And then there are the stories of people getting carried way out to sea.

    It's just interesting that there's what you think of as scuba diving (being under the water), and what you don't think of as scuba diving but which is as much a part of it as the diving itself (managing surface currents, lugging the equipment to and from the boat or shore, rinsing off the equipment afterwards, how to store and care for your equipment, how to correctly weight yourself, how to stay hydrated, and many others). Every single bit of it is supremely important.
     
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  18. kimbalabala

    kimbalabala Barracuda

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    I still prefer to have a guide that I can keep my eye on in a new dive site. We've been to the Keys a few times and I can now get dropped at the Benwood and find my way around and back to the boat without much trouble - but my navigational skills still stink. When they remind you of things like "look where the sun is - is it on your left, right, in front or behind you", it makes sense. Same with the layout of the fingers of the reef. The only problem is that when you get in between two fingers of the reef you forget where you came in and the idea of keeping the reef on your left shoulder or right shoulder can get confusing. I really like the idea of looking at the sand and figuring out which way the current is going in relation to where the boat is (and which way is "away from shore" and probably deeper). For instance, if you notice that you're getting into deeper water (even only by 10 feet) and the boat is parked at 25' then you can hazard a guess that you're heading away from the boat. Also, it's always a good idea to swim against the current on your way "out" and then let it pull you back toward the end of your dive - this is the most important part of dive planning (IMO). My buddy and I will listen to the dive briefing, determine our course up-current from where we are, discuss what we want to see and then head out in the direction we planned. Plan the dive and dive the plan.

    That said, Rainbow Reef really is good about the dive guides (if you're going to Largo). No additional charge and they will point out the critters that I otherwise usually miss. Stay with a guide until YOU feel comfortable navigating on your own - or make sure you take a signaling device and know how and when to deploy it! No shame in using a signal to get picked up.
     
  19. krukster86

    krukster86 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Chicago, IL
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    Thanks everyone. I just don't think I would "enjoy" diving as much without a guide at this point. I loved diving with the guide in the Dominican because he knew every square inch of the place and pointed out a lot of aquatic life that was hiding or camoflaged that we would never have spotted.

    kimbalabala, is this "signaling device" you mention referred to as "safety sausage"? My instructor used this when he had me practice doing a CESA, it was pretty cool going up like a rocket!
     
  20. FPDocMatt

    FPDocMatt Barracuda

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Middletown, Maryland, USA
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    Speak for yourself. Sitting in the bar on the deck between dives, I can think about my diving and pick out eye candy at the same time, no problem.
     
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