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So I had my first panic attack yesterday. First thing we couldn't get to our planned dive site, too many boats there already. Get to a nearby site I've never dove, captain says it's a similar site at the same depth, 90 feet. I'm familiar and comfortable with the first site, so I figure this won't be an issue.
The plan is to meet 15' down the anchor line. My buddy splashes first, then I splash, and go to the anchor line, no buddy. I've got about 30 dives in and recenlty completed AOW at this point, and I had felt pretty comfortable in my abilities until right now. The thought of decending to 90' in 10' vis with no buddy terrified me. This was my first time diving with this guy although I knew him from the dive shop. I wanted to go down to make sure my buddy was OK, but I didn't want to make 2 victims. I was breathing pretty hard, and I couldn't get it under control. At this point I slowly ascended and went to the ladder. I was able to get myself relaxed, and assess my options.
The next group was ready to splash, so I explained my buddy had decended without me, and asked if I could decend with them. This is a group of 2 students and an instructor doing their AOW deep dive. The decent goes fine, but when we get to the bottom, I'm at 107'. I'm diving with EAN32, so my MOD is 111. The dive site slopes down from the anchor line, so I'm pretty much stuck near the anchor line. My buddy is nowhere to found.
To top that off, this is my first time diving a new wetsuit. I was used to diving a 1 peice 7MM, but this time I had a john/jacket. I spent time in a pool getting my weight right before this, but my trim is all off, so I'm swimming at a 45 degree angle.
Between the panic attack on the first decent, my poor trim, and the depth I burn through the tank in no time. The class is still doing there drills, so I decide I need to do a solo ascent. I signal the instructor, so he knows I'm gone ( not that I'm sure he'd have even noticed me missing), and start my ascent.
When I get to my deep stop @ 40' there's my buddy. We do our stops and ascend together. I'm glad he's alright, but p****D as heck that he deserted me. When we get to the top his excuse was that he had an issue with bouyancy, and sank like a rock. There wasn't much I could say, so I just let i slide. Between my lack of confidence in my buddy, and my trim issue I decide to skip the second dive.
1) Have a more detailed dive plan, especially with a new buddy.
2) Do a better job when testing out new gear.
3) Ask the captain for the exact depth. I also had an air tank with me that I would have used had I known.
1) Should I have gone down to look for my buddy?
2) Would you consider that a solo dive? In hindsight, I do.
I've learned a lot from reading this board, so I thought I'd share so other can learn as well.
Part of the dive plan should be buddy separation -- normally one minute rule -- look and then surface. It sounds like you never had a buddy on the dive, given you didn't meet him/her until the safety stop portion of the dive.
Dropping like a rock is pretty odd -- BCDs provide lift, so unless buddy is like -30 lb, massively over weighted, they should have had no problem stopping and waiting for you.
Good job paying attention to MOD. You won't instantly die if you exceed it, but you were smart not pushing things.
Yes, a solo dive. Insta-buddy situations can be like that -- I use a pony whenever I'm deep, uncertain of the other person.
The operator shouldn't have been that far off concerning site depth.
Skipping the second dive might well have been good to do -- if the situation is off, for whatever reason, call it in and live to dive another day.
2---I wanted to go down to make sure my buddy was OK, but I didn't want to make 2 victims.
3---At this point I slowly ascended and went to the ladder. I was able to get myself relaxed, and assess my options.
4---The next group was ready to splash, so I explained my buddy had decended without me, and asked if I could decend with them.
5---To top that off, this is my first time diving a new wetsuit. I was used to diving a 1 peice 7MM, but this time I had a john/jacket.
6---I signal the instructor, so he knows I'm gone ( not that I'm sure he'd have even noticed me missing), and start my ascent.
7---Between my lack of confidence in my buddy, and my trim issue I decide to skip the second dive.
I numbered your points to make it a bit easier (these are basd on my opinions so take with a grain of salt);
1--- This might be a common pratice but one I'm an not familair with (but I'm a novice) and one I would not agree to. My buddy and I descend (from surface) together. Otherwise the final pre-dive routine I follow of checking time, last verification of dive plan, reafirming turn pressure, etc can't happen) If that don't happen, I don't dive. (its just my way of doing things..not better or worse than anyone elses, just my way of diving)
2--- You made the right call here
3--- Again very good decision
4--- This may have been the wrong action to take. Two points, one you are now burdening a DI with students on a their first deep dive, and second, you are leaving the surface, hence if buddy follows (which he didn't to his discredit) proper procedure, you were descending while he should have been aascending to find you...this is a major breakdown in buddy system diving Personally I would have returned to the boat, dried off, and waited to talk to buddy..and perhaps if the if the planning was better, proceed with dive two.
5--- Taking new gear out on a deep dive is, in my view, constitutes a bit of a bad decision on your part. Even the original site at 90 feet is a bit deep for thefirst time equipment dive, I genearlly stick to a 40 footer for gear checkouts.
6--- Obviously you practiced good judgement by keeping an eye on your air, and thumbing the dive when you hit your trun pressure, but perhaps you should not have placed yourself in the situation of having to make a solo ascent.. goes to point 4.
7--- Again you made the correct decision about not splashing for dvie 2. Even of you managed to get the buddy commincation etc taken care of your confidence in your buddy was shaken, and you thumbed the dvie. Good for you..some would have felt pressured to hit the water again, and that could have ended wosre than dive one as you were already stressed and compound that your confidence in your buddy getting blown... you should be commended on your decission.
Now that I've beaten up on you , the primary fault point was your buddy's lack of follwing procedures, and your team's less than optimal dive plan and pre-dive communicaiton.
You survived it, and have learned from it. Any "bad" doive you can walk away from, is not all thet bad, and a "good" learning expereince.
First, it sounds like you did the right things in surfacing when your buddy was not where you expected.
Second, the "we'll meet at the bottom" (or 15 feet or whatever) is always a bit iffy IMO. I used to do it, but have stopped. I now descend with my buddy and stay in close contact. If problems occur they are very likely to happen on the descent or ascent so sticking together at those times seem to be quite important to me. And I frequently dive is lower vis, so I understand that it's not always easy.
Third, it sure sounds like your buddy didn't mind being away from you. I'd find a new buddy
Finally, it doesn't sound like you paniced to me. Sure you were very stressed and couldn't get your breathing under control, but if you "slowly ascended and went to the ladder" that sounds like you did alright. You didn't shoot up or do anything that could have injured you.
Stories about "buddies" like this really tick me off. Dropped like a rock. Yeah right. I think you handled it fine. You're better off without this turkey. I wouldn't want to dive with someone who could not control their descent. Imagine their ascent?
Definetly one of the most frustrating things is a buddy who is supposed to be waiting for you and isnt. This always stresses me and diving is usually relaxing for me. Last time this happened it was a night dive. Luckily I did a quick search and found him withen a few minutes.
You ended up solo, because a planned descent disintegrated. It sounds to me as though you followed the standard protocol. At 30 dives, the prospect of a green water descent to 90 feet by myself would have stopped me cold -- as it should have. Protocol says "buddy separation -- wait 1 minute and surface". There's a reason for this -- It can be VERY difficult to locate someone underwater. It is far easier on the surface. If both separated buddies surface, you are likely to be reunited without incident. If you search for one another underwater, it is far less likely that you will ever find one another, and far MORE likely that one or the other of you might have a problem while alone.
If you were anxious on behalf of your buddy, and worried about what you should do, that's normal and expected and probably desirable. If you were frightened of being in the water alone, that's not so good.
On my third open water dive, I became separated from the instructor on descent, because I was incompetent at descending. I ended up on the bottom on my back, by myself. (We had about 10' viz.) I sat up, got myself righted, and thought about my situation. I had been taught a protocol for coping with this, and I employed it. There was no panic. (On the other hand, my instructor, who was BRAND NEW and had never "lost" a student before, was just about having a heart attack . . . )
You're taught procedures, you follow procedures, and displeasure and unhappiness that you ended up separated is reasonable. True fear is not. It's a good thing to think about, why this shook you so badly.
(BTW, losing my buddy was a total paranoia for me when I first started diving, so I know where you're coming from.)
Subject of pony bottles. I have only just joined the forum and in the UK all my dives were with a pony, deepish, dark water with currents, never needed to use it, but nice to have the safety aspect, and it is part of the Health and Safety criteria in the UK for all DM and Instructors to have an independant air source.
Back to this posting, I thing you did well, but personally I would not have gone to look for my buddy, he may well have been ascending to look for you, as a previous post has mentioned, That is why there is a one minute look and then surface and stay on the surface. The old saying springs to mind" Plan the dive and dive the plan".
I have refused to dive with certain people both in the UK and also on holidays if I perceive them as being "gungho". So dont be afraid to opt out of a dive with someone whom, may not be what you had hoped.