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Up until last week all of my 80 or so dives have been done with contacts. They have worked well and I can see fine. The only downside has been that when doing no mask drills, like following a guideline, I must keep my eyes closed. I have always assumed that in a real emergency without a mask that I could open my eyes, read my gauges up close, and make a controlled ascent.
Well last week I forgot my contacts. I was able to borrow a prescription mask and looked forward to "really" doing some no mask drills. To my surprise I could not read my depth gauge even one inch from my face! So I need to know, is it I or is this task not possible without this bit of air in front of my eye? If unreadable how can manage your ascent besides just "feeling" the depth change?
Without a functioning mask, you will of course need to call the dive. You can easily guage your speed of ascent by watching your bubbles. In all but the worst of visibility, you can make a fairly good guess when you hit 15-10 feet and count yourself a safety stop. In conditions where the previous cannot be met, you should have a spare mask (not counting the one on your buddie's face! )
You can try screwing your eyes up so they are only open a tiny bit. This turns your eye into a pinhole camera, and this can focus underwater. You probably need a torch to stop everything being really dark though...