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Thread: Another take on reef hooks

 


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    vjongene's Avatar
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    Another take on reef hooks

    I was just reading last year's thread about the woman in Palau who drowned while hooked into the reef in a strong current. Many opinions were voiced to the effect that reef hooks are (1) dangerous and (2) damaging the reef. I totally agree with (1), less so with (2), in that reef hooks do a lot less damage than divers crashing into the reef because they do not control their buoyancy or don't know where their fins are. One issue that was not raised is that reef hooks can also be disruptive in a group of divers.

    Last month, I was diving on the atoll of Rongelap in the Marshall Islands. The dive sites are mostly uncharted, so our dives were mostly "unplanned", in that we had no idea of what the precise dive profile would be before making it, and we just dove within a set of informal rules based on common sense. One of these rules was that the group would remain in visual contact throughout the dive, and that each diver would signal the others where s/he was going. All divers in the group were reasonably experienced (250+ dives), so this was never a problem.

    Near the end of the trip, we decided to dive the West Pass, a pass between the ocean and the lagoon, deep (>150 ft) and with sheer walls. On our first dive there, there was a strong outgoing current running. We were dropped in a shallow area of the reef, and because of the current we just signalled each other that we would head for the wall and re-group there. There were seven divers in the group, my son and myself (buddy team), an American from Guam, one of the boat crew members (a decent diver but with limited experience), and a group of three Swiss friends with whom we had linked up in Majuro. BTW, the boat's DMs were not with us, because they were both feeling unwell and after a week they knew that we could manage very well without them. The crew member was there because they didn't like customers to be in the water without a witness to what they were doing (basically, CYA).

    We did re-group on the wall, and started literally flying through the pass - the current was well over two knots. We started the dive around 100 ft, planning to come up gradually afterwards. The show was fantastic - hundreds of sharks, huge schools of jacks, tuna, etc. About 10 minutes into the dive, two of our Swiss friends (two ladies) decided that it was time to sink in their reef hooks and watch the show. There was a little problem, though: none of the other divers had hooks! In fact, we had never discussed using hooks during our dives. I managed to spot a ledge on the wall protected from the current, dumped air, and landed there. My son and the other Swiss guy joined me. The other two in the group were a bit higher up on the wall, and hanging on for dear life. The two ladies were happily playing kite in the current, but the rest of us couldn't get anywhere near the open channel. I was just watching my non-deco time ticking down (we were at exactly 100 ft) and my air getting used up for nothing. The other Swiss guy and I were trying to signal them that we wanted to get the hell out of there, but to no avail. Finally, after almost 10 minutes, we just decided to split, and the ladies followed us.

    When we got back to the tender, I was rather upset. I talked to them, trying to explain that it was not much fun for us to be sitting on a ledge without seeing anything and without being able to move. The answer was that it was up to us, and that if we had decided to leave earlier they would have let go. The poor crew member was rather shaken, having had to hold on in a very strong current for quite a while - he didn't find a suitable ledge to stop on.

    The lesson to be learned from this, if any, is that it is NOT a good idea to have a group in which some members have reef hooks and others don't. I can see why one may want to carry them (I am not planning to, though), but then everyone should agree to use them, or the group should be split. One more thing to ask prospective buddies: do you carry a reef hook? If you do, I'd rather not dive with you...

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    JimC's Avatar
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    I would say this is more a fault of the "group dive buddy" than anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimC
    I would say this is more a fault of the "group dive buddy" than anything.
    Ditto that. I wasn't there, but there was probably little reason why buddy pairs couldn't have safely dived their own profiles. The only place I've ever dived where staying in a group made lots of sense was Cozumel, IMHO necessary there because of the strong currents AND the very large number of boats and divers.

    I'm surprised, though, that the boat didn't offer reef hooks. Liveaboards I've been on have done so when diving in a area with strong currents, e.g. Palau, GBR, PNG.
    Greybeard

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    Quote Originally Posted by donacheson
    Ditto that. I wasn't there, but there was probably little reason why buddy pairs couldn't have safely dived their own profiles. The only place I've ever dived where staying in a group made lots of sense was Cozumel, IMHO necessary there because of the strong currents AND the very large number of boats and divers.
    True enough. We could just have been diving buddy pairs. But given that we had been diving all week as a group, it was logical that we should stick together under these circumstances too. In retrospect, it would have been smarter for my son and I to just split and finish the dive as a buddy team.

    Quote Originally Posted by donacheson
    I'm surprised, though, that the boat didn't offer reef hooks. Liveaboards I've been on have done so when diving in a area with strong currents, e.g. Palau, GBR, PNG.
    We were the boat's first customers, at least for the current managers. They may very well decide that they should make reef hooks available.

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    What is a reef hook? and anyone got a picture?

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    Quote Originally Posted by squicker
    What is a reef hook? and anyone got a picture?
    http://www.divernet.com/technique/0101hook.htm

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    Thanks. Nice concept if is doesn't dmage the reef, but then again the ocean floor isn't covered in reefs and this could save your life in the case of down currents.

    I'll put it on my nice to have list.

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    Has anyone else made or bought one of these?
    Jim Goddard - DiscoveryDiversTokyo.com - DDT Facebook Page
    NAUI Course Director, NAUI Tech, PADI, Gear Sales

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    Quote Originally Posted by jagfish
    Has anyone else made or bought one of these?
    I've made several of these. Easy to make, easy to use. Wouldn't dive Palau without one. But, like all tools, if you don't now how to use it properly, you can cause problems.
    How I make mine is:
    Take one brass clip, something you can unhook with one hand. Get a length of good nylon cord about 3.5 to 4 feet long, (parachute cord works great). Go to your local fishing equipment store and buy a (I think) 000 (triple ought) stainless fishing hook. The hook should be at least 3" long. Cut the barb off the hook and file or grind the end smooth. Tie the hook on one one of the cord, and the clip on the other. Don't remember the name of the knot I use, boy scouts was way too many years ago, but it's the one where the fox come out of the hole, goes around the tree and back down the hole. Ya all dive safe now ya hear.
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    No knots in the cord to help you climb back down to the hook to dislodge it?
    Jim Goddard - DiscoveryDiversTokyo.com - DDT Facebook Page
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