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Not every cruise ship diver is inexperienced, solo or renting gear. There are divers who plan to dive in every port and take their own gear. Also ones who do have a dive buddy with them. In this case, at least from the info that's been reported, it seems to me the issue is a solo ascent and possibly no smb or other signaling device. Could just as easily have been an experienced diver with their own gear staying on the island... in fact, a couple accidents last years were.
My experience in Cozumel and most places I've dived, is that what's discussed as "the rules" in the dive briefing and what transpires during the dive don't always match. I've also never been on a boat in the Caribbean where having an SMB is required, or the buddy system is really enforced. I've routinely seen solo ascents in Cozumel. Most with the DM aware and shooting their marker, the diver ascending close to the line, but a number of them have been a diver signaling the DM or their buddy and before anyone can do or say anything, they're on their way. With a current, you can be 20 ft above or below someone and be traveling a totally different rate and you can't just catch up to them. Even with a DM's SMB, and seeing the diver reach the surface, anything can happen once you're on the surface. You can't have a group finning against a current to stay in place until the diver is climbing into the boat. It's not practical.
Something I learned early on in diving, and something enforced in other dive training I've done, is to dive with a buddy but think as if you're alone. If you can't self-rescue, or get a handle on the situation long enough to think and get yourself to another diver to get whatever assistance you need, then eventually, if you dive enough and dive long enough, you will find yourself in a situation that if not for luck, you won't be getting out of. Even the most trained and experienced diver can get into a panic situation, have a medical or gear emergency and need help. That's ok, we're all human. I think too many divers don't seem to ever think in terms of what if they're the one having to provide assistance, or what if they end up on their own. I don't think there's enough emphasis in the cert course about what being a "buddy" real means. It's more than just not diving alone. So much about what you learn and how well you get trained has to do with the individual instructors you choose for your courses.
Accidents happen, and they can happen to anyone at anytime. Surfacing with a buddy might not change the outcome, but if you aren't picked up or have some other surface emergency, two heads are better than one. Your chances of a good outcome are always going to be better if you aren't alone.
I hope this story has a positive outcome. My heart goes out to the diver's family. It's got to be so stressful waiting on information and not knowing what happened or where she is.
Years ago I went to Cozumel with a large group of relatives, including one who had gotten certified for that vacation. It was his first ocean diving experience. The currents were very strong that week, perhaps the strongest I have ever experienced. He was struggling with them more than others because of his inexperience. Because of that, the two of us were at the back of the group on one of the dives. It was an unusual current in that it kept trying to blow us off the reef, so we couldn't just drift with it. All of a sudden he started to ascend. It was not his choice--he had lost control of his buoyancy. He was unable to control that ascent--he kept drifting up and away from me in the current. I couldn't catch him. I followed him all the way to the surface, where he was picked up by the boat.
The DM later thanked me for going up with him. At what point did he notice our ascent? I don't know. Unless he was looking at us at the moment we started up, I doubt he would have known we were gone until he looked back and did a count of the group. I can't blame him--he can't do a dive looking at every single diver 100% of the time. Did he know the boat had picked him up? I suspect so, since I came back down and signaled OK, but that was pretty well after the fact. Perhaps he saw the entire thing and knew it would be OK.
I just think that even with an attentive DM, it is very easy for an inexperienced diver in difficult conditions to make an uncontrolled ascent that is not witnessed by the DM. Not having a buddy witness it is another matter altogether.
My reply: It depends. Why is the DM there in this particular case? Is to be a guide showing where all the cool things are, or is it ensure those without good team mates are safe? In this case I'd say it was to point out the cool stuff. If the poor woman felt she wasn't up to the task then she should have paid for a dive guide, someone to keep her safe. If the DM is acting as a dive guide he's probably not making an evaluation of every diver. No time. Not what he was hired to do. So I'm back to my point. If the DM is responsible then he HAS to evaluate his charges before they go on the sightseeing trip. How well do you think that will go over with the more experienced divers? Not well. Again, back to my point. Don't blame the DM for the loss of this poor woman. Not his fault.
Here's a dilemma for you. If he is in fact responsible for the safety of everyone on the dive, should he put the majority at risk, leaving them so he can attend to the one diver? I can't answer that.
Originally Posted by Firefyter
This is the case more often than not. They either need babysitting, or want it.
There are a few that will do almost that once they are confident in your skills. It really pays in this area to develop a relationship with your DM through the years. Once they find you are capable and that they can trust you, you do get more freedom.
Don't want one, don't need one. I trust my skills way more than I trust most other divers. I'll take care of myself, thanks.....
Randy, I get your point, and I totally agree with you. However, if you're diving with a DM there for more than one dive, don't think they're not evaluating you. They're watching how you dive, and this evaluation has a lot to do with what other sites you dive with them.
---------- Post added at 03:16 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:11 PM ----------
Simply having a "buddy" is no guarantee of safety. I've been on dives where I end up being the safety diver because my "buddy" doesn't know squat about being a team member. Simply having a buddy is NOT the answer to reducing dive accidents.
Having a well trained team mate is what we as divers really need. Not just a "buddy."
She was with her husband. She told her husband she needed to go to the surface. Her husband let the instructor know then headed up himself but when he reached the surface he couldn't find her. The current was part of the problem.
I was there two weeks ago and dove in the normal south to north current 2 days then the third day at Santa Rosa had a north to south current and a thermocline (visible - fuzzy water) that went from 80 to 75 degrees.... It was so screwed up my Son and I floated for 18 minutes before getting picked p. the current scattered divers for a very long distance.
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1. since the lady was diving from a cruise ship, it can be surmised that she did not bring her own gear so was using rental gear which she was not familiar with and also that she was a beginner.
2. since it says the DM did not know she was gone, it can also be surmised that she did not signal to him (ever boat dive I have ever done, the DM briefs that you need to tell him if you need to go up, for whatever reason, and your buddy always goes with you)
3. since she was diving from a cruise ship, it can also be assumed that she was buddied with someone that she did not know and that neither of them was paying any attention to the other... a newbie mistake.
4. AND we can all assume at this point that current had nothing to do with the disappearance.
All assumptions... but I think most likely all true.
I hope they find her alive, but the longer it goes, the less likely.
She was buddied up with her husband not a stranger. She told her husband she needed to go to the surface. Her husband let the DM know then headed up himself but when he reached the surface he couldn't find her. The current was part of the problem. They did inform the DM she needed to go up.And they bought most of their gear so none of these assumptions are actually true.