In Coz: You, Your Buddy, Your Group and Your DM. Who should do what?
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You've less than 200 dives, a good many of which in Coz. Perhaps be thankful, indeed grateful, that you remain unsure as to whether to call the diving you've been doing in Coz "advanced." I've probably close to 600 dives under my belt. I've dove one week in Coz. I'd call it "advanced." And I encountered no serious issues during that week (intense down wellings, etc.), other than swift currents on every dive. These currents were enough for me to deem Coz diving "advanced" diving.
Originally Posted by cvchief
I certainly don't know what I am missing, I agree. I hear in other places you have to ..... swim.....? I mean really? Sounds hard. I only swim in Cozumel to take a picture. The question I was raising though was is Cozumel REALLY an advanced destination? Really?
Honestly, what I have been doing is "advanced"? I mean I know I make it look good, but advanced?
I haven't done rescue yet. I thought about doing it in Annapolis to avoid spending too much Vacay time on it, but it might be cold and I might have to wear a wet suit...... so I don't know.....
Coz may not be for beginner divers but I'm not sure I'd label it advanced. We made two trips to Coz a couple years ago. My wife did dives 37 - 63 on those trips and completed AOW on the second trip. She did fine both trips but I'm not sure I would have called her "advanced" even at the end of the second trip.
I also have no problem with the DM allowing experienced divers to ascend solo. My wife had no problem with me going up solo when I was low on air and she still had lots left to explore more reef with the DM.
Honestly, what I have been doing is "advanced"? I mean I know I make it look good, but advanced?
Therein lies the problem with classifying dive sites and locations. Is advanced any clear warm-water dive exceeding 60', is it a dive with strong current and depths in excess of 100', or is it a trimix dive on the Andrea Doria?
An advanced dive makes it easier for one to get into trouble than a novice dive. Beginner divers may inadvertently end up too deep on a wall dive, possibly getting themselves into a mandatory deco situation. Or they may get claustrophic going through a swim-through and panic. Sometimes currents exceed one's ability to swim against them, which can give divers a feeling of being out of control. And then there are the fabled downcurrents.
Yes, there are easier places to dive. Any place with slack current and a shallow hard bottom will do. There are also more "advanced" places to dive: combine strong currents with cold and limited viz, places where you're out in the open ocean if you drift off the site, serious overhead environments. The difference is that none of these sorts of "advanced" dive sites attract many beginner divers and infrequent cruise ship divers like Cozumel does, or at least the beginners that do experience the sites were trained in similar conditions.
I've done quite a few dives I'd consider to be more advanced than anything I've done in Cozumel. Heck, my 3rd, 4th, and 5th open-water certification dives were done out at Cortez Banks (Cortez Banks) which are considered advanced dives among the cold water set. Still, the one down current I experienced in Cozumel may top them all. Talk about feeling helpless. And from what I hear, that was a mild one.
Just about any place you go, there are easy dives and there are advanced dives; Cozumel proves that. But the drift thing adds some complexity to it, IMHO. Not everybody is comfortable drifting along with little control to stop. Ascending by yourself (or hopefully with your buddy) and hanging out waiting for the boat to pick you up may be unsettling to some as well. Dives tend to be fairly deep. And then there are current/surge issues, which apparently have been very harrowing this week. Honestly, the first-hand reports sound frightening. All in all, I think there would be few people who would consider Cozumel the ideal place for new divers.
The question of the boats is a tricky one--it's obvious different levels of divers should be separated, but how to do it? And all of us have been on both sides of the aisle--the new diver who doesn't want to hold everybody back and the one who doesn't want to be held back.
For sure a safety sausage (or something similar) should be required--actually, I thought they were already!
I think your response merely adds an exclamation point to the fact that Coz is an advanced diving destination, and that beginning divers are "matter out of place." Newbies are welcomed, of course, as their money is as good as the most advanced diver's. However, if some newbies on a boat can't be accommodated at most sites preferred by more advanced divers, then newbies don't belong in that diving situation. Again, Coz is advanced diving.
I have been to many places where a guide can lead newbies through a perfectly enjoyable dive that advanced divers can do both deeper and longer. If this tends to be a problem at Coz, well, then, no need to beat a dead horse.
I don't think Cozumel is an 'advanced' diving destination. You missed or over-looked the other half of my post, the part about taking a mixed boat to an easy dive site and the experienced divers being bored.
I do think the great number of dive sites available in Cozumel which typically divide up into two distinct flavors, either the deeper wall dives or the shallower coral gardens has created the typical two tank morning dive profile of a deep wall dive followed by a shallower dive, evolved from the dive ops wanting to take advantage of the two types of sites in two tanks. It's became the 'signature' of Cozumel diving. That can create a somewhat more challenging scenario to a new diver. Also there is a great variety of dive ops and dive masters who maybe because it's Mexico get a bit loose with safety and take divers with less experience along with more experienced divers to sites that are deeper then the newbies should be.
Locally the advanced or maybe better to call them expert dive sites are Barracuda (fast current, northern exposure, little other boat traffic to help you out if you need it), Maricaibo, (deep), Devil's Throat (over head environment combined with depth)
This website does a good job classifying them, from novice, to intermediate to advanced to expert.
I would have to agree that Coz does feature SOME advanced diving. I was one of the divers that found himself at 90' flying down Santa Rosa with only 12 dives under my belt. After traveling and diving for several years straight, I became aware that live boat, fast current, no bottom, and open water safety stops (no SMB in those days) were actually skills that not every new diver was comfortable with.
In Maui, most ops won't take you to the back side of Molokini which is a relatively tame wall dive (compared to a deep wall with overhead swim throughs) unless they have seen you dive. Most of the diving there (and in Kona) is 60-80 feet, close(ish) to shore, with moored boats and a stage bottle or at least a chunk of lead on a rope for your safety stop.
When you compare that to the diving in Coz that most people get to do in an average week's vacation, it's does seem 'advanced'.
I agree with Chief's first post....
1) You are responsible for your own ass - if you don't feel comfortable with a dive site, or conditions, or buddy, DON'T GET IN THE WATER! If you're alive, you can always come back and try again. If you're dead.......
2) Your buddy's problems are your problems - they go up, you go up. My daughter is my buddy, and if I don't bring her back safe I loose my marriage too, so I've got extra incentive to stick close to my buddy - frequent eye contact, and never more than a deep breath away.
3) The DM is going to pay attention to the weakest diver in the group. The Coz Dm's I have been with are real good at assessing who's gonna do what, most of the time by watching them on the boat on the way to the dive site. One big reason why I return to the same OP whether in Coz or Hawaii is that I have a good idea of who I'm going to be in the water with, and the clientele that they place on the boats with me are going to be mostly like minded.
4) Divers are a motley gang, and I have found that we tend to look out for each other. As chief said, I always check on the group to see if everyone's OK especially if I notice the DM is occupied with a particular diver or buddy team. Hell, I've got 800+ dives, but I hope some one besides my buddy is aware of me in case things go south. ANYONE regardless of experience or training can have a problem.
5) SMB's should be standard kit when diving especially when there is current and live boats involved. On a trip two years ago, I gave my brother a spare SMB to have during our vacation. He asked what it was and why he needed it and was like 'OK if you say so'. Two days into the trip, he had a regulator problem and had to thumb the dive and share air with the DM who took him to the surface after only a few minutes. The DM returned to the group and left my brother at the surface without our boat in sight. He inflated the SMB and it only took a few minutes for a nearby boat to ask him who he was diving with, and radio our boat to come over and get him. Later that night as he was putting the SMB back in his BCD, I was given a sheepish grin and a thank you.
When things go well, there isn't a better place to have some amazing lazy drift along diving than Coz, but remember that we engage in a dangerous sport in an environment where we can not survive. Be smart, and take care of yourself and each other!!
I've only made one trip to Coz, but it was a nine day trip. I came away shaking my head and wondering why people recommend that place for new divers. Yes, there were relatively benign dives -- and they were among my favorites! Night diving on Paradise Reef was as good as it gets. But the deep drift dives presented challenges our group was well-prepared to face -- but I think the person with the fewest dives in the whole group had about 500, and the rest of us all had some kind of tech cert.
First dives on Coz are deep, and not all tanks are large. Currents can be strong enough to be a real obstacle to keeping a team together. EVERYONE who dives there should have an SMB and know how to deploy it, IMO. (The recent accident confirms this.)
Nobody should ever, IMO, do a dive where they expect the DM to do anything but indicate the desired course and point out cryptic critters. If you need the DM for anything more, you shouldn't be doing the dive except as a training exercise.
Thank goodness I don't have any PADI certifications!
I do agree that most Cozumel diving is advanced, and that this can be deceptive when conditions are good.
SMB's are very useful, but they're also tricky - that bag can cause significant buoyancy issues that can be very problematic for the already buoyancy-impaired. Using one properly and safely is, in my view, an advanced skill. The fact that many of us agree that they're necessary in Cozumel is further argument that it's a generally advanced location.
So technically speaking, yes, it is advanced. Quite......and yet shops/dm's take old people, fat people, kids, new divers to 60-120' with not a thought in the world.
I have to take issue with this generalization and I think other "old people" will too. A properly trained AOW diver should be able to handle an emergency the proper way. It has nothing to do with age, body mass or the number of dives. Some of the problem lies in the number of LDS's that generate poorly trained divers with just enough skills to get them certified to be able to sell them gear to make money. I would have to say that even my LDS has been guilty of this at times. I have assisted with OW classes when I was working on my DM where the students should have NEVER been certified which is why I stopped. I was lucky enough to have an instructor that was determined to make sure the class I was in had all the skills necessary to be a safe and responsible diver. When I did my rescue class, he kicked my butt before certifying me. I toted by gear (120cf steel tank) up and down the stairs at Devils Den four times in one day and practiced for hours before he certified me for rescue diver. And by the way, I am 59 yrs old.