In Coz: You, Your Buddy, Your Group and Your DM. Who should do what?
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When I dived Bonaire and Curacao, there as no requirement for a DM. If you were shore diving, you were totally on your own. If you were boat diving, the boat would have a DM in the water doing a dive, and if you felt the need, you could go with him. I never dod, so I don't know how many people did that.
When I dived the on a liveaboard in the Great Barrier Reef, they put a DM in the water for those who wanted one only. Again, I never did. (I had only about 50 logged dives then.)
When I was on a liveaboard in Thailand, the DM was also optional.
DMs are optional on many liveaboards, depending on the conditions and local laws. In the Galapagos (Galapagos Aggressor II, Sky Dancer) and the Tuamotus (Tahiti Aggressor) we weren't given an option - it was always live drift diving. In Belize (Nekton Pilot) and Turks & Caicos (T&C Aggressor), there was always a DM in the water, a potential buddy for solo divers, but buddy pairs were permitted to do their own thing as the boat was always moored. In Palau (Palau Aggressor), it was follow the leader on drift dives, but we were able to do our own thing on the one site where we were moored. So the trend to me seems to be: moored boat, OK for buddy pairs to do their own thing sans DM; drift dives, they prefer to keep groups together to enable easier pickups.
When I dove in Thailand (actually a Burma/Thailand liveaboard), we were supposed to stay with our DM, though groups were as small as two + DM. On one dives, we were using 36% and the DM tried to get us to follow him down past 100' to see something. I grabbed J's arm and insisted we weren't going below 90' for safety's sake. Turns out the DM, who had all of 90 dives under his belt when J and I had far more, had no clue about nitrox let alone MOD, as I discovered after chewing him out back on board (the big deal past 100'? a frickin' lobster). I felt bad, since a direct confrontation can be embarrassing in countries where they're all smiles upfront but loss of "face" is a big deal, but safety takes precedence over "face" and I told the dive manager that we refused to dive with him again (I had other reasons, including the fact that he would constantly want to swim us against current to see something that ended up anticlimactic and we were much better off spotting our own critters). Dive manager agreed and J and I were allowed to do our own dives after that, though it seemed my outburst had caused a bit of friction since our ex-DM shied away from us the rest of the trip.
To whoever spoke of "research" showing there are DMs in the water everywhere but the USA:
Apparently you missed Canada.
From Vancouver to Browning Pass, year after year, it's just been us buddy pairs getting ourselves in and out. The skipper is like a taxi under their laws, as they explained them to me. No divemaster even on board, just paying customers and the skipper.
Perhaps the "research" was limited in some way . . .
And the SB Politeness Award goes to . . . Doc Vikingo, for "I find this assertion not compelling." The measure of a good dive plan is its impermeability.
Poor dive plans, on the other hand, tend to be water-soluble.