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We were getting close to the end of the dive and I was looking for small critters at 38 feet when one of the divers (with less than 20 dives) gave me the half-a-tank signal. That's nice, I thought, we are close to the end of the dive and he has managed his air nicely. He is not my buddy, but I dove with him once before in February when he was on vacation and had just gotten his certification. Then he comes swimming quickly toward me and makes another hand gesture and holds his SPG out. He has less than 500 psi.
I immediately hand off my regulator and breathe through my Air 2. I have 1600 psi which should get us both to the surface. I signal ok to him and he signals back. There are 6 other divers in the water, so I signal that we are ok and start to ascend to 18 feet and swim at that depth until we get to the boat. Once on the surface I tell him to orally inflate his BC. He still tries to inflate with his inflator hose but I remind him he is out of air.
Once we are back on the boat, we talk about what was going on. He says that he signaled the dive leader that he had 500 psi. I showed him the out of air signal and he says "Oh!". I asked him why he didn't push his SPG in the dive leader's face to show he was almost out of air. Shrugs. He was diving with a camera, so I suggest that he pay more attention to his air consumption and nitrogen bar on his computer. He told me he thought I was going to take him down to the dive leader who was a little deeper than we were. I told him that it didn't make good sense to waste time and air to go deeper when we needed to get him to the surface with my air. He smiled. He discussed it with the dive leader back on the boat and he thanked me and invited me to lunch where we discussed it thoroughly.
I was very happy that he didn't panic.
The lessons here:
New divers should spend more time in the water paying attention to their gauges, buoyancy and sticking to the buddy system. (I don't know who his buddy was or if he even had one). Learn to enjoy the underwater environment and how to deal with current, surge or other conditions (we didn't have any of these on this dive).
My own opinion, but all divers should be competent in their dive skills before carrying a camera, speargun, lobster snare or other distraction. Someone with less than 25 dives or 50 even, has no need for a camera. Again, this is my opinion.
Practice your skills. Let your buddy know you will be doing this. Take your reg out of your mouth and replace it, remove your mask, etc. You never know when you will have your mask kicked off or your reg pulled out of your mouth by your buddy's fin. Be prepared to deal with it.
Mentally rehearse what you will do if you have an emergency like an out of air situation. (I find it very strange that I dreamed about that very situation the night before it happened).
It is easier to use an octopus to make an emergency ascent, but easier to do with an Air 2 than I expected. Know how you will donate air so you can do it safely for you and the buddy.
Remember the first rule of scuba: Never do anything stupid. Live to dive another day.
So if I have this right, the half-tank signal he gave you was a miscommunication on his part? He actually meant he had 500psi?
I have to ask, was he using a digit-number set of hand signals for air (displaying each digit individually to signal his psi) or a short-cut hand signal (displaying one hand signal to mean a certain amount)?
He seemed like a very composed diver and you handled the situation very well. Glad it all worked out.
I'm a little confused. You indicated that he was less than 500 pounds. I would have expected that he would have plenty of gas to make it to the surface from 38 feet @ 500. You also told him he was out of air and could not use his inflator at the surface where did the 500 lbs go his inflator would work long past 100 #
I would have passed my regulator the same as you did but not because it was a ooa situation but rather because he was low and you don't want him to go ooa
I see this not as a saving of a life situation but rather more of a let's keep ya out of trouble
His biggest error was showing his pressure guage waiting for someone else to call the dive rather than just saying low air and calling the dive. New divers get to dependent on others to tell them what to do rather than making the decision for themselves
From 38 ft he should have done a CESA, but he was not thinking well obviously.
Why would he need to CESA when he still had air available? At 400-500 psi (assuming an Al80) he still had 10-13 cf of air. Even with a sac of 1cfm, he had time for a normal ascent. I don't even see the need for him to have shared air, but since he did, why didn't he have air to fill his BC at the surface? Didn't he still have his 400-500 psi? Good on the Op for getting him to the surface.