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That said, at what point do you feel confident enough to dive without a guide?
From dive 1. But you need to pick your battles. Our first dive was in a pond we knew well from skin diving. It was comfortable and we got to go down into space we could never visit for more than a quick breath hold peek.
Dive 2 was at a local ocean beach in a sheltered cove. We headed straight out until a turn pressure was reached, turned 180 degrees and walked out :40 latter.
From there we slowly expanded the scope and complexity of our dives eventually getting a feel for what the bottom of many sites were like.
As for being overwhelmed, first things first. You won't be that good at picking out the eye candy since you will be focused on your diving. As you become more capable it will all work out. In the meantime you can trade off on being the lead with the other diver watching for the cool stuff. However even the follower should be maintaining awareness of the route taken. Breathing, buoyancy and such will come to you as you relax and enjoy the dives.
Unless you have a killer travel budget frequent local diving is the way to become safe and proficient.
Last edited by spectrum; February 27th, 2012 at 10:24 PM.
My OW training was immediately followed by a week long dive trip to the Bahamas. I no way felt confident to deal with underwater problems with that limited experience. My buddy was my daughter who had the same experience level. So I paid the extra to have a guide with us for all our dives. Was much more comfortable and got to see some things I wouldn't have otherwise seen because the guide knew the area. Now, with 40 - 50 dives under my belt and a few more classes, while I'm still a novice diver I feel quite comfortable diving with a buddy. It comes. After spending what it takes for travel, gear, training, boat, why not pay the little extra to make the dive comfortable and fun.
Many of the dive operators put a DM in the water and you're welcome to stay with with him. That's what I did in my transition from guided to independent dives (and still do sometimes, especially in a new place).
Enjoy your trip! We'll be diving the keys for the first time the beginning of April and chose Rainbow Reef; they come well recommended.
We never really consciously planned our first dive without a guide. All our early dives were either with friends who were DMs and the like, or on trips were we had DMs or Dive Leaders in the water. It was just the way it was.
My son and I went on a trip with friends to Victoria and we did the MacKenzie and the DB Church. After the pre-dive briefing before the Church we decided what we were going to do and we did the dive. When we got back, we both realized that "hey, we just did this on our own". It was pretty cool.
Congrats on your OW certification. You have taken the first step to becoming a good and safe diver. IMHO, I would recommend a dive guide. A guide can help boost your skills and make sure that you see the good parts of the dive site. If you are going to Key Largo, Rainbow Reef always offers free guide service. We have dived with them several times and have always enjoyed their dive trips.
Am I freaking out too much about this? I just feel like if the boat dumps us at a location, I am bound to be distracted by reefs/wildlife and not pay attention to direction/fin strokes/current and end up far from the boat. I just think that right now, I should be working on breathing control and bouyancy control. Adding navigation into the mix seems like too much for a beginner. Am I right?
That said, at what point do you feel confident enough to dive without a guide?
You know, this is a very good point. In the classroom portion (or online portion) of the OW class, the topics of dealing with currents and waves and surge are addressed nicely. But when I was taking the course, I had no idea how important these concepts were. Now that I've had the experience of jumping off a boat and being carried away from the boat by the current, and how scary that is, I realize how important it really is. And then there are the stories of people getting carried way out to sea.
It's just interesting that there's what you think of as scuba diving (being under the water), and what you don't think of as scuba diving but which is as much a part of it as the diving itself (managing surface currents, lugging the equipment to and from the boat or shore, rinsing off the equipment afterwards, how to store and care for your equipment, how to correctly weight yourself, how to stay hydrated, and many others). Every single bit of it is supremely important.
I still prefer to have a guide that I can keep my eye on in a new dive site. We've been to the Keys a few times and I can now get dropped at the Benwood and find my way around and back to the boat without much trouble - but my navigational skills still stink. When they remind you of things like "look where the sun is - is it on your left, right, in front or behind you", it makes sense. Same with the layout of the fingers of the reef. The only problem is that when you get in between two fingers of the reef you forget where you came in and the idea of keeping the reef on your left shoulder or right shoulder can get confusing. I really like the idea of looking at the sand and figuring out which way the current is going in relation to where the boat is (and which way is "away from shore" and probably deeper). For instance, if you notice that you're getting into deeper water (even only by 10 feet) and the boat is parked at 25' then you can hazard a guess that you're heading away from the boat. Also, it's always a good idea to swim against the current on your way "out" and then let it pull you back toward the end of your dive - this is the most important part of dive planning (IMO). My buddy and I will listen to the dive briefing, determine our course up-current from where we are, discuss what we want to see and then head out in the direction we planned. Plan the dive and dive the plan.
That said, Rainbow Reef really is good about the dive guides (if you're going to Largo). No additional charge and they will point out the critters that I otherwise usually miss. Stay with a guide until YOU feel comfortable navigating on your own - or make sure you take a signaling device and know how and when to deploy it! No shame in using a signal to get picked up.
Thanks everyone. I just don't think I would "enjoy" diving as much without a guide at this point. I loved diving with the guide in the Dominican because he knew every square inch of the place and pointed out a lot of aquatic life that was hiding or camoflaged that we would never have spotted.
kimbalabala, is this "signaling device" you mention referred to as "safety sausage"? My instructor used this when he had me practice doing a CESA, it was pretty cool going up like a rocket!