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How do you get over the nervousness/fear when jumping into unfamiliar dive sites?

Discussion in 'New Divers & Those Considering Diving' started by alex_can_dive, May 25, 2021.

  1. alex_can_dive

    alex_can_dive Contributor

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Massachusetts
    I've always dived at the exact same dive sites for a long time because I suck at navigations under water when visibility is anything less than ideal (read tropics clear water)

    How do you not get nervous and/or get lost in 10-15 ft visibility in unfamiliar sites?
    Please share tips/advice on improving my navigations.

    Really, I can't believe it's 2021 and still there isn't any commercial easy-to-use under-water navigation system!:banghead:

    BLACKCRUSADER Contributor

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Taiwan
    I never get anxious when diving for the first time at a dive site I've not dived before.
    I find it good fun to explore a new site. The best underwater navigation system is your grey matter and compass.
  3. undrwater

    undrwater Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cerritos, CA
    You dive with locals. Barring that, you talk to locals a lot about conditions.

    Were I you, I'd take a course or get some mentoring on navigation. It's worth it.
  4. Jayfarmlaw

    Jayfarmlaw Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tuttle, Ok
    I know nothing about Massachusetts diving, but Oklahoma has lots of 2 foot vis diving or less....then sometimes it opens up to 20 feet or better. A little planning can eliminate the need for shooting a compass bearing and following it, although you really should know basic NESW orientation.

    For shore diving, you can always swim out to a set depth, then keeping the uphill slope on one side, swim for a set time, hit your turn and do it again in reverse. Pick a starting landmark, stack rocks, use a stump, even a beer can if necessary and that's your stop point. This works pretty well for most lakes.

    I have seen navigation slates made out of cutting boards (I think) with a compass glued on them. You can write nav notes on the slate as needed. You hold it in front of you and it really improves following a bearing.

    If you don't have a Shearwater Perdix yet, go ahead and sell a kidney on Craigslist and get one. The compass allows you to set a bearing marker and the computer will tell you to correct if you get off track. It also marks a 180 degree bearing for the return trip. It pretty sweet....probably not $1300 worth of sweet, it it's an awesome computer all the same. I didn't need that other kidney anyway.

    Unless your in the ocean or avoiding boat traffic, who cares if you get lost. Just pop up, get your bearing, shoot a course and dive again. Do y'all have to pull a dive float or set a flag? I tend to swim in a big circle to the left if I'm not following a compass heading or staying at a certain depth. For my fun dives, I'll just go look around with no particular destination in mind. At my turn point, follow the depth back to 15-20 feet and kick around for 3 minutes and pop up to see where the exit point is.

    Now all that being said....navigation isn't hard, but it does take practice. A small wrist slate or whatever style you prefer is handy for writing a bearing on. A day in a dive park or lake with some buoys can dial in nav skills. If there is not a dive park, go to your favorite site and set your own.

    As far as nervous, if it's the conditions than make you feel in easy such as waves, difficult entry, underwater obstacles, or whatever else, find a better place. You can't get hurt on a dive you don't do. If your worried about getting lost, don't be. Unless your going deep or trying to cover a lot of distance, kick around for 20 minutes, pop up, and do it again.

    ON EDIT- When you absolutely, positively, have to get back to where you started...there is this genius device. Used by divers in deep dark places no sane person would go, and lost means dead. Kind of embarrassed I didn't put it in there first. Dive Rite Classic Primary Reel, 400 ft #24 Orange Line

    Good luck!
  5. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dartmouth,NS,Canada(Eastern Passage-Atlantic)
    I don't get nervous, but am extra careful since I don't know the site. I'm particularly conscious of looking for any possible entanglement (not likely here in NS, but for sure around NYC area & FL panhandle--back before the land border closed). I use the internet to get what details that I can, including checking out the coast area using satellite maps. No more long walks or climbing down rocks & hills for this guy. I go slow (well slower than my usual 67 year old slow....). Won't dive a new site if the weather may reduce viz to say less than 5 -10 feet.
    I will use my compass for a couple of out & back directions from shore. If it's a new local dive here I can check out reports, photos on LDS' website.
  6. SlugMug

    SlugMug Contributor

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Texas
    I mostly dive in a lake where the visibility often drops to 1-2 feet, and I just have to keep swimming until it opens up. I got used to it fairly quick, because it's either that or don't dive. I rarely have a specific destination, but rather explore (and look for treasure).

    So far most of my navigation is just by following the topography, with uphill generally being towards the shore. Sometime I'll learn compass navigation, which isn't complicated, but I might as well learn as part of an "advanced" class I'm planning on taking.
  7. Cdncoldwater

    Cdncoldwater Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Atlantic Canada
    Take a nav course or get mentoring and practice as others have said. I don't generally get nervous and nav every dive because my vis locally sucks. Fortunately I spent many years in the military and was comfortable with nav and trust my compass so this has come easily for me with my AOW nav dive as my only "formal" dive nav training. Do your research on new sites as others have said, use available landmarks and stay relatively shallow until you have better skills.
  8. ginti

    ginti Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Lyon, France
    Yeah, people with thousands of dives under their belts usually do not get uncomfortable. Still, I understand that it is different for you, assuming that your profile here is updated - namely, that your experience is in the 0-24 dives range.

    With so few dives of experience, you should focus on basic skills - not on navigation. Dive with locals for navigation. Worst case scenario, if you get lost, you go up with an SMB, that's it.... be sure to be diving in areas with few boats.

    Anyway, there are several strategies to navigate in low viz, but this is what you need to consider always:
    - use time instead of distances; if you follow a straight line for 15minutes, then you turn back (180┬░), and you follow the same straight line, just the other way around, you will take more or less 15min to reach the original point, except if you stop for some reasons for a long time (in this case, take this extra time into account)
    - use the environment whenever you can; follow rock walls, try to recognise the most special environmental characteristics (such as big cracks, holes, rocks, and so on), etc.
    - if the environment does not allow easy navigation, use the compass as much as you can

    P.S. I am not saying that it is acceptable to neglect navigation because you don't have a lot of experience. On the contrary, you need to start practising right now. But, since developing good navigation skills requires time, it is a good idea to dive with more experienced divers that can help you.
    Cdncoldwater and alex_can_dive like this.
  9. Akimbo

    Akimbo Just a diver Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    Is diving the only activity that makes you nervous? Have you ever dove in warm clear tropical waters? I suspect the answer is as simple as habituation. The more you dive, the more familiar it becomes, and you will very likely become less nervous. Here is a link to learning to dive in zero visibility that was written for wreck divers. I'm not suggesting that you follow this advice at this point but it talks about habituation and applies to your situation.

    Wreck Penetration
  10. emoreira

    emoreira Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: ARGENTINA
    Many answers about navigation with two of the most powerful tools : your brain and a compass.
    However, to address the second question
    There are several devices already in the market and some in development.
    Two technical developments :
    1) pinger
    2) Inertial Navigation

    1) Pinger
    It's a two components device. One in the entry place and one with the diver. The idea is that the device with the diver "hears" the pinging that the device in the entry place produces and guides the diver in the direction where the pinger is located.
    The device located in the entry place should be submerged, for example hanging in the boat side.
    Seldom used, many already out of the market by low sells.
    Search for Uwatec® NeverLost as one example.

    2) Inertial navigation
    Just like every modern submarine, but the size for a diver, with (of course) lower accuracy, but enough for the distances travelled by a diver in a dive.
    It's a stand alone device carried by the diver. It tracks the position referenced to the start point measuring the acelerations of the device, plus depth and compass readings. Still too expensive, bulky and under development.
    ARIADNA.TECH Diver Navigation

    Those two devices are usually replaced with experience in navigation and diver confidence.

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