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Divemaster training – Advanced Open Water Class January 3, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Emergencies, Training.
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My first open water weekend as assistant-in-training was for an advanced open water class in the middle of spring, 2007. A little bit later in the season than my frigid rescue diver course of two years prior, the water temperature was a balmy 8C (46F), and Brad had offered to all students the opportunity to take the course in a dry suit, getting a dry suit experience dive as part of the course and the opportunity to get a discount on the dry suit should the student wish to buy one after the course.

The first day, May 12, 2007, was at Centennial Beach in Barrie, Ontario. The first dive was for a dry suit orientation and the second was underwater navigation. Once again I felt pretty useless, losing track of divers in the extremely poor, sometimes zero, visibility. For me, neither dive went deeper than 21 feet nor lasted more than 10 minutes. The first dive didn’t go that badly, and I was there to see the students do their hovering and fin pivots, but the underwater navigation was a dog’s breakfast. Everyone was eventually rounded up though, and the students seemed to do pretty well with their compass navigation. I wish I could say the same for myself.

Redemption came the following day at Big Bay Point. The first dive of the day was the deep dive, and my computer recorded the temperature down there at 5C (41F). The instructor waited at about 85 feet and I brought a pair of divers, a married couple named Steve and Laura, down the line (it follows the slop down) to him, where he did the exercise of comparing depth gauges and doing timed tasks. Not long after we arrived, Steve’s regulator started to free flow. This is a serious problem, of course, which in my opinion should be  emphasized a little more in open water training. A free flowing regulator will easily consume 100 PSI every five seconds so a diver can be out of air in just a minute or two.

Sean, the instructor, quickly provided his alternate second stage to Steve, and shut off his air, getting the situation under control. He then indicated to me to bring Laura back to the surface along the line, while he took Steve straight up. I’m not sure what Laura thought of seeing her husband taken away but seemed OK with the idea and I led her back towards the entry point, stopping at 15 feet for a 3 minute safety stop. It was then that she had issues with the buoyancy of her dry suit. I ended up having a bit of a wrestling match trying to keep her in place, and after a couple of minutes managed to transfer my ankle weights to her, after which she was fine.

When we got to the surface and started swimming back to the dock, I mentioned to her how her feet hang down with the extra weight, and I mentioned something else about the weights a few minutes later. About 10 minutes after she was on the surface and out of her scuba unit, she came up to me and asked me if the ankle weights were mine. So despite me putting them on her underwater, and mentioning them to her twice on the surface, she still didn’t realize what I’d done.

The last dive of the day was a bit embarrassing. I went down with Andrew to recover a lost fin (mine weren’t the only pair of students to have trouble on that dive) and weight pocket. We found both at about 80 feet, and while swimming back Andrew signalled to me to take the weight, which I did. He didn’t let go and seemed to want to share the weight with me, which was a little strange but I went along with it, carrying it in my right hand. However, as we were working our way back towards the dock, at about 50 feet I was getting way too buoyant, and needed my right hand for both my inflator valve and my dry suit valve. Of course, I had to let go of the weight to do this, but I went for it way too late. I let go of the weight (and watched Andrew hit the bottom), and tried to empty my BC and suit. Too late – I was in a runaway ascent. Dumping air the best I could, at 20 feet I flared for my inevitable trip to the surface. A minute later, and quite chastened, I returned to the bottom but let Andrew carry the weight the rest of the way.

Fortunately, Sean wasn’t with us to witness this screw-up, and was so delighted that I’d managed to follow his instructions to take Laura back up the line he gave me a great mark for the day and made a special note in the log about how helpful I’d been. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me but I was happy for the positive reinforcement.

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