When you’re likely to be diving in the same area as others, make a mental note of how you can easily identify your buddy. Underwater, you’ll soon discover that many divers tend to look identical, particularly in poor visibility, and you could find yourself swimming off with the wrong person – and it only takes a moment to lose contact with your buddy. So, what colour of fins do they have? Is their tank distinctive? Or maybe their hood, gloves or torch are easily identifiable. Get into the habit of doing this – and sooner, rather than later, you’ll be glad you did.
…And get them to do likewise with you.
Diving with a Pony Cylinder
At some point, you will want to buy a pony cylinder and regulator, to provide back-up as a fully redundant alternative air source to your main tank and stages. It is advisable to check your buoyancy/weighting, as you will likely need to remove a kilo or two. Obviously, it’s better to check this on a safe shore dive – not when you’re about to step off a boat into 40 metres of oblivion!
Remember, it’s not just YOUR safety that’s on the line.
If you do buy a pony and separate regulator, consider having its second-stage instantly accessible in preference to your main tank’s octopus. If your main regulator fails, or you run out of air, this will affect your octopus too, so relying upon the pony as a completely independent back-up makes sense.
But don’t get complacent, be aware of your air consumption and your main tank’s contents. Remember that if you are running low, it may be advisable to switch to your pony before your main tank actually empties. Firstly, it enables you to check that your pony is still working; and secondly, with a standard regulator set-up, since your drysuit and BCD inflation are fed from your main tank, if it empties, you will also have lost your primary source of buoyancy.
Discuss any kit reconfiguration with your instructors and other experienced divers.
Buying and using a DSMB (Delayed Submersible Marker Buoy)
These useful, and essential, devices can be a bit of a double-edged sword for the unwary. They contribute to making diving (particularly boat diving) much safer in a number of ways; yet used carelessly can be hazardous. Before you buy one, discuss it with experienced club members for advice on the best kind – and on a reel to go with it. Also, on the best methods for rigging it up and deploying it in different scenarios.
When comparing different reels, see how easy they are to operate when you’re wearing diving gloves: 3/5/7 mm thick.
Consider using a permanent marker to place indicator marks at various distances along the line from the DSMB, for example, at 3 metres, 6 metres, 10 metres etc., or whatever would be convenient for you to use as physical reference points to help with your ascent rate and decompression/safety stops. If your dive computer malfunctions, or visibility is poor, these indicator marks may be easier to see and help to keep your ascent controlled and safe.
As your diving experience grows, you should find that your air consumption steadily decreases – enabling you to dive for longer. The more practice you get, the more relaxed you should feel. As you become more proficient, you can think about fine-tuning other aspects of your diving to improve your air consumption further still. For example: are you really neutrally buoyant, or do you need to keep finning to maintain your depth? Are you streamlined and horizontal in the water for minimum resistance? Can you slow your movements right down and fin almost effortlessly?
Check also that you are correctly weighted and not having to use more air than necessary in your drysuit or BCD. If you are in a current, can you use the reef or wreck to provide shelter? If your buddy’s consumption is better than yours, you could also consider swimming a little higher than them, where even a slightly lower ambient pressure could make a difference.
This can affect even the strongest of sailors, so don’t be embarrassed if you start to feel queezy on the dive boat. It’s not a nice feeling, but rather than suffering increasingly until you get to the point-of-no-return, you may find that you recover almost instantly if you accept the inevitable and help it on its way. Pick a convenient spot on the leeward side (the other divers will be grateful) and ensure that you are holding on to something secure, so that it’s only the contents of your stomach that go overboard. If you are on a hard boat and you are out of sight of the others, be sure to let someone know. And if it’s your buddy who’s under the weather, keep an eye on them – and a secure grip too. Afterwards, drink water to restore your fluid level; there’s no point in inviting DCI too.
If you think you may succumb to seasickness, pack some pills from the chemist beforehand, and take them well in advance of your departure, according to the instructions. (Having first checked with your chemist for recommendations on which types will not increase your risk when diving.)
As a natural alternative, ginger in its various forms, is also suggested as helping to avoid seasickness. See what works best for you.
Easier Zip Location on BCDs/Pockets
Consider attaching cable ties to the zips on your BCD/Pockets for easier access – particularly useful with gloved hands. Colour-coded cable ties can help with identification – although, remember the colours will progressively disappear depending on your depth.
Diving Knife – Don’t Lose It
Whether you attach your dive knife to your leg or BCD, consider putting some elastic rope on it. That way, if it were to fall out, or you were to drop it, it would not get lost. (Be sure you have enough elasticated rope to be able to use the knife, but not enough to entangle yourself.)
Make the Most of Your Drysuit Pockets
If your drysuit pocket has a D-ring, rather than just storing only one item, by attaching them to the D-ring with bungee cord, you can then have easy access to other essential items too, without the risk of losing any of them. (As with the knife tip above, use enough bungee to do what’s required without it becoming a hazard!)