Sight Search

Experience Matters

By Cheryl Hughes
After reading two recent Alert Diver articles — one by a woman who saved her husband in Cozumel and the other about how the simple act of saying some wise words may have saved another diver’s life — I was reminded of a story of my own. The incident occurred many years ago, so some details are lost, but the memory of what I did to save my husband is still clear.
I learned to dive in Seattle, Washington, in 1987, when drysuits were starting to become the norm rather than the exception in cold water. Over the next 20 years I did several hundred dives, with at least half of them in cold water in the Pacific Northwest. I learned a lot about challenging conditions such as deep depths, strong currents and long surface swims to and from the shore. I also earned my advanced and rescue certifications.

When I met my future husband, Mac Noyes, in 2004, he had been certified for about a decade but had only dived on vacations in the tropics. At the time of the incident he had made around 50 dives. Though he is very comfortable in the water and can snorkel for hours, the first dive of each annual trip was generally a refresher dive for him. The first time we dived together I knew none of this. I was diving weekly as a volunteer in the cold-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium. Mac had not been diving in a year or more.

In 2007 we were in Belize on a sailing charter with three other couples. We spent most of our time in the water snorkeling — it was so easy to just jump off the boat and enjoy the abundance of beautiful reef life in shallow water. We decided to go diving for a day with another couple after we found out they were very experienced divers, so we found a small local dive operator. I don’t recall what led us to choose that particular business, but it’s likely they were the closest or the only one where we were anchored at the time.

On the morning of the dive, two young dive guides came alongside our sailboat in a small boat stocked with the rental dive gear and not much else. The four of us got in their boat and took off to the reef. The guides helped us into our dive gear, and all seemed well. We back-rolled off the boat and started down. I had no trouble descending and went down faster than Mac. Confident that he was OK, I watched him while I neared the bottom at 50 feet.
 
He approached me and settled on the bottom, and his eyes were wide with question and alarm as he showed me his air-pressure gauge. With each breath the needle wildly swung back and forth. I knew immediately what was wrong. I reached behind him and opened the tank valve, allowing full air flow into the regulator. I held him in front of me and watched his face for signs as he took several deep, full breaths. He calmed down, and I gave him the OK signal. He returned the sign, so we joined the other divers and completed the rest of the dive without further incident, though I remained close to him and watchful.

Mac had no idea what had been wrong, only that he could not get a full breath from his regulator. He was getting just enough air to think it was OK to continue descending, but by the time he got to me he was feeling light-headed and panicked. He did not know until after the dive what the swinging needle in the air gauge meant. As we talked later, neither of us could remember being taught in our dive classes that the swinging needle means that the tank valve is not fully open. I had learned it at some point in my experience, though I don’t remember when. Mac said that he saw me put my arms around his neck and look in his eyes, and he suddenly felt better and could breathe normally. That’s a romantic thought, but it’s not even close to reality.

Back on the boat, we realised they had opened the valve enough to check the tank pressure but had not closed it fully or reopened it when we geared up. I had nearly lost my future husband and learned several valuable lessons about my role as a dive buddy — especially as the more experienced one.

Be accountable for your gear. Check its operation before you enter the water, whether it is your own or rental gear. I knew to do this but still assumed the dive operators had checked everything. Though they have a major interest in keeping clients safe, dive operators still make mistakes. Check all gear, yours and your buddy’s, before getting in the water. This was not the only time we have had rental dive gear that wasn’t fully functional. It’s your life, not theirs, at stake.

Always vet your dive operator. We hired relatively inexperienced dive operators and assumed they knew what they were doing. In the remote area where we were, we did not have a lot of choices, but being more aware would have kept us safer, even with the same dive guides.

Stay close to your buddy. It is important to stay close during the descent and throughout the dive because things can go wrong from the start. If I had stayed with Mac during the descent, we could have corrected the malfunction before it ever became a problem. Now we always descend together.

Know your buddy. If you are diving with a new buddy, make no assumptions about them, regardless of their diving experience. Mac’s natural snorkeling ability was apparent, so I assumed he was more comfortable and familiar with diving than he was at the time.

Be sure your tank valve is completely open. The practice of backing off an open tank valve a half turn is no longer recommended and, as this incident illustrates, can be potentially dangerous. Tank valves should always be fully open during dives.

Dive with DAN® dive accident cover. I have always been a member of DAN, and I know that standard travel insurance does not cover dive accidents. I have never had to use my dive accident cover, and I hope I never have to, but I have never regretted having it.

Categories

 2022
immersion and bubble formation 232bar AGE AIDA Accident management Accidents Acid reflux Acute ailments Advanced courses Rescue diver Aerobic exercise After anaesthesia Aged divers Air Quality Air exchange centre Air hose failure Air supply Airway control Air Alert Diver Magazine Algorithms Alice Cattaneo Alice Modolo Alternate Airsources use Alternater Air Source Alternative gas mix Altitude changes Altitude diving Altitude sickness Aluminium Oxide Ama divers Amino acids Amos Nachoum Anaerobic Metabolism Animal life Annual renewal Antarctica Anxiety Apex predators Apnea Apnoea Aqua corps Aquatic creatures Aquatic life Aquatics and Scuba Diving Archaeology Argonaut octopus Argonauts Argon Arrythmia Arterial Gas Embolisms Arterial gas embolism Arthroscopic surgery Aspirin Audible signals Aurel hygiene Australian Flat backed BCD BHP BLS BWARF Back adjustment Back pain Back treatment Backextensors Backmount CCR Badages Bag valve mask Bahamas Balancing Bandaids Barbell back squat Barometric pressure Barotrauma Basic Life Support Batteries Beach entry Becky Kaga Schott Becky Kagan Schott Bench press Bends Benign prostate hyperplasia Benzophenones Beth Neale Beyond Standards Bilikiki Tours Biophysics Black Blood flow Blood pressure Blood thinners Blue Desert Blue Wilderness Blue economy Blurred vision Boat diving Boat safety Boesmans gat Boesmansgat Bonaire Bone fractures Bouyancy compensators Bouyancy controls Boyle's Law Boyle\'s Law Bradycardia Brain Brandon Cole Breast Cancer Breath Hold Diving Breath hold diver Breath holding Breath hold Breath-hold Breathing Gas Breathing gas contamination Breathing Breathold diving Bright Bank Broken bones Bruising Bubble detection Bubbleformation Buddy Exercise Buddy checks Buoyancy Burnshield CCR CGASA CMAS CO2 COVID-19 Updates COVID-19 COVID CPR Cabin pressure Caissons diseas California Camera equipment Camera settings Cameras Cancer Remission Cancer treatments Cancer Cannabis and diving Cannabis Cape Town Dive Festival Cape Town Dive Sites Cape Town CapeTown Carbon Monoxide Carbon dioxide Cardiac research Cardiaccompromise Cardio health Cardiological Cardiomyopathy Caribbean Carmel Bay Catalina Island Cave diving Cave exploration Cave Challenging Environments Chamber Safety Chamber science Chamber treatment Charging batteries Charles' Law Charles\' Law Charles\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' Law Charlie Warland Chemotherapy Chest compressions Children diving Chiropractic Chlorophll Chokka Run Christina Mittermeier Citizen Conservation Citizen sciences Citizen science Clean Air Cleaning products Closed Circuit Rebreathers Closed Circuit Rebreather Cmmunity partnership Coastal diving Coastalexcursion Cold Water Cold care ColdWater Cold Commercial Fishing Commercial diving Commercial schools Common consideration Common understanding Communication Composition Compressed Air Compressed gas Compressor operators Compressors Concussion Congestive heart Faiture Consercation Conservation Photographer Conservation photography Conservation Contact lenses Contaminants Contaminated air Coping with cold Coral Conservation Coral Reefs Coral Restoration Coral bleaching Coral preservation CoralGroupers Corals Core strength Corona virus Coro Costamed Chamber Courtactions Cozumel Cradiac valvular Cristina Mittermeier Crohns disease Crowns Crystal build up Crystallizing hoses Cutaneous decompression Cylinder Ruptures Cylinder capacity Cylinder handwheel Cylinder safety Cylinder valves Cylinder weight DAN Courses DAN Profile DAN Researchers DAN medics DAN members DAN report DANTraining DCI DCS Decompressions sickness DCS theories DCS DEMP DM training DNA DReams Daan verhoeven Dahab Dalton's Law Dalton\'s Law Dalton\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Law Danel Wenzel Dangerous Marinelife Dauin island Dave McCowan David Doubilet Dean's Blue Hole Dean\'s Blue Hole Deco dives Decompression Illness Decompression Sickness Decompression Stress Decompression chamber Decompression illsnes Decompression limits Decompression treatment Decompression Decorator crabs Deep Freediving Deep diving Deep water exploration Deepest SCUBA Dive Delayed Offgassing Dental Depth limits Dever Health Diagnosis Diaphragms Diopter Diseases Disinfection Dive Buddy Dive Chamber Dive Computer Dive Destinations Dive Destination Dive H Dive Industry Dive Instruction Dive Instructor Dive Medical Form Dive Medical Dive Practices Dive Professionals Dive Pros Dive Rescue Dive Research Dive Safari Dive Safety Tips Dive South Africa Dive Training Dive Travel Wakatobi Dive Travel Dive accidents Dive buddies Dive computers Dive courses Dive cylinder Aluminium Dive excursions Dive exercise Dive exeriences Dive experience Dive fitness Dive gear Dive heallth Dive health Dive in Africa Dive medicals Dive medicines Dive medicine Dive operators Dive opportunities Dive planning Dive procedures Dive safety 101 Dive safety Dive safe Dive skills Dive staff Dive travels DiveLIVE DiveTravel Diveleader training Diveleaders Diver Health Diver Profile Diver Travel Diver education Diver infliencers Diver on surface Diver recall Diverover 50 Divers Alert Diversafety Divesites Diving Divas Diving Fatalities Diving Feet Diving Kids Diving Programs Diving Trauma Diving career Diving emergencies Diving emergency management Diving fit Diving guidelines Diving injuries Diving suspended Diving Dizziness Dolphins Domestic Donation Doug Perrine Dowels Dr Rob Schneider Drift diving Drysuit diving Drysuit valves Drysuits Dynamic environment Dyperbaric medicines EAPs EAP EMS Ear barotrauma Ear pressure Ear wax Ears injuries Eco friendly Ecowise Education Electronic Emergency Action Plan Emergency Planning Emergency action planning Emergency decompression Emergency plans Emergency treatments Emergency underwater Oxygen Recompression Emergency Endurance Envenomations Enviromental Protection Environmental factors Environmental impact Environmental managment Environmental stewardship Equalisation Equalization Equipment care Equipment failure Equipment inspection Equipment significance Evacuations Evacuation Evaluations Even Breath Evironmetaly friendly Exercise Exercising Exhaustion Exposure Protection Extended divetime Extinguisher Extreme treatments Eye injuries FAQ Face computer Factor V Leiden Failures FalseBay Diving Fatigue Faulty equipment Feet Femal diver Female divers Fetus development Filling stations Fillings Fin Foot Fire Coral Fire Safety Fire extinguisher Firefighting First Aid Equipment First Aid Kit First Aid Trainig First Aid Training First Aid kits First Aid Fish Identification Fish Life Fish Fit to dive Fitness Levels Fitness Training Fitness evaluation Fitness to dive Fitnesstrainng Fitness Flying Focus lights Footissues Foundations Fractures Francesca Diaco Francois Burman Fred Buyle Fredive Free Student cover Free diving Free flow Freedive Competition Rules Freedive Competiton Freedive INstructor Freedive Safety Freedive Training Freedive computer Freedive rescue procedures Freediver Freedive Freediving Instructors Freediving performance Freediving Gar Waterman Gas Density Gas consumption Gas emboli Gas laws Gas mixes GasPerformance Gasblends Gases Gass bubbles Gastoeusophagus Gastric bypass Gastroenterologist Gas Gear Servicing Germs Geyer Bank Giant Kelp Forest Giant Kelp Giant stride Girls that Scba Gobies Gordon Hiles Great White Sharks Green sea turtle Greenlings Guinness World Record Gutt irritations HBOT HCV HELP HIRA HMLI HMS Britanica Haemorhoid treatment Hand signals Harry Chammas Hawaii Hawksbill Hazard Description Hazardous Marine life Hazardous marinelife Head injuries Headaches Health practitioner Heart Attack Heart Health Heart Rate monitor Heart fitness Heart rates Heart rate Heart Heat stress Heliox Helium Hematoma Hemodynamic Hepatitis C Hepatitus B Hiatal Hernia High Pressure vessels High pressure hoses High temperatures Hip strength Hip surgery Hippocampus History Hole in the heart Hood Hot Humans Hydrate Hydration Hydrogen Hydroids Hydrostatic pressure Hygiene Hyperbaric Chamber Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments Hyperbaric Oxygen Hyperbaric research Hyperbaric treatment Hyperbarics Hypertension Hypothermia Hypoxia I-52 found INclusivity IdentiFin Imaging Immersion Immine systems In Water Recompression Increased pressure Indemnity form Indian Ocean Indigo SCuba Indonesia Inert gas Infections Infra red Imaging Injections Inner ear Instinct Instruction Instructors Insurance Integrated Physiology International travel International Internship programs Internship Interval training Irritation Irukandji Syndrome Isotta housing Itchy Rash Jellyfish Jill Heinerth Joanna Wyrebek Joint pain Journal for Technical Diving Junior Open Water Diver KZN South Coast KZN Karen van den Oever Kate Jonker KateJonker Kenya Kidneys Kids scubadiver Komati Springs KwaZulu Natal LED lights Labour laws Lake Huron Lara Lambiase Laryngospasm Lauren Arthur Learning to dive Leatherback Legal Network Legal advice Legislation Lembeh Straights Lenses Leukemis Liability Risks Liability releases Liability Life expectancy Lifestyle Lighting Lightroom editing Lionfish Live aboard diving Liveaboard Liver Toxicity Liver diseas Liz Louw Loss of consciousness Lost at sea Low Visability Low blood pressure Low pressure deterioration Low volume masks Lumpsuckers Lung Irritation Lung function Lung injuries Lung squeeze Lung surgery Lung MOD MOzambique diving Macro photography Mafia Island Maintenance Malaria Mammalian Dive Response Mammalian effect Mandarin Fish Marfan syndrome Marine Biology Marine Mega fauna Marine Science Marine Scientists Marine conservation Marine parks Marine plants Marinelife Marinescience Markus Dirschi Marlin Mask clearing Masks Master scuba diver Maximum operating depth Medical Q Medical emergencies Medical questionaire Medical statement Medical team Medicalresearch Medicalstudents Medication Mehgan Heaney-Grier Membership benefits Menopause Menstruation Mermaid Danii Mesophotic Metotrexate Mexico Michael Aw Microbubbles Middle ear pressure Mike Bartick Military front press Misool Resort Raja Ampat Mixed Gas Mono Fins Mooring lines More pressure Motion sickness Motionsickness Mount Kilimanjaro Mozambique Muscle pain Mycobacterium marinum NDL limits Narcosis National Geographic Nausea Nautilus Ndibranchs Neck pain Neoprene layers Neuro assessments Neurocognitive research Neurological assessments Neuromotor exercises Nichola Bird Nicorette Nicotine Nitrogen Narcosis Nitrogen build up Nitrox No Decompression Limits No-decompression limits No-decompression Non-nano zinc oxide Non-rebreather Mask Non-smoking Nondiving related illness Nonrebreather masks Normal Air North Sulawesi Nosebleeds Nudibranchs Nuno Gomes O2 oxygen provider. O2 providers O2 servicing O2treatments OOxygen maintenance Ocean Projects Ocean Research Ocean animals Ocean conservation Ocean migrations Ocean pollution Oceangate Octopus Oil contamination Olive Ridley Open Ocean Open water divers Optical focus Oral contraseptives Orbital implants Oronasal mask Osteonecrosis Out and about Out of air Outer ears Outreach Overhead Envirenments Oxygen Administration Oxygen Cylinder Oxygen Units Oxygen deficit Oxygen deicit Oxygen dificiency Oxygen ears Oxygen equipment Oxygen kit Oxygen masks Oxygen providers Oxygen supplies Oxygen supply Oxygen systems Oxygen therapy Oxygen P J Prinsloo PADI Freedivers PFI PFO PJP Tech Paper Nautilus Paralysis Parentalsupervision Part 3 Partner Training Patent foramen ovale Pemba Island Peri-peri Divers Perspective Peter Lindholm Philippine Islands Philippines Phillipines Photographers Photography tips Photography Physical Fitness Physioball Physiology Physiotherapy Pills Pilot Whale Pistons Planning Plastic Plimsoll Interface Pneumonia Pneumothorax Poison Pollution Pool Diving Pool chemicals Pool maintenance Pool workout Pools Post-dive Potuguese man-of-war Pre-dive Predive check Pregnancy Pregnant divers Preparation Prepared diver Press Release Preventions ProDive Port Elizabeth Professional rights Provider course Psycological Pulmanologist Pulmonary Barotrauma Pulmonary Bleb Pulmonary Edema Pulmonary Hypertension Pulse Punture wounds Pure Air Pure Apnea Purge Quit Smoking Q RAID South Africa RCAP REEF Radio communications Range of motion Rashes Rebreather diving Rebreatherdive Rechargeable batteries. Recompression chamber Recompression treatment Recompression Recycle Reef Chcek Reef Conservation Reef Environmental Education Foundation Reef safe Reef surveyors Refractive correction Regal Sea Goddesses Regulator failure Regulators Regulator Remote areas Remote islands Renewable Report incidents Rescue Divers Rescue Procedure Rescue breathing Rescue breaths Rescue diver Rescue skills Rescue skill Rescue training Rescue Research Resume diving Return To Diving Return to diving Reuseable items Risk Assessments Risk assesments Risk assessment Risk elements Risk management Risks of Seizures Roatan Marine Park Roatan SABS 019 SMB SafariLive Safe diving practices Safety Concerns Safety Gear Safety Stop Safety in Air Safety SaherSafe Barrier Salish Seas Salty Wanderer Sanitising Sanne Volja Sara Andreotti Sara Banderby Sara Campbell Sardine Run Sargassum sea Saturation Diving Save our seas Schrimps Science Scoliosis Scombroid Poisoning Scorpion Fish Scuba Air Quality Scuba Guru Scuba Injury Scuba Instructor Scuba children Scuba divers Scuba dive Scuba education Scuba health Scubalearners Scubalife Sea Horses Sea Turtles Sea slugs Seagrass Sealcolonies Sealife Seals Seasickness Seaweeds Seaweed Sea Self Rescue Shallow dives Shark Protection Shark Research Shark conservation Shark diving Sharks Shipwrecks Shit Happens Shore entries Shoulder strength Sidemount Sideplank Signs and Symptoms Silty bottoms Sit-ups Sixgill Sharks Skills in action Skin Bends Skin outbreak Skin rash Smart phone photography Snells Window Snorkeling Snorkels Social Distancing Sodwana Bay Solomon Islands Sonnier bank South Africa SpareAir Sperm Whales Spinal Bend Spinal bends Spinal cord DCS Spinal dura Spinal pain Spinner dolphins Splits Sports medicine Squeezes Squid Run Stability exercise Standars Statin Mediction Stay Fit Steel Stefan Randig Stents Step ups Stephen Frink Stepping up Stockton Rush Stonetown Stretch band exercise Stretch bands Strobe Lighting Strobes Stroke Submerge tech Submerged Sudafed Sulawesi Sun protection Sunscreen Supplemental oxygen Surface Marker Buoys Surface supplied Air Surfaced Surgeries Surgery Suspension training Swim Fitness Swimmers health SwimmingIn wateractivities Swimming Symbiosis Symbiosys TRavel safety Tabata protocol Talya Davidoff Tanzania Tattoes Tec Clark Tech diving Technical Diving Technical divng Temperature Homeostatis The Bends The Cavettes The Titanic Wreck The Wild Coast The greatest Shoal The truth Thermal Notions Thermoregulation Thomas Peschak Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Tides Tips and trick Tonga Tooth squeeze Transplants Travel destinations Travel smarter Travel tips Travel Tropical Coastal Management Tunnelling Turks and Caicos Turtles Tweezers Ultrsound Umkomaas Unconscious diver Unconsciousness Underground work Underseaa world Underwaater Photos Underwater Photography Underwater Photograper Underwater Photograpgraphy Underwater Photographer Manirelife Underwater Research Underwater critters Underwater floral Gardens Underwater hockey Underwater imaging Underwater photographer Underwater photography Underwater pho Underwater sound Underwatercommunications Underwater University of Stellenbosch Unresponsive Urinary retention. VGE Vacations Vaccines Vagus nerve Valsalva manoeuvers Valve stem seals Vape Vaping Vasopressors Vasvagal Syncope Venous gas emboli Ventilate Venting Verna van Schak Videography Vincenzo Ferri. Virus infections Volatile fuels WWII wrecks War stories Washout treatments Wastewater Watchman device Water Resistance Water Weakness Weigang Xu Weights West Papua Western Cape Diving Wet Lenses Wet diving bell Wetsuit fitting Wetsuites Wetsuits White balance Whitetpped Sharks Wide Angle Photos Wide angles Wildlife park Wildlife Winter Wits Underwater Club Wolf Eels Woman and diving Woman in diving Womans health Woman Women In Diving SA Women and Diving Women in Freediving Women in diving Womens Month Womens health Work of Breathing Workout World Deeepst Dive Record World Records Wound dressings Wreck History Wreck divers Wreck dive Wreck diving Wreck exploration Wreckdiving Wrecks Yoga Youth diver Zandile Ndholvu Zanzibar Zoology Zooplankton \ Blennies abrasion absolute pressure acoustic neuroma excision adverse seas air-cushioned alert diver altitude alveolar walls anemia antibiotics anticoagulants antiseptics bandages barodontalgia bent-over barbell rows bioassays biodiversity bloodcells body art breathing air calories burn canal blockage carbon dioxide toxicity cardiovascular career developments cerebrospinal fluid cervical spine checklist chemo port children child chronic obstructive pulmonary disease clearances closed circuit scuba coral growth corrective lenses currents cuts cylinder filling dead lift decompression algorithms decongestants decongestion dehydration dive injuries dive medicing dive ready child dive reflex dive tribe divecomputers diver in distress diver rescue diver training dive diving attraction doctors domestic travel dri-suits drowning dry mucous membranes dry suits dry e-cigarettes ear spaces elearning electrolyte imbalance electroytes emergency action plans emergency assessment emergency training environmentally friendly equalising equalizing exposure injuries eyes fEMAL DIVERS fire rescue fish watching fitness Balance fitnes flexible tubing frediving freedivers gas bubble gas poisoning gastric acid gene expression health heartburn histidine hospital humidity hypobaric hypoxia immersion and bubble formation immersion pulmonary edema (IPE informal education isopropyl alcohol jaundice join DAN knee laparoscopic surgery life jackets longevity lower stress lox oxygen level malaise marielife marine pathogens medical issues medical procedures medical risk assesment medications mental challenge mental preparedness micro-organisims micro minor illness mucous membranes multilineage dysplasia myelodysplasia nasal steroids nasal near drowning nematocysts neurological newdivers nitrogen bubbles off-gassed operating theatre operations orthopeadic otitis media out planting outgas pain parameters perforation phillippines phrenic nerve physical challenges pinched nerves plasters pneumoperitoneum polyester-TPU polyether-TPU post dive posture prescription mask preserve prevention professional emergency responders proper equalization psychoactive pulmonary barotrauma. pulmonary injury. pulmunary barotrauma radiation rebreather mask rebreathers retinal detachment risk areas safety stops saturation scissors scuba equipment scuba sea goddesses single use sinus infections situationalawarenes smoking snorkeling. spearfishing sterilising stings strength sub-aquatic sunscreen lotion swimmers ears tattoo care tecnical diver thermal protection tissue damage toxicity training trimix unified standards upwelling virtual coach vision impaired vomiting warmers water quality zinc oxide