Thoughts and feedback on what constitutes a safe diver, tipping your dive crew, adaptive scuba diving, and remembering Andy Letourneau, all in this month's edition of "Buddy Lines."
Sometimes the 'Safe' Diver Can't Dive at All
Alex Brylske is right on with the question, “What really constitutes a safe diver?” I was certified in 1963 and I have always maintained a strict diving code. Whenever a dive is planned from the beach, rocks, boat — wherever — if it doesn’t feel right, don’t dive!
I live in Northern California, and the diving can be tough even on a good day. My son drove down from Washington to dive for abalone with me — a four-hour drive one way to reach the dive site I usually visit. Day 1 was great. We got our abalone, drove home, had a family abalone feast and looked forward to the next trip, planned two days later.
Even though we drove another four hours to the dive site, all excited about getting another shot at more abalone, the condition of the water had changed for the worse. We watched as the breakers rolled in, churning the bull kelp into what could be a death trap. We looked for safe entry points. There were none. I looked at my son and said, “Sorry, even though we drove all this way, this is a walkaway day.” He was disappointed, but knew it was the right thing to do. We could have risked diving that day; it would have been tough, but I knew the risk wasn’t worth the reward.
Diving equipment has progressed and made diving safer, but your priorities must remain — safety, personal responsibility and accountability. The buddy system is just that, keeping check on each other before, during and after entering the water.
I just wanted to thank Dive Training and Marty Snyderman for the article acknowledging Andy Letourneau [“Appreciating Andy: Honoring an Unsung Hero,” May 2010].
I was fortunate enough to have known Andy for about 10 years before his unfortunate accident. I knew Andy both as a diver and in a professional capacity, but the times we spent diving were certainly the most memorable.
To reinforce Marty’s description of Andy, I am reminded of when I was finishing my Divemaster class and Andy helped me map a dive site in Hood Canal, Washington. We drove nearly 300 miles [480 km] round-trip for a day’s worth of diving and mapping. Andy brought reels, surface markers and pretty much everything else you might need to map the site.
About a week after we returned home, I found a couple of my measurements just weren’t lining up and I knew I was headed back to the site to remeasure things. When I told Andy, he never hesitated, grabbed his gear and the two of us were on the road back to the site. Andy had no reason to go up with me either time, other than it needed to be done and so he was going to help make sure it did.
Andy touched a lot of people’s lives in the Pacific Northwest, and whether you are a diver or not, you always knew he was one of those special people that you were glad to have known. We will miss him, but we are all better for having known him and won’t forget him.
Eric R. Bressman
Don’t Forget to Tip Your Dive Boat Crew
I thoroughly enjoyed “Dive Boat Defined,” Dive Training, May 2010. As an instructor and avid diver I’ve had many positive experiences on dive boats. Whether it’s been on the Great Lake Erie or off the Florida and Carolina coast or abroad enjoying the islands, I’ve found a great boat captain, a great divemaster and a great crew not only assist your safety but can make every experience from dock to seabed enjoyable.
Your article failed to mention tipping. While boat captains who are owners do not want to be tipped, boat captains who are not the owner, divemasters and crewhands not only appreciate tips but often rely on the money. I’ve always reminded my students that if you’ve been helped by the crew, reached your dive site safely and returned from it safely, and a divemaster has expertly briefed you on your dive and showed you the lay of the sea bottom, make sure you tip.
Many divers do not know that 10 percent to 15 percent of what they pay for their dive excursion should be tipped. Count on the captain, crew and divemaster to each get 10 percent to 15 percent if their assistance warrants. You can tip each or just the helpful divemaster or crewmember. It is customary. Bring some extra cash in your dry bag for tips. Often it’s helpful to give your tip to the captain or crew when enjoying the boat ride back. If you wait until the boat docks, you may miss the opportunity to tip. No one will ask for a tip. Give it if you feel your experience was top-notch, which I’ve found is often the case. You also want to consider tipping in front of the other divers.
Adaptive Scuba Clarification
I believe there’s an error in the article about Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) [“Defying Gravity and Disability: Adaptive Scuba Programs for Divers With Impairments,” Dive Training, June 2010].
The article states, “These divers [Level C divers] are certified to dive with three buddies, one of which must be trained as a Rescue Diver or above” while the HSA website, www.hsascuba.com/scripts/AboutTraining.php,
states, “a Level C diver not only requires two dive buddies, but one must be trained in diver rescue.”
Other than that, the article was excellent. Keep up the good work!
Kees Beemster Leverenz
Editor’s note: Jim Gatacre, who founded the Handicapped Scuba Association, said the reader is correct.
I wanted to point out an incorrect answer in your June 2010 quiz. In Question 2 you said that all mammals are warm-blooded vertebrates that share the following characteristics: use lungs to breathe air, bear live young and have fur or hair at some stage of their development. In fact, the duck-billed platypus and four species of echidna are monotremes. These animals bear eggs that hatch into mammals. All reside in Australia and Tasmania.
Contact Lenses and Diving
In reference to “No Dumb Questions,” Dive Training, July 2010, acanthamoeba is a free-living parasite and is commonly found in chlorinated pools, hot tubs and freshwater lakes. Acanthamoeba corneal infections can be difficult to diagnose, extremely difficult to treat and visually devastating. Wearing contact lenses increases the risk of this infection. Since this infection is rare, a controversy exists concerning the use of contact lenses while participating in watersports. Since our current contact lens care products are not adequate to kill this parasite, disposal of the contact lens after watersports has been advocated by some.
However, I recently saw a healthy teenage patient who routinely wore his contact lenses in a chlorinated swimming pool. After a corneal biopsy at a university hospital, the diagnosis was a contact lens-related acanthamoeba infection. It should be emphasized that the patient was not otherwise abusing his lenses.
I have personally used contact lenses while diving, but this experience has caused me to rethink my usage. I have since switched to a prescription dive mask, and have recommended this to my patients.
Vincent J. Crispino, O.D.
River Falls, Wisconsin
Editor’s note: For more information and a contact lens care guide, visit the American Optometric Association website, www.aoa.org.