Are You One of the Guilty Party?

Do you follow the guidelines?

You skip a proper and thorough buddy check?

This simple but vital routine is there for a reason. It is often dismissed or done with little or no enthusiasm. These steps should be routine and done correctly; it can be a potential life-saving skill and should never be under-estimated. Begin your pre-dive safety check just as you learnt it in your open water course.

BCD: does it inflate and deflate? What about dump valves, do they work and check the pull-cords are not trapped? Can you orally inflate the BCD?

Weights: Is the weight-belt on the right way round – it should be a right hand release? Is it properly secure? Check the end of the weight belt is accessible for quick release purposes. Integrated weights – check they are secure and fastened/clipped in correctly.

Releases: Do you know how to operate your BCD releases? How to open the releases quickly if required? Check if the cylinder band is tight and secure – specially if it is dry!

Air: Is your air supply turned on? Is the cylinder open all the way, or just half? Check your pressure gauge for a full tank. Breath from your primary regulator and watch your pressure gauge for jerky movements. Get your buddy to breath from your alternate air source, while you breath from your primary source. There should be no, or very little pressure gauge movement when doing this exercise. Go through these motions instead of pressing the purge valve to see if air comes out. Remember, you can take up to five breaths from your regulator when the air is turned off; so don’t be caught out!

You immediately remove both regulator and mask, post dive at the surface?

Just done a fantastic dive? So, when you reach the surface you are more than eager to discuss what you have seen, right? OK, why not? Although all aquatic life is beautiful and well worth a discussion, your impulse to chat should be put on hold. First inflate your BCD at the surface, signal OK to your patient boat crew and check that your buddy or party is safe and on the surface.

In rough seas, no mask and no regulator is a recipe for a face and mouth full of salt water. On-coming boats in rough seas have limited time to pick up divers. Rolling boats, ladders, rear decks, and propellers are potential hazards. Numerous divers, all in one place at the same time can cause stress and chaos. Keep your surface skills and habits tight and in check. Stay together, mask on, reg in and time your exit accordingly. Once everyone is safe on board or back on the shore, the discussion can begin!

You didn’t analyse your tank?

Everyone is ready for the dive ahead, a wall dive at 30 m. You come to analyse your tank and find the battery is flat and no other battery available. The Nitrox mix should be 32%, but you cannot determine this now, due to a flat battery.

OK, all week the mix has been accurate, so why should it be different this time? Its either air or Nitrox? You decide for Nitrox. You check the Nitrox sticker, it says 32% so it should be good to go. Right?


As the dive progresses deeper along the wall you begin to feel a slight muscle twitch in your face. Your vision seems to be a bit distorted, a sugary taste becomes evident in your mouth; now something is wrong here! Luckily your buddy grabs you and you ascend slowly together. At 16 m you start to feel better, at the surface things are back in proportion and on the boat you begin to relax again.

On the boat, another diver comes along and analyses the tank next to yours with his analyser. You watch in astonishment as the analyser reads 50%.

So, the moral of this story is: if you don’t analyse, you don’t use it! Two minutes of your time are not worth the risk of your life.

Do you dive at a depth deeper than you should?

In your open water course, you learnt that if you deep dive you will use more air, which is true.

The dive guide briefed the dive to 25 m, so all divers stayed around 23 m. Although you have little experience and poor buoyancy you swim around at 28 m for 10 minutes; much to the annoyance of fellow divers. Not only do you shorten the dive for everyone else, due to your high air consumption, but you argue that you were only 5 meters deeper!

It is a general rule that you stay above the given depth of the briefing. Do not make a habit of going deeper than the stipulated and recommended depth. Improve your skills and buoyancy, have correct weights and trim and reduce the amount of energy you use underwater. This will help you use less air, improve your bottom time and protect the dive sites from damage.

You don’t pay attention to the rules?

We have four big rule makers in scuba diving; Dalton, Boyle’s, Charles’s and last but not least Murphy’s law. Murphy’s law states: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!

Sadly scuba divers violate the latter very much indeed: No buddy check; the weight-belt drops to the bottom, in a rush and forget the camera; the whale shark passes by, the primary second stage has a slight blubber; you have to abort the dive because of a free-flow…and so it goes on.

Take time when you gear up. Be thorough in your buddy check. Check equipment before you pack for a dive. Rinse, clean and re-check equipment after a dive. Make sure you cross all the T’s and dot all the Is before you enter the water.

Safe diving to you all in the coming season!

Dive Smart Gozo