ADP Journal: Weekend #10, Part Two

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 5:04 pm

The night dive was a bit more eventful. We stuck with the same group as the afternoon dive, and a similar plan. We entered a bit further to the south, dropped down at about 15fsw, and kicked straight out to 35fsw: Meca and me in the lead, then Sam and Mike, with Kevin following behind. Once we hit 35fsw, we were going to turn north, spread out in a line of four abreast, and sweep for the pilings.

At 35fsw, I signaled Meca it was time to turn. Sam and Mike kept on swimming, and we flashed our lights at them to get their attention. They slowed down and finned over to us – at which point everything got chaotic. Sand got kicked up, we couldn’t get ourselves into position, and the next thing I knew we were at 45 fsw. How’d that happen?

I navigated out of the melee, re-oriented myself, and started kicking. We basically had to abandon the four-abreast idea – by the time we’d reached 35 fsw again, I was pretty sure we’d already missed the pilings, and in all that confusion it was just easier not to worry about it.

This time I knew about the current, and figured we’d have to do at least 400 kick cycles to reach home. The current was even stronger than we remembered, though, and made it hard to swim shallower as well as hard to swim north. We inched our way up to 30fsw, by which time Sam and Mike were at 500psi.

They indicated they were going to go up, and we communicated that it was ok to split into buddy teams. Meca and I would remain under with Kevin.

Mike and Sam headed off, and Kevin told us he wanted to lead the dive (I guess we weren’t getting shallow fast enough). He took off like a shot, while Meca tried to flash a light in front of him to get his attention and ask him to slow down. He finally noticed we girls weren’t hurrying, and let us catch back up.

We reached 20fsw and kept heading north, while Meca kept me apprised of her air situation – 1000 psi, 900, 800. She finally hit 500psi and indicated she wanted to go up. I tried to communicate that we should do at least another minute where we were (I was only halfway through a safety stop), but she again gave me the thumbs up. This is where things got confusing.

To me, thumbs up means UP. I’ve been in a situation before where I really wanted to ascend, and my dive buddy wasn’t ready – it’s not good. I knew Meca was nervous (this was her second night dive, and she’d kept a hand on my arm the whole time), so when she gave me a thumbs-up even after my “stay here 1 minute” suggestion, I decided half a safety stop wasn’t worth freaking out my dive buddy by trying to make her stay put when she was worried. So I gave her a thumbs-up back and got ready to ascend.

We flashed our lights at Kevin, who turned to look at us. We gave him a thumbs-up. The last thing we saw was him flashing his light in our eyes, which I took to mean “you guys are being silly, why not stay down here and finish that safety stop?”

We’d discussed buddy separation procedures before getting in the water. If you get separated, you look around for a minute and then surface, without a safety stop. So we figured he’d be right behind us, and then if he wanted to go back down on his own, fine (although I can’t say I’m a fan of solo night diving).

Well, he didn’t surface.

We waited a few minutes in case he was just safety stopping. And he still didn’t surface. We couldn’t see his light. We were drifting in the current. Meca started to worry that his flashing his light at us had been a signal that he needed help, rather than trying to get us to stay put.

Another group surfaced nearby and we alerted them that we’d lost Kevin. Ray dropped down to do a quick look for him, while Meca and I headed in towards shore. About halfway there, we saw a diver surfacing just behind the surf zone and exiting – probably Kevin, but we couldn’t be sure. Meca headed on in to confirm that it was him, yelled back to me, and I yelled back to the “search party.”

This was all extremely NOT fun in the afore-mentioned surface chop.


Kevin was fine. He didn’t agree with our decision to surface, and didn’t consider himself part of our buddy team, so he just decided to finish out the dive on his own. We had a rather heated discussion about buddy separation, solo diving, when it’s ok to skip safety stops, and how I could have better gotten his attention. Meca should have felt comfortable finishing a safety stop with 500psi. But she didn’t (or else I misunderstood a thumbs-up), so it was OK to go up. We’d done a relatively shallow dive, and a safety stop is just that – it’s not mandatory. I should have made sure Kevin knew what we were doing – he didn’t see my thumbs-up. I should have grabbed him and waited for him to sign back.

But once we headed up, I maintain that Kevin absolutely should have surfaced as well. Solo diving wasn’t part of the plan. If he was really worried about a safety stop, he could have surfaced, told us so, and gone back down for a few minutes – at least then we would have known where he was.

Yeah. That was a fun walk back to the car.

Anyway, it turns out our group actually had one of the LEAST eventful dives! I’ll share one of the other incidents:

Divemaster A was the safety diver for divers 1, 2 and 3. After they descended, Divemaster B decided to join them. In his mind, he was just following and observing; not really part of the team. But as far as A and 1-3 knew, he was officially part of the group. That was problem #1.

Problem #2 was miscommunication. Diver #1 kept going deeper and deeper in search of the pilings, and didn’t realize that it was ok with the Divemaster if he just gave up at certain point. The current didn’t help, and they all wound up around 70fsw, strung out because some were speedier than others.

Problem #3: diver #3 had a sudden freeflow (when air keeps coming out of your regulator). He kept trying to purge it, but it kept freeflowing. He remained calm – but problem #4: he couldn’t get anyone’s attention. He was flashing his light in front of Divemaster B, who was “just observing” – but diver 3 didn’t know that, so he didn’t try to race on to the other divers. After 5 minutes of being ignored, while the freeflow depleted his air supply (it also makes it really hard to see – bubbles everywhere), diver 3 decided to take his chances on a solo ascent. From 70fsw. In the dark. Where there can be boating traffic.

At this point, Divemaster A notices that diver 3 has disappeared. She writes his name on her slate with a question mark and shows it to the two remaining divers. They shrug and look confused. She turns around and shows it to Divemaster B. He misunderstands the question, and writes on his slate: “No, I’m so-and-so.”

I find this hysterically funny, though obviously it wasn’t funny at the time!

So – now they all do an ascent. In the dark, in boat traffic, from 70fsw. Yikes!

Anyway, everyone made it back ok. But it was definitely a lesson in the importance of communication, taking your time, and sticking together.

That, and it TOTALLY SUCKS to dive with more than 2 or 3 people at a time in limited visibility. It was true at Lake Castaic, and it’s true in the dark. Ugh.

It wasn’t the best way to finish off ADP, but at least it was educational. We left Vets around 11, grabbed dinner at a nearby diner, and I finally made it home at 1am. I didn’t even have the energy to shower, much less rinse my gear; I left it to marinate in the trunk of my car and just collapsed in bed.

Then it was up early Sunday for some last-minute cramming before our final (written) exam. Luckily for me, the exam was given at the Glendale YMCA, an easy 5-minute walk. I think all our classes should have been at the Y!

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