Floating Bob

In my last post I talked about how myself and two buddies ended up in a tight situation when one of us, Bob, passed out at depth.  We were 138' down, with no anchor line, in a current with a deco obligation, no reel and no float. We're now trying to get Bob back.  The  other guy in the "we" is Bob's regular buddy, Dave (both are pseudonyms).  I think that just about sums it up.

As we started to rise in the current, keeping all three of us together was a bit of a challenge.  Both Dave and I were managing Bob's buoyancy but, because we were hunting, we had all packed on some extra lead to keep us glued to the sandy bottom.  This meant we needed to choose between adding lots of air to our BCs to lift him or adding some air to all of us and carefully managing his buoyancy.  Dave pumped a bit of air into Bob's BC as we left the bottom but he was still quite negative as we ascended.

At 50' Bob suddenly showed signs of life.  Then he got combative - very agitated.  He was scared, confused and clearly didn't like the fact that Dave and I were each holding onto his webbing with one hand and one arm with the other.  He was really hard to handle. Faced with him knocking one of our regs out we each released him.  Bob responded by dropping away, making no effort to stabilize his buoyancy.  I dumped air and went after him catching him about 10' down.  This time we made it clear to him that he was out of the running-his-own-ascent business. Privately I made the decision that, if Bob started fighting us again, I was going to try to make him positive and send him up but positive or not, I would have to let him go..  We were too low on air to mess around and I was definitely going to make it home.  Later, Steve told me that he made the same decision.  Neither of us was going to let this spiral into the loss of three divers.

 The good news was that we'd cleared our 50' ceiling while messing around with Bob and were now cleared to 30' for our next stop.  All the while, we are drifting further from the boat.  After clearing 30' without incident we FINALLY began our safety stop.  After a couple of minutes, I couldn't take the continued drifting and decide to pop up and see where we were with respect to the boat and give them a signal.  As I waved my arm to show distress, Dave and Bob surfaced next to me.  Anchored and with divers in the water, our dive boat could not come and get us.  We were going to have to swim into the current, dragging Bob.  Meanwhile, the crew of the dive boat let out all of their safety line and more (other nylon lines were thankfully on board).  Though working hard, we were making little headway but at least the drifting safety line was getting closer and closer.

Finally catching the line, we told John he was going to have to haul his own ass home.   As all of us pulled had over hand toward the boat, Dave and I were spent.  By the time we reached the boat, I was a tangled mess of safety line.  Apparently the float had caught on my tank and I'd dragged most of the line back with me.

On board, Bob was a lot more lucid.  He told us that he hadn't been feeling well that morning but wanted to dive the whole weekend.  He explained that, while on the line, he'd experience an episode of vertigo at 45'.  But it cleared after a minute or so and he continued the dive.  I told him that was f*#@ing awful decision that very nearly cost him his life.  He should have scrubbed the dive - no question.

They say that any dive you come back from is a good dive.  I beg to differ - that sucked!! Looking back, I'm amazed we succeeded.  We did so many things wrong that we really didn't deserve to.  
  1. Bob should have scrubbed the dive.
  2. We should have checked with Bob about his problem when we hit bottom.  We had a slate.
  3. We should have put a strobe on the anchor line.  The viz was pretty fair - we definitely would have seen it (actually, its probably a good idea for many of us to carry one to hook onto  the line if the dive boat doesn't - I'll try to review some in a follow-up post).
  4. Apparently putting the reg back and purging it isn't the recommended approach (you can over-pressure the guys lungs, I think).  The recommended procedure is to send the guy up buoyant so the folks at the surface can begin to treat him - but I'd love to hear different opinions here.
  5. We should have turned back sooner.  This wasn't a planned deco dive and we pushed it to the limit.  When things went bad we had no margin of error.
  6. We didn't have reels or bags to tie off to control our drift.  This would have been a huge psychological plus as well.  In my opinion, everyone who diving in a current from a fixed boat (i.e. not a planned drift dive should carry at least a finger reel and large size safety sausage.  I now carry a small, ventable bag and a wreck reel with a ton of line on every dive over 70'.  It's a variable drag reel so, instead of blowing a bag, I can just let line out as I ascend.
  7. We should have had more air.  Right after this I switched to steel 120s and I make sure I have more than enough air to handle a rescue and get myself back.  I also carry a pony for deeper dives.  That is really a redundancy thing but it came in useful on another rescue (see Big Guy Out Of Gas).
  8. We didn't dump Bob's weights - I have no excuse.  In fact, we all could have dropped our extra poundage (beyond what we needed to be neutral) and the task loading on the ascent would have been WAY less.
  9. We didn't dump the damn lobsters!!!  In the confusion, we forgot all about them but those goodie bags were a major source of drag on the swim back to the boat.
  10. Oh yeah, and Bob should have scrubbed the dive nullifying items 3 to 9.

I'm sure there are many more lessons here - feel free to add to the list.  We also did some things right that might have tipped the balance in our favor.
  1. For two guys who didn't usually dive together, Dave and I worked really well together.  He's a great diver and either I was a great asset to him or the other way around.  Either way, it was good to have a team mate.
  2. We didn't panic - well, ok, I'll admit to panicking when the reg was out but, after the initial burst of adrenaline, I calmed down and we worked the problem the best we could.
  3. We were both very fit.  That was actually a huge part of the rescue and not just on the swim back.  
On the way home I totalled up the costs for the hunt: $150 for hotel, $330 for boat, $ 60 for fills plus food and tip- that's one expensive way to get some lobster ... so we saved it for a special occasion:)

Dive safely,


1 comment:

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