It’s common practise, when you learn to dive, for one instructor to take charge of six trainees, aided by a dive master. All well and good. In many parts of the world, groups of divers are escorted by a single dive guide, often misnamed a ‘dive master’, provided they act together in buddy pairs.
However, it’s getting more common for solitary divers to turn up on paid-for dives and be paired in an impromptu way will someone they have not met before, do not know and have no real allegiance to. Sometimes, they are not paired at all, but thanks to that ritual transferred over from training, often as many as six divers go in and follow a single dive guide. Sometimes these groups are bigger and sometimes there is also a second dive guide bringing up the rear.
All well and good -- until something goes wrong.
What if a diver inadvertently drops a weight belt? One dive guide will be needed to stop them from ascending uncontrollably while the other has to go and retrieve the weights. That leaves five divers unattended.
That might be an unusual situation (it happens) but what about if a diver needs or wants to curtail a dive early? A blown tank O-ring or an inability to clear ears might happen most likely at the beginning of a dive but what if a diver feels unwell or simply runs low on air?
Dives cost a lot of money, not to mention their rarity thanks to the fact that vacations are usually fewer than we’d like. If you are paired with someone who wants to curtail the dive early, what do you do?
There have been cases recently like the incident with Tammy R Schmitz, 43, from Denver, Colorado, on holiday earlier this year in Cozumel, where she wanted to abort the dive and the second dive guide with the group took her to the depth of a safety stop but she was found later dead on the seabed. We’ll never know what happened or why, because she was on her own when she died.
The fact of the matter is, whether you like it or not, if your buddy wants to abort a dive, you should have no option but to do the same, staying together. Waving them goodbye as they head up and rejoining the rest of a group is not good enough. It you are diving in a concentric group without defined buddies, if one of the group wants to abort the dive, all have to.
It’s one up, all up! If you want to dive within your own parameter of time and depth, you should either sport a solo diver or self-sufficient diver cert card or pay for a one-to-one guide.
Annoying? Yes, but it might be a matter of life or death.