‘In a current you’re like a leaf in the sea’
Recently four of us went out on a less than perfect day to dive a wreck about half a mile offshore in 51 metres. Breeze was 15 knots gusting 18 and blowing from the shore, current about one knot heading south. The other three were all breather divers and planning to spend 30-40 minutes on the bottom with a run-time of roughly 1hr 40 min total. I was going to dive open circuit for a lesser bottom time but, looking at the wind, sea state and current, opted to boat for the others. Two had scooters. One, let’s call him Jeff, scootered away from the wreck after a short time on the bottom, and realising he was lost did a blue-water bag-ascent. His irresponsible mates carried on their original plan, disregarding the disappearance of their erstwhile buddy.
The wind speed picked up to 25 knots, gusting 30 plus with the sea state deteriorating. Jeff surfaces way down current after a bag deco, his safety sausage blows flat in the breeze and his scooter is only powerful enough to hold station in the current, not to make headway back towards the boat and I’m not keeping a sharp lookout this early in the dive plan. He’s smart enough to know he’s in trouble and cool enough to look for assistance. By now the deteriorating conditions send recreational fishos in their runabouts back to shelter. Two pass by in Jeff’s vicinity but are oblivious to his efforts to attract them. The third almost runs him over before he sees Jeff and stops to take him on board. Meanwhile I know nothing.
I see from my chartplotter the other two miscreants have pulled the anchor so I lay out a sea-anchor to stop a drift to New Zealand while these guys do their hour long deco. First one back on board has the temerity to ask ‘Where’s Jeff?’ I think his ears are still ringing from the abuse I heaped on him for not aborting the dive when one of the party disappeared. Then the search was on. Sixty minutes of pounding through heavy seas, working out how far a diver would have drifted in an hour and a half, searching likely drift patterns and half expecting to find a body.
I had alerted Marine Rescue earlier, first of all with a heads-up when the divers were down and the weather was going bad and then again when the search started. Our stress ended on getting a VHF call from Rescue to say our missing diver was on the boat-ramp jetty back in Botany Bay. He alighted from his rescuer’s boat just as the Marine search vessel was preparing to leave the same jetty to look for him.
All three of these characters, having learned a first-hand lesson of how bad things can get when conditions turn nasty, went out the same day and bought a Nautilus Lifeline submersible GPS/VHF radios, with two others of my regular diving mates following their example. Nothing like a bit of sphincter puckering to bring reality home and to encourage investing in a life saving device.
From Dive New Zealand & Dive Pacific A/M 2012 Issue #129.
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In 2019 during a liveaboard scuba diving vacation in the Maldives, there was a situation on a popular diving spot that required the use of my Nautilus Lifeline GPS VHF marine radio so we could be located and retrieved back to our diving boat. The main larger boats are often using smaller boats or skiffs, called Dhoni’s, to take divers to and from the dive sites. I was part of a small group of five divers and we had a wonderful wall drift dive just off a small island. Once on the surface we realized the current had taken us further than planned and we were about to be swept around the island land mass that was adjacent to our dive sight. The challenge was that many boats of different sizes were now between us at the surface and both our Dhoni and our main boat. The member of the crew who led the dive was a new dive instructor, they had us stay close together and just tried to keep a few of the divers calm as they were showing signs of stress and anxiety for the situation. Some divers were starting to call out that they were going to try to surface kick to the island. The situation was starting to get interesting! Using my Nautilus Lifeline GPS VHF radio that I had already calibrated and tested with the main boat early in the week, I was able to calmly call and speak with the captain, describing our location and situation. Five minutes later the Dhoni access boat picked us up and brought us to the main boat. Nerves were calmed and the other divers thanked me for have the foresight to carry such an important piece of safety equipment on my dives. Over dinner we shared our adventure with the other guests. I only dive if I can ensure I’m taking my Nautilus Lifeline along for the ride! Spencer Lawes
To the Nautilus Team, Your Nautilus LifeLine GPS (new version) saved our asses today. We (6 divers) were drifting an hour offshore in big swells and strong current. The boat skipper lost track of our bubbles through no fault of his own. When we didn’t surface after an hour, he sent out a signal alerting all boats in the area. Meanwhile we inflated our sausages, but a couple of passing boats either didn’t see us or didn’t want to. After 45 minutes of drifting, K triggered her LifeLine. Another boat finally saw us and picked us up. Just then two helicopter circled overhead, one from the fire department and one from the coast guard. If the boat hadn’t spotted us we still would have been rescued. I have to admit I didn’t bring my LifeLine this trip, but am thankful K brought hers. I’ll never again go diving without it. Thanks,
The Maldives, Truk, Palau, Grand Cayman, Komodo, next Raja Ampat, I am a trip leader for the Pan Aqua dive shop in New York, and an underwater photojournalist. These days I don’t leave home for any those places without my Lifeline, and I encourage all my travellers to add a Lifeline to their dive gear. Why? Because !#$% happens! You’ve been there: the current that picks up and starts to move you off dive site, the small boat entry in the wrong place and now you’re in a ball of jacks being fed on by Bronze whalers not on the planned dive site and you and your dive group had best get out of there quickly, the sunset dive that left two divers unaccounted for, and that ripping current just under the surface in the Solomon’s that was going to take you who knows where... these are the remembered reasons why I always bring my Lifeline and strongly encourage those traveling with me to get their own. Then there’s always the added benefit of talking to each other. Fortunately I haven’t had any of those problems recently, but next time they happen, I and my dive group will be prepared and we won’t be floating alone on a small piece of some remote ocean wondering when the dive boat will miss us and come looking. This time our Lifeline is our safety net. Maria Hults Photojournalist Adventure Travel Leader Beneath the Sea Vp Woman Divers Hall of Fame member (2000)