By Bob Halstead
This is a little quiz to get divers to think about the Buddy System. Most instructor organizations are locked into the buddy system but my observation is that many would ditch the system if it were not for liability concerns, and that many experienced divers treat it with contempt. You should make up your own mind, and always dive in your own comfort zone.
First, I am going to give my definition of the buddy system. I wrote it many years ago because I could not find a definition in the diving texts. I am proud to say it has been plagiarized and I am flattered to see it turn up all over the place.
“The Buddy System consists of two trained divers with similar interests, and similar experience and ability, who share a dive. They continuously monitor each other throughout the entry, the dive and the exit, and remain within such distance that they could render immediate assistance to each other if required.”
Note: The buddy system assumes that divers are in fact capable of recognizing problems and assisting each other.
Now try the quiz:-
1. Two divers go to sea in a small boat to dive. Which is the safer way for them to conduct the dive, dive together, or one stay in the boat while the other dives solo, then switch?
2. How can a fish photographer have a buddy?
3. What instructions should a dive master give an odd couple (two divers remaining who have not brought their buddies with them) consisting of a very experienced diver, and a novice? (and should the experienced diver get a refund?)
4. A buddy pair loses contact underwater. What should each diver do?
5. You are diving from a boat with a buddy and he/she was elected to lead the dive. You feel your buddy is swimming too fast and you feel disorientated but you do not wish to spoil your buddy’s dive. Demonstrate the hand signals that you will use to communicate this to your buddy.
6. After making a total of ten dives each you and your buddy are awarded an advanced diving certification. Every dive you have made so far has been easy and problem free. You pay $100 each to make a deep wreck dive with some other divers. When you get to the site there is a current, the sea is choppy, you feel queezy, and the visibility is poor. You don’t feel like diving but you do not want to let your buddy down. What should you do? What will you do when your buddy turns round and says “isn’t this going to be great, I’ve always wanted to dive a wreck!”.
7. A husband and wife buddy pair have a domestic argument on the way to the dive site. Should they dive together?
8. An instructor is leading two students. Who is the instructor’s buddy?
9. A student mentions that he does not like to be alone in the dark. Will he be a successful diver?
10. Do you believe the buddy you are about to dive with could really help you in an emergency, or is the buddy going to increase the risk of the dive?
No points to score here, but please consider the following:-
1. The important buddy is the one looking out for you on the surface, trained and equipped to pick you up if necessary. Laws of seamanship predict that an anchored boat left unattended will drift away. A third person whose job it is to just sit in the boat while you buddy dive is a great idea. The tough part here is finding someone dumb enough to do this who is also capable of handling the boat.
This question should also be considered if you were diving with an operation where counting heads may be a problem. No doubt the Lonergans would have survived if they had taken it in turns rather than dived together.
2. Some endeavours require all your concentration.
3. An experienced diver buddied with a novice is instruction without using an instructor.
4. Both buddies should end the dive underwater by returning to the exit point.
I have recently read a DAN message repeating the dangerous rubbish promoted for many years namely “Look around for one minute then, if the buddy does not appear, ascend to the surface”.
I am surprised because I have a lot of respect for Dan and no doubt they have worked hard to improve diving safety over the years. I have to assume they just did not think about this one. If you are out there reading this DAN, let me hear from you!
The last thing you want to do is go straight to the surface. You are now subject to waves and current and probably someone is going to have to rescue you, and your buddy if he/she has followed the same rule. Also you have just made a direct ascent to the surface, probably too fast and without a safety stop, or essential stop as far as I am concerned, and so risk decompression illness. The inference is that you will meet up with your buddy on the surface, get together again (if you can do it without exhausting yourselves or drowning), then descend (without a guide line?) and continue the dive. Unless the depth of the dive was trivial to start with, this is a really bad idea. Hello?!!
If you are buddy diving and lose your buddy what you should do is look around for one minute, fine, but then complete the last part of your dive plan by returning to the safe exit point underwater, do your safety stop and then surface where you originally planned, preferably right at the boat. Chances are if you both follow this plan you will meet your buddy underwater at some stage anyway and there would be no problem continuing the dive. Only if there is a real emergency, and losing contact with your buddy is not a real emergency, should you make a direct ascent to the surface.
5. Meaningful communication underwater is difficult.
6. The most important safety decision is the personal decision when not to dive.
7. Finding a compatible buddy may be harder than finding a compatible mate.
8. Do instructors need buddies?
9. Is fear of the unknown, and being alone, the real reason the buddy system has survived?
10. This is the question you have to ask before every dive with a buddy. The wrong buddy can absolutely increase the risk of a dive.
Several years ago I conducted a survey of experienced divers (all had more than 100 dives) and more of them had been put into a dangerous situation because of their buddy than had been rescued by their buddy.
I sometimes get divers ask if they can buddy with me. I usually explain that I am a very poor buddy and need to concentrate on what I am doing underwater rather than pay attention to them, particularly if I am taking photographs. I am also concerned that since I have quite a few dives under my weight belt that if they did anything silly and got injured, someone could have the bright idea of suing me, and I do not want to take that risk.
Whatever your view of the buddy system I am sure we can all agree that a dependant buddy is a disaster waiting to happen. Learn to be self-sufficient, then, if you choose to share a dive with another self-sufficient diver, it can be a joyful experience.