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October 2003 Vol. 18, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Deep DooDoo

from the Undercurrent archives

from the October, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In thinking about the problems a diver faces on a long day on the Dive Makai boat where there is no head, I recalled a story I wrote a decade ago. It seems appropriate to offer it again.

* * * * * *

Just before the first tank of a two-tank dive at Guanaja, Honduras, a terrible thing happened. Actually, it was about to happen. My bowels went into an uproar, and there was no head on Posada del Sol's boat. And we weren't due to return to land for three more hours.

I ruminated about my potentially embarrassing dilemma, suspecting that those young guides might say in booming laughter, "You have to what?" So I decided that I would simply bring up the rear of the dive group, hide behind a coral head, and take care of business. I took off my dive skin, unfastened the beaver tale of my wet suit top, and joined the dive.

As it turned out, at 60 feet nothing happened. The urge had disappeared. In fact, I was able to complete the second dive and return home undaunted.

But what if that were to happen again? What's the protocol, I wondered?

We called several long-time divers, delicately asking what they might do in such a situation.Surprisingly, most had actually faced the dilemma one time or another. Each was willing to discuss his or her personal situations -- but only if we kept their names out of it.

There's wide spread agreement that the appropriate initial response is to inform the captain. He or she has probably encountered uncooperative bowels before and could probably offer suggestions for the specific boat or trip. One female diver, an Undercurrent travel reviewer, told us that in Cozumel the captain dropped a line off the stern and told her to jump in and take care of things while they motored to another dive site with her in tow.

But we've all met those insensitive captains and crew members who might get too much of a kick out of what, for many of us, would be no laughing matter. In such a case, our interviewees seemed to agree that the easiest solution then is to get in the water, swim to the anchor line, hang on so you don't sink or drift, drop your britches and do your business. One diver, about as famous as they come, told us he simply climbed down the dive ladder and hung on to it. No one paid any attention.

After all, it's no secret that after every dive, people are hanging off the end of the boat to eliminate that post-dive bladder pressure. Nonetheless, I suspect that Miss Manners would urge us to swim a little farther away than the dive ladder to conduct more serious business.

Several of our contacts said that dumping in the deep seemed preferable to a surface squat, admitting that they too had sought out a large coral clump to hide behind. One long-time resort proprietor told us that when a guest presents him with the problem he often suggests going deep. "The shy, as long as they have privacy, will not be embarrassed by floaters," he says, "which is what happens if they drop their drawers at the surface. And, he added, "at depth the fish will quickly clean up the leftovers."

Whether you decided to sink or swim, your diving apparel can complicate the problem. One female diver tells us this is why she wears a two-piece suit. And consider the problems with a skin; if you can't remove it, you may have to decide to suffer the consequences, doing your best to clean out the garment while underwater. You could even go so far as to cut open a flap with your dive knife.

What if you're wearing a dry suit? That provides its own dilemma, which is why some dry suit divers have taken to wearing disposable diapers. Makes sense to me.

If getting off the boat is not an option, then look for a bucket on board. Partially fill it with sea water and request the passengers and crew to go to the bow. Do your business, dump it overboard, and rinse out the bucket.

Whatever your beliefs about bodily functions, if you travel enough, you're going to have to face reality: where to go when you gotta go.

That problem, however, is not confined to dive boats alone. One of our experts told us of drinking several glasses of iced tea waiting for a late plane in the Bahamas. No sooner than the plane took off, he had to go. The plane was small, and he crawled forward to tell the crew of his problem. The copilot handed him a sick sack and told him to ask his seat mate to be understanding. Since it was a three-hour flight, that's exactly what he did.

He doesn't drink iced tea at airports anymore. And he's glad he's a he.

-- Ben Davison

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