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September 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 40, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Dangers Above the Surface

don’t “take a trip” while on your dive trip

from the September, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

For a diver, especially an aging diver, the likelihood of falling and injuring yourself on a dive trip is far greater than being injured when in the water. Boat decks are slippery. Liveaboard staircases can be treacherous. Beach divers have rocks to negotiate.

Over the years, I've received a number of reader reports from divers who have landed hard, and recent reports have led me to dredge up a few incidents from the last year to cite as reminders for you to be careful -- not only when you're toting 40 pounds of gear and your camera, but even when you are simply walking about. In most cases, the injuries were minor, perhaps resulting in a missed dive or two, but these folks are lucky.

For divers who haven't done much beach diving, or haven't done it in awhile, it may not be that easy. Henry Ziller (Conifer, CO), after beach diving in Bonaire in January, reports, "We did all shore diving and found it takes a little more effort than expected. There are surge, rolling rocks underfoot and slippery surfaces. Most of our group of four fell at least once, and two in our group have been here several times."

And while we might be accustomed to skipping up and down stairs at home, one must pay closer attention abroad. Patricia A. Sinclair (Metairie, LA) took a spill at the Sunset House on Grand Cayman last November. "After breakfast, I picked up my camera, and with my right hand on the railing, proceeded down the stairs. My right foot flew out from under me, I pulled back on the railing and then rolled on my left side, trying to get my arm up to avoid the camera being broken during the fall . . . I did the next two dives, but I sure hurt . . . I sneezed and the pain in my back was like a knife stabbing me. Every deep breath I took hurt." She went to the hospital for X-rays, and nothing was cracked or broken, but the muscle pulls were very bad. She toughed it out through most of her remaining dives.

But it's those slippery boat stairs and decks that trip up most folks. Last year, Bruce Versteegh (McKinney, TX) was aboard the Ambai in Indonesia and reports that "there were no towels on the dive deck, and only two towels per room changed every four days or so. As a result, people drip between the dive deck and their cabins, making footing hazardous. I slipped on the stairs leading down to the cabins, and was lucky all I received were bruises."

Mark Kimmey (New York City) was aboard the Kona Aggressor II in December and writes "It had just come out of two weeks in dry dock, during which it was completely repainted. Unfortunately, insufficient (or improper, not sure which) non-skid grit was mixed in with the paint meant for decks, so most were slippery, as were the handrails down to the swim step. My buddy and I both took tumbles, and we weren't the only ones. A serious accident waiting to happen and the crew was already looking to do something about it."

Aboard the M/Y Suzanna off Sudan last year, Mel Cundiff (Broomfield, CO) noted, "Our two Zodiacs didn't have ladders, and some divers found it uncomfortable to be pulled onto the boat after a dive. The stern part of the lower dive deck on the mother ship was high off the water, and a diver carrying a 90 cubic-foot steel tank needed to take one step down a ladder, step onto the gunnel of the Zodiac, and then take a long step onto the floor. Three divers with their tanks on fell into the Zodiacs; fortunately, they were not hurt. Later in the trip, the tanks were offered to divers after they had accessed the Zodiacs."

Ann McGrath (Alexandra, VA), in Indonesia last October, reports, "The layout on the Tambora is poor for divers . . . The stairs are extremely steep and far apart, like a ladder, difficult to climb. The floors are all slippery. I found them safer when I had booties on. At least two of us fell in the gear area, where it is particularly treacherous. Always hold on to something there!"

Too often, I've seen divers walk across the decks of rolling boats, dressed in full gear and wearing their flippers, a recipe for disaster. While experienced divers know better, many dive operations push the practice with a "hurry and get in the water" attitude, as one of our readers report on his March trip with the Islamorada Dive Center in the Florida Keys. "A fairly crowded boat. They give the safety and dive briefings, and stress being ready to jump in the water immediately upon arrival at the dive site . . . It's a long walk in your fins to get to the dive deck. I fell onto one knee before one dive, so be careful."

So they have divers walking across the boat in their fins, but they then want you to take them off in the water? "At the end of the dive, they have you surface several feet away from the boat, grab the line and remove your fins," our reader writes. "They're worried about you getting hit by the boat or ladder in rough weather, which I understand, but . . . On the really calm day, the line became detached, so my wife briefly drifted away with no fins. I think they should re-think this procedure, because an inexperienced diver might have panicked in that situation." A point well made.

And one last tip. Divers Alert Network dive insurance covers you in the water, but not if you plant your face on a slippery deck. It's your own health insurance that covers out-of-water accidents. However, your insurance may not provide overseas medical evacuation coverage. Furthermore, if you are covered by Medicare and do not have secondary supplemental insurance, you are not covered outside the U.S. and its territories. Be prepared.

-- Ben Davison

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