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May 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Checkout Dives: Why They’re Important

from the May, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We received an e-mail from reader Dana Muir (Ann Arbor, MI) with a complaint about CoCo View's stringent checkout dive requirements. "I understand requiring a checkout dive. I don't understand inflexibility in making arrangements. Why won't CoCo View ensure that people arriving on a noonish plane can do their checkouts on the same day?"

Some past CoCo View visitors wrote to defend the resort's requirement, like Danny Drew (Round Rock, TX), who said there's two reasons for it. "Not knowing how long a diver's flight will be, and the level of possible fatigue and dehydration from the plane's dry air, they feel it is better to allow a few hours for new people to rest, hydrate, unpack, attend to administrative paperwork and get used to island time. Also, the resort staff is very busy, and Saturday is the changeover day for one set of guests to the next. This allows for the one day off per week that most of the divemasters get. However, they do have a divemaster internship program, and if prior arrangements are made -- plus a fee -- then a Saturday checkout is easy to arrange."

Glenn Dair (Atlanta, GA) admits he and his dive buddy were impatient to start diving as soon as they landed. "It was our fourth return but several years since our last visit. We were insistent, firm and good-natured about our wishes to dive on arrival day. After a lot of discussion, the owners found one of the divemasters still on site, and we were given the checkout tour, which enabled us to be on the first boat the next day. Needless to say, we tipped generously at the end of the dive. We were glad to have the guidance on the house reef, but with close to 1,000 logged dives each, we did not need to be watched."

Some readers questioned the value of checkout dives for experienced divers, especially when some dive operators do less-than-thorough ones. Ernie Casuarina (Rye, NY), who leads Caribbean dive trips, says it seems only Bonaire operators do checkout dives, and not good ones, either. "At least among the dive operations I have worked with, the checkout consists of a single unsupervised shore dive to assure proper weighting and correct functioning of all equipment before diving from a boat. The lack of supervision makes the procedure flexible and informal -- and really quick, if desired. However, it does not thoroughly guarantee proper weighting because a novice or poorlytrained diver may simply add enough weight to assure an easy descent, and then, as a result, end up being grossly overweighted -- which is one of my pet peeves and main concerns for once-a-year, on-vacation divers. I see it way too often -- but never among 'my' divers, of course."

Margaret Hargreaves, (El Quseir, Egypt) is one diver who defends checkout dives as essential. "I work as a professional diver, and if we didn't insist our guests make checkout dives first, we would be letting some people literally put their lives in grave danger. The check dive showed us that in spite of their certification level and number of verified dives, we had to ensure they were professionally guided on every dive. Flying can cause dehydration, along with pooling of the blood, which are factors for DCS, and travelling can be tiring, which can hinder dive performance and safety. Divers Alert Network recommends leaving at least 12 hours between landing from your flight and diving. I think a dive operation is correct to err on the side of safety. After all, it is the customer's safety they are concerned about."

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