Can't be bothered to use your Snorkel?
A dive boat operator finds fewer divers carrying this basic piece of equipment...
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The snorkel. Itís been around forever - we all know what it is, heck, we have to buy one when we take dive lessons.  I have a question - whatís happening to you divers out there? Why am I seeing more and more divers on our boat sans snorkel?

You say you donít need a snorkel. It gets in the way; it tangles your hair. Think again. Think about why you were trained to use it in the first place. Forgot?

Recently, we took the usual complement of divers out on our boat, which my husband Dave and I operate out of Cape Hatteras, NC. This is open ocean mid-Atlantic wreck diving. Unlike the calm, bath-like water conditions Caribbean divers enjoy, these waters can challenge a diverís training and skills. You may be able to get away with those giant stride entries off the boat in Grand Cayman and sometimes you can even do that in Hatteras; however, when a surface current is running, that giant stride that places you three feet from the boat can cause you to drift downstream in very short order. You have to use the anchor line system, trust us and take the instructions to use the descent line to heart. 

Diving in currents requires some thoughtful consideration. In our pre-dive briefing we include instructions on what to do if you canít locate the anchor line toward the end of your dive.  Without going into grueling detail, given that there are surface currents, a good strategy in the absence of an ďupĒ line is to swim into the current until you surface, locate the boat - which should be close by, swim to the boat, then do your safety hang under the boat on our weighted line. A hang regulator is attached to a full tank and suspended from a thirty-foot hose, if you need the extra air. If you need help weíre right there. 

Two divers, for whatever reason, did not use the anchor line to ascend. Doing a ascent without a guideline, they stopped at ten feet to do their safety hang. Had there been no current, it wouldnít have been a problem. But there was a current, and it became a problem. Checking his watch after thirty minutes, Dave started monitoring the anchor line for the tell tale bubbles of ascending divers. Gee, itís been a while, he observed, they should be on the line at this point.

We scanned the water around the boat. Looking behind us, we saw two heads the size of coconuts drifting downstream. No apparent effort was being made by the divers to swim to the buoyed tag line trailing about two hundred feet from the back of our boat. It was clear that we had to pull the anchor and retrieve our divers. Suited up and ready, I descended the anchor line and passed the last ascending diver. I popped the anchor line, ascended, and we quickly pulled in all lines, started the engines, and headed out toward our divers - now almost a half mile away.

As we approached them I noticed something: neither diver had a snorkel. Later we found out that one diver was out of air.

Of course, they couldnít swim to the tag line; without air in your tank and no snorkel to breathe through, swimming becomes a significant effort. Unable to submerge your face, youíre left with doing some kind of a fin stroke on your back and then flipping around to make sure youíre headed in the right direction; itís tiring and it takes a while. But if you had a snorkel - címon itís so easy. I donít understand why this piece of equipment, which all divers have to buy anyway, isnít attached to your mask like it should be when you are diving.

I have been diving a long time. I know how easy it is to make some minor trade-offs. But this snorkel thing - itís a no-brainer. Think beyond the immediate inconvenience, if it really is an inconvenience, and consider the broader picture. This little piece of plastic that you are trained to wear is there for a reason, and a very good reason.  If you don't hove one and have to spend some time floating in the ocean you will be in a great deal of trouble just trying to keep your head above the water to breath.  Not having a snorkel might just have a serious cost - you will probably drown even in just a two foot sea with some wind chop.

It must have been awful lonely out there for those two divers last weekend. I suspect next time they come aboard our boat, if they do, I will see snorkels attached to their masks. 

What about you?   


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