November 3, 2011

An artificial buddy

And a forum topic, again. An excited diver shared his experience about his "malfunctioning" Suunto dive computer. He added some photos as well and the other readers suggested to check the manual: it was a simple deco stop. He didn't understand his own instrument's signals. If a diver is lucky he or she can miss the decompression stops because these modern computer doesn't allow diving on the real limits. But a guy mentioned a story where the dive master trainee ran out of the water showing the computer which became "crazy". Yes, she missed the deco stops. There are beginner divers who don't know much about their computers but a DM shouldn't be that lame. (It sounds like if you couldn't understand the signs of your buddy and instead of using your head you pull out her or him from the water...)

Sometimes it seems the only solution is simple: let the computer dive on his own while we humans would stay on the safe deck. Let's make it clear: the computer is a sophisticated instrument which helps us to dive safer. But it doesn't decide instead of us. If somebody ascends fast or misses a deco stop the computer will sign and it won't get the bends but the diver. In my opinion those agencies who don't teach using a dive computer even during the beginner course should change their approach. I kindly ask who saw any freshly certified diver to calculate with the dive tables? Since most of us prefer liveaboards and unlimited shore dive resorts all around the world using a traditional dive table is nonsense. In my opinion a dive course needs to educate about real life situations. If the instructor knows all of his students will buy a computer soon he should explain the basics of the computer diving. Some people responds there are "Diving with computer" courses but I confess I'm sick of "perfect giant stride", "mastering mask clearing" or similar useless certifications. A diver with an OW card should be able to dive in normal environments and use the essential equipments- safely!

Even better if he understands their working a bit. If they would learn a bit about the different algorithms they wouldn't prefer a dive computer because it's more liberal. I think all the computers are safe but there must be a reason why all of them started to become more conservative. It's easy to find out. Just look around on a dive a boat: older people or very young children, many overweighted and unfit women and men go under water regularly. The more conservative algorithm is the better. Maybe the bottom time at 30 meters will be 1 minute less? Who cares? If I check the air consumptions I see many divers shouldn't dive deeper than 15 meters with a single tank. I don't understand those who love liberal computers so much: why don't they dive without any instruments? They didn't use any in the past and they didn't get the bends regularly. For me safety can't be compared to a bit more bottom time. I'm old enough to find interesting things in shallow water. The proud smile of the divers who can surface minutes before me because of their liberal computers doesn't annoy me. Not our computers will need a treatment in the chamber but us. If we did the same profile my extra 2-3 minutes of decompression does matter whatever the other computers show!

The first dive computer, the Deco Brain changed the way we dive but it seems nowadays it doesn't only help us. The diver who has a computer but don't know how does it work won't enjoy the improved safety. Just remember the story above about the diver who jumped out the water skipping the decompression stop! Another common mistake is the blind faith: it's possible to do decompression dives with the computer, enjoying the more bottom time with the more liberal computer but don't forget, all manuals say sometimes the diver has the bends even if they follow the orders of the instrument. Not the computer should decide about the way you dive: be more conservative, be safe diver on your own. So treat your computer as a reliable buddy who you trust- not as a guiding light or a passport to push the limits.

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