The golden rule, sometimes an unpopular choice

In July 2014, I was invited on a diving trip to the Great lakes in the Thumb area of Lake Huron in Northern Michigan. The trip would be my first time wreck diving in the Great Lakes and I was quite excited to go.
The following is an account of the trip, the actions and consequences of it. This article isn’t meant to embarrass anyone rather to outline the sometimes unpopular consequences of being uncompromising in your standards. Sometimes the expense, expectations, time involved, agendas of others and peer pressure are hard to deal with. The consequences may even leave you in a bad position however it is always worth it to cancel a dive if you don’t feel comfortable with the dive parameters, people or procedures involved..


Thursday evening at 21:34pm  received a private message from my host and former cave diving student Michael. He invited me on a CCR Wreck diving trip to Lake Huron which I responded to at 19:10 on Friday evening saying I would have to make some calls and see if I can reschedule my prior engagements.
On Saturday morning I made the arrangements and called him that afternoon, he told me to get on a plane and that he would take care of everything.
As for the expenses I informed him over the phone on Saturday that I was without credit cards and as I wasn’t working due to the fact that I took off a few months to help out my father I would be penniless upon arrival and if he was OK with that I would go ahead and come. He reiterated the invitation and I made the arrangements to fly the following day.

The rest of Saturday I spent packing up and weighing my personal dive equipment along with my ISC Megalodon rebreather and hopped on a flight to Chicago the following morning.

The trip went south from the very beginning, upon arrival in Chicago Sunday afternoon the discovery that my Megalodon rebreather had gone missing.
After about an hour of phone calls trying to find out where it was and who had it, we discovered no one at any of the airports or at the TSA knew where it was so I started a claim with the airline. As it later turns out it had in fact been stolen by someone at one of the airports.
After the hour delay I was finally picked up at the airport by Mike my host for the week where we decided I would go ahead and dive open-circuit so we proceeded to his shop where we filled a single 12Ltr twin set with TMX 20/40 and I would use the already filled bailout cylinders for the CCR for my decompression and travel gas. I was told that there was O2 and HE along with a Haskel booster pump and compressor already there so we would have plenty of gas and we departed Chicago for the thumb in Michigan.

After a seven hour drive we arrived to the Thumb area of Northern Michigan Sunday evening where we would meet our boat the “Molly V” and our captain Jitka for our dives. When we checked in to the hotel, it was a small single room but my host had a blow up mattress so I could sleep on the floor of the small room, which the next day was changed for a larger room but still the mattress ended up in a bathtub as it only had a single bed, however as I have been traveling for quite some years and am quite used to the traveling lifestyle I’ve slept in much worse.

Monday morning during breakfast I was informed that everyone was planning on doing a second dive and assumed we would refill the cylinders during our surface interval but that was an incorrect assumption as after loading the boat I realized there wasn’t a compressor or any other gas aboard. I decided already then I would forgo the second dive due to inadequate gas supply for it and I didn’t want to make everyone wait to fill another set of twins before setting out so I kept quiet and just enjoyed the ride.

While aboard on the transit to the dive site I transferred my pre-planned dive plans to my slate and made ready for the days dive. While I was preparing for my dive have to admit I was a bit disappointed at the lack of legible labeling of the others gases and the overall lack of basic dive planning by my former cave student whom was recently certified as a trimix diver.

I noticed that not just he rather everyone on board were only diving computers and he was relying completely on the twin yet non compatible computers to do the work for him. He did not plan his dives to calculate his Decompression requirements, Gas management, OTU’s or CNS nor did he have back up plans calculated with this information either. He simply had a jumble of laminated plans normally used for emergencies, other than that there was no forethought or pre-planning involved before diving.
I however would be diving with our captain Jitka a Megalodon CCR diver or so I assumed as her boyfriend Dave Sutton is an instructor on the unit. She had plenty of bailout gas and a twin compatible computers so we agreed we would dive solo and when I hit my turn time or pressure I would simply signal to let her know and ascend.

My personal dive plans consisted of the following:

-65 meter MOD with a 20 minute bottom time.
-Gas consumption: 18 lpm bottom and 16 lpm deco to accommodate the cold water (my normal warm water consumption is 14 lpm)
-Calculated with V-Planner VPM-B +1cons.
-Back gas: 2392Ltrs TMX-15/45 x 1.5= 3588Ltr/12L =150 bar or 2200psi. Starting pressure 200 bar or 2900psi. Ending pressure 105 bar.
-Travel gas: 918Ltr of TRIOX-25/35 x 1.5 = 1377Ltrs/7L = 196 bar/ 2891psi. Starting pressure 210 bar or 3100psi again. Ending pressure 90 bar.
-Deco gas: 756Ltr of EAN-60% x 1.5= 1134Ltrs/6L = 189bar/2778psi. Starting pressure 207 bar or 3000psi. Ending pressure 80 bar.

My gas choices are specifically chosen as they all have the same fraction of Nitrogen this doesn’t allow for an increase in narcotic effect when switching gases and therefore don’t allow for the possibility of an IBCD (isobaric counter diffusion) hit. I also teach to use a travel gas that I can breathe deeper for insurance in the unlikely instance of a loss of back gas I don’t have so far to swim before reaching a breathable gas and it uses less Helium in the long run according to total liters used. This I believe is a necessary precaution in cold water diving as there is a high risk of icing resulting in a free-flowing regulator.

As my Megalodon had been stolen, I had my rebreather harness with low profile D-rings to accommodate the counter-lungs on the unit and admit it was difficult attaching the stages in the choppy conditions with the 7mm gloves but with a bit of help I was ready.

The temperature a cool 38 degrees Fahrenheit or 3 degrees Celsius which my custom-made Bare Tec Trilam HD dry suit with a 200 gram Bare under suit in combination with a set of Patagonia 200 gram fleece pant and shirt with a heavy weight long underwear designed for mountaineering made it quite comfortable. The hood was a Bare 7mm semi dry hood and the borrowed 7mm gloves were clumsy but warm enough. Upon passing the thermocline it was a bit chilly on my head and hands but I wasn’t freezing, I hadn’t been in cold water since I learned to dive back home in Montana but after a few minutes I adjusted to the temperature and began to enjoy the dive.

After the descent and a quick repositioning of my deco cylinders my dive buddy Jitka whom was diving a Megalodon CCR and I met on the aft deck of the S.S. Daniel J. Morrell a massive and impressive freighter.
The Morrell is in two parts, the forward portion of the ship being a few miles away due to the manner of its sinking. We slowly moved around the tower peering into the passageways making a small circle around the ship ending at the screw and rudder before I reached my bottom time limit where I signaled to her and started my ascent.
After making my gas switches at the appropriate depths and completing my decompression plus a 5 minute safety stop I removed my cylinders, passed them to the waiting divers on-board and climbed aboard the dive boat.
On the boat I breathed my EAN 60% for another 5 minutes taking it as yet another safety stop as it was a trimix dive and in cold water I wanted to take every precaution. After I was finished I checked my ending pressures and recorded the information on my slate to analyze the breathing rates that evening.

During their surface interval while talking to our captain Jitka I asked her about her diving hypoxic trimix as I didn’t realize that her boyfriend Dave Sutton was a MOD-4 instructor. She informed me that he wasn’t and when I asked with whom she did her MOD-4 training with she remarked that she wasn’t in fact certified on the unit as Dave hadn’t yet issued her a MOD-1 certification.
At this moment I decided to say nothing about it and however I would cancel diving with her for the rest of the week. Since I am also an instructor on the Megalodon the simple liability of diving with an uncertified diver using hypoxic trimix would be catastrophic if anything were to happen and would quite like be professional suicide and including my own personal opinion on the matter.

After my earlier realization during the 2 hour surface interval; yet before the next dive I admit I was growing a bit concerned for my former student but decided against admonishing him for a lack of proper dive procedures in an attempt not to embarrass him but I knew for a fact that he was breathing more than my 18Lpm as we had calculated his gas consumption during his cave course where he had an average of 21Lpm therefore he would require more gas than he was carrying to have 1/3s for a second dive and barely enough for the first.
Upon checking his ending pressures after the second dive I discovered he was breathing the tanks almost empty and he was in fact not using the rule of 1/3’s.
Instead I decided to try a more productive route and give a short lesson in dive planning and the proper use of gases where I was received by one of the other divers with a “you are thinking like an instructor” where I replied shouldn’t I? Should I disregard everything I teach just to wing it?
Now; I understand that you can’t always get everything you want but this is something proper preparation and pre-dive planning would eliminate. I’ve done plenty of exploration diving with very little support all over the world and have never had a problem with how much gas or what gases are available it simply takes planning.
As I had already decided not to do the second dive I stopped my explanations and let them rest and concentrate on their upcoming dives.

That evening after returning to the port we unloaded everything and went back to the room where we changed rooms for the larger one and went to dinner. Unfortunately that evening I experienced my first ever adverse reaction to seafood however it gave an additional reason to cancel the next days dives as my throat was swollen and I developed some large bumps on my forehead. After a couple of antihistamines which I carry in my first aid kit in the event of a reaction from a jelly fish, lion fish or bee sting for my guests in Mexico I was feeling better.

Regardless of my cancellation Tuesday afternoon was blown out and no one dove so we took the opportunity to re-fill our gases. I was informed by my host that the gases other than air were for the next weeks charter so all trimix gases were topped off with air leaving me with a TMX-19/25 unsuitable for another 60 meter cold water dive due to the 46 meter END. The decompression gases didn’t have enough pressures or volumes to make anything over an EAN-32% unsuitable decompression gas for the depths we were planning on diving on Wednesday so once again I canceled and decided to stay back on shore.

Wednesday evening after returning from his dive Mike informed me that the following day we would be diving to a MOD of 42 meters and asked me to get ready for Thursdays dive. I know, according to my mix calculations there was a fill of TMX-19/25 which gave an END of 29 meters and found to be an acceptable bottom mix though I had yet to analyze it set about re-checking pressures, analyzing and properly label my gases.
In the midst of my preparations Mike told me I was wasting his time and that he had already done it and that I needed to help him so we could hurry to dinner. I asked him what he needed help with and informed him that I would not dive without personally analyzing the gases and verifying the pressures, and that I would need to do so before making a dive plan.

It was obvious by this time Mike was getting frustrated at my uncompromising position in regards to proper diving procedures and my unwillingness to break my own standards much less any recognized procedure and just wing it.
At this point I went into instructor mode and started to explain the absolute necessity for personal gas analysis, proper dive planning and the use of thirds where he replied “We are wreck diving not technical or cave diving”.
I asked him if we were diving with trimix? Passing beyond the no-decompression limit or making gas switches? And if he would consider that tec diving regardless of whether or not we were diving on a wreck? Whereas he only mumbled and said “it’s wreck diving”.

I then quoted a paragraph out of the Advanced Nitrox manual “The most important difference between recreational and technical diving can be summed up in this short sentence, there is no such thing as a casual technical dive”. At this point I had without hesitation or question already canceled the dive.

At dinner on that evening I was put into a position where I needed to explain to the other divers my reasons for once again canceling the diving. I explained as much as I could without being impolite and unfortunately he took me as being arrogant and felt that I was criticizing everyone for improper diving procedures and etiquette.

Toward the end of dinner he erupted and said I was acting like a child for refusing to dive. He made the remark that I expected everyone to do it my way when I only expected to follow my own teaching protocols and procedures and that my dive partner firstly be properly certified and at least to properly plan their dive and gas management to avoid any unexpected emergencies and most importantly; respect the “Golden Rule”.

I then told him he was acting like an ass for his outburst and apparently this embarrassed him so he left. I decided to walk the mile back to the room to give him some time to cool off and found that he had locked me out of the room. He told me to sleep outside where I replied in a calm manner you need to open the door and let me in so we can talk about this. When he refused to allow me entry as I wasn’t going to sleep outside I said I would drain his back gas as I knew it would likely be the only reason he would open the door. I told him I would not sleep outside and asked him to talk about it I said he was angry for the same reasons he respected me as and instructor in the first place and he was being quite hypocritical and that he didn’t even understand the reason he was angry in the first place. Just to be clear there was no threat against him nor any action that could have been construed as violent or aggressive and anyone that knows me can attest to that as well as those who were at dinner.

My host finally opened the door and let me in where I tried to talk to him, to discuss the problem like civilized adults, the only response I got was that of an angry child refusing to listen and repeating over and over “I don’t want to be around you” and other nonsensical outbursts. This confirmed my decisions over the last few days to have cancel the dives and I let it rest. At that time he packed up everything and left, waking the hotel manager at 12:30am to tell him he was checking out and that if I wasn’t out by 11:00am the next morning to call the police. I quietly apologized to the manager whom I had gotten to know over the last two days after he left and went to bed.

The next morning I again walked the mile into town and met up with the other divers who were wondering where my host was as they were loading the boat for their dives, I didn’t know however they asked if I would like to accompany them for the day to help them out gearing up and to be a safety while they were diving, I agreed and we all went to breakfast. At breakfast he finally showed up and didn’t say a word to me. I asked him if he was OK and if I was going to get a ride back to Chicago, there was no reply.

After breakfast everyone went back to the pier to finish loading the equipment for the dive. My host walked by with some equipment and asked if I was going to harm his property when I looked in amazement he stated that I had already threatened him, once again I informed him he was acting like a child. Obviously I was going to be stranded there in the middle of the Michigan thumb.

By the grace of God one of the other divers offered me a ride back to southern Michigan where there was a train station that I could use to get back to Chicago so I could catch my flight back to my father’s home in Montana where I was staying for the summer building a garden and visiting as it had been years since I had been home and the property was in need of some improvements.

The other divers were obviously quite upset with his actions as well for having involved them in our disagreement. The gentleman that gave me a ride back also put me up for the night where we had a great conversation and I believe he was happy to learn more modern understandings.
I woke up the next morning and booked passage on the Amtrak back to Chicago and caught my flight home the next morning after a night in the airport. It wasn’t the first time I’ve spent a night in an airport or train or bus station for that matter and I met some really amazing people while there waiting for my flight and we had some amazing non-diving conversations. After a disappointing week, and a 44 hour sleepless endeavor I finally arrived at my destination all the better for wear and actually quite happy with the outcome.

In writing this article it isn’t meant to make anyone look ignorant, simply to outline the sometimes unpopular consequences of being uncompromising in your standards. Sometimes the expense, expectations, time involved, agendas of others and peer pressure are hard to deal with. The consequences may even leave you in a bad position however it is always worth it to cancel a dive if you don’t feel comfortable with the dive parameters, people or procedures involved..


Please.. RESPECT IT!!!!

Posted 23/07/2014 by Sirius Diving