Every year thousands of hikers attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian trail, but only about 25 percent of those who begin the trek complete all 2,190 miles of it in one go. Those who do finish it often say the adventure changed their lives for the better, and most attribute their success to proper planning. Poor planning or lack of planning for such an endeavor almost guarantees failure — and it can put those pursuing it in danger.
By Caitlyn Ruskell, DAN Content Writer/Editor
Just like thru-hiking a long trail, a given dive might be the adventure of a lifetime, and although dives don’t take months to complete, the stakes are similarly high. Proper dive planning is not just essential for keeping you and your buddies safe in the unforgiving underwater world, it really lets you get the most out of your dives. If you plan your dive and dive your plan you can see more, maximize your bottom time, and return home happy and healthy.
Before you even set out for a day of diving, determine what conditions you may be facing. Weather, currents, depth, boat traffic and environmental health concerns at a particular site can vary drastically by season or even by time of day. If you plan to dive a destination that’s far from home, research the best time of year to dive it and prepare yourself accordingly. Other important steps to take before you leave for a site include planning your maximum depth and bottom time with dive tables in addition to using a computer, creating an emergency action plan (EAP), coordinating proper surface support and knowing the local laws and regulations associated with the type of diving you plan to do.
Once you are aware of the conditions and have prepared appropriately, decide what equipment you need, and bring it with you; there’s nothing worse than taking the time to plan a dive and arriving at your site only to call the dive because you forgot an essential piece of gear. Use a checklist to avoid this situation.
At the site, do a cursory assessment of conditions to make sure your plan is still adequate. Once you and your buddy deem conditions acceptable for diving, do a quick review of your planned depth and bottom time, hand signals, entry and exit points and your EAP. Make sure both you and your buddy understand what you will do if you become separated, your equipment malfunctions or someone runs low on or out of air. Right before you hit the water, check your gear and do a buddy check to ensure that each diver has functional equipment and plenty of gas. If you happen to be diving nitrox, test your mix at the site; a surprise gas mix might disrupt your plans, but it is much better to find out about this on the surface than after you’ve exceeded a maximum operating depth.
Once you’ve reviewed your plan and you and your buddy feel confident about the dive, get underwater and start blowing bubbles. While diving, stick to the plan as closely as you can. If a minor deviation must be made, communicate with your buddy and proceed accordingly. Dive planning provides a huge return on the time investment, and if you do it correctly you will minimize risk and maximize enjoyment on every dive.
For more information on Divers Alert Network, visit www.dan.org.