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Handi-Divers Safe Transfer From Boat To Boat  

Handi-Diver and Boat Crew:

How to Work Together?


It is not spoken. The awkwardness is felt. Of the dozen or so divers on the boat, only one is strange to the boat crew. They donít know if they should talk to that diver. They donít know what they should say, what they should ask. The boat Captain knows it is his job to serve and to guide these divers to their holiday diving. Of all the tasks this Captain must do at this moment, talking to this one diver is not at the top of his list, so he leaves it to the First Mate. The First Mate doesnít know how to talk to this diver either, and he also has many other important tasks at hand, so once again the chore of talking to this diver gets handed off to yet another subordinate. Meanwhile this diverís buddy also has other tasks to do to get ready for the dive they are about to plunge into.


This diver has four years of experience; this will be her ninety first logged dive. She is getting all her own equipment ready and, like most divers, needs only a little help squeezing into her wetsuit. She knows she can do this dive completely on her own and, also like most divers, will only need a little help when the time comes for getting back into the boat. She is independent even though she is a paraplegic. Though paralyzed and unable to ambulate, in the water she is free from her wheelchair.


The boat engine sputters and quietly yields to the calming surf of the shallow reef waters surrounding it. While the divers barely notice the engine has quit, the boat crew scrambles to discover and correct the problem. If this dive is delayed, it may prohibit the group from making both scheduled dives this morning. Since the delay would be due to the Dive Operatorís boat and not weather conditions, the revenue exchanged in this business transaction is affected- not something the Boat Crew wants.


Seeing that his crew cannot revive the sleeping engine, the Captain calls for another boat to come and pick us up. He announces to the divers that another boat should be here shortly and that we will need to transfer to it. He states we will need to carry ourselves and our gear. His crew will carry our air tanks and we should leave our lead weights here on this boat as the next boat will already have all the lead weights we need.


Our diver sits and contemplates these new developments. Soon the new boat appears in the distance and rapidly pulls along side in these still calm reef waters. She wonders how she will get to the new boat and tells her buddy that she thinks it is safer for her to simply snorkel over to the new boat. Her buddy quietly listens, not acknowledging her proposal; as if she had said nothing at all.


After all the other divers have transferred to the new boat, the Captain emphatically states that one of his crew is strong enough to carry our diver to the new boat. She has not been asked what she thinks, what she suggests, not even if she agrees with the Captainís orders. The crewman, whom she has not seen before, comes and picks her up. She can feel that she is heavier to him than he has guessed but he is already crossing over to the new boat, assisted by his mates. The waves are up just a bit, as if to suggest to her they are not to be ignored. Her dive mates happily snap photos of this maneuver, as if it is another interesting part of the dive; it is that and more.


The dive trip resumes on the new boat. All is well, as if this was merely an hour long delay and nothing more. The dives were all calm with no cause for alarm. No cause for communication. No cause for changing the plan of a routine that all divers come to know. Not that all dives are the same, each is unique, but the template for our disabled diver does have parameters within which she can assess ongoing developments. She contemplates what happened. Was she not emphatic enough when stating her idea to her buddy? Should she have argued with the Captain? Was it her place to protest at all? It seems that each diver is responsible for themselves, or is that only for able-bodied divers? Are handi-divers the charge of whichever boat Captain they meet that morning?


Communication is the first step of a plan that Handi-Divers, and their buddies, need to keep in mind for boat evacuation. Training organizations like PADI, SSI, DAN, NAUI and even HSA have detailed many aspects of boat evacuations for injured divers, and needs of handi-divers but has any organization combined these two needs? Boat Transfers for Handi-Divers. Handi- Divers are not injured, not needing to be evacuated to a medical facility; they are just divers looking to dive. When the need comes to transfer from one boat to another, communication is the first step to making the safest events happen.


In the above scenario the Boat Captainís decision to manually carry our Handi-Diver from one boat to another exposed both the diver and the crewman to unnecessary risk. Risk that could have been easily avoided in such calm reef waters by simply allowing our Handi-Diver to snorkel from one boat to another. Had her buddy simply dove in first and had the new boat throw a tag line out, the stage would have been set for our Handi-Diver to quickly snorkel from one boat to another with not fuss at all. Instead, primarily because of a failure to effectively communicate, the boat Captain is left to deal with our Handi-Diver as if she is just another bit of cargo.


We can do better and we must. In this situation the new boat should have thrown a tag line out. Our diverís buddy should have dropped in with snorkel gear, thus facilitating our Handi-Diver to get over to the new boat in the safest way possible. No fuss, just calmly executing the safest plan with minimum risk.

(This is a true story, non-fiction. Even though author is male, he narrated the story with a female main character for the following reasons. Handi-Divers llc hopes that having a female main character in this narrative will serve to be more inclusive to all divers, be they male or female. Handi-Divers llc is about facilitating scuba for all persons regardless of disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, etc. Your comments and suggestions are welcomed by the management and can be posted on the Handi-Divers llc blog.)


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