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Maui 2007  
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Dives 52-62 took place in Maui from April 21st to April 26th 2007. Lahaina Divers hosted the Handicapped Scuba Associationís first trip to Maui; which I am very glad to have been a part of. I was impressed with the expensive handicapped renovations done to the hotel we stayed at (the Royal Lahaina) and to the boats we were diving off. Using the facilities in the hotel was expected, even though some of the accommodations there had only been completed the day before the first wheelchair users arrived. The large dive boats were modified so that we wheelchair users could use the spacious heads (lavatories) thereby speaking volumes about the concern and generosity of Lahaina Divers.


In the short three years Iíve been diving, I donít think Iíve ever met one boat captain that was less than stellar. The Lahaina Divers boat Captain is named Dan and he is no exception. His skill in both boat handling and crew management is awesome. His communication skills are great; which compliments his thorough and inexhaustible knowledge of the dive sites he has been showing divers for close to thirty years. Perhaps the most astounding quality of Captain Dan is that on several occasions he donned mask and (possibly?) flippers to come down to where we were diving. His free style diving closely resembles that of the dolphins he no doubt has communed with. This man truly swims like a dolphin when he comes down to say hello to those of us divers who, by comparison, are confined by our bulky equipment.


The boat crew also was smart when it came to assisting all the handicapped divers in our group. No matter what the ability level of our group, from the very paralyzed to the moderately paralyzed, the boat crew exercised respectful assistance and tasteful hospitality. We each were made to know we were all completely welcome in every aspect of our diving requirements. From getting us onboard to pulling us each out of the water, this crew is the best Iíve seen to date. Their techniques are truly a model for an industry standard in both safety and convenience.


The divingóMaui in late April is perfect. We may have arrived about ten days too late to spot the whales we hoped for but we could still hear them calling each other in the distance. The weather was what Iíve come to expect in Hawaii, perfect. The water temp was also consistent with my other Hawaiian dives, meaning that the winter temperature was still a comfortable 76 degrees or better for all dive sites. For our group, the Captain was kind enough to show us dive sites that were not only of great interest from a divers perspective but also dive sites that were suitable for handicapped divers. By this I mean that the sites we went to had very little current and were usually 79 degrees or better. For me to experience nearly no current in Hawaii is truly a pleasant surprise, perhaps there was some Divine Intervention in play as well.


I went on this trip not so much to have a vacation, though that was certainly achieved, but mainly to work on some specific dive skills. In the months leading up to the trip, I was looking through the HSA requirements for Advanced Scuba Diver because I wanted to be prepared for the first dive trip of the season. I wanted to work on skills that I was weak on. Skills that I knew needed improvement. I knew I would have the privilege of being with Jim Gatacre and that was important to me. From diving under his tutelage last June in Bon Aire, I had already discovered how knowledgeable he is in all things related to handicapped scuba. It is my firm belief that no one on planet Earth knows more about handicapped scuba than Jim and I wanted to learn as much as possible from him on this trip. Starting with fish identification I studied my previous dive log entries to familiarize myself with what types of creatures to expect. The HSA requirements state that I needed to know the ecological niche that various creatures occupied. I needed not only to identify them but also to know what behavior to expect from them. This homework really made my dives more enjoyable because I was able to identify more fish than if I had just shown up and didnít know what to expect.


I also wanted to work on my dive planning. Perhaps this is where my greatest lessons of the entire trip were learned. I really was able to take an introspective look at my behavior and see what I was doing. I made several mistakes that were significant. Up to this point in my diving life, I had nearly always been with a guide. On those few occasions where I was buddied up with another novice, it was with an able bodied novice who, because of me being paralyzed, always cut me whatever slack I took. The result was that I usually didnít effectively communicate with my dive buddy in a way that true dive buddies are taught to. Before Maui, I usually just did what ever I wanted and they accommodated that. Nor did I previously have a tremendous need to plan my dives; I either followed the guide or he followed me. Other than a brief description of the dive site, I never really gave much thought to how to be a good dive buddy on any particular dive. I never bothered learning how to take care of a buddy in an emergency, how to dump his weights and how to tell each other that one of us needed to share air. This trip taught me better.


Here I need to draw your attention to the May 2007 edition of Dive Training magazine. There is an article by Marty Snyderman entitled THE LOST BOY: A story of Panic and Personal Accountability. As described on page 67, there are risks associated with not planning dives. There are risks to not communicating with your dive mates prior to diving off the boat. There are risks to me expecting others to know what I want as if they should be clairvoyant. These are risks that many divers simply will not take with 60 feet of water above their heads; nor should they be expected to take risks simply because I failed to plan. It is my responsibility to clearly communicate my intentions for the dive before I jump in. Since using a dive buddy is required on nearly all the dives I make, it is my responsibility to make sure we are both on the same page and that we are each capable of performing tasks associated with whatever the dive may encompass. If I have no intention of trying to follow my buddy to wherever he decides to go, I need to verbalize that before we jump in, that is part of planning. Most importantly, if I decide Iím going back to the boat or even just back to where the boat is anchored, I need to make that buddy aware of my decision. If I fail to let that person know, he will start looking for me. If I accidentally shoot up to the surface, I need to make that buddy aware of what happened to me as best that I possibly can.


Yes, I made some mistakes on this week at Maui. Yes I am very lucky that I had someone like Jim Gatacre with me to show me exactly what my mistakes were, why they are important to correct and to teach me more about how to plan my dives properly. Did that take away from the enjoyment of the dive? No, certainly not. Learning how to be a better diver, especially learning from someone like Jim, is a real privilege.


More learning? You bet. This time from one of the great boat crew. A young man named Jonathon helped me with some buoyancy issues I knew I needed to work on. When I told him I thought I wasnít over-weighted with 7mm of neoprene and 19 pounds of lead, he said that he has seen plenty of divers that had lost a weight pouch on the bottom and not even known it until they were back in the boat. Those words brought me back to another young man in Aruba who was my dive guide. He told me flat out that I only needed 8 pounds of lead in a 3mm suit. In both cases I was skeptical but remembered the advice. In both cases I now know they were right to help me with their advice. The bottom-line here isnít just that I was over-weighted but that I was using my weights the wrong way. I was thinking only of how I didnít want to be upside down because I canít clear my mask in that position (yet). I thought I needed those ankle weights, at least on my knees, until after getting down past 15 feet, at which point I sometimes remembered to move them to my shoulder straps and thus, kept my feet from dragging. What I discovered in Maui was that I do not need the ankle weights at all past 15 feet.  In fact I dove much better without them entirely. At depth, without the ankle weights, not only did I maintain the proper horizontal dive profile (which is very important when using a scooter- as I usually do) but I was also still only slightly negatively buoyant (instead of grossly over-weighted.) I also learned that, yes, without the ankle weights I may have to struggle a little to stay upright the first 10-15 feet, but thatís ok, thatís what the descent line is for. When I use the descent line to get past the first 10 Ė15 feet, I can still sink like a rock without being over-weighted.


Even more learning? Yup, from all the boat crew and from other divers as well. Too many examples to continue listing but suffice it to say it was a really terrific trip for lots of reasons. The dive sites? They are AWESOME. You really should go see them all for yourself. Captain Dan and his crew will take very good care of you. Mahalo! 



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