Tarheel Divers

Leashes, and Other Buddy Tools by Helena Bell

At one point or another everyone dives with the classic “Runaway Buddy”.  One moment you and Bob are swimming along fine along a coral reef and the next minute Bob is gone and you’re all alone in the deep blue sea and Bob’s the one who knows how to get back to the boat…  Of course any buddy that consistently (on purpose or otherwise) abandons the other diver has a serious problem and either needs to reform or quit diving.  But for the occasional runaway or “accidentally” separated dive buddy there are a few useful methods and items of equipment.

Pop Quiz:  What is the proper emergency procedure in case of buddy separation?

A.)    Panic

B.)     Keep swimming and forget about it, you never liked Bob anyway

C.)    Gut the next shark you see to see if Bob is inside

D.)    Search for Bob for no longer than one minute then surface and wait for buddy there

If you answered anything other than D then maybe you should consider taking a refresher course.  The only possible variation for this answer would be to return to the anchor line if you are in the open ocean with currents and surfacing might result in you getting swept off to sea.  Before the dive you should discuss this with your buddy and decide which method would work best for your dive site and dive plan.

The real trick though is to prevent separation in the first place.  Be sure to discuss the Dive Plan with your buddy so that you have the same goals for the dive and each know where to go.  While diving in poor visibility you should always be an arm’s length from your buddy.  If you have an emergency underwater you need to be close so that he or she can help you.  In clearer visibility there is more flexibility in terms of acceptable distance but keep asking yourself how far you want to have to swim on one breath of air…

In little or no visibility many divers use a buddy line (creative name I know) to prevent separation.  Make sure that your buddy line is not so long as to risk entanglements and not so short as to invade your comfort zone.   The one time where I found it necessary to use a buddy line I was doing a checkout dive with two students.  I tied them together and I stayed in the middle.  Even though the visibility was poor I didn’t have to worry about them getting lost- it was probably the most stress free dive I’ve ever done with new divers.

A variation of the buddy line would be a leash- and though I don’t recommend it as an actual piece of equipment to use- it serves as a nice threat to give your brother (I wasn’t lost!  I knew where I was at all times…  below the boat and above the coral…).

These tools and methods are useful but I must say again, Never dive with someone who habitually loses you- and never swim off after anything without making sure your buddy is right behind you.  Buddy teams that have been diving together for years seem to develop a 6th sense that enables them to turn around just as their buddy swims in a new direction- but these experienced buddies know to check on each other as often as they check their air supply.  So until you develop 360° vision, keep close and dive safe.