A Broken Regulator in Mexico at 40 Meters

As the owner of a scuba diving website (this one), and an addict for scuba travel, it is my job to travel the world, and show our readers the best diving the planet has to offer.

Not only do I rely on these many many trips each year to satisfy my addiction, but it is also what I do for a living. Because of this I get to see every aspect and level and quality of diving, and dive oppositions that exists. And I’ve learned a lot from that.

I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to running dive centers and resorts, when it comes to both the marketing side, as well as the dive oppositions themselves.

Sometimes I am hired by a tourism board of a country or a city or a region, to come to their location and show our readers what its like, with the main goal of promoting their own dive tourism.

Sometimes it is a dive center or dive resort or live aboard company that hires us, but the goal is the same: To bring a lot of eyes to that location and/or business.

Its always a different campaign. Sometimes a group diving press trip (like in Bonaire), and sometimes it is just me or another of my team. Usually the results consist of large amounts of social media coverage, vlogs or videos, and articles or guides of the area.

I’ve covered from everything from extreme luxury resorts in Indonesia and Maldives, to muck diving in Philippines and Malaysia, to pelagic in Egypt and Mozambique, caves in Mexico and Florida, wrecks, sharks etc etc etc. The list is long.

Its even my person mission to dive all of the top 100 dive locations in the world, and I’m on my way to doing that.

My point is, I have seen so many different systems and business models and methods when it comes to dive oppositions, that not much surprises me.

What does continue to surprise me, is when diver safety is either nonexistent, or so far below the bar that it might as well be. I don’t experience it often, but once in a while I run into an opposition that is so bad, I refuse to give them any publicity.

One of the times was in Belize, where I later heard that it is common. I was so appalled by what I seen that I gave the company a choice of me being honest, or not mentioning them at all. They chose to stay anonymous.

The mistake I made, was being lazy, and not wanting to haul my dive gear to Mexico, because the dive center said they had good rental gear I could use. I trusted their gear.

2 Broken Regulators

This day’s dive was a lionfish hunt, and I was looking forward to both filming the action, as well as doing some spearing of my own. I had only been on a lion fish hunt once before, a year ago in Belize.

We descend immediately to about 40 meters down a wall, where there were apparently lots of lion fish, where we planned to start, and work our way up.

Right when I reached about 38 meters deep, I saw a lion fish under a over hang, and started getting my camera ready in one hand, and my spear ready in the other.

Right as I was about to release the spear, which was a hawaiian sling style spear with a rubber band, my regulator completely failed, and started free flowing profusely. The extreme surge of bubbles knocking off my mask, sending it down the wall.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the free flow out of the regulator to stop, so to get a breath I had to put my head sideways and gulp the bubbles, like an upsides down water fountain in a elementary school.

After the first breath/gulp, I looked around for my mask. Luckily it had snagged on some coral a few meters below, instead of falling down the whole wall length.

I was able to reach it with my extended spear, and bring it back. This wasn’t an easy thing to do, juggling a big camera, a spear gun with mask on the end, and a violently flowing regulator, whipping around like a dropped firehose.

As soon as I got my mask back on, I looked around for my dive master, because at the rate I was loosing air, I would be empty soon. And I was still at 35 meters. But the dive master was nowhere in site.

I don’t bring a tank banger, so I picked up a rock and bagged on my tank to get the dive master’s attention, or anyone else on the dive, but no one came.

As I was holding spear and camera in one hand, gulping breaths of air from a stream of bubbles and looking for my guide, I was also watching my computer and slowly ascending up the wall.

I finally saw the dive master far ahead in the gloom, but too far to reach, and he could not hear my banging on my tank. For whatever reason he had forgot all about me, in the interest of bringing the other divers to lion fish.

As I was angling my way up the wall, and in the general direction of my guide, I found a nice sandy flat spot at about 18 meter, where my computer said I had plenty of time before decompression.

I set down my rock, spear and camera, and unstrapped my BCD to take it off. I was already down to about 40 bar of air in my tank, far from the surface, and far from a buddy regulator: I had to save that air, as I couldn’t shoot to the surface obviously.

I took a look at my regulator, and seen that the center purge button was somehow missing. I figured I would take parts from my spare regulator, but when I had looked at it at the very beginning of all this, I saw that the entire back of it was missing

My guess is that when I had stepped of the boat, the impact of the water had completely broken my spare reg apart, and it had nothing I could use.

I flipped my tank to my front, and after a air-drink, turned off the tank completely. Then I set my camera and spear on top of the upturned BCD, and wrapped the BCD straps around it all to keep it secure.

From then I started ascending again, pushing my gear ahead of me like a torpedo, and opening the tank to get an air-drink when I needed.

Finally my I got the attention of my guide, and ahold of his spare reg. We had just reached 5 meters to do the safety stop, and I was down to 10 bar, so I was glad to have his air, although still annoyed at him for leaving me.

….

This trip taught me to consider the importance of the quality of equipment a dive resort/center has, as well as their stance on diver safety and PADI regulations. Diving is generally safe, but one small issue like mine can become huge, without a dive buddy.

I shutter to think what would happen if this same scenario had happened to a less experienced dive then me. Many new diver’s first reaction would of been to shoot to the surface, which can be catastrophic on its own.

Later that week our group also got lost at sea, as the boat couldn’t find us after a drift dive, but thats another story. But it all goes to show that picking a quality dive center can be the difference between fun and disaster or even life and death.

Also read:  62 of the Best Cenotes in Mexico

 

 

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Justin Carmack
Justin is a dive master and world traveler on a mission to dive and document the top 100 dive sites in the world. In doing this he hopes to bring love for the marine environment to the world!

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