Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Casa Cenote near Tulum Mexico

A month, Task Loading and Self-Rescue

Well, it has been almost a month since I last did some diving.  I was hopeful about getting out this weekend, however the apartment search and getting settled took priority.  I started to collect up my gear for this weekend and about half way through I realized that I just couldn’t get my head into it. Even if I could find everything I needed and I could find the time, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be emotionally prepared to get up at 4:30AM and trek to the boat.  On top of that it was blowing like hell all weekend and cold!  If I can get myself into an apartment this week, I will start to seriously consider getting out this weekend.

I was browsing my normal array of forums today and found a link to, “Task Loading Tips For Underwater Photographers & Videographers” by Becky Kagan.  It is a quick read and has some nice photos.  My experience aligns with Beckey’s. She writes,

“Task loading can come in many forms and it’s different for everyone day to day. Task loading can be anything physical to mental or a combination of both. It could be pushing an over weighted camera with lights in a strong current while trying to set up shots, positioning a model, dealing with sea sickness, a broken fin strap, and a depth and time limitation. All of these little problems can build up into one larger problem so it’s important to recognize when you’re overwhelmed and when to call the dive before it becomes dangerous.”

A month and a half ago, I was relining a silty side mount passage.  I had recently switched from the stock fin straps on my Avante Pros to spring straps.  The springs were a little loose and would slip off the heal sometimes.  When they slipped off the heal, they would unclip themselves from the fin and the fin would work its way off.  Well, the first time it happened I thought it was an odd occurrence and a one off.  The second time it happened I got pissed and then promptly forgot about it.  The third time I was in a low wide silty pristine sidemount passage with my reel in my hand.  The passage was small enough that I would not be able to reach my fin and if it came off, I might not find it.  And since I was 2000ft from the entrance I really wanted to keep both fins.  On top of the fin issue, there was nothing for me to tie the reel off to, there was no where for me to put it down and there was nothing I could get a hold of.   And I couldn’t make forward progress because the loose fin was precariously perched on my foot.

Immediately, a wave of stress washed over me.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to solve this problem without trashing the cave.  I tried to reach my foot a couple of times with my reel in hand.  That was a non-starter.  I didn’t want to pull the line off the last tie-off.  And I didn’t want to get entangled.   I did a little twister practice, but the passage just wasn’t tall enough for me to get my lef forward.  After some more struggle, I started to get frustrated and a little upset.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  I was task loaded and a little stressed.

I decided to stop and take inventory of the situation.  The first step was to just take a couple of breathes.  I had two nearly full tanks on and a stage waiting for me at the end of the line.  I had plenty of time.   I thought about the reel and tried to figure out what to do with it.  I needed to get both hands involved in the self-rescue.  I dogged the reel down and clipped it to my chest d-ring.  I got the line a little taught to keep for getting it involved with my other gear.  Then I stopped again.  How was I going to get my fin and stay neutrally buoyant and not trash the cave.  Hmmm……  I decided to give up on being neutrally buoyant.  The cave had a hard rock ceiling so I inflated my BC until the overpressure valve vented.  I pinned myself to the ceiling.   Now I had two problems solved, no reel and no hovering, plus I gave myself some more room to work.  This is where there was some acrobatics.   I pulled my leg up gingerly and reached down and grabbed the fin.  I reattached the spring to the fin.  I pulled my leg up again and replaced the fin.  I pulled the spring over the hell and used my other hell to work it up the back of my leg.  I felt relieved when the fin went back on.

I slowly let gas out of the BC until I neutralized, unclipped and undogged the reel and finished my relining and survey.  It was a pretty cool experience, the kind that comes from diving.  I managed my task loading by identifying the problems and solving them one by one.  I was able to accomplish the solution without trashing the cave and without burning a significant amount of gas.

That night when I got home I resolved to fix my fins.  I drilled 4 holes in each fin, one in the post and one next to it.   I put the springs on and then pass a zip-tie through the two holes.  The zip-tie captures the spring bracket and holds it in place.  Since I made this minor modification, I haven’t had anymore problems with those fins.  I was very satisfied with the whole situation.

So, if you become task loaded don’t get frustrated or overwhelmed.  Stop what you are doing and take a couple of deep breathes.  Then look at your gauges to confirm your gases and the time you have to solve the problem.  Take inventory of what is causing you trouble and consider solutions.  Then act on a solution, don’t move forward until you have fixed the friction point.   Methodically address each issue until you can move forward with a mind like water.  Remember, there is no hurry and there is very little chance things will improve if you do hurry.


1 Paul { 05.25.09 at 8:08 pm }

I know Becky. I met her in Florida when I was doing my Trimix certification dives. She’s a really nice person and a heckuva photographer.

2 Hans { 05.26.09 at 6:08 am }

Yahh… her photog is awesome. Have you been diving? I am still working on getting into an apartment and getting settled.

3 Paul { 05.26.09 at 6:44 am }

Dove the Oregon a couple of weeks ago. Other than that been very busy with my PMP class (tons of homework) and I’ve been doing alot of scuba teaching (mostly at Blue Water Divers) trying to make a few extra bucks. Hoping to dive this coming weekend. Not sure where yet.