I think the rescue certification is the most important one a DM can master. In my limited experience diving with DMs in several different countries I can say with certainty that there are some to whom I’d happily entrust my life and others I wouldn’t trust to get my cat out of a tree. I’d prefer to dive with the former because let’s face it, anyone can find fish and no one needs a DM to do a safety stop. Ideally fun divers get a DM that knows the local area and the local wildlife, someone informed and fun and adventurous but at the end of the day if there’s someone in trouble or missing, they best hope their DM knows what to do.
I took the rescue certification pretty seriously and spent several hours absorbing information from the book reviews and videos before we even got into the water. The Seal and I also had a conversation about how Good Samaritan laws don’t exist in Honduras (or Asia) so rescuers are advised to do everything they can until medical personnel show up and then they should leave the scene and keep their names out of paperwork. It sucks but this could prevent a rescuer’s good intentions from blowing back on them if things go south. We also talked about the practicalities of rescue diving on this island and how our procedures might differ slightly from the book and how best to make my open water scenarios as realistic as possible. I emphasized that it would do me no good to practice the rescue scenarios in the book if they weren’t practical to our diving. They might help at a future point but right now, I want to know what to do while I’m here if (GOD FORBID) something were to happen.
The book had a lot of information to absorb and it was much easier (and more fun) to get in the water and actually put some stuff to the test. I did confined water work with the Seal and Goldilocks, who tagged along to be my missing and distressed diver. The first dive was underwater problem solving so they came up with as many ridiculous scenarios as possible, which was like diving with a couple of puppies. I looked over twice and the Seal was head first in the turtle grass, once with his equipment totally off, and once with his mask on backwards. Golidlocks had disconnected hoses, her weight belt and several different clips so I spent about 20 minutes putting them both back together before Goldilocks disappeared to be a missing diver.
Finding someone underwater is scary work, even when it’s practice and you know they aren’t really dead. The search patterns involve a lot of things to keep track of all at once (compass turns, fin cycles, etc.) overlaid with the urgency of minutes passing and the potential effects on a missing diver. I can see how rescuers need to take care of themselves first because it’s easy to freak out.
We went out in the boat for open water skills and before I could get my gear on, Goldilocks went overboard and I had to rescue her. I was so annoyed because she even warned me that she’d been unprepared for her skill test and had two people jump overboard while she was half dressed and I was STILL unprepared when she jumped overboard and I was only half dressed. That’s what I get for not listening. She got pretty bruised up from getting hauled into the boat (which I think an actual unconscious diver might not mind so much if they end up breathing at the end of it) and it was a good lesson for me about leverage. Even little people like Goldilocks are hard to maneuver up a boat ladder in choppy seas when they’re dead weight.
I then “rescued” a dive bag as a missing diver after the Seal gave me a few hints from my pointed questions (“I think he never went deeper than 40ft and I’m pretty sure he said something about liking crevasses…”). Goldilocks and I split that one up, she counted fin cycles and I managed the compass, which made the whole process much faster and it only took about 12 minutes of my allotted half hour.
Overall, the water skills were easier to put into practice than to read about in the classroom. A lot of it is common sense but all of it requires knowledge of the local laws and procedures. I think my big lessons of this course are to stay in good shape, ask a lot of questions, know how to operate the oxygen equipment and hope I never never never have to put any of this into practice.