For all of his faults – and he has lots of them – my former dive buddy, Krabbmann, always tries to maintain a grasp on what’s important in diving and what’s not. Sadly, however, he usually fails to apply the things that he instinctively knows to be correct to his own diving practices. A shortcoming that – when coupled with his, “do as I say, not as I do” attitude towards anyone whom he suspects of being less knowledgeable or experienced in diving than himself – has marked him as a Person-Who-Dives rather than the Diver that he could be.
It’s a subtle distinction; one in which people-who-dive are often mistaken for divers by virtue of their proficiency in the fundamental skills, their knowledge of the theoretical principles of diving, and because they happen to have a concertina-fold of certification cards in almost everything, from Underwater Knife Fighting through to Snorkel Maintenance.
(There are, of course, some people-who-dive who will never be mistaken for divers. Convinced that the ability to breathe through a regulator is pretty much all that’s required in order to survive underwater, they manage to mask their ignorance by ‘talking the talk’ and pinning their faith on technology to keep them from harm’s way.)
Divers, on the other hand, often start out as people-who-dive until they finally wake up to the fact that a training course and certification card – of whatever level – is not an end in itself but just another rung on an endless ladder of learning; and that true experience is measured as much by what they’ve managed to discover about themselves as by the number of years that they’ve been diving. Coming to regard textbooks and manuals as useful tools rather than articles of faith, the true diver is one who – understanding his/her personal limitations – learns to temper book knowledge with a generous dollop of common sense and a lot of forethought about the activity.
Something that, despite his many years spent diving seems to have passed Krabbmann by.
A group of us had spent months searching for the scattered remains of a historical wreck that we were keen to locate. With its final resting place narrowed down to a small offshore area of seabed in 45-metres of water, we planned the dive and arranged to meet at the boat jetty bright and early on the appointed morning.
“Have any of you checked today’s weather forecast?” I asked, looking at the huge slop beyond the harbour entrance and already feeling queasy.
“Those forecasters never get it right,” said Krabbmann. “Anyway. It’ll be OK once we get beneath the surface.”
“I’m not going diving in conditions like that,” I said “I’ve just remembered that rule about never diving with idiots – and anyone who wants to go diving in seas like those has to be an idiot.”
Ignoring the criticism, Krabbmann turned to the others. “We’ve invested a lot of time in this search and we’re not about to let a little slop and chop put us off, are we?” he asked. They all nodded agreement. “Besides which”, he added, turning to me, “you’ve done dives in far worse conditions than this without any problems.”
“That was when I was young and foolish – and being highly paid.” I said. “This is recreational diving. It’s supposed to be fun. Nobody’s paying us to take unnecessary risks. Anyway, that wreck’s been down there for eighty years and another day or two’s not going to make any difference.”
“If you want to wimp out because you’re not up to the same standard of diving excellence as the rest of the team, then we’re better off without you,” said Krabbmann. “But don’t expect us to share any of the glory when we come back with proof that we’ve found the vessel’s remains.”
“I think I’ll stay behind“, I replied, “and offer up a prayer for you all.”
Krabbmann just grunted as they cast off the lines and headed towards the open sea.
Two hours later the battered group staggered back through the door of the dive shop led by a fuming and disgruntled Krabbmann. “We didn’t even get into the water,” he ranted. “None of them saw fit to properly secure the gear; cylinders were rolling about everywhere. Three of these so-called divers were too busy hanging over the sides and feeding the fishes to be of any use; and on top of that, the anchor snagged. The boat was bouncing around so much that we couldn’t recover it. Eventually we just had to cut the line. That prayer of yours didn’t help one bit.”
“It’s good to see you all back safely, but that prayer was for my benefit not yours,” I told him.
“Eh!” Said Krabbmann. “So what did you pray for?”
“It’s the Diver’s Prayer; a simple one that I learned many years ago from an old offshore diving supervisor.” I replied. “I’ll teach it to you. It goes like this: Lord, protect me from amateurs and fools“.