Does self-isolation feel like a never-ending decompression stop?

A rare guest post, thoughtfully provided by Yvonne Press, Dark Horizon Diving. Yvonne is a TDI Instructor Trainer and Technical Diving Instructor who offers bespoke technical diving and courses in North-East of Bali.

Presently following the measures for Covid-19, in this post Yvonne passes the time with a little bit of philosophizing …

I regularly get asked by non-tech divers or not-yet tech divers what I DO to pass time on decompression stops. And, whilst I now have an answer ready, thanks to having thought about this a bit, I initially struggled for a reply. Why? Because there is nothing I really DO on a decompression stop, for the most part. Musing about this and that during house cleaning recently, I thought about how that is kind of similar to spending time in times of social distancing, and here are my – very personal – thoughts on that.

So, how do I pass the time during decompression? Well, first of all, there are actually a few things to do: keeping on top of the deco schedule, making sure the team is ok and on the same page, reacting to changes in current etc. But, when all is said and done, there is still plenty of time left, especially on the longer stops. My standard answer to the question above now includes the following three things: “I think thoughts; I look at the macro life on the reef if I’m ascending on a reef. And quite often I play music in my head.”

And how long can I stay busy doing that? Not sure I have found the limit yet, but the longest decompression I have completed to date has been 2.5 hours. The closer you get to the surface, the longer your stops become, meaning there is more time to think those thoughts. Sounds boring, maybe, but with nothing much else to do it’s an opportunity to think these thoughts all the way to the end before interrupting yourself.

Now, the thing with decompression is that it is final. As tech divers, we know our ‘time to surface’, meaning we know how long it will take until we are back in the so-called real world. However, whilst our decompression obligation still stands, there is not a lot we can do to shorten it other than making our dive plan less conservative. And that’s not something you want to do unless there is an emergency forcing your fins.

So, for the time being, we are in hiatus. And this is where the self-isolation or lockdowns due to Corona feel similar to decompression stops for me. We are on a hiatus. For the moment, we are right here – in our homes, with a limited amount of things we can do to entertain ourselves.

Rather than ranting or getting bored, why don’t we treat this a little more like a decompression stop and appreciate the things we can do. Personally, I’m a far cry from being an enthusiastic muck diver. However, on a decompression stop ascending the reefs of north east Bali, I enjoy looking for the small stuff. Just this past February, actually, I found my first-ever boxer crabs, after 17 years of diving, on a decompression stop. And whilst this hasn’t made me go out and buy a macro camera setup, it was the most memorable part of that particular dive.

Where does it all lead? Realistically, the diving industry where I am based is looking at a three to six month hiatus. That’s simply my best guess. And whilst the economic side of that is challenging enough, so it the psychological aspect. Make no mistake, I miss the water. Every single day. But while each full-time diver will deal with this a bit differently, for now, my strategy will be to treat it like a long deco stop – something I cannot shorten and that has limited options for ‘entertainment’ – providing an opportunity to really delve into the things we actually can do.

For more ideas on how to stay connected with technical diving during Covid-19 on the Dark Horizon Diving website.