With some forethought, gear, and preparation, you may still enjoy your dive despite inclement weather conditions. The following considerations may be useful as you plan your diving and create or review your emergency action plans (EAPs).
When diving in sunny conditions, bring a hat, a long-sleeved shirt or rash guard, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. Choose a sunscreen that’s less harmful to corals — physical barriers such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are generally better than chemical barriers such as oxybenzone. Ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate clouds, so protect yourself from the sun even when the weather is overcast.
When donning your wetsuit, remember that a dry diver in a black wetsuit can overheat quickly on a sunny day. Hang your gear to dry in the shade rather than in direct sunlight to protect it from UV rays. Drink plenty of water and eat some salty snacks if you’re hydrating aggressively.
Wind and Rain
On windy days, be prepared for heavy seas. Use a surface marker buoy to make you easier to spot in rain or surface chop. If you are prone to seasickness, eat plain foods and use a seasickness medication that you tolerate well.
When diving from a boat, be sure to secure your gear, and take extra care if the deck is wet and slippery. Entries and exits can be more difficult in windy conditions, so time your exit correctly, and be careful when grasping a moving ladder. Listen carefully to the site briefing; the captain or crew may have specific instructions for boarding the boat in windy or choppy conditions. Our bodies lose heat quickly when wet, especially in windy conditions, so consider bringing a rain jacket.
In a thunderstorm, it is much safer to be indoors than anywhere outdoors. Familiarize yourself with local weather patterns or listen to a forecast to avoid being caught in a storm. In many areas, thunderstorms are more common in the afternoon, so plan excursions early in the day. Even if a blue sky is overhead, lightning may still be a hazard if storm clouds are in the area.
Avoid diving or being in the water during a storm. It’s hard not to be the tallest object around if you’re on the water, and electric current can travel significant distances over the water’s surface. Some people might think staying underwater is a good idea because lightning does not tend to penetrate very deeply into the water column, but that is not practical in most situations. Your gas supply, no-decompression limits, body temperature, and stamina are essential considerations.
If you surface into a storm, staying at 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) might be reasonable, especially if you surfaced far from the boat or shore and believe the storm will be short-lived or is quickly losing intensity. You should consider this approach, however, only if you can also follow all safe diving guidelines. A better option usually is to quickly get out of the water.
© Alert Diver — Q1 2023