There’s a lot more to piloting a DPV than just, well, piloting it. Many cave divers believe that it’s easy enough to do, buy a DPV, and start doing cave dives with it. Fortunately, most are able to complete successful cave dives without any issues. But what happens when there is an issue? How do we prepare for those?
One of the easiest ways is to take a class. For a small fee and 2 days of diving with a qualified, experienced instructor, a lot can be learned. Now, some of you are probably thinking, of course I’m going to recommend taking a class. After all, I’m an instructor. Go back and re-read that I wrote “one of the easiest ways.” You can also find a mentor who has a lot of experience on DPVs. This could take longer. And you’re also gambling on whether or not your mentor knows what’s important to teach. But that can also be an issue with an instructor. The difference is instructors have standards to follow.
I just recently assisted with a DPV class in which one of the students has been using a DPV for several years. Much of that previous experience was also with a diver who had taken a Cave DPV course about a year earlier. He came out of this class learning a lot and feeling like a better DPV pilot than he had been before the class, even with all that experience.
It’s not all about the skills of piloting the DPV during the dive. It starts before the dive, before you ever take the DPV on a dive. You need to rig the DPV up correctly and make sure it’s balanced properly. An improperly rigged DPV and/or improperly balanced DPV will only create issues during the dive, especially if the DPV malfunctions and you have to tow it or swim it out. Not only will it be more difficult to exit the cave, but it will also likely cause damage to the cave during the exit. Improperly rigged and balanced DPVs are also harder to control while functional. This is one of the most important parts of any DPV class and should be addressed before ever gearing up.
There are also emergency procedures that should be taught during a DPV class. This experienced diver knew nothing about the palm bump. If you’re wondering what that is, then maybe it’s time you scheduled a DPV class for yourself. There’s plenty of evidence of the lack of knowledge in these areas, including a large scooter rut 3100′ back in a popular cave system.
How about sharing air while exiting on DPVs? Have you ever thought of the logistics of doing that? Or just gas management? The rule of thirds is no longer applicable when a DPV is involved. And counting on flow to get you out with a dead DPV is not acceptable. How many of you plan proper gas management for DPV dives?
Just a few things to consider before taking a DPV into a cave. There’s a lot more to the class than just the things I mentioned, at least to the class I teach. Don’t think piloting a DPV into a cave is simple. It’s not. It’s something that takes a lot more planning and preparation than simply swimming in.