After checking in with the shop, an independent instructor checked in with me at the boat along with the rest of the customers. I asked one of our regular instructors what the other independent instructor was doing that day with his student and he stated he was just doing some Master Scuba Diver Training.
The first dive was a drift dive on a reef with depths ranging from 50 to 90 feet. After the first dive, the instructor and his student returned to the boat with a couple of lobster in a mesh bag. Our second dive was another reef location with depth ranges from 40 to 70 feet and during my pre-dive briefing I told all divers that they needed to be on the surface and finish their dives no later than 12:15 pm several times. After putting all divers in the water this particular instructor and his student were still discussing their next dive. At least 15 minutes after getting the other divers in the water, the instructor and his student geared up and entered the water. Before entering the water my divemaster told the instructor again that he needed to be on the surface no later than 12:15 pm.
At Approximately 12:25 pm all divers were on the boat except for the instructor and his student. I approached the instructors dive flag and the line and reel were drifting freely with no one in site. The other passengers and I scanned the waters around the flag for about 5 minutes without any visual indication of the instructor or his student. I decided to head the boat in the direction of the waypoint that I had dropped off all divers. Around 12:42 my divemaster spotted a small pink safety sausage about 1/2 mile from where we had found the instructor flag.
When the instructor climbed aboard the boat, he had two more lobster in his mesh bag. I also noticed that the instructor did not have a Safety Sausage of his own or any other type of surface signaling device.
Once at the dock I questioned the instructor about the incident and asked him why he lost his flag. He said that his flag may have gotten caught with a boat or other dive flag which in turn was pulling him so he decided to let go of his flag. In regards to the 12:15 return to the surface time, he stated that he did not hear me and said that he must have had a hood on. However the instructor did not have a hood on during his surface interval or during my second dive briefing. I asked the instructor what agency he taught with and he stated, “All of them!”
My feeling is that the instructor was too busy catching lobster and when the flag and flag line became a hinderance reaching into a hole to pull out a bug… He let go of the line!
No matter what my opinion is. That day, the instructor was teaching a PADI Specialty Course and PADI does not allow their instructors to take photos or hunt during any type training dive.
PADI also requires all instructors to carry a visual and audible signaling device (i.e. Safety Sausage, Signal Mirror, Whistle, etc…)
If you have to let go of your dive flag, re-surface and retrieve your flag. After all, that is how the crew on the boat keeps track of you. The Atlantic Ocean is a big lake people; you are a needle in a haystack!
Finally… A side note, a lot of instructors know and use the professional courtesy of dive shops and dive boat owners allowing them to dive for free when they are training students. Sadly there are a few instructors that show up on boats with friends or “other types of customers” that just say they are teaching so that they do not have to pay for another seat then they take photos and hunt without ever teaching. Those instructors are the ones that are going to ruin it for the True Dive Professional trying to cut his/her costs in an industry that is already hard to make a buck!
Instructors!!! Follow standards and procedures!!! Hang onto your dive flag!!! Stay safe!!!