I had a recent incident (in Cayman, last Fall) where I met up with a DB on a trip and partnered up with this guy. His certs. were high, dives were recent, he was strong, had just come back from serving in Iraq. He got us lost 3 times and couldn’t find our boat. Finally, he surfaced to find the boat. I stayed on his tail, but the current was too strong, so I went below a few feet and swam towards the boat. I couldn’t see him any longer and was basically left to fend for myself. I was getting tired and the current was carrying me further and further from the boat. Soon, I was fatigued and my PSI was a little under 100. I kept my eye on the boat the entire time, but it was a good 75-90 yards away by now. I never panicked. I told myself: Take a deep breath, inflate your BCD and swim on your back and kick. Unfortunately, it didn’t work- the more I kicked, the more I stayed in the SAME place. Finally, without shame, I signaled by waving, and INSTANTLY two DM’s leapt off the boat and swam towards me! Within seconds, I was being towed back to the boat.
I got back on the boat and found my supposed DB, he wasn’t even concerned about me, nor did he apologize for leaving me behind! I was irate at him, and angry at myself for trusting him. It was at the moment he got us lost 3 times, that I realized: even WITH a buddy, you will ALWAYS have to rely on yourself! The Dive master who saved me came up to me the next day and said " I noticed you sat with your head down on the boat after we rescued you. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of. You did EXACTLY what you should have done. The current was strong, the waves were high. You did EVERYTHING RIGHT! ". I was in tears as he said that, because a year or two ago, I would have DEFINITELY panicked, but I know panic does NOTHING for one’s thinking. So I remained calm, assessed my situation and only after ALL my efforts were exhausted, LITERALLY! Did I call for help and rescue.
I sadly, lost my brand new Suunto compass on a Cali boat trip (something I never even do: dive Cali waters), so sadly, without that, I had no way to find the boat on my own. So I had made the mistake of relying on my DB and HIS compass, which he let me down in every way.
Bottom line: a buddy is good (not for much really!) it is the ultimate dive rule, but it really comes down to being prepped YOURSELF to SAVE YOURSELF! Or heck! Maybe even your useless buddy!