The Long Deco Stop

By Rosemary E Lunn

As divers, we have been equipped to handle strange environments and stressful situations. We are more fortunate than most because we can apply some of our skills to the current COVID-19 situation. I am not dismissing the financial aspect – my income has also been decimated. But the quicker we all get our head around “it’s not enforced self-isolation” but “someone has given me the luxury of time at home,” the better we will psychologically handle this. 

I have noticed there have been a plethora of posts on social media from people struggling with this surface interval and missing loved ones. This is something that the Armed Forces / Military has lived with for years. Here are some tips from the professionals that are just as pertinent when you are liveaboard diving. 

If this is your first time living in isolation, or perhaps your first time living on top of people that you’d usually have a good breather from or would only really interact with for a few hours a day, then it’s easy to quickly lose your mind and start winding each other up. A couple of things can help to prevent that.

We manage this like decompression. It’s a long deco stop.”

Respect. 

We run protocols on shot lines and deco stations. We respect personal space, we don’t intrude on others’ personal space and we respect each other. We don’t pick fights. The same rules apply on dry land and include “respecting communal areas.”

In the Royal Navy and the USA Navy, there is a simple rule. “Your bunk is sacred”. Allow someone’s sleeping space to be their private place. Never sit, stand, lay or place anything on another’s bed or bunk. If someone is in their crib, don’t disturb them.

Hygiene. 

Just because you are not leaving the house, doesn’t mean a holiday from washing. Keep clean, keep tidy. Teeth, breath, deodorant. Remember to clean up after yourself and put your rubbish / trash where it belongs. Don’t leave it lying about for someone else to pick up. There is no magic coffee table.

Don’t be selfish! 

How any times have you been in a dive shop where someone has offered you a brew? If you are making a drink or grabbing some food, offer it to everyone you are with. Share. And don’t be greedy either. Who knows when your favourite goodies will be back in stock!
Look after each other and pull your weight. (h3)

We help each other load and unload gear, on and off dive boats. Why change your attitude just because you are at home? Warships don’t carry passengers, neither should families. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry should never fall to one person. We all contribute to making the mess, we all need to contribute to cleaning it. And if someone has cooked for you – jolly well eat it! – even if it’s not your preference.

Enjoy your situation. 

We know when we are getting cold on a dive, or swimming through low viz “it’s not forever”. We also know when a pod of dolphins comes and plays with us “it’s not forever”. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Your kids are only little once and you’ve probably moaned about missing them growing up… now there’s no excuse! Enjoy every single day. Lots of people are working through the lockdown to make sure it’s lifted quickly. Stay indoors and enjoy your kids so that the essential workers can get back home to theirs!

Missing a loved one? 

We have phones where we can Facetime, text, What’s App etc, however, there is nothing as special as the written word. If you can’t see a loved one, write them a letter or send them a card. If you haven’t got a card, make one. Believe me, it will be appreciated. These letters and cards will be read, re-read and treasured.

If you can afford it, and you know exactly what will brighten someone’s day, why not order them a random present from a small family business? It will help put bread on the table for one person and bring joy to another.

When you do speak to your loved one, try not to rain down on them with all your problems that they can’t fix, it only causes worry. Embrace the funny! Find something daft to share.

No, you can’t Nerf gun the medics!

My unofficial sister-in-law is an amputee equestrian. She’s not too shabby – she was in the reserve team for the UK Paralympics riding team in 2000. She always finds the funny in everything and frequently comes out with pithy one-liners that have me in stitches. She joked in a phone call earlier today about a meme she had seen about housework. “Always wanting the time to spring clean the house and never having the time to do it. Well this week has proved to me that is not the issue”. Welcome the ridiculousness and share the mischief! You’ll be surprised just how much better you feel after a long, good, hard laugh. [Link: https://youtu.be/yhuMLpdnOjY]

Learn when to stop. 

If you’ve ever been liveaboard diving, there will be that moment when you find a quiet space on the boat to mull over the last dive or start thinking about the next one. It is quite possible to find space in a crowd, so offer others the respect and freedom to do so. If they’ve got headphones in, or a head in a book leave them be!

Someone at some time will irritate you beyond belief. 

Just walk away. You don’t dislike them. You have just reached your limit with their gum chewing or tuneless whistling. Go back to your bed, and watch Netflix with your headphones in, or take out your frustrations by cleaning your windows.

Take time out to actually learn more about your immediate surroundings. 

Look up, look down. Look around. We’ve all done this on a safety or deco stop and got engrossed with watching random marine life: Taking a glimpse at a pulsating jelly fish gently wafting, wondering where the next dive-bombing Guillemot will come from, or zoning out to a tiny speck of an organism being carried on the current.

You will spot things that you have walked past a hundred times at home and never noticed. 

It is Spring in the northern hemisphere – a time for new life. Take a moment to watch the birds and the wildlife. You’ll be surprised what you spot and how much squaring up and fighting there is out there between rival male animals. Their behaviour can be fascinating to watch.

We will prevail. Hopefully, we will use this precious time wisely and come out of it with new skills and a more tolerant, kinder attitude. 

NOTE: The author wishes to thank Joel Silverstein and Stuart Douglas with their assistance with this article.

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