I know where I want to go, but how do I get there?
One of our divers recently asked me a question “How do you do it? Lead a dive and know exactly where you are going and how to get back to the anchor?” Well as it is with most things. Practice makes perfect! Have a read on our navigation tips below.
The two main things you need to know when diving is; where you are and where you are going! To do this you need to have good observation skills and know how to use your compass. This is what we cover on the PADI Underwater Navigation Specialty course.
How do you improve your navigation skills? There are many ways but here are some navigation tips to get you started:
- If there is a map of the dive site then use it! Try to remember the main points of interest so you know where you are and if there are bearings, use them too.
- Before starting your dive take a compass bearing of the shore or boat. Check this bearing against the direction of travel underrwater. Doing this will get you out of trouble if you get lost.
- Use natural navigation. Start observing your underwater environment as soon as you start your descent. An example, is the anchor near a point of interest you can use, a rock or a wall that will guide you back. As you follow the dive site, make turns that you can remember so when you are on your way back you can remember what to head towards
- Another way of navigating is to pick a path that you follow such as a wall, a cut on a wall or special rock formation and use it to look ahead and pick a point to aim to/back from. You will need good visibility for this.
- Go slow. Not only can you miss a lot of life, but the faster you go the more chance of getting lost.
- Trust and use your compass. Know how to use it and take it on every dive. I personally use a digital compass built in on my Suunto dive computer and it makes it so much easier.
- Stay away from sand only sites. Most of the divers will end up going round in circles without a compass. If you have to go across sand then my advise is to check the compass regularly and make sure you are still on the right track.
- If you are comfortable with navigation don’t be scared of exploring beyond the known areas, but make sure if you wander outside the dive site that you have information on currents and boat traffic.