I never spoke to him on boat ride from Kukui'ula Harbor, Kaua'i, out to Ni'ihau and Lehua. I was enjoying the day with my family, joking around, trying to fend off any incipient seasickness, and helping Dive Master Shaked untangle like a mile of fishing line she wanted to use for her jewelry sideline while the other dive masters spun heavier test line onto a couple giant fishing reels. Lunch was starting to sound like a big deal! Doug was with his wife, I presume, in a different part of the boat. Besides, it was early—not my most social time of day.
When we arrived at Lehua—17 miles from Kaua'i, about 2+ hours boat ride—the captain and the dive masters, in consultation, inspected then rejected two different dive sites because of difficult currents. They settled on Keyhole, feeling it was suitable for our first dive of three. Here's Wikipedia:
"When weather and wave conditions permit crossings from Kauai, Lehua is a noted destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. It is also well known for an unusual geological formation dubbed 'the keyhole'. Located in one of the crescent's narrow arms, this is a tall, thin notch cut from one side, all the way through to the other side of the arm."Doug's group, to my chagrin, got to go in first. [I'm an eager diver. I always want to be the first in and the last out.] We watched as they descended. One guy had some trouble equalizing the pressure in his ears and came back up. For those of you who don't dive, the feeling is similar to that of going up in a high elevator or in an airplane, though more intense. The air pockets in your ears and sinuses have to equalize with the water pressure against your skull, or your head will implode. Something like that. Some divers adjust the pressure merely by swallowing. Others do it by exercising the jaw muscles like yawning. Sometimes, if that doesn't work, you simply press your nasal passages closed and blow.
Our group waited as the boat backed up and brought the diver who failed to equalize back on board, drifted out of the notch, and backed back in. And down we went.
Even though the swells were high, bouncing us up and down at the surface, we had a fairly smooth descent to 40' or so. No pressure issues. In my family dive group, I like to bring up the rear. That way I can keep an eye on everybody. The boys like to lead, and because Wisdomie is a Scuba Instructor, that's perfectly fine with me.
We headed out, going with the current, and down, heading toward about 100'. I had a bit of trouble descending further, but then caught a downdraft and before I knew what was happening I was below the rest of the group.
I ascended, and all of a sudden I found myself up above them. I turned and tried to kick my way back down to them, but the upswell started pushing me even further up. Next thing I knew I was at the surface.
As I said, that's when I decided to scrub the dive.
Because it was a deep dive profile, it was a short dive. Soon the first group came up. By the time they'd gotten on board and out of their equipment, my group was ascending. That was the first time I heard Doug's name. His wife said he'd gotten separated from her under water, and she figured he'd latched on to our group to complete the dive.
Not so. He didn't come up with the rest of my group.
The business of climbing out of the water and getting out of the cumbersome gear and stowing the heavy tanks and equipment is fairly routine. That's when it began to register with the crew that Doug might be missing. They did a head count from the manifest. Then another. A feeling disbelief, then shock seemed to take over the boat. Then the scramble began.
"How big is he?" "What color are his fins?" "Is he a good diver? How much experience?" "When was the last time anybody saw him?" were some of the questions making the rounds as the boat began circling the dive site, then in ever-widening circles the area around the Keyhole side of Lehua.
[to be cont'd]
|Swimming with Sea Turtles at Poipu Beach|
|A Swim-through off Kaua'i|
|Looks like the whole fam damily down.|
|Once again, Jim H and dive buddy Wisdaughter in a cool spot|
|Jim H: Bubble Boy!|
|Jim H trying not to kick a friendly Sea Turtle|
|Jim H @ Keyhole waiting his turn to go down, rocking that wetsuit and that Stannis Baratheon haircut|