Where is my boat?

Have you ever walked out of the mall or grocery store, and not remember were you parked? You were sure you parked by that tree, or was it that tree? I am sure it has, even if for only a brief moment of doubt. This recently happened to me, only it was a boat and it was not where I left it. What would you do? Are you prepared such an event?
On a recent trip to Florida, we were diving on the Spiegel Grove. The Spiegel is 510ft long Dock Landing Ship. It sets at 140+ feet up to about 65 feet. It is a world class wreck dive.
There was a mixture of recreational divers and my Tec class. The plan was for us to do one long dive with a run time of 70 minutes while the other divers did two recreational dives. We splashed last and would be on our deco stops when the others started their second dive. The captain had to anchor to buoy eight; it is located on the bow, as all the other good balls were in use. The current was fairly strong and we had to pull ourselves down. Luckily the current was going almost bow to aft. This allowed us to use the structure as protection. The dive was uneventful and my two student accomplished all of their skill with enough time remaining to do a little sight seeing. At 47 minutes we were back on the accent line. When we first arrived I heard a motor run for a few minutes, this is not out of the ordinary. On sights like the Spiegel, boats come and go often. Some were around 80 feet I looked up at the surface. I could not see the boat but that too is not uncommon. Around 50 feet I looked again, and this time I could see the line from the buoy hanging free. Curious! Thoughts like: Is this the right accent line? No, I am sure this is the right line. Did someone get hurt and the boat had to do an emergency return to dock? No, I did not hear the emergency recall. What if we did not hear it and they knew we had a long deco. My son was diving with the other group, what if it was him! No, that is not it, that is just crazy talk! So what is the deal? Maybe they just moved, but why? Who knows, but that is what I convinced myself of. We still had deco to contend with and my job was to monitor my two students. I could not change the fact that the boat was gone.. After all of our computers cleared, I had the other two divers stay down while I had a look. I was right the boat just moved to a different buoy and was sort of in the direction of the current. I called up the other two and we started a fairly good surface swim, maybe 100 yards. It was harder than the dive itself.
The captain moved so the recreational divers would have an easier decent and ascent. They told him that if he did not move they would not do another dive. I have been on this boat a number of times and they knew our skill set and that when we surfaced we would see the boat.
What if we had come up and the boat had been gone, for whatever reason? Or like another dive I was on, you get blown off the accent line and come up away from the boat and on the wrong side of the current. Would you be prepared? There are three elements to being prepared. They go hand in hand and cannot stand on their own. The elements are safety equipment, training and mental preparedness.
In open water class you are taught to inflate your BCD, relax and signal the boat. Leave your mask on and regulator or snorkel in place, and condition dependent, drop your weights. How do you signal the boat? Hand signals are great if you are close enough and the crew sees you. This is not always the case. During your open water class your instructor told you that you should always carry an audible signaling device, at least I hope they did. A simple plastic whistle, like the one that comes on most BDC will work, if it is there. You can also purchase better ones. Check with your local dive shop, they will have a recommendation. There are also devices like the “DiveAlert” that goes on the LP hose of your BCD inflater. They are loud and sound like a fog horn. Be careful, I would hold it away from your ears when you us it.
You also need to carry a visual signaling device. A colored fin works, not very well, but can do in a pinch as long as it has color to it, not blue or black. A surface marker buoy (SMB) is a wise choice. Not only can it be used for signaling but you can deploy it while still underwater. This not only signals the boat of your location but also act as an accent line during a blue/brown water accent. An SMB can also act as a flotation device, if needed. A good SMBs will have a reflective strip on it and a way of attaching a light/chemical stick to it for night recoveries. Tall is also better, as it is easier to see in rough sea. No matter what type you get, practice with it. If you have never deployed one as part of a class, get someone, preferably an instructor, to show you how to do it from 15-20 feet with a reel or spool. This will allow you to do your safety stop in a controlled manner. Then practice, practice, practice, and be sure to keep it in working order. A signaling mirror is another choice, small, easy to carry and easy to maintain. Read the direction when you get it, do not wait until you are floating at sea to learn how to use it. A chemical stick or small strobe is also good for night time emergencies. However, chemical lights do have a shelf life and your strobe does need good batteries. Two other choices, although not as popular are pen flares and dyes. Both have a shelf lifes and will need to be check before you dive. Of course, read the instruction before you get in the water. Divers Alert Network (DAN) offers a 6 foot SMB with a reflective strip, a mirror, whistle, and a light in a storage pocket. I think this is the best deal out there, ask you dive store or instructor about them. Carry your safety SMB and or signaling device of your choice on every dive. The one time you do not have them will be the one time you need them, I speak from experience.
Training, yes it all comes down to training and continuing education. Learn how to use your safety equipment. Many instructors are including the use of a SMB and reel in their advance class, if not, ask. If you are already advance certified then I would suggest a wreck or deep class were your instructor should include it, ask if not. It is also common in wreck diving to mark your accent line so you know which one is yours. It is always embarrassing to pop up on the wrong boat. It is funny, as long as it is not you. The introduction to technical diving course also stresses the deployment of the SMB from depth, and you will do it on every dive.
Mental preparedness is a must. Do not stress, visualize the dive and what to do if something does go wrong. Ask the captain and crew a few questions: What is the diver recall signal and when would they initiate it? What are the procedures for a diver who does come up off the boat and cannot swim back?
Maybe you will never be blown off a wreck or come up away from the boat. I can name the hand full of times that it has happened to me. Never say never. Check your safety equipment, have the proper training and be mentally prepared. Instructors are not just teaching you how to dive. One of our main goals is to teach you what to do when a dive goes bad, skills and drills. Anyone can jump in the water, swim around and get out. It is when something goes wrong that your training pays off. It must be a muscle memory reaction, no thinking, just doing.
No matter what happens or the reason, stay calm, let your training take over and remember, as long as you are breathing you have no problems.