Over Confident and Bent, My Lesson for Life

By: Robert Moriarity Sr.

E-Mail : thenerd@wman.com

 Robert A. Moriarity Sr. PADI DM 156387

The Day Before;

 While loading and unloading several steel 95 (95cubic feet) tanks in and out of my trunk I dislocated my right shoulder for the third time in one year. I angrily reminded myself that I needed to use my left arm for a while so the right would heal.

The Night Before;

I am employed as a Senior Network Systems Analyst for a major entertainment company requiring me to be "on call" most weekends. This weekend was no different, for I was up working on a network problem until past midnight. I was exhausted by the time I got home and my alarm was set to go off at 4:14 a.m. This was so I could get the car loaded and make the one-hour drive to the boat and have plenty of time to load gear.

5:45 a.m. / At the Docks;

At the dock I once again popped my right shoulder out of socket while loading tanks and gear for friends and myself. My shoulder hurt with a steady pain that lasted all morning.

9:00 a.m. / Gearing Up;

Weather and sea conditions were a little rough and for the first time ever I was feeling a little sick. I attributed this to not getting plenty of sleep and possible being dehydrated. I work in a very dry controlled environment. While getting into my dry suit I was sweating profusely. The sun was beaming down on us, the air temp was in the high eighties and the water was in the low fifties. This is normal for California cold water winter diving. I was determined to dive this wreck and thought nothing of doing so with very little sleep, a little dehydrated, a hurt shoulder, and a sick stomach.

9:53 a.m. / The 1st Dive;

The first location was a wreck sitting at 120 FSW with the top of the wreck at 80 FSW. My buddy and I decided that we would let the more aggressive divers go first. Most of them were using 120 cubic foot tanks and we were only diving with 95 cubic foot tanks with 20 cubic foot pony bottles. We went in from the side of the boat and proceeded down the anchor line. I brought along my camera for the first dive, a Nikons with a large flash. I tried not to use my right arm while holding the camera and the anchor line at the beginning and end of the dive. My buddy and I had decided to drop to the sand and slowly work our way through. On the return trip we traveled along the upper deck of the wreck. During the entire dive my right shoulder hurt.

The dive went as planned without any problems. The maximum depth for the dive was 118 FSW for 20 minutes. We proceeded to do a safety stop at about 20 feet. Both of us were diving with modern computers. My primary computer is Nemesis II NITROX. This dive was done on air only. My buddy was diving with a Bridge computer. Our computers never went into decompression mode, because of this we only did a safety stop for eight minutes.

After the First Dive;

On deck there was all the normal post wreck dive conversation. We shared stories about what we saw and what we thought we saw. The conditions on the wreck were good for California diving. The visibility was more than 15 Feet and the water temp was about 57 degrees. I was standing in the sun and started to sweat again. My shoulder now started to itch in addition to the constant pain. I contributed the itching to my dry suit for it has been hanging in the garage the last nine months and possibly got something in it that was bothering my skin. Never once did I think I was bent.

12:20 PM. / The 2nd Dive;

After more than a two-hour surface interval we were on our way for our second dive. This time we were on a different wreck with a maximum depth of 75 FSW. All the time on the anchor line my arm reminded me that I dislocated it and my range of motion had been reduced. We did a safety stop for 10 minutes at 15 feet. We were on our way home with plenty of time to see the last half of the Supper Bowl. Back on the dock it was time hump all the wet gear back to our cars and set out for our separate trips home.

6:30 PM At Home;

I cleaned all my gear and put it all away, as is the case with every dive. Next I cracked a beer and proceeded to sleep on the floor while my wife and friends watched the end of the Supper Bowl. After a little nap, I asked my wife to rub my shoulder. When I took my shirt off she noticed a marbling rash all over my right shoulder. I thought it might be bruising from having done so much damage to my shoulder. However, I promptly called DAN. DAN recommended that I go to the closest chamber and be evaluated.


Once at the Northridge Hospital the on-call chamber Doctor was paged and I was quickly evaluated. The Chamber Doctor decided not to treat my case. He felt all the pain was obviously related to the shoulder injury. He said that the damaged shoulder, lack of sleep, slight dehydration and feeling ill might have all played a part in contributing to a case of skin bends.

My Lesson;

My diving has gradually gone from the weekend beach & boat trips to more advance diving and deep wrecks. My current certification is Dive Master and I continue to seek education in more technical areas. I am also certified to dive with NITROX and do so off and on. However, on this day I chose not to use NITROX because I felt it was going to be a very easy day and I did not want the hassle of bringing all my own gas.

This incident has taught me that the more advanced I get the more I need to remember the original fundamental rules for safe diving. If I had scheduled this dive 5 years ago, I would have made different decisions. I was too over confidant about my strength, skill and experience to see that I was heading for disaster. I was lucky that I only got the Skin Bends.


Robert A Moriarity