The phrase "plan the dive, dive the plan" was coined Hal Watts, founder of PSAI. (He was also the one to name an alternative air source 'an octopus', but that's another story.)
Let's face it, the fundamentals of dive planning remain the same for all divers, a process that every diver should follow. However, when it comes to recording your proposed plan, what do you do? It can be quite simple data or something far more complex, depending on what level of dive you have planned for.
I wish that 'Deco-Decals' has been in existence in March 1999 during my trimix training. I can vividly remember sitting in the cabin of MV Karin - a Scapa Flow liveaboard - with a roll of masking tape, and very precisely covering my wrist slate with strips of it. Once this was evenly applied I would then carefully draw a specific grid in biro. Finally I would take my time to write out my dive schedule and two bailout tables. It would typically take me about 30 minutes to plan my dive and get my slate ready for a dive. Whilst I found the process quite theraputic, the task was a bit of a time thief, and I would lose chunks of my day complying with best practice in dive planning.
Today there is a better option for both OC and CCR advanced and technical divers to record their proposed dive - along with the various bail out options - thanks to a collaboration between Huw Singer and Brit based Bristol Channel Diving Services. The team designed and developed a range of self-adhesive, 'traffic light' colour-coded slate stickers called 'Deco-Decals'. They should fit pretty much every scuba-diving wrist slate available (Size: 200mm x 118mm).
Green – the dive is going to plan.
Amber – depth or time has been exceed and adjustments should be made, ie next depth, next time.
Red – there is an issue that requires immediate action, ie loss of decompression gas, or bailout is needed.
We all know that colour is absorbed at depth, so what is the point of colour coding each decal? In low light conditions the diver will use a light to read their slate - and in blue water there will be a visual difference, albeit subtle. The significance of the colour coding also makes the students think beyond the immediate dive plan and understand the implications of properly planning for set scenarios, in addition to the original dive plan.
Each Deco-Decal is logically laid out, in an accessible format for training scenarios or every day diving up to 70 metre / 230 feet diving, and is available in both metric and imperial. (There is also a V2 version of Deco-Decal dive planning set which is printed slightly larger, apparently making it easier to read underwater for those with slightly older eyes.)
The green slate has a two useful key way points to prompt you where you need to turn your dive - gas pressure or time. Plus you can see the gas mixtures you are carrying, both back gas and deco gas.
The reusable decals are varnished and durable, and you simply write on them using an ultra-fine tipped waterproof marker. Once you have completed your dive and want to input fresh data, just wipe the decal clean with a 'Magic Sponge' / 'Magic Eraser' or similar product. After multiple use (10+ dives) you can replace a decal by peeling it off cleanly, leaving little, if any, adhesive residue.