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May 2002 Vol. 17, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dripping Ceilings, Peanut Allergies, an Honest Man

what our readers have to say

from the May, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Since we published our 2002 Chapbook, we have uncovered many new items that will help you with your travels. Here are just a few.

Learnto Shoot: If youre looking to perfect your underwater photography, youll hardly find a better place than with Cathy Church and her Super Underwater Photography Course, which she offers at Grand Caymans Sunset House. Larry Plew (St. Cloud, FL) studied there last summer and says Cathy Church, Herb Rafael, Jon, Cathys staff and Sunset Diving staff are fantastic. I learned more in eight days than I would have in eight years on my own. Service on the boat and underwater was great. Church offers courses and individual training year-round, and runs six- to eight-day super courses during the summer. The Sunset House itself, report our readers, is rundown and basic, so if youre picky you might want to house yourself elsewhere. Cathy Church Underwater Photo Centre and Gallery; phone: 345-949-7415, Fax: 345-949-9770. www.cathychurch.com.

Help Grand Cayman Save It self :On just one day in January, 14,000 cruise visitors from six vessels went ashore in Grand Cayman, a number equivalent to half the islands population. The hordes kept traffic at a standstill, but delighted the businesses, including the dive ops who take hundreds of these folks daily to visit the reefs. But not all dive operators are happy with the heavy traffic. And now the government wants to serve even more cruise ships and is seeking to move the Georgetown cargo port to the East End, at Half Moon Bay, near the Blowholes. The new terminal would affect such dive sites as Ironshore Gardens, Maggie s Maze, Kellies Caverns, Little House, Big House, Fantasy Land and Crushers Wall, says Steve Broadbelt, general manager of Ocean Frontiers. These are among Caymans best shallow dives, often the only sites available during certain times. A new East- West Highway is under consideration to handle the trucks that will be carting containers from one end of the island to the other. Broadbelt says, Every East Ender I have spoken to has told me they will lay down in front of the bulldozers and concrete trucks to stop this from happening. But that may not be enough, because cruise ship dollars are bigger than diver dollars and East End votes. And to hell with the environment. Register your complaint about the new terminal by writing, faxing or calling the Hon. McKeeva Bush, Ministry of Tourism Government Administration Building, George Town, Grand Cayman; phone: 345-949-7900, Fax: 345-949-7544.

“After a 20-minute surface interval, they
gave us a maximum profile of 40 ft.
for 25 minutes. We would have
complained more, but there was
nothing to see anyway. ”

Stuart Coves Ad Says: We always have something new and unique to amaze and thrill you. Barbara Spennetta (Mazomanie, WI) a PADI instructor who dived there in October, was indeed amazed, but not at all thrilled. First dive they gave us a profile of 50 ft. for 30 minutes. After voicing our objections, I told the divemaster I had paid to dive and intended to explore for 45 minutes to one hour. At exactly 45 minutes, boat personnel began to pound on the metal ladder to recall us. The other three divers onboard had finished their first open water certification dive and were tired of waiting for us. After a 20-minute surface interval, they gave us a maximum profile of 40 ft. for 25 minutes. We would have complained more, but there was nothing to see anyway.

Getting Wet at Night: While almost every one seems to love diving at Habitat Curacao, it has its problems: James McMeins (Carnation, WA) tells us more about his October trip. One night it rained heavily and I awoke to a wet pillow and water dripping from the ceiling. Their solution was to move the bed two feet from the wall! Service here has gone downhill even more. There were times in the dining room when we were totally ignored and when we were waited on, it was a crapshoot as to whether wed get what we ordered and how fast wed get it . . . Diving is great. The operation is usually first-class but no one was watching the fuel going into the boat. (They were standing around fuel truck smoking!) And fuel overflowed, soaking some dive gear with diesel! When they finished fueling, they emptied the fuel in the hose onto the dock and into the water. For an operation that prides itself on being eco-friendly, this was a sad lapse.

Honest Man in the Keys: I n the Florida Keys there is such pressure to make money that many operators take people out on very bad days. Brian Willison (Centennial, CO), however, dived there in January and said Paradise Charters ( www.paradisecharters.net 1-800-921-5549) run by Capt. Bob, stands out. He runs two smaller boats and one larger boat that will handle 12 divers. Unlike most Keys operations, he provides a dive guide who did a good job of finding critters. The coral and sea fans were mostly covered with algae so the color was not very good but the dives were pleasant. I appreciated Capt. Bobs honesty. He canceled our first two days of diving due the winds. He said that the diving would not be good and he did not want us to have a bad experience. We talked to other people whose dive operators did not cancel and they had awful diving with six-foot waves, surge, and very poor vis along with feeding fish over the side of the boat, which is never fun!

Dont Trust the Chef: People with serious food allergies take a risk when they travel to foreign lands, so for many who must be careful liveaboard dive boats seem to be a safe refuge. You can specify your needs clearly, and presumably have them addressed by big fleets like the Aggressor and Peter Hughes. Michael Lewis (South Riding, VA), however, was aboard the Turks and Caicos Aggressor in December and his wife almost ran into serious trouble. He says she has a deadly allergy to anything peanut (oil, butter, etc.) and we included that in our reservation form. We e-mailed the boat two weeks before our cruise to remind them and received a reply from Annette, the cook for our trip, saying that it would be easily handled. We searched out Annette when we got on the boat to introduce ourselves and remind her of the issue and she said it was no problem. Two days into the trip, she served peanut butter/macadamia nut cookies and did not say one word to us about them. Fortunately, we heard someone comment on the peanut butter before my wife took a bite or we would have ended up heading to shore for a hospital (which would have seriously inconvenienced everyone on boardespecially us)! Annettes comment was that she was too busy to keep track and my wife needed to help her remember.

Fiji Aggressor: The venerable Sere Ni Wai, which has been in Fiji for many years, will now fly the Aggressor flag in Fiji. The new Tahiti Aggressor we reported on last issue is actually the current Fiji Aggressor, which will begin service in Tahiti this September. The Air Tahiti Nui flights from Los Angles also fly as Qantas code share flights, so you can either use your American Airlines miles to fly free or upgrade while earning more than 10,000 miles but only if you book the Qantas code share.

--- Ben Davison

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