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January 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 27, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bonaire, Caymans, China. . .

a dangerous Baja dive shop, and what, no octopus for your buddy?

from the January, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Bonaire Crime Cautions. As idyllic as Bonaire seems, it has had crime problems for more than two decades, more so than any other Caribbean dive destination we report on. Reader Mark Kimmey (New York, NY) tells us that "when picking up a compact pickup, the rental car companies will warn you not to leave valuables in your car and not to lock your doors. They will push you to take the extra collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance, but be aware that it doesn't cover glass. Apparently, they know that thieves will break the vehicle's glass to take whatever's inside. We were hit while diving The Invisibles south of Salt Pier, as was the truck parked next to us. We did not have valuables in the cab, but that didn't stop the thieves from taking our (resort) beach towels, shirts, hats and prescription glasses. We tried to laugh it off, but were a little unhappy when Captain Don's charged us $20 for each of the towels because we didn't file a police report. Who is going to drive into town in their wetsuit to report stolen towels? Another reason to take the CDW option from the rental company: Your credit card may not cover trucks under any sort of rental car insurance they offer. Our truck was hit in the parking lot, but we had declined the CDW, believing that our credit card would cover any damage. We were charged $365 for a small ding in the rear fender when we returned the vehicle, and when we got home, MasterCard told us they wouldn't cover it because it was a truck!"

Cayman Aggressor Caveat. While many divers are drawn to the Cayman Aggressor because of an itinerary that includes Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, keep in mind, as we have occasionally cautioned, that weather can keep the Aggressor from crossing to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, so you'll spend the entire week only at Grand Cayman. Jim Garren (Boynton Beach, FL), there in November, certainly had no complaints about the boat. "Excellent, and only improved as the week progressed." But he adds, "Wind was one factor that contributed to disappointment with the trip. Seas were about one to two feet, with some larger swells on a couple of days. The captain insisted the wind was wrong for visiting Little Cayman or Cayman Brac. While I would not disagree with a professional responsible for the safety of those onboard, I was surprised by the decision to remain entirely on the south and west sides of Grand Cayman. We often dive in four- to six-foot waves back in south Florida aboard dayboats in the 30-foot class, while the Cayman Aggressor is a 110-foot vessel. Certainly, a run to the other islands might have resulted in some passenger discomfort, but our group consisted of experienced divers who came for first-class diving. Captains of similar-sized boats in Australia and the Red Sea were not intimidated by rough conditions in order to reach the best dive sites. I can only hope the Cayman Aggressor captain truly made his decision to stay on Grand Cayman based on his assessment of conditions and not due to the economic pressure of having less than a full complement of divers the week we visited." The Aggressor couldn't make the 65-mile trip during the first week of December either, and Stephen Kouri (Lacey, WA) says, "Some people were very disappointed; however, I've been to Little Cayman, and the wall diving on the east side of Grand Cayman is comparable to the Bloody Bay wall. The shallow dive sites of Grand Cayman lack the giant barrel sponges and abundant life of the Little Cayman sites."

And, while we're writing about the Cayman Aggressor, Cynthia L. Cook (Fort Worth, TX) has happily dived on several Aggressors, but during a trip in early November, she says, "Captain Alan was never willing to be flexible on any of his schedules, diving or dining, even though the weather was perfect. We wanted to dive a twilight dive at the Wreck, but his response was, 'I don't do dawn dives at the Wreck,' even though at least 10 of us wanted to get up before light to dive it."

Hainan Island, China. In the extreme south of China, close to Vietnam, Hainan is heavily promoted for tourism, but the main challenge is to dive when not a word of English is written or spoken, says Bernard Dubois, (Barrington, NH), who dived there in October. "It's only Chinese ... and more for tourists than real divers. The dive shops are training 500 people a day; $110 for 15 to 20 minutes underwater. A maximum of 40 feet for a first dive, no fins, one teacher per student, who stays behind the diver, holds the tank and tunes the BC for flotation. They did not care about my certification card, but respected my Rolex. I rented fins, and was able to dive without being held. In my group, six customers and eight instructors in a 20-foot boat. Small fish, few corals. Equipment was very basic Scubapro, $3 extra for a new mouthpiece. It is a good idea, but it would be better if the mouthpiece would stay on -- mine came out at 60 feet deep. I signaled my 'instructor,' who had no octopus (none on my tank either), and I aimed toward the surface. With 500 dives on my belt, this is still a first for me. The diving entertainment is more above water looking at the excitement of the Chinese 'divers' than below."

Eco Divers Resort, Lembeh, Indonesia. Just a tip: My experience is that divers get enough time in the water, so whether there is a beach at their doorstep is often immaterial. However, one of our readers from Thousand Oaks, CA, was pretty disappointed when he found out that the cottages at this resort were a 15-minute drive to the water and Eco Divers boats, though "transportation to and from is in clean and wellcared- for vans with air-conditioning. Service at both at the boat and cottages was simply outstanding." ( )

Club Cantamar, La Paz, Mexico. I dived with them a few years back, and while I liked the big boats and the diving, I felt there was an accident waiting to happen. Many divers who have subsequently written to me agree. Now comes word from Dan Clements (Everett, WA), who was there in October. "There were no oxygen analyzers on any boats . . . There were no safety briefings regarding where the life preservers, oxygen and first-aid kit were located . . . The port engine on the boat Uno Mas kept cutting out, and finally died. Water from rinse buckets was used to replace evaporated radiator water. The next day, we experienced similar problems, compounded by a small electrical fire. I could not find a fire extinguisher, so fire was extinguished with water . . . One day several divers started coughing during their dives. When they surfaced, their air appeared bad. The next day, we checked air prior to departing, and there was a nauseatingly strong organic smell and taste. It appeared compressor oil had leaked past the filters into all tanks. Since we had 30 divers, this was a major issue, with dives cancelled and folks hacking for several hours . . . My group of divers has traveled extensively around the globe. This could have been tragic or fatal with less-experienced divers. Had the engine fire been more severe, it could have been fatal for divers on Uno Mas."

Clipperton Island. I've never heard of this island, which is 587 miles southeast of Socorro Island in Mexico's Revillagigedo Archipelago, 7.5 miles in circumference and ruled by the French, but a California diver named Steven Robinson has heard of the ring-shaped atoll -- and certainly won't forget it. Robinson, 58, was sentenced to 45 days in prison for bringing home 52 Clipperton angelfish, a rare species that some aquarists will pay up to $10,000 each to have as their own. Claiming they were more common species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife got involved and nailed Robinson. He was fined $2,000 as well.

Wakatobi, Indonesia. One of our readers wrote that his checkout dive at this resort was "like none that I have experienced. We were required to pretend our buddy was out of air and share air. My rig has no alternate air source or octopus, and in my 40 years of diving, I have never had one or had to use one. Guess I am lucky. So I was a little taken aback when I was made fun of, and an octopus was put on my gear without my asking." And I, too, am taken aback, because the issue is not about whether our reader ever had to use an alternate air source. An alternate air source is there to aid another out-of-air diver, not you. Furthermore, panicking buddies have been known to rip the regulator out of a diver's mouth who can't offer air. Forty years ago, when you worshipped Mike Nelson, there was no such thing as an alternate air source. Buddy breathing was it. And there were no power inflators or computers, either. Maybe you don't dive with them either, but get an alternate air source for your buddy's sake. End of lecture. I promise not to do it again.

- - Ben Davison

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