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March 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 27, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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When Crew Disrespects Your Gear

what to do when your equipment gets broken or lost

from the March, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

What do you do when dive operators mishandle your dive gear, Undercurrent subscriber Harley Piltingsurd (Cincinnati, OH) asked. "I have had several instances of my equipment being damaged by liveaboard crews. All of these have been when they throw equipment (tanks, with BCs and regulators attached) into a pile while picking up divers in pangas at the end of dives. I have had second stages crushed, compasses broken, etc. The dive operators don't seem to take any responsibility for this, yet you can't dive without putting your equipment in their hands."

In our monthly e-newsletter, we asked other readers if they've had similar experiences. Most said their dive gear went through crew hands in good shape, but some had mishaps and felt unjustly treated, like Ruth Lindner (New York, NY). "I was on a liveaboard in Raja Ampat, and had an Oceanic computer connected to the air supply with a quick release. Before the dive, I turned the air on and checked that the computer was secure. When I got to the inflatable, the crew said the computer was missing and that it had fallen into the water, about 300 feet deep at that spot. They gave me a loaner computer, and when it came to settling the bill, I negotiated free nitrox, because I knew the cruise director could not refund money, and I didn't want to take a chance with waiting and trying to negotiate with the boat owners. The computer was a year old and cost $600. I suspect the crew turned off the air and then accidentally banged the computer, disengaging the air lock. But I couldn't prove it."

"I tell divemaster and crew I will
take care of them if they take care
of their gear and me -- and their tip
will be a direct reflection of that."

If you experience something similar, how should you handle the matter and prove the damaged gear was their fault, not yours? We asked our dive gear expert, John Bantin, for his advice.

"When we travel to countries where the level of education may be lower than the country we live in, it's up to us to do our best to guide and educate those we come into contact with. I have found that young crew members in the Third World are ready to soak up information like a sponge, and it's always a pleasure to help them do a good job. Therefore, I take it upon myself to tell people in advance things like, 'Don't pick up my rig by the wireless transmitter for the computer, please fold my regulators inside my BC, please don't put my camera housing down near the gas tank of the boat, etc.' Just assuming that everything is okay is a mistake.

"Americans live in a litigious society where it is always someone else's fault. I live in a different world where you must act defensively to survive. If you don't trust how the gear is carried aboard, do it yourself. This attitude has meant I have had nothing broken, apart from when the dome port fell off my Subal housing just as it was passed to me in the water. I now take my camera in myself."

Melina Piekarski (Pasco, WA) has a similar philosophy. "After one mishap years ago, I decided to take the proactive approach, and it has worked like a dream. Before the first dive, I introduce myself and tell the divemaster and crew I will take care of them if they take care of my gear and me. So in a nutshell, their tip will be a direct reflection of how they treat my gear and me. However, I will say that other than retrieving my gear after a dive (I have a bad back, and remove my BC in the water at the end of a dive), they are not allowed to touch it. I don't let them put my gear together or switch my tanks between dives."

Other readers who had gear damaged or lost on their trip report good experiences with reimbursement from liveaboard crew and management. While Jim Jenkins (San Francisco, CA) was on a trip on the Atlantis Azores, one dinghy with eight divers' gear turned over while the boat was underway to the next dive site. "The Zodiacs were tied to the sides of the liveaboard. The captain immediately assured all the guests involved that Atlantis would replace their gear or reimburse them. Amazingly, the crew recovered all but two rigs and the fins, but staff handled the freak event very well."

Sharon Dickinson (Bowling Green, KY) also praises the Nai'a for how it handled its clueless dinghy driver. "Perplexed why my tank would not fit into the PVC pipe tank rack when I returned from the dive to the dinghy, the driver repeatedly smashed my second stage with the scuba cylinder, trying to force the tank into the rack. I sat horrified on the edge of the dinghy, screaming, 'Stop!' By the time I jumped up, grabbed my high-pressure hose, with bits of plastic dangling and shattered beneath it, it was too late. Fortunately, he was extremely apologetic; the Nai'a took full responsibility, paid me the full amount for my regulator, and gave me use of a Scubapro regulator of similar quality for the duration of my trip."

And stay away of crew who manhandle your gear, as they may also manhandle you, Dickinson adds. "Later on that same Fiji trip, the same dinghy driver, mistaking me for another female diver who needed assistance to get in, grabbed me by the armpits and yanked me belly-side-down over the sunbaked-dry side. My navel ring ripped out completely, and it was excruciating. I did not ask for nor receive compensation for that, but I did get a lovely crescent scar to remind me of diving in Fiji, and I have since abandoned body jewelry. Not a dive gear mishandling, but a diver mishandling, for sure."

- - Vanessa Richardson

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