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October 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Who Are You Calling Rude?

our readers sound off on the most offensive divers

from the October, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

While diving with veteran underwater cameraman Stan Waterman at Alcyone in Cocos Island, we decided to extend our dive time beyond one hour. At our safety stop, we looked up at the panga, anchored in less than comfortable conditions above us. Small explosions of vomit alongside the hull occasionally punctuated the small vessel's movements on a choppy sea. When Waterman eventually climbed the ladder and was confronted by the sorry sight of the green-faced divers patiently waiting for us, he turned to me and observed, with a twinkle in his eye, "When you get to my age, it's best to be the last one in the boat!" However, that still means you have to swim through the barf.

In my August story, about a reader report on Ocean Frontiers in Grand Cayman criticizing "rude" divers who made others wait for them, I asked our readers who was rude: those who stayed down, eking out their air to the last breath, or those back in the boat, having finished their dive and anxious to be somewhere else? It was no surprise most readers said it was the latter, and I was overwhelmed by responses to that effect.

Howard Kaiser, co-owner of Compass Point Dive Resort on Grand Cayman and a regular diver with Ocean Frontiers down the road from him, perfectly expresses the point of view of going for the longest dive times possible. "I've done hundreds of dives with Ocean Frontiers and appreciate that they do not limit dive times, primarily because they cater to experienced divers who are there to dive -- not catch the shuttle to go shopping. How someone can complain about being able to stay down longer is beyond my ken.

"That these poor neglected divers must 'suffer' on a dive boat in beautiful tropical seas while waiting for us? I say, 'Suck it up.'"

"I will say, however, that OF's dive briefings now gently remind the divers (along with the standard 'return with 700 psi' admonishment) not to inconvenience their fellow divers. You'll still have folks who are sea-sick, cold, hungry, etc., waiting while others finish their dives. It comes with the territory, especially where divers are allowed to go unguided and photographers are numerous."

"Folks, you ain't in Siberia. You're on vacation in Grand Cayman spending a ton of money, and so are your fellow divers. It is not up to OF to compensate for your misery by spreading it out among customers having a good time. If your schedule is so tight that a boatload of divers becomes captive to your social calendar, then stay on land or pay more for a private dive."

Kaiser says there are relatively few perpetrators from either extreme on the standard dive boat. "You'll find the occasional whiner, just like we'll grumble about the diver with the huge camera rig who stays down 90 minutes right below the boat.

"One issue I will point out: These dive guides and captains have a 40-minute turnaround for lunch on a good day. When we do four dives at [Compass Point], we're on the same time constraints to get back to the boat for the afternoon departures, so we can empathize. That 90-minute diver turns the staff's 40-minute lunch break into 20 minutes or less. So those divers doing the 90-minute dives can also be complicit in delaying the afternoon boats. Sort of a dive boat version of airline scheduling dynamics."

But during a dive day, are you more focused on the fish or more focused on what's for lunch? Bringing snacks for surface intervals is what many divers do to tide themselves over between dives, and then they save their relaxing over meals once their dive gear is cleaned and hung up to dry.

In general agreement, Thom Lopatin (Lake Hopatcong, NJ) wrote, "If [people] happen to miss their lunch as a result, then so be it. Perhaps their not missing many meals plays a role in their truncated bottom time problems, anyway? That these poor, neglected divers must 'suffer' on a dive boat in beautiful tropical seas while waiting for us? I say, 'suck it up,' be responsible and work on improving your limitations. As for 'blistering sun' and rough topside seas, that's what appropriate sunscreen and motion sickness medications are for."

Diving with Reef Divers at Little Cayman, Lenny Zwik (Austin TX) thought all was perfect, except the limits on dive times: 50 minutes for the first of a two-tank dive trip, and 60 minutes for the second. "This is ridiculous, as any competent diver who can manage his or her air supply can dive a profile of 80 to 100 feet for well over an hour, given that the majority of diving in Little Cayman is wall diving that ends in 25 to 40 feet of water.

There are a few extreme examples of dive-timelimit requests. Paul Salembier (Ottawa, Ontario), diving with Lahaina Divers on Maui four years ago, was shocked when he and his wife were asked to surface at only 35 minutes, because the other (inexperienced) divers had used up all their air. "I simply shook my head and pointed to the area of the reef where we would be finishing our dive," he wrote. "The divemaster seemed to recognize the ridiculousness of his request, since he nodded and then surfaced with the rest of the group."

One suggestion from Raymond Haddad (Candiac, Quebec): "The divemasters should ask those who are excellent on air consumption to get ready early and get into the water as soon as the boat arrives at the site."

Of course, there may be a very good reason for limiting dive times. Strong or divergent currents can make finding surfacing divers over a wide range of timespans difficult. Michael Hofman (San Francisco, CA) reminds us that in French Polynesia they adhere to the French approach, which includes strictly regulated dive times and depths, and having all the divers stay together in a group. "At the southern end of Fakarava, where seeing the masses of sharks was astounding, we only stayed down for 50 minutes."

To someone who is diving the passes of the Tua Motus, those rules are obvious. They offer highvoltage diving with masses of sharks drawn there by immensely strong currents flowing into the lagoons. If divers became separated by time or distance, finding them when they surfaced might be a problem. So before making a judgment, find out why there might be a moratorium on longer dive times. It might not be just because the dive center is catering to inexperienced divers.

When all is said and done, I don't recommend you stay down until you have sucked your tank dry. There is no obligation, either, to return with only 750 psi. Some return with more. You're not paying for the air so much for as the total experience.

At the same time, it can be quite harrowing for the responsible dive guides when a minority of divers stays down a significant amount of time more than the bulk of their customers. There's always the worry something untoward might happen. Alex Bryant of the Emperor Fleet in the Maldives, known for very strong currents, says dive times are limited to 60 minutes, and it's rare that people are capable of abusing that.

Find out in advance if there are time limits, which you may not like, or even an absence of time limits that might be equally annoying for some. As Michael Braunstein (Las Vegas, NV) wrote, "Everyone should be aware of rules ahead of time."

I'll finish with this point made by Jim Schoenick (San Diego, CA). "Because operators who do not set limits often mention this in their marketing, or it's highlighted in reviews, I believe it's incumbent on the diver to know what type of boat they've selected."

It's all about managing expectations -- the divemaster managing those for everyone on the boat, and you for managing yours for an overall great dive trip.

-- John Bantin

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