Stormy Weather

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Burt Jones & Maurine ShimlockThe weather has been in the news lately.  Between earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, fires, tornadoes and so forth, everyone has been affected by the unpredictable nature of the planet’s weather. I can’t remember whether it is supposed to be a La Niña or El Niño year, but out here in Indonesia the weather has been very erratic, except in its unwavering atrociousness.

The water along the southern coast of the archipelago has been so unseasonably cold that several boats just blew off diving some of the better critter spots near Pantar Island. In Papua, it has rained steadily throughout the “dry” season. Visibility was off everywhere due to surge, waves, and storms. In early April we were supposed to meet our liveaboard in Ambon, and then cross the Banda Sea to Raja Ampat.  But things were so bad out there that we had to reroute and only dive in Raja Ampat, which has decent protection in just about any weather. When you hear about waves several meters high and winds blowing a gale, you don’t second guess the captain.  You just go with his judgment even if it means that you’ll disappoint a few clients, miss a few dives. There are things we can do something about, and there are things that we can’t fix.  Weather, water temperature, and visibility come to mind.

We weren’t the only people trying to cross the Banda Sea a few weeks ago.  There was a small boat with just six guests that was trying to move southeast between Banda and Alor.  Even though the captain was instructed not to leave harbor, the guests raised such a fuss about not being able to dive where they had planned, that the crew chanced it.  This boat ended up drifting far from its intended arrival port and finally had to make port in another country.  We heard that the everyone including the guests on board were imprisoned because they did not have the proper entry papers, nor did they have documentation from their embarkation port.

If the weather does not cooperate during a dive trip everyone suffers.  The crew works exceedingly hard to make things comfortable and to offer as many dives as possible.  Think about the cooks (the toughest job on any boat) who have to spend hours in a boiling hot galley, preparing meals that no one is likely to eat if the seas are really rough.  The group leaders will probably be out a bit of profit because they bought several rounds of drinks to soothe their unhappy clients. The guests are mostly miserable because this is their vacation, they paid a lot of money to dive, and their expectations have not been met.  If this trend (climate change, anyone?) continues, we might need an “unseasonable weather” clause on future release forms.

Under the most adverse conditions, most crews and guests pull together and cooperate as best they can.  A blown out trip can result in a good group bonding experience, but not always.  There was the time we were on a liveaboard in Vanuatu.  Two days out of Port Vila a cyclone moved in and we were forced to seek shelter in the nearest, safest bay.  For two days the storm rampaged through the islands while the guests and crew argued among themselves.  The cruise directors made their nasty marital problems all too public, two of the most outspoken guests declared undying hatred toward each other, and we ran out of beer and videos within 48 hours.  By the middle of the third day, Burt and I were so fed up we put on tanks and pulled ourselves down the anchor chain.  There we rested in blessed solitude, hearing only the sounds of our own breathing while the storm continued to rage overhead.

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10 comments for “Stormy Weather

  1. May 25, 2011 at 6:41 am

    Now come on Burt and Maurine, none of that! You know bad weather is your fault, and I know that because I’ve been told it myself whenever I ran a dive trip and it got a bit bumpy. I’ve even had anonymous notes left on the chart table telling me to fix the visibility. We are Gods, it is part of the Job!

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  2. May 25, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Bob, I only wish I had that much power, especially since I still get sea sick, even after all theses years! OK, secret’s out.

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  3. May 25, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Bob, I only wish I had that much power, especially since I still get sea sick, even after all these years! OK, secret’s out.

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  4. Ann Keller
    May 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for reminding me why I like it “on the bottom of the ocean”. No matter what’s going on on terra firma, I can escape and feel peace down under.

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  5. Rich Jacoby
    May 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I scheduled many of the trips I ran during hurricane season, because if it wasn’t blowing the sea was flat. Worked, too. But that was back in the last century when it may have been a little easier to miss the big ones.

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  6. John Bantin
    May 30, 2011 at 9:34 am

    May I remind you that Captain Scott continually complained about the weather in his diaries while Roald Amundsen simply got on with it. The rest is history!

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  7. bret gilliam
    June 7, 2011 at 7:42 am

    There are other serious considerations that can disrupt a perfectly planned dive trip unexpectedly. One example is being confined in a vessel’s cramped interior with John Bantin after the has indulged in copious quantities of spicy curry or Mexican food the night before. It gives new meaning to the term “A Mighty Wind”.

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  8. John Bantin
    June 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Ahem…

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  9. July 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I have suffered many times due to bad weather and many of our trips got cancelled due to bad weather. Now, I make it a point to check out the weather before moving out.

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  10. Howard Creasey
    July 9, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Burt and Maurine,
    It is a shame the first thing we do these days is look for someone to blame but I guess it is human nature. Weather patterns are changing because well WTF weather patterns have been changing since the Big Bang. So to them to shut up suit up, jump in, turn the strobes on or get the white balance set because the dive trip is shorter than we all think.

    Howard & Rose

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