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February 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 29, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dive Trip Party Poopers

those include holidays, cold water, smokers and karaoke

from the February, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Have smoking crew members or unexpectedly frigid water put a damper on your diving? Have you ever been restless all night and worried about making the morning dive because a bunch of jerks are having a party in the courtyard? And then did you get up early, only to find that it was St. Jack's Day of Ascension and there would be no diving? Read on.

No Diving Today, Because It's a Holiday. Or a Sunday.

If you're at a resort, you may be surprised when your expected six days of diving gets cut to five because it's an unexpected national holiday, or an obvious one, like Christmas, or even a local election. No one works and you're out of luck, unless you can drum up shore diving. Oops, should have done better pretrip research.

"When I asked the trip leader to work something
out with the smokers, he asked why,
and then he suggested I do it myself!"

On some South Pacific islands, the Seventh Day Adventists have shut down all activity on Sunday. At the Nautilus Resort in Kosrae, Micronesia, Holly Bent (Kaawa, HI) found out that every Sunday is a day of rest, and that means no diving. She and her partner rented a car and "we did find the Seventh Day Adventist village, which did have some activity going on."

Years back, I missed a dive on New Year's Day in Honduras because the dive guide, who also drove the boat, was still celebrating New Year's Eve and too hung over to go out. Diving is more professional these days, though I have on occasion noticed a few young bleary-eyed bucks trying to slip a BCD on a tank. But never, of course, a Cayman cowboy, as they have been called.

Cold Tropical Water

I remember showing up at Small Hope Bay Lodge in the Bahamas one February with a very thin wetsuit, and nearly freezing on my first dive. I had not done my research, and the water was in the low 70s. But that's what one must expect in a Bahamas' winter. And there are plenty of other tropical destinations where a thick wetsuit is in order, especially if you're an aging diver.

Frederick R. Turoff (Philadelphia, PA), diving in Indonesia's Banda Sea last May, writes that the water varied from 73 to 85 degrees. "Once we got underway, we did one dive at the southwestern end of Ambon Harbor, with water at 84 degrees. I was comfortable in my 3mm suit with hood. Heading to Alor, the water got much colder, 73 degrees, so I had to rent a second 3mm suit to wear over mine, which made me just barely comfortable (I'm a thin guy). The next day at South Pantar, the water remained cold, but we [eventually] returned to 84-degree water." Michael J. Millet (Dublin, CA) took an October trip on the Komodo Dancer and writes, "The water temperatures in the southern reefs of Komodo and Rinca really drop off. It is definitely time for a 5mm with a hood." Undercurrent contributor Bret Gilliam told me that he has been in mid-60s water on some Indonesian trips.

And you can get that mid-60s water at Cocos Island, even lower in the Galapagos. Randy Preissig (San Antonio, TX) says, "This is fantastic diving, but it is very cold -- as low as 59 degrees on some dives and never above the low 70s. Bring a 7mm suit with thick boots and gloves, and a thick hood or hooded vest. The 'cold water season' is June through January, with October and November being the coldest. You will see the most pelagics in the coldest water, but this can mean diving in 50- and 60-degree water. You will see the most whale sharks in October and November, but the water is not only frigid but rough. February through April are 'warmer' water, but the big stuff is much less seen."

Hawaii surprises many people. Kira Bacerdo (New York, NY), aboard the Kona Aggressor in June, says, "Leave your wetsuit home. Rent their heavy 5-mm full wetsuits. It can get chilly, especially if you have a long dive profile and go on two-tank dives." Fiji, too, can surprise; My buddy met me there one October, but brought no wetsuit. He had to have one flown in from Nadi.

Smokers

You need good lungs to dive, especially if you're faced with tough currents or long surface swims, so smokers clearly have a disadvantage diving. Most American nonsmokers are intolerant of secondhand smoke, which puts them at a disadvantage on liveaboards or at resorts that cater to countries like Germany and Italy that still harbor a lot of smokers. Then there is always that Third World crew that lights up because the boat has no policy or no one enforces it. It's a bitch.

Mary Marshall (San Diego, CA), aboard the Orion in the Maldives, said, "We thought the boat was supposed to be smoke-free. One passenger was a heavy smoker and always lit up right before a dive. More than once, I opened the door into the boarding area and inhaled a lungful of smoke. One dive guide also lit up pre-dive. Smoke makes my sinuses clog -- not what you want while diving."

One would expect the leaders on the boat to manage smokers, but Elliott Zalta (Greenbrae, CA) had a trip leader flip the problem right back to him. When aboard a boat run by Sipalay Easy Diving and Beach Resort in the Philippines, he says, "There were several Europeans who smoked cigarettes often. When I asked the trip leader to work something out with the smokers, he asked why, and then he suggested I do it myself! That alone made me not want to leave a tip, but that would have punished the other crew who worked very hard and were very friendly."

Walter Brenner (Jackson, GA), also diving in the Philippines, complained by letter to the president of Worldwide Sail & Dive, who responded by "trying to pass on the smoking issue as something for the ship's 'tour guide' to handle. I quickly set him straight that it was an administration problem, and [the trip leader] did her best without a clearly defined smoking policy. He should not pass the buck, but issue specific rules that covered the guests and crew!" "

So what does one do when smokers are blowing you out? In the first place, get the policy in writing before you go, if possible, and bring a copy with you. Try to patiently reason with whatever leadership is available. Presumably, the captain is the ultimate arbitrator in fleets like the Aggressor, but it's often the representative of the company that brought the divers aboard. Be reasonable, but recognize that it may be impossible for the leadership to work things out with smokers who paid good money to come aboard, believing that they had smoker's rights.

And keep in mind there may be other surprises for nonsmokers, like in local restaurants. Carl Mintz (Washington, D.C.) notes, "Bonaire is part of the Netherlands, and Europeans still smoke a lot. Restaurants there have no rules about smoking, and there are no non-smoking sections. It is disconcerting to go out for a fine dinner, only to have it spoiled by being seated next to folks who smoke throughout dinner."

Bring Earplugs or, Better Yet, Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Susan Titus (Herndon, VA) was at Castle Comfort in Dominica last October, and writes "Bring earplugs. Two nights a week, a fairly new local club goes very late and very loud." I wrote not long ago about karaoke going into the wee hours at Little Cayman Beach Resort. I was awake way every night way past midnight at Young Island in St. Vincent years ago because of party time across the water.

Once upon a time, I relied on earplugs to drown out night noises, but a few years ago, in a second-floor room in New York City, the roaring streets drove me nuts. Then I pulled out my Bose noise-cancelling headphones and slept the night away. They're neither easy to sleep in nor perfect at silencing sound, but I've used them many times since to overcome city traffic, chatter in the next room, or even the distant beat of a bass guitar.

More comments, complaints, advice, etc., to come next month . . .

- - Ben Davison

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