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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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January 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Bad Divemasters, Shark Scares . . .

and why you shouldn’t bring “dirty” dollars overseas

from the January, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Our Latest Chapbook Is Out. The 2016 Travelin' Divers' Chapbook, nearly 700 pages, was sent to you last month for downloading, and it's even available in print for $15 ( $21 for non-subscribers). To order, go to www.undercurrent.org/members/UCnow/chapbook2016.php

It's an amalgam of amazing and informative reports -- my deep thanks to everyone who submitted a report -- but here are a few items one might miss, and a few themes worth mentioning.

Are You a Single Diver Looking for a Buddy? John Dale Kennedy (Springfield, IL) went to Bonaire with a group of 32 like-minded folks. "SingleDivers.com is for divers who don't want to dive alone but whose partner doesn't dive. Great group of mostly experienced divers, so plenty of opportunity to buddy up accordingly." (www.singledivers.com)

Unprofessional Divemasters. For many divers, carrying the proper weight on the first dive is tricky, especially if they have been out of the water a long time or are wearing different equipment. So it's the divemaster's job to ensure that a diver is properly weighted, but not like this divemaster at the Island Seas Resort in Freeport, Bahamas. Ronald Presutti (Saint Clairsville, OH) was there in November and reports, "The divemaster asked my wife if her wetsuit was new, which she acknowledged. Then he asked how much weight she would need. If he had read our registration forms, he would have known that we knew exactly how much weight was needed -- 12 pounds. But since she was a female with a new wetsuit, when he thought we weren't looking, he slipped two pounds of weight into her BC pocket. I'm still furious with such a dangerous and unprofessional act." Overall, Presutti had a good week, but noted, "When diving Shark Alley, the divemaster poked a shark that had gotten close with his knife. They weren't bothering anyone or being aggressive; I think he just wanted to see the reaction from our group. Mine was just an eye roll."

Sometimes divemasters don't get it together above water, as Carmen Thomas (Boise, ID) learned last April, on her second dive with Toucan Divers at the Plaza Hotel in Bonaire. "Eleven divers and our gear were loaded onto Toucan's Green Flash with a captain/divemaster and a second divemaster, a local guy who had volunteered to dive with us because the shop was short-handed. He failed to secure the bowline when we left the dock, and it trailed alongside the boat, unnoticed until we reached the mooring line about 100 feet off Klein Bonaire. When the captain spun the boat around to capture the mooring line, the stern line fouled the propeller, instantly killing the engine. After three attempts to restart the engine, the captain yelled to the divemaster to check the propeller, but by the time he did, the boat was wedged bow-first on two coral heads, and waves began sloshing into the boat and cabin. By the time the captain and "divemaster" realized they could not free the prop, we were ankledeep in water that had flooded the engine compartment.

"The captain repeatedly ordered us off the flooded boat -- with only masks and fins."

The captain ordered us over the stern into open water and to swim around the island to the west, look for a sandy beach and go ashore. One passenger who had 15 years' experience diving Bonaire told us about a wicked current off the west side and said there was no way she was swimming there. The captain repeatedly ordered us off the boat -- with only masks and fins -- and when we wanted our BCDs for the swim, he would not listen. Much to the captain's consternation, the gal with 15 years' experience jumped off the boat and swam to the east, followed by her partner, making it to shore about 100 meters from the boat. The rest of us reluctantly followed the captain's orders, jumping off the boat and swimming west. We made it over the coral reef and ashore, with a few suffering some scratches and nicks.

The captain radioed for help before abandoning ship; DIVI Flamingo came to our rescue after 30 minutes. Back at the dock, we were told our gear would be delivered to the dive shop shortly and we would be compensated for one dive. When some of us reminded them, repeatedly, that we missed two dives, not one, the dive shop grudgingly said we might be provided two dives that afternoon ... if a substitute divemaster could be found. Everyone's gear but mine was delivered to the dive shop, but mine remained missing. I was eager to get my two-dive-old Scubapro BC but was told a different story about its whereabouts each time. After two days, my gear was found, in 15 feet of water, near where the boat beached. The Green Flash was hauled off the reef, then towed by a large tug to town for repairs."

Why Fly from Cancun to Cozumel? Warren Sprung (Houston, TX) says it's cheaper to arrange a pickup by Discovery Mundo Car Service to be driven to the ferry at Playa Del Carmen. The round-trip first-class service was $140 and about $20 for the round-trip ferry. (www.discoverymundo.com)

Lionfish and Sharks and Eels, Oh My. While everyone wants to obliterate lionfish, many serious folks in the industry do not believe they should be fed to sharks during standard sport dives, because animals being fed will associate divers with food and can become dangerous. Craig Gibson (El Paso, TX), aboard the Sun Dancer in Belize in June, saw that firsthand. "Lionfish are obviously out of control, and I agree with the policy of spearing them. However, feeding the lionfish to the sharks and eels has made them significantly more comfortable (and aggressive) around divers. They now swim within inches of divers, instead of several feet away as they did a few years ago. We had two instances at separate dive sites where a shark actually bumped its nose into a diver's camera directly in front of the diver's face. In the first instance, the diver screamed a huge cloud of bubbles but did keep the regulator in her mouth. The other instance resulted in an excellent close-up photo of the shark; however, there seemed to be a yellowish cloud surrounding this diver during the remainder of the dive. On another dive, a huge eel had taken the lionfish off the spear that was being offered by the dive guide and retreated to its hole, but then it aggressively came back out and approached a diver's camera. Luckily, she reacted by bringing her fin up, which resulted in a kick to the eel's head . . . I have seen other Caribbean operators spear lionfish and immediately cut off their fins. Then they either take the fish home to eat or just leave them on the ocean floor for some other critter to snack on."

Riding Rock Inn. It was whacked so hard by Hurricane Joaquin in October that it won't be open until April. It's one of the few legitimate dive resorts left in the Bahamas, a great place for groups especially, but it did need some updating, perhaps the only upside to a hurricane. As of press time, the website was not working; the phone number listed is 242-331-2631.

No Greenbacks, Please. Off and on in my foreign travels, I have had my American bills refused because they were either ripped or dirty, so settling an account was a real hassle. I now make it a point to carry crisp greenbacks. But these days, even greenbacks are a problem in some places, because new bills have other shades of color. In November, Jim Tompkins (Leland, NC) took a diving cruise on the Maldives Aggressor and says many divers found that neither the liveaboard nor an onshore restaurant would take their older bills because the banks wouldn't accept them. That's because the older greenbacks were more easily counterfeited. So if you plan to use cash anywhere in the Third World, carry new, crisp and tinted bills.

--Ben Davison

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