Updated August 5, 2009
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Saving Reefs the Painless Way
Do you have a drawer full of foreign currency that you’ve collected abroad and know you’ll never use? Send Undercurrent your bills (no coins) and I will see that they go to reef-saving projects in either Belize or Indonesia. If you contribute $50 or more, I will send you a letter acknowledging your tax-deductible contribution -- Undercurrent is a 501(c)(3) organization so contributions are tax deductible. I will exchange the bills at our bank, and all the money will be contributed Send those unwanted bills to Ben Davison, Undercurrent, 3020 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA, 94965. And feel free to include a tax-deductible personal check as well. If divers don’t save the reefs, who will?
Even with "diver down" flags in the water, there has been a spate of boats striking divers and snorkelers in Florida waters this year, leading to injuries, amputations and deaths. Ironically, the most recent incidents happened after Governor Charlie Crist issued Dive Flag Awareness Week on June 27-July 3 (that event was initiated by Florida divers after Rob Murphy, 30, lost both legs from a hit-and-run boat while diving near Sandsprit Park on January 10). On July 5, Rudy Perez, 43, and his 15-year-old son, Christian, were snorkeling off Hollywood Beach when a 25-foot speedboat named "Karma" ignored their dive flag and slammed into them, pushing Christian under the boat. The driver only said sorry and took off. Luckily, neither dad nor son was badly injured. On July 18, Charles Sheppard, 60, died after being cut by the propeller of a pontoon boat's outboard motor. The schoolteacher was snorkeling for scallops off Dixie County's coastline. On July 30, Norman Williams Jr., 60, suffered fatal head injuries when he was hit by a boat driven by another diver, four miles northeast of Key West. According to a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Williams apparently surfaced "well beyond the 300-foot limit of his boat's dive flag . . . His air-tank hoses were cut [in the accident], so we don't know if he was out of air before then."
If you're tired of reading trumped-up resort reviews, have a look at this story from one of our anonymous travelers, who paid his own way and reported on his stay at Laguna Beach Resort. After reading his description of Utila diving, you'll see why our readers can count on us for the unvarnished truth. Read the story for free at Undercurrent.
Avoid Sunset Waters Resort right now -- even its reservations handler is forecasting its demise. Reader Bruce Newman (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) had already placed the 50-percent deposit for a December stay there when he got an e-mail in mid-July from its on-site dive shop, Sunset Divers that read, "Due to the financial difficulties of Sunset Waters and its inability to pay services we've provided over the last four months, we have no choice but to close our doors." Newman e-mailed Sunset Waters' U.S.-based manager and received an auto-reply that the man no longer is representing Sunset Waters. Then an inquiry to reservations handler Cory Acosta got this response: "Sunset Waters has not been able to honor last week's reservations. It is just a matter of time before we may be closing our doors [and] until everything is resolved, we will probably close. Please make other travel arrangements." We contacted Sunset Waters' corporate owner, Urban Research Investment Corp. in Chicago, but they didn't return phone calls or e-mails.
You can get every issue of Undercurrent online on the first day of every month for a new one-time rate of $34.95 for a year of Online Membership (/UCnow/join2010.shtml) Plus, if you sign up in the next 36 hours, I'll send you for FREE the all new 2010 Travelin' Divers' Chapbook, which will come off the press December 1 (for U.S. and Canada subscribers only). At your fingertips, you'll have: 1,000-plus reader reviews of more than 300 resorts and liveaboards worldwide; what's the water temps; whether the food is lousy; if the reefs are lush (or dead); how to save money ... everything you need to know in planning your trip. Plus, sign up in the next 36 hours and I'll extend your subscription all the way until October 2010. But you must act now: /UCnow/join2010.shtml. [If you previously were an Online Member and want to renew with this offer using your old username and password, you can do that using Coupon Code "c10" - just follow this link (/secure/UCnow/OMaccountCenter.php?omcoupon=c10), sign in and renew with this coupon code]
Divers in San Diego report far more sightings of the squid than normal, and that they're unusually aggressive. Shanda Magill was doing a night dive near La Jolla on July 15, when, "all of a sudden, from behind, I got hit really hard," she told NBC News. "The Humboldt grabbed my inflator hose, yanked it backwards and pulled me down . . . he gave me a good scare." University of Rhode Island biologist Brad Seibel is annoyed by media reports about the "aggressive man-eaters." After diving with Humboldts in the Gulf of California, he says they were frightened of his dive light but curious about other lights, like reflections off his metal gear and a glow-in-the-dark tool, which one squid briefly attacked. "I didn't get the sense that they saw the entire diver as a food item, but they were definitely going after pieces of our equipment." For divers in the Humboldt's territory of Southern California and the Gulf of California, Seibel recommends carrying a backup dive light and being tethered to a boat.
After a female Japanese diver was hit and killed by a speedboat near Punta Engano while diving with Blue World Dive Shop on June 25, a local official warned all dive operators to take more measures to avoid sea accidents or else kiss their businesses good-bye. Lapu-Lapu City Administrator Teodulo Ybanez said several accidents involving foreign divers, like the drowning of two Chinese diving near Olango Island in March, could be traced to their lack of safety measures. If they don't follow standard operating procedures of placing floating warning signs or buoys in the area where clients are diving, Ybanez will cancel their business permits.
Adventurous divers reading Undercurrent are getting plenty of good diving all over the world, but it is a good idea to check current events in any country before you visit. Read out free article to see the website we recommend going to for that information -- more truthful and less sensationalist than any blog or cable-news network. Go to Undercurrent and click on "Is That Overseas Dive Destination Safe to Visit" to get the most recent updates on top dive places like Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia.
Project AWARE has scheduled it for September 19, and is asking divers in 100 countries to volunteer to clean up trash, especially plastic bags, in coastal dive sites. All data collected by volunteers will be used in the Ocean Conservancy's Global Marine Debris Index (it reported 1.4 million plastic bags were collected on Cleanup Day last year). You can also organize your own local cleanup project; Project AWARE gives you the tools to get started and record data. Details are at: https://www.projectaware.org/english/take_action/international_cleanup_day.aspx
There were plenty of articles last year about New Jersey using retired New York City subway cars as artificial reefs along the state's coast. A year later, that program is being scrapped because the stainless-steel cars are deteriorating too quickly. About 100 cars were submerged, but a survey of 48 cars on the Atlantic City reef found only two remained intact after just seven months in the water. It was estimated they would last 30 years. However, officials don't report problems with the old Redbird subway cars, used as artificial reefs since 2003. Those cars are made of regular steel.
We're getting reports from subscribers about what to expect at the former Air Force missile tracker, scuttled in late May near Key West. Allison Scheflow (Hollywood, FL) went with South Point Divers and says, "All the good stuff is at 90 feet or above, and the superstructure is great; there are two radar dishes and more towers. There's already a mid-sized minnow cloud there and a few small tropicals. The viz was good for Key West diving; 35 feet at times. The biggest problem is that the second tank is on a "reef" and in Key West, the viz there is 10 feet on a good day. South Point Divers will double-dip the Vandenberg when requested." David Rosen (Chesterfield, MO) did a two-tank dive with Subtropic Dive Center, which charges an extra $25 per person for a mandatory dive guide. "It's a huge ship so you can only see a small portion on one dive. There was no current at any depth, but I was told there can be a very heavy current." "Vincent," who went in mid-July, recommends checking the currents and even the lunar cycle before you dive there. "South Point Divers told me when the current runs strong, the visibility is great but when I dived, the current was greater than three knots and the viz was still lousy. On both days, divers lost gear in the current -a fin here, a mask there, and our second dive on the second day was cancelled. Stopping at Dive Key West the next day, the owners were very open about the dive, saying visibility had been bad there for weeks. They believe it's related to the phases of the moon and have changed their schedules to avoid a few days before and after a full moon. But the wreck is so new that the various shops are still figuring things out." Megan Collins, manager of Dive Key West, told Undercurrent that her shop locks out dives for five days during the full moon, two days before and two days after, as the lunar cycle affects tides. "We went out on a four-knot day and it was not pretty -- I was wiped out, and the current was moving our engine propeller around." But Eric Schaaf, owner of South Point Divers, says there's just no way to predict until boats get to the site. "You can look at wind speed, tide changes and ocean currents, but even then it would more affect the reefs closer in. Predicting visibility or currents a few days before is just as hard as predicting the weather."
Know the difference between a frogfish and a toadfish? Can you pick out a scorpionfish from a stonefish? Don't leave for that Caribbean or Indonesian dive trip without a fish ID book that describes what fish you're seeing underwater and why it behaves the way it does. We have a selection of books, from anemones to world atlases of coral reefs, that can make you the resident marine biologist on your liveaboard. Go to Undercurrent and click on "Diving Books and Guides." Then click on "Complete List of Diving Books" at the top of the following page, and check the books listed in the "Marine Identification/Behavior" section at the top left side. Buy any of these great resources through us and you'll get Amazon.com's best discounted price. Plus, your purchase will help save the coral reefs -- and the marine life residing there.
When it comes time to complete the medical part of the dive shop\'s liability waiver, do you tell all? Or do you keep quiet about your past heart problems, high blood pressure, current medications, etc.? We want to get your comments about whether you believe it's essential to tell the dive operation everything about your medical history, even if that means restricted or no diving -- or if it's okay to reveal only what you want to, because you know better than the dive shop staff about your fitness to dive. We'll use them in our story weighing both sides of this issue and if you wish to remain anonymous we'll keep your name out of it. Email me at PublisherBenD@undercurrent.org
If you are a subscriber to Undercurrent, we need your trip report for the 2010 Travelin' Diver's Chapbook, which will be mailed to all subscribers on December 1. It will have more than 1,000 reviews of nearly 300 resorts and liveaboards -- but only if you subscribe and submit your report now. You can do so online by going to Undercurrent and clicking on "File a Report" in the middle left box about Reader Reports.
Subscribe now and read about: Laguna Beach Resort, Utila: how did our writer's dive trip compared to so-so Reader Reports? . . . details about the crocodile attack on a diver in Raja Ampat . . . hidden travel charges when it comes to time to pay the dive shop . . . an undiscovered gem of Caribbean diving . . . do underwater camera flashes and strobes disturb the wildlife? . . . the best website to check for crime, safety and travel conditions of any overseas dive destination . . . how to recycle your old dive gear . . . should you breathe oxygen before a dive? . . . your responsibility as a diver to marine life, and how you can easily honor it . . . and much more.
Ben Davison, editor/publisher
Note: Undercurrent is a registered 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization donating funds to help preserve coral reefs. Our travel writers never announce their purpose, are unknown to the destination, and receive no complimentary services or compensation from the dive operators or resort.
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