Monday, May 5, 2008

Not the Best Day Diving

Spotted Puffer

Besides the spotted eel photo I posted ealier,
this was my second favorite photo of the day.


Quick Aside: If you would like to see all the photos I took from today's dive trip, click here. (51 total photos in this shutterfly photo album)

An old shipmate and friend of mine came into town this weekend. He wanted to go diving on the Corsair on Sunday morning, so I started calling around the dive charters. First I called Dive Oahu, since they were the guys I dove with last time. They were busy with a class though. Next, I called Island Divers, because they run the scuba shop on Hickam AFB. They said they had spots available on the Sunday morning boat, and they would try going to the Corsair if conditions permitted. If not, we'd dive somewhere else.

Check-in time was 0800 at their dive shop in Hawaii Kai. According to their website, they'll pick you up from your hotel in Waikiki at 0700. Right as we pulled up to the dive shop and got out of the car about 0745, some guy was yelling into the shop about he was leaving to go pick up the others from Waikiki and he'd be back. I said to myself, "Self, he seems to be running a little late if those people are going on our dive boat this morning." But I figured they knew what they were doing. They're professionals, right? This is what they do for a living.

We went inside the dive shop and signed the standard liability waiver forms. My regulator had been squeaking on my last dive, and I need to take in for maintenance, so I planned on taking a rental regulator. I asked the lady behind the counter who I should see to check out a regulator. She looked at me like I had three heads and replied in a very curt tone, "We don't normally give out rental gear to CLUB dives."

Dumbfounded, I said, "What club? I'm not in any club." She was stupified and didn't understand why I was on this boat if I'm not in the club. I said, "I'm not a member of any club and I have no idea what you're talking about. I just signed up to pay $XX to go on this boat dive." She said, "Oh..." and thought about it for a minute. She asked for my name and looked me up in her computer. She saw in the computer that I had turned in a regulator for service a few weeks ago. That was actually LW's regulator, but she assumed it was mine and continuing her anti-customer-service attitude asked what was wrong with "my" regulator that just got serviced. I explained that was my wife's regulator and that mine was squeaking last time and needed service. She said, oh, yours will be FINE! I didn't feel like arguing with her and figured they would have a spare on board in case of any problems. (Do you see where this is going? For those of you non-literary types, that is called "foreshadowing.")

Next, one of the employees hollers out that we should start loading our gear on the boat. They didn't give us any sort of brief before putting our gear on board. Just, go ahead and load your gear on the boat and we'll get going. The result was total chaos. Everyone was stumbling over each other and trying to figure out whose tank was whose in the mix of air tanks and NITROX tanks. There were several rounds of musical-tanks as people switched from one side and one setup station to another. Rich, Greg, and I grabbed three tanks on the starboard side and got our BC's and regulators set up.

I had my own weights, but Rich and Greg needed to use the dive shop's weights. There was a bin with a whole bunch of weights and belts on the deck. Since the dive shop staff had provided no guidance prior to getting on board other than, "load yer gear and we'll get movin," Rich and Greg started to pull out weights and belts and tried setting up weight belts. One of the dive masters spotted them doing this and got all annoyed with them for "messing up the system" and if they could just hold their horses, then he would explain everything to the group. Oh... Okay. We're happy to wait if that's what you want us to do, but our last guidance was to load up and get our stuff ready.

The crew stopped everyone from setting up their gear to give a safety brief. One guy started the brief at the forward end of the boat, then another guy at the aft end of the boat interrupted him and started over giving the safety brief from scratch. Not everybody was there - a couple of girls were up flirting with some guy strumming a guitar in front of the shop. The people actually on the boat didn't listen to the safety brief and kept talking, and the dive master didn't tell them to be quiet or listen up.

Oh, and come to find out, that guy who got in the van and took off as we were arriving was actually the captain of the boat. He was off somewhere in a van picking up more divers, so those people that are getting picked up didn't get the safety brief either.

Then dive master at the aft end of the boat asked for everyone's attention and started briefing the dives. (Corsair wasn't even in consideration for today's dive.) He was practically done giving the brief for the first dive site when another crew member clued in on what he was telling everyone and said no, we aren't going there today. They started arguing over what dive sites we're going to. The dive master who had started the brief didn't put up much of a fight and said okay, I guess we're going to this other place instead, and commenced giving us the dive brief for THAT site.

About 0900, some of the "club" members sitting on the port side started complaining about how late we were. They said we should have already been in the water, but we were still waiting for the captain to come back with the other divers he was picking up in Waikiki.

Now, for LW's planning purposes, I had referred to the dive shop's website that said we should be back by around noon (they have an afternoon charter to do afterall). The captain finally returned and started up the engine while the last couple of people set up their gear. We got to talking with one of them. He said he was in town for the weekend and he had rode with the same dive boat the day before. He was supposed to give some presentation at a conference at 3 p.m., and the dive shop staff told him they'd be back by 11:30 or "12 at the latest." They didn't get back until 2:30! Yikes.

We headed out to sea, and it was rough. It wasn't very windy, but there was a good 4 foot south swell that heavily rocked the boat. In the end I think 4 people ended up spewing their breakfasts over the side to feed the fish. I was feeling a little queasy to my stomach and just rested with my eyes shut.

The first dive site was a barge at 90 feet. There was a heavy current going in the direction from Diamond Head toward Koko Head. As soon as we jumped in the water, we had to grab the current line dragging in the water behind the boat or else float off to distant lands.

As soon as I jumped in, my octopus (back-up regulator) went kaput and started gushing air. I tried to no avail to stop it. I ended up having to climb back up onto the boat and have them trade out my regulator for their spare. Their spare was a piece of junk with broken mouth pieces that I had a hard time keeping in my mouth.

Other equipment problems of note were the tank valve was broken on one of Rich's tanks, and the batteries were dead in one of the rental dive computers someone else was using.

I got back in the water and we proceeded down to the barge. The current was so strong that kicking our fins was almost useless. We had to pull ourselves down to the barge using the mooring line. Once we got on the bottom, the current wasn't as bad, but still noticable. I started the dive with only 2400 pounds in my tank (full is 3000 pounds) because of the problem with my regulator free-flowing.

It ended up being a pretty quick dive. We did one lap around the outside of the wreck and then swam once through the middle before we headed up the mooring line back to the dive boat.

It was miserably rough on the surface. While others were barfing their brains out over the side, I sat quietly and tried to doze and wish I was back on shore.

Thank goodness, the captain decided it was too rough there and took us in to a drift dive along the China Wall. The second dive was actually really nice. I was able to go with a full tank of air this time. I saw a lot of fish and several moray eels (note my picture du jour). Visibility was pretty good, but not fantastic. Water temperature was in the mid-70's and I was fine in my 2.5mm shorty wetsuit.

Blunoz diving along the China Wall

Heading Back at the end of Dive 2 on the China Wall

By the time we finally made it back to the dock, it was like 1:30 p.m. and all the people who had signed up for the afternoon charter were sitting around complaining about how late we were coming back.

So, while the second dive was nice, the lack of organization, inability to keep a schedule, equipment faults, and poor customer service led me to give Island Divers a thumbs-down. I won't be going out with them again.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Wow. I can't say I blame you for not going back. And given the status of my fat mouth, they'd have gotten an earful too. What a mess!

On the upside, the pictures are wonderful as always!