Tank’s brother candidate for worst traveller!

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Made it here despite the annoying sibling

How’s this for an experience?

Road trip to Osoyoos and Penticton B.C. Wine country. We do this annually.

I’m driving my brother’s car because 1) it has cruise control and mine doesn’t, 2) I’ve got far more experience driving long distances. (Countless, long road trips in Northwestern B.C. during my CBC Radio years), and 3) I’m the big sister and the boss of everything.

Here’s how it went for practically the entire 4.5 hour drive.

Brother:

“Slow, slow. slow.”

“SLOOOOOOOOOOW…..”

“Slow down.”

“Why do you speed up going around the corners and drive like a slug when the road is flat and straight?”

“Are you drunk?” (It’s 9:30 am)

“Are you trying to roll the car?”

I think this is what they call ‘making memories’. Next year, I’ll be sealing his mouth shut with duct tape before we set off. I’ll enjoy making that memory.

A candidate for barbarian traveller of the year methinks!

Tanks Travels gets a sibling blog: Tank Submerged

logo2Announcing the arrival of tanksubmerged.com. A sibling for tankstravels.com. Think of it as Tanks Travels with its mouth washed out with soap.

Why? Why not? Here’s a Q&A (open-ended questions, of course) that should explain everything:

Q: WTF Tank. What’s this all about?

A: It was time to grow the brand (not really!). Actually, Tanks Travels, while brilliantly written, is on wordpress.com, a content management tool for starter blogs. Tank Submerged is on a self-hosted wordpress.org website. It will allow me access to more cool stuff called plug-ins and to include more things on the website. And, if I ever decide to sell coffee mugs, fridge magnets or t-shirts, I can add a commerce page very easily.

Q: You’ve never struck me as being all that bright? Who built the Tank Submerged website for you?

A: You’re right, I am a dull elf. But, I built it myself. This should give everyone else in the world hope they can do the same. I watched videos on Lynda.com, plus I had help from Serverpress.com, Angiemakes.com and Canhost.ca. I also have a wee bit of experience with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and that helped too. Still, I’m hopeless at resizing images. Luckily, there’s a plug-in for that.

Q: I still don’t understand, what’s the different between Tanks Travels and Tank Submerged?

A: Less vulgarity, for one. No images of bum cracks or large guys wearing tiny Speedos will be posted on Tank Submerged. No talk of booze pigs, barbarians and boors. Or crabs in hotel toilets. The ‘eff’ word will appear less often on Tank Submerged — at least that’s the goal. It will also be a place to post my scuba images and videos. Tank Submerged also has an Instagram presence.

Q: Fuck Tank, I really like buttocks and barbarians. What will happen to that content?

A: Nothing, I’ll continue to generate brilliant copy about these important issues because someone has to write about the rude travellers of the world and their body parts. This content will be posted, as always, on Tanks Travels.

Q: So, how do I find Tank Submerged?

A: On the interweb at  tanksubmerged.com. I’ve created a Tank Submerged Facebook page, which you can like.

Q: I’ve taken a look at Tank Submerged and I think the best part is the illustration. Who did that?

A: A brilliant young designer named Louis Pinder. He lives in Northern England and his mum is a friend of my cousin. He’s excellent, despite having ties to my family! You can find out more about him here. Please hire him. His mum wants him to start paying room and board.

Q: Christ, what’s up with the all pink?

A: I know. I’m not a girlie girl. Never have been. But, I quite like the pink. Aging brain? Declining eyesight? Can’t explain it.

So, there you are. Delighted to welcome the newest member of the Tank family of blogs.

tanksubmerged.com

 

Travel to the U.S. or not?

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To fly through the United States ….  hmmmm

I was in a meeting recently when the talk turned to travelling to the United States.

One women, a beauty of Portuguese descent, said she’d cancelled a visit to New York. She’d planned to celebrate her 50th birthday there. Instead, she would visit the Canadian maritimes and “keep the money in Canada.”

Surely this wasn’t all about patriotism and the national economy. Did she fear her olive complexion and brown eyes, I wondered, get her noticed by a border agent? Would it cause her — a Canadian citizen — to be refused entry?

Who knows. This is what makes travelling to the U.S. so unnerving right now. Do you chance it or not?

I’ve often used U.S. airlines to travel to Mexico and central America. With layovers in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas or Houston. My next trip is a direct flight to Mexico from Vancouver. On a Canadian airline.

Did border uncertainties factor into my airline decision? I can’t say they didn’t enter my mind. But, another motivator was the need to use airline points before I lose them.

I was telling a friend, an American who lives in Canada, about my upcoming travels. “You don’t need to worry,” he said. “You’re whiter than white.” Still, that doesn’t make travelling south any easier. How just is it that I would probably avoid hassle while others don’t?

Going forward, I’m not sure what to do. For now, I’ll probably avoid U.S. carriers and the layovers. Travelling is stressful enough ….

 

 

Galapagos diving nightmare – epilogue

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Me, practicing deploying an SMB. At Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver, B.C. Photo taken by Greg McCracken, Ocean Quest Dive Centre (February 2017)

By now, you know I lived to tell the tale.

The experience spooked me. Even more so after I’d returned home and had a chance to really think about what had occurred. Learning about the deaths of Donna Newton and Eloise Gale frightened me.

Wanna read the entire story, in order of blog postings?
Download the pdf here: tankard-galapagos

I was lucky. I survived. And, I learned a lot:

  • I will never again expect a diving excursion operator to respect the diver buddy system. If I have concerns about the complexity of the dive, I’ll hire my own guide or just not go.
  • I’ve learned the liability waiver a diver signs lets operators off the hook for everything. Even when they’re at fault. You dive at your own risk.
  • I’ve learned that few Galapagos diving mishaps are ever reported. It’s in the industry’s interest to keep these stories out of the media so that divers keep coming. Even if they’re unqualified.
  • Unaccompanied divers — travelling without a friend or loved one who cares if they live or die — are most vulnerable. Both the dead divers, Donna Newton and Eloise Gale, travelled to Galapagos unaccompanied, like me.

Changes I’ve made. None of these would have improved my situation in Galapagos, however:

  • Took additional dive training in February to fine tune things, like kicks, buoyancy, removing mask underwater and emergency situations. I thank Ocean Quest Dive Centre in Burnaby, Canada. Excellent dive shop and training facility.
  • Purchased a space air tank (aka a pony bottle) for warm water travels. A tank I can pack in my suitcase. I already own a larger spare air tank for B.C. waters —its’s too big to pack in a suitcase. Means I don’t have to rely on another diver for air. However, air isn’t the only problem one can have at depth. Nothing replaces a good buddy.
  • Sold some of my equipment and replaced it for better fit and comfort.
  • Will take additional training to become a more self-reliant diver.

Recourse:

  • None. Pay your money and take your chances. Did I complain to the company? No point.

I’ve not named the vessel publicly, but I’m happy to do so privately, if you contact me through WordPress. I’ll never patronize this operator again on any of its diving tours worldwide.

 

Screw you single #scuba #diver

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Divers arriving back to the main boat. I wasn’t able to be with them due to the danger of my situation arising out of the buddy-fiasco.

Within hours of being abandoned underwater by my ‘buddy, non-buddy’ Jose and ignored by Flo’s ‘divemaster, private servant’ Eduardo, I was gearing up again.

Getting back on the horse was crucial. Otherwise, I may not have ever dived again.

After the fiasco, Jose and Reuben went to chat with the captain about my non-buddy situation. The plan they came up with was this.

“Flo has to have a buddy,” they said. “You will be Flo’s buddy.” To review, Flo had fewer than 25 dives at this point and had hired Eduardo to keep her from dying. Flo was also socially challenged, rich, spoiled and a Grade A narcissist. I know this because she was my cabin mate.

Fat chance of Flo providing me with any buddy-assistance underwater. What a joke.

They also told me Eduardo would be my buddy for the next dive. Something he wasn’t required to do because Flo was planning to sit out the dive. Eduardo would be doing me and them a favour.

When I saw the dour look on Eduardo’s face, I knew he’d been ‘volun-told’ to be my buddy. He was pissed to the power of 100.

The dive was uneventful. Eduardo scowled the entire time.

Third time I thought I was dying

Next day, I joined my ‘buddy’ Flo and scowling Eduardo for a dive at a very tricky site. The currents were strong. We didn’t last long at depth. Flo wanted to surface. Which meant I had to go too.

The trip to the surface was terrifying, thanks to Eduardo. Grabbing both me and Flo by our arms, he dragged us about 70 feet up the surface – at a rate of about 30 feet a minute. It was torture. My fins were kicking so hard, I was struggling to breathe. At one point, he adjusted my equipment, which made it even harder for me to kick and ascend. I wasn’t able to adjust the equipment back. I thought I might blackout.

Once we’d surfaced, I made a decision. No more diving with these people – at least until the current lessened. It wasn’t safe. And, I told them so.

Next, the captain of the ship was offering to dive with me and be my buddy. I refused. Politely. Reuben pulled a sad face when I explained my decision to him. Others divers gave me WTF looks.

I sat out about six dives. When it was time to go back in the water, my ‘buddy’ Flo had a meltdown. She informed the crew I was NOT ALLOWED to be part of the buddy trio – to share her private divemaster. Not surprisingly, they went along with her wishes.

I was without a buddy again.

Three more days to go on the ship and I was counting down the hours.

To be continued…..

When #scuba guides put your life at risk

floetcSo how did I end up alone, in choppy seas struggling to catch my breath?

The three people in this photo, plus Jose the dive guide, the mastermind behind the dive plan. That’s how.

When Ivan proved to be a dangerous and disastrous dive partner/buddy, I became Jose’s buddy.

Only Jose was busy shooting video. He wasn’t paying attention to me OR the other seven divers in our group, IMHO.

Now, Jose has a ton of experience in the tricky Galapagos waters – he works there. I don’t. Which meant I sucked down the air in my tank a lot quicker than him. Buddies are supposed to surface together, but there was NO WAY Jose was coming up with me.

So, he pointed out Flo and Eduardo (remember he was her private guide) and indicated via hand signals that I should surface with them.

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Jose and his GoPro

Only, Flo and Eduardo didn’t know about Jose’s plan, and when I joined them at a depth of about 15 feet, they completely ignored me. Eduardo couldn’t have cared less about me because he was working for Flo and ONLY Flo.

When it was time for me to go to the surface (I couldn’t stay down any longer because I was low on air) Eduardo and Flo didn’t come with me.

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Panga (aka zodiac)

So, that’s how I ended up alone on the choppy surface. In a current. My panga boat ignoring my calls for help and moving further and further away to pick up other divers.

Buddy separation is how divers die. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone along with Jose’s plan. That would have meant NOT diving. After I’d paid roughly $10,000 CDN for this bucket list trip, all in.

The dive operator didn’t indicate, when I made my reservation, that a safe and suitable buddy system wouldn’t be provided.

Remember, AT LEAST two women divers on this vessel have drowned since 2009. One was an unaccompanied diver like me. The other, a Chinese national, was travelling with a dive club and buddied up with a useless Ivan-like character, I’ve been told.

Oh, did I mention the operator was expecting a minimum $500USD tip at the end of the week for this crew?

To be continued…..

Left to #die #scuba #diving in #Galapagos?

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The zodiac (panga). The yacht had two. This is how we were taken to/from dive sites.

I’ve never before had the feeling I might not survive a scuba dive. It happened THREE times diving in the Galapagos in December 2016.

The most terrifying was when the inflatable zodiac (aka panga), to which I was assigned, left me bobbing alone in the choppy surface waters after a dive. Took off without me. Jose was my dive guide and was also supposed to be my buddy.

Luckily, a diver on a different zodiac heard me crying out, “help me”, and pointed me out to the skipper. I was hard to see. The waves were incredibly high.

Still, it was many minutes before they attempted to pick me up. Now, I was so close to the rocks, the zodiac risked getting punctured if it ventured closer. So there I was. Bobbing up and down, hardly able to catch my breath. Becoming more fatigued by the second. Realizing they might not be coming for me.

What did Reuben the dive guide do when they finally moved closer? He shouted at me from the safety of the zodiac, “where’s your dive buddy”?

To which I breathlessly replied, “I don’t have a dive buddy – you haven’t given me a buddy.” panga2

Yup, this is what it had come to. Unwilling to provide me with a safe dive buddy, I was on my own. And, in danger.

“You have to swim to us,” Reuben called out. “We can’t come to you.” Reuben, evidently, wasn’t going to swim out to assist me.

It was difficult, but I did make it the 30 or so feet to the zodiac, swallowing water and gasping for air. I clung to the rope on the side. Breathless and terrified. Reuben asked me to remove my fins and buoyancy jacket. I had NO energy for that.

Hand over hand, I shifted myself to the ladder and held on for dear life. I couldn’t climb it. They insisted I move back onto the rope. I refused, not trusting them. So, Reuben and the skipper pried my hands off the ladder and moved me themselves. Then, they hauled me onto the zodiac with all my gear on.

I remember sitting there in a lump. Too fatigued to move. I have no idea how the eight other divers on the zodiac reacted. A couple did approach me afterwards to see if I was okay.

Back on the yacht, Reuben and Jose went to speak with the captain about the incident.

I sat on deck. Crying, and I’m not a girl who cries easily. A few hours later, I prepared to dive again. I knew I had to. But, not before Reuben and Jose had hatched yet another ‘brilliant’ buddy plan. This one involved Flo’s private dive guide/servant, Eduardo, and he WASN’T happy about it.

To be continued…