Along with my drysuit, scuba gear and camera, I guess I should have packed a ‘dive buddy’ as well.
I booked my seven-nights-aboard-a-luxury-scuba-dive-boat Galapagos trip in October 2015 (to happen December 2016). Nowhere in the fine print did it say, “we won’t give a shit about your safety if you travel unaccompanied and fail to bring along a loved one or friend to be your dive buddy.”
Yup, I travelled alone, fully expecting the dive liveaboard to partner me up with a buddy from among the other passengers – a responsible dive buddy. Because that’s what’s supposed to happen. Meaning buddies would be compelled to adhere to safe diving practices – such as sticking together. Or, have their diving privileges taken away – as the dive crew threatened, but NEVER acted on.
“Where’s my buddy?”
Ok, so the expectation on my part was that my cabin-mate – a woman diver – would be my buddy. And, she’d have some experience. Here’s the fine print: Recommended requirements include 50-100 open water dives, experience in currents, ability in removing gear in water and ability in getting into small boats in choppy seas.
Only, Flo, my cabin-mate, had roughly 15 dives. Most of those dives had been done one week earlier in calm, turquoise warm water, when she took an advanced skills course. Flo had NOTHING recommended in the fine print. A total rookie and prima donna, to boot. But, very wealthy. Money talks.
That’s not all, Flo had hired a private divemaster on the ship who acted as her personal servant/sherpa/ass-kisser for the week. Carrying her dive gear and essentially dragging her around dive sites. Meaning, Flo wasn’t going to be my dive buddy. (Maybe that’s a blessing because Flo would’ve been a danger to me).
Flo’s presence was the first of many clues the liveaboard company wasn’t exactly safety focused. (Lots of fine print in CAPS stating divers are responsible for themselves, yadda, yadda……) Essentially, the message was this: we’ll take your money, recommend you have some training and experience, but don’t really care if you don’t and we’re NOT responsible if you die.
As for my buddy? Well, “Ivan” failed to make it to the ship on time before we departed on the Sunday. “He’s coming tomorrow,” the dive crew told me.
“So, what do I do for a buddy until “Ivan” arrives?” I asked. “Just stay near me,” the divemaster said. Bad idea.
Methinks, it’s possible Donna Newton and Eloise Gale may have laboured under the same delusion I did. That it was okay to travel alone because the liveaboard would pair you with a responsible other diver and ensure safety practices were followed.
To be continued…