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.