The Wave Dancer tragedy reveals an irresponsible boat operator...
Greg Storey - Recreational Diver
October 13, 2002 at 10:32:13
I would like to ask Dale Treadway on what basis he considers Peter Hughes to be "one of the very best dive operators"? As noted on a prior message I left on this board, I have been on liveaboards all over the world. One of those was the Wave Dancer itself (April 1999). Certainly if you look at the Dancer boats they generally are better appointed, have somewhat nicer cabins than most other liveaboards, with nice things like terry cloth bath robes, turndown service and little chocolate mints on the pillow. But that is not what the people on this forum are talking about!!! The issue here is whether Hughes and his staff can safely run a dive operation.
When I was on the Wave Dancer in 1999, we were out at Lighthouse Reef, and the Wave Dancer captain put us on a site called "The Aquarium". We entered the water, and once we got on the bottom realized we were in a VERY strong current. You could hardly make progress against it; it was almost drift diving strength. Two people aborted the dive. Once back on board, our trip leader had some hard words for the captain about the choice of site. One of the divemasters offered an opinion to me that the captain had forgotten to check the tide charts before selecting the site. We returned to that exact same site later that day, and the water was dead still with no current, so I think the divemaster was right. The captain put us on there at the wrong time of day. This put the divers in a situation unsuitable for some of the less experienced people in the group, and created the possibility of a rescue situation (believe me, if you got downcurrent of the boat on this one a surface rescue was inevitable). This incident provides an example of failing in the fundamentals. The captain should know the locals tides and currents, and if there was any doubt, he should have put a divemaster in to check the current before 20 people went in (which did not happen). I don't call this "among the best", because this is the ONLY time that something irresponsible like that ever happened to me personally.
The Wave Dancer disaster was in the end the ultimate example of the same irresponsible operation. Heading out to sea while Glover's Reef was evacuating to shore (those were the people your boat was passing on the way out Peter), staying out there until the last minute, and heading the boat to the area that the Hurricane Center was indicating would the most likely point of landfall of the storm. Then there are the indications that the boat was not properly secured at the dock, and no contingency plan for evacuating the boat (no prearranged place to take the people). All of these represent failures in basic safe dive operation and seamanship.
I am heading to Palau in Feb 03 for my next liveaboard. And you can rest assured it is NOT on a Hughes boat. I agree with Richard Lindsay, it is time to give Hughes some free word of mouth advertising.
One final question Dale. You said people should not dive during "hurricane season". The National Hurricane Center officially considers hurricane season to be from early June through the end of November. So you pretty much don't dive six months of the year? It is all just a probability thing (and granted September and early October have the worst odds). But when the odds come up against you, you need to have confidence that the people running the show know what to do. And Hughes has proven to me he does not. The ax of blame should not fall on the passengers. Most reasonable people know where the blame should fall.