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I just got back from my brother-in-law's wedding in Varadero, Cuba. While there I wanted to do some diving so I got in touch with the only operator in the area - Barracuda Dive Center and I did 2 dives at the Bay of Pigs. The diving was pretty good, nice healthy wall, and I had no beef with the operators - gear was decent etc. But then a few days later a bunch of my extended family members (non-certified) did a resort pool course and went out on a Bay of Pigs dive trip with them - i wasn't able to go - and this is where the horror stories start coming in - and I'm kicking myself for not being able to be there to see what was going on.
1. They were divided into 2 groups - those who had been certified (but only very recently) there was 4 of them. and those who weren't (10 of them)
2. The group that was certified were told they were going down to 30 metres MINIMUM (who even says that??) so they did 2 dives - one to 30 metres and the 2nd one to 34 metres!!! When i heard this I freaked - these were newly certified divers, who have only gone down to 18 metres. Narcosis hits everyone differently - that's why your first deep dive should be with an instructor. Also my uncle ran out of air and had to do an emergency buddy breathing ascent. I think he's at fault here because i firmly believe everyone is ultimately responsible for their own safety - he should have checked his gauges more.
3. the group that wasn't certified were brought down to 18-20 metres (65 feet) without anything but the most basic training - they weren't taught how to equalize properly and my cousin ended up bursting her eardrum, my uncle ended up with extremely red bloodshot eyes due to extreme mask squeeze - they didn't mention that either.
4. to top it off - apparently these cowboy divemasters guiding the uncertified group were ENCOURAGING people to play with and touch and shake the coral.....all I can say is WTF. It made me so mad to hear this. It scares me to think of all the makeshift dive operators all over the carribean doing this kind of bull****.
Anyways - I think i just wanted to rant - these resort pool courses are a joke...especially if the dive pro's are cowboys. I feel somewhat responsible because I'm the diver in my family and have been encouraging them for a long time to try it...and i'm pissed because these cowboy have potentially turned away a few new divers.
So...if you're going to Varadero...maybye skip the diving. Or just don't encourage new divers to try it with this outfit.
I've been certified for just over 10 years now. I was certified in Jamaica and got maybe 4 pleasure dives in after being certified. I was pretty green. The following year I took a trip to Cuba. The resort had scuba diving included. So I figured I had to try that out. They even included a wetsuit with the dive. My wife doesn't dive so I had to get an insta-buddy. There were 4 Canadian Navy divers going out with us. My insta-buddy had a big locker full of scuba gear. He was told to leave it at the resort because there was no room on the boat. He proceeded to clip a dozen things to himself. The navy divers called him a Christmas tree. He talked a good talk (to a newbie) but he wasn't any more experienced than me.
My wetsuit was too tight (I know that now but didn't back then) so my breathing was off. They took us out to a wreck. The hard bottom was 31 metres (101 feet). We did a free ascent in blue water to the wreck. I was okay with that as that is what I was taught in Jamaica.
My insta-buddy was REALLY overweight. He had integrated weights. The non-ditchable weight was too much. He had another 16 lbs ditchable. Gauges are metric so I'm needing to convert in my head (I was taught imperial). By the time I do the conversion I realize we are at 80 feet. My buddy is dropping like a rock and quickly drops away from me. The guide is swimming off with the rest of the group. Do I go for my buddy? Do I get some help? My buddy dumps all his air. He is now rocketing to the bottom. He lands on his butt and just sits there. I decide to go down and get him. By the time I reach him the guide is already there. Buddy had dropped his integrated weights at some point but he is so over weight it does nothing. I put his weights back and the guide inflates his BCD. We get up to around 70 and he 'wakes up', obviously confused and disoriented. I now know he was narc'd.
I now know I was narc'd as well. I got a dark narc'd but fortunately didn't panic.
Everyone swims off as I check my gauge. I'm really low on air now. I race after the guide to show her I'm low on air. She signals it is fine and to keep going. I'm wondering if I misunderstand her. I'm about to head up when she offers me her octo. I hop on her octo and she starts swimming off. She is literally dragging me by the octo. I use both hands to keep it in my mouth. I have no idea where my buddy is. Turns out he is on the octo of the other guide.
The navy guys had a great dive. I sat out the next dive but my buddy went solo.
In 2006 I learned to dive locally and got my AOW. I recounted my trip to Cuba and the shop owner tells me that is a typical Cuban experience. Since your story is recent I can see nothing has really changed in 9 years. The resort guides take tremendous risks. For all her new OW students, if they are going to a resort in Cuba she recommends they DON'T go diving until they are comfortable on their own.
Sorry to hear it ! Could've been fatal ! New divers being pushed and lacking adequate monitoring and guidance !!!! And encouraging them to disturb nature gives then a bad impression of all OS us divers. I believe in the LOOK BUT "NO TOUCH" policy like most of the people on this forum, (unless you know EXACTLY what your touching an know for sure that neither you nor the sea life get hurt - but even then - something still seems wrong).
Stories like these are very upsetting !
Hope your friends / family recover quickly !
If they are that careless / reckless that operation is going to kill someone someday !