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Author Topic: Trip Report: Southern Island Local Dive with Leeway Sub-Aquatics  (Read 5041 times)

BareBear

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Our group of friends saw the adverts for cheap dives to Hantu with Leeway, and inquired about the possibility of diving at the Southern Islands. For $80 for 2 dives, we thought that was a fair deal.

We were getting unusual instructions before the actual trip. One friend who is OW certified was not allowed on the trip, although the dives there were in the 5-10m range, and about 15-18m for the wreck. These dives are well within the certification limits of an OW diver. On further questioning, we were told an OW diver would not be able to handle the dive at the wreck because his regulator could get pulled off by fishing lines, and the currents there might be strong. I thought it was a strange instruction as there is no AOW course I know of that taught you how to handle fishing lines pulling off your regulator. But at the point, I thought the request was fair enough, and may be a good indication that a local DC took divers safety seriously, so we went along with the operator's decision.

Our group of friends were all experienced divers, so we opted for self dives. However, we were made to sign an indemnity form. Strangely, Leeway said they could not give us their indemnity form, and we had to source for one ourselves. Fortunately one of the divers in our group was an instructor and he helped us to produce and print out our own indemnity forms.

Our friend who organized the trip was also made to do all the coordination work to get information out to all parties, and to help collect payment for the trip. It's a small point, but isn't the dive shop's rep supposed to be doing the coordination work? I was even told that she was told that she would be held responsible for all the divers as she had organized the trip.

On the day itself, we were told to be at West Coast Pier at 8am. All of us were early or on time, but we were kept waiting for 1 full hour with no clear communication of why the boat was late, or what time it would get there. The boat only got to the pier after 9am. Upon boarding, there was no apology offered from George, the owner/captain. It's the least anyone can do after keeping your customers waiting for a full hour in the sun I think.

The tanks on the boat were secured in such a way that it was awkward and near impossible to sit on the benches on the 2 sides of the bum boat. So the lucky divers got to sit in the limited seats in the shade where there were no tanks, and the rest had to sit up front in the sun. There was no boat briefing, and no dive briefing either from any of the Leeway staff.

On reaching the dive site, the boat took a painfully long time to anchor. Granted, currents were strong that day, but it pained my heart to think that we were dredging the corals in our first marine park with the boat anchor. Some of us were fully geared up in our wetsuits and BCDs and waited for 20 minutes or more in the hot sun for the boat to anchor, move, anchor, move repeatedly. One of our divers was even asked to go down to tie off the anchor.

After our first dive, we had to wait 3 or more hours for our tanks to be refilled by the on-board compressor. Even then, one of the divers had less than 50 bar in his tank after his cylinder was supposedly refilled. Another diver repeatedly asked for the o-ring on his leaking tank to be replaced as a leak was observed on the first dive. Upon jumping in, he realized that the o-ring had not been changed and the tank was still leaking.

The incident that sticks strongest in my mind was the second dive. We were told to descend and ascend on the line, which was the line tied to the boat anchor. When we went down, we discovered the anchor had actually been dropped on the wreck itself, and punched a hole through the wreck. Two of our divers had to help pull the anchor out.

When it was time to surface, we searched for the line where we thought it would be, but could not find it. So we shot our SMB and ascended. Halfway through our ascent/safety stop, I noticed the anchor hanging in mid-water and was in the process of being pulled up, and it was dangerously close to my buddy's leg. We immediately swam away from the anchor. Our feedback to George was met by nonchalance, which was very troubling.

I thought this was very dangerous. We were asked to surface on the line, yet the boatman pulled the line when there were still divers in the water. Furthermore we had shot an SMB and still the anchor (which had very sharp points) was pulled up knowing there were divers in the vicinity.

On the journey back, it started to rain, and the seas got a bit choppy. Some of us had already changed out into dry clothes. However, the boat was steered left-right-left-right, and every time it was banked sharply, a wave of water would come crashing over the side and hit everyone and everything. By the time we got to the pier, I could squeeze a cup or more of water off my previously dry clothes. I don't think it's too much to ask to captain the boat in such a way so as not to completely drench all your customers on the ride back.

Lastly, the boatman parked the boat 45 degrees to the pier when we were disembarking and unloading our bags, and we were asked to jump. At that point, the whole experience was feeling so absurd it was almost funny.

I will let the other divers fill in on their own experiences.

Fireflies

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Unfortunate. Good that you shared this. The captain shouldn't behave like that. Even if leeway is just advertising they should have done their own checks to ensure the boat operator and facilities provided meet basic needs and services. Lucky you guys are all long time experienced divers, it could have been worse if inexperienced and don't know how to do checks and etc
noob.

Seal_R

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So glad i didn't signed up for this. The whole trip sounds like a disaster. Luckily everyone is safe and sound. Times like this make better divers through awareness and react.
Btw was the underwater scene worth it?

alvlim

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wow i was about to sign up. but after reading this feed back think better safe the money for other trip. thanks for the feed back.

kaiman

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Opps, din know I'm one of the lucky diver who got to sit in the shade.

OP sum up the trip pretty well. I also remembered being told that there will be DMs for the trip but in the end, no.
Which is alright to me,  considering the low vis conditions and i had fun with my buddy who's on his 100th dive!

Underwater,  things were pretty much expected:
First dive: We were suppose to hit a shallow reef of 6-8m where the rest saw more stuff. But we lose our bearings and were at 16m drinking coke and talking to the crabs and nudis.

Second dive was awesome! We jump in about 20m from the breakwaters and saw the wreck the moment we descended. (it's not a good thing cos the dive boat's anchor hit the wreck)
Lots of fishes in the wreck and one huge grouper! Totally enjoyed the wreck. (no,  we did not penetrate)

As my buddy was low on air,  we were first to surface, informed boatman about his anchor. He requested that we get it off the wreck for him, else we all cant go hm. So we went down again...

Overall,  i would say that i enjoyed myself and would go with them again. (have dived with worse operators before)

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siaokao

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Good share.. Sounds like a messy one to me!
So they call it a 'FACT' coz someone made some statements on a 'FACT SHEET'? hummm...

runez

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I was kaiman's buddy on this trip, to clarify a few things in his post...

Yes, it was my 100th dive. I treated him to beer underwater on his 100th, and this cheapo guy only got me a can of coke.   ;)

Lest anyone think he was crazy and/or narced; Yes, we really did drink coke at 16m; No, we did not talk to the crabs and nudis. Nor did we offer our regulator to the fishes. (Maybe he did, I certainly didn't...)

Here's a pic to prove that we really did drink coke:



Believe it or not, this doesn't count as my worst dive outing. My experience here was certainly worse IMHO. Safety wise, I've witnessed worse dive operators who send OW students down very choppy & high current waters just so that they could complete their 4th and final certification dive.

Oh, and the anchor really did land up inside the wreck. I'm not too sure whether it punched a new hole as the wreck as already pretty beat up and it was only a small 15kg anchor, but it shows that Uncle George does know his dive sites well..



The conditions around Sister's Island can be quite challenging with strong currents and low visibility. You need an experienced dive op to know the local tides and make recommendations. Our original plan was to dive the wreck first but Uncle George advised us against it due to the strong currents, and found us a sheltered spot on the Eastern Reef to dive instead.

Would I dive with Leeway again? Personally, I wouldn't mind, as the trip is very decently priced and they are an experienced dive op. Although, I'd probably suggest to Uncle George not to pull the anchor while we're still in the water...  :D
The Golden rule of diving - Any diver can call the dive. At any time. For any reason

Crash

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I was there. While we were ascending I saw the anchor being dislodged right under me. I thought it was accidentally dislodged due to the current. Seeing this, my buddy proactively secured the anchor back as some of us were holding to the line. It was only when we got back on the boat that I learned that they had pulled the anchor while we were ascending - for whatever reason only God knows. And I also learned that the group that went to sister's on the following day face the exact same scenario.

Another thing I wish to highlight is that we were asked to climb up the bumboat ladder with our fins at the end of the second dive. While I was about to remove my fins and climb up, the boatman insisted that I keep them on and climb with them. Truth be told I would be ok with it if they had lend assistance by holding on to me just in case I had slipped on the ladder or the top which was located at the bow of bumboat (imagine the bumboat height, slippery stainless steel ladder and fins). But at no point in time did they assisted. I practically climbed up and walked back to the seats with my fins on my own. A sudden rock of the boat when I was at the top would have send me back down into the water and possibly hitting someone behind me. I swear I'll practice my frisbee target throwing skills with my jetfins on the next boatman that request me to do the same thing again, lol.

Jokes aside, it is good reminder to all of us to ALWAYS keep our bc inflated till we have settled down securely on the boat and ALWAYS stay clear of the area around the ladder when someone is climbing up. I've seen many divers in other dive trips who fully deflate their bc when climbing up the ladder and loiter around the ladder to wait for their turn to climb.

So if anyone from leeway is reading this, please review the above mentioned issues. Other dive ops should also take note of this too. I'll give a benefit of a doubt maybe due to it being the first trip to sisters or maybe its been awhile since they've planned local trips. Mistakes made for the first time are fine but they should never be repeated; especially for an activity as hazardous as diving. Hate to see an accident happening here in our local waters due to such negligence. Hope you guys can learn from your mistakes and buck up. This is an honest feedback which I really hope you guys won't take it too personally but instead improve and move on. We are all here to enjoy the hobby we love and ensure we continue doing so for many years to come.

Anyway, the dives at sisters are good especially the wreck even though shes old and there were obvious signs of deterioration. It was bigger than expected and went down to 18m+ deep. There are plenty holes and crevices to shine your torch in. Currents are strong at the wreck site which lead us to call the dive off and save it for the 2nd dive. First dive at big sister western reef saw plenty of healthy corals. Might wanna keep 10m or shallower for the best part of the reef. Sadly we saw illegal fish traps around the area which was a huge disappointment considering the fact that sister's was a marine park to be (or is it already a marine park?). There were the usual discarded fishing lines so pls bring a cutting tool if you have one. Hoping to explore other areas of sisters again soon! Was told by the other divers there are nicer dive sites at sisters which had many hard soft corals and seagrass.



Godspeed & Dive safe!


ps: just to clarify barebear, if i can recall correctly, the story is that they were not able to provide a dm for that day and we were then asked us if we were alright to dive on our own which we unanimously agreed. After which we were instructed to sign an indemnity form since we were diving without their supervision. Only gripe is that they had no such indemnity forms and we had to find and print them ourselves. Define 'liability' anyone? lol. That alone left me questioning logic just like when i similarly did when i watched interstellar.
« Last Edit: 05 Dec 14, 04:02 by Crash »

lybc

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Fyi, DCs are supposed to have backup DMs or Dive Leaders if the booking of the trip comes with the understanding of having one in the first place. If due to unforeseen circumstances and no DM/dive leader is available, it would be the divers' judgement call to decide if they still want to proceed.

As for the indemnity form, it is a standard piece of paperwork that all divers sign before they go diving. I am quite surprised that this was not provided. As for the portion on the coordination, I believe the shop is looking at one single point of contact whom was the one who booked/arranged the trip. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Its like one person booking multiple slots.

Maybe you want to check with the boatman why they had pulled the anchor out while you guys were still down there. Perhaps the position of the anchor is putting the boat at risk. As for the slow tank charging, how many divers were there in total? You can't expect charging to be done in a flash if you have a considerable number of tanks to charge.

It would be good to keep some simple stuff with you like O-rings. It is our own responsibility to do the final checks and if things don't go your way, you can put in the stuff to make it your way. I recall fixing my own reg even though I had sent it for an overhaul on the boat when I discovered the inflator hose was leaking. Just fix it fast and jump in to enjoy the dive. :P

I wouldn't advise changing into dry clothing until you reach dry land. Anything is possible when you are still on high seas. Mother Nature always wins.

BareBear

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Hi Crash,
Yes you are right about the part on the DMs, apologies for my memory lapse. It was Leeway who informed us that their DM had to pull out at the last minute and we were on our own. Then we were given the option to produce our own indemnity form and get all divers to sign, otherwise our friend who helped organized the trip would be held responsible if anything happened.

Additionally I heard news that there was a group of 3 divers on the Sunday dive who were not confident to dive on their own. Repeated requests were made to have a dependable DM guide them for the Sunday dive, because one of the divers had a previous experience with Leeway which left her concerned. We were promised that an instructor would be guiding them on the Sunday dive.

From what I heard, there were 3 DMs on the Sunday dive. I understand that the 3 DMs formed their own dive group  and went diving on their own. The 3 divers did not have a guide. As I wasn't there and am not too clear about what transpired, I'll let the divers themselves clarify if they wish to.

I was there. While we were ascending I saw the anchor being dislodged right under me. I thought it was accidentally dislodged due to the current. Seeing this, my buddy proactively secured the anchor back as some of us were holding to the line. It was only when we got back on the boat that I learned that they had pulled the anchor while we were ascending - for whatever reason only God knows. And I also learned that the group that went to sister's on the following day face the exact same scenario.

Another thing I wish to highlight is that we were asked to climb up the bumboat ladder with our fins at the end of the second dive. While I was about to remove my fins and climb up, the boatman insisted that I keep them on and climb with them. Truth be told I would be ok with it if they had lend assistance by holding on to me just in case I had slipped on the ladder or the top which was located at the bow of bumboat (imagine the bumboat height, slippery stainless steel ladder and fins). But at no point in time did they assisted. I practically climbed up and walked back to the seats with my fins on my own. A sudden rock of the boat when I was at the top would have send me back down into the water and possibly hitting someone behind me. I swear I'll practice my frisbee target throwing skills with my jetfins on the next boatman that request me to do the same thing again, lol.

Jokes aside, it is good reminder to all of us to ALWAYS keep our bc inflated till we have settled down securely on the boat and ALWAYS stay clear of the area around the ladder when someone is climbing up. I've seen many divers in other dive trips who fully deflate their bc when climbing up the ladder and loiter around the ladder to wait for their turn to climb.

So if anyone from leeway is reading this, please review the above mentioned issues. Other dive ops should also take note of this too. I'll give a benefit of a doubt maybe due to it being the first trip to sisters or maybe its been awhile since they've planned local trips. Mistakes made for the first time are fine but they should never be repeated; especially for an activity as hazardous as diving. Hate to see an accident happening here in our local waters due to such negligence. Hope you guys can learn from your mistakes and buck up. This is an honest feedback which I really hope you guys won't take it too personally but instead improve and move on. We are all here to enjoy the hobby we love and ensure we continue doing so for many years to come.

Anyway, the dives at sisters are good especially the wreck even though shes old and there were obvious signs of deterioration. It was bigger than expected and went down to 18m+ deep. There are plenty holes and crevices to shine your torch in. Currents are strong at the wreck site which lead us to call the dive off and save it for the 2nd dive. First dive at big sister western reef saw plenty of healthy corals. Might wanna keep 10m or shallower for the best part of the reef. Sadly we saw illegal fish traps around the area which was a huge disappointment considering the fact that sister's was a marine park to be (or is it already a marine park?). There were the usual discarded fishing lines so pls bring a cutting tool if you have one. Hoping to explore other areas of sisters again soon! Was told by the other divers there are nicer dive sites at sisters which had many hard soft corals and seagrass.



Godspeed & Dive safe!


ps: just to clarify barebear, if i can recall correctly, the story is that they were not able to provide a dm for that day and we were then asked us if we were alright to dive on our own which we unanimously agreed. After which we were instructed to sign an indemnity form since we were diving without their supervision. Only gripe is that they had no such indemnity forms and we had to find and print them ourselves. Define 'liability' anyone? lol. That alone left me questioning logic just like when i similarly did when i watched interstellar.