Surface Interval; Worldwide Scuba Diving Reviews.

Surface Interval; Worldwide Scuba Diving Reviews.

Scuba diving in Puerto Galera Photograph by Charles Davis

Scuba diving in Puerto Galera Photograph by Charles Davis

As a writer that specializes in Scuba Diving and Scuba related travel, I spend a great deal of time looking at websites. Recently, Surface Interval (www.surfaceinterval.co) has announced they are now launching their new website. Surface Interval is looking to create a site that highlights Worldwide Scuba Diving Reviews. Scuba divers can leave reviews of the dive centers they have used.

Surface Interval is quoted as saying:

Information about scuba diving is scattered across different websites. Our goal is to bring all the information divers need together on this website. We are convinced that the more people we can convince to start scuba diving, the more people care about what’s under the surface. They will be more aware about the plastic they use, the things they throw away etc.”

For those of you who are familiar with my writing and may follow me on Deeperblue.com, will see that their quote hits a topic I strongly believe in. It sort of hits two. I totally agree that as a group scuba divers are more concern about the environment. In the news recently was the launch of The Ocean Clean Up device — System 001, “Wilson”. That company’s goal is to help clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They are doing a test run of the technology they developed and if the test run is successful, they will start a full effort of gather plastics and other items from the garbage patch. How does this relate? Boyan Slat, the 18-year-old CEO and founder was shocked at the amount of plastics in the water on his very first scuba dive. He set his mind to changing that.

The other point that Surface Interval makes is the need to introduce more people to diving. Any effort like that I applaud.

For Divers:

As with any new business or website, growing can be slow. I am adding a few reviews of dive centers I have visited in the last six months, maybe you can do the same. To be effective, the site will need current information from the divers that have been there. Let other divers know what you liked and disliked on your recent dives. How was the dive center? What was the condition of any rental equipment? How was the diving? Anything else that might help a diver to understand how your trip was.

If you are planing a new trip, take a look at the dive centers they have listed. They show having over 2,000 dive centers around the world.

Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera photograph by Charles Davis

Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera photograph by Charles Davis

For Dive Centers:

If you are a dive center check the website and see if your information is there. They state they have 2337 dive centers listed. While they have been in contact with many dive centers, the listing have come from different sources. It is possible that the information for your dive center came from an outdated source. Take a look at the listing, update it as needed and let your clients know that it is available on the site.

About Surface Interval

Here is some additional information from their website:

What are the best places in the world to go scuba diving? The best way to find out is by hearing other scuba divers’ opinions. And this is exactly what Surface Interval is for!

Reviewing dive operators

The possibility to review dive operators worldwide (dive shops/schools, liveaboards or dive resorts) decreases your chances to choose the wrong operator. Do they use new equipment, safe dive boats, small diving groups and do they care about conservancy? Important things to know before choosing your scuba diving operator, right?

Getting inspired

When you read what other scuba divers have experienced while diving, it easy to get inspired and plan your next trip.

Surface Interval

Scuba Diving from a Cruise Ship

Diving from a Cruise Ship

cruise ship scuba diving

Cruise ship Scuba diving

A Cruise vacation might not be seen as an option for a diving vacation, however, it can be. Millions of people each year spend their vacations on a cruise ship. Once considered a vacation for the rich or elderly, the cruise ships now see passengers in every age group and in many economic groups. Some ships are small with only a hundred passengers or even less. Many of the new cruise ships have well over 5,000 guest on-board. Warm weather destinations are some of the most favorite cruise destinations, however, you will see sailing to Alaska, the Baltic Sea and even to the Antarctic.

While a cruise ship might not be the first thing comes to mind when planning a dive vacation, you might not want to dismiss it straight out. If you are looking to dive three or four dives a day every day of your vacation, then a cruise will not fit your plans. However, if you are looking for a dive vacation that balances diving with other activities or need to take into consideration the needs of traveling companions that are not divers, a cruise may be a good choice.

scuba diving holidays at sea

Sports Bar on Norwegian Getaway

If you have never taken a cruise, here are a few basics. A cruise ship can be compared to a full board resort. The cruise fare will include your stateroom and many of the on board activities. Your meals are included as are some beverages during meals. You generally will have a few options of where you want to eat. There will be one or more fine dining restaurants and one or more causal restaurants or buffets. Some cruise ships offer specialty dining at a small surcharge. Some the larger cruise ships will have over a dozen different places you can eat a mixture of included and at an additional cost. Each evening you will find in your stateroom a newsletter showing all the activities the following day including the opening and closing times of different venues. In the evening, expect to find a number of shows and other nightlife offerings. On the days you are in a port, the newsletter will list information about the port including the times you can leave the ship and when you must be back on board.

A typical cruise is a week long and will have four or five ports of call, the remaining days will be at sea. Depending on the cruise you select, you may find that diving is possible at each port of call. Most of the Caribbean best diving destinations are also visited by cruise ships, as are Mexico’s Pacific coast, parts of the Mediterranean, Australia and ports in Asia. A recent cruise gave me the opportunity to dive in Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya Mexico and Cancun. I left from Florida so arriving a few days early gave me the possibility of some dives before the cruise. That trip brings my total to 12 dive destinations and 40 dives while taking a cruise.

Shore Excursions and Port Calls

When we talk of a “Port Call” or “Ports of Call”, we are simply talking about a stop the ship makes on their itinerary where you can get off the ship. You will also see the terms “Pier” and “Tender” applied to the port calls. When a cruise ship is at a port that is “Pier”, guest can walk on and off the ship. The term “Tender” means that the cruise ship anchors in deep water and a smaller boat called a tender transports

cruise ship scuba diving destinations

Norwegian Sky in Nassau

passengers to the shore. The tendering process adds to the time it takes to get off the ship. The term “Shore Excursion” is used by the cruise industry to mean a tour activity off the ship. The cruise lines arranges with local tour operators tours that can be offered to the guest on board the ship. These are sold on board and before the cruise on the cruise line’s website. A debate you often hear from experienced cruises is whether to book a cruise lines offered shore excursion or do it yourself. Both those for and against using the cruise line suggested tours have merit. On the positive side, the tours are aligned with the ships arrival and departure times. While a cruise line will clearly state the tours are by independent tour operators, if the tour is late returning to the ship the cruise line will know and insure that the passengers are not left behind. On the negative side, cruise ship sold shore excursions are often a cattle boat activity. Hundreds of passengers get off the ship, file onto buses that travel to the tour’s destination. At the tour stop, passengers file off the bus, follow a tour guide with a little flag, then back on the bus to the next destination. Also, cruise ship lines are in business to make a profit, so there is a mark up added in to cover the cruise line’s cost and a profit margin.

These concerns can also be raised concerning scuba diving as a shore excursion. I have dived using the ships shore excursion as well as arranging my own. Years ago, scuba divers and snorkelers were often grouped together and fifty or more people may arrive at a dive site at the same time. Today, the trend is to keep them separate and the cruise lines deals directly with dive operators not tour operators who sub contract. The cruise lines generally do not announce who operates their tours, however, with the power of the internet the identity does not stay secret. In most cases, the cruise lines are working with a leading dive operator in each port.

Shore Excursions or Self Booked?

Whether you should book a shore excursion from the cruise line or do it yourself is not an easy answer. The first point should be, are you comfortable with who the dive operator is. While the cruise lines do not list the operators, if you look at reviews of the shore excursions you will often see the name of the tour operator. From there you can look at reviews for that company. You can also see, how much a cruise line marks up a trip. A two tank boat dive with no equipment in Nassau by the cruise line is $179, while booking direct with the company it is $150 ($139 plus 7.9% tax). In this case, the company does provide a pick up at the cruise terminal for direct bookings, however, that is not always the case.

plan ahead and save on cruise diving

plan ahead and save

If you are considering making a reservation direct with a dive operator, there are a number of items to carefully consider. First and foremost is the times. Your cruise itinerary will show you the date and time you will be in port and the departure time. Look closely at those times, some cruise lines show the local time while others show “ship” time. Some cruise lines will move the clock forward or back during the cruise to reflect the local time where they are. Others keep the time based on the ships departure port. Ship time could be one or even two hours different then the local time. You also need to take into consideration getting off the boat. Take as an example a dive boat that leaves at 8:30 am. If your cruise is schedule to arrive at 8:00am you might be thinking of making a reservation. That might not be enough time. When the ship announces you can depart the ship, there may be hundreds already in line waiting. As you get off the ship, your ship board ID is scanned. While that will only take a handful of seconds, it adds up if hundreds are in front of you. Additionally, the passengers departing on a ship’s shore excursion will have priority over those going off on their own. If the port is one that uses a tendering you need to also consider the time it takes to get ashore. However, if your ship has a late departure, you might be able to do an afternoon dive. In those cases, you are not rushed to meet up with short deadline.

A second item, will be the meet up with the dive operator. Consider how will you get to the dive operator if doing it on your own and the cost. Some operators will provide pick up at the pier while others will not. Also, make sure about the pick up point. I recently made a direct reservation with a dive operator with a pick up point at the cruise terminal. Unfortunately for me, the cruise terminal where the pick up point was at was not the same cruise terminal I arrived at. I had to take a taxi to get there.

While boat diving is the most frequent option, look to see if shore diving is possible. I have had some great shore dives. This gives you the freedom to dive on your own schedule, and often at very good rates.

While at the DEMA show in November, I asked a number of dive operators, that were located in ports that have cruise ships, their views. The response was mixed. Those that have contracts with the cruise lines prefer you book with the cruise line. There reasoning is that the time schedule is already tried and proven. They also stated that the transportation requirement is easier to organize. Those who do not have a contract gave me a more mixed response. A few have developed their business hoping to get divers from the cruise ships on their dive boats. They provide flexibility in their dive schedules to allow for the later departures that might be needed. These shops often offer smaller boats for a personal experience and arrange to meet at the pier. Some other dive shops stated they prefer not to get cruise ship divers. They are concern with late arrivals and the uncertainty of the divers qualifications.

Royal Caribbean Offers Diving Lessons.

In years past, many of the cruise lines offered on board diving programs. Princess Cruises had their New Wave program which they ended around 2008, NCL had their Dive In program which they phased out. They still use the title but it only shore excursions. Disney and Carnival have also closed their programs. They all still offer shore excursions so you can still dive from the ships of those cruise lines.

scuba dive in the Bahamas

RCCL Grandeur Of the Seas in Nassau

Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruise line has once again fully embraced scuba diving. The cruise lines now offers PADI Open Water Certification on 10 of their ships. These ships visit a total of 14 different dive destinations. Open Water Diver students sign up for the course prior to the cruise. While at home they complete the knowledge segment using the PADI Touch app or PADI eLearning® online. On board the instructors verify the satisfactory completion of the knowledge segment and start the confined water elements of the training. They do this in one of the swimming pools aboard. The students complete the four open water dives at two different destinations. Besides the Open Water Diver training, Royal Caribbean also does a “Try Dive” program. This is a training session using a swimming pool on the ship. The dive instructors on the Royal Caribbean ships also conduct “Discover Scuba Diving” programs. Those divers who have not had a dive in a while can do the “PADI Reactivate Program” as well. These 10 ships also have a PADI 5 Star Dive Center on board.

Where Do You Want to Dive?

The diver who has a non diving partner or family members may find it easier to suggest a cruise vacation over a dive resort. For the diver a cruise offers the ability to experience more than one destination. Cruises can also be a better value, since so much is included. You owe it to yourself to look into it before your next trip.

Concrete Ship Wreck of Subic Bay

A Concrete ship of the same class as YON-146

A Concrete ship of the same class as YON-146

The Concrete Ship Wreck of Subic Bay YON-146

World War II saw many interesting ship building activities, Concrete Ship building being one of them. Since the large ship yards were turning out capital ships, the corn field ship yards created the LST. These ships yards got that nick name because many of them had been farms before the war. Far inland, they used the nations waterways to get the ships to the coast. All this ship building put a strain on the production of steel. Steel production limits meant critical items were often delayed. Fuel barges being one of them. Concrete boats or more accurate ferrocement boats had been made many years before. The origins have been lost but some suspect that there were ferrocement boats as far back as the Roman Empire. In WWI, 12 ferrocement ships were built by the US Navy but with poor results. The Cement industry had a pamphlet showing the benefits of ferrocement.

WWII saw the effort renewed and learning from previous mistakes 24 ships were ordered. Early in the war it was

Concrete Ship YON-146 during WWII

Concrete Ship YON-146 during WWII

seen that fuel storage was becoming a issue. The success of this ferrorcement concept and the need for fuel storage lead to the ordering of ferrocement barges. These are barges in the sense that they had no engines and were pulled by tugs. They did, however, appear as ships. The first fifteen of the barges built were designed to transport oil from the Texas coast to the East coast oil refineries. Additional contracts created both bulk cargo barges and liquid barges. The largest barge was the B7-A2 design which was 375 feet long, 360 feet at the water line, with a beam of 56 feet. It had a height of 38 feet of which as much as 26 could be draft. The Landing Ship Tank was only 326 feet long and 50 foot beam. 22 of the B7-A2 were built, they were classed as “YO” if they were to carry bunker fuel and “YOG” is carrying “clean” fuel such as diesel or gasoline. The “N” was not always used, it designated a non-self propelled vessel. One of the barges was modified before launched to have half of the tanks aviation fuel and the other half water.

Two concrete ships were scuttle at Normandy to create a breakwater. Breakwaters containing floating concrete ships from WWII can be found in the Powell River in B.C. Canada and the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.

YON-146 was built in National City Ca, starting on 23 Feb 43 and ready for launch on 16 May 43. She officially

Seafans on the Concrete Ship YON-146

Seafans on the Concrete Ship YON-146

entered service on 12 Aug 43. While the war records for the barge is sketchy at times, she is known to have been initially assigned to Asiatic-Pacific Theater at Port Purvis Anchorage, Florida Island, Solomons Island Group. She seem to been moved to Guam in 1945 and in early 1950, she was towed from Guam to Pearl Harbor where she entered dry dock for a short time. This information of her time in Guam comes from the University of Hawaii. Acanthophora Spicifera is a type of red algae also know as Spiny Seaweed or Prickly Seaweed. It is the most common type of sea weed in Hawaii, however, it did not exists there before 1950. A heavily fouled YON-146 has been “accused” of bringing the seaweed and two fish species to Hawaii. Research has clear her of the fish but she still listed as a possible source of the sea weed invasion.

YON-146 was back at an Pacific Area advance base (probably Subic Bay) starting in June 1951.She was involved in Operation Ivy at Eniwetok Lagoon for most of 1952. Operation Ivy was a nuclear testing program in the Marshall Islands. After the operation she returned to Subic Bay here she was active until added to the disposal list on 24 Apr 57. However, YON-146 was lost by accident in July 1957.

 

She is the largest ship wreck at Subic, however, she is seldom dived. Subic Bay has very poor visibility at times and this wreck sits at the mouth of the largest river. The B7-A2 has a 36 foot freeboard and this wreck sits upright in about 120 feet of water, however silt has filled in around the wreck so that she raises only about 10 feet from the bottom and the holds are mostly filled in with silt. Still divers who explore her will find huge sea fans and schools of small fish.

ice_cream_barge

While concrete ships might seem unusual there is one that is in its own category. The Navy adapted a Army Barge, refrigerator, light to a floating ice cream factory.

 

Aqwary Ambassador

aqwary-dual-pack-2-600x630 If you have checked out my facebook page or that of Johan’s beach and dive resort you will see that I posted link for the Aqwary Ambassador program. This is the same product I did a review for early in the year on dive report and the Russian website. It will share information underwater such as air remaining, allow you to locate your dive buddy and even send programmed SMS messages. The Aqwary company are looking for promoters of their products using an Ambassador program. They are looking for divers who will use the smart console, report their observations and share the experience with other divers. A portion of their evaluation is completing some task many are focused on social media. My post on Johan’s facebook page got a few shares and over 360 impressions, I had some on my facebook but it is a personal page so I do not know the number of impressions. My tweet was retweeted so that helps. One of the extra task it to write a blog on why you are the best person to become one of their ambassadors. So for those who read my blogs, either my titled entries or those I ghost write please excuse my self promotion. I mostly dive in Subic Bay which is a tourist destination in the Philippines The diving in our bay is different from most of the Philippines. Our visibility is not as great and our coral reefs are scattered. What we do have is a collection of ship wrecks and plane wrecks that is unmatched in the Philippines. We have a dozen shipwreck dive sites within limits of the recreational diver and more than another dozen in the technical diving limits. We have four additional dive sites soon to be five, that are the of plane crashes. About 10% of the divers are locals with about 75% of the rest international divers. While I generally dive with one dive center, I know all the dive masters and instructors in the area and have a good working relationship with them. One of the things that I would be in the position to do is have test dives where the second smart console would be given to an international guest and I would be his dive buddy. I could ask them to post a

Keep track of your dive buddies

Keep track of your dive buddies

review on their facebook page. I would write about my dives not only on my facebook and pages but could also do so on the Subic Bay Dive Association web page and Johan Beach and Dive resorts. My post on Johan’s get between 350 to 1,400 impressions depending on the topic. On the Johan’s page I write about the diving and dive sites in my name. Johan wanted to add my reputation and following on his site. I have a good reputation as a diver and writer. Post about training, I also write about but it passes through Johan before being posted. Rooms, restaurant and catering articles are also written by me before being posted in Resort’s name. We are currently mapping a newly found aircraft. Having the Aqwary smart console on our dive the other day would have been great. We were doing a search for a missing piece but had difficulty keeping track of each other. So a portion of our dive time was keeping track of each other. The Aqwary console would have done that for us. While I have been diving for about 18 years, this year may set new records for me. I have commitments to dive a couple days a week with one dive center and additional dives each month with 4 other centers. Soon I will be diving three days a week.

The website ask: Who can become an Aqwary Ambassador?

  • You are passionate about recreational diving – you dive a lot
  • You are passionate about diving with your friends or family
  • You are passionate about socially sharing your diving experiences – you have a wide network and are active in Social media
  • You are outgoing and excellent in expressing yourself in written and spoken English – people likes to read and listen to you
  • You want to be present of developing the next generation of diving technology

Each one describes me.

Looking forward to being an ambassador, and i am promise that you will get honest reviews. starting on your own site.

Thanks for your time.

skyraider

Sorry for not posting lately. I have been busy with a number of projects including posting on Johans Beach and Dive Resorts facebook page and creating a new website for them.

Skyraider under subic bay

A recently discovered Skyraider

Also, have been doing some research. Johan has found a Skyraider aircraft and I been researching possible aircraft. I have two prime possibilities both are Ad-5Q aircraft. The AD-5Q is a modified Ad-5N changed to perform Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) missions.

The Skyraider is best known as a single seater single engine propeller driven attack aircraft. Designed at the end of WWII they saw duty in the Korean War. They are probably best known as Sandy to Vietnam Vets. The Sandy was used for close air support and as protection for search and rescue missions. Unlike the new fancy jets, the Skyraiders could stay with the helicopters and could stay on target for hours. They could be loaded with a mixture of bombs and had 4 20mm cannons. They could keep a landing zone safe for the recoveries.

The AD-5N was a night fighter version with a wider body, it had two up front with a technician in the rear section. These were modified to a AD-5Q, so that the rear section had jamming devices and a seat for a second tech. In addition to the ECM missions the AD-5Q was also able to operate as a night fighter.

Similar to the aircraft that has been found

Similar to the aircraft that has been found

Research has led me to a AD-5Q crashing into Subic Bay on Jan 9 1962. The aircraft belong to VAW-13 detachment Foxtrot, which was on temporary duty with the USS Lexington. The crew of four died in the crash. Another crash in 1966 was a AD-5Q belonging to VAW-13 det 1. The crew of that aircraft escaped with no injuries.

This week we plan on visiting the aircraft looking for it data plate and the marking on the stabilizer. This information will allow us to fully identify the aircraft. It also means there is one more to look for.

Barges Dive Site

The Barges

The Barges dive site is located on the north side of Grande Island. It is not what you would typically consider a wreck site, it does have a personality of its own. The true origins of the “barges” are unknown, however, I do have my own theory. I am convinced of it but lack documentary proof. I will present my theory later. Grande Island’s military importance dates back to the original Spanish fort. It became Fort Wint under the U.S. Navy until captured by the Japanese in WWII. After recaptured by US near the end of the war, it never regained its military significance. It was later used as a R&R center and at the end of the Vietnam war as a refugee camp.

It is currently the site of a resort. The “barges” is really a floating dock. How, when and why it sank is not known, and a few of the sections seem to be missing. The site is on the bay side of the island, so conditions are generally calm.On the map it is top left of the island. The first section sits about 40 meters from the beach in about 6 meters of water. It is mostly buried with just the top section visible. The next section is about 20 meters away and sits in about 10 meters of water. More of this section sits above the bottom and there are places to look in and under. These first two sections are generally parallel to a breakwater. A third section is mostly on top of the surface with little of it buried. The docks form a rough “T” with the right portion of the “T” sloping down to 32 meters and the left at about 18 meters. A bottom around the docks is mostly sand and the docks themselves have been completely covered with coral. The most common comment about this site is that the marine life always seems to change. The different depths also seem to attract its own variety of marine life. This is an all round dive site. It often used as a second dive and a training site. Discover dives and night diving is common at the site. The slope to different depths allows for deeper dives for experienced divers.

 

Bang Saray

with airfares to Thailand dropping below $100. it was time for a short break. Spent 2 days of bang saray templea week trip at Bang Saray to get a better feel for the place and to see the condo construction site.

 

 

 

While there had some great seafood and enjoyed the relaxing enviroment. Even visited one of the local temples for photos.temple


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Should I cruise

Jushould I Cruise?st finished a kindle book. “Should I Cruise?”,It basically started out as a training manual for my staff. Am working on the layout for the print version

 

Should I Cruise?

Asking that question to a cruise addict is about as dangerous as asking a Jewish grandmother how her grandchildren are. You will launch each into a topic that they can talk about for hours and hours. They will also give you a viewpoint based on their own experience. The thought of taking a cruise keeps popping into your mind. Most people just keep thinking of it and never get around to taking the first cruise. Selecting your first cruise can be a major effort. There are so many options and so many things to consider that you can become overwhelmed and just give up. Just stop for a moment and think back to your friends, remember how enthusiastic they talked about there last cruise even months afterward? Are you like that about your last vacation? That should get you refocused. When you listen to your friends who have cruised you should keep in mind that a cruise vacation is a personal experience, and what is right ship and destination for them may not be so for you. we will look aat some of the answers you will need to go on your first cruise. This book, some on line resources and a good travel agent will help you keep things clear as well as move you closer to that “once in a life time” cruise vacation. .
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Bang Saray Thailand

Over the last year, I have been thinking of my next “retirement”. I still enjoy living in Subic Bay area of the Philippines but have been considering a lifestyle that included splitting the time between the Philippines and Thailand. I have been visiting Thailand a few times each year and enjoy the friendly laid back lifestyle there also. The biggest draw back for me is that few Thais speak English unlike the Philippines. As many know languages including English has always been a weak spot for me.Bang Saray Beach

 

Last year I looked at a condo project in Pattaya and liked it, In December I visited it again and a few others for comparison. One project I looked at is in Bang Saray. Bang Saray is about ten minutes from the city limits of Pattaya but is a very rural area, lightly developed. While looking at some information about condos in the area while on line I came across another project the Bang Saray Beach condominium. After a exchange of emails , I made a fast reservation and a few days later flew to Thailand to look at the project. Long story short I place a down payment on two 25 square meter units (about 300 square feet each) which will be redesigned into a one bedroom unit. It will take about two years to finish but when it is it should be a great place to take a vacation form paradise. The Photo was taken in December. If you look in the background you can see the skyline of Pattaya.

 


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new year new goals

Just want to wish everyone a happy new years.

 

One of my new year resolutions is to exploretemple
more and to take more photos. Did get a early jump on that with a trip to thailand in December. Went to Chiang Mai  for a few days of that trip.

 

The old part of the city is very interesting, with dozens of temples hundreds of years old.

 

I also plan on more trips in the Philippines. This past weekend we visited Mount Samat. the site of the last battle in the Battle of Bataan during WWII. currently there is a National Shrine there, the Shrine of Valor.

 

Mount samat

 

new photo albums charleswdavisjr.visitsubic.org  and at Photobucket


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