The liveliest letters from the DIVER mailbag...
Many years ago when we were much more uncivilised, there would be an individual in the more rural, backward villages, called a Sin Eater.
The function of the Sin Eater, usually a young boy, was to take on board all the sins of a dying person by eating a meal in the same room. The Sin Eater then assumed responsibility for the deceased's sins and was accordingly ostracised and outcast by other villagers - because the Sin Eater was now tainted with the sins of all the deceased.
However the Sin Eater, despite being despised, was still needed by the villagers, as otherwise they would have to admit responsibility for their own sins.
The Sin Eater could never shrug off his role and it was only when he passed on that the role would be assigned to another boy and the cycle would restart.
So, having read I Was Gordon's Buddy by Keith Lunt (August), it is apparent that Gordon has fallen into the role of Sin Eater for the diving fraternity!
Gordon embodies all our worst excesses, bad diving practices, ignorance and bad behaviour. We offload all our own sins onto Gordon and then ostracise him - if he didn't exist, he'd have to be created.
When Gordon finally grows up and passes from his current plane of existence to that of "experienced diver", he can nominate a new Sin Eater by writing an article such as I Was Keith's Buddy!
Anthony Walsh, Dublin
On viewing the title and great cartoon I was enticed into reading I Was Gordon's Buddy, as I had really enjoyed one of your previous articles on buddies from hell - we have all had one.
But this documentary of a poor 14-year-old boy becoming the butt of jokes and looked down upon is an attitude that I thought divers were casting off.
As young as he is, he must be inexperienced and obviously was not trained very well. Of all the experienced people in the group, including instructors, no-one tried to pull Gordon aside and give him the help and assistance he required.
The buddy himself should be ashamed. Not only was he almost double Gordon's age but he should have been responsible and mature enough to tackle this boy's problem, never mind writing a humorous article about him.
I appeal for Gordon to come forward and name and shame the agency and dive company that trained him. If his skills were so bad, he should either never have been certified to dive or should have been given further instruction or guidance.
The instructor who gave a 5ft 6in boy 16kg of weight should be reported for dangerous practices - no wonder the poor chap couldn't get good buoyancy! This story blamed Gordon but clearly he was the one person in this story who was not to blame.
Chris Reid, West Lothian
I think the article about Gordon was ageist and unfair, as you made it sound like all young divers are bad divers. If we are so bad, how come we pass the exams to dive?
I am nearly 13 and I don't think teenage divers should be getting a bad reputation.
I have been diving since I was 10 and I have never had a dive like the one described in Diver. Because we are younger we are usually more careful. We don't need people making exceptions for us because we are young. We are capable too, you know.
Another comment, about Andy Blackford's column Sharks Are Just Biding Their Time - don't be so stupid, I have dived with sharks and they are cautious of divers, so stop trying to act all tough and swear in your column just because you can. People would die to write in your magazine on a monthly basis, so just get on with it.
If everybody killed what Andy wanted dead, there would be nothing left in the sea. By the way, Jaws was plastic, in case you didn't realise.
Bet you're too scared to print this.
Comment: Bet we're not! But we're glad to see you sticking up for younger divers - and you'll notice that in our intro to I Was Gordon's Buddy we did say: "It's so often the youngsters who have to make allowances for the older diver", because we know how good young divers can be. The point about Gordon was not that he was a teenager but that he was a poor (or poorly trained) diver. As for Andy Blackford, what can you do with him?
I am Swedish and dive mostly in Sweden. I have read Diver for years and especially enjoy John Bantin's articles about testing new equipment. As a dive instructor I get many tips and ideas, and can help my students learn what to consider when it comes to purchases, and answer questions about specific equipment.
I agree with all the statements in John's article Bending The Rules (August) and practise most of them, as they are all common sense, but I do have one comment. John asks readers why they place their octopus on the same side as their main second stage. I would love to put my octopus on the opposite side, but can you name a regulator with more than two low-pressure outlets on the left side?
I use an MR 22 first stage (with Abyss main and octopus) and the two lp outlets on that side are already occupied by my BC inflator and my drysuit hose. Unfortunately, my drysuit intake is twisted towards the left, so placing the drysuit inflator on the right side is not an option unless I use a drysuit with swivelling inlets.
Monica Swenson, Malmö, Sweden
John Bantin comments: You could always remove and refit the inflation valve on the suit so that it takes a hose from the right side. That will free a port on the left side for your octopus-rig second stage. Take it to a dive store if you are not confident about doing this yourself. By the way, this month sees the start of a regular advice column called Kit Q&A.
Last October we looked forward to a week on a Red Sea liveaboard, flying with Air 2000.
On passing through Customs at Gatwick, I heard my name called on the PA system. At the Air 2000 information desk I discovered to my horror that we had been given a boarding card to Dalaman, Turkey. We fly frequently and had just assumed that the ladies at check-in had done their job properly.
With little time to spare we had to get new boarding cards. Before we boarded the plane they made us witness our luggage, which was lying under the wing, being loaded into the belly of the Air 2000 aircraft.
After the usual organised chaos at the airport in Sharm, with everyone ready to leave and the conveyor belt empty, we were still waiting for our gear. We found that the barcode tags on our bags had not been replaced or removed, so the bag-handlers in Sharm had assumed that the bags were at the wrong destination.
The bags, with all our dive gear and my four cans of Guinness, had touched down on the tarmac for five minutes and then been sent back to Gatwick!
As we were on a live-aboard we did not see the gear for that whole week. Air 2000 did send it to Sharm again a few days later and we collected it as we flew home.
Air 2000 accepted responsibility and (barely) covered the cost of rental gear but not the loss of enjoyment of my own gear and my Guinness (albeit from a can)!
Ron Postma, HMS Neptune, Faslane
This letter was in the Times travel section on Saturday, 9 August:
"We recently flew from Manchester to Zurich with British Airways and were told that we had to pay excess baggage for our golf clubs, which weighed 30kg. There was nowhere to leave the clubs so we ended up paying £176 to take the clubs to Switzerland for one very expensive round of golf.
Fortunately a friend with a car brought the clubs back, so we didn't have to pay on the return. I have never been charged for golf clubs before."
Makes a refreshing change, doesn't it?
Claire Hodge, Coventry
May I say how honoured I am to appear in the Andy Blackford column (Sharks Are Just Biding Their Time, August). I have been reading his somewhat eccentric opinions since taking up the sport and he's very funny (in his own way). My wife said: "Oh, he's a good writer, isn't he?"
That may be, but should he be brutalised by a particularly nasty and predatory chicken, he'll get scant sympathy from me. Thanks to his mention I now feel the need to adopt an even lower profile at Jack's Fish & Chip Shop!
Martin Leach, Harpenden
Comment: OK, Martin, we make that three plugs for the fish & chip shop so far - no more!
Salt Cay carries you back to a Caribbean before all-inclusive resorts, casinos, large hotels and rampant development. This small undeveloped island is an eco-tourist's dream.
In Day of the Jackass (July) John Bantin did not fairly represent what Salt Cay has to offer. Does he want to give your readers an accurate picture or is he is just after notoriety? Maybe he is the "aged donkey" who doesn't appreciate the "old" Caribbean and prefers the luxury that age sometimes requires.
Sometimes luxury is what is needed on a holiday, but at other times getting away from the stress of everyday living, making new friends, appreciating our island's unique beauty, being one with nature and enjoying one's own solitude is more important.
Salt Cay is an eclectic mix of Turks Islanders, Dominicans, Haitians and expats all living together in harmony. We trust each other, share what we have, and all try to ensure that our guests have a unique Caribbean holiday.
Salt Cay has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, great diving and snorkelling, phenomenal birding, a wide range of places to stay and several restaurants that rival more developed Caribbean islands.
We also have donkeys and cows that live in the bush and occasionally make it to town, as well as chickens and roosters that often make your wake-up call a reality. These things all make the Salt Cay experience unique.
Humpback whales pass through our waters, as Mr Bantin wrote. Fortunately they are still wild creatures and don't perform on a theme-park" schedule, something he forgot to recognise.
Weather can always come into play and affect any holiday but snorkelling with these magnificent giants is an experience of a lifetime.
As the world changes, so does Salt Cay, but at a Caribbean pace. Holiday with us and make your own decision about our unique island.
Porter Williams, Salt Cay, Turks & Caicos
As a diver and active rally navigator (forest stage rallies), I was interested to read in our governing body's own Motorsport Now magazine an article entitled Take a Dive. It was only short but it was advertising the BSAC National Try Dive week in September.
Good to see that diving is being publicised in this way among other sports. The magazine also promises a comparison in a future issue of instruction and training between sports such as diving and motorsport - that should be interesting.
Keep up the good work with the mag.
Steve Waggett, Stockton-on-Tees
As a regular reader of Diver, and a PADI Rescue Diver, my attention was drawn to a picture about deploying an SMB in Chris Boardman's article on becoming a BSAC Dive Leader, (Dive Leader or Rescue Diver?, August).
As many other readers may have noticed, the diver has what looks to be 4kg of lead strapped to his cylinder. Has he got the same on the opposite side, and where is his weightbelt/harness?
Surely, when undertaking a rescue course, one of the issues covered would be that of jettisoning a victim's weights in an emergency.
How is a potential rescuer going to be able to jettison this weight set-up and make a controlled ascent ? The stripping of the BC, etc should come only after the weights have gone and positive buoyancy has been established on the surface, along with giving breaths if needed!
Does this set-up allow for an emergency, and if so how? Please let us all see, and promote safe diving practices, whether in a magazine or in the water!
Graham Clark, Lincs
Chris Boardman replies: The subject of ditchable weight becomes mute if one carries the correct weighting, ie just enough to offset the reduced weight of gas in the cylinder at the end of the dive. Regardless of that particular school of thought, I had ditchable weights clipped off in each pocket - which my partner and the rest of the group knew about.
Responding to an article? I feel like Mr Angry of Poole! I do however need to flag up a dangerous riptide of "Trewavas Fundamentalism" that flowed into Louise's July column Ooh Betty! about diving on TV - in particular her reference to Wreck Numpties, aka Wreck Detectives.
Some of it did make me chuckle - I admit it. I too cringe at some of the editorial/production over-dramatisation of diving.
But I think that in her rush to enfranchise "real" divers to her deep, tough, cold, zero-viz, dangerous church, Louise has missed the point.
Deep, tough, cold, zero-viz and dangerous is not why most people start to dive or continue to dive. I spent nine years as a military diver doing all that stuff and I grew out of it. I now teach diving to the kind of people who read your magazine as novice divers.
I have used clips of Wreck Numpties and other "dire offerings" Louise describes to show how much great diving there is around the UK. It works, too... my 14-year-old niece, who has just qualified as a diver, loves Wreck Numpties.
So, Louise, back off knocking diving on TV. All publicity is good. As someone who wants diving to appeal to as many people as possible, I will tolerate a bit of over-dramatisation in exchange for greater numbers of enthusiastic divers.
Your fundamentalism for me is as boring and dangerous as the PADI v BSAC et al feud. Wreck Numpties is doing far more to attract and retain divers than your rather narrow brand of tekkie barstool rant.
Chris Nel, Great Raveley, Cambs
I read the Divers Get Their Say in Archaeology Debate news item (September) in which I was quoted. The attitude of Ian Oxley of English Heritage will not only favour professionals but is likely to do untold harm to our maritime knowledge. He started to activate draconian policies in his first month of office by recommending to the DCMS that teams of archaeological sports divers should not carry on excavating their sites.
Most exposed coastal sites open and close at the whim of the sea, and not to get information out when the opportunity is there, and to let it be destroyed by the next storm, is foolhardy.
Chris Underwood said he thought it natural that English Heritage would tread carefully in its first year in charge. This is misguided - EH came in wearing size 13 hobnailed boots. The result will be to stop divers coming forward with their finds.
Mr Oxley says EH will encourage amateurs to be involved in marine archaeology if they are suitably trained. Who will decide if they are suitably trained? Will divers active in marine archaeology over many years, with a great depth of knowledge and seamanship, be considered? Or will a bit of paper from some university after a three-year course count for more?
Members of the Federation of Archaeological Sport/Recreational Divers (FASAD) feel that the BSAC and other diving organisations have not looked after their interests vigorously enough, and the representation on government bodies is very poor.
Neville Oldham, FASAD, Dartmouth
Recipe for diving heaven for under £200 per person... Ingredients: Take 17 assorted divers, (with full open-water kit), three Tornado RIBs, two Land Rovers, one Jeep, one Passat, one Rover, two compressors - with box trailer; large amounts of food and wine (to taste); flat seas and light winds.
Method: Place divers and kit into vehicles, attach boat and box trailers. Travel 500 miles in a northerly direction, remove divers when the Atlantic is spotted at Durness, near Cape Wrath. Place divers in hostel, feed well and add wine; and leave to relax overnight. Launch Tornados into Loch Eriboll and set up compressors.
Immerse divers in ocean twice daily for 30-50 minutes each time, using RIBs to access dive sites on flat sea with light southerly wind. Add profuse wildlife (lobsters, octopus, cuttlefish, wolf-fish, seals, crayfish, crabs, jewel anemones, rays, dogfish) and occasional bomb to the underwater scenery. Whale and dolphin sightings optional when travelling to and from sites.
Each evening spend three hours compressing 34 cylinders, then feed well with good food and fine wine, also occasional (!) beer.
Follow procedure for one week, then remove RIBs from ocean, replace compressors in trailer, attach trailers to vehicles, force divers into vehicles and return to place of origin.
Karen Aspinall, Preston
I was interested in the mystery of the Somali's bow in Gavin Parsons' article Fact Or Fiction (September), as the wreck is in my area.
My late grandfather pointed it out to me in the 1970s when I lived at nearby Boulmer. He was a fisherman on the Clarissa Langdon, a Boulmer RNLI boat that stood by near the Somali on that night in 1941. When the Somali blew up, such was the force of the explosion that the Clarissa lifted out of the water.
The Clarissa 's cox'n, Jimmy Campbell, took her alongside the Somali to take off the last crew-members, but her propeller was damaged by the wreckage all around, and she was taken in tow by the North Sunderland lifeboat. For his actions Jimmy was awarded the RNLI bronze medal.
My grandad lost his hat, and searched in vain for it over the next few days, but had to console himself with the box of spirits he found washed up with the ship's debris. Gavin's best starting point for finding the missing bow must be the eyewitnesses. Fishermen always know more than they let on about.
Robert Huggins, Hinckley