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November 18th 2013

18 Nov 2013 Written by 

Instructor meeting
scuba-meetingIt's that time of the month again at Big Blue.. no, I talked about the full moon party yesterday. I'm talking about the instructor meeting that will be held tonight in one of the classrooms... next to the bar. It's a monthly competition to see how many people can physically fit into a room the size of a bureau de change, that has also been temporarily turned into a sauna. See, we'll endure anything to improve what we do. The meeting is a good opportunity to keep everyone singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak, despite no-one, except maybe mini Ant actually resembling a choirboy. All the different dive agencies have standards that must be adhered to in order to ensure a diver's safety, and at Big Blue we take that very seriously. So ensuring that everyone is doing their job exactly as the standards dictate is integral to what we do. Anyone who is found to have been lacking in any aspect of their role as it relates to standards and customers' safety will not work for Big Blue much longer.
We are constantly trying to improve everything that we do so that our customers have the best experience possible, so we also regularly discuss everything and anything that may help things to run more smoothly. This includes how we check people in, the order and running of all our courses, the logistics of the boats, and even what kind of biscuits we have on board! If something isn't working, we look for ways to improve it. In some ways it's almost a shame that people don't have to undertake three separate open water courses at three different dive resorts before they become a qualified diver, because then they'll have a point of reference in the quality of teaching between schools, and realise that we are as professional is it gets.
The meeting is also the perfect forum for taking the mickey out of some instructors, and in all my years of endless, dull, soulless staff meetings this is the only time i've had a good laugh whilst actually doing something productive. It also helps that we all get a free beer! Incidentally, mini Ant recently posited the grand idea of having a HR department at Big Blue, to which instructors Rick, Donny and divemaster Nick quickly voted instructor Neil to be the director, as he's amazingly empathetic in matters of staff wellbeing. In fact we'll probably put it to a vote this evening. Now, mini Ant, why do choirboys have a centre parting?

Dive boats- what to expect
old-dive-boatI've spent the last couple of days trying to find out why Thai fishing boats and some of the more traditional dive boats have curved hulls, but google said no. I even asked a few of the Big Blue land staff, but it was too difficult to get the point across. I'll keep trying, but in the meantime I realised that anyone who's never been diving before will have no idea what to expect on a dive boat... apart from diving of course. A dive boat is usually laid out to maximise the amount of people that can dive from it at any one time, so on climbing aboard, the first thing you'll notice on the main deck is the row of diving cylinders on either side, sitting in grooves so they don't fall over in rolling waves. There should also be enough space in the middle of the deck to put all that dive gear- usually in bags. But space is always at a premium. Dive boats on Koh Tao can be anything from 10 metres to 45 metres long; Big Blue has the biggest boat- MV Waverunner. This means more space and therefore more comfort.
Also on the main deck you'll notice a bit of noise, as the boat will usually have one or more compressors to fill the dive cylinders in between dives. But once you've set your equipment up, unless you're going straight into the water, there's no reason to hang around downstairs. In fact you'll just be in everyone elses way, so get the hell upstairs! It'll be quieter, more spacious, and should hopefully have some sort of furniture to sit on and a canopy to get out of the fierce midday Sun or occassional rain shower. This is where you'll be briefed and de-briefed on your dives, and relax. It's also probably where the hot and cold water, tea, coffee, fruit and biscuits will reside. If a dive boat doesn't have a toilet, or "head", to use the correct naval parlence, then you were lured in by a dodgy company who's diving prices were way below every other company's.. and now you see why! A few things not to do on any Thai boat- Don't go into the captain's cabin- it's his house and this is where he sleeps.. and you weren't invited. Don't do a titanic at the front of the boat. It will usually have ribbons and that's where the spirit of the boat lives; you will offend the captain. Likewise don't wear flip flops- or thongs depending on whether you're antipodean, as this also offends the captain. Regarding your safety, don't get into the water until you're told it's safe to do so by your instructor or divemaster, and don't smoke anywhere near the compressor intake- you'll be told where that is. Apart from that, enjoy yourself, and either congratulate yourself on choosing to dive with Big Blue, or flagellate yourself as to why you're on a decrepit cramped boat going to the least appealing dive sites.. But hey, you saved yourself 2,000 baht for the open water course... apart from those hidden charges of course.

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