To Go, or Not to go? That is the question.

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Posted by Captain Tim on September 13, 2002 at 17:54:33:

I just received a call from a prominent storeowner telling me of a customer that was upset that we did not make it to SBI this weekend. He asked me how I decide when and where to go. A very good question.
This is also one of the hardest things that I have to decide on for any trip going anywhere and it is always a catch 22.
This is the policy of the GE and I hope that I will explain it well enough that everyone understands it.
1. If we have Gail Force winds between the mainland and Catalina, we do not leave the dock.
2. If we can not get the boat away from the dock, due to wind, we do not leave the dock.
These are the only 2 certain reasons not to leave. I know that a lot of you read the swell models and you go by what they say. The problem with the swell models is, they are only "predictions", not fact. During El Nino I lost more trips because of the media, than the weather. Some of that was my fault as I too was duped by the forecasts. Now I try to at least stick me nose out and see. Sometimes, though it is obvious that we cannot make it and then we cancel. The biggest and most important item with the ocean is the time between the sets. For example a 4' swell at 3 seconds is very nasty, but a 6' swell at 15 seconds would hardly even be noticed. Another example is when the swells get higher that the time between the sets. Stay home.
Many of you were on boats December 9th 2001. All of you remember that trip. That weather was not predicted, nor were we warned about it.
Like I said this is a catch 22. Sometimes we could make SBI, but I opt not to. Depending on the swell direction and size we can normally tell what kind of diving we will have. Remember I go out every weekend, and more. How many of you have been stuck diving the rookery all day. Not real fun. Catalina or San Clemente is a much better choice. While they may not be the intended dive sites, I do my utmost to provide all of you with the best, and safest diving that I can.
Some divers think that I change destinations for monetary reasons. This is absolutely untrue. If I only make it to Catalina and we were scheduled to go to San Clemente, I am only paid for the trip that we went on. I lose money on those trips, I have extra crew, that I have to pay, and 9 out of 10 times I have spent just the same amount of time (meaning fuel) going to Catalina that it would have taken to go to the outer islands. This is why. Unless it is really bad just outside the break wall it normally does not get bad until we are about an hour on the other side of Catalina. Then we have to turn back and normally head for the other end of the island then where we are. Also because of the swell. Since last year I have been trying something a little different, when I can. When I know that we cannot make it to the outer islands I give the shop a choice. Either leave tonight, get beat up and no one sleeps, or stay at the dock, get a good nights sleep and go to Catalina in the morning. Either way we are going to Catalina. This has worked well, and most like it although there are exceptions.
Some divers feel that if we cannot make the destination then I should cancel the trip. If I did that I would be out of business in less than a year. No one can predict the ocean. I know of no captain or boat that will guarantee the destination. It is impossible. We are at the mercy of the ocean, and many ships that thought they could beat her, are now in Davy Jones Locker.
I hope this clears this up a little.

Captain Tim Burke
Owner/operator Great Escape Charters

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