By Bob Halstead
If you gamble on the Slot (Poker) machines or Roulette wheel regularly and often, then mathematics tells us you will inevitably loose. You may hit the occasional Jackpot, but your long-term losses will more than rob you of any profit. The profit goes to the owner of the Slot machine or Roulette wheel since payouts are regulated to be less than what the machine takes. Some slot machines have their software regulated so that the payout may be as little as 75% of the input! Roulette can be a bit better with typically a 95% return but, with either game, you may not understand that if you play enough, your losses are guaranteed.
Most other casino games are similar and – unless you can inject a bit of skill into the equation for example by being an expert blackjack or poker player – casino gambling is a mug’s game to be done for short term fun, and not profit. The odds are against you, and the more you partake, the more you loose. Professional gamblers actually do not gamble very much. They do not play slot machines or roulette, and they hedge their bets and set the odds so, whatever the outcome, they will make a percentage.
Diving philosophy is totally the opposite. If you want to have a rich personal dive history full of treasured experiences of all the legendary creatures, reefs and wrecks underwater, then the winning formula is to dive as regularly and often as possible.
I remember one diver client complaining that he was unlucky. He complained that every time he came on one of our Sunday dive trips in Port Moresby we had been to the same inshore site, and he never had a chance to see Nessie our tame moray eel, and Gobbler the grouper, and sharks, and wrecks that were on the outer barrier reef. It turned out that he only came diving twice that year and had picked two days where strong South-East trade winds were blowing, and thus our choice of possible dive sites limited, and the outer reef impossible.
I introduced him to one of our regular divers and asked the regular to recite the wonderful diving experiences that he had over the past year. This diver was a good friend of Gobbler and Nessie, had dived the wrecks and seen a whale shark, a hammerhead, and manta rays. He had made some exploratory dives to new sites, and discovered a new species of nudibranch.
What was the difference? Well the “lucky” diver went diving every weekend and in the course of the year logged some fantastic diving experiences.
So when people ask me how to get all the great underwater encounters, I have to tell them that the big secret is to do lots and lots of diving. You have to BE THERE; you are not going to get them by playing a round of golf instead of being out on the dive boat.
Some dive sites are notoriously difficult to get on. The marvellous Yongala shipwreck off Townsville in Australia is particularly tricky. The wreck is offshore and not sheltered by any reef or island. If the wind blows it rapidly becomes too rough to moor a dive boat comfortably – or even safely – and the dive has to be aborted. Even when the weather is calm there can be a strong current, and poor visibility.
My first trip to the wreck was spoiled by torrential rain, and flooded roads, north of Townsville – I could not even drive there from Cairns. My second attempt was foiled by the Southeast trade winds blowing at 25 knots. But my third attempt, aboard Mike Ball’s Spoil Sport, was a brilliant success. The sea was flat calm, the water clear and the current easily manageable. The day and a half that we were on the wreck was enough for me to make a total of seven magical dives (on Nitrox – the wreck is 15 – 30 meters deep). Earlier this year I tried to get to the wreck again but the day I was booked turned windy and miserable, and the operator cancelled.
As a dive leader I have learned over the years that it is useless to curse the Gods when weather makes a dive too difficult. Judgement, and some strength of character, is vital to make the abort decision in spite of pressure from guests anxious to make the scheduled dive. These are the same guests who will be in distress, and require rescuing, if you do allow the dive to go ahead. The answer is patience and to keep trying.
You can keep on trying, regularly and often, with the certain knowledge that, in diving, this means eventually coming up a winner.