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Supervisor Blues

I'm at the end of year 1 of a research MA in a Media Studies area. Progress to date led to a significant crossover into social psychology.

My chosen supervisor was excellent, but there was a lack of suitably qualified candidates for second. I approached someone I didn't know on recommendation from other students. My principal changed jobs early on so the roles swapped. In the first half of this year some serious stuff happened on the personal front for my former principal, now external second, who was consequently unavailable a few months.

Meetings with the new principal were few and far between, he was a no-show for two he himself arranged. He approved without question a flawed application related to the "mechanics" of research and only luck saved me from submitting a disaster. Along with other alarming observations, this shattered my confidence in his competence.

I have a major conference presentation next week. It's based on research completed since our last meeting, therefore beyond the abstract, not revised by anyone but me. Emails letting him know of this and two other acceptances, another asking for a look at my presentation before I give it got no response. Thank god my second emerged from the crises, responded and revised (no communication between them, so not arranged, just my second being competent).

Is it normal for supervisors to be wholly unreachable from early June to early September? I've been told I'm intimidating when I'm annoyed (mature student so same age as lecturers), which I was at our last meeting - it followed one he didn't show up for, and I'd reached a point of seeing him as incompetent. I genuinely tried hiding my feelings, but he might have picked up on my disgust and just not be inclined to respond to me.

What do I do? I could argue spillover into sociology and social psychology necessitates a supervisor with knowledge of that field, rather than media. Staff at my small institution are like family, though, requesting a change could cause me problems.