Archive for February 2013

Dive #99, #100: Manly Bommie and The Chapel, Sydney

 Dive 1Dive 2  Dive 1Dive 2
Place:Manly BommieThe Chapel Buddy:Eithne
Weather:Fine Type:Boat (Sea Life V)
Max. depth (m):14.614.6 Visibility (m):1010
Time down:14:1716:23 Dive time (mins):5647
Average depth (m):11.612.5 Water temp. (C):21.019.0

Notes: Fourth of a 10-pack of double dives with Pro-Dive shared between myself and Eithne.

Price: See dives #93, #94.

Diving: Pro Dive have a pretty consistent daily schedule. They do a double-dive in the morning and one in the afternoon, picking up divers for each at both Rose Bay and Manly. In the morning, they leave from Manly with the first batch of divers and a quota of full tanks. Then they pick up the remaining divers at Rose bay and go out for the first double. On the way back, they stop at Rose bay first so the morning divers get off and the first group of afternoon divers get on. Over to Manly then and the remaining morning divers are exchanged for afternoon divers and the empty tanks are exchanged for full ones, before heading out for the afternoon.

This was an afternoon dive for Simon, Ciara, Eithne and I. We got on as usual at Rose Bay. Brad, Eric and a few other regulars were on board. Tony from Coogee got on too with a group of four doing the advanced course. At Manly, the exchange of divers and tanks took place and another Pro Dive instructor called Evo came on board. He was one of these sandy Australians, looking like he’d washed up on a beach at some point. His torso was covered in tattoos of underwater scenes like some sub-aquatic Hell’s Angel with a penchant for hammerheads.

The first site was Manly Bommie. Brad remembered my feedback from last week so we had no choice but to navigate ourselves as a quartet. He drew us a helpful map so everything was quite clear until we got underwater where nothing seemed to match up to its cartographic representation. We shrugged and followed a gully west for a while and then a wonky path southwest, then east and finally north, attempting a route reminiscent of a square; compasses are fantastic devices for this sort of endeavour. Still, the confidence was shaky at best and worry was just starting to creep up when we happened on the gully again. Hurrah. Back towards the anchor then and after one wrong and a quick loop around, we arrived triumphantly at the anchor chain. After 55 minutes, we were last back on board, but no one seemed too upset.

During the surface interval, one of the guys on the advanced course was ill and they gave him oxygen, apparently as a precaution. Still they took it pretty seriously and he was left off to a waiting ambulance at Watson’s bay. He didn’t look to be in great shape. Then the police arrived in their own boat and after a brief exchange with the Pro Dive skipper, we left for the second dive.

The second dive was at a site called the Chapel, around the corner from Watson’s bay. We self-navigated again, with Simon leading a nice star-shaped exploratory pattern centred on the anchor chain. The most significant aspect of this dive was that it was my hundredth, a big deal by all accounts. Some people like to do their hundredth naked but not me. I’ve been practicing my scissors kick and I didn’t fancy winking the brown eye to all and sundry every fin stroke. That’s in addition to the acute penile abrasion that would likely occur and the cold-water shrinkage that would hurt my pride even more. So instead I was clad as normal, hiding my sculpted figure from fish and fellow diver alike.

On the way back, Evo gave out about the drying of dust caps with the remaining air from the tank. He claimed it micronizes the salt risking damage to the first stage, and furthermore, the practise can cause sub-cutaneous embolisms. A bit of research here and here and it turns out he’s right, but only in theory I suspect: the practise is so widespread that the risks, while apparently real, must be tiny. I’d say biggest risk is getting a clout from the guy sitting next to you for the noise.

Equipment: Rented tank. Own everything else. 24 lb weight, 18 in BCD and 6 in weight belt.

Camera notes: I shot some pictures in RAW mode for the first time ever, and had a go at tweaking them in a 30-day trial of Lightroom. Results in the gallery.

Accumulated time underwater: 2 days, 16 hours and 59 minutes

Dive #97, #98: Dee Why Wide and Old Man’s Hat, Sydney

 Dive 1Dive 2  Dive 1Dive 2
Place:Dee Why WideOld Man's Hat Buddy:Eithne
Weather:Fine Type:Boat (Sea Life V)
Max. depth (m):28.622.2 Visibility (m):1010
Time down:09:3311:23 Dive time (mins):3039
Average depth (m):20.416.4 Water temp. (C):19.019.0

Notes: Third of a 10-pack of double dives with Pro-Dive shared between myself and Eithne.

Price: See dives #93, #94.

Diving: This was another double with pro dive in Sydney. We were a group of four this time: Eithne, Simon, Ciara and I. Pro-dive have a guy called Brad running things on the boat these days and he does a good job. He’s a pretty good guide too: he moved at a reasonable pace and gave us a nice tour of Dee Why Wide that included a swim-through, an eastern blue devil fish (that I missed somehow) and some cuttlefish shenanigans too.

The second slightly chillier dive was at Old Man’s Hat, probably the site I’ve frequented the most. The soft corals were nice and colourful as ever and we finally found a swim-through that had evaded us on previous occasions. Brad did well to spot a weedy seadragon though it took me an age to see what he was pointing at. Soon after, his air ran low then and one of his deputies took over. This was the guy that ran into deco a few weeks back and delayed the whole boat. He’s comically inept and seems to think that nuanced narratives can be conveyed underwater with hand gestures, though occasionally he resorts to taking his reg out and shouting incomprehensibly. Anyway, near the end of the dive the visibility abruptly deteriorated so we followed his involuted direction to ascend and left him to figure out who else he was supposed to take care of. He lost track of Simon and Ciara who surfaced a while later with a big swim ahead of them.

I got on better with the camera this time. I left it in manual mode, fully zoomed out at ISO 100 and shutter speed 1/1000 s, so all I had to manipulate were the aperture and the strength of the external strobe. I went mainly for close-ups. Most cooperative among my (animate) subjects was a scorpionfish whose camouflage lent him the ill-founded confidence to sit happily in front of the camera for as long as I cared to take photos. Now he’s famous, with his mug published on twitter.

The final thing to note is to be weary of emailed feedback forms. I filled in the pro-dive one (an innovation of Brad’s, I suspect) and mildly suggested that if they would have been happy for us to go as a group on the dive without a guide, it would have been great to let us know that that was an option. (I’m keen to improve my underwater navigation and you sometimes see more with fewer divers around.) Anyway, anonymous it was not and up pipes Brad by email a few minutes later apologising profusely. He took it as a more serious criticism than I meant, so I’d rather not have said anything.

Equipment: Rented tank. Own everything else. 24 lb weight, 18 in BCD and 6 in weight belt. Pro-dive seem to be nicely in the habit now of providing decent (210+ bar) air fills.

Accumulated time underwater: 2 days, 15 hours and 16 minutes