Fun Diving with Diving Matrix in Malta – May 2011

Day 0: Back to Malta – 20/05/2011

Took the day off work and very leisurly started sorting out my diving equipment. As much as it is really very easy for me to fly from Gatwick because it is only a short direct trip away I booked my flightsfrom Heathrow instead. I checked – in and proceeded to the Departure Lounge Bar where I ordered a drink while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Sure enough not before long Maxim, Clare, Tom, Paul, Hayden and Clarissa arrived and we boarded the plane very excited!!!

We arrived late at night and checked in at the Alexandra as our apartment was not available until the next day. Of course once we dropped off our stuff we headed straight to Huggins for a Welcome / Start of the Dive Trip pint of CISK as the tradition requires!!!

Day 1: Um El Faroud – 21/05/2011

In the morning refurbishment works started and the drilling, hammering and other demolition related works commenced as well waking me up well before my alarm or my liking! Likily we were scheduled to stay in the Alexandra for only one night because our apartment was not yet available so we had already checked out and we were delighted to go and not have to deal with this for the rest of our trip!!!

Paul Toomer arrived as agreed with the Diving Matrix Warrior and loaded our gear to take it to the Diving Matrix Malta – Tek-Lab. Once there Tom, Clare, Volker and Carl started their IANTD Advanced Recreational Trimix (ART) Course with Maxim tagging along while myself and Hayden sorted out our kit and Clarissa gave us a lift to Hayden’s parents who were kind enough to give Hayden their car to carry us and our diving gear around !!!

Myself and Hayden then left Clarissa to visit friends and family and went to Zurrieq to dive my favourite wreck “The Faroud” a dive that I was going to repeat again and again on that trip and I loved it more each time!!!

Our dive was pretty easy with Hayden leading and me following as a tourist (my favourite!!!) We went It is pretty awesome to dive with a local that knows the dive sites so well because I am not sure I could navigate to it or back!!! And the last thing I wanted was to start swimming to Libya!!!

Having completed our dive we headed back very happily to Huggins for a Cheeky Half before we went back to Diving Matrix and meet the others. Once back at Diving Matrix our Landlord arrived and took us to the apartment that we had hired for our trip. Although we were not exactly sure where it was and the drive there seemed endless partly due to the traffic and partly due to one way systems we were delighted to find out that our apartment was a VERY spacious 3 bedroom flat with a MASSIVE living room, kitchen and three well sized rooms. The bedrooms had a few spare folding beds (so we could accommodate even more if we wanted to) and the living room was overlooking the bay! One of the bedrooms even had an en-suite bathroom with a Jacuzzi and to top it up it was only a couple of minutes walk away from Huggins and Divewise. In one word: Awesome!!!

Once we got sorted, selected rooms and all we headed (where else) back to Huggins for dinner and of course more drinks!!!

Day 2: P29 – 22/05/2011

In the morning we met up with Adam, who arrived late last night, at Diving Matrix and with the rest of the group that was going to Chikawa for their skill circuit and since the weather was not great and pretty much every other dive site was blown out we decided to tag along. The plan was to dive in two different groups. One group would be Paul Toomer and his IANTD ART students and the other group would be the fun divers, myself and Adam, Clarissa and Hayden. As expected without any drills or any theory our group was ready to jump in the water well ahead of Paul’s group and so we went in the water. The plan was basic and simple. The four of us myself and Adam, Hayden and Clarissa would dive as two buddy pairs. Hayden would lead in the way in and take us to the wreck but because Clarissa was in a single cylinder they would turn their dive according to Clarissa’s gas. Myself and Adam being on twinsets and a stage each we would stay in the wreck a bit longer and then make our way back. As expected everything went to plan…

…Later Paul surfaced and we made our way back to Diving Matrix, the apartment and eventually the pub…

Day 3: Um El Faroud – 23/05/2011

The bad weather limited our selection of dive sites and having had enough excitement the day before we decided to play safe and go back to Zurieq and dive the Faroud. This time the composition of the team would be pretty much the same with the addition of Matt. Matt arrived the night before and he was scheduled to do the IANTD Normoxic course that Paul Toomer had programmed to start as soon as the IANTD ART course finished, until then Matt was going to fun dive with the rest of us.

Having learnt a lot from the last dive we split again into groups with Hayden and Clarissa one buddy pair and myself, Adam and Matt another. The plan was simple we would all go in together and Hayden would navigate. Their turn point would depend on Clarissa’s gas as she was on a single cylinder. The rest of us would stay a bit longer and make our way back when the first of us hit 100 bar. To avoid any incidents we discussed the positioning of the wreck, bearings and distance from the reef and Hayden even made a nice sketch on my wet notes (just tin case…). Once we were all ready we jumped in the water and headed out. This time Paul’s team was not far behind with them getting kitted up with us and splashing in at about the same time.

All went to plan and all four of us followed Hayden to the Faroud. On arrival we went over the propeller and under the hull as it is my favourite part of the wreck and at that point I looked back and I could see a diver so I thought that it mush have been another group of divers coming…

On the Port side of the wreck we found our entry point and as discussed during planning we were ready to penetrate. Only that at this point I noticed a couple of odd thing’s happening:

  1. Matt was refusing to enter the wreck
  2. The diver that I saw earlier had made it to the wreck and he was diving with Diving Matrix stickers on his stage bottles

Both of these came as a surprise because:

  1. We went through the bit of the penetration a number of times during the planning of our dive and
  2. Paul was not meant to be taking his student’s to the Faroud today. The plan was that they would stay at the shallows to complete their skill circuit.

At that point I was getting a bit annoyed because things were not exactly going to plan although clearly there was no cause for concern. If I could see a Paul’s student that meant that Paul was around an Matt was experienced enough to cope with being left outside the wreck for a bit while the rest of us went in for a quick peak!!!

Having said that I decided that we were not going to do any deep penetration and I would just stick outside the wreck and have fun so that I can keep an eye on Matt (not because I doubted his skills or competence but because I do not like leaving people alone!) and also see if I can find Paul. By doing so I realise that the newly arrived diver had joined our team and buddied up with us and Paul was nowhere to be seen!!! That was alarming and altogether wrong in many different levels. By that time we had reached the superstructure facing the bows when I begun to realise what was going on and I didn’t like it. This guy had ended up alone in the wreck with us and probably Paul and the rest of the group were looking for him!!! Luckily at that time I saw Hayden and Clarissa coming to tell me that they were about to head out and leave us and of course at that point I was thinking “Nah, We are not staying we are coming out with you guys”. So I signalled to Hayden who looked a bit perplexed by the increase in our numbers and Adam that we were going out with Hayden NOW!!! To make things more entertaining The other two Matt and the Guest Star diver had engaged into a conversation about their dive plan and where they should ascent and for how long without paying any attention to my signals which seems amusing now but not at the time…

Eventually I grabbed them and signalled to follow me which they did. Within seconds and before we even left the boat behind us I saw Paul coming towards my group at Mach 5!!! I doo not think I have ever seen a diver moving so fast underwater and I do not think I have seen any one more ungry underwater!!! Didn’t had time to do much but I knew what was going on so I moved out of Paul’s way and pointed towards the back and left. There would be fireworks!!!

Having left our guest behind we made our way back to the shore and out of the water. The minor issue with the miscommunication regarding the penetration of the wreck was soon forgotten since the guest diver incident dominated the conversation.

Paul and all of his students surfaced soon afterwards and we left Paul to have a chat with his student while the rest of us went for lunch!!!

Apparently the poor guy jumped in the water saw our group heading to sea at a distance and thinking that it is his group he started fining frantically to catch up with us!!! By the time he caught up with us he had figured out his mistake but it was too late because he was at the wreck with us and missing from Paul’s group!!!

Having sorted all of that out they went in for another dive while we enjoyed the sun shine in Zurieq.

Later in the evening we met at the pub and gave the poor guy even more grief for his incident and Paul a few drinks to get over and celebrate the near miss he had that day…

Day 4: Um El Faroud – 24/05/2011

The weather held and it was not great for diving in any other spot apart from Zurieq and the Faroud. As I said this is one of my favourite dives and besides the last dive on that wasn’t exactly what I was after so I was delighted to hear that we were going back there!!! This time Richard who just arrived in Malta, joined us and after loading all our equipment in to his big VERY YELLOW van we headed to Zurieq. We were all of us looking to an easy fun dive and diving on air with a 50% NOx stage meant that we could dive off our computers!!!. Richard lead that dive and after a small detour took us to the Faroud on the Port side and after we swam under the hull and over the propeller we headed to the bows following the starboard side of the wreck. We then moved back to the inside of the wreck from the breach and went straight into the engine room where we staged off and proceeded further down to the machinery room. That was a new experience because I have never had to stage off to get anywhere that narrow before and as expected the clipped together stages were not too keen to stay down!!! Torches came in handy and we decided to leave the corridors at the sided of the wreck for another visit!!!

Having had a great dive we headed back to Sliem to find the others end eventually the pub to wait for Alex who was arriving that night.

Day 5: Karwella – 25/05/2011

As much as we wanted to stay up wand wait for Alex at the pub that didn’t happened because he had to go to bed early for a good night’s sleep before the ART students qualifying dive. The decision was made to dive the Gozo wrecks so it would be either Cominoland or the Karwella but that was a decision to be made when we got there as both were at the same place.

We met up with Alex in the morning and we all went to Diving Matrix Tek-Lab together. Loaded all our kit and headed off to the Cirkawwa to get the Gozo ferry.

Once in Gozo the wrecks are well sign posted soon we were at the dive site and we were preparing our equipment. This time Richard, myself, Alex and Adam would dive as one group and Paul with his IANTD ART students, Maxim and Matt as another. Karwella is a purposely sunk ferry that used to carry passengers between Malta and Gozo. It is one of my favourite wrecks because unlike all other wrecks this one being a passenger ferry feels a lot more familiar. There are wide staircases, restaurant rooms and because it is in such a good condition offers loads of opportunities for penetration. The maximum depth of 40 m meant that we didn’t really needed Trimix for this dive and as soon as we calculated gas consumptions and turn around points we were good to dive off our computers.

Everything went to plan and we made it back to the surface along with the qualified now ART divers!!! Drinks and Dinner at Huggins as the Standard Operating Procedure dictates followed with shisha to celebrate!!!

Later that evening the rest of Diving Leisure London crew descended to Malta and many familiar faces and a few new ones!

Day 6: P29 & Rozy – 26/05/2011

With Paul having started his IANTD Normixic course, Alex taking Diving Leisure London diving with Divewise Malta we (myself, Hayden, Richard and Adam) decided to head to Cirkawwa and dive the wrecks in style! Usually single cylinder divers manage a pretty short dive on either the P29 ot the Rozy so we figured that having a twinset and a stage we had more than enough gas do dive both wrecks in one go!!! Again Hayden took the lead as he was the one who could navigate from the Rozy to the P29 and the rest of us follwed!!! The dive was pretty cool because it was the first time that I dived the Rozy not on a single cylinder and I had plenty of gas to look around. Then when we thought we had enough and only after a well sized conger eel prevented us from going further in we set out to find the P29. Hayden’s navigation got us there and back to the shore having done an excellent and most importantly trouble free dive!!!

Day 7: HMS Stubborn – 27/05/2011

With the Normoxic course divers preparing for their big dive we planned to dive the HMS Stubborn a submarine that was purposely sank after it suffered substantial damage in WWII for allied forces to practice in the use of ASDIC. The Stubborn is a dive I wanted to do for a long time so much not only because I like diving submarines but also because he did tried diving her in the past and failed quite a few times!!! This time we were diving of Danny’s boat Diversity. We were picked up by Danny at the jetty close to St Juian’s Bay and headed out to our dive site. We would dive as two teams Paul’s course team and Myself, Adam and Hayden. My team went in first and jumped in the sea. The conditions in the surface were pretty good but nothing prepared us for the conditions under the surface!!! Visibility was endless We started following the shot line to the wreck but I quickly dropped off it because not only there was no current at all but also I could see the whole of the submarine below me!!! It felt as if I was in a swimming pool !!! Albeit a big swimming pool but still a big big swimming pool with a real sized submarine in it!!! We descended to the stern and from there followed the wreck to the bows and back to the coning tower. Having reached our bottom time reluctantly we decided to begin our ascent. At that point again a few things happened!!!

  1. Paul had made it to the bottom with his students and
  2. at the same time Hayden’s high pressure hose (the feed to the submersible pressure gauge – spg) burst

That was an interesting development as it effectively meant that we would have to find a way around potentially a lost gas scenario

Luckily Paul decided to swap his bailout cylinders with Haydens and with a small delay Hayden started his ascent. During all this time myself and Adam stayed a bit further up trying to follow our plan and Hayden was about 6 meters below us following his trimix computer. We met again at 6 meters and we left him to finish his deco along with Paul’s group of students that had caught up with them.

An absolutely awesome dive that I really loved although I was not particularly impressed with the Miflex High Pressure hose burst which resulted in my team getting separated.

On return to the marina I got Paul to let me have a go at his JJ CCR and so we jumped back in the water for one quiet bubble less dive.

Day 8: Le Polynesien – 28/05/2011

The big day for the IANTD Normoxic course students finally arrived after a lot of classroom theory lessons, skill circuits, dry runs and all the time came for their 60 m qualifying dive! Just like the year before it was decided to dive the Polynesia as it is an awesome wreck and it is nearly impossible to manage and dive all of it in one Open Circuit dive!

Having sorted out gasses and kit we headed out to Marsa Scala to rendez-vous with Danny that would take us to the wreck with his boat Diversity. We were warned that the trip out would be a bit choppy and it was which is rather unusual for diving in Malta. Having said that it was choppy for Maltese standards I would be ecstatic if I got to dive in these conditions once a year in the UK!!!

Danny found the wreck using his GPS and then dropped the shot line which almost immediately disappeared under the boat!!! All efforts to remove the buoy by moving the boat proved fruitless and Paul decided he would go in, dive under the boat find out what is wrong with it and sort it out! Paul jumped in the water and then started to fin to the stern of the boat. We were watching him finning frantically but to no avail!!! We started dragging Paul to the stern and with a lot of effort he made it there and dived under the boat. A few minutes later we saw the buoy popping up and moved over to help Paul climb back up the ladder. In the mean time the buoy was moving further and further away from the boat really very fast!!! Of course the buoy wasn’t going anywhere it is just that the current was so strong that the boat ended up 0.5 mile away from the buoy in no time!!!

Once ready we decided to go in as two groups again. Me and Adam and Paul and his students. We jumped in the water and made every effort to make it to the buoy and grab the line. The current was fearsome and it was obvious that it was going to be a challenging dive. We exchange signals with Adam and confirmed that we were good to go. The decent was painful with both of us having to pull down the shot line to beat the current and meet our 15 m / min descent rate which we managed to keep with a lot of effort. Once on the bottom I assumed the lead and started heading towards the bows until I started noticing Adam getting stresses. I think that our fight against the strong current and to meet our 15 m / minute had him a bit to exerted and stressed. Noticing obvious signs of distress started to ask him if he was OK and he signalled back that he was not. So immediately we turned around and started heading for the shot line. Approaching the shot line I got very excited for two reasons firstly because we had found the shot line and our ascent was imminent and secondly because Paul had made it to the bottom of the shot line so he could also help if Adam got into difficulties. Of course by that point Adam had caught up his breath and was again happy and relaxed. None the less we decided to abort the dive and continue our ascent.

In the mean time Paul and his students were trying really hard to untangle the buoy’s led weight which was so badly tangled to the wreckage that there was no chance to pull it up by the boat and actually it was just as well because if it was not that badly tangled to the wreck it would have never stayed attached to it when all of us were pulling down to descent. Although me and Adam were a bit up we felt that the shot line was made loose from the wreckage because it immediately escaped our grasp and we had to fin hard to catch it again. Once got hold of the shot line again the rest of the ascent was uneventful and apart from making sure that we held the shot line tight (but like really very tight) all went to plan until the 6 m stop when the second group caught up with us and it got a bit crowded!!! John lines were deployed and soon we left them finishing their deco in peace! On the surface the strong current was still present and Danny had to do his best to pick us up against the howling current.

Having got everyone back on the boat we headed back to Marsa Scala and the nearby restaurant for lunch with the very rude and not funny waiter who as his custom is managed to offend everyone including Danny!!!

Although we did went to Huggins for a cheeky half that night we decided to be a bit more brave and try the Brazilian restaurant called “Do Brazil” in the Hilton Marina which proved very very popular with the fanatically carnivorous Diving Leisure London crew who probably had enough of Huggins delicatessen cuisine!!!

Day 9: Last Dive – 29/05/2011

The last dive of our trip had to be the Faroud! The few remaining divers including myself and Tom went back with Richard to Zurieq for a fun dive on my favourite wreck! It was probably Tom’s first fun dive with a twinset on  and he enjoyed it as much as the rest of us although I did not penetrated deep in the machinery room because my torch was playing up I had a great dive and it was the perfect round up for this awesome trip!!!

Back at Paceville and after we went for a pizza at an Italian restaurant tha came highly recommended to us by our very own Fran we returned to Huggings for a night of festivities according to the DLL Malta protocol which ensured that we had copious amounts of alcohol until the early hours of the morning (04:00) and in spite Carl’s efforts we did managed to have a shisha or two!!!

Day 10: The End – 30/05/2011

The next morning was painful as expected with a massive hungover none the less we were back at Huggins for a breakfast although myself I opted for Mr Maxim’s pies an old tradition that I refuse to brake!!! We prepared our stuff and prepared the flat for our departure (removed bedding for cleaning, moving beds to their original position etc). After a short visit to Divewise for DLL divers to collect their equipment we went back to Huggins until the time came to go back to our apartment load our stuff in the truck and go to the airport. The rest went according to plan and late that night I was back in London having had a great holiday with awesome diving Many thanks to Diving Matrix, Diving Leisure London, Divewise Malta and of course Huggins!!!

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A Diver. Scuba Diving is what I love doing most. Would rather be outdoors than indoors. Life gets in the way and I have to spend more time than I want discussing: religion, politics, DIY, cooking, work and exercise at the gym. Not because I like them but because they are part of life and have to deal with them...

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