RedTek December 2012 – Diving The Red Sea with Diving Matrix

Disclaimer: As much as I tried to keep this post shorter than the Mexico one (see here) it is still long enough, if anything too long, and to make things worst it is quite technical with technical scuba diving terminology used throughout. I can only apologise but as other posts have covered the fun part of redtec trips and the excellent service by Blue O two I decided to go for something more hardcore (and less touristy) on this post. For more information of RedTec and Blue O two read “I are Diver“‘s blog which is much shorter and funnier too!!! On the plus side if you choose to go ahead and read this post you will get the chance to read about me getting into trouble again and again!!! So redtec December 2012!!! Following last redtec’s phenomenal success (read more about it on I Are Diver’s excellent blog)

Paul Toomer from Diving Matrix decided to organise another redtec. Somehow I missed the announcement and I only picked it up in September when I was visiting London to celebrate my mates Maxim’s wedding! As the conversation was around diving I found out about the trip and most importantly that a group of very good friends had already signed up for it! David and Aidan (who were also on the last redtec) and Aileen as well. At the time my diving buddy Andris was contemplating joining. Having had a few drinks it was very easy for me to declare that if Andris decided to go I would go as well. There has not been known a single case in the history of mankind where Andris has said no to a diving trip ever in his life, he agreed and so did I!!! As soon as I was back in Aberdeen all the paperwork was done and we were good to go! Good to go…

Well not quite…

You see back in August I did something really very stupid. I bought a rebreather. For those of you who do not know what a rebreather is I will just say that it is one more diving related shiny toy. In particular mine is not shiny but bright yellow!!!

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Photo of a “Box Standard” APD Inspiration rebreather (photo courtesy of Ambient Pressure Diving) Now them things rebreathers are known to be really very clever but on the downside they are not forgiving. They have a reputation for killing divers 😦 This reputation is rather unfair because most accidents are attributed to human error rather than equipment failure but the reality is that they require special training. When I signed up for the trip I had bought the rebreather and I had planned and booked a course.

Sadly due to work commitments and other unforeseen circumstances (helicopter reliability issues, bad weather, leaking dry suits a flue etc) I did not managed to finish my course on time (see MOD1 blog post). This was pretty bad because I did not want to go to the Red Sea and dive open circuit. I mean I have done that before and it is very cool and great fun but I had a new toy and I wanted to go out and play with my rebreather!!!

A panic call to Mr Toomer and all was good. Toomer agreed to take over the course from my instructor and help me finish it off with him in the Red Sea!!!

Fast forward a couple of months to the much anticipated 6th of December. I finished work and my and my rebreather got the plane to Gatwick. The usual panic of trying to fit 50kg+ of diving gear into a 40kg allowance made for a stressful couple of nights before but in the end everything was distributed nicely amongst two hold luggage bags and one hand luggage. The Morning of the 7th we made our way to Gatwick to meet Paul, David, Aidan, Myself, Roger, John, Valerie and Andy, (all members of the last redtec), Sam, Andy, Aileen, Arthour, David and Julius. Sadly Andris could not make it because of work commitments. After a short flight to Hurghada we arrived at the airport where Blue O Two reps were waiting for us and got us to the marina by coach. Easy. Efficient, Trouble Free, Nice – Just the way I like it!!! blue_melody

Our boat: Blue Melody (photo courtesy of Blue O two)

As soon as we arrived at the marina the mad panic of loading the boat started and with only a quick break for dinner most of the equipment was set up and we were on our way… …to the local shisha bar (surely when in Egypt!!!!) After a few (well it was probably more than just a few) drinks and shisha accompanied by susbstantial amounts of local Lupin Beans we made our way back to the boat to get some sleep before we start our journey.

Day 1 – Saturday 08/12/2012

It was almost mid day by the time preparations were completed, coastguard checked our documents and we were ready to set sail for Poseidon Reef for our check dive and skill circuit. Last time I was on a redtec I watched those on the skill circuit for about five minutes, laughed at them and left for a 1 hour long solo dive around the reef. Bliss! This time I was one of those in a course and as a matter of fact I was about to do two courses!!! To start with I was going to finish off my MOD 1. Luckily all I had to do was a DSMB deployment and a bail-out for 20m. During this dive I did practiced these skills and also high and low ppO2 drills, shutdown drills, bailouts and running the unit on manual. Fun Fun Fun!!! – NOT

After the check out dive we made our way Abu Nuhas to dive Giannis D, a very atmospheric wreck lying at 21m of water making it an excellent dive for the first day. Because of our late departure we arrived at the site near dusk and pretty much it was a night dive as soon as we descended.

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Getting ready to splash (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

The dingy was there to pick us up in pitch darkness which made it feel like some great adventure but in reality it was not! Back on the boat and for food and to meet the rest of the group, which was made up of Jim Dowling who was with us on the last redtec and it was great to see again, Dinky a JJ instructor with a Mohican and loads of tattoos, Marko a professional diver, reporter, author and photographer and Analeesa flying all the way from South Africa!!!

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Our guides / instructors Jim and Dinky (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

Day 2 Sunday 09/12/2012

The plan for the second day was to dive the iconic wreck of Thistlegorm, and probably the most famous wreck in the Red Sea. As we were ready to jump in the water for the first dive, the hose feeding my Oxygen Manual Addition Valve (MAV) pulled out the steel fitting of the valve leaving me with not only a leak in the loop but a spectacular free flow of O2!!! Having fully opened the oxygen cylinder was probably not such a great idea as it took me ages to close it and lost substantial amount of oxygen. Luckily the fitting had just become loose rather than shred the valve and quickly I fitted it back and joined the rest of the team for the dive!!!

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SS Thistlegorm stern gun (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

In order to complete my MOD 1 course I was budded up with Paul for the first dive. Having been into the holds with the motorbikes and trucks we made our way back and Paul signalled me to bail out, ie get off the loop, grab my bail out cylinder regulator stick it in my mouth and ascent as I would normally do on open circuit. Having successfully completed my bail out ascent we surfaced and went straight up to the sun deck for some sunbathing!!! Nice 🙂 For the second dive I budded up with Jim Dowling and Analeesa. This time Jim decided to go out and investigate the debris field, the steam engines either side of the wreck and the bows anchor, which was massive and very much anchor admiralty shaped.

Day 3 Monday 10/12/2012

Last time we were in the area we decided that there is not much point in diving the wreck and ventured to dive the reef instead. Some say our guide got lost, others say that The Lara actually moved from its last known location. You can choose whichever version you like, but the result was that I didn’t got to dive The Lara.

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Myself, Marko and Aidan at the mast of The Lata (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

We all splashed together and Jim guided us to the wreck. At the mast and myself, Marko and Analeesa hovered happily taking photos while the others descended below us. Getting borred at 45m I popped down to 50m which on was not such a great idea especially considering that I had not switched my set point to high (1.3). Quickly I moved up to 45m and joined the rest of my team before anyone noticed 🙂

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Myself behind a coral (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

The rest of the dive was uneventful with the current taking us by the reef and deco at the little cove at the north end of the reef.

Day 4 Tuesday 11/12/2012 Tuesday

Back in Thomas Canyon. I really enjoyed diving Thomas Canyon last time and I was looking forward to dive it again. Being a canyon the entry is hard to locate and to make sure we didn’t miss it we decided to jump in the water all together and follow Jim (this is a plan that worked well last time too!).

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Myself in Thomas Canyon (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

The dingy took us from the boat to the entry point and we started our descent following Jim. As soon as we saw the canyon below us we split to buddy pairs as per the plan some to stay shallow, some go deep and a few others to go seriously deep!!! Jim hovered at the entrance of the canyon before the first arch to watch (like a hawk) those about to break their depth limits or fail their rebreathers!

Myself and Marko spent most of the time under the first arch taking photos and while we were approaching the second arc we bumped into a group of divers that had turned their dive and were heading out of the canyon. As we were not allowed more than 15 min of deco it was almost a good time to turn our dive. Jim had already got to the group of divers that had turned because of a failed rebreather and a rather unexpected bailout failure but that is someone else’s story to tell… We, for our part, followed on the way up and once on the reef I decided to let the current take us and do a drift dive as the situation seemed to be under control and enough rescuers were involved.

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Sam ascending by the wall (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

Our second dive was uneventful with me and Marko staying by the first arch to take more photos as agreed. When we had enough we turned the dive and headed to the reef without going as far as the second arch or indeed the deep end of the canyon. This time on the reef we headed the opposite way to a known shark observatory and we did spotted a Reef shark (most likely) lying and enjoying his time quietly. Not impressed by our approach he moved away from the annoying intruders.

Day 5 Wednesday 12/12/2012

Crossing the straights of Tiran has never been fun and this time it wasn’t easy although it did seemed to me that it was better than last time. Maybe the drinks and shisha combination had something to do with it or maybe not! Yes Paul found out that the crew had a shisha on the boat (brought for their own amusement) and he got them to make us a shisha every night 🙂 That was definitely an added bonus to the last trip and I believe that Blue O two should make shishas mandatory equipment on all Blue O two boats!!!

Once safely on anchorage we all went to bed exhausted and excited about diving the Rosalind Moller the next day. For both dives I budded up with Marko and Toomer as I was going to complete my ART course for my rebreather. The wreck was absolutely full of life and we were diving surrounded by fish. I found it hard to believe how often I lost contact with my buddies because of the wall of fish!!! The dives went to plan and we managed to get some stunning photos over the iconic broken funnel and the galley illuminated by the skylights, the glasses of which were still in place!!!

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Stunning photo of the Rosalind Moller galley with the sky light glass still in place (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

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Dave Lau Kee behind (A lot of) fish on the Rosalind Moller (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

As everyone was excited with todays dive it was decided to spend the night moored on Rosalin Moller and dive her again the morning after.

Day 6 Thursday 13/12/2012

The captain wanted to leave the wreck by 09:00 the latest so not being a morning person and being limited to 15 minutes of deco me and Marco agreed to be ready to jump in the water for 07:50. The rest of the group which was allowed to do longer dives got up much much earlier for the 3 hr plus runtime dives!!!

Apart from a minor incident (me diving with my O2 reg partly fitted, ie: pretty serious O2 leak).  The dive was more of a photo session with Marko the photographer and me a “wanna be” photo model with very poor buoyancy skills!!!

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Me at the stern or the Rosalind Moller (Photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

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Hovering over the iconic funnel (Photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

When our Time To Surface (TTS) reached the agreed 15 minutes we made our way back to the shot line and started our ascent. On our way to the shot line I heard a distinct noise the one I had heard before when a High Pressure hose fails and I was immediately looking around me for the familiar Jacuzzi effect that it creates. Surprisingly there was nothing to be seen. Arriving to the shot line I could see that the winch we had attached the end of the shot line was being lifted and then dropped again. That was a sign that conditions topsides had deteriorated and we were in for a rough ride!!! As we were ascending we noticed a couple of things: a. folk at the 6m were hanging to the shot line for dear life b. On our descent there was a bow line and a stern line to the shot line now there was only one and a lot of broken line, which explained the loud noise! The stern line had snapped!!!

After 15 minutes of holding to the shot line and being tossed around by the current that was changing directions and banging against other divers me and Marko signalled to each other that it was time to surface. On the way up I realised that we were going up the bows shot line but decide to keep going, thinking that a surface swim to the stern under a rocking boat was less dangerous that a swim under the boat on my unit in very strong current which could result in over excersion and potentially carbon dioxide poisoning. Finally we made it back to the boat and after the customary hot chocolate I started to wash and take my kit apart to dry. A rather unpleasant process as it signifies the end of the holiday and the beginning of the return trip to home. Back at the marina I got my kit out of the boat and along with Paul, David and Aileen we made our way to the hotel where I hang my stuff to dry, had a long shower and headed out to meet the rest of the team for dinner and end of trip shenanigans!!! We started drinking at our local shisha bar and we soon made our way to the new Hurghada Marina and the PAPAS Bar where se had dinner. Not a life changing experience but hearty divers food.

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This time unlike last time the place was really very busy and there was a stage hinting that we were going to get live music too!!! It was more down to my bad taste of music rather than the alcohol in me but I enjoyed the and was well pleased with how busy this place was. Sadly the program came to an end and despite all of my efforts I could not get Toomer and company to join me to PAPAS Beach Club Instead we headed to the cafe next door for one last shisha before making our way back to the hotel. Photo of the team before we head to the bar for some serious drinking!

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Day 7 Friday 14/12/2012

I woke up well late and not looking too rosy after all that drinking and sisha. I headed down to the restaurant for breakfast which left a lot to be desired. The rest of the day was spent around the swimming pool until the time came to get back on the coach to take us to the airport and eventually back to Aberdeen.

IANTD Trimix with Diving Matrix in Malta – Sept 2011

Prelude

It has been a while we (myself, Andris, Dave Lau Kee and a few others) have been discussing about diving to 100 m. On one hand it was scary but really exciting on the other there were the logistics How, Who, Where, When and sometimes Why? Although I will admit that the last one was less of an issue!!! We all wanted to do it hopefully to see the mysterious Cargo ship that has yet to be identified and the name still remains a mystery or just for doing it and going where few have gone before…

Day 0 – 09/09/2011

And so we did. Sensibly I decided to take Friday off and sort out my kit. Pack and go to the airport in peace rather than running like mad to the airport after work. I Picked up my dry suit from my dive shop where it was left for minor alterations and took it to another dive shop to get a p-valve fitted (last minute addition). Then leisurly finished off packing and headed to the airport.

Flying with Air Malta is always a good idea and with a sports coupon (which costed nearly nothing) I managed to take with me all of my gear and loads of spares (no good at leaving them home me thinks!!!). The flight was easy and everything went to plan. On arrival to Malta got a taxi that took me straight to the hotel the infamous Alexandra. A bit of A surprise there since the employee that booked my room did not read all of my e-mail and he was not waiting for me until tomorrow! Luckily there was another vacant room and the catastrophe was averted!!! Quickly I went to my room dropped all of my (quite a lot of) stuff and straight to Huggins!!! Now by that time of course it was well late (around 01:00 in the morning) and all I could expect was a quick pint of CISK before I head back to the hotel for a good nights sleep!!!

Now that never happened because as I was getting closer to the pub I could see very familiar faces Paul and Danny were there and by the looks of them they have been there for some time!!! Delighted to see my mates there I order a round of drinks and promptly another and another!!! My memories after this point are rather sketchy and am not sure I remember the details other than that I did made it back to my hotel room for a couple of hours (or less) of sleep!!! A Massive Course was about to begin…

Day 1: Theory – 10/09/2011

Bright and early (a bit too early for my liking)  we met at the Tek-Lab and after the necessary introductions Richard and Michael were the other two divers joining myself, Andris and Dave and once we sorted out the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT issue “Who is going for a Coffee run???” we started with the paperwork and eventually made our way to the theory. Partly the fact that I found myself in a classroom after a VERY long time partly last nights atrocities needles too say I was not feeling too rosy!!!

None the less we made it and and continued with theory and classroom work until lunch when we had to break for the customary lunch at Wagamama!!! That I very much enjoyed and definitely made me feel A LOT better.

Back to the classroom we continued with more theory lessons planning, gas selection, physiology, DCI and a little bit more about DCI since both Andris and Dave have done a lot of reading on the subject and had loads of interesting anecdotes and questions to contribute to the presentation.

Once all the theory part was over we started assembling our gear and of of course started the drill that we would repeat many many many but like many times in the future of loading the Warrior (resident Diving Matrix truck) only to unload it a few minutes later at the filling station 🙂

Having sorted out our kit for the next day we went to Divewise to drop our cylinders for filling. Just for the record a listing of the cylinders

1 twinset

1 travel gas stage

1 lean deco stage

1 rich deco stage

1 suit inflation bottle

PER DIVER

yes 6 bottles per diver now if you are quick with maths and you know it was 5 of us on the course (myself, Andris, Dave, Richard and Michael) that makes for 30 cylinders!!! ha! not only! we should not forget our instructor and his kit so pretty much 35 cylinders!!! Now that is quite a lot I think!!!

Having dropped of the cylinders to the Divewise we were on our way to Huggins for beer and dinner. Of course the prospect of diving the next day and the copious amounts of alcohol consumed the night before meant that we had a quiet and very civilised night!

Day 2: Simulated Deco Dive & Skill Circuit – 11/09/2011

Sunday morning we loaded the truck and headed out to Chikawwa to dive the P29. That was more of a warm up dive and the plan was to have a bit of fun and do a few skills before we go in the water again for one Monster sized Skill Circuit session. After a lot of sweating because of the high temperatures, the dry suits the stairs we had to climb carrying 1 twinset (or one rebreather) and 3 stages (11 lt  each) we managed to get in the water and “help” Andris with his stages!!! An operation that did not run exactly smoothly but we did manage to get under water eventually :).

The dive generally went well without any incidents although because we were running a bit behind schedule with our run time it was more of a “touch and go” dive as we had to turn and go pretty much as soon as we saw the wreck which was a bit unfortunate  but I did not mind it at all as I was having a really really bad time with my kit and I was really looking forward to get out of it asap!!!

For the whole time of the dive I was fighting against my kit! My rig wanted to tilt me to port side and I had to fight for the whole dive to stay upright. NOT FUNNY. Needless to say came out and I was not happy I knew that there was no way I could go to 100 m with kit like that.

That is the point where Paul Toomer took over. And in his typical calm style he started: “Right lets see what  can we do about this!”. We went through the whole of the rig and removed a fair few useless stuff that shouldn’t be there in the first place like a thigh pocket, an air gun, a few random bits of bungee and identified the culprit for my balance issues!!!

Now As soon as I got in the water I could tell that the three stages I was carying with me were the cause for my balance problems but I also knew that I should be able to carry with me a lot more stages (than 3) without any problems so I had to find what was wrong. It turns out that my drastic diet, the new much thinner (changed from a very old neoprene to a membrane) dry suit and the luck of weight retainers behind my waist billie rings resulted in a ridicilusly loose harness with loads of play and sliding d-rings!. Of course Mr Toomer was quick to spot that and during the surface interval I successfully took apart my rig and put it back together from scratch. Sure enough that did the trick and as soon as I went back in the water for the skill Circuit I was a really very Happy Bunny again!!!

During the surface interval and after we managed to sort out kit issues we did breath control drills and Paul demonstrated the effect of stress on our breath control and pattern with a pretty cool drill that had us look a bit retarded as we were spot jogging while wearing our dry suits! but was definitely worth it!!!!

The Skill Circuit was challenging and a lot of fun! We did out of air drills with no mask, no regulator in the mouth and we had to pull and glide to our buddy, we did lost buoyancy drills including: try to maintain depth, ascent and remain in the surface without any buoyancy aids and of course the usual shut downs, dsmb deployments and a lot of stage swapping which was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed (that sound geeky probably but it was fun!!!)

After that we had to race back to drop our cylinders off to get them filled with exotic gases for the first of our big dives.

With the cylinders left for filling we went back to Tek-Lab to plan our dive and then to Huggins for dinner (as you do when in Malta!)

Day 3: 63 m Dive – The Polynesien – 12/09/2011

I really really wanted to do the schnellboot because I had heard so much about it but it was not going to happen this time. We decided to dive the Poly again. Now anyone who has dived the Poly before knows better than complain about it because it is an absolutely stunning wreck standing pretty much upright and quite intact. It is massive  152 m long with loads of entry points for penetration. So I was not exactly gutted to miss the schnellboot instead I was really very excited about it 🙂

We went to Marsa Scala where we met Danny the skipper and the latest addition to the crew of Diversity young Phil. On this trip Hanna girlfriend would join us practising as a support diver for our 100 m dive on her first technical try dive!

We got to the jetty and started kitting up. I decided that I would wear my Arctic as I did not had any other “lighter” undersuit. Not a great Idea but not disastrous either as I had to wait until the very last minute to put my dry suit on but other than that all was good and we quickly found ourselves descending to the wreck. Visibility was great and early we managed to get a good look at a very big part of the boat.

Following the shot line we reached the wreck and started heading towards the stern from the port side of the wreck.

As we were approaching the stern I could clearly see my instructor and my buddies swimming over the propeller and under the hull to the starboard side of the wreck. Obviously at that point I had switched back to the good old recreational diver mode and I could only think: “Jee what is wrong with them? there is LOADS of space to go UNDER the propeller!!!”. I will show them how to do things properly and off I am descending to the seabed and squeezing myself between the seabed and under the propeller blades!!! Of course at that point I am really very excited and terribly pleased with myself. At the same time I can see Paul who is not (at all) impressed with my antics shaking his head in disapproval and with that very familiar “You Muppet” look in his eyes. Of course the reason everyone else went OVER the propeller rather than UNDER the propeller was that the top of the propeller was out TOD (Target Operating Depth) and by going UNDER the propeller I exceeded my TOD and effectively invalidated my dive plan (elementary Dr Watson).

Needless to say I didn’t found out about until on the boat when Paul explained exactly the same but in a more “polite” manner.

OK. UNDERSTOOD. NOT DOING THIS AGAIN!!! EVER.

Apart from that the rest of the dive went smoothly and Hannah on Paul’s twinset Rig jumped in the water in time to meet us at our 21 m stop as planned!!!

On return to Marsa Scala off loaded the boat and headed to the familiar restaurant just round the corner from the marina with the very rude and grumpy waiter who (as expected) offended everyone with his rather odd sense of humour that none of us thought that it was particularly funny or funny at all for that matter which is a bit unfortunate as the food was actually quite nice!

Back to St Julians only to find out that the boat is fully booked and we can not dive the HMS Southwold!!! Bah. That is another wreck that I really wanted to dive and have not dived ever before although I have heard so much about it 😦

And as if that was not enough the island’s Helium (He) supply has been disrupted and our filling station was running out of helium!!!

Trying not to go back to Huggins AGAIN myself, Paul, Andris and Dave  decided to go to Avenue and of course order a Full Rack of Ribs!!!

Day 4: 80 m Dive – Ras – Il – Hobz – 13/09/2011

With the boat fully booked and no Helium for our 80 m dive things looked dire. The issue of the boat could be addressed by going for a shore based dive out of Gozo. Ras-Il-Hobz (which apparently translates to head of the Bread as my Maltese friends informed me!!!) is a popular destination amongst recreational divers because it is a relatively easy dive with a very impressive pinnacle and loads of life. The recreational divers are limited to around 40 m but the pinnacle goes all the way to 100 plus (or minus I should say).

Having solved the dive site issue we had to look at finding some Helium because although I am happy to dive deep air going to 80 m without A LOT of He was not going to happen!

Luckily another dive centre The Strand in St Paul’s Bay had some Helium left so we loaded the truck and went there to get our cylinders filled. Of course while waiting we had breakfast at a lovely cafe by St Paul’s Bay and we started preparing our dive plan.

Eventually we got a call that all our cylinders were filled and we headed back to The Strand and collect our cylinders. Once analysed loaded the truck and headed to the Gozo Ferry.

The drive from the ferry terminal in Gozo to the dive site is very short although not particularly friendly for any car and even less for our heavily loaded Matiz!!! The rather unfortunate hire car that was tasked with carrying me, Andris and Michael around. The steep climbs and descents and the lack of any road made it for a really difficult day for the Matiz compared to Paul’s Warrior that casually drove off road and at twice (or five times) the speed of the Matiz!!!

Once on site (what looked more like the surface of the moon rather than any place in the Earth!!!) we started off loading the truck and preparing our rigs for our biggest dive until that day!!!.

When we got everything ready we got into our suits and quickly went into the water. Due to the excessive heat we decided to have our briefing and our gas and equipment matching in the water to cool us down.

Having completed the gas & equipment matching we started a short surface swim to the edge of the reef to minimise potential disturbances in our descent. The descent felt like a long journey down with what felt like an even longer journey up!!! Paul had warned us that it is very likely that something may happen in this dive and we would have to act accordingly and sure enough on our ascent Paul signalled to Andris that he had a catastrophic failure on his rebreather and he had to bail out. The team worked well with all Open Circuit divers assisting and successfully managing the tasks required to be completed. Richard was responsible for re profiling our dive based on the bail out scenario and the rest of us helping by shuffling stages around and monitoring the incident.

The dive not only was a success but it was also loads of fun! Coming out of it it felt great! 🙂 we had completed a very challenging dive, the deepest dive of our careers so far and we had responded successfully to an incident!!! in one word Success!!!

Under any other circumstances after that we would go to the pub to drink and celebrate the occasion but no not this time we hadn’t finished yet…

We did loaded all the equipment and ourselves into the Warrior and the poor Matiz and headed back to the ferry terminal where as our luck would have it we just missed the ferry!!!

This would not have been a disaster if we were not in a hurry to get back in time to the dive shop (Strand Divers) to get gas fills for the next day!!! And as if that was not enough we found out that the boat which we were planning to book to dive the Cargo ship had broken down and we would not be able to dive the cargo ship which I was really looking forward to dive as apart from the fact that it would make for my first wreck dive at 100 m I also think that there is nothing more exciting than diving a wreck that has not yet been identified!!!

Alas! it was not meant to happen and considering the circumstances and the fact that we would have to get gas fills the next day it was probably just as well. Trying to make it to a boat when you haven’t got cylinders filled is not fun!!!

On the plus side that meant we could have an early night and get ourselves ready for the big day!

A very modest dinner at Huggins and a tuna salad followed. Now as you can imagine my plan for a light dinner did not worked and I had to supplement it with a banana, nutella and nuts creppe from  Chequers. MUCH BETTER!!!

Day 5: 100 m dive!!! – 14/09/2011

As planned we met at Tek Lab and loaded the Warrior wit our diving gear and went to Divewise in St Julians to get our Nitrox cylinders and headed to St Paul’s Bay to get our Trimix fills from Strand Divers. We got there off loaded the cylinders and went back to the cafe to prepare our dive plan. Things were not going to run smoothly and sure enough before we even finished our coffee the phone rang. The Strand had run out of Helium. They had managed to fill only one twinset. Disaster.

That was rather unexpected and stressful. None of us wanted to miss on the 100 m dive and the second dive shop in Malta had just run out of Helium!!! Andris and Dave had booked flights for the next day and Paul was booked to start another PADI Instructor Speciality course so we could not really just postpone the dive untill Helium supply is restored! We had no time!!!

A few (or quite a few I should say) phone calls later Paul is excited we can get Trimix Fills from Malta Aqua. Luckily they were in the same area so it was not long before we loaded / offloaded cylinders once more and we focused on sorting out the dive plan as we know were sure that we would get our gas and we would go diving!!! 🙂

Planning was quite a challenge as we had to match the Open Circuit Profile with Paul’s and Andris CCR profile for the dive and try to avoid Isobaric Counter Diffusion (if possible)! And sure enough we did it. It was a pretty long plan but we had a plan and we had gas too!!! Off to Gozo!!!

Back to Gozo and Ras-Il-Hobs the scenery was now familiar and we knew the site. The Matiz still had a bad time but that did not stopped us from getting where we wanted 🙂 Nothing would :).

Everyone was very excited albeit quite nervous. Got kitted up and in the water for our gas/gear matching same as before. This time we decided to go for a short surface swim and then a shallow dive to get us away from the reef and in position for the long descent.

That worked well and we soon found ourselves switching from our 20/30 that we used for the beginning of the dive to our hypoxic mixture for the bottom part of our dive. From that moment onwards it was a race to descent. A controlled but fast descent was necessary to make it in time to the bottom and ensure that we all hit our target the 100 m!!!

Everything went to plan and we did made it to the bottom although as expected I was running low on gas and when at the bottom was not in any mood to sing OASIS Wonderwall which was the agreed 100 m tune while I could clearly hear Andris singing through his rebreather!!! J

I didn’t managed to do anything while down there. I know people turn around to look at the surface and how far away it looks or look at the contents gauge to see the needle moving but the only thing I was interested in was to get my UEMIS to show 100 m !!! and I did it and it was already time to turn back! At that point we had about an hour of ascent and of course I was focusing to get it right. There was no space for mistakes or errors this was a serious dive and any mistake would be painful at best. We switched to out travelling gas 20/30 and then to the light Nitrox (32%) and at about 40 m we met with a group of recreational single cylinders diving around the pinnacle. To which we must have looked quite exotic carrying 5-6 cylinders each compared to the one they had!!! Only at that point I managed to relax and think yes we made it got still time to mess up but I made it this far and I have been here before again and again. There is no reason to worry now. Relax and enjoy the rest of the dive!!!

The rest of the deco was spent on the shallows playing with fish and exchanging congratulations. As planned Hannah made it in time and Richard and Paul passed some of their stages which made up for a very entertaining sight of a lot of stages diving attached to a massive wing with a tiny diver lost behind them!!!

And then the surface!!! And everyone was excited going on about this and that and you could see excitement in the eyes of Andris, Richard, Michael and Dave and relief at the eyes of Paul who did got us to 100 m and back up again. SAFE.

MANY THANKS Paul.

Needless to say the trip back was full of excitement and as soon as we off loaded the equipment we went back to the hotel to get a shower and get ready to PARTY. And we had all reasons to want to celebrate! We managed to complete a very challenging dive in spite the few minor glitses (running out of Helium and the boat breaking down).

Back at Huggins with Loads of CISK and more CISK, SAMBUCAS and shisha we met the PADI Instructors that had just arrived in the island for the Instructor Speciality Course with Paul and joined in our celebrations 🙂

Epilogue

Needless to say the day after was a very slow and quiet one. I only got out of my hotel room around lunch and having nothing else to do went straight to where I knew I would find friends. The Tek Lab. Luckily that was the time that they were about to go for lunch so we all headed to Wagamama !!! Needless to say after lunch they went back to continue their course and I went back to my hotel room to continue sleeping!!! Of course there could be no diving that day and I did started feeling better later in the evening as I was getting ready to go back to my room and sleep for the night!

The next couple of days went by quietly with Richard, Hannah and Michael showing up and going for fun dives at the Faroud, my first photo session and a BBQ!!!

Sunday much to my disappointment I had to go back to the Luqa Airport and fly back to the UK.

This was a great holiday not only because I did my 100 m (which was pretty cool) but also because I was around my friends and we did it together! The fact that I also made some new friends also helped 😉

Thanks guys looking forward to see you and dive with you again soon