10 Jan Dive: Crescent Island

While it might not be snowing here, Hong Kong has been a little chilly recently. So when I looked out of the window on a grey and frigid Sunday, I really didn’t fancy diving. But I’d signed up for a dive with South China Diving Club, so there was very little choice. Besides, Rita was going to try out her “new” drysuit for the first time, which was bound to be entertaining. We’d picked up a custom-made suit from Seaskin when we were in the UK in April, and by the time we got around to diving in Hong Kong again, it was far too warm to contemplate wearing it. It was bad enough trying it on in the apartment with all the aircons going full blast, especially when the undersuit arrived. The undersuit had been slightly delayed, so Seaskin delivered it to Hong Kong at no extra cost, which was very good of them. In fact Seaskin were very helpful throughout and their custom-made suits are very good value. But this was its first outing, and since neither of us had ever dived a drysuit before, I was expecting a lot of laughs.

We picked up Marcus and Dive Marshal Catheryn, and headed up to Tai Mei Tuk. This was also going to be the first time I’d seen Hong’s new boat, bought to replace his previous one which had been wrecked in a typhoon last summer. It’s a different style of boat from the old junk, with a large interior cabin and a steering position up on the top deck. Unfortunately the forward and rear areas are quite small which will make it very crowded for a large number of divers. But on Sunday there were only 6 divers and one non-diver, so it was fine.

We headed out to Crescent Island, which offers a very sheltered dive site, and a nice environment for Emma, our non-diver, to relax on the boat. While the corals along the shoreline and around the island in the middle, offer shallow, but very colourful, diving with lots of hard corals.

That's the way to do it! (John Hurt, Alien)

Rita started kitting up 45 minutes in advance, which looked a bit premature until she tried putting her head through the neoprene neck seal. To say it was a bit tight is an understatement. Stretching the seal seemed practically impossible, in fact it would have been easier to compress her head. After several attempts, copious quantities of talcum powder and  the judicious use of a headscarf, she finally managed to get it on. All of which made us realise just how hard it was for Alien to burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. The only real difference I suppose is that Alien wasn’t too worried about the damage it was doing on its way out, whereas we were trying desperately not to tear the seal. Although you’d need to be superman to tear this seal.

Anyway, with the suit on, she and Catheryn were ready to do a buoyancy check. Catheryn was wearing her new, thicker undersuit for the first time, so it took both of them a while to get their weighting correct. Meanwhile Joerg and I left them to it, and dropped down to the sandy bottom at around 13  metres. From here we headed into the island in the middle of the bay, where we came across a wide variety of hard corals. There was also a massive school of thousands of small shrimp floating at around 6 metres. It was a shallow, but pretty dive. Joerg did a superb job of navigating us back almost to the boat, although the bit where he wrote “got lost” on his slate had me a bit worried.

The dry suit was a qualified success. Rita hadn’t come back shivering uncontrollably as she does after most winter dives. But she hadn’t come back completely dry either. It’s going to take a couple more dives to try and work out whether there is a small leak, or whether the water on the inside had sneaked past the neck seal, which, having finally been persuaded to stretch over her head, didn’t seem to want to contract around her neck. Also with the thick undersuit, she found the external boots and fins were a little too tight.  The good news was that she was able to dive with the suit without too much trouble. While she found it more difficult than diving in a wetsuit, she was able to cope, and properly weighted, and with boots and fins that fit, will hopefully enjoy it more next time. One thing we might have to add is a female pee valve because getting the neck seal off is even more difficult than getting it on, so it looks as though she’ll have to keep the suit on for the entire winter! Apart from the neck seal it looks a good suit. In fact Alex and Vicki subsequently ordered suits from Seaskin and are very pleased with theirs. For some reason they went for latex though.

While Scott and Marcus did their dive the rest of us had a relaxing lunch watching a wild boar wandering up and down the beach, and played with Hong’s dog.

Having escaped from the drysuit, Rita was in no mood to put it back on again, so for the second dive, Catheryn  came along with Joerg and myself. Joerg led again, and took off like a train with Catheryn and I struggling unsuccessfully to keep up. Initially I thought it was going to be easy enough to follow the trail of silt that Joerg’s powerful fin kicks were disturbing. But eventually we concluded that we’d lost him, or more accurately that he’d lost us. So we surfaced and he finally reappeared about 100 yards away. Perhaps it wasn’t just the athletes that the old East German authorities were busy doping!

Reunited we tried again, and this time we headed to the north-west shore of the bay, where there was a rocky reef, and some more hard corals. There was a variety of different fish, but the high point was a dragonet in about 5 metres. Unfortunately none of us had a camera, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was really pretty.

Back on board and it was time for a recuperative beer. All in all an excellent day’s diving. I’ve always liked Crescent Island. It’s usually very sheltered and calm and is also a very pretty, remote environment. The diving is easy, but there is a lot of colourful hard coral, and usually a large variety of small fish. Many years ago I did some really good night dives here and it might be worth us trying to do that again.

Thanks a lot to Catheryn for organising it all.

About Neil Hambleton

I am a British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Advanced Diver and an Open Water Instructor. I have been diving since 1992, after joining South China Diving Club (SCDC), which is a Hong Kong-based branch of the BSAC. Having moved to New Zealand, I am now a member of BSAC New Zealand.
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4 Responses to 10 Jan Dive: Crescent Island

  1. Caron says:

    Thanks for your nice interesting article. I also dove my first drysuit on Jan 10. But I didn’t get a formal undrergarment, I just used some polyesther material to keep myself warm.

    I visited Basalt Island, it’s with some current and vis was around 3M. Water temp was 15-16 at depth 16 Meters.

    I think I experienced mostly the same like Rita as I puzzled if my drysuit leaked or that’s respiration and condensation of my sweat. My another issue was the position of the weight as I am using backplate & wing with one weight bag on my right.

    Thanks for all the articles, they are very informative and useful!

    Hope this is not too late, I wish you and your family and friends have a wonderful, happy year 2010 and safe diving !

    Cheers.

  2. neil says:

    She ended up with some weights in her pockets, which she’ll transfer to her belt next time. And we’ll try it again and see what happens regarding the water inside. It wasn’t localised, so I’m inclined to hope that it’s not a leak.

    Thanks a lot, and best wishes to you for 2010. Safe diving.

  3. Taucher says:

    Hi all,
    For anyone using a drysuit – particularly in (warmer?), Hong Kong waters, one of the phenomena you’ll have to contend with is perspiration. Now we all know that horses sweat, men perspire and ladies merely glow – unfortunately this is not perzactly true in diving contexts. The fact is that all drysuit divers sweat – a lot – when zipped into the confines of their suit. This sweat has a high proportion of dissolved salts in it, which are carried around inside the suit when in gaseous form, but which eventually condense, cool and solidify when in contact with the cooler, inside surface of the suit – which is in turn being cooled by water contact with the outer surface. Some of the condensate stays on the inside surfaces of your suit, making you think that you have a leak – particularly if you’ve been physically active during the dive. The remainder is soaked up by your undersuit, though more modern materials “Wick” moisture through their micropores onto their outer surface. The main thing to remember is that all these exudations are corrosive – possibly moreso than actual seawater – so external and internal rinsing of the drysuit at the end of a weekend is essential, if you want your suit to last. Simply plonk it in the bath with a dash of “Milton” or other mild disenfectant, make sure all the inside surfaces are thoroughly rinsed, drain the water out and hang the suit up by its boots to dry. You can buy a drysuit hangar, with large “U”-shaped forks on it which support the boots, or make one from two loops of old car tyre inner tube (available free from any tyre fitters), and a flat pice of wood with a central hook to hang it up. The loops are passed over one end of the stick, around the boot and back over the stick and repeated on the other end. Leave the suit hanging in a well-ventilated area – NOT a car garage, as petrol and other solvent-based fumes can attack adhesives used in suit manufacture. Remember also to close the main zip before rolling it up (in the same direction as the “Curve” of the dry zipper), to pack in your dive bag the night before a trip.
    For further advice, talk to me or any of the other instructors at ABC on a Thursday evening, or enrol in the Drysuit Training course later this year.
    Dive dry,
    Nick.

  4. neil says:

    Thanks a lot for that. Although

    … but which eventually condense, cool and solidify when in contact with the cooler, inside surface of the suit …

    I suspect that should be “liquefy” instead of “solidify”, unless the surface of the suit is VERY cold!

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