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.
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.