On board Thorfinn we met Cindy, one half of the husband and wife team who organise the diving and everything else. She’s a Brit and her husband Rob is an American. They are both experienced divers, and while Cindy likes fish, Rob’s passion is cave diving, and he had a wealth of great stories. They were very organised, yet very friendly and accommodating. I would say they are a valuable addition to the Thorfinn.
We were on-board a day early because of the way the flights had worked out, and were very fortunate that there were only two existing customers there. Consequently everyone had cabins, except for me and Rita, who selflessly sacrificed ourselves by sleeping on other people’s floors.
After an extensive briefing and a brief lunch, we were all ready for the 2pm dive.
The S.S. Thorfinn was built in Norway in 1954 as an Antarctic whaler. Captain Higgs eventually acquired her and used her in a variety of roles before converting her into a diving liveaboard. She can take 22 guests in 11 cabins, and is spacious and very comfortable. Charters are usually for 7 days. They’ve also got a salt water hot tub on the boat, which is lovely and warm when you get back after a dive.
They offer up to 5 dives a day, and the dive times are usually 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and an 8pm night dive, after dinner. Diving is done from tenders, which take divers out to the various wrecks. That means that fewer divers on each wreck. The Thorfinn will move during the week to allow you chance to dive a different group of wrecks. All in all, it is a flexible arrangement and worked very well. Having smaller groups on each wreck is a definite plus. A few years ago while we were diving on the Heian Maru the old Truk Aggressor turned up. Trying to get out of a narrow hold, while 20 Aggressor divers were barging their way in was no fun at all.
They have two large 30ft RIBs with canopies that can take 8 divers comfortably and we had 11 on it for one dive later in the week. There are also 8 under-seat compartments for storing personal dive gear, which stays on the boats. Fong’s group were on one, and most of the SCDC people were on the other.
There are also and two smaller open boats. Andreas, Andreas’s rebreather, Trevor, Rita and I were on one of those. These are slower, much less comfortable, and don’t have a lid so you need to be careful of sunburn (although not with the weather we had). Fortunately most of the trips out to the wrecks are relatively short. On each boat there is at least one dive guide and a boatman.
Captain Higgs imposes some rigid safety stops to avoid the risk of DCI. These consist of:
- 18 metres: 1 minute
- 9 metres: 2 minutes
- 5 metres: 10 minutes
Given the amount of diving available, these seem to be sensible precautions, and have been in operation for a number of years.
Hanging around at 5 metres for 10 minutes can get a bit dull on the deeper wrecks, where there’s nothing much to see, although one group were fortunate enough to be buzzed by a dolphin. Before the trip I’d made up some laminated sheets with descriptions of the various wrecks on them. Each morning we’d look at the schedule for the day then take the sheets for those wrecks with us to read on the stops.