Dive: Basalt Island, 24 Jan 2010

On 24 Jan 2010, I went out with Hong Kong Underwater Club. The boat left from Tso Wo Hang up near Sai Kung at 09:30. I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling 100% after a fairly late night involving an excellent curry and one or two more beers than were perhaps strictly necessary. But the tanks were delivered to Mr. Chan’s junk by speedboat, and then we were off. Bruce the DM has chosen Basalt Island as the first dive site in the hope it would be sheltered. When we got there there was quite a swell running and the visibility wasn’t looking all that inspiring. To make matters worse, he’d put me on the 2nd wave, which I try and avoid at all costs. Like SCDC, HKUC do their diving in two waves or flights, to ensure that there is always cover available in the event of a problem. So if you’re on second wave you have the luxury of more time to get ready before you need to dive as you can start kitting up once the first wave go into the water. Many people see this as an advantage, but I prefer to have more time to sort my gear out after I’ve finished diving, so I can relax on the way home. Consequently it must be about 5 years since I’ve been on the second wave. So after roundly abusing Bruce for that decision, I went to sleep for an hour.

I woke up to find we’d arrived and the first divers were regarding the water with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. This seemed to be justified when Lucy came back with ear trouble and told the rest of us just how bad the visibility was. The trouble was that the deeper you went the worse the vis was, but the shallower you were the worse the surge was. Mike reckoned that 10 metres was the optimal depth.

Rita and I started kitting up, and we had a reprise of the getting into the drysuit hilarity that she pioneered 2 weeks earlier. This time it did seem to be slightly easier, but the neck seal didn’t seem to seal very well on her neck. Although she was OK unless she looked down. Anyway we finally got kitted up separately. She was inside getting help from anyone who was there. I was at the front of the boat. So once I’d got myself sorted out, why wasn’t I helping? Because I was diving independent twins, and I found it really difficult to get through the doors into the main cabin area. Instead I waited for her to put in an appearance so we could do a buddy check.

This week I’d dispensed with my cheap and nasty wing – the Wing with No Name. I was using Calvin’s OMS wing which I borrowed last year and have still got because I haven’t seen him since! Now I remember why I stopped using it. Partly it was because I got the No Name Wing, and partly it was because the inflator valve sticks open on Calvin’s, rather like the one on my Halcyon. So I was forced to disconnect it and inflate the wing orally. In addition to Calvin’s wing, I was wearing Andreas’s semi-dry, Andrea’s boots, Andreas’s hood. Oh and  Catheryn’s Jetfins (which I wanted to try out). Meanwhile Rita had my fins because the foot pocket was bigger than hers and could accommodate her drysuit-clad foot better than her own. She also had Steve P’s hood. So while we’ve both got a fair amount of dive gear, not a lot of it seems to be our own!

We dropped into the water and Rita immediately started to notice cold water trickling down the back of her neck. Actually so did I, but I was expecting it. We pressed on, using the anchor line as a guide, and the visibility got worse as we went down, and finally we came off the line at around 12 metres. We headed inshore and started to get shallower. Visibility was around half a metre and the bottom was littered with urchins. Rita kept off the bottom to try not to put any holes in her dampsuit. Unfortunately we got separated in the poor visibility and had to surface. It turned out that Rita had drifted up slightly and as the air expanded in the drysuit, she was forced to focus on that instead of following me.

We regrouped on the surface, and since we’d not gone very far, we went back to the boat and got her an extra weight. Dropping down again to 12 metres, this time I decided to head along the shore line along the same depth contour rather than taking us in shallower to where the surge was more of a problem. Despite the conditions, there quite was a  lot to see.  Some nice orange soft coral, some of the purple broccoli coral, lots of shrimps, many attracted to the light from our torches. We also found a nice  big filefish, as well rockfish and a few crabs. It was actually far more colourful than I’d been expecting.

We surfaced after 40 minutes and went back to the boat where we decided to be lazy and skip the second dive. We weren’t the only ones, although we did seem to be in the minority that had actually enjoyed it. But then I suppose our goal was different from most people, as we were really there to re-test Rita’s drysuit, which she handled very well. But it was still quite wet inside, but at least now we’re confident that a lot of the water is coming in past the neoprene neck seal.

Bruce moved the boat to the south-west corner of Kau Sai Chau, which was much more sheltered. The people who dived all said that the second dive was better. But by that stage, I’d stowed all my gear and was warming up over a cup of soup. As the divers got back, Rita broke out the hot sake, which went down very well. Certainly the 2 litre carton didn’t last long, and this could be a popular innovation during the winter. Hats off to the Japan Diving Club, who had done it the previous week as they celebrated the first dive of the year. Several SCDC people were on hand for that, which is how the sake idea got back to us. Meanwhile Bruce and Lucy from the Underwater Club provided Dundee cake and gingerbread, which was really good.

Next Thursday remember to ask Catheryn what the hood on her coat is for, as I found it a very convenient place to put the empty beer cans to save me walking to the bin. But I think Joerg got the blame.

Thanks very much to the Underwater Club for making us so welcome.

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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