The day training became real....

2006 saw a different holiday as our usual foursome had now become a twosome (plus youngest son Fletcher), nevertheless Andrew ("The Bitch") and I weren't going to let that stop us having our annual week away diving.

This year we decided to base ourselves in Byron Bay and stayed at the salubrious PLANULA Divers retreat. This is a fantastic place to base yourself. It is a walk or bike ride (available at the resort) to the Dive Shops, but Planula is a beautiful divers retreat and is set in 2.5 acres of tropical landscaped gardens, it has a relaxed atmosphere built around a modern B&B style. Lush breakfasts are always included - ask Wandy about the special muffins.

From Byron we could pop down to Coffs Harbour for a few dives or rip over to Nimbin and enjoy an organic coffee and cookies. I can not understand why it took me 60 minutes to drive to Nimbin and "the Bitch" nearly two hours for us to drive home. Ok, we did have an organic coffee, perused the Marijuana Museum, checked out the Hemp Bar and fended off cast members of the Fraggles who were offering us marijuana cookies, chocolates, sex, speed and a few combination deals - but the return trip took for ages.

To be honest the diving this year wasn't all that great - nothing to do with SunDive who are a great bunch of people (even Grumpy Rod who now has a lady and is much less Grumpy). When Mother Nature decides to blow then there isn't much you can do about it. But having said that we did do 2 dives most days although some of the locations were getting a bit boring - the local fish all nodded and smiled for "The Bitch's" camera as we arrived which probably was an indication of the fact that we had been there too often.

In all my years of diving and in the Navy I have heard of people say that someone was green with seasickness, but I can now say I have seen it! A poor young girl got off one of the inflatables and was "green". I commented to her nice colour....she looked, smiled and sat on a rock sucking in fresh air..we didn't see her again, I think she took up bike riding.

After about 4 days of diving of the Code Hole ("An underwater swimthrough about 30 metres from the north eastern tip of the rocks. The Cod Hole opens up at about 15 metres with an entrance about 4 metres by 5 metres, and slopes downward and away to the open sea to a depth of 21 metres. It is the haunt of big moray eels, wobbegongs, blue groupers, grey nurse sharks and other large fish") and the Nursery ("On the sheltered western side of the rock, The Nursery offers a shallow dive from 5 metres to 12 metres. The reef fish here are prolific. In this general area, in about 8 metres of water, lies the anchor and chain from an old sailing ship - The Volunteer - which was wrecked off Tallow Beach, south of the lighthouse"). "The Bitch" and I asked could we be dropped somewhere different and we would swim around Julian Rocks and meet up with the boat.

The weather was ordinary, large swell and wind so we were briefed to get in drop to the bottom and go go go. We were to dive Hugo's Trench. ("The depth range for this dive is from 12 metres to 18 metres. The trench actually runs all the way through the rock, however conditions would have to be perfect to attempt to swim through. The dive normally begins on the southern side of the rocks and takes you into the trench, where you have sheer walls on either side. The trench is home to wobbegongs, turtles, and schools of tarwhine and many other species").

We hit the water dumped and dropped, well I did. I looked up and "The Bitch" was floating like a cork being smashed around in the swell. I resurfaced and quizzed him....he displayed a sheepish look and said, "I forget my weight belt" - now usually you would smack someone in the back of the head with your knife or torch when this happens.... But to the "Bitch's" defence we rarely dive singles nowadays and he has an empty belt on his twins due to the configuration of his gear, so I let it slide.

When we eventually hit the bottom and started towards Hugos' I had an inkling that it was a bad idea. The first hint was the fact that the fish were swimming out of the trench, in fact molluscs were trying to get out of there! The water looked like minute you were swimming and getting nowhere - next minute you were screaming up the trench or up the trench wall. I looked at the "Bitch" gave him the universal diving signal of " You are an idiot let's get out of here" and we swam around to the Nursery....again.

Mind you the major swell was no problems to Fletcher who finished diving, grabbed his surfboard and surfed each afternoon as the "Bitch" and I recovered by drinking red wine or bundies. Sharing yarns with Wandy, Tim and guests at Planula - always encouraging Wandy to make more muffins
The thought of another 3 days diving the Nursery or Cod Hole was not compelling so we decided to hire a car and drive to Coffs Harbour and join Mike Davey at Jetty Dive for a few days. As always, a fantastic experience Mike has great staff, the boats are comfortable and the diving is great in almost any weather due to the variety of locations.

Single tank diving is a treat after diving twins in decompression situations but the fundamentals don't change - no gas - you can't breath! On dive 2 at South Solitary the "Bitch" was chasing some photographic opportunity so I diligently followed and sought subjects for his digital lens. After nearly 60 minutes we had worked our way back to the mooring line and I indicated to the "Bitch" up time! He acknowledged and then went off chasing a fish. I followed and then realised I had gone into deco (sorry Mike), so indicated we need to get to the line. I turned and proceeded to the stop....oops hadn't planned this and gas was running out. Interesting thing is it goes so quick from 10 to zero.

I looked down the line and saw Andrew coming up, I looked at my gauge and prayed that it was was then that the gas stopped..... Instinctively (for some reason) I removed the regulator...well it wasn't working....thought why did I do that and replaced it but of course used my last breath to purge the regulator. I gave the "Bitch" the out of air symbol he looked and continued to frig around on the line, he looked up I gave it again still no responses; time to take matters into my own hands. I swam down grabbed his occy and looked deeply into his eyes! I'm not sure which of us was more shocked. We finished deco, surfaced and the "Bitch" articulated that he thought I was joking.... Yeah-right buddy, I didn't beat up on you when you left your weight belt, what about sharing some bloody gas!

Moral is don't push that little bit extra, I was lucky that I had a good buddy that I was familiar diving with and that we were at the end of the dive in shallow water. Of course I contend that if I didn't follow the "Bitch" I wouldn't have gone into deco and would have finished the dive without his gas.
Day 2 at Coffs we dived with Mike, his wife and staff on one of their favourite and least dived locations Pimpernel Rock ("Pimpernel Rock is about seven kilometres from the shore, this site generally has very clean water but also can get currents. The site consists of a U-shaped rock pinnacle (when viewed from the top and facing north) which comes from over 40 metres up to less than 10 metres. The rock itself has three summits, the main one being at the bottom of the U and the other two near the ends of the U. These only come up to 15 to 20 metres. One of the features that makes this site even more special is that there is a tunnel running though the bottom of the U, with an off shot to the right. The sand is 40 metres or so right at the entrance and the top of the tunnel is about 35 metres.").

We were all prepared for a double dive transiting on Mike's new inflatable out to the site, with the dives to be done in two shifts, so that the crew could get wet as well. The swell was quite large and someone had obviously moved the satellites as Mike's GPS couldn't find the marks..... we eventually found it via echo sounding.

As soon as we hit the water and started down we knew this was going to be a shocker, the viz was about 1.5 metres and a deep dive with this viz in large swell isn't much fun. Lights on and stay close. We found the cave, did the swim through and surfaced. On the surface we tried to swim back to the boat but were being pushed away by wind and swell I inflated the BC and said to the "Bitch" lets sit back and relax they can come to us, it was then that my semi dry zip burst! I beckoned the "Bitch" to stay close as I feared filling with water and sinking, he proclaimed that to be impossible as I had enough hot air to keep me buoyant for days....I off gassed later to prove him wrong.

In June 2007 we take on the Yongala and Great Barrier Reef, lock up our bundies, mangoes and mud crabs we are on our way!

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