With a healthy number of keen, enthusiastic and upbeat divers, plus Mike, gathering at Pier 3 at 7.45am the first few questions were easily answered:
Coffee? - Yes
Would this dive be better managed than last week's? - yes
Would the birthday boy do a better job getting the vans on time? - yes, but not so much!
John the Dog arrived propitiously on time at 7.45am and was very confident of his 2 fellow van drivers also arriving promptly but perhaps inevitably we all got going at 8.05am, but, with an incredible amount of 'bling' in some vans who are we to complain? Clearly the 'Liberace' of the van world can arrive when he pleases!
Bags and dive gear were unpacked and loaded on the boat, well all with the exception of the newly updated SCDC First Aid Kit, which our dear Wigatonian diver decided was much better left in the van? Not sure that they have really got the idea of First Aid Kits in Lancashire, but sometimes you need more than a few pints of Thwaites and a Marks and Spencer's Pork Pie...
Anyway, off we went into the wind and the rain. Pushing our luck, and resisting the advice of the boat crew, we headed for the west side of Jin Island to find some shelter from the Force 4 Easterly. Mike and Cath were on the first wave, but only just, after the usual side-mount shuffle and faff. As they led the first wave (from the rear) they encountered a two-tone dive: good viz at 10m but less to see or poorer viz in the shallows but more to see. The positive here is that the last few years we expect a lot better viz in HK than the 2-3m of previous years! There were plenty of stripeys, damsels and sergeant fish in the shallows, along with a healthy number of juvenile garoupa and the odd butterfly fish.
As the birthday boy DM completed the second wave it was universally agreed to concede to the boat crew's advice and head back to the shelter of Whiskey Bay for the second dive. However, as we arrived there it seemed that every dive boat and booze cruise had got there first, so trying to stay away for the maddening crowd we stayed further south, more or less level with the southern end of Sharp Island and had a very pleasant dive on the west side of Kau Sai Chau. The anchor line took you to 14m and near zero viz, but above 11m, things were pleasant. So warm in fact that you never turned on your heated vest and not just because you left the controller on the boat! There was a fine white sand in abundance between 7m and 10m and that means two things; Butterfly Rays and loads of fine white sand!! Two dive pairings saw no less that 4 rays in one dive which is perhaps unheard off in SCDC history! Generally if you see a ray a year in HK you are doing OK, so perhaps things are changing for the better!
Also seen were black juvenile snake eels, plenty of stripeys and butterfly fish and garoupas and swirling shoals of bait fish in the shallows. Despite a bit of current, the dives went smoothly, no lost buddies and good dive protocol being observed throughout. It was a great introduction to the Club for our two guest divers Christine (Steen) and young Michael, who will hopefully be signing up soon.
The early stages of the apres-dive festivities will be long remembered by everyone, but the latter stages by nobody! After a fourth rendition of Happy Birthday our birthday boy DM tucked in to 'cake and fine wine', or more accurately fine cake from the Mandarin Oriental and Prosecco, but it is remarkable how nice wine tastes when you are not buying it! Thanks to Mike for ordering and bringing the cake! We got back to the pier on time at 4.30pm, surely a sign of a superbly organised DM and as we loaded back into the vans it was decided to extend the party in the bar at Pier 3 in Central, where we dodged heavy rain showers with a very well lubricated crowd from a junk trip, which turned out to be the trip that Norie had been invited to, so she lucked out with having both a dive trip and a party and we met some more potential members and future divers!
So happy birthday again David and I can honestly say we "rayly" have had such a good dive trip!