Saturday morning and the sun is shining. Things are looking promising for this weeks dive. With the tech team out of the country DM David had a nice plan for some relaxed diving ,followed by a slap up lunch. With 13 signed up and a mix of divers and lunchers it was a popular one.
As usual, the team assembled at ABC ready to load the boat with a pleasantly reduced amount of gear. With strong easterly winds predicted, a plan was discussed to tuck in to Po Toi, somewhere sheltered and close to the lunching spot. The usual spot off Mat Chau was rejected due to the previous annoyances and danger of boats coming through the site. It was decided to push on a bit further to the western side of Ngong Chong peninsular (thank you Google Maps). Previous experience of this site was not great, but we would go and see what we could make of it.
The prospect of a windy trip out, and the more usual pitching and rolling experience of south side diving had the wise old hands rushing to kit up. Most of the gear was assembled before the boat cleared the entrance to Aberdeen. Gear done, the team relaxed as the boat stayed close to shore on the way out to avoid the biggest rollers. The boat crew, seemingly noticing the lack of gear and faffing, even had the kettle boiled for a coffee.Arriving at the site, the boat tucked in close to the shore line in relative calm. At only 9m the anchor was set on the first effort and the first wave got busy. If we wanted the planned feast, getting the dives turned around promptly was key. The first wave would do 2 dives and the second wave just a single, keeping dive times to 45 minutes (we could imagine the techies groaning in horror of such practice). We needed to keep things moving and the first wave were in the water.Descending the anchor line, visibility was the same 2-3m we saw last week. At 9m we met the sandy bottom and visibility cleared a little. Seeing all this sand I had the feeling this was going to be one of those, “well at least I got to practice my buoyancy dives”, with little else. As we headed east towards shore across a fine HK sand expanse, a baby cornet fish was spotted near a rock. Things were looking up, although not the photos. After repeatedly encountering an annoying fishing net that ran most of our journey up the shore line, a nudi was vigorously signalled. I have been lugging my camera kit on dive after dive ready for an elusive HK nudi picture and so I’ll call this a success, even if the pictures were not.
Diving with two ladies who seem to hardly breathe, it was always going to be me calling the turn around and leading the charge back to the boat. Picking up the pace to try and get as close as possible, before the inevitable rise to the surface bang on 50 bar. With seconds to spare, a nice octopus was seen sitting in a shell, half buried in the sand, and so a rapid re-emergence of the camera, a few shots off and then up we went. Emerging right beside the boat, after some relatively loose guesswork navigation to get back in a hurry, I’ll definitely take some credit. It rarely works out so well!
As we got out of our gear, the second team surfaced at the front of the boat with news of a seahorse spotted! Now that is exciting and instantly set up the plan for the second dive.
The second wave dropped in and the schedule was looking good. A brave snorkeler also took to the water to see what can be seen closer to the shore. As the second wave dropped, some surface interval entertainment broke out, in the shape of a hill fire by the channel to Mat Chau. One of the team called it in to the authorities, whilst the rest listened in to our side of this seemingly painful conversation explaining there is a fire on the hill, we are on a boat, no we are not on fire, the fire is on the hill…
The second wave surfaced in front of the boat with a little bit of swim, so possibly some rusty compasses for those diving for the first time this year. A good number of cuttlefish were seen close to the shore and the snorkeler reported a lot of fish in the shallows, but for this team it was time to find this seahorse! The fact that is was close to the anchor line added to the appeal for an easy dive.
In we jumped, and down the anchor line to start the search. Eagerly swimming a rather random search pattern across the sand, every little rock got very close inspection but sadly the seahorse was not seen again. We were treated to another very nice nudi, presenting itself much more photogenically, and another octopus in the sand. 40 minutes elapsed it was time to head up and keep the lunch appointment.
With all back on the boat, gear was quickly rinsed, the lunch bell rang and the team were all ashore around 2pm. The schedule had worked well, and time for a well-earned feast. With a great selection of food, beers and ice cream consumed it was time to get back to the boat for the steady journey back to ABC. Several hours after it was called in, a police boat, fireboat and a helicopter had also seemed to put the fire out.
Another great day out and even the suspect dive site delivered. This new format of southside diving I could see becoming popular. Another great success and great effort from DM David!