The day began with beautiful sunshine. This was a huge problem, I needed to be on the 6.20 ferry so it needed to still be dark. It was 6.10am. Its a 10min walk to the ferry so the only solution was a bike ride to the ferry with my dive gear 'Luca-style' on my back. I've got one minute spare, I'm ready to go but I cannot find my glasses. I need my glasses to safely cycle down the hill and I need my contact lenses to see underwater. One minute later I'm cycling down the hill, my contact lenses are safely in my pocket. Things are a blur, but there are no significant bumps along the way so I thing everyone on Lamma is OK.
These are strange times in HK... It had been announced that Central would be the site for the protest and than meant the 13 happy divers who met at pier 3 at an unfashionably early 7am would have trouble getting home. I am guessing that we all had the same though - diving or safety, diving or safety and yes we all went diving leaving later worries to care for themselves. Our bravery did not please the weather gods and we boarded the fish farm and kitted up in torrential rain.
It was Reef Check. This is an important base line measurement of diving in Hong Kong and an important base line for SCDC. Being allocated the worst dive site of Ngau Shi Shu Wan, since no one else wants to go there, we know that if this is not the worst dive of the year then something is going wrong for SCDC diving. However things actually turned out OK. A very high tide at 10am at the exact time that Rob and Dan were laying the transect line at 4.5m mean that we were a metre or so closer to the shore than usual and actually found some nice coral. The ghost net that had wrecked the site over the last few years is now largely reduced to a line and has stopped abrading the reef. There was lots of hard coral on display with greens, purple and red and glaxea being among the most colourful. Meanwhile the other 2 speedboats had decamped around 150m further into the bay to survey the imaginatively named "new reef". Apparently it is a much nicer coral garden that the roving litter pickers had discovered last year and Alex had been given special permission to add it to Reef Check. Unfortunately the higher tide seemed to work against that site and it proved much less interesting than "old reef".
The surveys were completed around midday and we turned our attention to some fun diving. As usual everyone ignored my suggestion of diving Deep Pass so we headed off to our new favourite site of Rob's Knob at the north end of Round Island or Pak Sha Chau. By now the tide was dropping fast and we started on literally a drift dive. The flow from Rob's Knob was impressive! Unfortunately the flow hit a backwater after 50m or so and we instead amused ourselves with clouds of damsel fish, one of which started to attack poor Maddy. There was a small nudi, I think it was a Hypselodoris Festiva, which is worth a quick mention because it is one of only 2 nudis on the reef check invertebrate species guide. So nice to see one, but it was about two miles away from our reef. We saw groups of painted sweetlips and record number of octopi. We saw four, one of which was very inquisitive and engaged in a little bit of friendly finger pulling. Dan found six! Others weren't quite as lucky. Mike seems to be blind as well as deaf now and didn't spot a single octopus, he probably has trouble seeing past that massive camera. It was one of those dives where you look at computer and it says 50min and you think wow where did the time go. There was a call to rename the site Octopussy Garden. Rob's Knob meets Pussy Garden? I'm not sure it will catch on.
Diving with Mr Tsui is an utter joy. Every dive site we ask to be taken to, he seems to have dived before. So we had the smart idea of asking him where we should dive and where he thought was best. He immediately said Chek Chau, aka Dragon's teeth at Port Island, a well know site for us. Well at least we know that we have been diving for decades at one of the best dive sites in that area. Descending along the northbound reef the bottom angled down very quickly. There was a sharp thermocline at 12m just as you start to hit large patches of black coral, but no Zenon shrimp this time. The current was quite strong and pushing you eastwards which would result in the ignominy of being swept to the wrong side of the reef and a boat rescue. So we headed westerly up current and then drifted south east back onto the safe side of the reef. There was a large group of Russel Snapper, two lion fish and two more octopi were spotted by eagle-eyed Maddy.
Dives complete we headed back around 4pm having enjoyed a great day on the water and some of us having enjoyed a little too much afternoon sunshine. Mike's face and arms were doing there best lobster impression. Kit washed we got to the pier as the torrential rain returned and more joy came our way as John arrived saying that one vans wasn't coming thinking that we were heading back to trouble struck Central. Maddy saved the day as she quickly booked an uber and that sorted out the mid-levels folk. One van then dropped off in North Point, the other van in Aberdeen and we all made it home unscathed, well apart from the sun burn victim.
Thanks to Alex for organising a great day and amusing us all with his ridiculous claims that he is very patient.