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Po Toi Dive Report - Sunday, March 22, 2020

Author: Rob C (photo below)

Congratulations to Mandy for finishing the open water training (only the ADM left for Sports Diver!) and a big congrats to Cath Wan for finishing her Sports Diver course!

As we headed out of Aberdeen Harbour at 9am sharp, a fog bank obscured all visibility out towards sea. We were on Island Junks’ boat and headed towards a dive site off Po Toi, but we could have been heading in any direction with the fog hiding all hints of land and any sense of direction.

There were originally 21 divers signed up for this expedition, but for various personal reasons we were left with only 9 onboard. Our trusty DM, Mike Belshaw, reworked the dive list a few times and finally landed on buddy pairs that allowed everyone to work on their objectives for the day. James was taking his dry suit out for its maiden voyage, with Cath Chu leading. Rob was taking his side-mount setup for the first time in open water, with Mike supervising. Mandy would be finishing up her final Sports Diver open water training, with Tom instructing. Andy Carter had a refurbished dry suit that needed to be baptized. And Tai, Abel, Aurelien and Simon were just getting out for a fun dive.

And one person was not diving, Cath Wan, who was focused on being ADM in order to complete her Sports Diver training. Our destination was our secret dive site, so I won’t tell you much about it other than there is lots of cool stuff to find. When we arrived, still in thick fog, a small boat of sports fishers was anchored nearby who watched us amusedly as our captain attempted to drop anchor in a suitable location. Beyond the small boat, not even the shore was visible, and except for an occasional fog horn we felt very much alone.

As wave 1 prepared their dive kits and were left in the capable hands of our ADM, Mike stole away to the upper deck to launch his drone. ‘We’re gonna take this above the fog and see what we can see!’ said Mike, as he prepped the drone to be launched. Minutes later, $20,000 worth of flying machine zipped up into the sky and out of site. ‘Always be sure to update the home point before take-off,’ Mike mused as the drone disappeared.

The LiquiCrystal display showed nothing but whiteness. Mike set the upper limits of the controls to 200m and took the drone higher. Still not happy, he pushed it higher. ‘I hope we get it back!’ I agreed. Then suddenly, the peak of Po Toi emerged against a blue background with rolling clouds headed all the way out to sea. ‘Whoooaaa…. Cooool! Let’s go higher!’ And he did, and the shots are amazing (see for yourself!).

Photo credit: Mike B

As Mike worked on a series of panorama shots of the harbor poking out of the fog, the divers below-deck were nearly kitted and ready to launch themselves into the water. Except for one buddy pair that was still working on some key preparation and was lagging behind the rest. Seems that James had installed a special valve into his dry suit that required some instruction for proper fitting. His buddy, doing her best to offer guidance, provided a link to an instructional YouTube video which seemed to raise more questions than answer. James, not being one to give up, forged on as the rest of us tried not to gawk and laugh as he examined the device and then measured it against his own equipment. Would it be a fit? Would it slip? All of that would literally Depend on the back-up plan, which should fit Snuggly around his groin should there be any spillage underwater.

Meanwhile, another diver was in need of equipment servicing in the form of a type of circumcision. Turns out that Andy’s neck seal was far too tight (he was literally choking), so after nearly strangling himself before pulling his head back through, asked if anyone had a pair of scissors. Rob, having the scissors as well as experience and steady hand, assisted with this delicate cut around the circumference of the neck seal until it was loose enough to fit comfortably around his neck. Unfortunately, as the bris was being performed, the wrist seal tore slightly. Efforts were made to tape it over, but sadly in the end it was a gusher and the entire dry suit was a loss. (See before and after photos.)

Then it was time for me to get my act together and assemble my side mount. Given that the classroom instruction on side-mount diving was provided to me was last October, I had more or less forgotten everything. Fortunately, Tai was preparing his side-mount and I was able to copy his example. As I sorted myself out, I looked up and saw that wave 1 was still struggling to get its final dive pair in the water. Seems that Jame’s pee valve just wasn’t cooperating. Someone suggested that it may be a loose fitting, which didn’t meet with a positive response.

But no mind, Mike and Simon as my buddies were ready, and in we went. Mike asked if I was good, and I gave the OK sign, but honestly I was not really sure what was going to happen next. I didn’t even know if I was wearing the correct amount of weight, and I couldn’t see my gauges. But I was comfortable and was excited to try this new kit out.

Photos of Simon C by Mike B

I was in a wetsuit, so the water rushed in cold. I expected that, so I let it happen without any complaints. That’s the beauty of wet suit diving in winter; after the initial rush of cold you have a good 20-30 minutes where you feel chilly but ok, before the shakes hit and you realize that you are really cold.

The dive plan was simple. Follow Mike. Which I did. And he had his camera and was looking for cannons and anchors. The visibility wasn’t great, but it was good enough to take decent photos if we found any wreckage. It had been over a year since I was on this site, and as always, even those dive sites that you know well change throughout the year so I found it interesting trying to position my memory with what I was mapping in my head.

I was mostly focused on getting myself comfortable with the side-mount as Mike and Simon started to stage some shots (one of which will become a new classic shot of Simon with the SCDC hat and sunglasses). Meanwhile, I was checking out the large anchor which somehow had escaped their attention. Fifty minutes later, we were deploying a DSMB and headed to the surface.

Despite the loss of Andy’s dry suit, the day progressed very well. Congratulations to Mandy for finishing the open water training (only the ADM left for Sports Diver!) and a big congrats to Cath Wan for finishing her Sports Diver course! We look forward to many more of our SD candidates finishing up soon.

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