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Sunday Sheltering at Shelter Island - Mar 8, 2020

Author: Maddy Prout

Andy N: Anyone know what this orange nudi is?
Cath C: Anyone know what this black blowup floating blob is?

(Photo credit: Andy N & Cath C)

Once again our DM for the day exuberantly promised 10 metre vis and glorious sunshine whilst sat in the ABC bar on Thursday evening. With such enthusiasm and a few bottles of wine, the diver count was increased to 10 for Sunday’s Scuba Monster expedition from Pak Sha Wan.

The day itself rolled around and the central crew gathered bleary eyed next to Pier 3 at what felt like the crack of dawn. Well, it would have been dawn if the dense fog wasn’t blocking out the sun rise – Hong Kong weather forecast accuracy strikes again! Anyway, it was 7:30am for a 9am departure. Keen.

(Photo credit: Dan Sun)

Everyone made it to Pak Sha Wan pier, the DM packing light as usual and only bringing two tonnes of gear instead of the usual three. John “GoGo”, our captain, pulled up to the pier in a wave of smiles and enthusiasm and we were soon loaded up and heading out. The fog meant we weren’t going far and it was decided we were going to swim amongst the sargassum that grows in the shallows at this time of year – luckily, there’s some at Shelter!

Pretty soon we were all geared up – a significant side-mount contingent meant we were treated to a sufficient amount of faffing for an SCDC outing. This was enhanced when the DM lost a bag at some point during the onboarding. Shouts of “Has anyone seen a black bag?” and “It must be here somewhere!” were coupled with several laps of the boat and responses of “Which one Mike?!”. The bag was found hiding amongst the gear and the faffing continued.

Two dives and back for lunch at 1:15pm was the format. All buddy pairs were in the water shortly before 10am and were pleased to see not all the Thursday night promises were broken. Vis was decent, 5-8m even at the sandy bottom on Shelter Island. Water temperature is up to 19C now and even the (fool) hardy wetsuit divers didn’t freeze. Most of us know Shelter Island like the back of our hand and headed off in various directions to see the corals, weed or rocky outcrop. But one buddy team didn’t listen to the briefing and spent an hour looking at the sandy bottom!

(Photo credit: Mike B)

For the rest of us, it was a great dive. Highlights: two huge cuttlefish, pufferfish, sea hares, nudibranchs, crocodile fish and, of course, sargassum. Everyone was keen to get back in the water and our DM provided surface interval entertainment with a masterclass in surface photography. In a dry suit. Without a snorkel. Half a meter away from a huge lions mane jellyfish. To be fair, the photos were worth it!

(Photo credit: Markus R)

(Photo credit: Cath C & Mike B)

Do you know - Sargassum was named by the Portuguese sailors who found it in the Sargasso Sea after the wooly rock rose (Halimium lasianthum) that grew in their water wells at home, and that was called sargaço in Portuguese.

Dive two was soon underway with everyone clear on the direction to take, extra weights added (or removed!) to account for the shallowness of the site and most people accustomed to the rude gestures displayed by the DM and his passenger as they sped past with the scooter. It really is quite a sight… like a dive shop on tour! Despite some dodgy navigation from 3 teams, we all made it back to the boat in time for lunch cooked by the lovely Jennifer. A great day was had by all and we even made it back to the pier for 3pm, leaving enough time for a quick drink in the closest pub for the central crew.

Roll on 22nd March for our first South-side dive of 2020 – don’t forget to sign up!

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