On Thursday I plucked up the courage to tell the wife I was diving Friday
‘Your bloody not’ She said
I am, I said, ‘And what are you complaining about? I gave up a 65m dive on the Bessel on Saturday because it’s Valentines Day so I am off to have some fun on Friday.
‘Your not diving on Friday the 13th’ she said
‘Corse it is you twat. Saturday is Valentines Day the 14th of February so that makes Friday the bloody 13th.’
‘Errrrrrr yes well, I don’t believe in all that hogwash I said. I’m going’
I popped out side quickly and turned around three times and spat just in case. Then I nailed the neighbours black cat to a Maple tree by its gonads.
The latter had no pagan significance, I just hate cats.
So 5am alarm goes off and I hammer down to Dover in the breaking dawn taking care to drive past the speed cameras at a speed where I wont get nicked.
About 140mph usually does it.
Arrive at Dover first and blag my kitting up spot on the raised life jacket cover in the middle of the boat before any other bugger does and I await the throngs.
The throng’s turn up in the shape of Jeremy, Alan & Howard and J has brought along Rage (Sish) for the trip. Poor sod couldn’t sort tanks and kit in time but he proved a typical YD member by being crazy enough to get up at 3am and buddy with J for the 2 hour drive down just for the boat trip. Quality.
Andy tabs up engines on, kettle on, quick chat on subjects ranging from the best way to stop crotch chafing with Boxer shorts to solving third world debt and were off. I am all excited coz I have never done the Loanda and its high up on my hit list. So 40mins later were shotted in and ready to go. Andy asks Howard and I to tie in the shot and send the anchor up on a lift bag. Howard looks at me with a slightly puzzled expression but I assure him that its noooooooooooo problem for a hardened techey diver like me.
So down the shot we go and at 12m its pitch black?
. Now I have had this happen before but usually around 30 or 40m never at 12 so I was a tad surprised. I popped the torch on and continued down the shot. At this point the suit was getting a bit tight so I pressed the inflator only to be rewarded with a little jet of cold water in the chest. Ohhhhhhh bugger I had forgotten to connect the dry suit hose. Bloody Friday the 13th. Never mind Ill sort it out on the bottom. Then I hit the wreck. Literally I hit the wreck with my knees. It was the first clue that we were close. I stopped and waited for Howard to loom up out of the gloom in his horned hat and luminous multi coloured dry suit with my suit doing a very good impression of a Tesco shrink wrapped chicken and my bollocs tucked neatly inside my pelvic area. When he did I tried not to jump and I signalled to him that my dry suit hose was off. After he had finished laughing he found the hose and popped it back on and I gratefully stuffed a load of lovely air into my suit. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
OK so back to the job at hand. I followed the horizontal shot line across to the anchor and looked for the waster. Now I will point out that viz is about ½ a meter. I can’t find the bloody waster. I find a bit of spare blue poly prop line but it looks too good to be a waster. Mind you it has a loose end so sod it that will do. I tied it on to the wreck and looked round to find Howard who has the lift bag in his pocket. Errrrr no Howard. Bugger. So loads of torch signalling later Howard pops up with the bag, which I unfurl and expertly connect to the anchor. Unnnnnnnnnnnfortunatly I connected it upside down. Loads of faffing around later I discover my slight technical error and I have to untie the whole dammed thing and start again. Howard was still laughing at me as I finned off into the gloom.
Solo diving was the order of the day. The only way to get a dive out of it was to be head down in the rubble looking for trinkets. I quite enjoyed the dive and I found some pretty little beds but they were small and difficult to pick up so I only got a couple. At several points in the dive I looked up to check I wasn't inside the wreck but above me was pitch black so I couldn’t really tell. That said I had been told it was almost impossible to get lost inside it. Then I lost my nerve and decided to check just in case. So I sent up a SMB. It’s the first time ever sending up an SMB from a wreck with the intention of checking for an overhead environment. You crack the bottle and watch the reel spin. If it only spins a couple of times and stops your hart sinks and you put little brown stains on your underwear. Fortunately it ran free and hit the surface, Coooooll. Back into the dive I continued mooching around the wreck with the SMB confirming I was in the open and I was really quite enjoying my self. I drifted off the wreck onto chalk and gravel and found some really pretty anonemies about 100mm across. All they needed was a miniature clown fish in the middle and they would have been perfect.
Just then a big loud ship went overhead. It occurred to me that Andy would have seen an SMB for about 30mins but no diver surfacing so he might be a bit concerned and had come over to check for bubbles. So with 50mins on the clock I ended the dive and headed up. The noise was in fact a turning sand sucker boat. Andy wasn’t the least bit concerned as he was laughing so much at Howard telling him about my prowess at tying in the shot.
Back on the boat I silenced my critics with my mighty spidge find of the coloured beads. I could tell they were impressed.
Back to shore and its bacon buttes all round and lively banter as we await the second wave of divers. Martin from Blue Ocean diving tabs up with his twin 300 bar 12’s and dumps them beside my own on the life jacket box. Howard cursed his laziness at not having grabbed the spot for him self and was rewarded with a knowing grin from me.
Rybe (don’t know how to spell his name but it sounds like a Jewish Ribena drink) Col Maniac show up and inform us that fog is coming down so our plan of going further out in search of better viz is canned and its back to the Loanda. Then a chap turns up in a wet suit
? With the water temp at 8c we were marginally concerned for his sanity but we were distracted by the sad news that Martin had ripped his neck seal big time so wouldn’t be diving. So off went his set and Howard was in like Flynn and was happy as a sand boy with his new kitting up location. I looked deeeeeep into his eyes but there was no evidence that he had popped up and slashed the blokes dry suit and unfortunately not having Herqual Parott on the boat I let the matter slide.
Andyp finally shows up and were ready to rock. Now Andy has his one and only twin set with 18/40 trimix in and he is about to do a 23m dive. His Equivalent air depth will be about 10m above the dive boat but perversely he will be on gassing Helium at an alarming rate and will be into Deco after a 20min bottom time. So to add insult to injury he has to do a 24m dive on Trimix and a stage of 80% to flush out the He on deco. And wait for it……………He is using a VR3
We arrive at the dive site and Alan looks over the side of the boat and reckons Viz is worse than the morning dive. Worse? How the hell can it be worse?
In we jump and Andrew Howard and I are going as a three. Andrews’s computer is showing a low battery warning so I had given him my spare Viper. No that’s OK he said Ill just follow you. Not wishing to cast aspersion on Andrews normally limpet like buddy skills I gently pointed out that it was very very unlikely we would be able to stick together.
Down the shot we go I it is immediately apparent that it was good advice. It is soup and pitch black after about 8m. I hit the bottom of the shot and instantly realise its going to be an aborted dive, conditions were impossible. I decided to go about 1m left of the shot and wait for the others to come down and abort the dive and then I planned to find the shot line and untie it to make things easier for Andy. I waited and I waited and I couldn’t see a single diver emerge. Not that I could see much I had to put the computer against the mask to read it. In the end I figured 10mins was enough time and I used all my finally honed skill to relocate the shot. Inching side ways to the right I stretched my arm up and swiped it down to the right to catch the shot. Having repeated this a few times I finally grabbed something large and soft. My initial concern that it was a conga was abated by the fact it didn’t turn and rip my arm off. Inching really close and putting my torch 50mm away from it I discovered it was the unmistakable red of Howard’s dry suit. I was about 300mm away and I could only see the bit of Howard reflected in the glow of my torch. It was THAT bad.
Apparently if I had fumbled around a bit more I would have found the other three divers who landed on top of Howard at the bottom of the shot.
I moved off again in search of the shot line but it was grim so I gave up and sent off the SMB again. I had logged 16mins of dive time. Best bit of the dive was turning off the torch at about 12-15m and hovering. It was great. A total black out cant even see the hand pressed up against the mask. The novelty ran out after about 1 min and I headed back to the boat.
All were back on board except Andyp who had the final ignominy of having to do a 6min hang on 02 to flush out the He in his system. We ventured back to the harbour saying things like, ‘you should have done the early dive viz was much better’ Yeah right it was 500mm so it was 100 times better.
It was Viz Jim but not as we know it.
Strange but true I had a great time. Thanks Andy.