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Street Cleansing Operative
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<font color='#000080'>Well, got back from this trip this morning and bursting to tell you all about it. Just wondering how I can keep it short enough not to become boring - so much to report.

In Planning. I first put this trip up on the boards when one planned by my local dive shop fell through as they couldn't fill a boat. I'd been waiting for four years to make the trip and was determined not to miss out. I posted the dates and first Timing and then Kate signed up. We decided on a liveaboard trip - if you're going to do it, you might as well do it in style! Interest was slow to pick up but in time Gavin and Fiona Yates, Steve W, their friend Dougie and Conor (Camdiver) came on board. The remaining six places were taken by non YD's - a shame as there was a lot of interest in the last couple of weeks (maybe next time guys).

There was a bit of a shock a week or so prior to leaving when we heard about a liveaboard sinking! It was a couple of days before we heard with some relief that it was the Wildcat and not our own boat. Of course, the day before we left Tom posted his spoof report about the sinking of a second liveaboard, our boat the MY Juliet. I almost cacked myself! Very funny, Tom (bastard!).

Getting There. The night before departure Gav, Fi, Steve and Dougie made the trip down to stay at my place. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at a local restaurant before bed. Up early in the morning and a hearty breakfast for all before getting a taxi to Manchester airport where we met up with Tim. Here began two very different experiences with airports. At Manchester loads of queueing and some frightening excess baggage charges. Sharm el Shiek was very different (more on that later).

The flight left more or less on time and was fairly pleasant (though the food was rather a let down). On arrival at Sharm we were met by "The Airport Wizard". This jovial little chap put David Blaine to shame. We passed him our passports and £15 each and within minutes had bypassed the masive queues at both the visa desks and immigration (passports duely stamped) and straight to the baggage carousel - big bonus, all the luggage had arrived intact!

We then had a short minibus ride to the Oonas Dive Club where for the first time we met up with the other YD's who had flown from Gatwick; Conor (Camdiver on the boards) and Kate (who does rather look like cute little Nemo on her avatar!).

Six other divers were also joining us there and shortly we made the trip down to the harbour and our boat.

The MY Juliet. Bren and Wetlettuce had been on this boat in the Summer and told us that it was very good. We were not dissapointed. It has a nice big kitting-up area and a good dive-deck. There is a large salon with plenty of room for everyone and two sundecks; one with a canopy for the sun-shy and another open deck up top for the commited worshipers. The cabins were comfortable with ample storage space and en-suite facilities for all.

Throughout the trip the crew were helpful and attentive with good humour but never obtrusive - perfect.

Viki was our dive guide, a young Hungarian and current partner of Lee Cunningham (the deep dive record specialist). She made the trip for us with her relaxed attitude. It was soon found that four of the party, including Kate, were wanting to do their advanced courses. This meant that she was happy to leave the more experienced YD divers to get on with it on their own.

The Diving. I could go on forever about the diving we did. For me this was my first experince of diving in clear, warm water and quite frankly I was utterly gobsmacked! Those that have been to the Red Sea will be familiar with the sites; The Temple, Ras Um Sid, Ras Ghalzani, Ras Cathy, Thomas Reef, Jackson Reef, The Kormorant, Southern Lagoon, Ras Nazrani, Shark Observatory, Dahara, The Dunraven, Small Crack (ooh err), The Thistlegorm, Shebna, Shag Rock (fnarr, fnarr), Stingray Station, Yolanda Reef, Ras Za'atar and Jackfish Alley. Some we did more than once. In all I did 25 dives spending 23 hours under water! Liveaboards might cost that bit more but I call that value for money.

I'll stick to the highlights.

Bloody Photographers! You may have heard some say, "Never dive with photographers". All week I was berthed and buddied with Tim, who likes to take the odd picture. Frankly it made the trip for me. Tim had never been to the Red Sea before and like myself had been waiting to go for four years. That meant that he was as mad keen as myself. That meant we were kitted in no time, usually first in the water and almost always last out. He did tend to hang about to take his pictures but that only meant that we spent more time on the reefs. The big bonus was that Tim had brought his laptop with him so after every dive we could all gather around in Camera Nerd Corner and instantly relive every dive. Fantastic!

In The Water. The first dive was at The Temple, a very pretty site. Tim and I set out our stall and were first in. We then had to hang around for what seemed like an eternity while eveyone sorted out their weighting (more by luck than design we had got ours spot on). Putting my mask in the water I nearly dropped my reg! The bottom was 20m below and I could see everything as clear as day. My logbook entry says it all - "Oh my God!! This is what diving is all about. Too many species of fish to name. Bring it on!". It was beautiful. They say the Red Sea is not what it used to be; those of you who saw it 20 years ago are really lucky buggers because if this was second rate it must have been stunning then!

I think Tim will post some of his pictures, which say more than I could possibly describe. The corals were for the most part in good condition, though there was some evidence of bleaching in places and damage elsewhere. The marine life was abundant; by the third dive we had already seen turtles, napoleon wrasse, morays and barracuda. The first night dive produced lionfish on the hunt, squid and cuttlefish. The second day we added blue spotted wrays, stonefish and our first wreck to our sightings.

On the second night dive Kate joined Tim and myself. She was new to night dives and didn't feel confident to do it with her usual, less experienced buddy. A nice dive at Southern Lagoon with more lionfish and a moray to look at, but 40 minutes in Kate's torch started to die. I got her back to the shot line, passed her my back-up torch and told her to stay there while I went to tell Tim that we were going up. As usual he had been lagging behind to take a picture of something. Not really sure how I could communicate that Kate's torch was dead (neither of us had thought to bring a slate) I told him that I was going up and that he should tag on with a nearby buddy pair to finish his dive. I made my way back to Kate and we ascended the shotline.
A few minutes later we were de-kitting when Tim came charging up from the dive deck. He had got the gist of my signals but couldn't understand why I was going up. Watching me fin back to the shot he was looking for Kate but couldn't see her (she was round the other side of a coral pinnacle). Fearing the worst and full of self recrimination for lagging behind taking pictures and not being there in an emergency he had immediately followed us up. When he had surfaced he'd heard Kate laughing but had thought she was crying in distress after some terrible incident. His face when he came up the ladder was a real picture - pity we didn't have his camera! Bless him.

Sharks And Marine Rottweillers. The next day took us to Jackson Reef where we were promised the chance to see sharks. Gavin and Fi were lucky to see one, but not until after they had the most amazing underwater domestic that any of us had ever seen. Excited by the opportunity to see a shark Gav had descended rapidly ahead of everyone, leaving Fi well behind. Frankly, he was not much use as a buddy 20m below his partner and Fi was none too pleased. She shook her rattle to get his attention and then followed a series of signals and shouts through the regulator that had as much clarity as any underwater communication ever given. The message was unmistakable - "You should be buddying me. If you want to dive with them I'm going up. You can f**k off!". Those of us caught between this exchange didn't know where to look! Fortunately all was settled and they went on to have their sighting of a white tip reef shark but thereafter every time we heard Fi's rattle we all braced ourselves for the coming salvo!

Wrecks Old And New. The end of day three and we mored up next to the Wildcat, still in the process of being raised. It would have made a nice night dive, especially with the prospect of a £100 reward for the recovery of Col. Maniac's computer, but it was declared out of bounds.
The next day we dived the wreck of the Dunraven. I'd heard it talked about as one of the main Red Sea wrecks so was a little dissappointed to find that it was so small (or maybe it seemed that way because of the viz) but there was plenty of life on it including an enormous wrasse and a scorpionfish.
It was only when we completed our trip and returned to port that we heard that later that same day on the wreck an Italian diver had been attacked by an oceanic white tip shark and had been airlifted to hospital with a badly injured arm. Fortunate that we didn't hear about it sooner or Kate might not have got into the water again!

Timing To The Rescue! The next dive was Small Crack. This was to be from The Juliet's rib, so all 14 divers squeezed in for the short trip to the reef. On the trip out Linda (one of the non-YD divers) had a free flow on her A-clamp. It was soon sorted by tightening it a bit and was put down to the clamp heating up and expanding in the sun.
We all dropped in together and Tim and I decided to drop back and let the rest of the party pass through to avoid the traffic. Linda and her buddy were the last in the group and looking down to them on the sea bed about 10m below I could see that Linda was having a major freeflow from her tank pillar. They clearly didn't know what to do about it and her buddy appeared to signal that they should continue the dive! I quickly finned towards them and indicated that they should surface immediately. Linda got the message but instead of making a controlled ascent with her buddy started to shoot up to the surface 20m above, leaving her buddy behind. Fortunately, she then decided that she needed a safety stop and dumped all the air in her BCD. Tim was able to catch her on her way down and took her back to the surface with a little more control.
Seeing them safely on the surface I continued the dive with Linda's stunned buddy who had spent the entire incident rooted to the seabed. I guess it was a decent dive but I remember little of it. We surfaced fairly early and got back onto the boat to find Linda on oxygen as a precaution. All had survived unscathed but were left in a reflective mood as we pondered what might have been and reflected on the mistakes we had made.

Historic Metal And More. The day improved with our next dive on the Thistlegorm. I had long been looking forward to diving this legendary wreck. As it was the third dive of the day the plan was to stay at deck level for that dive, with a trip into the wreck the following day. To be honest this first dive was the best. Descending down the mooring line of one of the other boats it was an awesome sight. We spent 35 minutes exploring the decks, looking at the train tenders and penetrating the cabin spaces. In the captain's quarters we found a large poppy left in respect during the week of Rememberence Day and sitting below it a beautiful pyjama slug, our first nudibranch of the trip. On the decks we almost missed a crocodile fish, but always on the look out for a picture top fish prodder Tim spotted it. Throw in a whopping big grouper and in all it was a cracking dive.
We then ascended the mooring line and waited for the rib to come accross and pick us up. We took our jackets off and passed them up before climbing into the boat. About half of us were in when Steve let out the cry of "Dolphins!". Looking around we saw the dorsals breaking the surface. Those lucky enough to still be in the water with their kit had a magical few moments swimming around with these beautiful creatures. The rest of us just dived in from the rib with fins and masks and had to be content with a fleeting glance as they disappeared into the deep. We had been the only ones in the water to enjoy the encounter and spent several minutes giggling at the surface in triumph while the myriad of dayboat divers looked on in envy from their decks.
Could a day's diving be any better?

Magical Nights And Beautiful Sights. We left the Thistlegorm to moor for the night at Shebna. The night dive there was the best of the trip. We surfaced after 76 minutes with about 20 bar in the tanks. We had seen a spanish dancer, a free swimming moray, a massive parrot-fish, an octopus, a stunning sea cucumber and more brightly coloured nudibranch. It had been the most amazing day's diving imaginable.
The next morning we returned to the Thistlegorm to penetrate the holds. It was a real "diver soup" and a bit of a procession but it was amazing to see the lorry loads of motorcycles  and the rest of the cargo, wondering what on earth they had planned to do with all those wellies in a desert! Just a shame that so much had been removed by previous divers. Still, a top class wreck.
From there we moved on, first to Shag Rock and then to Stingray Station where we had the first of what turned out to be three dives there. It is a fantastic site with wonderful, narrow swim-throughs filled with shoals of fish, but it is a tricky site to navigate around. I am blessed with a good, natural sense of direction so Tim and I were the only ones not to get lost and enjoyed the best part of the reef to ourselves.

AOW Speciality Dives. Viki had used Stingray Station as a good site to do the Navigation dive with the AOW students. We stayed there for our night dive. Kate, who was by now in the habit of joining us for our night dives, had missed out doing her reciprocal navigation during the day so Viki asked us to take her through it.
We jumped in, descended to the bed at 10m and then Kate took her bearing before (as all students do) setting off with her head down and going like a train! We followed in her wake before arriving at her destination; the swim-throughs. Kate then indicated the security lanyard that her camera had been attached to. Somewhere on the trip out the camera had broken free. We did a search of the area and back to the boat but it was nowhere to be seen. Kate was understandably distraught as the camera (a nice expensive digital job in a good housing) was not her own but one that she had borrowed. We got up at dawn the next day to carry out a search in daylight with no luck but had some compensation with a lovely extra dive seeing bumphead wrasse, a moray, Kate's first nudibranch and a swim through the shoal of glassfish when passing through the reef.

Completing The Experience. The rest of that last day took us first to Shark Reef and the Yolanda where we put in that missing piece when Tim, myself and others saw 5 sharks swimming by in the deep below us. Gavin (who of course had already had his shark sighting) thought we were mistaken, but we know what we saw and won't be dissuaded! We moved on to Jackfish Alley and our last day dive which provided a swim through a cave and then some larking about in a shallow, sandy lagoon and some group photos. The final dive was a night dip back at Ras Cathy. Tim and I had set out to try and complete 24 hours under water. This had been scuppered for Tim because of the rescue but I reckoned I still had a chance with a 91 minute final dive and the planning began. Unfortunately, it was just before we dropped in that we realised I had made a mistake adding my cumulative time and had thrown in an extra hour. Still we went with the plan and managed 98 minutes before the boat crew dropped in a sign asking us to come up as they needed to take the tanks! We surfaced still with 70 bar - not bad from 12 litre tanks!

Final Farewells And Coming Home. We spent the last night up on the sun-deck. It was a full moon with a lunar eclipse and shooting stars thrown in. A truly magical ending to a great voyage. We didn't bother to sleep, chatting under the stars and then watching a majestic sunrise. We eventually disembarked, saying reluctant farewells to the Juliet and her crew. Viki came back to the dive centre with us where she introduced us to Lee for a bit of technical chat before he invited us to join him at his favourite pub to watch England beat the Welsh in the rugby world cup.
We were on several different flights and said our goodbyes at intervals as the transfer bus came and went. Our group of six to Manchester were the last to leave. We had been invited to pay $5 each to the "Airport Wizard" who went on ahead with our passports and tickets to "ease our way" at the airport. We arrived to find him already in possession of our boarding cards, baggage labels and passports stamped. The cases were passed through the check in desk as the clerk quite deliberately ignored us and their weights as they passed through (no excess baggage charges here) and we then swanned past the huge immigration queue, the wheels of beaurocracy once again greased in advance. Within three minutes of arriving at the airport we were at the departure gate! We shook the Wizard's hand thinking that surely $5 had never been better spent.
There was a bit of chaos then at the departure gate as we were told to board but kept waiting at a shut door and then saw on the information boards that our plane had departed, much to the amusement of the entire compliment of passengers still waiting in line! We were eventually allowed onto our plane and left just a little late, returning home completely knackered but totally fulfilled by a great week's diving with some fantasticly entertaining company.

Next year's trip is already being planned. When it's posted I suggest you get your bid in early!
 

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Grumbler-chief in Residence
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Hi,

Nice report, you didn't mention the Kormorant, it is a very rarely dived, err wreck, not much left of it, but I thought the hard corals were to die for, there is a very tempting drop off but Lizzy was on her 8th dive so we had to hit the breaks on the edge. (just re-read this, sounded like I was there, I wasn't, I was recounting a previous trip, the one and only time I've got to dive the Kormorant)

As for the rest, it is fantastic to hear so much enthusiasm, I have been out there a few times and never loose the pleasure that one gets from diving in water with so much life, the last couple of times I have had a camera so I can understand Tim's need to just stay there and click away, god bless digtals cameras for there never ending supply.

Andrew
 

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Jonah
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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Mark Davies @ Nov. 10 2003,19:39)]the day before we left Tom posted his spoof report
Err.. yeah, sorry about that, devil makes work for idle minds and all that.

Sounds like you had an absolutely brilliant time, I'm well jealous. A friend of mine sent me a text from Sharm today saying she'd just seen a whole load of hammerheads, and reading your report has just made me want to get out there even more.

Never mind, Wraysbury at the weekend...


Glad you all had a great time and nothing sank.

Tom
 

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Aye, the Kormoran is a grand wee dive: there is the stern section, which makes for a top swim-through, then the struts and plates of her amidships, again, a nice, if very tight (i.e. take your BD off and pass it through before you) squeeze. Her mast too has some seriously attractive hard corals and goodly sized spunges. And all this in a max of between 8 and 12 metres! Rarely dived and seldom forgtotten.

Gav, you still doing your 'St Abbs Solo Plunges' Whoops!  
And what with Fi being a 'Mockurator Plural' (err..sorry..Procurator Fiscal), I should imagine being on the receiving end of one of her broad-sides akin to being on the losing side at Jutland!


Underwater domestics? That's nothing: you weren't with Andy (Wetlettuce) and his good lady this June!
And not restricted to activites below the surface, if memory serves  


Happy days.

Sounds like you all had a top time, and I'd just like to share Tom's complete lack of jealousy - BASTARDS !!

So, where to next year? And who's in the chair to organise it?
 

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<font color='#000080'>
[b said:
Quote[/b] (Bren Tierney @ Nov. 11 2003,11:45)]Underwater domestics? That's nothing: you weren't with Andy (Wetlettuce) and his good lady this June!
And not restricted to activites below the surface, if memory serves  
Hi

{snigger} Nothing changes mate, nothing changes, although thankfully she hasn't learnt to swear through her reg yet


We have actually held off booking our red sea holiday next year to see what YD is up to.

Andy

PS Oh, and great report Mark, makes a nice change to talk about how fun diving can be.
 

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Great report Mark with a lot of  
, plenty of  

A little bit of  
 and just a small amount of  


Congrats to the new AOW divers and hope the camera loss did not put too much of a damper on the trip for Kate.

Well in Tim and Mark for dealing with a potential serious situation.

Daz
 

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Ginger, Irish, sometimes stroppy
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It was a great week, with a decent mixture of quality diving, banter, drama and silliness.

I must admit though that I had never seen cylinder O rings fail before this week and I'm sure it made it into double figures by the end of the week (Three below the surface I believe). That together with the weird Gel/crystals that inhabited my 1st stages on 3 occasions, to the point that Viki was thinking that I was somehow injecting the stuff into the cylinder as it only happend to me (it happened to Gav on the last day so I'm off the hook). To give them credit, they removed all the cylinders form the boat on the last day to have them tested/inspected.

So who was bribed to mess with the cylinders? I know there was talk of the board hiring a hitman. I reckon it was Linda the Aussie, its always the quiet ones


Liveaboard Cluedo

Conor
 

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Sounds like a top trip!  Very jealous indeed.  C & I did our open water in Sharm and it made skills circuits far more interesting.  Stuff what everyone was doing, just look at those fish!!  It really is stunning.

Really glad it seemed to live up to expecatiations for all you Red Sea virgins  
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (camdiver @ Nov. 11 2003,12:14)]I must admit though that I had never seen cylinder O rings fail before this week and I'm sure it made it into double figures by the end of the week (Three below the surface I believe).
Aye,

'O'-rings a-go-go is a common occurrence on 'A'-clamp rigs, especially in warmer climates where cylinders have been left in the glaring sun for long periods, and after the heat of being charged by a compressor. I was diving in Oman a few years back when an Italian, with whom I was diving, had a spectacular 'blow-out' just as we entered the water. More common above the surface, but yes, it does happen once submerged too.

Guess it just goes to prove: always check your kit before kitting up. When diving in the far-flung on 'A'-clamps, I always wet my finger in my mouth and thoroughly clean the valve 'O'-ring to remove the salt crystals which build up on these things (don't want to breathing salt on a dive); that, and the salt build-up can mean that it runs the risk of not 'seating' correctly with a completely flush seal when the 'A'-clamp is attached.

Needless to say, if it does happen, either at depth or on a descent, then good buddy skills and proximity are essential to redress the issue and make a safe ascent to get the problem sorted.

Glad everyone made it back safely.
 

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Ginger, Irish, sometimes stroppy
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true enough, all but one of the O ring problems were on A clamp regs and all but one happened to the less experienced divers with rental kit. I guess the simple pride/procedure of checking your 1st stage/cylinder before/after every dive made the difference.
 

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<font color='#810541'>Mark...you really hit the nail on the head, was majical!!!!!

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Tim came charging up from the dive deck. He had got the gist of my signals but couldn't understand why I was going up. Watching me fin back to the shot he was looking for Kate but couldn't see her (she was round the other side of a coral pinnacle). Fearing the worst and full of self recrimination for lagging behind taking pictures and not being there in an emergency he had immediately followed us up. When he had surfaced he'd heard Kate laughing but had thought she was crying in distress after some terrible incident. His face when he came up the ladder was a real picture - pity we didn't have his camera! Bless him.
Hahaha!!!! Was VERY funny!!!!!

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]"Dolphins!".
Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!!!!!!!!!!!! (pix to follow soon)

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Next year's trip is already being planned
Can't bloody wait!!!!!!

x x x
 

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So not too shabby then Kate  


Sounds like they might drag you out on another trip next year but don't forget there is still much fun and good diving to be done over here in the meantime.  


Now how long before you get that boyfriend of yours on a OW course  (Surprise christmas present perhaps)


Daz
 

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That's Dude with an E
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Glad you all had a great time.

If anyone fancies going back to the Red Sea look at Andy P's Southern Egyptian Red Sea trip for April 2004.
 

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Great report, Mark! Yes, the Red Sea is indeed fantastic. And you've still to see the best parts of it. By the way, the wellies aren't wellies but all that's left of chemical warfare protection suits, according to the experts.
 

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<font color='#810541'>
[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Did you enjoy yourself then Kate?
Enjoy myself?!?!  That's an understatement!!! I loved it!!! The only down part was loosing the camera...I cried like a tart!!! Never mind, I was back to myself the following day...Rah!!!

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Sounds like they might drag you out on another trip next year but don't forget there is still much fun and good diving to be done over here in the meantime.  
I can safely say that I wont be kicking and screaming!!! I just want next year to be now!!! I've been convinced by a couple of the guys to invest in a dry suit, so I'm now saving for that as well!

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Now how long before you get that boyfriend of yours on a OW course  (Surprise christmas present perhaps)
Not a chance now!!! This is my hobbie, if he wants to do it off his own back then fair enough, otherwise I'm keeping quiet (which is practacally unheard of for me  
 )

By the was Daz, thankyou so much for lending me your computer!!! I'll get it in the post to you as soon as I can (might be around pay day)

x x x
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Kate @ Nov. 12 2003,07:49)]By the was Daz, thankyou so much for lending me your computer!!! I'll get it in the post to you as soon as I can (might be around pay day)
Glad it was of use.

No rush for the computer it is my spare one anyway.

And glad you all had a good time.

Daz
 

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Resident Princess & 'Ned Redresser'
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<font color='#736AFF'>1.  Top report Mark.  As you know, I started my trip report on night one of the trip, but soon became more interested in the diving and the craic to keep it up.  I think you've covered pretty much everything I was going to say (mmmm, yes, and a bit more!  
I'm no rottweiller! well, I might let the defence lawyers (and Gavin) think that!  
 )

2.  Mark, thanks for the initial booking and posting.  Thanks to you and Debbie for your hospitality on Saturday night.  Good choice of restaurant and thanks also for a yummy breakfast on Sunday morning  
.

3.  Excellent trip.  Good to dive with some YD'ers and great also to meet the others on the board.  At least one of whom (Sue) has now joined us on YD (come on Sue, introduce yourself!).

4.  Here's some photos......
 

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Resident Princess & 'Ned Redresser'
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<font color='#736AFF'>This is the beauty....
 

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Resident Princess & 'Ned Redresser'
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<font color='#736AFF'>you don't want to get to close to this one....
 
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