WE left a cold England to head to the Red Sea with hindsight Stephens little Peugeot while very capable was the smallest of our cars and letting Martin the smallest in the group sit in the front was not the best decision as we left Huddersfield the mad flaps kept the suspension from bottoming out.
THE car I was travelling in arrived last at the airport but being seasoned travellers we all passed through security first to see Neil, Josh and Peter being turned inside out by the ‘Border Force’. Of we headed to Frankie’s and Benny’s for breakfast and coffee. The waiter was not the fastest so we found that we ambled on to the plane last and made our way to the back.
THE tail wind ensured that we landed in Hurghada 45 minute early; I managed to get some great shots of Mount Blanc as we passed the Alps. When I say Mount Blanc it was the highest hill I could see from the window. Josh and Martin had upgraded to a row alone and slept most of the way.
WE got into Egypt without any of the trauma of leaving England we all looked like excited children and we grabbed our bags and passed through the airport. The transfer to the boat takes about ten minutes and we were welcomed no board like old friends, to be honest Peter was, but this was his eight trip! We picked our spot on the dive deck and set up our kit, mine was next to a 15li tank for obvious reasons and at times this was almost not enough!
WE then went to the first of our briefings were we watched a safety film repeatedly in some parts. The most important thing to remember we were told is “when the bell rings feel you hair, if it’s dry its dive time, if its wet its food time”. This was to be a problem for Neville!
WE were allocated cabins and completed the paperwork had our passports taken to ensure we stayed for the whole of the week. After unpacking the bell rang feeling my dry hair I thought dive time only to be told no diving tonight that was the dinner bell. No wonder Richie was confused, the rule had been broken already. The food was great there was a great choice and as three of our groups were fussy eaters we often had alternate dishes on the table to share as well. I recommend that you go with a couple of fussy eaters to extend the choice at meal times. I had by this time found the beer fridge and was adding to my final account.
MORNING wake up drinks were ordered. Tea or coffee in bed what a treat, though as Josh had opted not to partake I felt obliged to also get up and make my own each morning. Eggs were ordered for breakfast what a choice and then you could add bits and extend the choice, Martin had spicy fried eggs!!!!
EAT, sleep dive repeat the T-shirt said. So soon it was bedtime! 5am the alarm went off. Not my alarm the one’s belonging to the other Martin who had to set up his rebreather. So I decided to sneak out of bed in the dark so as not to disturb Josh and heading to the urn to make a cupper as I was not getting one in bed only to find Josh had beaten my out so I could have turned the light on!
WE were at sea and headed to the first dive site, Poseidon Reef, when the bell rang for the briefing it was met with a mix of excitement and apprehension. The briefings throughout the trip were really clear with wonderful drawings and great descriptions that ramped up the expectations. With our buddies we were allocated wave to dive in to keep the amount of movement on the dive deck manageable. Soon we were gearing up for the first time. The team on the boat were very keen to assist with every aspect of kitting up and after the first dive they knew how we liked our set ups and which fins were ours, never bending down once in the entire trip to put fins on was special! As I was dry suit diving there was a trail of talc around my station, which the crew felt, may have been of Columbian origin! Buddy checked we were in striding off the rear of the boat. We had been told that the Red Sea is more saline that other seas but not 2kg more I hasten to add, I had no problems descending, we were off diving. After an all too short period we returned read Josh’s blog to find out what we saw. I dropped 2 kg after the dive and still had no problems descending.
Three dives on the first day the third of which, was my first night dive, don’t know why there is a PADI course for night diving, Josh and I have been in darker in Stoney Cove at 30 meters! I had great fun charming two lionfish that swam with me from the moment I turned my torch on. As a team we ate well that night me lighting up little glassfish on the sand and them coming in and pouncing on them. Thought they met their match when they had a go a boxfish. I enjoyed the night dive loads, the reef is very different once the sun has set.
BACK on the boat quick change and it was time for a beer and some dinner.
THE next day we had two wreck dives at Shaab Abu Nuhas the Canatic and Grisola K followed by a reef dive on the Alternatives. Well, the Alternatives. As one of the group was completing their deep spec course we needed to go a little off the plan to ensure we got enough depth. After ten minutes in the water Josh turned to me and used a non PADI authorised hand signal to ask me if I thought we were lost. His loosely held fist was bouncing off his forehead and he pointed at Neil. I signaled back that we had been here before. As we exchanged these signals Neil stopped and indicated he was deploying his periscope to have a look on the surface. As he had not packed the aforementioned periscope he popped topside for a quick look. Orientated he returned to us and we set off again. Unfortunately before we got were we needed I was at 70bar and we had to return to the boat. After completing our safety stop we all returned to the surface only to find someone had moved the boat, or perhaps we had got it wrong and instead of us being on the left (port) side our air had last longer and we were on the right (starboard) side. No some of the group were very discourteous about this and accused Neil of getting lost. At least we never had to come home in the zodiac of shame did we eh!
THAT night I slept like a baby that was until I was woken by my cabin mate on his phone arranging for people to be towed home in his sleep!!!!
ON the third dive of the day I realised that I was feeling wet and had the feeling that my socks were full of water. As we returned to the dive boat it was clear that my dry suit was in fact wet! I had a leak. Whilst the rest of the gang were completing their night dive my suit had coke bottles in the wrists and a tank in the neck! The deck hands thought we were doing CPR as we were pressing down in the suit with our ear listening for escaping air. Soapy water failed to identify any escaping air. I assumed that I had had a problem with a seal so I hung it up and went for a beer.
The next day we dived Beacon Rock and the site where the Emperor Frazer sung in 2009. The Frazer was not one of the Blue O Two fleet if had been I am not sure we would have dived it. We were coming to the end of the dive and slowly ascending when we reached 12 meters I suddenly had problems maintaining my buoyancy and felt like I was running away to the surface I signaled this and Josh took charge he got me controlled and looked over my kit, as he did this I caught a look in his eye that something was not right but clearly he did not want to panic me. He indicated that if required to remember I could flood my suit by opening my neck seal! Odd I thought the suit is full of water already. I quickly checked and discovered one of my weight pockets was missing 4kg down no wonder I was struggling. I got to the safety stop and completed this and returned to the boat. Back on the boat Josh tells me he saw the pocket float to the sea bed at the start of the dive but as we all got down he though it belonged someone behind us. Clearly I was still over weighted. Fortunately Clinton had completed his dive with 4kgs extra and returned the pocket and weights to me a few minutes later. I emptied about 500ml of seawater from my suit. It was the Thistlegorm next so under suit was rung out and hung up to dry.
CHANGING buddies on this dive seemed like a good idea as I was consuming more air than the rest of the team despite using a larger cylinder, due to wet dry suit buoyancy issues so I thought is fairer I went with a group of newer divers and a guide. This was a good call as the guides were able to point out things that I would have missed. The first dive was over the decks looking at the anti aircraft gun, tanks and the steam engine and tenders all too soon the dive was done and I had 50bar. The second dive again was guided and we went into the holds. The guide who took me swam backwards and without a torch through all of the holds whilst pointing things out to me he knew the boat so well trucks, bikes, guns, battery, bath, toilet, then I was on 70bar the dive was over. On the line to the surface we held on for fear of the Zephyr of shame, as the current was raging there was a line of divers all at 90 degrees to the line, all with great big smiles on their faces. Who the heck had tied the mooring line was an unanswered question I had for the rest of the trip. As we moved off the mooring line there was a second line leading back to the boat. In the confusion I again managed to dislodge my weight pocket and this time it was not returned, Neil’s weight belt for me for the rest of the trip. This was my 50th dive completed. Not one to forget. Back on the boat I emptied 1000ml from my suit.
I decided it was coke and cylinder time again. So I missed the night dive. This time I managed to locate a small leak from one of the rear seams. So we marked the suit and left it to dry. Once dry a patch was applied and weighted down. Needless to say that this failed to keep me dry, as the suit was new I decided to put up with the inconvenience and not attempt further repairs and return it to the manufacturer for them to put right. As I type this the suit is in a box in a post van headed back whence it came!!
Despite the wet dry suit, losing weights and sucking air like an Olympic rower I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would recommend anyone to give a live aboard a go. I have an understanding wife who lets me out without her that helps but honestly to dive some of the sites we dived you need to be on the live aboard. We were the only boat on the Thistlegorm I have seen YouTube were there are so many you risk getting on the wrong one I know we were spoilt Egypt is going through it at the moment but I would not let that stop you the people are great and the weather much better than at home.