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A Weekend to Remember

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Deeper Blue Hypoxyphiliac
Oct 24, 2002
Thus ends one of the greatest dive related weekends I've ever had the privledge of beionging to.

Two weeks ago, everything was coming up trumps - there was long weekend in the not too distant future, and my lecturer for my friday classes was going to be away as well. Someone however, in their infinite wisdom, decided that four days of fun and diving was too much for this little rugrat, and put me down to work on the Saturday night/Sunday morning. That I was bummed is a huge understatement - living 150km away from the ocean, you've gotta grab every chance you can get to dive. Salvation came when I found out that Wal was taking a bunch of uni bubble blowers over to Shellharbour to dive, and there was a spare spot. Did I want to come? Of course :D

I knocked off work at 8am on Sunday, jumped in my car and drove to the boat ramp at Shellharbour. The weather earlier that morning had been dismal - rain and not a hint of blue sky. Suffice to say it was a big shock to find blue sky and nothing but sunshine when we arrived, but we were all more than grateful for it. We loaded the boatt up with gear and passangers and headed off to a nice little dive site known as the Arch, just south of Bushrangers Bay. Matt and a couple of the others suited up with tanks, and while they went to blow bubbles, I pinched Wal's Picasso Carbono's and we went to do a little exploring of our own.

The top of the Arch lies at 13m, with the bottom approaches 25m, so I set the top as my frst target. In the past, I've had a lot of trouble with my ears while freediving, so I was anxious to get down and have a play to test them out. I did a few shallow dives to around 8-10m as practice, watching Wal dissapear into the depths effortlessly. I managed a few dives to sit on the top of the Arch, but my ears were giving me hassles, so we called it quits and Wal grabbed a tank to take the other bubblies down. I kept doing shallow dives (10-12m) to try and help my ears, and found the more I used them, the faster I could descend. The visibility was around 15m, so every time I did a hang at 12m, I could see small patch of sand at 20m, just beckoning me that little bit closer...

I dived for a little bit longer, and all of a sudden felt a stinging sensation on my hands. A bluebottle!! I swam back to the boat, and Matt (aka "Dr Matt") did a nice little bit of surgery, removing the man 'o wars stingers with a rusty knife. I forced a smile in front of the ladies, but truth be told, it hurt like hell :D

We up anchored soon after, and hit the harbour to get some fills for the scuba tanks. It took us about an hour to get sorted, but by around 4pm we were back in the boat, ready to head to our next dive site: the souther side of Lou's reef. Lou's reef is actually a small island that rises out of around 30m to break just clear of the water. Once again, the bubblies jumped in with their tanks, giving me a chance to do some more shallow (10-12m) dives. By this stage, my ears were feeling good, and I was fairly comfortable with diving to those depths. Being a deep dive, the scuba guys were back all to soon, and Wal jumped back into the water to spot me. We sussed out a spot for a warmup dive, and while Wal went down to check the depth, I stayed on the surface to breath up. He came back with the verdict - 17.3m. My goal for the whole weekend was to hit 20m, so it seemed like a reasonable warmup dive. After a very short breathe up, I took a full breath and started kicking my way down. In total, I stopped 6 times to stick my head up the right way so i could equalise. Contractions hit around 2/3 of the way down, and by the time I hit the bottom I was ready to breathe. A small problem when you're over 17m from the surface...

I did the most stupid thing I could do in a situation like that - I panicked, i started kicking as hard as I could to get to the surface to rbeathe, and even though my brain was screaming "No! This isn't right! Go slow and conserve oxygen!" my body wouldn't listen. By the time I hit the surface, my lungs were bursting, and I was expecting my first depth samba/BO. I still don't know how I made it without any loss of control, but I managed 2 deep hook breaths on the surface and then just floated there a while. Wal asked if I was ready to try another dive, and about a minute later when my heart rate dropped below 200, I replied - "Errr... let's just have dinner" :D

We went back and had dinner, and not being one to waste an oppurtunity, Matt and I decided that a night dive was in order - him and one of the bubblies on tanks, and myself and Wal freediving. Wal seemed to have other plans though, so after we dragged him out of bed, we had to shove him in a car and drive to our next dive spot - the Gravel Loader. After arriving, then going back to get Wal's torch, we parked the cars next to the loader and suited up. The Gravel Loader is a big jetty that the steelworks uses to get materials from big cargo ships, like a long jetty. It has a maximum depth of around 12m and the far end, so I was pretty confident I could handle it that night.

What followed was one of the best dives I've ever had in my life. It's hard to explain what made it so special - the elation of setting a new PB a few hours earlier, the fact that it was my first night freedive, or the fact that I hadn't had very much sleep in the last few nights. Regardsless, we swam around for about an hour, playing with moray eels, squid, cuttlefish and schools of baby mado. It's an eerie feeling to freedive at night - turn off your torch and you just dissapear, and become part of the ocean. The wildlife is totally different to during the daytime; the fish are sleeping, and the worms are playing. You can do a whole bunch of dives in a row, and still not see the diver next to you who's only a few metres away.

We used the stealth approach to try and scare the bubblies a few times, but most of the dives ended with me laughing underwater, cracking the seal on my mask and getting a faceful of sea water. ;D One of the 'highlights' of the dive was the appearance of the mysterious moonfish... a byproduct of little sleep and Wal's strange sense of humour ;)

We got some much needed sleep that night, and after waking up half hour after we were supposed to (OK, after myself waking up half hour after I was supposed to :D) we loaded up the boat and headed back out to Lou's Reef, this time mooring on the northern side. The slope here levelled off at around 27m, so was a few metres shallower than the day before. This time however, the visibility was near perfect - 20m+, and the fish life was teeming. Big schools of salmon, kingies, bream, luderick, drummer and red mowies swam around, totally oblivious to the big black wetsuit clad guy with the funky long fins. I managed to do a lot more dives to the 10-12m mark, and even set myself two new PB's - 25' unassisted CB and 30' free immersion. The only reason they were PB's is because I'd never attempted them before, but they're still PB's all the same ;)

I didn't really have another attempt at my 20m goal - I was happy hanging around in the shallower water - but I still had an incredible dive none the less. My only qualm was that it ended too soon, and after filling the tanks (and our stomachs!) we were back on the road again heading home. Next weekend looks set for some more diving, hopefully around Jervis Bay, but it's going to have to be pretty special to show up this weekend :D
  • Like
Reactions: DeepThought

Nice story Bud :cool: , but next time take a speargun and whack some of those Kingies that would have been even better :D

That weekend

Hey Loopy,

I know exactly what you mean about the rain. I had organised to go out with Harry to the traps sunday morning at 8am. I went round to his place then, and we drove out to the lighthouse to see what we could see. Unfortunately we had trouble seeing through the heavy rain. BUMMER!!!

Harry told me to keep a lookout and we would reassess before 3pm.

At 2:30 the skies had cleared, so we raced to the boat, hitched it up, and headed off to Port Kembla. When we got there, the boat ramp was full of police, there were cars everywhere, and the Police Rescue truck was there as well. Asking around we discovered that they had just pulled a body out of the water. And there it was, lying on the boat ramp on a stretcher :yack

It took about half an hour for the coroner to have a good hard look, take photos etc, and then the police cleared out. Finally we got the boat into the water, and headed off.

The water was a lot calmer than the last time we went out, and we made good time out to the traps.
On the way we let the lures out, and trolled two dolphinfish on the way. Man those fish look beautiful underwater! All bright sky blue, with the yellowest tail you've ever seen....

Harry took the boat out to the furthest trap, and I hopped in. I was trialling a newish flasher design, all of about $3.50 from the local supermarket -- it was a round oven reflector, the type you put under a stove element. The minute the reflector started sinking, the dolphinfish went crazy, coming up to me, and diving for the flasher. A few of them started nudging the flasher, just to see what it did. In my excitement, I shot and missed :head . So a quick reload later, and I had stoned a 2.5kg dolphinfish. I motioned for Harry to come and pick me up, and back to the trap we went.

Two more drifts and two more fish later, my quota was filled (I had two orders from friends, as well as a fish for me), Harry was content with two fish, so we decided to go home.

Pretty good weekend all things considered, I love the taste of dolphinfish :) I battered the fillets this time, but it still doesn't taste as good as "Crumb-in-one" breadcrumbs with herbs. I don't think you can beat that taste, no matter how hard you try!

I'll have to go night diving with Shadow some time, I know the gravel loader like the back of my hand, but only during daylight hours....
Turn off your torch and look at the pylons :)

The little barnacles glow in the dark :)
have you ever tried switching off your torch, waving your hand up and down and watching the phosflurecence (sp?)
its pretty cool. i've only ever intentionally nightdived with tanks on. i did do one freediving, but that was because we got out too late :duh

cool story

Yeah - those little blue lights amused Wal to no end :D It's amazing though, you can't see a thing during the day then at night...
Loopy- have you tried to cut out cream and simple sugar 24 hrs before you dive? It can make a huge difference in keeping the e-tubes clear. My buddy jersey Jim cuts out most sweets and now he can equalize without having to pinch his nose! Good luck, congrats on the PB.
Jim, I don't normally eat too much before a dive, but I'll give it a go, thanks :)
Loopy- I am not saying not to eat much, I am saying to try to limit sweets, cream, cheese, etc. a few days before you dive. Many times one's e-tubes become clogged from these foods.
  • Like
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Jim I heard dairy products dont help much either eh.

Personally- I find that taking half a Zyrtec tablet the night before I dive helps me sleep really well and really clears my tubes without feeling dried out. YMMV.
Hey Jim, just to let you know - I tried to cut back on sugar before the dive (OK, so I let slip with a glass of orange juice... :D) and my ears worked perfectly!! not once over the last weekend did I try to clear my ears and tehy didn't work... so now I've got no excuse for not hitting 20m :D Thanks very much!
Well I may as well write about this weekend too :D

It's an all too common occurence on the South Coast of NSW that nature decides to show us who's really in charge, to show us how insignificant we really are. After last weekends blue water, exceptional vis and warm currents, it was a bit of a shock to the system to dive in cold, dirty, green water.

The weekend began at 6am Saturday, when we dragged a reluctant Wal out of bed and loaded up the boat. Pete had the GPS coords of the JB FAD at hand, so we gingerly headed out to sea. First impressions weren't crash hot - there was a bit of swell, and the water looked a little green. Wal suited up and jumped in, determined to at least get a glimpse of the bottom (at 95m!!) While Pete was getting ready, we both looked at Wal swimming toward the FAD when suddenly a huge big, round back came out of the water, with a fin attatched on it's side. We looked at each other, then looked at Wal, only about 20m away, in water with vis about 5m. I tried to give him my version of 'lookout, big dark shape' with hand signals, but my signalling is rather limited (to 'ok', 'out of air' and 'the finger') so we just waited a bit instead to see what would happen. He was still floating after a few minutes, so either it was a big seal, or it wasn't hungry. Either way, Pete was getting antsy to check for dollies, so he jumped in and went over to Wal.

Wal did a small dive, about 10m, and when he struggled to see the rope in front of him, decided to call it quits. They hopped back in the boat, and we went looking for calmer water to moor in. We ended up beside the drumb and drumsticks, and while I got ready, Pete and Wal jumped in and began diving. I eventually got in the water, and was far from impressed - Wal's computer read 15-16 deg celcius, and that wasn't even counting the thermocline at 5m. We splashed around for a bit, but after only a mowie to show for a few hours work, we decided to seek calmer water. (incidently, Pete saw a decent king when he first jumped in, around the 10kg mark. The thing took off chasing a yellowtail school, but I'm still convinced it swam home to sit in front of the heater and watch telly...)

Seeking a spot inside the bay, we stopped off at longnose point. The water was a little warmer (about 2 deg warmer) here, and a little clearer, but the conditions were still pretty bad. We did some more splashing, and Pete picked up another mowie, but that's pretty much it. I saw a school of small bonito (around the 1kg mark, about 50 of them) which was pretty interesting, but as I was getting in the boat, all I had time for was a pot shot on the end of my range. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it ;)

The next morning (after watching happy gilmore til 1130) we got up at 530, and headed south to Ulladulla. We put the boat in and motor'd over to Burril rocks, but the swell was too big to anchor the boat. Choosing the back-up option, we headed back and decided to dive the small bommie just north of lighthouse reef. The water here was still very dirty, and we did an hour or two of swimming around for absolutely nothing. Probably the only decent fish I saw the whole time was a pan sized snapper which swam past when I was taking the anchor off... typical. Anyways, after a titanic battle with the anchor, we headed off north, to just up from Mollymook. We looked in the water, then looked at Wal's unenthusiastic experssion, and decided to call it a day - net result, zip, but at least it wasn't Canberra pool (always a bonus).

Loopy I did some costal diving this weekend as well, vis on saturday was 10ft, today 15ft I almost got within range of a 60-70lb Spanish Mackeral but I only had my Ra loaded to the first notch so I took the shot knowing that it would be close but the spear dropped about 10-20cm below him I was spewing, If only I had loaded it that extra 20cm to the second notch. I also lost a 20lb + Queensfish to a 10-11ft Whaler shark it didnt even circle it just came straight in and smashed the fish in one go sure was scary having that shark around in poor vis. In the end though we got a couple of macks and queenies and some reef species.

Nice - was that with the other guy with all the guns?

He came out on saturday, but no today was with my usual buddy thats when I saw the Mack.


Ha Ha nah that gun would have been dangerous in these conditions, he had a 1.3m Air gun not sure what sort it had a slip tip rigged up.

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