So we went back to see the organised Italian and booked some seats on a ship. I prefer the term “ship,” it adds a grander scale to things and makes me feel special. I also can then refer to people on board as my “shipmates.” I did try it but it didn’t really take off, and merely succeeded in confusing a Scotsman.
Booking a ship was dead easy too, the nice Italian explained what days the boat would be going out and we simply said yes or no. Even I was able to help arranging the dives.
We booked 2 days diving consisting of 4 dives. I was dying to do The Thistlegorm for obvious reasons, but alas the boat only went out on certain days and our flights didn’t accommodate the required off gassing. Terrible shame as it was something I was really looking forward to. The organised Italian tried her best to get me a boat and did offer to secure a private charter, but it was slightly more expensive and we gratefully declined, agreeing to come back and dive it another day.
On the day of our first trip to the boat all we had to do was head for the main road outside the hotel with our day sacks and wait for the bus. All our dive kit had already been sent to the ship and was awaiting our arrival; how’s that for a system?
The bus dutifully showed up on time, we climbed aboard and visited a few other hotels to collect some additional divers. This was when we met the Russians. I have heard enough stories of Russians being partial to a little vodka, but I figured it was a bit of hyperbole.
No. It’s really not.
As the 8 guys stumbled aboard I felt myself becoming intoxicated by the alcohol fumes emulating from their very pores. They were also rather loud, a bit rough around the edges, and had a definite vibe of, ‘we’ve just come from the bar.’ The Bolsheviks took their places and we headed to the dock. They didn’t bother me in the slightest; I just found it all very amusing and was looking forward to seeing them in the water.
|Dive kit secured|
There was very little waiting about and we were soon over the dive site and getting ready to jump in. At the rear of the ship was a platform area with 2 dive ladders attached. They helper guys were pretty strict about 2 divers at time on the platform ready to giant stride in. This kept an orderly fashion to entry and kept the whole thing a lot safer. Organised fun is always my favourite kind.
|Tanks for everyone!|
Once in the water we duly followed our guide around the reef. We had Sachi for some dives and Mohammed 2 for others. Both were excellent divers, great guides and thankfully our air consumption wasn’t too bad so we weren’t calling any dives.
Mohammad 2 (the second we’d met so far) was good fun. He was wearing what I thought was a semi-dry suit, but it turned out to be a dry suit, well, in theory. The seals were shot to pieces and he had more water in it that not, but seemed to be enjoying his dives regardless of his rather wet experience. He was also complimentary of our diving skills so he’ll always remain a favourite. Yes, i am fickle and often swayed by compliments or presents.
Before our second dive the Red Army were visibly starting to shake a little, obviously suffering from withdrawal, and were attempting to locate any form of booze on the ship. One particular member was asking Mohammad 2 if there was any vodka, or worst case scenario, any beer? Mohammad politely explained there wasn’t any alcohol, apologised and got back to his duties. I found this rather amusing, especially as some of the party subsequently skipped the dive completely. What a splendid waste of money.
The icing on the cake was yet to follow. 10mins into our second dive I turned to see one of the red army flailing about, both arms behind his head searching frantically for his valve.
I thought to myself…..
“Has he run out of air?”
“Nah – surely not?”
No, he had run out of cam band. In his hungover haze he had strapped his bcd too high on the neck of the cylinder. As a result, once wet, the band simply slipped over the curved top. It was now falling to the sea bed dragging the Bolshevik by the regulators along with it. As a rescue diver I felt obliged to help the guy so I signalled Kerri and we began to fin over. Thankfully Mohammed 2 already had the matter in hand. Mohammad 2 quickly reattached the cylinder to the drunk man and the dive continued.
|I Are Diver & Wife-Buddy to the rescue!|
We also had a bit of a fun with a girl suffering from terrible buoyancy problems. I’m not the best diver on the earth, far from it, but I can control my depth to a certain degree. This poor girl was clinging to her inflator like the last leg of chicken in a KFC bargain bucket. Not only that, but her (presumed) boyfriend-buddy appeared to be ‘guiding’ her through the dive as to when to add and dump air. *shudder*
At one point in the dive I signalled Kerri to watch her head as ‘buoyancy babe’ was plummeting, tank first, down towards us. Kerri finned out of the road as the girl continued to descend. Boyfriend-buddy soon came to her rescue and we promptly left them too it.
Back on the boat I was curious as to whether there would be any repercussions from these possible dive statistics or future writing material for Mike Ange.
How would the Russian guy cope with the shame of such a fundamental error? – a bit of humour perhaps and a hefty slap on the back for Mohammed 2?
No, nothing. Not even a thank you. Poor form by the red army captain.
Buoyancy babe didn’t appear to have any issues with her dive either, but I did catch the eye of boyfriend-buddy, he seemed a little sheepish. I made a mental note to keep well away from both parties on future dives.
All the diving that followed was uneventful, just pure fun and very enjoyable. I have to admit with the water temperature at 23C I was feeling a little chilly by the second 45min dive and it appeared my 3mm full suit wasn’t cutting it. Nonetheless I persevered like the trooper I am, and hardly even mentioned to wife-buddy I was cold….much.
In between dives a magnificent feast was put on for lunch. I was really surprised at the quality of the food and the chef’s ability to make such delights in the middle of the sea. We even had a cake made for us, which wife-buddy seemed particularly happy at. There was also plenty of fresh water, juice, snacks and towels available on board.
When our diving was completed the ship headed for the dock, we were escorted to the bus, dropped the Russians back to the pub and finally to our hotel. Everything was done and dusted in time for dinner. Both days diving were a lot of fun and really easy going.
We had a wonderful time in Egypt. The hotel was great, dive staff were great, food was great, beer was all inclusive (and great), diving was awesome and all in all, we simply had a ball.
I would definitely recommend both The Hilton hotel and Sinai Dive Club, they are a credit to Egypt.
Red Sea Tips:
- Rinse you kit well; the Red Sea has a much higher salt content than what most of us are used to and it will kill your gear.
- Dives were at 8am and 2pm. I found I was killing time a lot in between and after diving. If like me, you’re not a sun worshipper or shopaholic you may want to consider a liveaboard instead.
- Check with the dive centre about Thistlegorm and boat trips in advance to ensure your flights don’t interfere.
- Bring / buy mosquito repellent and bite cream. The hotels are well treated, but wife-buddy still managed to get bitten badly and lost a day diving as result.
- In Feb the water temp was 23C. It was too cold for me by the second dive. In future I would bring my dry suit with a light undersuit or my 5mm full suit, maybe even a light 2/3mm hood for the second dive. *Note: gloves not allowed by some centres.*
- Watch out for babes clinging to their BCD inflater.
- If you want to be friends with Russians, bring vodka on the ship.
- “Ship” is not a recognised term for “boat.”