Waking up on a luxury yacht was rather cool. As I slid the door back on our posh cabin, I was greeted by blazing sunlight, enhanced as it bounced off the glossy white hull. It was 8am when Wifebuddy and I finally made our way down to the dining room for breakfast.
BREAKFASTThe dining room consisted of two large tables, one on each side, a lounge area, and a serving 'buffet style' table at the top.
I'm pretty fussy when it comes to breakfast, I like a simple cereal or lots of fried, dead pig, coupled with soda and potato bread; but I know that's an Irish thing so wasn't expecting it. Wifebuddy also assured me that Egypt was a Muslim country and therefore would not be serving "swine." I find “swine” a very unfair term for bacon.
Needless to say Kerri was correct one again; no pig. However there was plenty to choose from, and even I managed to construct a tidy breakfast from the fresh meats, cheeses, crepe pancakes and salad-y things on show.
Varieties of eggs were also on offer, the style of which was requested the night before; fried, poached, scrambled, omelette, Spanish omelette or boiled.
I especially enjoyed Paul Toomer meandering aimlessly around the room droning "E-G-G..." over and over again, in search of his '3 minute' boiled egg. He's not the sharpest in the morning.
After breakfast, our group made our way to the sundeck for a briefing on the first dive. I was pretty excited by this point, and was totally ready to go scuba diving in The Red Sea.
|Kerri enjoying the sun deck|
Yes, I’ve resorted to calling it a ship; it sounds rather grand - suits me better.
A small kitchen area was accessible 24/7. A large boiler provided boiling water for tea or coffee, mugs, cups, cutlery where all available, and two large juice dispensers were kept topped up all day. The juice was awesome; one was orange and the other was purple.
The purple stuff was just glorious; it was called Karkade or something. Personally I think it contained cocaine; no one appeared able to get enough of it. A small basket of chocolate biscuits miraculously remained full throughout the day as well.
After a few more glasses of cocaine juice, a dive briefing was called; we were finally about to go diving!
DIVE 1 - SHAAB EL ERG
The dive briefings were excellent. They were short, concise, and accurate; this allowed me to remember what was said. I have had so many "in depth" dive briefings; got in the water, looked at Wifebuddy and decided I didn't know anything about the site at all, mainly due to information overload.
Our first dive was to be on Shaab el Erg, from what I recall it meant "reef"; possibly. Ultimately it didn't really matter, as this was primarily a check dive.
In short, there were two reef bits; all we had to do was jump in, keep the rocky bit on our right shoulder, turn around at some point and go back to the ship.
Finally we donned our twinsets, minus stages, and leapt from the dive deck at the rear of the ship.
It was a phenomenal feeling as the warm 23C water washed over my gloveless hands and hoodless head. I hadn't done a hot water dive in years; it was splendid. The visibility was cracking, probably 30m or so; although to be honest, when the vis is over the usual 1m we have at home, I have no concept. It was bloody good, put it that way.
|courtesy Jim Dowling|
With the dive briefing clear in our minds, we gently kicked and glided around the reef; I was relaxed instantly.
I gave Kerri an OK signal, which she dutifully returned, and we soon established we weren't really sure what to do on a check dive. I signalled a bubble check, we scanned each other; I had a leaking SPG, but I knew that already and wasn't hugely concerned.
I deployed and checked my primary light, Wifebuddy followed suit and we signalled OK again. I shrugged, Kerri shrugged, signalled ok and we simply kicked about the reef for another hour; "checking" our gear.
As we were cruised, all of a sudden a camera lens came over the top of my head and straight into my face. I thought, what in the name of fuck is going on here? - Some twat is trailing his camera around on some stupid, big telephone cord; he's swum over me and clocked me with his camera.
I drew my steak knife ready to kill...
The flash fired, I could hear laughing, followed by Jim Dowling's stupid face, grinning past a regulator; typical. I knew that was an indication of how my week would come to pass.
|Jim Dowling's upside down photography|
At that point we realised we hadn't a clue whereabouts we were, so thought it best to tag along with Jim; another thread that would reappear throughout the week. He snapped away with his camera and we investigated the local fishies.
We also bumped into Dan Burton of Diver fame (amongst others). He was on a strange rebreather-type thing and was placing a cylindrical-tube-contraption on various parts of the reef from time to time. I found out later it was a prototype 3D video camera he had personally designed a housing for; he's proper famous.
He was also leaking bubbles everywhere, and seemed no more concerned.
|Kerri and her bunny ears - (c) Jim Dowling|
We left Dan to it and began our ascent.
Kerri fired up an smb and left me far below, due to being slightly underweighted. I surfaced a minute or two behind, satisfied my 4Kg weight belt was adequate.
Amazingly we were pretty close to the ship, and could easily have finned over. The crew wouldn't have it, and commissioned the zodiac. They scooped Kerri into it, and towed me over to the main dive deck where I ascended the ladder; only to meet outstretched arms, as another crew member expertly doffed my fins and helped me aboard.
As I waddled back to the bench and was helped out of my harness, I was immediately offered tea; "Yes please, white with one sugar Samir." That was the one and only time I had to tell the man how I took my tea; he merely asked confirmation therein.
I miss Samir.
What was more impressive was how the chef managed to create such culinary delights from the tiny little galley he worked in.
The large dining table arrangement really helped the social aspect of the trip. Everyone was very polite, handing down bread, passing the salt; all that good stuff, and conversations quickly ensued. It was a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere which only got better as the days progressed.
With full bellies, our bunch of tech divers resigned back to the gear deck to tinker with the kit once more. A few divers had to make some adjustments and I made an effort to fix my leaking SPG; failing miserably. There didn't appear to be any major issues, just a lot of double checking and tightening of bolts.
As the ship sailed to our next dive site, we enjoyed the sun and countless cups of juice, slowly getting to know our fellow guests; exchanging a few dive tales here and there of various ship wrecks we discovered. All lies of course.
DIVE 2 - THE GIANNIAS D
The bell clanged again, and I began to panic a little we would have to eat more food; then it transpired it was simply the role call for the next dive briefing. Obediently assembled, we learned about the Giannias D and the best way to dive the wreck.
The Ghiannias D was a Greek 1969 cargo ship approx 99.5m long. On the 19th April 1983 she crashed into the reef at Abu Nuhas whilst transporting a cargo of timber. She didn't sink immediately, allowing all the crew to be saved. Currently she rests in 27m of water listing at 45 degrees to her port side. The stern is the most interesting part of the wreck extending to within 6m of the surface.
Dry suits were donned once again, a routine already to beginning to formulate, we boarded the zodiacs and zipped out to the site. A classic reverse roll from the rhib put Kerri and I directly onto the wreck; nice driving guys.
The visibility really came into play. Our decent was very slow, as we simply stared in awe over the entire wreck in the clear water. Orientation was weird. As she was lying so far over to the side I found it strange to navigate around; I felt like I did the whole dive sideways.
Photo genius, Dan Burton, was snapping away with another huge camera contraption and grabbed us both as we investigated the port side. He signalled Kerri and I into various positions taking numerous photos. He asked Kerri to switch on her can light, but unfortunately it died.
GUE-F training came into play, as I hovered amongst parts of the wreckage and coral formations.
I have to admit, I was enjoying the attention. I'm also curious if the pics even came out? (Edit - Dan???)
Whilst I was becoming the GUE poster boy, Kerri was desperately trying to get our attention as a Giant Moray Eel encircled Dan's feet. My modelling career ended as abruptly as it began, and Kerri started searching for the Moray.
IT'S A-MORAY!Had I have known we were swimming through all sorts of tight passages in search of a big effin' eel, I wouldn't have bothered. I like Moray's and all that, but I have no desire to come face to face with one in a tiny corridor on a wreck 27m down.
|searching for the Giant Moray Eel|
As our NDL loomed we began ascending to the shallower levels of the wreck and played a little more with our new Canon S95 camera, which was working well, and not leaking.
At 68 mins we called the dive and enjoyed playing about on the big winch, which doubled as a safety stop.
True to the dive brief, we checked for zodiacs on the surface. No engine sounds dictated it was safe to surface and we were soon hauled aboard the inflatable.
The sea was a little choppy on the brief journey back to The Blue Voyager; which merely demonstrated the skill of the young lads crewing the rhib. Even I could tell they were cutting across at one angle, and then taking another trajectory to reach the main vessel. It was all quite impressive, allowing for a smooth journey.
Testament to this, was the fact Wifebuddy didn’t boke.
De-kitted, tea in hand, we had a quick debrief and attempted to determine why Kerri's light had died. Inspection of the battery quickly showed a wire detached from one of the terminals, thus cutting the power. Kerri went for a shower, as I, unsuccessfully, sought out a soldering iron.
Par for the course: no soldering iron was available, so, some clever wire stripping and gaffa tape solved the problem. The can light was back in business.
Over dinner, the banter began as Tall Poomer began imitating my, incredibly refined, Belfast accent. The group were discussing gases for the next dive, and I merely requested 32% nitrox as opposed to air. Apparently "air" in Belfast speak became "EER" to the highly elocuted tattooed lout. So he continued to moan "E-R-R" over and over again...
The remainder of the table also found this very amusing. Idiots.
I had been dying to dive The SS Thistlegorm for years, but disappointingly missed it on our last trip to Egypt. That would not be the case on RedTec, as we were scheduled to conduct 3 technical dives on her. I couldn't wait.
We figured it best to retire early to prepare for the pending 3 dives, and I sloped into dreamscapes of The Thistlegorm.
Sometime in the night, The Blue Voyager fired up her engines, and we began the overnight journey to the dive site.