After thinking I was so organized as to stay a mile from the dive site on Thursday night it didn’t work as well as planned. I waited around for an hour past when everyone was meant to show up. It looked like heavy surf so I was not so certain it would be a good dive day.
While waiting a colorful funeral procession turned up along with a Scottish bag pipe player and champagne. Either the grandfather was not a well liked man or he asked that everyone have a party and indeed they did. They were scattering his ashes on the beach. I also met up with some spear fisherman who kindly lent me their phone I called the dive shop and it turned out they had cancelled the dive down south due to the conditions and they were diving up north of Sydney airport a good hour and half drive from where I was. So I got in the little car and sped north a lot faster than the speed limit. I got to the other dive site to see everyone disappearing below the surface for their second dive! Damn.
There was another group doing a rescue diver course so I joined in and acted as a dummy but it was a short dive. I was taking my gear off when an Italian who had been living in Australia for a while decided to befriend me and we chatted a way. He was trying to persuade me to go in on my own but I wasn’t going to do that at a site I didn’t know. A few minutes later another lot of divers piled out of a car and he asked them if I could join them. So I got in my second dive at Bare Island after all that but it was a big effort!
On Saturday I was up bright and early and picked my parents up at the airport and took them to the dive shop as I was determined to not be left behind. We dove at the Steps going against a large current towards a site called the Monument at the Botany Bay Reserve. The site gets its name from the large number of steps that you have to heave yourself and dive kit up and down to the enter the water. Next dive we all voted for walking up the shorelines upstream of the current and getting in at Monument and doing a drift dive exiting at the Steps.
Sunday we dove at two different sites. The first one that you have to do at high water as it is in a tidal part of the river. It is the oldest marine reserve in Sydney area the wall is covered in flora that makes it a sight to behold all different types and colors of seaweed. It was some what of a divers convention as it was the highest tides of the year at a reasonable time of day on a Sunday – we almost needed traffic lights under water! I would say a total of 100 divers were under water but the fish weren’t too concerned. We even saw a Wobbygong shark about 4 foot long camouflaged lying on the sandy floor at the base of the wall.
Next dive was at Oak Park – the usual entry was not possible due to the amount of swell so we entered off a section of the beach that was rocky with a large gradient. As we were entering one of the girls decided she wasn’t confident about the dive and excused herself so we were down to two buddy pairs and a third buddy group (three divers) – my buddy was the divemaster. Off we went dropping down to a boulder strewn area with some kelp – not the type you get in California. We were all inspecting the flora and fauna with one guy taking lots of pictures.
We continue on and then the divemaster turns around to find we are down to only 5 divers and the divemaster from a total of 7 divers and the divemaster. Two people were missing.. not a good sign… in the briefing we were to stop search for one minute and then surface and look for the lost divers who are also meant to surface and wait. So we surfaced and there was no one to be seen on the surface. We talked and found out that the guy with the camera was missing and that the other diver had been low on air so had not told the rest of us and had just turned around and gone back towards the beach. We had to all get back to shore so we went under the surface again and headed on a bearing back to the shoreline. I was following the divemaster as I had no compass and had never dived there before. The terrain was like the description he had given in the briefing of where you did not want to end up. Shallow and full of urchins and lots of surge – the strong surface current had swept us and we weren’t able to swim against it. So there was nothing to do except exit on a small area of beach that had large waves breaking along it. I remembered my instructor at Monterey talking about a dive side called Monastary and how they do the Monastary crawl – all fours with reg in – to exit. I put my reg in and let the waves take me into the shallows trying to get out of the zone where the waves broke over me as quickly as possible and keeping my reg in so as not to inhale water. It was easier for the guys with the wet suits on who were only wearing 12 pounds of weight compared to my 26 pounds. The missing divers were safely sunbathing on the shore and I took a bit of breather after a tiring dive.
Next stop Sydney and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia where I took my parents for a drink before spending the night at the youth hostel. I would swear the place was full of guys like my little brother they were up partying till early in the morning in the hallway outside my room. I felt like a grouchy old lady ?