Well it has been a couple of weeks since I have actually been in the water as I have been quite busy so when an opportunity arose to head out into the blue then I could not resist. Emails could wait until the end of the day.
Recently I have been doing my diving with Emperor Divers in El Gouna aboard “Sea Dream” and yesterday was no exception. It is good boat, with a good crew and the fact that I have been on board quite a few times just makes life so much easier. I know where everything is and I am starting to get to know the crew quite well.
The day started at 6.00am but this is only because I was a bit too busy the day before to organize my equipment, so I got up early to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be and to pack my kit bag ready for the day.
You may, or may not know that whilst I have been a qualified diver for around 6 years, and have been around diving ever since (providing surface support and logistics for deep technical courses in the UK and providing marketing and media services to the scuba industry through DiveMedia), I had actually done very little diving (don’t like UK cold water diving) and it is only recently that I have made the decision to actually progress into doing more training and moving beyond standard, occasional shallow Open Water Scuba Diver. I am going to cover more about this in some future blog posts.
It was therefore decided that yesterdays dive would not only be a fun dive but also a qualifying deep dive for my Advanced Open Water course. Now I have actually done a deep dive before and I have in fact completed the Advanced Open Water Course before (about 5 years ago) but due to my own “laziness” or lack of commitment at the time, I never actually finished the knowledge reviews and therefore never achieved the certification. When I decided to take more of an interest in diving a few months ago, I decided that this would be a good place to start and to re-do the full Advanced Open Water.
So, I arrived at Abu Tig Marina a little early, at around 8.15am and the boat had not arrived yet but this was not a problem. I usually don’t have the patience to wait for anything but a friend of mine, who also runs a local dive centre was in the marina so it gave us a chance to “catch up” while I was waiting.
The boat arrived so I jumped straight on and started preparing my kit. Nothing really exciting to report, at the end of the day I was simply preparing some OC equipment.
With that done and the boat underway, I headed up to the sun-deck. I am not normally a sun bathing kind of guy but there was a really nice wind up top so it was quite refreshing.
Even though I was not diving with the rest of the group on the boat, I attended the boat briefing with the other guests so I can learn as much as I can about the location and store it all away for future reference.
Then it’s time to kit up and jump in. I have been having a bit of a problem with weighting and descending recently so my goal was to get this as good as possible. I jumped in and whilst it wasn’t a perfect descent (it took me two attempts) down we went. Quick stop at 3 metres just to check everything was OK and then we are off.
The descent at Umm Gamar is not a straight “drop-off” but a gradual descent so you never really feel like you are going deep, just following the seabed to the required depth. There is a “drop-off” once you go past 30m but obviously for this dive it is not somewhere I needed to be.
As this was the “Deep Dive” for the Advanced Open Water course, I was carrying the required tennis ball to show pressure change. During the pre-dive briefing I was warned that as we descended I would hear the ball implode with a big bang so I waited in anticipation but it never did. It did become squashed but never went with a bang! I was quite disappointed.
We settle on the bottom at 28.8m to go through the “show and tell” for the course. (Crushed Neoprene, Imploded Tennis Ball, Colour Changes, Identifying A Mystery Object – which was a tomato and I got it right first time) and the required game of noughts and crosses to see if I was experiencing any narcosis. I was fine though and didn’t feel any side effects at all.
Then the gradual ascent back towards the boat. After the safety stop we also decided to practice breathing from the “drop-tank” at around 3m. This was actually a lot more difficult than I envisaged. Not because I had to change regulators but because I couldn’t keep hold of the cylinder and seemed to keep floating off it. I nailed it in the end though, a couple of minutes breathing from the drop tank, switch back to my own regulator and then out and back on the boat.
Lunch was good and I don’t really need to go into too much detail but I was certainly ready for it and then a nice relaxing surface interval.
We decided to stay at the same location for dive 2, but the group on the boat planned to do a drift dive from the west side of the island. This meant heading out in the zodiac and then drifting back to the boat. I didn’t really fancy this and preferred to jump from the boat to practice more with my weighting and descending.
As we jumped, I don’t think I was holding my mask in place enough and got a shot of sea water straight up the nose but other than that it was all good. We opted for descending down the mooring line but as we got to 3m, my instructor/buddy (who is also my girlfriend) had a problem with equalizing due to a minor ear infection so after 9 minutes at 3m we decided to thumb the dive and get back on the boat.
With all my kit sorted I headed back up to the sun-deck for coffee. I may have spent a little bit too much time in the sun as when I got home, the first place I needed to visit was the swimming pool to cool down my now very hot face!
Overall a good day and although we missed the second dive it is no great hardship. After all, I live in Egypt and can actually see the Red Sea from my house so it’s not like I have to wait until next years holiday to go again!