Back to two boats at the weekend which was gratifying. We had nine divers which would have squeezed on one boat back in the day but now the coastguards are taking a much closer interest in the passenger limits (on the registration card). The first target was Karen’s dhow, where we haven’t been to for a while. This is the wreck for picking up cheap glassware to decorate your living room. The sea state was a bit flatter than it’s been for a couple of weeks, giving us a smoother ride. The anchor went over the side of SP312 followed shortly by the first divers who came back five minutes later saying we weren’t on the wreck. SP125 then had a go and hooked the wreck no more than 10m away. On descent, the two anchor lines were visible from one another. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting the first group could have found the wreck if they’d looked a bit harder, would I?
Anyway, viz wasn’t the greatest and there was a bit of a current but there was plenty of fish to look at and a few plates to be had.
The sea state was picking up by this point so we headed back inshore for the second dive on the Victoria Star. When we got there, we found DSDC’s boat already there. We had to wait for a few minutes while they got their divers out of the water but we had a bit of a chat.
The conditions at the Vic Star were unfavourable. There was a strong current running and the viz was poor. We had a tour of the accommodation and a bit of a play with some super-friendly batfish at the bow before giving up and heading for the surface. A great day diving with some extra house ware bling.
The nitrox is now up and running but only to be used by those trained to do so (currently Brian and Angela). A blending course is due to happen later this month,
A few words from former DO, Geoff Patch about the latest leg of his world tour:
Antigua (known locally as ‘Wadadli’) is one of two major islands that make up the nation of ‘Antigua and Barbuda’, which gained independence in 1981. One of the Caribbean ‘Leeward Islands’, Antigua is known as the ‘Land of sea and sun’. It is blessed with 365 beaches and counts amongst its attractions, ‘Nelson’s Dockyard’ in English Harbour, which dates back to the 18th century where it was the base for Admiral Horatio Nelson during his time as Captain of HMS Boreas in the 1780’s.
Antigua is also home to a blossoming dive industry, which while in it’s infancy has great potential for the future. After some research, I identified ‘DiveCarib’ as my operator of choice. Based in Falmouth Harbour to the south of the island, it is run by Bryan (Natal) and Leigh (UK) who between them have significant diving experience. Leigh is a serious ‘techy’ with several dives below 200m and for a while held the Red Sea depth record with a dive of 240m.
Most of the existing dive sites are reefs, barely a mile or so offshore. Our first day of diving was on two such reefs; ‘Red Rocks’ and ‘Carib House’, both in about 25m of water with visibility in the region of 25-30m. Marine life was plentiful amongst the healthy reefs, which were blessed with a multitude of soft and hard corals, and a variety of fish including nurse sharks, barracuda, turtles, jacks, trevally, crabs and lobsters. There was also an abundance of ‘Southern Stingrays’, which often bury themselves in the sand waiting for their prey.
The second day of diving was on a 50m long cargo ship, the ‘Montserrat’, deliberately sunk in ~2010 and sitting on a sandy bottom in 42m of water. This was planned as a technical dive to give us 35 minutes bottom time. With twin S80s containing air as back gas and a S80 containing 50% nitrox for accelerated decompression, I descended with Leigh on to the wreck in 30m visibility. The wreck is in good condition with good penetration opportunities via the bridge, galley, hold and engine room. Noting that the propeller was still attached, I sensed I was the first 406-er to have visited this wreck. The marine life seems to have staked out their own territories with several Jacks in residence on the bridge, Lion Fish in the galley, and crabs and spiny lobster in the bilge of the engine room. There was also a now familiar Southern Stingray circling the wreck on the sandy bottom. After the planned 35-minute bottom time we started our slow ascent to the surface and after the required decompression obligations surfaced with a total run time of 95 minutes.
That should have been the end of the days’ adventure but just minutes after setting off for Falmouth Harbour and a cold one, the engine cooling system had a catastrophic failure and we were adrift for 2 hours before the ABSAR (Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue) RIB came to our rescue to provide the ‘tow of shame’ back to the DiveCarib berth.
The next day had been planned as an exploratory tech dive but with the demise of the engine cooling system and the advent of hurricane Beryl blowing through the Leeward Islands, that was the end of my diving for this trip! If visiting Antigua I am happy to recommend DiveCarib https://www.divecarib.com/ as a professional dive operator.
Please view Geoff's pictures below.
The Eid trip is taking shape but for those who have not yet booked, time may be running out. It’s high season out there and both flights and rooms are in short supply. Of those going, we arrive between 17th – 19th August and depart 24th – 25th August according to taste with diving in between. Most of us are staying at the Amaan Bungalows but Nungwi Inn also has some takers. Please let Peter or me know when you book
The Dive Club meets every Tuesday night in the Dive Bar.
See you there!
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.