El Gouna 2019 Trip Report

‘Red Sea diving, here we come!’       

23rd August 2019 – at last….the long anticipated day had arrived!  Branch 5 – the MerseyDivers – were on their way, flying into Hurghada, Egypt, from three different UK airports, on the same day!

Our party consisted of 23 divers (Sports Divers and above) and 17 assorted friends and family! The trip had been planned well in advance, and had been well thought out, with an all-inclusive hotel, Three Corners Rihanna Inn, El Gouna, just North of Hurghada, as our base. This enabled our non-divers to enjoy the pools, the lagoon, the waterslides, the tuktuk journeys to ‘downtown’, the ferry to local islands, snorkelling, and several local excursions.

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‘All-inclusive’ also meant that when we returned from a day’s diving , dining and a ‘little beverage’ could be in any combination of numbers… from couples, to a couple of nights when the entire group met and ate together….true celebrations!

On arrival, airport pickups and hotel check-in all ran relatively smoothly, although several of the singles in our group were a little surprised to be sharing a double bed with their room buddy! The hotel managed to sort that out the next day, though to be fair the twin beds were almost as cosy as the double!

The format for each day was simple. Emperor Divers sent minibuses to pick us up, after an early breakfast, and these would take us down to the waterfront, where the ’Pegasus’ and her trusty crew would be waiting for us. We stored all our gear in named crates under the benches, and left it there each evening.

On Day One Tobi, one of the dive leaders, got us all together on the top deck for a briefing. We were to dive 2 reef dives that day, so he used a whiteboard diagram to show us the dive plan for the first dive, the depths, the timings and what we could expect to see…..and what would be a possible bonus! Then Question Time. We were put into 3 groups, and given a buddy for the day. We met Tiger, and Mahmoud, our 2 other dive guides, and the dive plan board stayed on the wall all day, so we all knew the names of where we were going and  who our buddies were, and didn’t have to ask the staff a million times!

As soon as everyone was aboard, we would set out – calm seas, glorious sunshine, great company, two decks to wander around on, sit and chat, and generally relax. Our fabulous crew made sure there was always hot water for tea and coffee, and cold water / soft drinks in the fridge.

We were all excited for our first dive, on Carless Reef. The first group kitted up, closely followed by the rest of us, and we entered the water a group at a time. Wow! For those of us who had never experienced Red Sea Diving before, it was awesome. Getting on for 35/40m visibility, we swam in a fabulous aquarium! Stonefish, a crocodile fish, blue spotted rays, HUGE moray eels peering out from the rocks, the tiniest purple Orchid Dotty Backs, shoals of wrasse, barracuda……

Eventually we reluctantly climbed the ladder back into the boat, with the crew lifting cylinders off our backs ,helping us de-kit, and our cook going round the boat offering us warm, freshly baked cakes!

Second dive was more of the same…..!

In between dives our cook managed to serve up a fantastic lunch buffet – salads, pasta, one or two meat dishes, and local Egyptian dishes…..all from a kitchen about the size  of an old red telephone box!

Then it was time for another relax as we headed back for an hour or two back to El Gouna, and a celebratory cold beer….or two!

Day Two was more of the same, except that our dives were both Wreck dives. First was on the Carnatic, which ran aground on the Abu Nuhas reef. SS Carnatic is adorned with over a hundred years of coral growth – amazing colours and variety. She lies on her port side and is in 2 quite distinctive parts, the bow and the stern. The deck is now rotted away leaving a series of main supporting beams of the 3 decks- the ribs of the ship. These are covered in a profusion of colour and life, where the square portholes are covered with marine life, from soft corals to tiny pipefish and nudibranchs.

The highest point of the wreck is the stern at 17m, with the rudder and prop at 28m The bow itself still bears the graceful lines of a once proud and elegant ship, Her masts lie on the seabed away from the wreck alongside recognisable parts of engine, gears, and boilers – a magnificent sight.

She had been carrying a cargo of cotton, port, copper ingots and 40,000 Pounds Sterling in gold coins. Unfortunately we found none of it!

The second wreck was the Giannis D. which sank in 1983 after hitting the same reef. As the sea was quite choppy, this was a 15 minute RHIB journey to the wreck site, for us.

Giannis D. is is lying on the bottom in roughly three separate sections. My group dropped onto the stern of the wreck, lying at 24 meters and at about a 45-degree angle. The ship’s bent propeller lies partially buried in the sand on the bottom. Penetration into the superstructure , which quite a few of us were keen to do, involved entering the pilothouse, which has been stripped of all of its equipment, and then heading along and down the companionway into the engine room, which hasn’t been salvaged.

Because of the angle of the ship it can become a bit disorientating -the engine room is filled with catwalks and handrails, all at odd angles, with the diesel engine lying to one side. Here we were very taken by a huge spotted pufferfish in the depths, who took no notice of us at all!

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We followed various dark passageways, with the occasional glimpse of brilliant blue out of a porthole, eventually exiting near the middle section of the ship. Then we finned along to the bow which lies completely on its port side, past winches, bollards and various ‘shippy’ things (I’m so technical!), and saw the masts stretching out parallel to the seabed –fascinating. Back along the length of the ship, seeing some of the original cargo still on the deck – wood! – and gradually ascending to our safety stop, along the ship’s mast which rises to about 4m from the surface.  On the dive we were lucky enough to see numerous varieties of aquatic life such as glassfish, scorpionfish, wrasse, napoleon, crocodile fish, grouper and lionfish and blue-spotted stingrays along the bottom. Wonderful!

Day Three gave us more reef dives. It was like being in an aquarium –all sorts of angelfish, parrotfish, pufferfish , morays, shoals of tiny fish, cornet fish, and others too numerous to mention.

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Our lovely dive guides offered us a third dive, stopping on the way back at Gota el Dier. For those of us who decided to dive it was an experience of a lifetime……  about 40 minutes into the dive, a huge grey shape shot through the group. It circled and returned, this time with a friend – DOLPHINS. For the next few minutes they circled us, raced to the water surface and back and brought more of the pod to check us out…a real honour! After passing us at an arm’s length away, the 7 dolphins eventually glided away into the distance leaving us absolutely buzzing!

And so the week continued – more spectacular reef diving in varying locations, and 2 more ‘Third Dives’  where we spent more time with dolphins – absolutely unbelievable!!

Before we knew it, the week was drawing to a close – with a final hotel day, to relax and chill before our evening flights home. Friendships had grown stronger, birthdays been celebrated, diving skills progressed, new food sampled, copious amounts of alcohol consumed, challenges met/ dealt with /overcome, and truly awesome dives accomplished.  Red Sea Diving had lived up to its reputation – we’ll be back!

Many thanks to Emperor Divers, El Gouna,  for a great week.

Purple Jan (Ryan)

[For anyone reading this and searching for gossip and ‘scandal’,- about who jumped in for their dive with items of kit missing (weightbelts? dive computers?) or who stayed up the latest each night, or drank the most beer?, you’re out of luck –‘’ what goes on in Egypt, stays in Egypt’’!!!]

Plymouth 2020 Trip

Date: 29 Aug – 1 Sep 2020 (August Bank Holiday)
Boat: Seeker (In Deep Diver Centre)
Min Quals: SD with 10+ dives post qualification and proven depth progression

£50 non-refundable deposit secures your place

Details
• 3 days diving, staying 4 nights B&B at The Borringdon Arms
• £340pp – based on 12 divers
• Places on first come basis, but will only be confirmed once
deposit is paid

There is a branch participation list on the notice board. Contact Terry Maloney for more Details.

Plymouth 2019 Trip Report

It was the Friday before August Bank Holiday 2019 and ten members of the branch made their way South for a long weekend of diving around Plymouth with In Deep Dive Centre.

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The group were staying at The Borringdon Arms in Turnchapel which is only a short distance from the Mount Batten Centre which is where the boats leave from. Once again, we were on Seeker which was ably skippered by James Balouza and assisted by Conan (if you ever meet him, you will know why he’s called Conan!)

Saturday morning dawned with bright sunshine and a mild breeze. After a hearty breakfast of our choice, we all prepared our kit on Seeker ready for the first days diving. The weather was holding good and everyone was looking forward to getting into the water. Our two dives were to be in Whitsand Bay on HMS Scylla and the James Eagan Layne. The viz was an acceptable five or six metres. More than adequate to enable the divers to make their way around and through the wrecks. I personally love diving the JEL as it’s got genuine history and can be quite atmospheric at times. 


Saturday night was spent in a number of the local hostelries sampling their food and an odd beer. Everyone stated that they had thoroughly enjoyed the first days diving and were looking forward to more of the same the next day.

Sunday dawned and the weather was even better than the previous day despite the cloudy start. There was still a pleasant breeze blowing which we all needed as it developed into a fairly hot, sunny day. Seeker set out for the Bolt Head area so that we could dive the SS Maine. This was a brilliant dive. Viz was excellent at about six to ten metres and the light levels were that good at thirty metres that there was no need for a torch! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the dive. We even had Congers and a Thornback Ray swimming around the wreck. The surface interval was completed while we made our way to Bigbury Bay to dive the SS Persier. Sitting at a similar depth to the Maine, it turned into another great dive with similar viz and light levels. The group couldn’t decide on which dive had the better viz. once again, there was plenty of life on the wreck including a number of Crayfish which are making a welcome return to the area. No torch required again! 

Sunday evening saw us dining at the yacht club and we all had a really pleasant meal which was washed down with the odd beverage.

Monday, and it was our final day of diving. Generally the last day is ‘request day’ and the group can decide where they want to dive or rely on the skipper. Most wanted to dive on HMT Elk which was a smallish minesweeper that was unfortunately sunk by an acoustic mine. She sits at just over thirty metres and although on the small side is still a nice little dive that you can cover a couple of times quite comfortably. Our second dive was a group request to do a reef dive that we had been told about. With a maximum depth of about twenty three metres or so it was to prove a really pleasant dive and a good end to a perfect weekends diving. Amongst all the various critters we saw, there were Crayfish, Lobster, Feather Stars, Feather Duster Worms and the highlight of the dive (well for me) Barrel Jellyfish that were as big as dustbins. Awesome! That evening, we dined in The Clovelly Bay Inn which is only a stones throw from The Borringdon Arms so not too far to stagger back home.

So Tuesday came around all too soon and it was time to make our way back home. After a ‘full English’, we said our goodbyes to our hosts (till next year) and headed back up North.

Thanks to Karl Steadman, Garry Bolland, Stewart, Nathan & Joss Matthews, Kerry Place, Andy Rath, Andy Baigent and Aden McGuigan for a truly brilliant weekend.

Terry Maloney

Derbent & Cartagena Weekend July 2019

Derbent & Cartagena Weekend

Date: 19th July to 21st July 2019
Trip Manager: John Rice

The Derbent is at 45m so is dive leader & above only. The Cartagena is at 30m so can be dived by Sports Divers with progression signoff.

Staying in Amlwch and using the facilities of John Gill’s Adelphi Vaults and Amlwch Diving Services. Launching from Bull Bay with a maximum of 12 Divers.

There is a sheet on the notice board for anyone interested. A deposit of £25.00 needed asap.

Farne Islands Weekend July 2019

Farne Islands Weekend

Date: 12th July to 14th July 2019
Trip Manager: John Rice

Returning to Springhill Farm Pods and chalets for accommodation, and mooring the RIBs at North Sunderland Harbour with the potential use of another Billy Sheils 10 diver RIB if numbers require.


Sports diver & above as its a Neaps weekend and we will aim to dive the Somali, Abyssinia & Chris Christenson wrecks whilst there.

Deposit of £30.00 as soon as possible.

There is a sheet on the notice board for those interested

M2 Bank Holiday Weekend Trip May 2019

M2 Bank Holiday Weekend Trip

4th May to 6th May 2019

An opportunity to dive one of the very best wrecks in UK waters. At 30-35 metres, this experimental Submarine had a sea plane and waterproof plane housing on its forward deck. Sadly somebody forgot to seal one of the doors, and 26 lives were lost.

Diving will be with Skindeep Diving Charters in Portland on a hard boat with a tail lift. Accommodation will be a bunkhouse near the dive centre.

Contact John Rice for more details.

Stoney Cove Trip January 2019

Stoney Cove Progression Diving – January 2019

A group of new Branch 5 sports divers went off to Stoney Cove in Leicestershire last weekend for two days of progression diving under the expert guidance of Alan Jones.

Kelly Baird, Kate Mills, Chris Mills, Dave Roberts, The Major and Dave Barlow

With the help of Martin Campbell, John Dunne and Robbie Edwards all five were put through their paces. The water was cold and although the visibility wasn’t too bad down to about 25m it was pretty poor at the bottom. But everyone coped and by the end of the weekend all had been signed off to 35m.

Accommodation on Saturday evening was at the Mill on the Soar. An excellent inn less than a mile from the quarry with great rooms with breakfast at a very reasonable price. Everyone enjoyed an extended evening meal, a few well earned drinks and a lot of laughs.

Really enjoyable weekend was had by all even if the water was only 6 degrees. Certainly showed who had the best undersuits !

Red Sea Trip August 2019

Red Sea Trip

Date: 23rd to 30th August 2019
Organiser: Tony Fitz

Leaving from Manchester Airport on 23rd August and flying to Hurghada on the Red Sea. Staying at the The Three Corners Rihana Inn, El Gouna.

Six days diving has been organised with Emperor divers, including one day on the Thistlegorm. Two dives a day including air and weights with an option to pay for a third dive each day. Nitrox available for an extra charge.

All the diving places have now been filled. Contact Tony Fitz for more details.


 

Archaeology Field School June 2019

Nautical Archaeology Society Archaeological Field School
7th – 17th June 2019

The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) and Bangor University are currently collaborating on a project to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and the shipping losses which occurred around the Welsh coast.

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and, as part of the project, the Nautical Archaeology Society will be running a FREE field school at Abercastle in Pembrokeshire from 7th – 17th June 2019. The field school will be based around the wreck of the SS Leysian. If members of your dive club are interested in participating in the field school and bringing along your club boat to dive the site over the course of the field school, please contact us for a booking form at: MADUdiving@gmail.com

The field school will be based and run from Garn Isaf in Abercastle where there will be FREE air fills. For the duration of the field school, camping will also be FREE at a 15-pitch camping site. However, pre-booking is required. To check availability and to reserve a pitch, please contact: Ian Cundy on: 01684 574774

For anyone who doesn’t want to camp, there are also B&B facilities on site, but these are not free and would need to be booked and paid for directly, see: https://www.garnisaf.com

FREE training will be provided during both weekends of the field school for people who have not previously attended a NAS recording and surveying course, and FREE additional specialist courses will also be run during the field school upon demand and should weather condition preclude diving activities.

The Leysian was a 4,703 ton steamship taken into service as a prize of war by the British – 400ft x 52ft x 27ft (121.92m x 15.85m x 8.23m). She ran straight into the cliffs in poor visibility on 20th February 1917. The site today is suitable for all diving abilities lying in 8-16m of water, close to the cliffs and only around 600m from the beach and slipway. The site is in the shelter of Abercastle bay, protected from all but winds from the NW through to E, and diving is possible at most states of the tide.

* There will be a £10 per head / night deposit required when booking the camp site which will be refunded following the field school (providing you turn up for the period booked).

There is a branch participation list on the notice board. Contact John Rice for more Details.

Amlwch RIB Trip May 2019

North Anglesey Wreck Trip

Date: 24th to 26th May 2019
Organiser: Tony Fitz
Dive Manager: Rob Edwards

As part of his Advanced Diver qualification, Rob is managing two days of wreck diving out of Amlwch, North Anglesey, in May 2019.

There will be three nights camping at Mountview Caravan and Camping park, starting Friday 24th May. Three boats will be going and so there should be space for 16 divers. All grades of diver will be catered for.

The entry list is up on the club notice board. £25 deposit required before 24th April.

Contact Tony Fitz or Rob Edwards for more details.