I always wondered why our Club Chairman Len Hards wore a T-Shirt with “Eat Sleep Dive Repeat” on our weekly Thursday Club night.
You see, I’m still a bit of a newbie to SCUBA Diving having only been diving 2 ½ years…and I am only used to wearing drysuits in old flooded slate pits or waters around the south coast of England and seeing no more than 4-5m in front of me.
I’ve been trying to write this trip report for a while (Trip was in September 2017!) and although I have had many good and varied personal and work reasons since coming back that have hindered me from starting I think one of the biggest fears has been ‘can my write up really do this trip justice’ – such was the lasting impact it had on me.
Then I realised, you know what, just like I didn’t understand Len’s T-Shirt before the trip….I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been on a liveaboard in the Red Sea can grasp just how amazing such a trip it is even if I wrote the best right up I could do or you had the time to read it all!
….And for those of you who have dived the Red Sea, well you are able to fill in the bits I miss with your own memories and stories…….
“If you can dive in that [dry suit] you can dive anywhere” they said….and so with that advice ringing in my ears off I set with 26 club members of the Kingston & Elmbridge Sub Aqua Club to Hurgarda in Egypt – to our awaiting Gin Palace for the week.
Now, I have always wanted to live aboard a “Gin Palace”, if only for a short while so I can pretend that I’m in some sort of Music Video like JAY-Z’s “Big Pimpin ft. UGK” or to be able to sing ‘I’m On A Boat’ by The Lonely Island ft. T-Pain. [Explicit WARNING – haven’t put links in as I am sure you will all go Google anyway now]
Obviously the ratio of males to females weren’t as high as in those videos and I am sure a lot of my diving buddies would probably be thinking more of Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ or Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ sort of music videos 😉 The latter thankfully didn’t get played and our boat stayed afloat…unlike the Titanic!
So, to the Gin Palace and what a beauty she was. BlueOTwo Horizon – The 5 Star Crown Jewel of the BlueOTwo Fleet and one where my diving life for a week was made unbelievably easy.
There was a “bell” for everything – the ship’s bell would sound to wake you up; to go to a briefing; to get kitted up; to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner….my body clock was so in tune with this bell that I couldn’t go to the loo without it (joke)…such was how our lives were on this boat for a week! (Glad to say that it didn’t take too long when got home to relieve oneself without a bell going off)
None of us really minded this bell, well most of the time, as it meant that we would be either be eating some amazing food prepared by our own chef and pastry chef, or we were going to be helped into and out of our kit to go diving to explore some amazing wreck and marine life.
The trip we had all eagerly signed up to 18 months previously was BlueOTwo’s ‘Best of the Wrecks’.
BlueOTwo’s website warns that there is no guarantee we would see all the wrecks on the sample itinerary due to weather conditions.
However, weather (get it, yes grammer nazi’s spelt it on purpose that way) God was on our side, or just because Paul Feakes our Diving Officer who seems attract good weather was on the trip, we got to do all of the main wrecks and even the long open water crossings were calm after all the stories I had been told!
Looking back at my dive log I went from from…Newhaven Sands (Milky Milky) and a check dive in Wraysbury in cold water and a dry suit to diving in a 3mm and 26-29oC water with really warm moving thermoclines that made me question, ‘did I wet myself?’ or worse still, had someone near me?!
Once I had gotten over diving in ‘bath temperature’ water, day and NIGHT (for we did 3 night dives which were freaking awesome) and being able to see the length of a football field in front of me I knew the rest of the week would be amazing…and it was!
The ship’s crew and guides did an amazing job giving us 30 minute briefing about the wrecks we were about to dive, the history of each vessel, the dive plan and places to look out for along the way and then getting us kitted up in two separate groups to go diving.
What stood out for me, apart from the amazing diving, was the care given to making our diving as easy as possible by the crew. Just as you got your wetsuit on, there was a member of the crew there zipping you up; just as you went to put on your BCD with all your kit on, there was a member of the crew helping get your arm through the jacket and sorting all your kits so it didn’t tangle….or kindly unattaching you from the pillar thanks to one of my so called diving friends having latched me back onto just before standing up. You know who you are…the time will come…oh yes…your time will come….) And then after the dive when you got out they would be there to help you get your heavy kit off and give you a thirst quenching refreshing drink. I don’t believe diving get’s any easier than that.
Each dive was to last no more than 1 hour and have no deco time and for each dive there was the offer to go with a guide, which on most occasions my buddy and I did as they knew the wrecks better than we did and all the best places.
Here is what we dived:
- Sha’ab El Erg 09/09/17 (Reef)
- Bluff Point / Gubal Barge 09/09/17
- Bluff Point / Gubal Barge 09/09/17 (Night – Barge)
- Rosalie Moller (Unfortunately I didn’t dive that one as ears blocked, but others said it was amazing and challenging with the current)
- Thistlegorm (outside) 10/09/17
- Thistlegorm (inside) 10/09/17
- Sha’Ab Abu Nuhas 10/09/17 (Night – Reef)
- Giannis D 11/09/17
- Carnatic 11/09/17
- Chrisoula K (Dora Oldendorff) 11/09/17
- Numidia 12/09/17
- Aida 12/06/17
- Numida 12/09/17
- Saleem Express 13/09/17 (outside)
- Saleem Express 13/09/17 (inside)
- Al Khafain 13/09/17
- Tobia Arba 13/09/17 (Night – Reef)
- El Minya 14/09/17 – lost my GoPro
- Mohamed Hasa Bella (And Miniya) 14/09/17 (Found my GoPro and Jackie’s Compass)
I was amazed at the immense sizes of some of the wrecks we dived. The Thistlegorm was an amazing wreck even with Alex’s butt or fin in my face…my fault entirely as too eager to get ahead, but eventually I slowed down and enjoyed seeing all the old lorries, motorbikes, tyres, ammunition, shells, train and wagons to name a few things. The Giannis D engine room was AWESOME – HUGE. The El Minya was a tight space, but by the end of the week we felt confident of each other abilities and control to go in down the corridors and really check that wreck out. The Saleem Express was an amazing wreck, but also a very solemn dive for everyone; and not everyone wished to dive inside this wreck understandably, due to the relative recent history and large number of souls lost.
The Gubal Barge at night was so exciting – like something out of Abyss as we descended seeing all these groups of torches from other divers and the shear amount of life that comes out at night was incredible. I literally had a regulator shaped smirk on my face thinking how cool this is – in the middle of a sea at night…no one at home will believe what I am doing or can see right now!
The Brothers, had some of my deepest dives ever there, sharks (Oceanic and Thresher popped over to check us out), dolphins for some of the group (okay most of the group, except me…sniff, although they did chase us in the Zodiacs (inflatable boat with rigid bottom – A.K.A RIB in UK)) and a turtle for Jackie and Brian.
My top 10 stand out moments for me were:
- Hanging with some really great friends!
- Having a really cool and calm dive buddy with me the whole week of wicked diving – Cheers Nick
- Losing my friend’s GoPro on the second to last dive while on the drop line, then with Nick’s search pattern…finding it again on the very last dive some 35m from the wreck between a piece of coral and sea urchin! AMAZING! #nevergiveup
- The games, the drinks, the views and that amazing warm breeze…so missed this Christmas!
- The food was awesome and the night out in Hurgarda! – What happen’s in Hurgarda stays in Hurgarda…hey Len/Martin…we got the dance floor going, well I did, but appreciated the nods of encouragement and raised glasses from the side!
- Thistlegorm – Jaw Dropping Cool Proper Diving Sxxx!
- Giannis D, Carnatic, El Minya – Nick and I went properly in for a look around – when you know you have your buoyancy sorted
- Night Dives – INCREDIBLE
- The crew of the ship, really friendly and kind – just loved those fruit juices handed to you coming out of each dive.
- The new friends I have made….all with a love of life, the sea, exploring wrecks, marine life and having fun!
I think the photos below really speak for themselves as to the fun we had (Thanks Paul Feakes, Jacqui Cole, Jason Start, Lucy Evans and Nathan Targett for the photos)
If you are interested in learning to dive or already dive and want to do more diving and be part of a large BSAC scuba club with it’s own club house, bar, compressors for your fills and boats then contact us and look forward to an action packed 2018!
(Ed. Tip – Click on a photo to open up the lightbox viewer – photos load quicker)