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More diving, 4m rescue diver and Maltese wrecks

15 February 2012

PADI recommends that after learning to dive you dive  again within six months or take a refresher course, then diving at least once every year.  Some view the refresher course as a PADI moneyspinner but really it seems like a small price to pay to ensure that you don’t mess something up that could seriously endanger your life!

After doing my advanced open water in November I was keen to get out diving as soon as possible, both to avoid the refresher but also to just experience a fun dive without any lessons.  Al, my training buddy, had really taken to diving and completed a further ten dives while visiting home (the Philippines, lucky devil) for Christmas, complete with pictures of a shark and the contest that he would become a Master Diver before me.  Nevertheless, he was happy to join me on a weekend away, but the trick was where…

With limited holiday, we decided to maximise our time by heading away on the first May bank holiday.  We didn’t fancy the cold water diving and so identified Malta as a good dive location, with the logic that it was the middle of the Mediterranean and so could not be too cold.  You’d be surprised…

Due to the fact that you shouldn’t five within 18 hours of repeat diving the bank holiday itself was a write-off in diving terms but we agreed to maximise our impact on the Saturday and Sunday with 8 dives in two days.  Eager to try to catch up on Al, I decided to head out a day early and get a day diving on my own (with a refresher dive if needed) to ensure that I didn’t hold him back in any of the dives.

We did our usual fairly standard research and booked accommodation at the Hilton Malta (naturally, very nice) with dives through Cresta Dive (www.crestadivecentre.com) who would pick us up and drop us off at the end of the day.  Cresta Dive were a small outfit but with friendly staff and carried out most of our dives from the shore, transporting us around by minibus. 

Unfortunately for me, I came down with a bit of cold in the week leading up to the trip and, ever safety conscious, became concerned that this would limit my ability to dive.  Al told me, fairly, to man up and see how I did, but I did (to Al’s disgust) commit to email that I was feeling a bit bunged up and may not be able to dive fully for the weekend.

Nevertheless, I headed out early, checking into our sumptuous twin room, much more opulent than that which we had shared for our dive training.  It was fortunate that I did, as on the Friday Cresta were taking a boat out to Comino, a beautiful island off the coast of Malta.  The sea was a beautiful clear and we would begin with a wreck – Malta is most famous for wreck dives.

As we kitted up I was feeling optimistic that my cold was clearing up but after only 4.2 metres my ears became painfully blocked and I had to surface.  The divemaster told me to remain at the surface and took the other pleasure divers down to enjoy the wreck.  I was disappointed but continued to snorkel (and blow as much mucous from my passages as possible) and the visibility was so good that I could see much of the shallow wreck although the bubbles from my fellow divers were taunting me.  I texted Al afterwards to joke that I was doing my 4m rescue diver (being a precursor to Master Scuba Diver) but felt that it may have been a day off work wasted.

We had lunch at a dodgy kebab van on Camino of burger and fries (recommended to the least dodgy of two vans) before heading to the Camino Caves.  Having discussed the issue with the Cresta professionals over my burger, I switched buddy and descended alone with the dive instructor.  He was very considerate and took me through a number of gentle swim-throughs, eventually getting to around 11 metres with only a little delay due to my ears.  Although it is important not to risk diving in these situations, it is also useful to learn what is actually a problem and what may just be a little hypochondriacal man-flu…

        

Al arrived on a late night flight but I got a decent amount of sleep and felt much better the next day for our intensive schedule.

Notwithstanding that we had imagined that the waters in the Mediterranean were warmer than the UK, we had forgotten that it was still only the beginning of the spring.  Although visibility was up to 20 metres at times, the temperature was around 17 degrees C and so cold even in full gear with boots and hoodies!  There is not much colourful sealife around Malta (as Al, spoiled by diving in the Philippines complained) but the caves and wrecks around there more than make up for it and I was just glad to be able to descend without too much trouble and see further than the length of my arm, significantly more enjoyable than the murk we learned in in Thailand despite all the alleged colourfulness.

       

We dived several cave sights and explored HMS Maori in shallow waters before going to the deeper P29 (a sunken mine destroyer the next day).  P29 was a difficult navigational dive and we were delayed by a diver who hadn’t dived for a while and was unable to descend and maintain buoyancy.  We enjoyed some good swim throughs in Paradise bay as the other divers dropped off and then the highlight of the day (although in slightly murkier water) was the “Rosie” wreck which touched down to almost 30metres and allowed us to swim down the mast and explore the wheel-house.  Seeing those shapes emerge out of the blue and form into the remnants of ships that had seen active service was thrilling but also quite eerie, particularly given the meditative breathing of diving and the flat blues of the deep water.  Exploring the wrecks was quite fascinating and it was easy to lose track of the depth gauge.

     

       

       

After this intensive weekend we were grateful for a day of down-time to allow the nitrogen to dissipate and explored the old-town but I had developed a real taste for wreck-diving.  Perhaps, however, it would be worth waiting until the water has warmed up to return to Malta!

An arty one to finish...

From → Diving, Travel

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