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Big Saigon

Author: Michael Abbott, Photo: John V

Denise, John V and Swifty met Janet and I at the marina at 8.30 am. A civilised time to start but it was still a shock to get out of the car to 9 degree air temperature. Those in dry suits with already attired undergarments had the distinct advantage. For once we could laugh at the fashion police who ridicule the assorted undergarments worn by dry suit divers*.

Loading the boat was slower due to COVID restrictions, with individuals or couples each doing their own gear. This was my first convene on the newish Underwater Research Group dive boat due to the amount of work undertaken and new training required in the last 16 months. As such I was happy to have John V there to oversee the start-up process. It isn’t that difficult; things are just in different positions and there are now two motors to prime and start.

In due time we were cruising across a flat windless bay at a comfortable 20 knots. The skies were grey, and the bay reflected that colour, however the mood was bright, and we were excited to be out on the water at last. As we passed the heads confidence grew and with seas at less than 1 meter, we decided the run down to Big Saigon was on the agenda.

The marks book was in the cabin and frankly still needs a lot of work for these southern sites; luckily the new sounder has our old marks and is easy to use. We passed over where the reef raises from 22 to around 15 meters and anchored up in 12 plus meters. Reports from the first group of divers were that this was was too shallow as the anchor was on flat hard reef with kelp.

Janet, Swifty and I confirmed this when we reached the anchor to find it dragging slowly. I spotted a ledge a few meters to the left so dragged the anchor—with my buddies pulling the chain sideways—and placed it in a crevasse. That anchor was not going anywhere.

The viz was around 8 meters but very gloomy due to dark skies. It had poured rain while we waited for the first divers to surface. Two drenched divers were standing in their fully done up dry suits while one not to be named hid in the cabin entrance**. Due to the gloom we attached a come-back line and headed along the wall to the east. After 15 minutes of casually mooching along, the wall turned north and we headed out a little to explore some potholes. The area is all hard reef but with a bit too much brown algae, otherwise known as kelp, for my liking.

The area along the wall and out of the kelp is the best with some sponges, a few nudibranchs and a lot of red rock algae. Fish life was not prolific, and we mostly saw the ever-inquisitive Maori Wrasse. In addition, there were Rock Cale, Blue Groper, Old Wifes, Bullseyes, Mado, Half-Banded Sea Perch, White Ear Palma and Black Reef LJ. Highlights were Banded Sea Perch hanging from the ceilings of the overhangs and Janet saw a snapper.

Having reached 25 meters, all too soon time was up, and we returned to the anchor, only to find it had pulled hard into my safe crevasse. Even if we had managed to untangle the anchor trip and retrieval line before deploying the anchor it would not have pulled this one free. John and I spent many anxious minutes working and finally pulled, twisted, and bent the anchor free.

We placed it on the flat reef to drag as we slowly ascended to our safety stop. Water was 18 degrees and we spent 43 minutes on the dive. All in all, a nice dive and a successful first outing for us on the first URG catamaran. When will it get a name? Hopefully as COVID 19 restrictions ease we will get more divers on the boat. See you in the water soon.

* Editor’s note: except for Martin. It’s always funny to laugh at him in tracky dacks.

** Anonymous person’s note: I bet it was Janet.

*** Web editor's note: I bet Anonymous Person (AP) is Lou.


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