Six eager group members met at Chowder Bay for a dive out of Sydney Harbour. There was a bad omen with rain on the trip there and a southerly due mid-day, but conditions looked really good from the top of the stairs with sunshine and a light breeze having the harbour and out to the heads shimmering and flat. Soon a large pile of dive gear lay on the grass at the end of the roundabout.
As the last of the kit was carried down to the jetty in shifts the heavens opened causing a mad rush to don and zip up dry-suits. Much to the delight of the one wet suit diver at least one member was head to swear about wet undergarments. Alas, this would be the last laugh she got that day at the expense of dry-suit divers. Neil and John managed to figure out the complicated rope process to get the boat to the steps and soon with the sun back we were loaded and on our way.
For shelter from the predicted SW wind the plan was to anchor at the Gap and do both dives without moving. Bluefish was requested and would have been perfect except the trip back into the southerly may have been rough. The anchor locked into the rocks in 15 meters at the Gap Cave site and the first divers were dispatched.
After checking the security of the anchor we followed the dive plan to run out a reel down to the sandline at 21 meters, leave it there and head east along the reef edge. Visibility was at least 15 meters and the sponges and sea tulips shone in the sunshine. There were no weedies but we encountered all the usual reef fish, 2 male port Jackson sharks, lots of nudibranchs, bullseyes, old wives and girdled palma. Water temperature was 17 degrees on the top and hit 16 a few times on the bottom. So, very similar to the air temperature. Highlights of the dive were 2 large bannerfish and a large cuttlefish that took a liking to Janet and followed her back to the anchor.
After a surface interval we left John and Cathy on the boat and headed back down, passing Neil and May on the way to follow the second plan which was to be the same but head west along the reef edge. Amazingly given the same conditions the marine life this time was very different. As well as the usual reef fish we saw a very large black ray with no tail, a fiddler ray, lots of blue groper (wrasse), a very friendly clown toby that wanted to look into my mask, a banded morwong, a big swimming spotted wobbegong and tons of mado, ladder fin pomfets and old wives. Literally clouds of them in schools too large to estimate obliterated the algae covered rocks.
Unfortunately, with the second dive to that depth our bottom time soon ran out and we ascended under the boat. No need for the anchor line as we could see the boat from the bottom of the sea and the other divers down on the reef edge. Back on the boat waiting for the other two to surface we were informed that the last divers would need to abort due to issues with hire tanks. Ok we get an early mark but thinking that there were more dives John had not freed the anchor.
The new SOP of the trip line did not work as the anchor was down in a crevasse and could not be pulled forward. Also, the line is to thin and tends to burn your hands (just ask May) as it pulls through. Much heaving, boat moving, swearing, grunting and complaining later we prepared to dispatch a diver to free the bloody thing. Finally the diver was ready to go and the plan agreed on. Just then John noticed we were drifting and went forward to easily pull up the anchor. Luck was on our side that time.
A big thanks to Neil and May for convening their first dive out of Sydney Harbour.