The last time we launched our boat from Barwon Heads we did some excellent reef dives and the short boat rides were a plus too compared to launching from Queenscliff. So when the marine forecast for the weekend was looking almost perfect we were keen to head there again. This time we also stayed there overnight instead of doing just a day trip. We brought down both our boats and camped the Saturday night in Barwon Heads Caravan Park.
For the first two dives on Saturday we visited Chimney Rock and Stellar Reef. Visibility wasn’t as great as the last time we were there but that was to be expected after the algae bloom and some stormier autumn weather. For some reason Chimney Rock didn’t appear as impressive as last time around. I guess in the middle of the day the lightning isn’t as dramatic as in the evening. It was still a nice dive with Nicky and Mel B. The bommie itself is of course very interesting and we also saw lots of fish and a cuttlefish hiding under a ledge.
Stellar Reef was a nice dive too. The structure of the reef was again very interesting and there was plenty of fish life around. Unfortunately the visibility was quite poor so the conditions for photography were not the best. The first group of divers reported seeing several Port Jacksons but they must have scared them away as Nicky and I didn’t see any during our dive.
To finish up the day some of us headed for a third dive at St Leonards. This was a night dive with Bauke, Seth and Casey. I haven’t done a night dive at St Leonards before and hadn’t dived the pier in quite a while for that matter. So it was nice to get back there as the pier is one of my favorites. The visibility was about the same as on the reef sites we did earlier, i.e. quite fine for a night dive. A very welcome change from the couple last times I have been at St Leonards with pea soup water!
The dive itself was interesting enough. This was the first night dive for Casey and Seth so we kept a close eye on both. There was a surprising amount of fish life down there and a great variety too. I even managed to spot a velvetfish which I was quite happy about, usually they are very well camouflaged. We also saw a couple of eels on the bottom but unfortunately I didn’t manage any sharp shots of them.
After a late bbq dinner and some socializing we headed to our campground for a good night’s sleep. Saturday was the last day of daylight savings, so we had an extra hour of sleep too!
So on Sunday morning everyone woke up more or less refreshed. It was finally time for some wreck dives. I has been ages since I had visited any of the local wrecks so I was very much looking forward to the dives. Luckily the day didn’t disappoint either.
Unfortunately all our plans didn’t quite work out in the morning. We were hoping to get some airfills before taking the boats out to make sure we had enough full tanks for the rest of the day. Unfortunately when we Crystal and I got to Dive Victoria’s shop in Queenscliff the place was closed! With no notes on the door and calls going to voicemail this was bit mysterious. We spent around half an hour waiting outside but eventually we decided to give up. We went to Dive Plus shop instead to see if they could fill our tanks. Luckily we could get our fills there, , even though it took a quite a while as their fill banks weren’t filled up yet from previous night.
So with that out of the way we drove back to the boat ramp, quickly got everyone in the boats and headed for HMAS Canberra. We had booked the 10 am slot for Canberra and because of the delays in the morning we didn’t quite make it in time. But luckily we were there early enough that everyone still had time for a decent dive. I ended up buddying with Luke and Pete with Luke leading the way and Pete and I taking photos. This wasn’t quite the best dive I have done on Canberra but it was still an interesting trip through the wreck.
We entered from one of the holes on the side of the wreck near the lower levels. Then we slowly worked our way upwards through the wreck with a short detour outside. We finally finished at the bridge, then some point swimming around the deck structures and finally proceeded to our safety stop. The minimal swell meant that we had almost no surge down on the wreck, a pleasant change from usual Canberra dives when you need to be little bit careful near the entryways. The wind had picked up a little when we were underwater, however, and so we had small waves waiting for us on the surface instead of flat seas.
For the second dive our boat went to J4 Submarine for another wreck dive. This was also Luke’s 300th (logged) dive but he opted not to follow my lead and did the dive fully suited. Besides, Evan was driving the boat again and I think he has had his share of naked male divers for a while!
I have done this sub several times and never had a truly great dive there. Luckily this was a pretty perfect day for visiting the wreck and doing some penetration too. Surge is often an issue here but luckily today it was pretty much non-existent making for very easy penetration. We also had great visibility on the dive, the best of the weekend.
The only minor issue was missing the wreck itself with our shotline! Luke and I went down first and as we got down the sub was nowhere in sight. Water was very clear so this was quite worrying. Luke picked up the shot and I could faintly see a shape in the distance. We started swimming towards it and after a while it was clear we had found the sub. So no big harm done, apart from the fact Luke spent a fair bit of extra air carrying the shot. By the time Nicky, Carol and Mel followed us down the shotline the shot was already in place next to the sub.
With that issue sorted we got started with the dive itself. We entered the sub from a hole near the stern and started making our way towards the bow where the sub is broken open. There are a fair number of small and some larger holes in the sub so there was decent amount of light filtering in. It was still very dark for photography so I did little some experimenting with slow shutter speeds. The results were somewhat mixed, I guess I need some more practice with that.
While nice the swim itself through the sub is not that special. Luckily we had a nice surprise waiting for us at the place where the sub is broken in half. Outside the entryway there was a huge school of fish that was thick enough to almost block the way! An impressive sight indeed. We stopped for a while with Luke and I took several shots before moving on. Even when we swam through the school the fish didn’t want to budge, the school simply reformed around us and covered the exit again once we had passed.
We also had a quick look inside the broken off bow and the torpedo tubes. There were lots of fish there too. Afterwards we spent the rest of the dive outside the wreck, first we had a look at the conning tower and the plaque placed there by the first group that rediscovered the sub. Afterwards we swam along the top of the sub to the stern and back. At this point we were getting into to our NDL so it was time to start our ascent and head for the safety stop. An impressive dive indeed and a great one for Luke’s 300th. Too bad the photos don’t really do it justice, getting the lightning right inside the sub was quite a challenge. Hopefully I can crack it the next I get there!
To make sure everyone got to do two dives we had the boats going out for the third time. Unfortunately we were running low on tanks so I had to sit out this one. I still ended up sitting on the boat as we plenty of room and it was preferable to waiting on the coast anyway. By this
It was a great weekend, too bad it’s pretty unlikely we get another one so nice until next summer. Despite the high temperatures this weekend we are definitely heading towards winter and cooler and stormier weather.
Apr 06, 2013
40 min, 21 m, 19°C
Apr 06, 2013
44 min, 21 m, 19°C
St Leonards Pier
Apr 06, 2013
43 min, 3 m, 19°C
Apr 07, 2013
44 min, 27 m, 18°C
Apr 07, 2013
38 min, 26 m, 18°C