Archive for February, 2013

Stellar Reef, Sven’s Reef and Chimney Rock

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

On Sunday we had superb weather, four boat drivers and enough people to take out both our club boats. That’s a perfect mix for a great day of diving!

Instead of the usual Queenscliff launch we launched our boats from Barwon. The boat ramp there is some ways inland along the Barwon River and you have to navigate through some really shallow water to get to the open ocean. But on the positive side you avoid going through the Port Phillip Heads which makes things a lot more manageable for less experienced boat drivers. And as an added bonus there are lots of excellent reef dives in the vicinity of Barwon Heads.

We were planning to do three dives so we met up at the shed really early in the morning. Getting there on Sunday morning is always a pain but this time it was particularly annoying. Melbourne’s White Night festival was held on Saturday night and that meant no public transport running through the city center. So to get to the club shed I actually had to take a bit of a detour and do some extra walking. Still, by getting up at 5:20 I got to the shed in time and that’s what counts!

We had just enough divers to fill up both our boats and to make things little bit easier we had both boats doing the same sites. This worked out pretty well as we always had plenty of experienced divers watching after the less experienced ones. Things went quite smoothly too with the boats apart from a few times when we got to too shallow water. Luckily the riverbed is quite soft so no lasting harm was done. 🙂

Our first dive of the day was Stella Reef, a nice easy reef dive near the Barwon Heads. I hadn’t done the site before so it was nice to check it out. It was nice enough reef with some cool swimthroughs and plenty of ledges and overhangs. I was diving with Andrew and Steph and unfortunately Steph had some issues with her weighting. As a result we did a fairly short dive. Still, there was plenty to see down there and the conditions were excellent. No surge, minimal waves and visibility was good too.

Apart from the interesting reef itself and the fish life down there we also saw a fiddler ray. Some others spotted Port Jackson sharks as well, but we missed them. 🙁

After Stella Reef we visited the boat ramp to pick up fresh tanks and then headed to Sven’s Reef. On all my previous dives there it has been rather surgy down there but that wasn’t luckily an issue on Sunday. Visibility wasn’t quite as nice as at Stella but apart from that I find the site more interesting. There’s more vertical variation and some rather impressive pillars and overhangs. Fish life wasn’t perhaps quite as good as last time I was there but it was still quite rich and varied.

Unfortunately we had some minor equipment issues on this dive as well. I was buddied with Nicky and her regulator was freeflowing during descent. The only way she was able to fix it was to switch to her secondary. Luckily that got rid of the issue and the rest of the dive went without incidents.

We explored the area for quite a while and spotted plenty of fish, including a dusky morwong. Nicky also saw a seal, unfortunately I thought at first that she was having issues with her reg again so I missed it. 🙁 Still a great dive, nice to do Sven’s for once without the surge!

After reading up on Chimney Rock  I was really keen to dive it since we were launching from Barwon anyway. Unfortunately I was unable to find coordinates for the site, it’s a decent cray spot so most people keep the mark to themselves. Luckily Sven was able to provide us the coordinates after a quick text to him, he’s an useful guy to know!

But first we had to get some airfills and that proved to be quite an ordeal. It should have been a simple enough thing as Dive Vic in Queenscliff is only a short drive away from Barwon. Unfortunately filling up the tanks somehow  took several hours, I’m still not quite sure what actually happened. Nonetheless, we got the tanks filled eventually and were able to head off for our final dive of the day. Some people were too tired at this point to do a third dive but we still had a fair number of divers heading out.

Luckily Chimney Rock was well worth the extra effort. The site has a very interesting structure and it’s perhaps the best reef dive I have near Melbourne. It’s relatively small bommie with ledges, overhangs and windows everywhere. There’s also a small hollow “chimney” in the middle which gives the site its name. And to make it even better the site is reasonably shallow and suitable for open water divers as well.

The fish life there’s excellent and quite a few people also spotted some Port Jackson sharks in the area. Unfortunately I missed those but it was still an excellent dive and well worth a return visit. I had a superb dive there with Luke and Mel.

By the time everyone had finished their dives it was already getting fairly late and close to sunset. We headed back to the shore, got the boats back on the trailers and started driving back towards Melbourne. At this point everyone was keen to get back to the city after a really long day.

It took us a while to get everything washed back at the shed, by then it was already quite late and everyone was getting tired. Still, considering the excellent diving it was well worth the extra effort!

#283 Chimney Rock 2013-02-24

Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Chimney Rock in Melbourne, Australia
48 minutes, max depth 21.6 m, water 18°C
Buddies: Luke Cawley, Mel Tate

#282 Sven’s Reef 2013-02-24

Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Sven's Reef in Melbourne, Australia
46 minutes, max depth 22.6 m, water 19°C
Buddies: Nicky Woods

#281 Stellar Reef 2013-02-24

Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Stellar Reef in Melbourne, Australia
34 minutes, max depth 21.3 m, water 18°C
Buddies: Andrew Hebbard, Steph

#280 Mornington Pier 2013-02-20

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Mornington Pier in Melbourne, Australia
36 minutes, max depth 7.6 m, water 21°C
Buddies: Nathan

#279 Rye Pier 2013-02-20

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Rye Pier in Melbourne, Australia
39 minutes, max depth 7.3 m, water 21°C
Buddies: Nathan

Rye Pier (including Elsa’s Reef) and Mornington Pier

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

After a cool and cloudy Tuesday weather was back to warm and (mostly) sunny on Wednesday. Luckily one of our fresh members Nathan was keen to do a middle of the week dive to get bit more practice in the water. While we have been spared the most extreme temperatures during this most recent heatwave in Melbourne, I still welcomed the chance to get wet again.

It didn’t actually look that nice when we started driving towards Mornington Peninsula, it was cloudy and the sun was nowhere in sight. It looked like it might even start raining at some point. Luckily by the time we got to our first dive spot at Rye Pier weather was clearing up again and rest of the day was sunny and pleasant.

While diving the Rye Pier I also wanted to check out Elsa’s Reef. This (unofficial) artificial reef is a recent addition to the site and easily found by following the signs at the end of the main pier. It must have taken quite a bit of effort to construct, there’s lots of different stuff down there! There’s a big metal structure there that should make an excellent habitat for marine life in a few years to come. Already the fish had adopted the site.

There’s also a mirror down there for self-portraits and of course the titular Elsa the (Sea) Lion. It was a cool dive even if it took us a while to get Nathan’s weighting sorted out.

After Rye we started heading back towards Melbourne and stopped in Mornington for another dive. We had already visited Mornington last weekend but gave it a pass back then as it was really busy and apparently really silty too from all the divers in the water. This time there were no other divers around but the place was still rather silty and murky.

Particularly in the beginning the visibility was terrible and there were lots of fishermen on the pier too, so we had to be careful when looking for some clearer water. Luckily things improved a little bit once we got the deeper water around the second outer section of the pier.

It was still rather murky but at least there were some big schools of fish swimming around. I also saw one truly massive boarfish swimming around, sadly I didn’t manage to get a shot of it. Still, it was by no means a great dive. After swimming around for a while we did a little bit of skill practice with Nathan and finished up the dive.

From past experience I know Mornington can be decent dive when the visibility is ok. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those times, even if it wasn’t a total disaster by no means either.

All in all we were both still quite happy with how the day turned out. It was not the most successful day for photography but it was still good to get in the water and Nathan definitely benefited from the practice dives.

#278 Portsea Pier 2013-02-17

Sunday, February 17th, 2013
Portsea Pier in Melbourne, Australia
50 minutes, max depth 4.6 m, water 22°C
Buddies: Quynh

#277 Flinders Pier 2013-02-17

Sunday, February 17th, 2013
Flinders Pier in Melbourne, Australia
66 minutes, max depth 3 m, water 20°C
Buddies: Quynh

Flinders Pier and Portsea Pier

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

After Saturday’s snorkeling it was time for some proper diving on Sunday. Our original plan was to start at Mornington Pier, but it was really busy there with several shops running dive courses there. After talking with some guys and hearing that visibility was poor as well we decided to move on. We had a quick look at the nearby Point Linley as well. However, after some contemplation we decided to leave a dive there for another day and drove to Flinders instead.

This was a very sensible choice as this was perhaps the best dive I have done at Flinders Pier. The tide was fairly low (and getting lower) but everything else about the dive worked out great. There was an excellent variety of life down there and no current and minimal waves. Visibility was better than usual, too.

In addition to the normal seadragons and schools of fish there were also several huge smooth rays swimming around. They were really calm too, just hovering there right next to us for several minutes. The largest must have had a wingspan of well over two meters, a close contender for the biggest stingray I have ever seen. Crystal also found a sleeping cuttlefish for us, another nice surprise.

I had decided to keep my macro lens on for the dive. This was obviously no good for the big stingrays. Luckily there was lots of smaller life there too. I finally nailed a great closeup of a seadragon. There were also a couple of schools of very small fish that looked like some kind of glass fish. With some good luck I was able to shoot one really nice closeup of the school.

After the excellent dive at Flinders Portsea Pier was a pretty big disappointment. We were diving reasonably close to slack tide but the current was still really strong. At times it felt almost like a drift dive and swimming back against the current was no fun at all. In addition visibility was quite poor as well with lots of particles in the water.

Obviously this wasn’t too great for photography either. I still managed a few decent fish shots, but nothing too special.