Dive trip to Phillip Island

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It has been almost a year since my last dive trip to Phillip Island so I was keen to get back there. I really wanted to visit the Pinnacles again and also get some better shots on the wreck of George Kermode. On Friday things looked promising enough, weather forecast was looking promising indeed (30+ degrees every day!) and we had the whole long labour day weekend ahead of us.

Unfortunately despite the superb weather and great organization the trip turned out into a pretty big disappointment. On Friday we heard some worrying reports about very poor visibility on many dive sites along the coast. Too bad these reports were not exaggerated, on Saturday we experienced the problem firsthand. Our first dive was George Kermode, an old bucket dredge scuttled in 1976. I had visited the wreck once before and I was hoping to get some improved shots this time around. Sadly this was not meant to be, fairly strong surge and visibility that was barely two meters made for some very poor conditions for photography.

As our second dive we decided to follow the coast the other way around towards Wanthaggi to see if the visibility was any better there. Sadly this was not the case. We found some interesting looking reefs on the sounder and hopped in to have a closer look. But the conditions were about the same as on the first dive and with more particles in the water the visibility dropped to one meter or less at times. Suffice to say things were not looking really good at this point!

Luckily the last dive of day was significantly better, Pinnacles are yet to disappoint. While visibility was still not that great, it was still fairly decent at around 5 meters. There was also a fair bit of current running around the Pinnacles and also some surge near the top, but it was still a quite nice if little challenging dive.

Sunday in general worked out little better than Saturday. Swell was down so the surge was less of an issue on most sites. First thing in the morning we headed back to Pinnacles and conditions were actually nice there, I hopped in with Luke and Nicky and we had a very nice with with decent visibility and only weak current. For the other two dives of the day I visited two reef sites around Cape Woolamai. Both were in somewhat protected bays and offered some small walls and kelp forests. We also spotted a few crays but didn’t catch any.

While the diving on Sunday was lot better there was a minor incident spoiling my day. While preparing the boat in the morning my camera fell off the tub and the dome hit the corner of a tank. One of the things you definitely don’t want to see! Luckily the damage was pretty minor, just some nice scratches on the dome. Unfortunately, these latest bumps are visible in underwater photos as well. I guess it’s time to  order that sandpaper kit and see if I can polish up the dome back to mirror shine!

Monday was the final day of our trip and once we had finished cleaning up the house we were staying in we decided to give George Kermode another go. Too bad visibility was perhaps even worse there than our first time there. At least surge was minimal so the dive wasn’t a total loss. We also had a minor scare on this dive, Cameron was suffering from some rather serious reverse block on the way back up. Luckily in the end everything turned out fine.

Then we headed back to the Pinnacles, too bad visibility was slightly down there as well. We also picked a somewhat boring route with Luke and the first half of our dive was mostly just kelp forests. By the time we got to the more impressive sections we were already running into light deco so it was time to started heading back to the surface.

To finish up the trip we decided to visit the Gardens, a shallow site on the sheltered side of Cape Woolamai. We had seen some other divers there earlier during the day and the site was supposed to be pretty nice. But when I was gearing up for the dive with Luke and Quynh I heard a nasty ripping sound. I found I had badly torn my drysuit’s neck seal! And the damage was so bad that there was no point keeping it on. Luckily weather was still great, with 35+ air and 20 degree water hopping in with just my skivvies was not a huge deal.

Still, I had some issues. I hadn’t brought my booties along so I had to borrow Debbie’s (small!). I also dropped one of my fins on the way down, luckily we were easily able to find it in shallow water. Finning in general was quite tricky, my spring straps are not really suitable for use with thin booties that are several sizes too small. Still, I managed well enough after some initial issues. Diving with no suit and no weights is always a very pleasant feeling, even if it did get a little cool after 46 minutes in the water. The site itself was ok enough, lots of kelp forest and a small wall with lots of ledges and several crays. Luke and Quynh didn’t catch any this time either. 🙂

And as if we hadn’t had enough bad luck by that point we had one more nasty surprise waiting for us back on the boat ramp. When we got back to the shore we found out that our compressor was gone from the car park. That must have been some pretty brazen thiefs, the car park was fairly busy as it was a public holiday and stealing the heavy compressor is quite conspicuous! Hopefully it will turn up somewhere later on, in any case our insurance should cover most of the loss.

Despite the poor conditions and all the mishaps I still managed nine dives over three days, fairly impressive in itself. Too bad photography-wise the trip was a big disappointment and only a few shots turned out ok. At least Phillip Island is close enough to Melbourne so there’s always a next time, hopefully with better conditions and fewer incidents!

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