Cottage by the Sea – Poor conditions yet again :(

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After some pretty stormy weather last weekend things were looking up again this weekend. We had had a couple of really windy days after my snorkeling trip on Wednesday but Saturday was looking fairly decent again, particularly on the Bellarine side of the Bay which is more protected from NW winds. We had quite a few fresh club members joining us for the dive and after a drive down to Queenscliff we met Evan and Fi down at the Cottage by the Sea.

I had only dived Cottage by the Sea once before. Despite the dismal conditions back then I was keen to visit the site again as it certainly looked interesting with a long nice wall with interesting ledges. Certainly quite different than most of the shore dives near Melbourne. It’s also still the only place I have seen eagle rays in Victoria.

Unfortunately this dive wasn’t much better, surf was certainly less of an issue instead of major pain like last time. Unfortunately visibility was really poor despite the fact we did the dive right after a flood tide which usually brings clearer water from outside the Bay. Unfortunately this was not to be, near the coast the vis was just dismal from the sand blowing around and even out at the reef we barely got to 1.5 to 2 meters. Not a very pleasant dive, particularly when trying to keep track of some less-experienced divers.

Obviously the conditions were not the best for photos either, particularly with a wide-angle lens. I still managed a few fairly ok fish shots from under the ledges but even with those I had to be careful to not to lose track of my buddies. The reef itself is quite nice and there are lots of pretty big fish around, most of them hiding under the ledge.

To make the dive even more annoying my drysuit’s neck seal hasn’t been replaced yet so I was stuck using a club wetsuit. A thick wetsuit like that is quite uncomfortable, both in the water and out of it too. A huge step down from a decent trilam drysuit and you need more weight too. Oh well, at least the replacement seal should arrive before my next dives.

To further mess up the day we had another nasty surprise waiting for us back on the shore. Geordie had hidden his car keys in the bush before the dive. But when we got back we couldn’t find them anywhere! The seven of us (plus two dogs!) spent at least an hour combing through the bush to no avail. The keys were simply nowhere to be found which was quite odd considering the car hadn’t been broken into either. Eventually we gave up and Geordie called to have his spare keys delivered from Melbourne.

Evan and Fi had other plans for the rest of the day and Basem was having bit of a headache so it was just Seth, Alycia and me heading for the second site of the day. We had decided to visit St Leonards, my favorite shore dive on that side of the Bay. Unfortunately things didn’t really look good once we got there. The visibility looked really poor from the surface with the pier pylons just vanishing into impenetrable soup. From the looks of it the vis was perhaps half a meter at best. After some contemplation we decided that it was not worth hopping in and just headed back to Melbourne instead.

All in all this was one of the most disappointing diving days I have had. Visibility has been quite poor in the last few weeks with the autumn plankton bloom in full swing. And I guess the strong winds over the last few days had muddied the coastal waters further leading to the conditions we had.

Originally we had planned some further shore dives for Sunday but after seeing the conditions we decided to cancel those dives as well, particularly as winds were picking up again.

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