7:20am Friday morning and damn, I will have to make do with the second closest (and free, a pleasant change from Shelly's daylight robbery!) parking spot to the path down to the island. Mark and Simon pulled up 5 minutes later in the spots behind. Despite the parking frustrations, the weather couldn't be better: sunny, light winds, almost no swell and a flood tide.
We took advantage of the good conditions and did a stride entry off the east side of the island. I was armed with the macro lens and on a nudibranch mission. There were rich pickings when the octopi, grouper and conger eels weren't trying to steal the action.
Before I knew it the 60min dive time was up and time to head for the exit on the west side of the island (with a pit stop on the mainland for the navigational challenged....which in hindsight could be a handy short cut if you don't mind a bit of a scramble up to the bridge). As we were packing up (10ish), wave upon wave of divers were heading in. Were they...
In a break with tradition, the weekend dive at the SSAC perennial favourite dive site, Shelly Beach, was on a Sunday afternoon rather than first thing. I had barely stopped to say 'hi' to new members Martin and Calum who were kitting up in the car park and when a spot in the as-expected-packed car park opened up, which was a great start.
Down on the beach, the big turn out were in various stages of kitting up and heading off to the water. Al as always on a scooter mission. Duncan was testing out his recent services gear (outcome: First Stage had done their usual good job) with dive buddy Sam. Sandy and Anne were providing shore cover and I was helping Andy test his scooters (aka phaff) and get my open circuit gear back up and running (aka yet more phaffing). Why revert to OC? A backup plan as the COVID induced cell shortage begins to bite the rebreather divers.
The vis was nothing to write home about, but the water was beginning to warm up (19' on the surface...1...
Four members of SSAC met as planned at Bushrangers Bay at 8:30am on an overcast Saturday morning. There was ample parking and just one other group of divers present. A significant swell was coming in from the east and one of the local divers wasn’t too optimistic about the conditions. But we all agreed it was worth a go, with Ben on his JJ and Fe, Soo and Sam diving single 12s. What you can't tell from Google maps is that there is a steep descent of about 100 wooden steps to reach the water!
We followed the northern contour of the bay and found that the conditions were actually pretty reasonable. As we entered the larger outer area a grey nurse shark briefly appeared. By the time we turned around to head back in the viz was in excess of 10m with a max depth of 18m. Somehow we missed the shallower entrance to the inner bay and found ourselves heading east again with a spectacular wall to our right and Port Jacksons...
A beautiful Sydney winter morning with two intrepid, fearless, extreme kitted (for 10m dive) divers planned a dive bimble along the edge of a shallow reef from Congwong Beach under the bridge and on to Bare Island.
I have been recently diving wet, brrrrr, and when an offer of the use of a drysuit came along there wasn't any thinking time needed. The suit being an aged vintage needed a neck seal, so down to Barry's I went. Good job all done, although knowing the wrists seals needed a little care (more than I knew at the time).
Arriving at the site, kitting up started. No hitches until suit donning started. By this time a friend of Mark's ('Last minute Nick' was his name, or may be Simon!) had turned up to watch the shenanigans. He was to dive but had no tank (another long story). After getting the first hand in the suit, the second pushed a hole through the seal. Damn and blast (ad lib'ing a little)!!!#**!
So the journey began....
The latest step in lifting the COVID-19 restrictions couldn't have been better timed with pubs now being able to have up to 50 people. So we booked a table and headed down to the Nelson for the monthly get together. Aside from signing in it was just a like a normal night at the pub but (a) you know you had a table and (b) it not being too, noisy so a win-win. It was also a productive evening so keep an eye out for invitations for a Shelly Beach dive on the Queens Birthday, Christmas in July and hopefully the 2020 SSAC bushfire/COVID recovery weekend away.
Wow was the parking bad for those that arrived after 7.30am!
Owen, Pete, Sam and Ben set off to tinker with kit, take pics and in Petes case to get back into the water after a wee while. Mission accomplished. A warm humid day soon had the dry suit divers cursing us in wetsuits though that changed when we got into the water. A gentle bimble up the inner side of the reef, vis ............ mmmm poor, weed gives way to rocks and eventually to sand. Not much life to be honest, about 3 wobblegongs, large number of rays, some nice angel fish, a very unplayful cuttle fish and a bunch of friendly groupers. 40mins to an hour in the water depending on your body temp!
All kit put away and a good old fashioned Australian BBQ breccy - bacon, sausage and egg rolls, brown and tommy sauce, lashings of coffee and banter across the hot plate with our fellow aussies.
With light winds and a low (but Easterly) swell we drove over to Bass Point just south of Shellharbour. Make sure you SatNav maps are up to date as the Shell Cove Marina developments are coming along fast. Our aim was Bushranger Bay, which from the viewing platform was looking spectacular. Unfortunately, many other people had the same idea, the carpark was chocker and alas the council is clamping down on people parking in non-designated spots. While you can dump the gear and leave the car at the other carpark near the toilets, it was a warm day for a 0.5km walk suited up so we thought we would try some of the other sites. At 'the slot' (near the cultural walk on google maps) it was looking a bit surgy, so we ended up at the gravel loader, plenty of parking, and an easy entry/exit via the boat ramp.
With the sales in full swing and Christmas out of the way, it must be summertime. The sun was out at Shelly Beach and the water was 21'C at the surface and 19' at depth, well 9m. Ben & Owen had an enjoyable bimble for about an hour while Zoe, Tomoko and Andy chilled on the beach. The vis was not the best, but it didn't stop me messing around with the camera. Post dive, Owen rustled up a quick bacon & egg bap, while Andy was dreaming up plans for a dive down south while he still has a break from work.