By Anthony Cowan
For Bear to put together a 3 and a bit day charter aboard the famous Brisbane based liveaboard M.V. Esperance Star for a mix of wreck and reef style diving around Moreton Bay. The charter was to cater for a number of different diving styles - from single tank open circuit to closed circuit rebreather.
Part 1The Crew
Capt. Trevor "Believe it or not I am not God" Jackson
John "Wetsuit Nazi" Senjov
Dave "Hot Spunk Action-Man" Giddins
Tammy "Do You Want 3rd's?" Hourigan
Angela "Twinkles" Koek
Greg "Bear" Blair - Big Poppa Bear
Steve "Steve" James - newly discovered Object of Affection
Craig Stobbs - the Quiet Achiever
Dave "DaveW" Walton - part time Shark Baiter
Dave "SA Dave" Pearce - Romance Seeker and general Subversive Element
Nathan "nl_carey" Carey - Deep CCR Diving Support Officer and navy-boy daydreams
Vanessa "Ness" Dillon - Power-Naps & Chunder R Us
Karen Ottaway - Official DiveOz Sunburn-O-Meter
John Higgins - Positive Outlook Dept
Mark "Wizbang" Brown - Rebreather Research and all round good manners practitioner.
Dave "DaveH" Harasti - President of the "Harasti is Tops" fan club, Destroyer of Romance and Official Foot in Mouth Putter
Anthony "AnthonyC" Cowan - Fluffy Pyjamas, general surliness, sharp witted critiques, poor lens choices, stealer of bacon, Custodian of Wheat Beer and current hating nancy-boy
Part 2The Diving
Day 1 - Tuesday
Curtin Artificial Reef, depth 16-27m - ask someone who was there! The author successfully deployed his integrated weights on descent and was returned to the surface by the forces of nature fairly sharply. Descending a 2nd time the author initiated a PADI "Must Find My Lost F%#%ing Weights" exercise and the drill was perfectly executed, said lead found and pulled from a hole in wreck 15mins later. As for the dive, well by then I had the shits and the water looked crappy so it was back up for a cup of coffee, breakfast and a hastily cobbled together tale to explain why I was back so soon. The rest of the divers seemed to have had a decent dive and I got first picks at the coffee and the bacon so everyone finished up happy.
Wreck of the S.S. "St. Paul", depth 42m - current and lumpy surface conditions had most of us hit the water running, keen to get down quickly out of the slop. The water was murky on the bottom - perhaps 10m viz and with Trev's underwater ESP we all came down right on the boilers, able to head in whatever direction we chose. Fish life was reasonably quiet however a large Estuary Cod was around the engine (DaveH stuffed his photos) and half a dozen large kingfish swooped in low towards the end of the dive with snapper, nannygai and bullseyes at their regular stations around the stern and amidships. The black coral trees on the boilers were as impressive as usual and divers should pay close attention to the wonderful large tiger anemones that have colonised the branches of these "˜trees' when they next visit this wreck. Bottom times ranged to suit the single tank "muppets", the twin tank "try-hards", the SCR "half-asses" and the CCR "wankers" and we all came up cheering a great dive, giving Trev ****** about his "50m viz" from just a few days before.
"˜Gotham City', depth 30-37m - a new (ish) site not to be confused with the other "˜Gotham City' that Trev also visits. Basically a large flattish plateau of rock standing proud on a clean sand bottom with 10-15m sheer sides colonised by masses of multi coloured gorgonian sea fans. Snapper, surgeonfish, kingfish, hussars, anthias and fairy basslets abound on these walls. Viz was excellent at 20-25m and the shape of the site - a rounded rectangle made it easy to circumnavigate as quickly or slowly as divers wished. A small "˜cave' is the site of a plaque commemorating a local diver's life, laid there by his mates and makes an interesting feature. Divers listening carefully on this dive could hear AC crying into his regulator as he swum around with his SLR set up for super macro photography on what was the perfect wide-angle dive! This site is a very very pretty dive that should be on the "to do" list of every diver visiting the area - this new site will become a firm favourite with Brisbane based divers.
Curtin Artificial Reef, the "Melbourne" night dive, depth 12-18m - On dusk with a perfect slack tide and glassy surface conditions; DaveH, SADave & AC ventured down while the rest piked it, happy to eat tea and down a few brews. Although conditions allowed any of the other nearby wrecks to be included as well, we decided to make the most of the "Melbourne" and concentrate on photographing the macro critters that were out"¦much to SADave's despair. Wobbies, large bullrays, octopi, nudies, lionfish and small tropical species were out in abundance including 1000's of Fortescues/Bullrouts ensuring we took care when reaching for handholds. We had the better part of an hour on the wreck and surfaced with full memory cards and empty film spools, happy campers and happier still after heaps of Tammy's wonderful cooking and a couple of James Squires"¦
Part 3Day 2 - Wednesday
Wreck of the "Cementco", depth 22-28m - current and surge aplenty on the wreck with all divers heading straight for shelter in the guts of the wreck. Once inside via the hopper bays on the upside down hulk things calmed down and allowed for easy exploration of this great wreck. The photographers were kept happy with silhouette opportunities and the light streaming in from above and the sides looked great. The gear hounds were soon tying reels off here and there for excursions into the dark and spooky passages of the wreck hoping to avoid a face to face "˜hello' from the enormous Qld. Groper that guard their patch. Visibility was very good at 20m or more and looked even better out on the sand from the stern but the current was making things difficult anywhere apart from inside. The sweeping current made for an express ride up the anchor chain if care wasn't taken with ascent rates. Bear's famous shiny ring-piece made a deco bar all of it's own for AC who held tight to the big guys crotch for the duration of his deco"¦hey, any port in a storm I say!
Wreck of the F.V. "Bulldog", depth 73m - While the main bunch enjoyed surface interval and Tammy's Tasty Treats the CCR boys got ready for a deepy on this trawler wreck. With "˜breathers, stages and all necessary gear (no shovels) in place they dropped in and swam to the shot line and descended into the blue and, as it turned out straight onto an intact wreck in 73msw. Plenty of fish life on this wreck including, according to Steve, a large school of snapper like we used to see down south a lot more often. The boys got in 20 minutes bottom time and ascent and deco went smoothly with the guys surfacing 70 odd minutes later grinning from ear to ear over a pretty good dive. Highlight of this dive for the rest of us was a certain NSW Fisheries Officer wandering around on board ES enthusing "how wicked would it be if a f!#*ing huge tiger shark turned up while these guys are deco'ing! Or maybe 2 or 3, that would be cool!"
"˜China Wall', south of Cape Moreton, depth 26-33m - a mixed dive with the Mexicans ecstatic about the murky visibility, profusion of kelp and quiet fish life while the Gringos quietly grumbled out of earshot of the Captain that the site was having an "off" day. Karma visited "˜Queenslands Most Pleasantly Mannered Young Man' when Wizbang was lucky enough to come across a small Grey Nurse Shark and a large turtle hanging out together near one of the caves. With his SCR keeping bubbles to a minimum Wiz by all accounts got had a great time of it. A number of overhangs and sections of the wall on this site are festooned with large gorgonian sea fans and coral trees that look spectacular but today the fish weren't playing for us and we felt that China Wall wasn't at it best.
Flinders Reef west side, depth 16-18m - turtles galore and many tropical fish species as usual on this dive on the sheltered coral gardens of Flinders. Fish geeks were kept happy and equipment overkill was on display with the CCR divers jumping in for a paddle about and perhaps a little continued decompression therapy following the earlier deeper dive. This was a nice relaxing splash and a great way to finish the days diving for the majority of the group.
Flinders Reef west side night dive, depth 16-18m - only the Fish Geek and the Subversive dived tonight. James Squire, Sam Bucca and Jim Beam were giving a workshop covering advanced relaxation techniques that the rest of the team decided to attend instead. The 2 night divers joined in an hour or so later after a great "critter dive" with a catch up lecture for these 2 delivered by T. New and a couple of friends.
Day 3 - Thursday
Wreck of the S.S. "St. Paul", depth 42m - the current was belting along this morning and enough for a couple of nappy wearing camera jockeys to wuss out and stay on deck for this dive. Visibility was a little clearer than experienced on the wreck on the first morning but still down on it's best at around 15m and it turned out the current wasn't limited to the surface but was also sweeping the wreck. Highlight of this dive was the 2 sharks seen by Steve - a small whaler at one point and also what may have been a small tiger shark too! Those who piked out on this dive were congratulated on their wise choice by others upon surfacing - turned out the current was as strong as it looked to be.
Wreck of the F.V. "Jennifer Kaye", depth 83m - sadly this turned out to be a sand dive for our intrepid CCR stuntmen Giddo and DaveW. The shot-line had dragged off the wreck and after a few minutes of BT the lads were prudent and canned the dive. Ascent and deco proceeded without incident until a shark appeared on the scene while the guys were at their 5m stop, cruising in under Giddo's fins.
This was a magical shark, able to change it's shape, size and species at will and as Dave and Dave watched this wily beast changed from 10feet long to 8feet long and finally stretched out to a full 12 bloodthirstymaneatingwetsuitstaining feet of mindless CCR hating terror.
At the same time it also changed from a bronze whaler to a bull to a blue and then back to a bull shark. DaveH declared with great authority that this beast was certainly a bull shark based on the description given and the speed that the guys climbed the duckboard. But who listens to Harasti? No one!
And while the stuntmen were flying the CCRs, Tammy was making chocolate choc-chip pikelets for morning tea! Worth the price of admission just by themselves"¦ thanks Tammy!
"˜Pinnacles', Flinders Reef east side, depth 18m - a very pleasant garden dive on the seaward side of Flinders with clear water, purty fish, lurvely coral, a couple of turtles and a South Australian with rebreather and nipple rings doing his best impersonation of The Bioprene Man.
Wreck of the "Aarhus", depth 18-21m - one of the best dives of the trip. The sailing barque "Aarhus" sank in 1894 with a load of sperm whale oil and other goods, is protected by Historic Shipwreck legislation and requires a permit to be dived. Just our luck that the good skipper is in possession of just such a permit. The majority of the wreck is covered with sand that comes and goes however there are many parts of it still identifiable not the least being some of the cargo of wire and most impressive - a large admiralty anchor that is easily recognisable.
The "Aarhus" is not just a great wreck dive but also an amazing critter dive as well with many photo ops of some usually hard to find subjects. Kingfish, bullrays, estuary cod, coral trout and surgeonfish made up the numbers for the larger species. Stacks of small critters were out as well and stonefish, lionfish, 2 species of clownfish, coral banded and hinge-beak shrimp and porcelain crabs were all seen.
Perhaps the highlight for some was the finding of a small leaf scorpionfish - a rare visitor to our southern water and a very impressive photo subject. For others the highlight of this dive was Big Poppa Bear swimming in front of DaveH as he was lining up to take what he called an award winning shot of a bullray. Impressive stuff with Harasti screaming into his reg and Bear laughing the evil laugh in reply while the crowd roared their approval of Bears serious breach of photography etiquette. It was a great effort from the big unit and there isn't a lens around wide enough for Dave to shoot around Bear's shiny ring-piece. Clear water of 20m viz and a slight drift of current made for an easy dive to round out our trip.
After the "Aarhus" it was time to pull the pick and head back to civilisation in the form of Scarborough Marina. The trip back to port was uneventful except for dead fish falling out of the sky (true) and everyone went into serious relaxation mode with a few brews cracked open to wind down from some great diving. Most of us were spending our last night in Brissie on board the Esperance Star back at the marina (thanks Trev) before heading off in the morning. With that in mind we spent some time cleaning and stowing the dive gear and cameras so we didn't have to worry about it back in port as well as getting our cabins organised for one last night.
The rumour was that Daryl "˜Oxyboy' Boy was going to come down and join us all for a drink and feed at the Scarborough Pub and sure enough - after docking, cleaning and packing that's who turned up and that's where we went to. Tea was fairly boisterous with the Captain and crew also joining us and much food was eaten and much crap spun before we were kicked out at the ungodly hour of 9pm! On a Thursday night! What is it with you Queenslanders?!
After tea a couple of the Qld'ers bailed for home while the rest of us adjourned back to the good ship ES for continued relaxation therapy. The firewater flowed and tall stories were spun well into the wee hours - plenty of which had nothing to do with diving"¦ Trev never quite got around to tell the story about the horse.
We all swaggered and staggered off to our racks here and there as the night stretched on and the snoring coming out of the ES late that night must have been something to hear for anyone walking past!
Morning came around all too soon and with the Skipper still asleep we packed our cars, said goodbye to each other and headed off in 2's and 3's for the long and not so long trips back to home, work and reality.
Overall it was a fantastic trip. Where 1 or 2 of the dives may have been a little quiet this was more than made up for by the quality of the rest of the dives and the quality of the group assembled their collective personalities and great sense of fun and humour. There was never a dull moment and the company kept made the trip as good as it was - the good diving was a bonus. It was great to put names to faces and faces to names and catch up with old and now new friends. Reading what a wonderful time was had on ES3 it was great to be a part of this one.
Thanks to Bear for taking on the job of organising the trip and sorting us all out. Thanks to Tammy for the wonderful cooking and endless good cheer. Thanks to Dave, John and Ange for working hard to make our diving run smoothly.
Lastly thanks to the Captain Trev for as usual putting on a great time and overseeing a pearler 3 and a bit days on the water. The M.V. Esperance Star is one of the best boats in the country and Trevor and the crews he puts together are the reason why with the great diving often just a bonus. Despite the ****** the Big Guy sometimes cops in an often petty industry (or maybe because of it), Trev just keeps pulling awesome dive trips out of his back pocket like it's the most natural thing to do and I guess for him it probably is.
Many of you will have had a few years now of reading about Trev and the ES but not given thought to booking a charter serious consideration. My advice to you is to just book the time and get up to Brisbane for one of the best times you will have on the water - and do it soon before we book a return trip and take your spots!
The Gossip and Shameless Rumour Mongering
Who openly admitted to a lurid dream involving a KISS diver?
Who also admitted by later email to also dreaming of same KISS diver?
Which KISS diver is now understanderbly nervous?
Who took a while to realise that it wasn't just the boat that was "Property of Trev"?
Who took more than 3 days to get over the theft of their last can of Heineken?
Who is still spewing about not accepting the "Qld's Biggest Steak" challenge at the Scarborough Pub?
Who were the men-folk onboard admitting that Dave Giddins is a very good looking fella? "****** yeah he's hot! If I was a chick I'd shag him for sure!" "Yeah, same here!"
Who bagged out 99.9% of all divers then forgot his weight belt 3 dives in a row?
Who gave the rest of the group heart failure when talk turned to "˜deep air diving'?
Who would be a great instructor? (PUT YA F!#$ING REG IN YA MOUTH!!!)
Who was preturbed about bending their computer on a 20m bounce dive? Who tried to reassure said computer owner with "who gives a *&$# about computers - it's all just fudge factoring anyway!"
Who decided that right thing to do would be allow their head to be shaved?"¦and not fix up the missed bits?
Who kept saying after a couple of beers "well if I don't rate myself none of you !#*s will!"
Why did the Welsh flag appear flying on the wreck of the "Aarhus"?
Who said "He is as gay as a badger!"?
Whose idea to screen the "Cook the man some eggs!!!" scene during lunch on the first day?
Who secretly turned the stereo up full blast while the power was off? Who yelled "WHY NOT GIVE ME A F!#$ING HEART ATTACK!!!" when the stereo was turned on the next morning?
Who interupted who mid-UW-pee with the "you OK?" signal on the night dive?
Who ruined the DragonSlayer's chances with the most monumental foot-in-mouth performance ever seen?
Which 3 couldn't believe what was said to ruin it for the Slayer?
Who realised the faux pas 20 minutes later with "Do you think maybe I shouldn't have said anything, was that too obvious?"
Who was the Slayer SMS'ing furiously the whole of the next day telling him exactly what he thought?