Saturday 13 October 2012

Malta Day 1 – Accidents and Emergencies

Recently I spent eight days in Malta, courtesy of my friendly local dive shop, with ten fellow divers. We explored the island and drank much beer.

I'd like to point out that any bugger-ups recounted here are entirely my own fault. No blame attaches to anyone else! So, onward...

The Diving Holiday in Malta team’s first day was spent at Marfa Point, aka Cirkewwa. About an hour’s drive from St Peter’s Bay, it’s where the Gozo ferry leaves from, and also has several excellent dives in its own right. We had our trusty guide to Malta’s diving, penned by Peter Lemon, whom we bumped into in the Dive Shop later in the week. (I’m not being sponsored by him or anything, but if you want a guide to diving in Malta, buy his. It has excellent directions, including compass bearings, good descriptions, and undersea maps that actually make sense when you get under the water.)

Should have been a doddle of a check-out dive, following by an interesting dive on the wreck of the Tugboat Rozi, right? 


Our first dive was to be around the area known as “Suzie’s Pool”, an area often used for training dives, and thus a logical place to have our first “check-out” dive of the holiday. Always a good idea to test out everyone’s skills and equipment before the more challenging dives. In my case, it was going to be particularly useful, since I had with me my old BCD, which I now use for travelling. The new one is more up-to-date, comfortable and ergonomic, fits over my drysuit, has integrated weight pockets – and also weighs a ton, so it no longer comes with me on holiday unless I have extra baggage allowance. I’d had the old BCD serviced back in February, hadn’t used it since June, and had meant to have a pool dive with it the week before we left, but life got in the way.

I kitted up with 6kg of lead, figuring that since I was wearing the 5mm full-length suit of my two-piece semidry suit – but not the jacket, hood, neoprene socks, 5mm gloves or rash vest that complete the rest of my diving ensemble back in the UK – I could knock 3kg off what I needed. I’d been diving on 6kg in Crete earlier in the year with the same set-up. 

We slithered into Suzie’s Pool, in some cases literally as the sea was vigorously splashing onto the rocks* and swam out to the drop-off. Or in my case, didn’t, as I seemed to be pinned onto the rocks. I signalled my buddy and wrote on the slate I always carry with me: “Too much weight.” 

Looking back, this should have been a clue. Even if 6kg was a little on the heavy side taking into account the amount of neoprene I’d lost from my usual diving set-up, I’ve dived with that BCD on 9kg of lead and a lot more gear, and it can produce roughly 20kg-worth of lift. Even if I was over-weighted, it should have been possible to compensate by adding a bit more air to the jacket.

Still, buddy and the nearby dive leader fiddled about with my weight belt and removed a weight, always an interesting experience when all your weight is on your belt. Fortunately, with only 3 minutes’ dive time and 4m of water above my head, even a buoyant ascent would probably not have done me too much damage. Even more fortunately, this didn’t happen: the dive leader tucked the weight into his BCD pocket, and we set off into the blue.

And then things got worse. 

To be continued…

* Yes. This will become an important detail later on on this blog.

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