Marion Bay – Easter, April 2023
This year we headed to Marion Bay with the frustration of knowing in advance that the weather was not going to be good, but we had perfect weather leading up to it😠. Thursday afternoon I arrived around 4.45 to find Sonya & Tim and Sharon & Vic washing down some nibbles with fine wine. I unpacked my gear and soon joined them relaxing.
We were staying in the Blue Water Bungalow which we had stayed in several times before and is a very nice house. I had brought my dinner and the others ordered a local Pizza and was well enjoyed.
Helena arrived after dinner and we settled in discussing the usual world issues,,,,, and solving them!!
Saturday morning we arose to the predicted strong winds and some rain. Tim and myself went for an optimistic drive into the National park to see if there were any diveable spots at the usual locations, there were none. There were huge seas and strong southerly winds, but not all was lost! Someone suggested that Pt Turton would be offshore winds and possibly suitable for diving, so away we went. It was only the female brigade that was interested in diving and as they entered the water they were accompanied by several Stingrays, one of which was huge. They must be locals as there are signs up asking not to feed the Stingrays, at one stage there was 5 all around the entry and exit point of the dive, something you can’t really plan for!
The ladies were in for quite a long time admiring the numerous Nudibranchs and other small fish life under the jetty, the men, on the other hand, were busy eating hot chips and drinking cold beer,,,,,, enough said! When the girls got out, they were like Seagulls and we were feeding them hot chips in an attempt to warm them up after the dive.
When we got back to the house a relaxing afternoon was had before we prepared for the Potato feast. It had been organized that we would have roast Potatoes with numerous toppings along with some sausages. After dinner we all sat round the table, as we were all too full to move😂 and requested songs to be played via Spotify, this led to the usual singing and dancing until late.
Saturday morning was a repeat of Friday, Tim & I went into the Park, but it was rougher than Friday😠. We all packed a lunch and drove into the National Park for a drive and a walk, taking in the rugged coastline and lovely scenery. We stopped at Dolphin Beach and had lunch on the rocks. It was very calm there as the wind was offshore and we were protected by the cliff, and as the name suggests, Dolphins turned up for us to view.
Saturday night dinner was a joint BBQ where again we seem to eat too much of the lovely salads that the girls had prepared and the perfectly cooked meat😊. Everyone was too full to indulge in the chocolate cheesecake that I had brought over so that was kept for Sunday night. A bit more singing was done until everyone slipped away to bed.
Sunday morning we had some local visitors (Emus) wander past while we had breakfast, undeterred by our presence. We went for a drive into the park to view the dive spots and while much calmer that the previous days we were still concerned about the weather and if it picked up. We decided that we would dive but only around the Rhino’s head area as this is a short boat trip back to Marion Bay if the weather got worse.
I dived with Helena and we descended the anchor line then headed south-east away from land hoping to gain some depth and less swell. We soon came across many small ledges and drop offs, with holes to look into, some covered with colorful sponges and Gorgonian coral and we maxed out at 10m. It was a bit swelly, but if you don’t fight it and go with the flow it normally brings you back to where you initially were. There was an abundance of fish life and we saw Grouper, Nannygai, Sweep, Bulls Eyes, Blue Devils, Magpie Perch, Western Talma, Snook, Leather Jackets and many other reef fish. A few small crays were spotted and caught but had to be released as they were just undersize. If the conditions had been better this would have been a truly beautiful dive – one we’ll definitely dive again.
We had set a bottom time of 45min as all were in wet suits (except me) but this worked well as divers were getting cold by then. After the first dive we went to the shelter of Stenhouse Bay near the jetty for lunch. While here we heard a voice yelling out to us, it was Sharon and Vic on the cliff top who had come into the Park to see where we were. The second dive was just a few hundred metres from the first and looked much the same. Numerous holes and small ledges and fish life in abundance.
Sunday night was dinner at the local hotel followed by our Easter delicacy of chocolate eggs injected with Kahlua, Baileys and Cointreau, thank you Sharon😊.
Monday morning was the usual early to rise and pack up to try and beat the Easter traffic rush.
Thank you to Sonya & Tim for organising the weekend and taking the boat and to all those who attended. Although the weather wasn’t great we had good food, good wine and good fun with good friends.
Yours in diving
Portsea / Queenscliff, Victoria – March Long Weekend April 2023
Four club members made their way to Victoria Mornington peninsular for a dive club trip.
Due to only getting vague instructions from our charter boat company (Redboats), we decided to bring everything including the compressor to be as self sufficient as possible, which meant towing a trailer.
We met at Gulfview heights, 6am Friday to start our journey. It took approx 10 hours to get to the ferry at Queenscliff (near Geelong), which takes you to Sorrento on the other side of the Bay. The ferry saves approx 2 hour drive through Melbourne and the Dandenong ranges at peak hour on a Friday, its approx $80 return each ( 4 people, car and trailer ) The ferry is first class, and we all thought it was worthwhile. The ferry is different to the Kangaroo Island ferry, you drive on and off, no backing out of trailers. we just missed the 5pm ferry, so waited in the bar of the brand new terminal for the six o’clock one.
We hired a 4 bedroom house in the back streets of Rye, which is approx 15 minutes drive to where Redboats pick you up from (eg. Portsea Pier). The house was very well equipped, it could take a group of 8 or more divers if necessary.
Friday night late we had a lovely dinner at the Portsea pub. (Sunday night Daryl Braithwaite was playing there, which was tempting).
1st diving day Saturday
Instructions were to meet at 8:15 Saturday Portsea pier for a double dive, but we should have checked the fine print, with Redboats “meet time” is depart time. Lucky we hastily, got our gear on the boat, before being told that we couldn’t go back to the car to put the trolley back, or move the car from the 1 hour park and park in an all day park. Otherwise the boat will go without us! So the car keys were left in the car along with wallets etc. The car unlocked while we were out for the day. Lucky the parking inspector had a lazy day and only came past after we returned from diving. The parking at Portsea is atrocious for the numbers of divers and public using the area. The walk from parking the car makes Rapid Bay jetty seem easy. Thanks go to Sharon, without her new cart, our backs would have given way. Then we headed out to do 2 dives.
The HMAS Canberra
It lies in approx 30 metres of water but is tilted about 30 degrees, which makes the dive a bit different, the visibility was fairly poor approx 3 – 5 metres of green water, the wreck is very similar to the Hobart, but not as much holes or areas you can penetrate, Unfortunately Victoria has stricter rules on penetrating the wreck than SA does. You need to have a wreck diving certificate and an auxiliary air source to be allowed to penetrate a wreck. Kevin and Sharon buddied up with a diver who needed a buddy, he wasn’t the best buddy, he ignored these rules which made it hard for Kevin and Sharon to keep track of him, by keeping an eye on his bubbles. My last dive before this was in the Maldives with 30 plus visibility, with this dive I almost bumped into the ship while descending, not seeing it till the last minute.
Another thing we noticed, on these Victorian dives, you come up where you are, there is no line to come up on, as the currents are usually too strong, making it important to have a Surface Marker Buoy with a 6 metre line, so you can send it up and do your safety stop while waiting to be picked up.
The S4 Sub
The second dive was a submarine, still mostly intact, inside there is a chamber that goes along the whole of the vessel approx 50 metres, the body was split in one end so you could see inside easily. Again no penetrating the wreck unless you had all the boxes ticked, Sharon and Kevin had the same problems with their buddy as the last dive. This dive was a lot clearer, the water was blue and the vessel was laying on the white sand, there were a reasonable amount of fish on this wreck.
Saturday night we had a lovely BBQ at our accommodation for dinner.
2nd Diving day Sunday
instructions were to meet at 10:30 Sunday Portsea pier for what we thought was 2 dives.
Not explained to us beforehand, we were actually doing two single dives and we were coming back to the pier after the first dive to change boats to go for the second dive.
This dive was average, approx 6 metres deep, very similar to our outside reef at Port Noarlunga, a fun dive with a few fish , the highlight for me was looking in the gaps between the boulders and seeing yellow, orange and red Gorgonia, also plenty of large boarfish, There were two Redboat boats today with approx 40 divers in the water, many looked like they were diving for the first time, there were times when 10 divers were on top of each other.
Chinamans Hat (Victorian style)
We were taken to a man made structure that was home for lots of male seals, approx 3 metres deep, with a sandy bottom, again all 40 divers entered the water for a play and snorkel with the seals which was fun, we also had a smooth Ray to keep us entertained, then it was back to the jetty to change boats for our next dive, ( a hassle).
Lonsdale Reef North wall
We believe Lonsdale reef is a long reef that runs just out from the entrance of the Bay to Barwon Heads. It looks as though there are many spots along this reef that would be spectacular, it’s a wall dive that ranges in depth, like steps where you can dive 20 metres then another step to 30 metres and so on to approx 60 metres, it’s just finding the right conditions to have a good dive, the Redboat Charter captain has the problem that 20 divers are on his boat, some, like us four, dive on air, but there were approx 10 divers that had all the tech gear a dive shop owner would like to sell. The boat drops these tech divers, some with scooters into the water first, because their bottom time with nitrox is longer than ours, he drops them at 30 metres depth and then goes around and drops the next people off at different points corresponding to their experience and abilities. We enjoyed the dive, lots of colour and sea kelp, lots of caves and overhangs, I would say its equivalent to diving off Marion bay at Haystack island or Edithburgh fenceline, there was so much to see, lots of blue devils and leather jackets, but today the visibility and current made it a difficult dive. After the dive, when you come up and float on the surface, waiting to be picked up with your SMB dangling around, you start to think about the shipping container boats just over yonder and what happens if the Redboat captain makes a mistake with predicting the currents, all together an exhilarating dive. Two of the guys from our boat who had scooters were picked up by another boat 2 kilometres away, not sure this is a recommended practise.
Dinner on Sunday was at a Taiwanese restaurant (lovely).
3rd Diving day Monday
instructions were to meet at 11am Monday, Portsea pier for a single dive and afterwards again on the same boat for second dive.
Again we went to the Lonsdale Reef to a part they call the Arches. Again the tech divers got geared up and went in first, sharing the 22 diver boat with ten tech divers is extremely tight, they have all this gear, usually 2 side tanks each and trying to sit on one seat. I dived with a guy that needed a buddy and Sonya, Sharon and Kevin dove in a threesome. These arches were comparable to our Aldinga Arches, very impressive with lots of colour and Gorgonia and various sponges, we even spotted a crayfish, the area looked perfect for crayfish , but with Melbourne close by I think those years are past.
Again we went to the Lonsdale Reef, to a part they call the Labyrinth. This was an excellent dive with all different levels of caves and overhangs. The captain called these dives a wall dive, but I think different layers of ledges would be a better description. Ledges start from approx 15 metres deep, they drop about 3 metres then start another ledge to about 60 metres deep.
Dinner on Monday was at the Rye pub.
Tuesday morning it was time to pack up and we arrived home Tuesday night approx 7pm
Redboats told us it would be better to stay on the Portsea side of the bay, but you could do the trip cheaper and stay at Queenscliff, they will pick you up on the Queenscliff pier anyway so you don’t need to take the ferry across the Mornington peninsular is a great place for a holiday and a week would be a better idea if at all possible and you have the time (and finances).
The dives we did with Redboats, having 20 divers with different needs is stressful. There is only the one crew on the boat to help you and give directions (i.e. the captain) and everything happens at a million miles an hour. In some ways Redboats was impressive but it’s nothing like the service you get on a live aboard boat overseas, Sonya and I just came back from the Maldives on the Carpe Diem boat, 13 staff to nine divers, but would I do it again tomorrow….. Yes, Of course!
Happy faces! There’s nothing like a dive and a Leafy sighting to make life special.