O’Three Ambassador Blog: Wet or Dry?

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Part 2 of the Croatian Road Trip……What would win,  drysuit or semi-dry for Mediterranean tech diving?

Read Part 1 here.

Got there! We had a very warm welcome from Shark Diving, and it was great to see old friends again. Weather was looking favourable for the whole week, something that was lacking last year. Not such good news was that their catamaran with lift had been severely damaged and sunk during a springtime storm. Recovered, it is now on the quayside while the insurance company argue about costs. There was a more traditional boat for our use but no diver lift this year. It would have been nice to have known this before our arrival; I suspect the centre were concerned we would cancel.

Swim through on the Hans Schmidt

Swim through on the Hans Schmidt

Apart from that it was good to be getting our kit together in preparation for the first dive. This year we were going to be diving wrecks we hadn’t previously visited but also returning to the Baron Gautsch, The (Old)Vis and the Kalliopi. We would be doing two dives per day.

Blenny, from one of the many reef dives available

Blenny, from one of the many reef dives available

We would also be diving a newly sunk wreck confusingly also called the Vis (more about that later).

Ascent from the Luana, coming off the wrecks often went into very clear water

Ascent from the Luana. Coming off the wrecks often went into very clear water

First up was the Luana and also the first outing for my new OThree 6×5 semi-dry with a tech vest. As I had mentioned in the previous blog post, one of my tasks this week was to compare this semi-dry with my drysuit. My plan was to start using the Semi-dry and to do at least half the dives with it, more if it was up to the job!

Chunky nudibranch's on the seabed beside the Baron Gautsch

Chunky nudibranchs on the seabed beside the Baron Gautsch

One pleasant side effect was that I found I could drop 4kg’s of lead from my rig, a real bonus. Luana was an upright wreck in about 53m. Visibility was not as good as last year which was disappointing and unfortunately was the same for the whole week except one dive. It was a milky 10m on the wrecks, occasionally a bit less. Frustratingly ascending at the end of the dive often moved into really clear water.

Not the same as last years catamaran with lift it was ok for our needs

Not the same as last year’s catamaran with lift; however, the dive boat was OK for our needs.

The first dive using the semidry was fine, although I was bit chilly on the deepest part of the dive where the temperature was about 16°C. I felt I was vindicated in my choice of suit. The thermocline was at about 30m so I very quickly got to warmer water on the ascent. I did a second dive in shallow water giving me a chance to take some wildlife macro shots.

Scorpion fish waiting for prey

Scorpion fish waiting for prey

It unravelled a bit on the second day, two wrecks. On the first dive I arranged with my buddy to get in and wait at the ship’s bow until he caught me up. This was a big mistake as I was sitting around in the cold just getting colder. My buddy arrived, we did the dive. It was a just real pleasure to get back to warmer shallow water on the ascent. I felt I had brought the situation upon myself but it did remind me of the drawback of a semi-dry for this sort of diving. It was better for the second dive but I began to have second thoughts about the semi-dry.

Selfie with me showing off the 6x5 semidry & the rather milky viz on the (new) Vis

Selfie with me showing off the 6×5 semidry & the rather milky viz on the (new) Vis

Third day found us chugging out to the new Vis wreck. This had been purposely sunk in April of this year as an attraction for divers. A ship built in 1956, it was Yugoslav President Tito’s flagship. We weren’t sure about this dive beforehand but I have to say it was a highlight of the week with lots to see.

Vis engine room

Vis engine room

The wreck was sunk in about 35m with the highest point about 20m. It had been prepared for sinking but much of the ship remains, including many portholes with intact glass. The engine room is vast; I think the traditional design of the ship was probably for steam engines, but it is fitted with diesels so there is this big space capped with a lantern skylight and walkways running around the sides.

Rows of portholes inside the wreck of the Vis

Rows of portholes inside the wreck of the Vis

Being relatively shallow this was going to be a long dive. Most of it was below the thermocline and I spent over an hour exploring this ship. By the time I was ready to ascend the penny had dropped: a semi-dry does not work for this sort of diving. I was shivering and I could tell my breathing was beginning to be affected. It took me some time to warm back up. The next day I was coming out of the cold and going back to my drysuit!

Funnel & Bridge of the Kalliopi

Funnel & Bridge of the fantastic Kalliopi, formerly Liberty Ship, Robert Dale Owen

Bliss, the discomfort of kitting up in the heat was nothing, a warm dive was just fantastic, and the verdict was in: just take the drysuit!

Bridge Telegraph on the Kalliopi, as divers we don't often see things like this!

Bridge Telegraph on the Kalliopi. As divers we don’t often see things like this!

Some of you will have seen my DIVER article about the 2015 Croatia trip, in which there were comments about a wreck called the Kalliopi last year. I had a poor dive; I didn’t listen to the briefing. This year the shotline was fixed to the good part of the wreck so there would be no excuses.

Steam Whistle in front of the Funnel, outline of lifeboat is on the seabed in the background

Steam Whistle in front of the Funnel. Outline of lifeboat is on the seabed at 60m in the background

It was the only dive of the week where we had good viz. It is an absolutely fantastic wreck dive with many untouched artefacts and so much to see. The images here speak for themselves. With hindsight I would have liked to have done several more dives on this wreck.

Looking up! best dive of the week!

Looking up – best dive of the week!

How do you sum up a week like that? 2400 miles of driving, some epic road trip stories (I will never forget the German Rock band in Ausberg railway station) then renewing friendships with our Croatian friends, great diving, fantastic alfresco meals in Croatia… it’s what this fantastic sport of diving is all about. Bring on the next trip!

othree-2015-logo-400pngRick is an ambassador for UK-based drysuit manufacturer O’Three. To find out more about O’Three, visit www.othree.co.uk.

 

Rick Ayrton

Rick Ayrton

Rick enjoys both close-up & wide angle underwater photography, but particularly enjoys the challenge of taking images of wrecks and happily admitting that getting good images of deep UK wrecks is a fickle process with many variables that he is still trying to master.

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