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.
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.
We would also be diving a newly sunk wreck confusingly also called the Vis (more about that later).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Rick is an ambassador for UK-based drysuit manufacturer O’Three. To find out more about O’Three, visit www.othree.co.uk.