Latest Dive ReviewsMar 4, 2017 - Bicheno
"Over the weekend of 4/5 March 6 TSDC members headed to Bicheno, those on the trip included Andreas K, Stefan E, Jon B, Mark K, Al B and I (James P). It was great to finally get a good weekend of weather after having three trips to Bicheno cancelled late last year or abandoned early without any diving due to poor weather. With the weather looking great we took the opportunity to head to some of the deeper off shore sites we have been diving a bit over the past few years. Mark had offered to take us out in his 8.2m 500hp machine so the club boat remained behind in Sorel.
The weekend kicked off with Stefan and I arriving late afternoon on the Friday, heading down to Waubes Bay for a shore dive with Stefan keen to take his rebreather for a dive after only just starting to use it again after a hiatus of three years. We headed out for a swim out around the rock showing Stefan the sights who had not dived Bicheno before. Vis was less than expected at around 8m.
On the Saturday with the weather looking great we decided to head down to Cape Trouville to dive the Nuggets Twin Pinnacles which rise up steeply from 70 to 38m forming a north and south pinnacle separated by 50m and dropping down to around 55m between them. Being a deep dive the group came prepared with rebreathers, twin tank arrangements and sufficient deco/ bailout tanks. Mark's boat got us down to the site in good time and comfortably carried the six of us and gear. At the Nuggets Pinnacle we placed a shot on the north pinnacle and geared up in two groups with Jon, Andreas and myself in rebreathers followed by Mark and Stefan diving open circuit, with Al running the boat for us. This was a fantastic dive diving the north side of the north pinnacle where the shot had settled in around 55m close to the wall, vis on the bottom was around 25m, fish life greatly abundant including huge schools of butterfly perch descending down on us as they tend do. Throughout much of the dive dolphin squeaks and squeals could be heard and one stage became quite disconcerting with a mass of squeaking and squawking filling the ears, we found out once on the surface hundreds of dolphins had passed overhead. The sight of the north wall towering overhead carpeted in a mass of colorful sponge and invertebrate life is very spectacular, with a number of other smaller pinnacles and ridges jutting up steeply creating numerous interesting features to poke around. As we swam along the base of the wall we came across a number of black coral trees which we discovered in the area on a 2015 dive to the pinnacle, these black coral trees can be nearly a metre high and are blindingly bright white when a torch is shone on them, amongst the fronds a few silver leather jackets were often found. After around 30 minutes of bottom time we made our way back to the shot to begin our ascent and mandatory decompression stops, total time to surface was around 45 minutes.
Back in the boat the wind had picked up from the NE and we settled on doing a second dive in the Marine Reserve following a slower trip back up the coast pounding our way into the building sea. With Stefan having never dived the reserve Al and I decided to show him what it was all about. We jumped in descending down the southern wall that leads into the canyon. Vis initially looked promising dropping down the first five meters or so but as we reached 10m the vis reduced to around 5m. Al took us out through the Canyon and along Paradise Reef to the Golden Bommies. After a quick loop around the bommies we ascended up the reef behind them. Whilst a relatively quick dive it gave Stefan an idea of what to expect.
On Sunday we planned to dive Joe's Reef which rises up from 80-58m some 6nm SE of Bicheno in the Commonwealth Marine Reserve that was first dived by Andreas and I in 2015. We had perfect conditions with light winds and low swell for the trip offshore, with the water having an alluring blue look to it, along the way we were joined by a large pod of dolphins. We were all very excited about the opportunity to dive this unique location. We set a shot on top of the reef and set up the decompression station which is tethered to the shot, however we soon found a very strong current running from north to south, so strong it was pulling the large pink buoy under with 80m of rope. With the low tide approaching we crossed fingers hoping the strong current would abate with the slack water. As low tide came and went there appeared no sign of the current slowing, however we decided to gear up and give it a go. On rolling over the side we quickly realized it was futile with the decompression station hanging at an oblique angle (rather than parallel) with the shot and subsequently thumbed the dive, which was very disappointing given the vis looked terrific and sea surface conditions were otherwise perfect. Back in the boat we caught our breath and took stock. We decided to wait another half hour, however with no sign of the current letting up we pulled in the deco station and shot. After getting the deco station onboard we had difficulty pulling in the shot as the buoy was being pulled underwater, finally grabbing the buoy with a boat hook a splice gave way and we lost around 80m of line and the grapnel anchor.
A little deflated, we headed inshore to have a look at some possible bottom off Butlers Point, with nothing inspiring there we headed north to Cape Lodie and settled on diving a spot I have called the Apartment Blocks which consists of series of large square sided bommies rising up from 25m to 5m with a sandy gutter running down between two of the bombies to the Magic Gardens in around 40m at the reef sand edge. The large bommies attract a mass of fish activity, with numerous boarfish and large banded morwong lurking around the large overhangs and masses of fish such as butterfly perch, pike and bait fish midwater schooling between the bommies. The sandy gutter was a bit like a garden path leading down to the sponge gardens that make up the Magic Garden. We had a long dive swimming along the reef sand edge that was packed with a mass of colorful sponge life and sparse sea whips with numerous large boulders and overhangs to poke around, a very nice dive but the vis was poor.
This ended a great Bicheno trip, much thanks must go to Mark and Marie K who provided their boat and with Marie putting on a great afternoon spread to feed the hungry divers.
By James P
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