15 February 2010 and our first dive was at Shipwreck Bay.  Depth to 21 m for 50 minutes. Slight southerly swell, NW wind.  Cloudy day.  Water at about 21°C.  Visibility 8 to 10 m.  Dive Buddy: Marina.

First up was the interesting ride to the beach in the boat-bus towed by Rus in the tractor.

We descend to about 6 m, headed NE for about 10 minutes, then S for 20 minutes with a plan to head NW back to the boat.  This last bearing should have been W to a depth of 6 m and then generally N back to the boat.  We missed the boat and ended up about 80 m N by following a 6 to 8 m contour. So much for my navigation skills!  While there was plenty to see the fish life was not prolific (we were out of the marine reserve) -  Demoiselles, a moray eel (spotted by Marina), marble fish, leather jackets, hearings, urchins, sea cucumbers, an occasional thorny star fish, bobo’s, some jewel anemones, and no crayfish.  The bottom was rock with canyons and boulders covered in short bull kelp.  I managed to find a well-encrusted bottle and spent a few minutes following a 10 mm steel cable – both possibly from the ship wreck for which the bay is named.  Joey (the dive master for the trip) managed an amazing search and recovery of a black fin lost by one his divers on a Discover Scuba dive.

On the afternoon dive there were three of us: Marina, Larry and I.  The location was in the next bay immediately north or Shipwreck Bay.  The dive followed a reef heading due E from the shore and gradually descending to about 30 m.  We started with a buoyancy check, then descended and set off along the reef.  One diver was assigned compass navigation duties but they became so fixed on watching their compass that I relieved them of this task so they could enjoy what was around them.  There were some nice walls with big cracks, and the occasional pinnacle with some fans on the walls and kelp cover lower down.  We headed around the end of the reef at a depth of about 20 m and began a gradual assent up the northern side heading West towards the boat.   Although Rus had advised that the area had been pretty much picked clean I managed to get my hands on a fair-sized rock lobster which, after a lot of effort, eventually accompanied us to the surface (less feelers).   A short time later one of our group became over-buoyant – the result of aluminium cylinders, not bleeding air during our gradual assent, and trying to dump air through the power inflator while head-down (this is what dump valves are for).   He made it back down just as the other diver and I had levelled off for a 3 minute 5 m safety stop on the way up to see where he was at.  We headed back down to about 8 m and within 10 minutes we were right back at the anchor line.  This more than made up for my less than perfect navigation effort on the previous dive.   Aside from my solitary lobster we saw Maumau, wrasse, another eel, and a pigfish as well as many of the species that we had observed on the earlier dive.  Dive duration was 36 minutes to 20 m.

The weather on the 16th had packed a sad.  The shore break made launching the boat impossible.  However the Gods provided another dive opportunity the following day.  It was just Rus and I and we headed out in glassy conditions with a 1 m swell to dive on two pinnacles between Mahurangi and Waikaranga islands, just north of the marine reserve.  These were beautiful dives although there was a fair surge above 10 m and visibility was still limited to around 10 m.  I spent a lot of time taking photos and looking for crayfish but with no success.  The ones I could see and get at were marginally sized so we spent some time just looking at each other.  The two that might have joined me for dinner were not keen on the invitation and will live another day.

While searching for crayfish is relatively effortless trying to actually catch them by hand can take a fair bit of effort and you can chew through some air - particularly below 20 m.  Rus managed to bag four crays using his lasso while I managed to scare just two.  Aside from saving air, being more effective, and not requiring you to force your body into tight crevasses; a lasso causes significantly less damage to the crays so that any that are too small, soft shelled or in-berry can be released none the worst for their experience.  I can see me making one sometime soon.

With the approach of the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Rene Thursday was not going to be a dive day.  The swell had increased markedly and the sky was heavy and grey with passing rain.  If we’d have got in the water it would have been like a night dive.

My thanks to Rus, Joey, Reece from Cathedral Cove Dive, and my dive buddies Marina and Larry for some fun diving.

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