Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Rapid Bay dive trip - Days 2,3,4

The wind eased overnight so it was just a matter of waiting for the water to clear up a bit. We checked the jetty first thing but the swell was still up and vis about 1/2m.
Checked again in the afternoon and conditions had just improved enough to jump in. Swell was still enough to make entry a little tricky with a bulky camera setup but vis had improved to 3m. Lucky we did dive because this would be our only break in the weather for the whole 4 days.

The trip from the dirt carpark to the entry platform is much easier with trolleys. It's shorter than it used to be walking right out to the end of the old pier and could be done without trolleys if you don't have heavy camera gear. We locked the trolleys and camera bag to the pier railings with a bike cable lock, but the fishos seemed friendly enough. It gets very crowded on weekends.

From the entry platform a row of metal stakes lead west straight across to the old pier in about 6m. Another row heads out north west toward the end of the old pier then does a dog-leg back to meet the main pier. The stakes must be about 5m apart, we couldn't see from one to the next.
The area between the two rows of stakes is called Leafy Gardens, there are 5 resident leafies here.

Unfortunately a recent head cold had left me with an unsuspected clogged up frontal sinus. Below 5m I was getting a bad headache above my right eye. This was the first time ever for me, very frustrating. I then spotted 2 leafy sea dragons down at 6m but was unable to get down to photograph them. I flashed Bruce with my strobes and there was much rejoicing, although he wondered why I wasn't down there shooting. I think he interpreted my headache signals as clenched fist type celebrations.

Eventually I managed to get down the extra 1m by going very slowly, or it might have been the adrenaline masking the pain, and started shooting dragons. What an experience, they are the most bizarre and beautiful creatures. They swim very slowly rocking up and down, often swimming in unison with a mate. In fact the rocking motion is how I spotted them initially, and they are slightly brighter yellow than the weed.

We stayed down for over an hour finding one more seadragon, a few big spider crabs and a little cuttle.
While we were down the wind and swell had increased making the exit a little too exciting but nothing could dampen the exhilaration of finding these spectacular and rare seadragons. Leafies are only found in a limited stretch of southern Australia, nowhere else in the world.

We were looking forward to subsequent dives with better conditions but sadly the wind picked up and prevented any more diving over the next 2 days. We could have headed over to Victor Harbour and calmer water but the vis wouldn't have been any better.

Here's a 4 min video of the trip

One issue with diving at Rapid Bay is that there are no dive shops on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The closest dive shop is Southern Diving 70min drive north at Christies Beach. All the closer dive shops have closed down. So we took 3 tanks each and intended to do the 2 1/2 hr round trip for fills after dive 3. Maybe next time.

On our last walk along the jetty we came across an instructor and student from NB Scuba in McLaren Vale. He told us these were the worst conditions he'd seen in 6 months! He also said he has a compressor at home and does fills and is closer than Christies Beach. Good to know.
It was interesting to see the dive instructors wearing shark shields, maybe it's a workplace safety requirement.

More underwater and kite aerial photos here

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