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Two weeks in the Red Sea, February 2014

Mattijn’s dive blog – two weeks in the Red Sea, February 2014


Despite the recent political unrest, the Red Sea is still a good place for recreational and technical diving. It’s close to home, cheap and warm! Up till now there has been no violence in the Red Sea towns. Let’s keep our fingers crossed…

This was going to be a two tiered diving holiday. Joran (my 16 years old son) and Emiliano (long-time friend) joined me to do their courses. I finally persuaded Emi to do his OWC and this was the week it was going to happen (I thought). Joran was here to do his advanced nitrox course with Cat from Tekstreme.

We checked in at the old familiar Seagarden hotel in Hurghada. It was 3 yrs ago but they still remembered us. Must have been the tipping… The next day we were surprised to find the recently opened Hurghada Emperor Divers resort in Tia heights in the process of closing down. Declining tourist numbers has had its toll. It did not affect our diving but it was funny to see Joran clinging to the fridge to get a last coke while the whole thing was shifted out. Joran did very well in his advanced nitrox course. See you tube video. He has a natural build in buoyancy and had no trouble at all doing all the skills Cat Braun from Tekstreme threw at him. “Make him eighteen” was all she said. Both father and son can’t wait for that to happen so that Joran can do his tech courses and become an OC or CCR diver as well. Joran loved making dive plans, calculating SAC rates, OTU’s and a theoretical decompression plan. His SMB deployment is excellent. Yes, I am a proud father. I can’t wait for him to be eighteen so he can start with his tech courses OC or CCR.

Emiliano was a different story. He did all his skills but could not get further down then 1.2 meter. His ears just could not equalize. He had a history of glue ears and grommets but both of us thought he had grown out of it. Unfortunately this was not the case. After 3 days of trying he had a grade 2-3 barotrauma and he had to surrender. As there is absolutely nothing to do in Hurghada besides diving, he changed his flight and flew back the next morning.

My challenge was getting used to the combination off a dry suit and a CCR. I had been avoiding it for years but finally I bought a Bare trilaminate dry suit. In February even the Red Sea is cold at 60 msw. The first dives were OK. But my first zodiac entry was ehh….. Experienced dry suit divers can guess what happened. Slowly but surely my buoyancy control got better and after I had learned to squeeze out most of the air before rolling off the zodiac, I started to like my new suit.

The Emperor Elite

Friday I boarded the Emperor Elite for the technical safari. Joran played hideaway for one night in my cabin and flew back to Schiphol very early in the morning. At 9 AM the boat left for Gota Abu Ramada to do our check out dive. I use an Evolution plus with PLDT travel frame.  Two x 3 litre cylinders,  2 x 10 L bail cylinders and the dry suit created the need for 12 kg of lead. Who said that CCR is less heavy compared to OC….

Tekstreme is a red sea based company. Apart from doing technical courses the whole year round, they organize technical safari’s 3 times a year. I have done practically all of my OC and CCR training with them. This time there were 13 divers plus 3 Tekstreme staff members. A German, a Fin, Brits, a Russian and the odd Dutchman. Experience varied from a recreational CCR diver up to very experienced hard core OC divers who do 120 m plus. It is a bit like a floating hotel. This time there were two chefs in the little kitchen, one was a pastry chef! Everybody has put on weight, that’s for sure. The dive deck is very impressive. Loads of equipment, cylinders and a blending panel.

Time to set up my equipment, check the rebreather. Oh no…. cell failure of nr 3! Before leaving Holland I had replaced all of my cells as they were getting old. Now I had no spares left. Cat Braun was kind enough to give me a replacement cell. Scrubber changed, zipper waxed and fluid repleted, I was ready for the safari’s first dive.

Date Location Max depth Run time Dil mixture  
22-2-14 Gota Abu Ramada (reef) 13 44 air Check out dive
22-2-14 Umm Gamar (reef) 40 51 air  
23-2-14 Rosalie Muller (wreck bombed in 1941) 40 61 air Explored stern section
23-2-14 Rosalie Muller bow section 43 69 air Bow section, engine room too silted out to enter
24-2-14 The Lara (wreck) 60 20 min @ 60 msw, TRT 71 min Tx 16/35 Searched for 10 min!, could only explore the top part
24-2-14 Reef dive       Skipped the second dive because of N2 load
25-2-14 Thomas canyon 60 20 min “60msw, 10 min@45msw, TRT 80min Tx 16/35 Very nice dive!

See you tube video

25-2-14 The Dunraven (wreck sunk in 1876)       Grrrr

Cell failure again, no dive…..

26-2-14 Jolanda and shark reef 34 61 Tx 18/25 No deco dive, see you tube video for all the bath tubs and toilets
26-2-14 Abu Nuhas 30 110 Tx 18/25 Crazy dive
27-2-14         Very strong wind and waves, skipped the dive

The last dive was a memorable one. My two dive buddies, Ron and Craig wanted to do all four wrecks at Abu Nuhas in one two-hour dive! Kimon M, Chrissola K, the Carnatic  and the Giahannis D (all in the 20-30 msw range) We spent 15 min at each of the first three wrecks and all was fine. However, it was the swim between the wrecks that got us. After 90 min, with the Giahannis D looming in the distance, Ron was knackered (at least that was what he wrote on his slate) and it was time to abort the dive. He went up and then it I found out that Craig still had 25 min of deco to do. He was on OC, me and Ron were on CCR and had no deco time! LOL.  See Abu Nuhas: The Movie

Dive medicine

I had brought my V-scan (a very portable transthoracic echo machine) to get experience in doing post-dive TTE’s to look for bubbles. As the resolution of this midget machine is not as good as that of his big brothers I needed an echogenic diver with a considerable nitrogen load to begin with. Guess who was the Guiney pig. Joran did an air dive very close to his NDL. Fourty minutes post-dive some bubbles were discernable in his right ventricle. Then I echoed two technical divers 40-60 min post-dive. No bubbles! Perhaps not surprising as they had a thorough decompression with 80% oxygen.  Next step is to look at a technical diver at the end of a week of repetitive diving. Most technical divers are very interested in dive medicine. I gave a talk about decompression theory/ physiology and pre-dive optimisation strategies. Especially pre-dive exertion and the use of post-dive oxygen got their attention.

It was a very good trip. I have learned to dive with a dry suit and I have made new friends.  The after party was memorable as well! See Tekstreme diving blog. My next tech safari will be in September this year.

Mattijn Buwalda, anaesthesiologist-intensivist DMP DESA EDIC

Hyperbaric physician @ London Hyperbaric Medicine

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