Thursday, June 16, 2016

Penemu Garden Dives

As I started to say in the last post, Sirius suggested we do the dives at Penemu as a day trip. But Dave was worried about leaving 2 boats unattended at Yangelo while we day-tripped in the 3rd boat. This worry was not founded on any news about problems leaving boats unattended, just normal caution. So we decided to take all 3 boats and spend the night at Penemu, on Sirius' "open roadstead" "sandspot on the end of a reef". However, Sapphire decided he'd stay in Yangelo and do boat maintenance and explore around in his dinghy a little, so it ended up being just us and Evia Blue hauling anchor in the early morning.

We had trouble getting our anchor up. We patiently motored the boat gently in every direction, trying to free the chain from whatever it was wrapped around, to no avail. I finally had to put on a dive tank and go down to 75-80 ft in the dark water to see what was up. Visibility turned out to be surprisingly good--the bottom was sand and coral, not the usual silty muck I expected. In the light and variable winds in our little hidey hole, we had managed to do a complete wrap around a low dead coral head. It took me only a minute to free us up, and with a wiggle of the anchor chain, I signaled Dave to pull it on up. Evia Blue, who had wisely tied their stern to a tree (keeping them from sailing around on anchor), had no problems getting their anchor up.

Since Evia Blue had a 20 minute head start, they anchored their boat on Sirius's waypoint, jumped in their dinghy with their dive/snorkel gear, and headed out to meet us. Because we were trying to time our arrival at the first dive site, Anita's Garden, for slack tide, we needed to hustle on up there (about 3 miles to the north end of the island). There was some current when we arrived, but not too much. Looks like our timing was good.

For this dive, rather than anchoring the big boat and diving with a dinghy trailing behind, we decided to try "live boating"--having everyone dive off a big boat, and have the big boat standing by to pick up the divers as they surface, wherever they end up. In high-current areas, its a much safer and easier way to dive. However, someone has to forgo a dive and drive the boat. Because I HATE trying to manage a dinghy while diving, I volunteered to be boat driver for this dive. Jan and Dave went down with scuba tanks and Monique snorkeled in among the islets around the dive site. Even though I wasn't able to dive, I had a good time on the surface hanging out on Soggy Paws, with one engine idling. I put one of our new plastic chairs on the top of our new hardtop, took an umbrella to keep the sun off, and sat and read and drifted in the current, watching for bubbles. Every now and then I'd have to climb down to maneuver the boat around to stay close. They had a very nice dive.

Once they were up, we loaded everyone back aboard, and motored slowly down the east coast of Penemu, checking for possible anchor spots. The problem as always was that the depths go from 40 meters to 18 inches in a boatlength. It's very hard to find anchorable depths in sand with no coral heads within the swinging radius. We found one or two spots that were possibilities under the current conditions (flat calm). If there was much wind blowing from any direction, these spots would probably be untenable.

We also sent a dinghy expedition inside the little enclosed lagoon we could see on Google Earth. Dave took soundings with the hand-held depth sounder on the way in, and we could have gotten in without much trouble. But there was a big sign on the inside that demanded payment of 500,000 Rupia for yachts and 300,000 for motor boats. Though the guy they saw didn't speak English, he made it clear that our fee would be 500,000. (This is about 40 USD). There is a walk to a lookout inside the lagoon.

While we ate lunch and explored around, we headed down the coast toward the 2nd dive spot--Melissa's Garden. By about 2:30, we were off Melissa's Garden. Dave was going to drive this time, and Jan and I were diving. But it wasn't slack current anymore. We could see the current was ripping, so we headed a little further up-current before going in. We quickly got swept down the side of pinnacle and spend our dive time in the lee of 2-3 little islands. There was lots to see there, but we used a lot of energy and air swimming around in full dive gear, across current.

Once we surfaced, we took a look at the time, and the weather, and decided to head back to the safety of the enclosed anchorage at Yangelo. There was a big black cloud moving toward us, and it didn't look like a good night to be out in an exposed anchorage tenuously hooked into a coral rubble pile. So we raced the sunset to get back to Yangelo before all the birds roosted for the night... And we spent another quiet night in lovely Yangelo.
At 6/10/2016 12:31 AM (utc) our position was 00°30.72'S 130°27.23'E

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