Finally, I did my open water dive on 14 June 2008 after a lapse of 15 years. The trip was brought forward to the 14th June instead of the 20th. I did my refresher course at Pusat Akuatik Shah Alam a week before the trip.
When I unzipped my wornout dive bag for the refresher course at the Pusat Akuatik, everyone who saw my diving equipment knew that I had a collection of antiques in my dive bag. According to a friend who was amazed at my collection, the US Divers regulator that I sold off a couple of years ago is now a collectors item. What is left of this regulator is just the receipt for the purchase of a US Divers regulator from Scuba Point in Taman Desa in 1992. The Conshelf SEA2 regulator, Conshelf SE2 octopus and Data Pro dive gauge cost me RM1000 those days and today, the same regulator, used condition is selling for RM1500 on eBay. Dino was telling me that it is kind of weired to be keeping old receipts but for me, it is a hard habit to break and I have been doing it all these years.
The Sherwood Genesis BC that I bought from Lucky Plaza in Singapore the same year for RM1033 is still with me though it is a bit small, size S but I managed to squeeze my size L body in. The 3mm thick dive suite which is also a size S and with front zippers was almost impossible to remove without a helping hand. Today, I don't see anyone wearing dive suites with front zippers anymore and only now I understand why todays dive suites comes with rear zippers as it is a lot easier to remove.
Well, the refresher course was okay. I was able to recall the basic stuff about scuba diving and it was not a problem at all diving in a swimming pool. Assembling the equipment, decending, equalizing, mask clearing, regulator recovery, regulator purging etc came naturally. Since I didn't put on a dive suite, my bouyancy was lesser and I didn't require much weight to counter the bouyancy in the swimming pool.
We left for Mersing on Friday 13th June, after work. Dino was supposed to drive his Naza Ria, but with the increase in petrol price, we decided to drive my daughter's Perodua Kelisa instead. It cost us less than RM100 for the trip to Mersing and back. We reached Mersing the same day around 11pm and took the first boat out of Mersing the next morning.
We arrived at Salang, which is situated on the north west part of the island around 9am and the first dive of the day was Tiger Reef. I borrowed a spare dive suite from Dino and with just 3kg of weight, I was not able to decend and had to abort the dive due to insufficient weight. It was a miss calculation on my part as I did not take into consideration the dive suite I was wearing, the sea water condition for the dive and last but not least, the size of my body since my last dive 15 years ago. I have to put on at least at least 5kg of weight to sink. I was not the only one who had to abort the dive, another friend of mine had the same problem and both of us had to be fished out of the water by another dive operator's boat. We ended up on the boat instead of below it and regretting for the stupid mistake we made.
The second dive of the day was Labas and my dive buddy was Lisa, the same person who ended up on the boat with me during the first dive. But his time around, we had no difficulties at all decending and maintaining a neutral bouyancy underwater with the right weight in place. My breathing was a bit heavy probably due to the new Apeks Tungsten XTX200 regulator that I bought for this trip plus the uneasy feeling diving for the first time in 15 years. Our dive master, Rick from B & J took us around this rocky formation and we did four swim through. It was an intersting dive that lasted for one hour and with my heavy breathing, I ended up with just 60bar of air left in the tank. The average depth was 16m and the visibility was around 15m.
The next day we went to Chebeh and Batu Malang or Unfortunate Rock. Don't know why the place is called Batu Malang, how unfortunate can it be for a rock? At Batu Malang, we did a few swim through around this rocky formation. Not much live corals around this area. Chebeh was more interesting as it was the most comfortable dive for me. I was able to control my breathing and I ended up with slightly more than 70bar of air after one hour. We came a cross a Green Turtle and a Blue Spotted Stingray around this area which is full of marine life. The visibility for these two places is 15m and the average depth was 16m.
Well, I managed to have three successful dives with one aborted dive during this trip and I know that I am now hooked to this hobby after a lapse of 15 years. I hope to make another trip to the East Coast before the fasting month and before the monsoon season starts, probably somewhere in August.
Since I have just purchased a new Akona 1mm dive suite and a new Dive Rite Transpac Harness with Travel Wings BC last week at the MIDE held at the PWTC, I can't wait to try this back inflation BC during my next dive trip. I never had any experience using back inflation BC as I am so used to jacket type BCs and it will be interesting to find out its performance. I know that I made a promise not to buy new stuff for this hobby but I just can't help it. It was Dino's idea anyway.
As for the DXing part, not much during this trip as I had difficulties in setting up the G5RV antenna. There were too many powerlines zigzaging from one chalet to the other and the resort is situated at a foothill. It was not a good setup for the antenna and I only managed to have it in between two chalets at a height of 7 feet above the ground. I managed to work with a few local stations such as 9M2AR in Alor Setar, 9M2DY in Kulim and 9M2ZNL in KL even though the QRM was high due to interference from the nearby powerlines.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip and I am looking forward to more diving trips next year. With the price war that is going on between Air Asia and MAS, hopefully one day I will be able to purchase cheap air fares for my diving trip to Pulau Layang-Layang and Sipadan.
73 de 9M2NAZ