Dive #267 - Rich Torkington's Dive Log
Copyright 2010 Rich Torkington Mesa, Arizona

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Bottom Time to Date:

234h
53m


Dive Info:

Dive Start:
9:45AM

Bottom Time:
59 minutes

Maximum Depth:
61 feet

Safety Stop:
3 minutes

Beginning Air:
3000 psi

Ending Air:
900 psi

Weather Conditions:
Sunny 84F

Surface Conditions:
Calm

Surface Water Temperature:
83F

Bottom Water Temperature:
83F

Visibility:
40-60 feet

Gas:
Air
267
TITLE
* * *
March 18,
2010
PALONG BAY
PHI PHI ISLANDS, THAILAND
BOAT DIVE
 
Janel, Phil, Sarah (buddies), Jeab (guide)
Dive & Relax
Koh Lanta
www.diveandrelax.com
Similan
Phil and Sarah join our table at The Funky Fish
Photo by Rich on Koh Lanta 2010 
Similan
Janel and I return to Dive & Relax the next morning
Photo by Linda on Koh Lanta 2010 
Dive Journal: Details of this dive day, March 18, 2010, were captured by Rich at torksinthailand.blogspot.com/2010/03/despite-our-revelations-of-relaxation-i.html.

Following our last dive, the Dive & Relax boat swings into a large cove that contains dozens, maybe hundreds, of boats and a populated beach. Fortunately this is just a mini-tour - I don't think I want to stop in there - looks too crowded. We find a sheltered place further up the island wall, moor, and break for lunch.

Janel is immediately certain that we are eating some kind of vintage cuisine. Mushy cabbage, seasoned chicken pieces, unidentifiable vegetables, tomatoes, and glass noodles. It is no combination of any Thai dish Janel has ever heard of, and seems most likely to be a collection of leftovers. Odd fare, but the taste is OK.

While we eat, 2 different turtles surface near the boat. Each takes 3 breaths, then dives again. We learn that this dive site is known for harboring many turtles and it's common to see them here at our second dive site, called Palong Bay. The captain states a 60 minute maximum on this dive - but with a grin we ask that it be 65 - trying to make a good-natured case for some extended dive time. He agrees.

This site has a long near-vertical granite wall dropping about 60 feet into the turquoise blue. A gorgeous band of reef life is located between about 20 and 55 feet, and another mild current will propel us from the island's mid-section to its end while the boat again follows.

More good sightings, among them: magnificent slug, varicose wart slug, giant moray eel, scribbled fielfish, common porcupinefish, blackspotted pufferfish, and spotted boxfin. About 30 minutes into the dive, Janel spies what appears to be a very large anemonefish, but has a gorgeous spotted costume. He swims close to an anemone, but in a strange back-and-forth motion, like a metronome. We learn later that we've found a juvenile harlequin sweetlips - stunning!

We also come across a large soft coral formation that almost looks like a menorah. We later learn that it's called harp coral.

Some 50 minutes into the dive, the vertical wall peters out into a slope, and I assume that we might be nearing the end of the island. Another dive group converges with ours, and at the same time I hear Jeab rapping her signal for attention, and she makes a turn-around sign.

Seems to make sense, so Phil, Sarahh, and I slowly sweep around and begin following her, finning only slightly more into the mild current. As we retrace, I notice that one extra diver has joined us, clad in blue. Hmmm...

In a few minutes, I'm scanning aft and skyward for signs of my dive buddy. Where could Janel be? I'm at once a bit alarmed, but I soon turn that off. We're in 25 feet of water and 50 minutes into the dive. She'll just come up in 5 or 10 minutes. But I want to communicate this to the dive guide Jeab. Finally getting within about 10 feet of her, I begin to realize that, despite the fact that she's wearing the same black wetsuit and yellow/black Mares fins, this actually is not Jeab. I turn to look at Phil and Sarahh, still clad in their yellow/black, and yellow fins respectively. Lo and behold, it's not Phil or Sarahh either.

Woe, my mistake. I do another 180, and start gliding downcurrent again. By this time, I'm sure that Janel has been equally alarmed at my absence. I figure I'll continue to glide to the island end and surface at 60 minutes, probably running into them at the safety stop. In the process I discover another older harlequin sweetlips, this one with the beginning of its finer adult markings. Nice.

In only 2 or 3 more minutes, I find Janel in the hazy water, peering for me. She gives me the "shame on you" pattern with her finger. Hey - an honest error!

All is good, and we surface. Fortunately, Janel had exactly the same thought sequence that I did, and figured I would just surface at 1 hour. No turtles on this dive - a bit surprising. We had both been keeping an eye out for them.

A nice dive - especially the harlequin sweetlips! The crew works like lightening to disassemble gear and the speedboat zings its way back to Koh Lanta. We talk mostly with Phil and Sarah on the way. With both wind and waves into the bow, the going is a little bit slower, but we're back by about 2:15, WAY before the larger cattle boats return.

Cameron offers to drive us back to Layana, or we can stay and do a dive debriefing at the Castaway bar. We'd like to do the debriefing, with a beer, but have brought no money with us. Cameron says to put the beer on his tab - no problem. Great guy.

Jeab, Sarah, Phil, Janel and I spend the next hour poring through fish books recollecting the dive sightings over beer - a most enjoyable afternoon activity. Cameron finally takes us back to Layana. We still want to tip the dive crew and will return to Dive & Relax tomorrow.

VERY nice dive experience - exactly what we wanted to do today.

Much later in the day, as we are finishing up our dinner at a beachside restaurant called The Funky Fish, we spot Phil and Sarah walking by on the beach and call them over. Soon enough, they're seated at our table and we're ordering another round of beer for all. They're married and traveling the world, wandering as it were. They've done some interesting diving themselves, and we discuss the UK, other travel destinations, and dive characteristics of many places. They've been to the Maldives and to the Red Sea, both on our list of future dive destinations.

Janel starts to fade a bit earlier than the rest of us, and we're soon giving our good wishes to Phil and Sarah. Extremely nice folks - we're lucky to have shared some time. Maybe we'll see them at a music festival somewhere.

Note: Details of all our 2010 Thailand travels can be found at torksinthailand.blogspot.com.

Sealife Observed on this dive:
juvenile harlequin sweetlips
magnificnet slug
varicose wart slug
giant moray eel
scribbled filefish
common porcupinefish
blackspotted pufferfish
spotted boxfish
bubble coral (great turtle food, but we saw no turtles)
harp coral

More
Dive
Info:
Fins:
Tusa Xpert Zoom Splitfin
Computer:
Oceanic Veo 200
Tank:
80 ft3 Aluminum
BCD:
Rented from Dive & Relax
Dive Type:
BOAT, Dive & Relax speedboat
Body of Water:
Andaman Sea
Mask:
Tusa Visio Tri-Ex
Protection:
2mm shortie
Regulator:Rented from Dive & Relax
Weight:
5 kg
Water Type:
Salt
Video Equipment:
None