The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

The Alastor, Ringhaddy (NI) - Ropes & Aliens

Ringhaddy, Killyleagh
Dive Site: Ringhaddy, Killyleagh (NI)

Dive Type: Shore Dive

Dive Attraction: “The Alastor” Shipwreck

Depth: 22m (high tide)

Experience: Novice to *Intermediate


*poor visibility


The Alastor in Ringhaddy is my definitive local dive site. As in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ - “Every diver has one, but this one is mine.” It is also one of my favourite dive sites in Ireland, maybe even my overall favourite in the whole wide world. A mighty statement perhaps, but true nonetheless; well, at least until I dive The Titanic.



History [Source: MY Alastor Project]

Like a high school student, here is my plagiarised history of the wreck, but in my own words for dramatic effect.

M.Y. Vita (The Alastor)
The ‘MY Alastor’ was first christened the ‘MY Vita’ and was built in 1926 as a pleasure yacht for ocean wide pleasure cruises stretching roughly 44m in length. In 1929 Sir John Courtown Edward Shelley-Rolls bought the Vita and renamed her ‘MY Alastor,’ the name most divers are now familiar with.

Some divers refer to her as ‘The Allister’ but this is incorrect as the source document explains in full. Take my word for it, I’m right – they’re wrong.


In 1939 she was acquired by the Ministry of War, refitted for battle where she remained in service until 1946 and was then sold to the Greek government. In March of that year The Alastor was mooring at Ringhaddy in preparation for the Greeks when a fire broke out. All hands managed to get to safety and call the fire brigade out, but due to being so far off shore no one could get to her. In true Northern Ireland fashion she burned out and sank a few days later.

After that everyone began scuba diving to go and look at her.



How to dive The Alastor

So, now you know all that is relevant about the wreck, i’ll tell you how to enjoy a day out on ‘The MY Alastor’ in true 'I Are Diver' fashion.


PARKING

Parking along the road
Parking at Ringhaddy can sometimes be a challenge. There is a little lay-by just at the shore which can fit about 5 cars, providing the owners have basic parking ability. More often than not, they are parked at right-angles-wrong-angles taking up the whole thing with merely 3 vehicles.

When this happens everyone simply parks in single file the entire way up the rather narrow country lane. This appears to be an acceptable practice providing you leave enough room at the back of each car for spreading vast amounts of scuba kit around.



ENTRY

The entry point is only about 10m away from the “car park.” There is a wall with some steps built into it which lead down to the water’s edge. The wall is often used as a kitting up bench by some divers, but personally I find it a little high and prefer using the back of the jeep and simply walking down fully kitted.

Kitting up at the wall

There are only 3 steps but they are quite high. Shorter divers, those carrying very heavy twin tanks, or lazy buggers can easily walk round avoiding the steps completely. The only hassle there is that you may have to manoeuvre over, or under, mooring lines. Wife buddy prefers walking round, I like the steps. I have to admit with twin 12’s walking back up the steps are quite a workout for ye olde quads.


GIVE A MAN ENOUGH ROPE

Once in the water, surface swim along the wall to the end. At this point descend 3m-5m, depending on the tide, and search for the big grey cable. The big grey cable is rather similar to the one that kills the big shark in Jaws 2, so don’t bite into it. Follow the cable 2m and keep an eye out for a rope that comes off it to the left. This is the rope you’re after as it runs 80m right to the wreck. 

No nonsense navigation on this dive. The only thing is, you don’t want to lose the rope.

This dive is renowned for having challenging visibility, due to an extremely high content of silt on the seabed. This is code for: ‘the viz is crap at the best of times,’ I’d say 2m on a good day. It is dark, murky, green, and if you touch the bottom it’s goodnight. Personally I wouldn’t do the dive without a dive light; in fact I wouldn’t do it without a primary and a back up. It’s not so much dangerous, but if you come off the rope you simply won’t find it again, be forced to surface and start all over, wasting gas and shortening the dive. A light is essential for buddy communication on this type of dive at any rate so just trust me and take one with you.

Crabs a plenty along the line


So with dive lights on full blast simply follow the rope to the wreck. Note the term “follow.” I am so bored of doing this dive alongside certain divers that don’t possess the ability to follow something.

I recall a dive when wife-buddy and I were following the rope in fairly limited visibility, enjoying the crabs and blenny’s along the way. We looked ahead in time to see a thunderous cloud of silt belting towards us. At 16m in the dark, and perhaps a little narked, it reminded me very much of the scene in Aliens when one of the monsters was tearing down an air shaft towards Vasquez and Gorman. So, with the Alien hurtling towards us, Kerri and I attempted to move away, allowing it to pass but still keep the rope in our vision.

This proved impossible. 

The Alien turned out to be 3 divers hauling themselves along the rope at breakneck speed; I figured an Alien was chasing them at least. Wife-buddy and I were barged out of the way and subsequently lost the line. We managed to find each other but had no other option than to surface. The dive was ruined. I can only hope a face hugger got the bastards on the way home, as that would save me from hunting them down and strangling them with said rope.


THE WRECK

If there are no Aliens follow the rope over a couple of tractor tyres holding it in place, and eventually you will bang your head on the stern of the wreck.

Welcome to "The Alastor" shipwreck.


The Alastor

The wreck is small enough to just potter around at random, but I have developed my own set pattern. When you reach the bow on the port side follow it along and you will see a walkway. It’s good fun to fin along it, just keep buoyancy in check as there is a lot of soft coral that are easily damaged. Take a peek into the doorway on your right which leads into the engine room. It’s filled with silt and I wouldn’t advise trying to get in.

Conger in the funnel

Exiting the walkway takes you into the forward section of the wreck just below the large fully intact funnel. There used to be 2 huge congers living in the funnel but apparently have moved on, but it’s worth having a look at it anyway. Coming back down the stack and moving forward into the wreck, all the girders have collapsed inwards due to the wooden supports having rotted away. Move forward and descend off the end and you reach the bow where the winch is located, and some cool hatches that large crabs frequent.

Moving back down the wreck along the starboard side and back up over the forward section we usually investigate around the fallen beams. On our last dive Kerri and I enjoyed the company of 3 giant wrasse, we got really close to them and was an excellent experience. Descending into the twisted metal and moving towards the bow again I like to travel along the starboard walkway.

Just before the walkway on the right is the bath. It’s a fully intact steel bath filled with silt, shells, inhabited by large crabs and often large fish hide behind or under it. It’s really cool. If you brush away the silty layer around the bath you can still see the tiles, just make sure there aren’t too many other divers around as the vis will be destroyed.

It never ceases to amaze me how much more interesting things become when they’re under water. I have seen many baths in my life and have even been known to partake in a little bathing from time to time. I usually don’t pay the unit itself much attention. Stick it in the sea and let it rust for 80 years however and I can’t wait to get back to look at it.

Capstan
Back at the bow, the capstans are in the centre and there are a couple of hatches to take a look into. When wife-buddy and I get to this point we usually complete an air check then one of us leads off to have a look at something else at random. There are numerous other areas of the wreck of interest, my SAC rate and cylinder size usually determine what happens next. On twin 7’s I can get round the wreck once no problem then have another potter about for 10mins or so. On the twin 12’s I can do everything, the cold usually makes me leave before lack of gas.



EXIT

Once we’ve seen enough, run out of gas, or the cold beats us, wife-buddy and I head back up the rope nice and slow, not forgetting to check out all the cool spider crabs and various other bottom feeders that litter the swim back to shore. Following the rope gives a nice easy, slow ascent rate and we usually level out at 5m for a safety stop, or 3m if any deco is needed.

If at any point you come off the rope or lose it, follow a Westerly bearing to come in to shore. If for any reason a diver has to surface in open water I would highly recommend shooting an smb, as there can be boat traffic and we all know boaters are idiots and kill scuba divers for sport.

Exiting up the steps

Then it’s just a case of walking up the big steps, or around the mooring lines, back to the jeep, de-kit and head home via KFC.

Follow these rules and you are guaranteed a great dive.



Tips for diving The Alastor


  • Down the steps if you’re hard, around them if you’re a girl

  • Do not lift the rope or no one will see anything ever again.

  • Try not to hit the bottom or no one will see anything ever again.

  • Bring 2 lights, primary and back up.

  • Bring an smb in case you lose the line or have to surface in the middle of nowhere.

  • Do the research in the links below, it makes the dive more enjoyable.

  • Be aware of scuba murdering boaters. 

Links

Wreck Survey

Irish Wrecks Online

Divernet Key Attractions

“Avast me hearties!” – The Red Sea, Pt. 3

Dive Ships
As great as the house reef was wife-buddy and I did fancy some boat diving so we could visit Sharks Bay, Ras Um Sid, The Temple, Jackson Reef and Woodhouse Reef.

 So we went back to see the organised Italian and booked some seats on a ship. I prefer the term “ship,” it adds a grander scale to things and makes me feel special. I also can then refer to people on board as my “shipmates.” I did try it but it didn’t really take off, and merely succeeded in confusing a Scotsman.




Booking a ship was dead easy too, the nice Italian explained what days the boat would be going out and we simply said yes or no. Even I was able to help arranging the dives.

We booked 2 days diving consisting of 4 dives. I was dying to do The Thistlegorm for obvious reasons, but alas the boat only went out on certain days and our flights didn’t accommodate the required off gassing. Terrible shame as it was something I was really looking forward to. The organised Italian tried her best to get me a boat and did offer to secure a private charter, but it was slightly more expensive and we gratefully declined, agreeing to come back and dive it another day.

On the day of our first trip to the boat all we had to do was head for the main road outside the hotel with our day sacks and wait for the bus. All our dive kit had already been sent to the ship and was awaiting our arrival; how’s that for a system?

The bus dutifully showed up on time, we climbed aboard and visited a few other hotels to collect some additional divers. This was when we met the Russians. I have heard enough stories of Russians being partial to a little vodka, but I figured it was a bit of hyperbole.

No. It’s really not.

As the 8 guys stumbled aboard I felt myself becoming intoxicated by the alcohol fumes emulating from their very pores. They were also rather loud, a bit rough around the edges, and had a definite vibe of, ‘we’ve just come from the bar.’ The Bolsheviks took their places and we headed to the dock. They didn’t bother me in the slightest; I just found it all very amusing and was looking forward to seeing them in the water.


Dive kit secured
At the dock we were escorted by the dive guide “Sachi” to our ship. As soon as we were aboard we located our boxes that were stowed under the kitting up benches. Our designated cylinder was already securely clamped above ready for action; all very clever. After each dive the helper guys had a fresh cylinder waiting, taking the spent one from us.







There was very little waiting about and we were soon over the dive site and getting ready to jump in. At the rear of the ship was a platform area with 2 dive ladders attached. They helper guys were pretty strict about 2 divers at time on the platform ready to giant stride in. This kept an orderly fashion to entry and kept the whole thing a lot safer. Organised fun is always my favourite kind.

Tanks for everyone!

Once in the water we duly followed our guide around the reef. We had Sachi for some dives and Mohammed 2 for others. Both were excellent divers, great guides and thankfully our air consumption wasn’t too bad so we weren’t calling any dives.

Mohammad 2 (the second we’d met so far) was good fun. He was wearing what I thought was a semi-dry suit, but it turned out to be a dry suit, well, in theory. The seals were shot to pieces and he had more water in it that not, but seemed to be enjoying his dives regardless of his rather wet experience. He was also complimentary of our diving skills so he’ll always remain a favourite. Yes, i am fickle and often swayed by compliments or presents.

Before our second dive the Red Army were visibly starting to shake a little, obviously suffering from withdrawal, and were attempting to locate any form of booze on the ship. One particular member was asking Mohammad 2 if there was any vodka, or worst case scenario, any beer? Mohammad politely explained there wasn’t any alcohol, apologised and got back to his duties. I found this rather amusing, especially as some of the party subsequently skipped the dive completely. What a splendid waste of money.

The icing on the cake was yet to follow. 10mins into our second dive I turned to see one of the red army flailing about, both arms behind his head searching frantically for his valve.

I thought to myself…..

Has he run out of air?

Already?

Nah – surely not?

No, he had run out of cam band. In his hungover haze he had strapped his bcd too high on the neck of the cylinder. As a result, once wet, the band simply slipped over the curved top. It was now falling to the sea bed dragging the Bolshevik by the regulators along with it. As a rescue diver I felt obliged to help the guy so I signalled Kerri and we began to fin over. Thankfully Mohammed 2 already had the matter in hand. Mohammad 2 quickly reattached the cylinder to the drunk man and the dive continued.

I Are Diver & Wife-Buddy to the rescue!


We also had a bit of a fun with a girl suffering from terrible buoyancy problems. I’m not the best diver on the earth, far from it, but I can control my depth to a certain degree. This poor girl was clinging to her inflator like the last leg of chicken in a KFC bargain bucket. Not only that, but her (presumed) boyfriend-buddy appeared to be ‘guiding’ her through the dive as to when to add and dump air. *shudder*

At one point in the dive I signalled Kerri to watch her head as ‘buoyancy babe’ was plummeting, tank first, down towards us. Kerri finned out of the road as the girl continued to descend. Boyfriend-buddy soon came to her rescue and we promptly left them too it.

Back on the boat I was curious as to whether there would be any repercussions from these possible dive statistics or future writing material for Mike Ange.

How would the Russian guy cope with the shame of such a fundamental error? – a bit of humour perhaps and a hefty slap on the back for Mohammed 2?

No, nothing. Not even a thank you. Poor form by the red army captain.

Buoyancy babe didn’t appear to have any issues with her dive either, but I did catch the eye of boyfriend-buddy, he seemed a little sheepish. I made a mental note to keep well away from both parties on future dives.

All the diving that followed was uneventful, just pure fun and very enjoyable. I have to admit with the water temperature at 23C I was feeling a little chilly by the second 45min dive and it appeared my 3mm full suit wasn’t cutting it. Nonetheless I persevered like the trooper I am, and hardly even mentioned to wife-buddy I was cold….much.

In between dives a magnificent feast was put on for lunch. I was really surprised at the quality of the food and the chef’s ability to make such delights in the middle of the sea. We even had a cake made for us, which wife-buddy seemed particularly happy at. There was also plenty of fresh water, juice, snacks and towels available on board.

When our diving was completed the ship headed for the dock, we were escorted to the bus, dropped the Russians back to the pub and finally to our hotel. Everything was done and dusted in time for dinner. Both days diving were a lot of fun and really easy going.

We had a wonderful time in Egypt. The hotel was great, dive staff were great, food was great, beer was all inclusive (and great), diving was awesome and all in all, we simply had a ball.

I would definitely recommend both The Hilton hotel and Sinai Dive Club, they are a credit to Egypt.



Red Sea Tips:


  • Rinse you kit well; the Red Sea has a much higher salt content than what most of us are used to and it will kill your gear.

  • Dives were at 8am and 2pm. I found I was killing time a lot in between and after diving. If like me, you’re not a sun worshipper or shopaholic you may want to consider a liveaboard instead.

  • Check with the dive centre about Thistlegorm and boat trips in advance to ensure your flights don’t interfere.

  • Bring / buy mosquito repellent and bite cream. The hotels are well treated, but wife-buddy still managed to get bitten badly and lost a day diving as result.

  • In Feb the water temp was 23C. It was too cold for me by the second dive. In future I would bring my dry suit with a light undersuit or my 5mm full suit, maybe even a light 2/3mm hood for the second dive. *Note: gloves not allowed by some centres.*
  • Watch out for babes clinging to their BCD inflater.

  • If you want to be friends with Russians, bring vodka on the ship.

  • Ship” is not a recognised term for “boat.”
Our final "towel man" leaving the tip for the hotel staff

What about a nice Reef(er)? – The Red Sea, Pt. 2

The Posh Place
So, we were fully booked in, posh room sorted – all those good things. Now it was time for some diving. It was the usual affair of registering with the dive centre and getting signed up for proper scuba.

Our PADI cert cards were handed over and credentials checked. I am so pleased those things aren’t linked to police records.




I always make a point of always bringing my log book with me (which I continue to fill in) just in case they need proof of my diving within the last 6 months. I’ve yet to be asked for it, ever, but I know the time i don’t bring it with me will be the holiday I get hit with a scuba review. I don’t like paying for things I don’t need.

A lovely Italian lady met us and quickly explained the rules of the road, or sea rather, how the diving worked and set us up almost immediately with a guided dive that morning. This was pure Italian efficiency; there was no messing about with this girl. We signed up for a 10 dive package which was very reasonably priced (air only) and got our kit sorted.

Our gear was stored on site in a box with our name on it, suits were hung outside when wet, or in the box when dry. It was a great system – post dive you just hung your suit out to dry and the staff brought it in that evening and safely locked it away. When we signed up for a boat dive our box was taken by the dive centre and met you on board – no lifting of gear, my favourite.

Our dive that morning was a guided dive off the house reef. It really was a ‘house reef’ at only a 50m walk down to the shore. Our guide was Mohammad. This was Mohammed 1. I soon learned Mohammad is a very popular name in Egypt so an accompanying number helped Kerri and I stop our brains from exploding. The original Mohammad was the one we met in The Maldives, he was simply called Mohammad.

A map of the reef was secured on the wall of the dive shop with all the routes shown and Mohammed 1 briefed us on the dive we would be doing that morning. Once we were happy he continued to explain the set up - get your wing together, don it, then carry regs, mask, fins and stuff down to the shore.

At the shore a small cylinder station was situated. Our cylinders were waiting on a very convenient kitting up area with seating in a semi circle to allow multiple divers to don gear without falling over the top of each other. A fresh water shower was in the middle for rinsing yourself fully kitted after the dive.

There were also ‘hand me that please – I can’t reach it’ guys on hand to aid with the kitting up process. As Kerri and I usually dive only as a pair, we’re not used to help and I found it a little disconcerting having someone keep handing me my kit. I quickly became accustomed to it and have since considered employing a minion of my own to accompany me on all dives. Then I remembered I have wife-buddy.

The Blue Brick Roads
Once kitted and buddy checks done it was time to hit the water. Another clever, yet kind of frightening, thing met us next. Rather than fighting waves and swell to get into deeper water there was a levitating pontoon. This was just pure weird; lots of square, blue floating ‘tiles’ led us out, like a yellow brick road, only blue. We carefully followed the blue brick road to a larger pier area with another kitting up seating area. This was great; somewhere to sit and put my fins on.




Or so I thought.


This was a bit ruined by the tourist people. It was obvious that this area was for divers. I was wrong. In fact it closely resembled somewhere for fat, red, holiday people in ill fitting bathing suits to sit and sweat in the sun, very sexy. I half expected them to move over a little, at least, when a 5ft 2ins female scuba diver waddled over to don her fins.

No.

In fact wife-buddy received a look of:


"You don’t really expect me to move my huge, fat ass out of your way do you? - Thank God."


The helper guys gently manoeuvred the red, fat people out of the way, amazingly without offending them, got our fins secured and we finally completed one of our trade mark giant strides from the pier.

The dive was great. The house reef was, as promised, fantastic. The visibility was easily 20m and the two of us were guided at a pleasant pace by Mohammad 1. The variation of marine life was staggering and the sheer quantity of fish simply overwhelming. I knew the Red Sea was renowned for good diving but this was something else.

Wife-Buddy


As expected, our guide knew exactly where to point out the cool fishies and once he had worked out how competent divers we were, he upped the game a little with some challenging swim throughs. Great fun all round. 50 bar finished the dive for us and we surfaced from the 5m deep sandy area arriving all of about 2m from the pier – top marks for navigation M1.

I Are Diver


Getting out was straight forward as well. There was a steel ladder firmly fixed to the pier thing and some of the ‘hand me stuff’ guys were waiting for us. Fins were given up; then we hauled ourselves onto the ladder with the guys taking the strain off by grabbing our valves and aiding the final heave onto the pier. Then it was an escorted walk down the floaty walkway thing, which was a great comfort as it did tend to move around a little and could put a lesser footed person off balance and into the drink.

We sat down at the kitting up area again, doffed our BCD’s and within minutes our cylinders were being changed over in preparation for the afternoon dive. All we had to carry back up to the shop was our fins and anything we didn’t want to leave behind. What a great system. All I needed at that stage was one of them to bring me a cheese and ham toastie.

The afternoon dive was pretty much the same affair, although we took a different route around the reef which ended up being a completely different dive. For some reason my SAC rate was a bit poor and near the end of the dive Mohammed 1 sent me packing with 40bar. He then buddied up with Kerri and they played buoyancy games for a further 10mins. I made it my mission to improve my breathing on future dives, it didn’t really work. Wife-buddy on the other hand was doing really well and even pegged the guide once. It must be all the talking practice she does, builds good lungs.

Fish the size of a door


One piece of advice I would like to give is that after the first dive I wish I had rinsed my kit better. It was boiling in Egypt and kit dried out in no time. Without a really good rinse the salt was quickly glistening on my wing. When I came down to do my second dive it was rock solid and had salt crystals all over it. I also ended up having problems with my inflator sticking later in the week, again most likely caused by not rinsing thoroughly enough. There were plenty of opportunities to rinse my kit; I just didn’t pay enough attention to detail when doing so.

When I did have a problem with my wing it was all hands on at Sinai Dive Club. Upon returning to the shop Mohammad 1 was right onto it and another young fellow followed with WD40 quickly lubing all the working parts. Next dive all was well with the world. The following day Kerri had a similar problem, a thorough rinse seemed to cure it on that occasion.

All that aside, the house reef diving was excellent and proved to be a favourite for both of us. It was so easy, great diving and we continued to enjoy a further 5 dives on the reef that week.

Butterfly Fish


Ride a white swan
In between dives we were happy enough to waddle around the complex, get some lunch and then back to the room for a bit of a snooze, once we moved the towel creatures off the bed of course.










Next it was to the ships.

Walk like an Egyptian – The Red Sea, Pt. 1

Everyone talks about how amazing the Red Sea in Egypt is for diving and to be honest, it really is. Some say The Maldives is the diving capital of the world, but I found The Red Sea just as populated with interesting life, and I actually prefer the underwater landscape of the reefs.

Now, I’d walked like an Egyptian before, roughly 10 years previous, but I wasn’t a diver then, not like now. As the holiday season is here I figured I’d share how wife buddy and I planned, and executed a dive trip with the Pharaohs.


WE ARE GOING TO EGYPT


The 3 Spiky Things
Dialling back one year ago, wife buddy decided that we should go to Egypt, mainly because everyone else was, and reporting back how “amazing” The Red Sea diving could be. As usual, I took absolutely nothing to do with it and simply asked how much money was required and when to book the time off work. Of course Kerri had it all broken down to the last penny, which hotel we would be staying in, which dive centre would be taking us and had selected our diving package for the week. Such efficiency, she’s simply a marvel.


Turned out we would be staying in The Hilton. Needless to say there was a highly structured thought process behind this choice. The Hilton is in Sharks Bay, which was the up and coming dive location, it had the best house reef, it was far away from the tourist trap, had a really cheap all inclusive package and possessed an onsite dive centre – Sinai Dive Club. Another factor was, despite popular belief, wife buddy and I are extremely posh.

Posh Hotel

We had to be wary when choosing a hotel, as although some promised house reef diving, it often involved a bus trip every morning to an affiliated dive shop. Bit of bollocks if you asked me. I prefer to have my kit stowed pretty much in the hotel and my “house reef” to actually reside near the “house.”

I’m also a bit lazy, and buses are for poor people that can’t afford cars. Buses also remind me of school trips in which I was most likely bullied due to my rather splendid flowing locks, and to relive such ordeals in a foreign country would be nothing short of traumatic.

So, we were off to The Hilton Hotel, Sharks Bay and would be diving with Sinai Dive Club.


PACK YOUR BAGS

Now that we had a destination sorted, we had to get the kit together.

Packing kit is a critically important part of the dive holiday. Wife buddy tends to pack at least 12 months in advance, I prefer the day before so I have absolutely no chance of obtaining what has turned out to be a vital piece of missing equipment.

Weight restrictions on the flying things are nothing short of ridiculous; as a result compromises must be made.

Scuba packing is an art form

I tend to bring as little clothes as possible. I find most tourists dress ridiculously, so for me to alternate 2 pairs of shorts and 5 t-shirts for a week will go pretty much unnoticed. I travel out in heavy shoes and a jacket that do for the cooler evenings. Toiletries are heavy so I ditch them almost immediately, plus women tend to never leave home without them, so I just share their stuff. Not random women you understand? – women I’m travelling with, and by that I mean Kerri, of course. Hotels have soaps and all provided anyway, I use their towels too so I don’t bother with my own. Sun cream would be the only thing I tend to bring as it’s horrendously priced abroad.

I now had most of my miserable weight allowance left for scuba gear.

I put my non breakables in “the big suitcase” that’s checked into the hold - suits, fins, backplate, wing, adapters, cutting devices and the like. I put my batteries in the hold too; it saves the hassle of explaining to an Egyptian later on that my hand luggage wouldn’t explode upon command. I’d imagine if you were planning to detonate the plane you’d best keep the batteries to hand.

I use my hand luggage for more sensitive gear and let’s face it, the most expensive stuff. I got a roller case dedicated for hand luggage. Immediately this was the correct size and with semi rigid sides I couldn’t over pack it, subsequently not fitting into the little cagey thing in the airport, then having to check it in, and then paying a squillion pounds for the privilege.

roller hand luggage
My regulators are always kept in hand luggage away from uncompressed areas of the plane, not to mention baggage handlers. I also kept my can light, back up torches, computer, compass and various other peripherals in the cabin.

My hand luggage always weighs a ton. Some plane people have weight restrictions on hand luggage, some don’t. Easyjet don’t have one, our last journey to Malta resulted in 10kg worth - fantastic. “Just make sure you can lift your case into the overhead compartment” was the only rule.

On our last flight, when I entered the plane I found wife buddy with her case 3 inches above her head shaking violently, willing it into the overhead locker. I took over like a real man and stowed if for her. If there had been turbulence on that flight and the cases fell out, we would all have been killed as they would have certainly penetrated the hull. On the plus side we may have escaped death; crash landed on a desert island, formed the Dharma Initiative and had our very own version of LOST.


TO THE AIRPORT

On the occasion in question we flew to Egypt with Thomas Cook who in fact did have a restriction. To counter this I made my case look light with the aid of nonchalant facial expressions when lifting it, and simply hoped for the best. This nearly put Kerri into apoplexy, but it is an occupational hazard, and also added excitement to the otherwise boring checking in procedure.

Having successfully checked in the big bags and not been asked to weigh our hand luggage, our next step in the journey was the dreaded secret police, more commonly known as airport security.


checkpoint
I have, in the past, received strange looks from the security people as my case was scanned. For the Red Sea it was fine though as security had seen it all before as Egypt is a popular diving destination.

When we had to get a connecting flight to the Maldives 2 years previous, nipping over to the UK from Northern Ireland was a slightly different experience. Trying to explain to a Belfast security guard what scuba equipment was could be described as ……. well … a bit of an education for both of us.


With the Gestapo fading into the distance we boarded Air Egypt, or whoever we were flying with, and finally we were on our way for some Red Sea diving.



TO THE POSH HOTEL

Upon landing we did the usual ‘collect the big bags’ thing and headed for the exit where we were met by the Thomas Cook rep. After no wait at all we were whisked a short distance to the bus, bags loaded onto a truck and were on our way. This was all frighteningly straight forward, and I secretly waited for wheels to come off. It never happened.

We arrived at the very posh hotel in no time, given a drink of juice, allocated a room and that was it. Kerri and I stayed in the “New Town” bit, which was even posher (more posh??) than expected.

Towel elephant
I could tell immediately it was, in fact, super posh, as the cleaner person had made our towels into creatures lying on the bed, in this instance an elephant. I immediately decided I would return the favour and leave the cleaner towel animals of my own every morning to brighten their day. That said, after I made one very disabled looking cat, I was a little short on ideas and quickly abandoned the project.





TO THE DIVE CENTRE

Now that all the boring bits were done, we unpacked our dive kit, repacked it into our mesh dive bag and carried all 6 tons of it to the dive centre, which was an unhealthy 18 minute walk away. I later learned that had I phoned down to reception, the posh people would have sent a golf cart to pick me up, along with all my gear. ‘1 – 0’ to The Hilton.


Wife buddy round the corner from the dive centre

Nevertheless we were finally at the dive shop and ready to get wet.