Thanks to Ged for organising yet another great trip.
The Azores lie about 700 miles west of Portugal, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and is the meeting point for the North American, Eurasian and African tectonic plates. Suffice to say that they know a thing or two about earthquakes and volcanoes around here!
Lisbon – the flights required an overnight stop in Lisbon in each direction. Thankfully, bags are checked straight through, so we just had hand luggage to cram in to our luxury limo that I’d pre-booked – it was a Toyota Yaris! It’s a good job that Andy and I are so small;-) My expertise as a travel organiser was further questioned as we approached the apartment – up 2 flights of steep stone steps, past the dustbins along a graffiti-decorated alley, and then up another 3 flights of stairs! The apartment could best be described as “bohemian”, and bore very little resemblance to the online photos. On the plus side, it was central and handy for bars and restaurants.
Next stop was Pico, and Twin Peaks dive centre, which is owned by Gary and Lindsey Fell, who also have a home in Westhoughton. The twin peaks are Mount Pico (the highest point in Portugal) and Princess Alice Bank (a submerged seamount that comes up from about 1400m to 40m). More about that later…
Gary had rented a beautiful house for us, with an excellent terrace for us to enjoy pre-dinner drinks. The only downside was that it was a few miles to the nearest shop or bar, so we were dependent on Adrian providing taxi services.
On day 1 Maria & Ged made an early start to provide boat cover for a 70m dive as part of an Advanced Mixed Gas course that Gary was running with the assistance of Simon Fryer (from Burnley). Adrian was one of the students on the course, and was also our driver for the week!
We did 2 shore dives on the first day: Furna (across the road from the dive centre) had similar topography to Gozo, with a nice underwater arch and some decent fish life. Pity I hadn’t taken my camera. The 2nd dive was at Cais Velho, which is about a mile away and included a nice cave with lots of shrimp.
Princess Alice Bank
After dinner that evening we were just enjoying a quiet drink when Gary phoned to ask if we fancied diving Princess Alice Bank tomorrow? You bet we did! A long but comfortable 3 hours journey each way made for a long day (7 am to 10 pm) but it was well worth it. This really is a world class dive site. The dive plan was very simple: swim alongside the boat and descend the shotline at midships or the anchor line at the bow, then hang on the line and watch the mobula rays that come up from the ocean floor to feed at Princess Alice bank. Sounds easy! Did I mention the howling current, and that I was wearing a rebreather that creates a lot of drag? We opted for the shotline rather than swim to the bow, and so dropped down. It was a 10-metre line with a weight on the end, so in theory we’d be hanging on at about 8-10m. Did I mention the howling current? The shotline became a swing, and we got pushed up to 2m, then back down to 8m, and so it continued…. The bailout valve (BOV) on my unit didn’t like the current, and so I had a constant stream of bubbles and the current was trying to rip the BOV out of my mouth while I was hanging on the line with one hand and trying to take photos or film with the other. All of this was an annoyance, but it was well worth it. Dave counted around 40 mobula rays at one point, just swimming around us in formation. It really is a world class dive site, though a single cylinder might be a more appropriate configuration next time!
On the return journey we enjoyed stunning views of Mount Pico at sunset. A fitting end to an amazing day.
Rest of the week
Unfortunately I got a cold and couldn’t clear my ears, so was unable to dive. I provided shore cover (OK, I wandered off to the ice cream shop) and did a bit of snorkelling. Meanwhile Ged was busy doing his Sports Mixed Gas course and Adrian completed Advanced Mixed Gas.
Hopefully the others will add some details about the remaining dives.
• The camera does lie – especially when booking apartments
• A rebreather is a bit OTT for an 8m dive in a howling current
• Neutral buoyancy is over-rated when you're on a shotline in a howling current
• Remember to pack more Sudafed
• Booking a hire car gives you more independence, no matter how willing and helpful your friends are at offering lifts
• Pace of life on an island is dictated by the ferries & supply ships. They get one delivery a month and Gary was getting very nervous when his car broke down and he realised he might need some spares from the mainland.
A massive thank you to Ged for organising this, to Gary, Adrian and Simon for looking after us, and to Ged, Dave, Dave & Andy for making it such a good week.
Photos are on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/Chorleysuba ... 4090087255
Reports on our previous club dive trips and some of our day diving activities
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