Well, I thought the last trip would be my last to Vanuatu but with the Tec course happening, it seemed like a good idea.
The main issue with this particular dive destination, although its not alone in this problem, is the weight limit getting there and back again. We had a 20kg limit and had to take all our gear in that so its difficuly to say the least. On arriving at the airport, we found out that the dive travel company had not only told us the wrong number (it was 24kg) but they had also neglected to mention that as its a ‘sporting’ trip, we actually could just ask for and get a limit of 30kg. the 25kg I had therefore was not going to cost me anything as I had expected.
In the ‘Olden’ days, we flew on very small planes that had serious weight limits, these days however, the plane is a 737-800 all the say to Santo so I think its far easier for them to be flexable.
On arrival in Santo, as always, we were keen to get diving. I had a Hollis HTS harness and a single 65lb wing to use with twins so we had to go over the road to setup our gear with the dive operator. I had pre-reserved a pair of 300bar DIN tanks with bands so it was quite an easy excercise. The diving was a little colder this year (26 degrees) where on other trips we had been 28 but its still fantastic compared to local diving tempratures.
Its strange that after a few days, ‘Island Time’ starts to operate and as easy as the diving is, you start to get lazy and not do every dive. As the dives are also long and deep, its nice to have some time out of the water to make sure you are diving withing your nitrogen limits.
As recently as four years ago, when I was in Santo last, the usual pattern was Wake, Eat, Dive, Reset Gear, Eat, Dive, Reset Gear, Eat, Sleep. The ‘Reset Gear’ was something that had to be done at the end of every dive and included things such as re-charge torches, re-charge cameras, download photos, then re-pack silica gel into the camera housing etc ready for the next dive. This trip however, with just a few years difference, its so much easier. The camera has enough storage for 3k photos, the batteries in the camera, last charged in townsville on the motorcycle trip a year ago, lasted well past half way through the trip before needing to be recharged again, and the torch, filled with 3 ‘C’ batteries, lasted the whole trip. The batteries at the end were donated to the dive operator as they were still virtually full as they have trouble getting decent batteries over there. The torch, incase anyone cares, was a Hollis 3×3 and is fantastic.
This trip was also the first real dives with my new Uwatec SOL computer. What a brilliant machine that is. As typical with Uwatec, the transmitters are not the best (I had a dive where one interfeared with the other and I had no SPG at all) but when they work the interface on the computer is great. I wish someone would make a Uwatec computer with all the information it provides, with the algorithm it uses, with an Oceanic transmitter system.
Every dive I had 2 computers (and extra depth/time piece) and apart from a single dive, they worked beautifully. The new PDIS (Profile Dependant Intermediate Stops) and the micro bubble radius consertive limits were great and I never once felt close to the limits of what we should be doing. Even on the last dive, when after about 13 mins at 45 metres we were heading back when another group silted out our exit, we had to go another way racking another 10 mins at depth, the computer of course did what its designed to do, calculate the required decompression because it was unplanned. I had over an hour decompression to do on that dive. I wouldn’t like to have to calculate the required decompression on that dive with tables. That dive alone justified the cost of the computers.
Santo has also change a lot this trip, last time, getting on the net was difficult at best but this time, theres lots of wi-fi available in the town and while its still slow (seems like shared dialup speed) its better than nothing. I probably checked things too much but its nice to know that everythings under control at home. Internet via the mobile phone network is still non-existant which is probably a good thing as it would be expensive anyway.
So, overall, I’m very glad I went. Its relaxing and amazingly easy to get some great diving in.