“Uncle Gazzer” Gary Savins double booked himself for this weekend and opted to let GS-Diving to be represented by Paul, Sophie, and myself, Suzanne (aka rEvo rOat). “The Gang” did our best to make sure we did not sully Gary’s reputation.
We all successfully met up and boarded The Ark Friday night at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal for what I originally thought was a reef weekend that turned out to be a more inviting wreck diving weekend. On order were Sara D, Smit Madura, and Maritime Fidelity with a night dive at the now shut Divers Lodge Dive Resort at Pulau Aur.
Saturday started OK albeit a little late as we got tied off at Sara D. We had arrived around 4am and got to enjoy a couple hours slightly calmer waters for sleep after the crew dropped anchor. Otherwise, Friday night was tough for good sleep.
Gary – Paul is now known as “The Model”.
Paul and I put together 2 x 1-hour dive plans for Sara D with the intent of staying at 50 meters or less and to find the engine room “easily accessible through large entrance off one of the cargo holds”.
Sophie was buddied with American Andy and dived with a group of single tankers that enjoyed 2 nice dives on the top.
The visibility was very good making it easy to see a lot of the ship from 10-15 meters away. Fish life was good with schooling bait fish making interesting balls swarming thru the water. On our first dive, Paul I explored the section of wreck aft of the wheelhouse, crew quarters. We probed a few holds but found no route to engine rooms. We did see the stern with rudder still intact and prop shaft, no propellor.
On the second dive, we went forward of the wheelhouse and poked around the holds. Other than finding lots of deflated sacks that once contained sugar, dissolved now, we did not find the engine room. Back on “top” of wheelhouse,we squeezed into a hatch and sank down until we could see thru a bulkhead the engine room entrance that is indeed off one of the cargo holds we were in minutes before, we just did not go up enough to see it. With no time remaining in our dive plan, we made our way up. During our deco stop at 6 meters, a lone big remora circled us. We scanned the horizon for manta and whale sharks that he should have been with but saw none.
Sophie and Andy were treated to great views of the wreck with good visibility. Lots of fish life and a bit of fish death with a few stuck in entangled netting.
The rest of Saturday was full of challenges to say the least. After a nice lunch, everybody found a quiet spot to catch up on sleep during the 3- hour motor to Smit Madura, a diving tug about 10 miles off Pulau Aur. When we arrived, the seas were getting rough and a strong current was preventing the shot line from sinking to the wreck requiring 3 attempts. With time not on our side, host Dave called for a vote to try again with no guarantee of successful tie off on the tug or abandon for Pinnacles at Pulau Aur. Most voted for Pinnacles another 90- minute motor away.
In that 90 minutes, an ominous storm front appeared to the west. With winds still strong from the south pushing us, we all discounted the dark clouds. But as we got closer to Pinnacle 1, while we were gearing up for dive, the temperature dropped dramatically, the wind shifted to the NW and we found ourselves in the middle of a raging storm. We all forged ahead with prep thinking it would blow over quickly and we would be enjoying a nice dive while it did.
Conditions were too rough for a reliable drop at Pinnacle 1 so we headed for slightly shallower 2. As the storm continued unabated, the crew fought to find a marker buoy, submerged because the current was running so strong, dropped the anchor in an attempt to give us something to follow down to the small pinnacle starting at 15 meters. With the boat being tossed like a cork and dark setting in, we finally abandoned, giving in to Mother Nature. She wasn’t done heaping misery though…the anchor line snapped while the crew tried to pull up, leaving the anchor as a future rescue mission.
We turned tail and slinked off to the protected waters of Pulau Aur where some of the hardy divers on board successfully enjoyed a night dive. Although even that was not without challenges with a hefty current pushing through the narrows, several divers got more of a workout than planned finning back to the boat, a DM lost a fin, continued strong winds made the crew work extra hard to get the BBQ dinner served up.
With everybody fed, the boat motored off for Maritime Fidelity, now many hours away into a headwind and current.
The seas were OK heading to MT fortunately, most folks got a good night’s sleep. We arrived around 8 am and watched Dave go in it tie off, then waited, waited, waited… Eddie came up with speargun and a nice lunch. He said OK to go down. Paul and I didn’t need any more encouragement.
We met Dave on the way down, he signaled which way was which from the anchor line and down we went. The line was tied off near the bow — dang, we wanted to go into mechanical area at the stern! A long swim along the top brought us to the place where the remnants of the superstructure was ripped off. We found our way to the doorway to enter into mechanical area — a massive grouper was peeking out at me when I came over the edge, it scootered off inside out of sight as we plowed our way in.
We spent a wonderful 20 minutes circling around all the mechanical bits of the boat including tools, fire extinguishers, a water fountain, and the “toy store” — the room full of toolboxes, spare parts, etc. great fun! Long swim back to the up line for deco ascent for breakfast.
For the second dive, we started in the “toy store” after the long swim from anchor line, this time on top to enjoy the hold and deck fittings. After mucking up the mechanical stores room, we moved next door to the machine shop full of vises, drill press, lathes, etc. Then around the rest of the level and up to the next. We found living quarters, bath facilities, etc. We went out a hatch to the middle of the stern and headed back to anchor line on starboard top side. Up the line and out.
Sophie and Andy enjoyed schools of bat fish, barracuda, yellow tail, etc. Several resident grouper made appearances and they spotted a big scorpionfish doing a great camouflage routine. With the anchor line tied to the bow, the single tankers got terrific views of the capstans, the impressive bow, massive ropes, chains, and other hardware.
Movies, naps, beer, wine, snacks, and dinner got us back to Singapore while crew cleaned our gear. Awesome trip despite Mother Nature’s dark side showing Saturday afternoon. Best of all, I think our host Dave will let us come back again. Good thing since we still have Smit Madura to dive and Paul and I now have the key to the Sara D engine room route.
Thanks to Dave for the use of your photos
Additional photos may be viewed on our Facebook page here – 27 to 29 July 2012, The Ark- recreational, technical & CCR diving