PMB – a newbie’s initiation
Blissfully unaware of the initiation into boat diving in the Atlantic I was about to experience in Simonstown a bit later that day, I dragged myself out of bed at six on Saturday morning. No matter how early I go to bed, I am just not a morning person, but luckily I had an hour’s drive to wake up before my dive. I was passenger, so I could sneak in another nap, but unfortunately I had to entertain Adrian with my conversational skills. We were on our way to Miller’s point – the launching point for the day’s dive. The wind was blowing for a change when we arrived in Simonstown, so I hung back in the car to facebook this phenomenon to the world. After I psyched myself up enough to face the wind I joined Mark, Jordan, Adrian, Graeme and DashDivers to get my dive kit ready. We were doing a boat dive of the PMB, or, for those of you who (like me) don’t speak ‘dive’yet, the wreck of the SAS Pietermaritzburg. The boat was formerly known as the HMS Pelorus and was used in the Second World War to sweep for mines in the water. It was sold in 1947 to the South African Navy who renamed the ship the HMSAS Pietermaritzburg, which makes a lot of sense, and was used for training missions and minesweeping. She was scuttled in 1994 to form an artificial reef (apparently this is an occurrence all over the world to sink ships so that divers can enjoy the marine life and growth forming on the ship).
After last weekend’s dive setting up my dive gear was almost like in the movies where the guy can take a gun apart and rebuild it in ten seconds – I was that fast. But that was all I was good at for the rest of the day, because as soon as the boat entered the water I realised that this was going to be an interesting experience. Having mostly dived in Mauritius where the water is as smooth as a dam, here we were encountering two meter swells. The first ten minutes on the boat were fine, and I was silently making fun of Adrian drinking a sea-sick pill earlier, but then it started to get a bit rough. I have found an excellent torturing method that I am going to patent – you kit a guy out in a nice and warm full-piece wetsuit, including booties and gloves, and then put him on a small boat on a hot day somewhere in the ocean in two meter swells for the whole day. I promise you that this will be so effective that he will confess to things he didn’t even do. It was definitely effective for us divers, because one of the Omsaccaroos discreetly fed the fish at that stage. I was still holding strong though. Or my stomach was. I was extremely nervous though and then I started to get nervous about getting seasick and the fact that we were struggling to find the dive site in the less that optimal diving conditions.. Another ten minutes of sea-sawing in the boat did not help to calm me down. When Ashley finally told us that we could get ready for the dive, I was ready to push everyone out of the way, screaming like a maniac, and dive head first into the water. Ashley looked extremely at home on his boat, so he slipped on our flippers (… sorry Mark …fins) for us. After spitting very un-ladylike into my mask and slipping it on, we fell back into the water … and descended into a very green and warm sea (18 degrees). Visibility was about 3-4 meters with lots of sand floating around in the water, but it only contributed to the very eerie atmosphere of the PMB.
I was supposed to pair up with Mark, but in the less than optimal visibility I probably only stuck with him for about five minutes. I forgot to check the colour of his fins, and, like I said after my previous dive, all divers look the same to me under water, so for the rest of the dive I think I was following someone else. I was still struggling a bit with my buoyancy which was aggravated by the swell, so I would either release too much air out of my BC and fall to the ocean floor, or inflate it by too much, but after a few minutes I got the hang of it again (sort of). It would have been great to get a bird’s eye view of the wreck in the water, but with the low visibility I had to be satisfied with a close-up look of the wreck. And she was a beauty. It’s amazing how quickly sea life can consume something like a ship in the water. She was covered in sea urchin, anemone and different species of coral. Lots of fish made her their home, including an octopus and some stone fish. I am sure that I saw some stone fish, but they were just camouflaged well enough that I didn’t realise when I saw them. What was so interesting about the sea urchin is that they camouflage themselves, so instead of having gorgeous bright colours, they were all an ugly grey to blend in with the water.
We continued circling swam through a part of the wreck to get a peek inside until after about forty minutes someone, who I presume was Mark, signaled that it was time to end our dive. I was pretty chuffed with myself: I only swam into the boat by accident a couple of times and I didn’t kill too many of the sea life in the process. We did a safety stop until everyone’s dive computers said it was okay to surface. My safety stop might not have been that successful as I was bobbing up and down with the surf. Ashley (who already had his sea legs) was there waiting for us when we surfaced, and soon we were cruising back to land. Back on dry ground, after disassembling our diving gear (which after the dive might not have been as fast as the guy with the gun in the movies) we decided to head off to the divers’ watering hole in Simonstown, Dixies, where we all enjoyed a well‑earned lunch (especially those of us who couldn’t hold on to our breakfast) and Mark got scammed into buying some African art.