Friday, April 24, 2015

Red Sea Rising

After dinner on Thursday night, we departed Daedalus for the 7-8 hour crossing to the Egyptian coast near Elphinstone reef. The weather report showed the winds had picked up and that the seas had 4-6 foot swells, so the Captain planned to motor to our more protected backup site near shore. If things calm down by morning, we can easily backtrack to Elphinstone, otherwise we can dive where we are. I've been on plenty of rocking and rolling ships at sea, and my usual method of dealing with any queasiness is to sit outside and look at the horizon. That doesn't work so well when you are in the middle of the sea with no land in sight after dark. I watched the light from the beacon at Daedalus, but realized I would not be able to see it after a while as it is only visible for about 30km. The best time to take seasickness medication is before you actually get sick, so I went to get something from divemaster Erin. I found her, along with the crew who were not actively involved in operating the ship, sitting in the outdoor lounge on the second deck of the ship. A few looked kind of uncomfortable. Erin got seasickness pills for several of us.

The other female guest this week, Judi, is a nurse and does rotations as the shipboard nurse for a couple of cruise lines. Her husband Matt was seasick, so she settled him in a beanbag chair in the middle of the salon. Judi explained that it's best to get as low to the waterline and as close to the center of the ship as possible, and also told me that it takes about half an hour for the medication to start working. So, I laid on the shag carpet next to Matt until half an hour passed. After about 20 minutes I progressed from feeling vaguely uncomfortable and anxious about possibly getting sick to feeling like this whole thing was an amusing adventure. My cabin happens to be just above the waterline amidships, so it seemed like retiring there was my best bet. So far, so good.

The Red Sea is clearly not for the faint of heart or the easily seasick. Surface conditions can change in an hour from placid and lake-like to rolling like the open ocean. The famous offshore dive sites, The Brothers, Daedalus, and Elphinstone, can feature ripping currents, heavy surface chop, surge, and high winds. Water temperature this week was 71-74 degrees, and visibility was 60-90 feet. These are not perfect happy tropical vacation conditions. The diving is very good, but I do not recommend the isolated offshore reefs to beginners or the skittish. Next week we will wend our way south through reefs and islands near shore. It should be calmer, warmer, and more suited to my preferred style of diving. I'm not a super gung-ho adventure diver. I like to be comfortable and to float along looking at the pretty fish. I'm not sorry I did this week, though, because I finally got to see hammerheads up close.

I fell asleep after I wrote this at about 1:30am. An hour later I was jolted awake and flying across my cabin. I landed on the floor and slammed the back of my head against the flat wall, which was fortunate in that I had no pain or tenderness later. The same roll also sent Divemaster Darwish into the air, and he landed with his back against the hard wooden edge of the second berth in his room. His back hurts today. I hope everything is ok with him. After that mighty jolt I stayed on the floor and pulled pillows and comforters down to make a little bed. I couldn't fall asleep, and it was too rough to read or play video games, so I just stayed up all night until we reached our mooring at Abu Dabab reef. They let us sleep until 9am and then rang the bell for breakfast. I ventured topside and verified that none of my belongings had gone missing from the dive deck during our rough crossing. Once again, Darwish wasn't so fortunate, one of his favorite dive t-shirts and his snorkel were gone with the wind.

The conditions on the lee side of the reef were ok, but looked bouncy and choppy. The dive briefing didn't excite me so I crawled back into bed and took an hour+ nap. I was awakened by jolting rolling, the divers had returned and we were motoring north along the coast to our home harbor at Port Ghalib. There is no diving tomorrow, it's departure/arrival day for guests, which is just as well as the high winds and rough seas are forecast to continue all day Saturday. They are expected (hoped) to die off again on Sunday, which should feature the first dives with the new guests. We'll be at Marsá Shoana again, which is fine by me as that is the site where I saw the dugong. After that we'll head south for a week, and will again attempt to stop at Elphinstone next Friday.

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