On the Super Sport to Lizard Island

10/8/99-10/11/99
The first dive boat on that trip, the Super Sport.


Accommodations

Yes .. ok… so we booked “budget” .. but that cabin was really a challenge … very tiny … loud (right at the anchor chain .. and it was used quite a lot). Nearly no storage space and at the end wrapping up and repacking things was tricky. As to the boat itself. Typical Mike Ball 2 hull structure (and the cabin was in one of the hulls) … the main deck houses the dive deck, the galley, the main eating place and surrounded by cabins (interesting to see later how much different the Spoil Sport is) ….. many times I was reminded of the “spartanic charm” that I have encountered on the Blackbeard cruise. Like that meals were on a loooong table, hosting 28 people at once …. all meals where buffet style. It was very interesting to have so much Japanese influenced food (well .. 18 out of 28 people were from Japan, plus 2 from the crew) like miso soup for breakfast and all kinds of furikake that you can use to flavor your rice .. that was pretty cool. While we are at it .. these Japanese guys were party animals .. they have brought tons of food and liquor on the boat .. they would make their own noodles on the middle deck (wheel house, more cabins and “smoke deck”) .. with a little electric stove and pot they had with them …. I had a great time with them .. although we had that language barrier … but I enjoyed partying with them a lot …
and to complete the design of the boat, there is the sundeck .. all sun .. no shade … but we had pretty much bad weather anyway .. so .. no problem ….


The Diving or “getting high on Sudafed”

As usual, I started developing a slight cold just before the trip, and the traveling did not help either. I tried all kinds of tricks and recipes … but in the end I could only live and dive on Sudafed. Since there was no Nitrox on board, that was not a big problem, I only encountered slight difficulties equalizing and experienced the reverse-squeeze a couple of times (and the releasing feeling when it opens up finally).
The dive deck is neatly organized, though it gets crowded when 28 people try to get ready at once. The dive briefings were ok, not really spectacular. They were held in English and Japanese. Watertemp was always between 73-77 F and as usual I was cold most of the time … sometimes I wonder about getting these fat layers back :) I wore a 3 mil fullsuit and over that a 6.5 mil shorty with long sleeves. Sometimes I added a hood.

The divesites were nice, highlight was Steve’s Bommie, a pinnacle which starts at 100ft and ends at 15ft. Tons of fish life including a small resident turtle. On that site we found nudibranchs, giant clams, 3 cuttlefish, a lionfish and everything else. The “world famous” Cod Hole was mediocre … it was neat, having a feeding of some really big potato cods, but nothing that makes that divesite very special otherwise. A real disapointment was the last dive Clam Gardens which I later figured was maybe not even a real dive site. It was conveniently close located to the beach where we would later play beach volleyball. The divebriefing was “well .. just jump in and turtle off” … and after searching 30 minutes in 21 ft sandy bottom (“wow, horray, a Remora”) we found a little reefpatch with many many giant clams. Diving between 10-20 ft is especially fun with a cold …


The Underwater World

That of course was very very since, since I got to see many new fishies. Lionfish are really nice to look at, kinda funny are the unicorn fish (one large horn, dark body, but then white lips :), Bird Wrasses look a little like tapirs, cuttle fish a somehow related to squid and have very short tentacles and can change color. Oh, speaking of color: predominant was the color blue ! Blue elkhorn corals, blue christmastree worms, the inside of the giant clams was very often blue … beautiful. We also got to see a lot of sharks (later more on the Spoil Sport). The only thing that I expected to see, but didn’t was a huge Manta Ray.
I also noticed that some things were missing: no barrel sponges and purple tube sponges … but then on the other hand fields of elkhorns, tons of plate corals and huge gorgonians.


Other Goodies

What was nice was the last night BBQ (great, I got 3 shrimps :) with champagne (one glass per person) .. and before that we went to Lizard Island and played beach volleyball and had beers. Also nice is that Mike Ball offers a reef ecology class. The photo-pro Phil put together a really nice video, and we had a chance to see it in 2 parts during the trip .. and he spent the last night to make all the copies.


Rants

Unfortunately quite some. But before I start with that: I enjoyed the trip a lot … but there were many things I did expect to be better, or different. Also, comparing as to what I paid for the trip (and especially comparing it with the Peter Hughes standard that I grew accustomed to) I often expected more … but that I will sum up in the big big summary.
The cabin was way too small, even for budget. The food was ok, a little cheap sometimes. All the meals were buffet style, the guests sat on a looong table (while the crew ate at the plushy and nicer tables :). Diving was restricted to 4 dives a day (as the host said “company policy”) The reef ecology class was started but never finished. The crew was nice, but no one really overdid it, it was kept basic i.e. after the first night the bed in the cabin was made … but after that ? nope :) big complaint: NO NITROX and NO FREE BOOZE. The bar was self service and you had to put it down on an “honesty sheet” . Beer was 2.50 AU$, soft drinks 1.20 and drinks 5 AU$. I was surprised that we even had to pay for sodas !!! There was juice with breakfast and lunch, and “free wine” at dinner… well … it was very rationed and empty pretty quickly .. the first night we had 6 bottles for 28 people, the second night we were down to 4 and on the last night, since we had “free champagne” (well, a glass per person) there was no wine at all. Am I glad that the Japanese people brought all kinds of stuff :) Another thing, this “low level reef flight to maximize divetime and minimize traveltime” .. well … it was first of all the regular flight altitude for that size of plane (we were at 800 ft) and I actually expected it to be much lower, so that you could actually see more of the reef. It also did not buy us any more dive time .. and that day that we flew back, we wasted so much time packing, getting of the boat, wait for the bus, getting to the airfield (which was a 5 minute walk away ha ha), waiting for the planes, waiting for unloading and loading …

small Summary
I will keep the most for later. Just the usual question: would I do this leg of the trip again ? probably not. Not worth it. But, there are always other boats, like the SpoilSport :)

on to Interlude: Whitewater rafting on Tully River

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