Diving Fairlight

Diving Fairlight

After missing out on the dives in Port Stephens, Sharon was itching to get back under the water. So when we got back to Sydney, we jumped straight onto the Frog Dive website and signed up for one of their free shore dives. They were fully booked for all of January (thanks mainly to the reduced numbers due to Covid), and so we put our names down for the first free dive, which was at Fairlight in February.

Fairlight is located in the Northern Harbour, and is a good site for beginners, with a maximum depth of around 8 meters. In 1949, the Dutch submarine K XII beached here, where it remained until January, 1951, when it was finally refloated and towed up the Parramatta River.

On Friday evening we picked up our rental gear from Frog Dive, checking everything was in good working order, and that we had the correct amount of weight. I also took the opportunity to purchase a torch and dive slate for my upcoming Advanced Open Water Diver course.

The next morning we were up early, and dropped the kids off with friends before heading for Fairlight Beach. There was no parking to be found anywhere close to the meeting point, so I dropped Sharon and our gear off, before find a parking a kilometre or so away. We kitted up on the side of the road, before making our way down to the beach to meet the dive master and the rest of the group.

And this is when things started to get a little sloppy. One diver had brought an empty tank, while another diver’s regulator was leaking badly. They flipped a coin to see who would get to dive, and then paired up the full tank with the working regulator. Another diver had forgotten their weights, and so the dive master had to run back to his car to fetch some spares. And so it went on.

We received our dive briefing at 8:30am, a solid hour and a half after arriving at the venue. Finally in the water, we did a quick buoyancy check in the shallows, where we discovered a few divers were under-weighted. Thankfully the dive masters had spare weights on them, so this didn’t cause another delay.

The entry at Fairlight is generally off the rocky point to the south, however we swam out from the beach, since a few of the divers were unsure of their footing on the rocks. When we reached the point we found a sandy patch between the kelp, and descended to the bottom, in around 3 meters of water. The visibility was good, probably in the 8 meter range.

One of the divers was still struggling with their buoyancy and couldn’t break the surface. We all waited on the bottom while one of the dive masters headed back up and, with a little effort, managed to get the diver down.

Finally on our way, we followed a small gutter out to a rock wall, and then dropped down to 8 meters. By this point the group had broken into 2, and as such we followed the agreed safety procedure, searching for a minute, and then surfacing to regroup.

The other half of the group never joined us on the surface but, since there were 2 dive masters, and each sub-group was with one of them, we decided to continue on.

Back at the base of the wall, visibility had deteriorated and was probably in the 3 to 4 meter region. We followed the wall in a northerly direction, looking for critters in the multitude of small crevaces. There is apparently a small wreck of a speedboat just off the wall, but we decided not to visit it on this occasion.

Moving along the wall we saw numb rays, nudibranchs, stingrays, sponges, soft corals, and the most incredibly fluorescent shrimps. Some of the other divers also saw an octopus, but Sharon and I missed it, as we were hanging at the back of the group.

There is a feeding station at the northern end of the rock wall, where the number of fish species increased dramatically. After enjoying the scenery for a while, we turned our dive around, and began heading back along the wall in the opposite direction.

At this point we came across the other group, which caused some confusion as we weaved between one another. We didn’t head all the way back to our entry point, but turned in earlier and swam over the kelp beds back to the beach.

Fairlight isn’t known to be an amazing site, but we still loved every minute of it. It was also a great experience for Sharon, who grew massively in confidence, and began to trust her abilities. Job done! Bring on the next dive.