Saturday, August 1, 2009

Diving the Hermes!

We had an early morning of maintenance work: oil, oil and fuel filters changed on the 20 Kw genset, all sea strainers checked and cleaned as necessary, as well as fabricating a gasket for the oil overflow-vent-valve-fitting-thingy on the dive compressor (aren't I technical?) that had cracked and was allowing a lot of the overflow oil to leak out. There are definitely no spares to be found for that in Bermuda, and since the original gasket was useless, we made another using some rubber sheeting we had aboard. Definitely need to get more...! We'll see how it holds up, and replace it once we return to the States. I used some of our Eterna-Bond tape samples that I picked up at TrawlerFest a year or so ago to seal the cracked piece...again, we'll see how it holds up to use! We're nothing if not resourceful, eh?

There was a reward for all our good deeds, for finally, after a month of rough seas and poor visibility, the ocean calmed down enough that we could take the dinghy down the south shore of Bermuda to dive the Hermes. It was a long dinghy ride in gently rolling southerly swells, --nearly 8 miles -- heading east along the coast from where we're anchored in Castle Harbor, but it was a lovely day and the seas even more so. So, we happily made our way, checking out the the shoreside beach clubs as we went, and arrived at the moorings just as one of the dive-shop boats was finishing up their dive. We chatted with the captain for a bit to let the other divers finish their dive before entering the water ourselves.

To give you a bit of info on the wreck, the Hermes is a completely intact sunken ship, and by far Bermuda's most popular wreck dive. It sits upright on a flat sand bottom in 80 feet of water, with its stern and starboard side wedged up against a gorgeous bit of high profile reef. It presents the classic image of a shipwreck!

The Hermes was a 165 foot steel-hulled buoy tender built during World War II (1943) in Pennsylvania and operated by the U.S. Navy. The little 254-ton ship features a unique configuration, as her mast is directly in front of the wheelhouse and the cargo hold is in the forward part of the ship. Connected to the mast was a 20-ton cargo boom that allowed the ship to pick up navigation buoys and lower them into her hold.

After the Hermes was decommissioned, she operated as a Panamanian registered freighter named Brava Fogo. In 1983, the vessel broke down near Bermuda while en-route to the Cape Verde Islands. She limped into St. George's Harbour, where she remained for almost a year. Repairs were estimated to cost more than the ship was worth and she was abandoned by her owners. After an anticipated sale of the vessel did not materialize, the Bermuda government awarded the derelict ship to the Bermuda Divers Association, who cleaned it thoroughly, removed all its hatches and intentionally sunk the ship as an artificial reef in May 1985, about a mile off Bermuda's south shore. The interior of the ship is open for dive exploration, from the the forward cargo hold, to the galley and the engine room. Other areas of interest are the the deck winch and wheelhouse, as well as the mast and shrouds.

We totally enjoyed touring the wreck; Ally had never penetrated a wreck to such a degree before, and was totally thrilled with going down into the engine room and below decks. (Taylor should have been here for this dive!!) The sergeant-majors on the wreck were very territorial and occasionally would even nip at our fins (and my ear!) as we made our way around the vessel....good thing they are as small as they are, or we would have been in trouble! And, as we always use our air judiciously, we had lots of time to explore not only the wreck but the surrounding reef. We found one little wrasse that was totally enchanted with Ron, which kept coming in so close, that Ron actually could pet her as she swam past. The fish even came up to him and "kissed" his mask! Ally was laughing so hard I could actually hear her underwater, which in itself was so funny, we were all laughing through our regulators. Little "Gloria" (as Ally named it) kept following Ron and stayed close by him for a good ways as we made our way from the reef and back to the Hermes.

In the afternoon, Ally went aboard Justified with Brian and Justin for more boating, water-skiing and wake-boarding, while Karyn and Ron took the dinghy around to Harrington Sound to see Christine's parents, Audrey and Bert, to pick up some sweet corn which they had promised us when they came to dinner aboard two nights ago. It was a smooth run through the North Lagoon to Harrington Sound, and lovely to see Audrey and Bert one last time before we leave. It truly is the hardest part about cruising, saying goodbye to all the friends we have met!

On our return, we stopped in St. George's to take the used genset oil to the recycling bin at Dowling's Shell Marine, then returned to Equinox for a simple CPK pizza dinner and a movie, Timeline, before an early bedtime. For tomorrow, we dive!

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