Thailand – Australia – United Kingdom

HTMS Pangan Liveaboard Trip Report: Day Three

Written By James Thornton-Allan (Instructor) and Hannah Lusby (Diver)

I was woken periodically throughout the night. At 5 the boat started rocking, at 5:30 I could hear the rain hitting the hull, at 6 I could smell diesel and then knew we we’re going to have a challenging day of diving.
In the hull I couldn’t tell how bad the weather was until I came up into the dry room and everyone was hiding from the wind, 2 meter swells and sideways rain. Even getting a coffee was a mad dash topside and trying to stir a cup faster then I was getting wet.
Looking at the ships radar the storm surrounded the Trident and didn’t appear to moving in any specific direction. Perhaps this would be the end of the trip, when does safety override the completion of the diving?
No one wanted to go diving, in fact I think many felt robbed because they were even out of bed. In true tech form, after breakfast and a few cups of tea, a movie with Keanu Reeves about being a good cop or perhaps a bad cop with a terrible ending , everyone was rearing to go. The rain had subsided and the waves slowed down and it was off in groups of 4, down to the wreck below.
Surprisingly the visibility was good, the sea below the surface was calm. No current and if you hadn’t been topside before you wouldn’t even know there was a small storm. We we’re hoping to circle the wreck along the sand at about 60 meters. We didn’t get very far around it. We checked out the props and the stern area but got consumed with the radio found outside the wheel house. It was written in English which leads me to believe the Thai Navy probably had problems operating it, perhaps that’s why it went down with very little information, the poor operator couldn’t tell which one was the on button.
All the deco was done but getting back on to the boat was another thing entirely. The waves were making the trident jump like a bucking bull. The dive deck was rising and falling about 2 meters, crashing into the sea and throwing any unsuspecting diver back into the rough waters. With careful coordination and timing we all got back on board safely. There was no handing up fins or passing up gear, fins were looped onto our wrists and once we got on the ladder we got up as fast as possible with all 4 cylinders on. Hannah unfortunately broke a nail, not joking, she actually broke a nail while wearing gloves, but she learned a very good bit of experience and training that good conditions wouldn’t of taught her. Happy to be back on the boat and happy to be out of the rain. The TV was fired up and House put on. Let’s hope the afternoon pans out to be calmer.

When we woke this morning it really was Blackpool weather! Wind and rain going sideways, everyone walking in the drunken, sea legs kind of way. Diving started a little later today so we could see what the weather would do, so after a somewhat lazy start of bacon sandwiches, porridge, mugs of tea and a movie, everyone was ready to get wet. On the surface the waves were still coming in strong. Sea legs are useful things to have; especially when geared up, you want to be quick and well timed, waddle like a penguin and get the hell in the water. No time to natter on the surface, just in and down. Once under, there was no current and the visibility was far better than expected. We were taking in the full tour this time; our bottom time was 25 minutes, which got eaten up a bit by a radio we found on the sand, something to go back for on the next dive! Although 25 mins seems like a long time it’s amazing how quickly the time goes, the shear size of the wreck, and the constant preoccupation of finding something and trying to prize it free soon eats up your time.
Deco in this weather is a little less relaxing, the line is going up and down, and you can feel like being on some sort of fairground ride, but once you’ve found your place you can just relax into it and the minutes tick by.
On the surface, it’s all a timing game to get back onto the boat, as the back deck rises up and crashes down in front of you. There’s one thing getting up a ladder in rough seas with one tank on, but quiet another with 4 tanks on! Having first tried and failed to time the waves right I was pushed back out to sea, but no problem for Trident, Stew jumped in and gave me a hand to the ladder (thank you very much Stew!), then it’s a one, two, three and up and out I come – breaking a nail in the process. What a girl!!! Oh and then punching James in the face! (This was an accident!)
Then it’s back to the usual routine on board, people find places to lie down and sleep or watch back-to-back episodes of House or Prison Break. Lunch is served, which gives the eyes a break from the TV, then back to lounging position for an hour or so until your slot comes along. Then its’ off to get some loot!

The waves have calmed down a lot, the clouds are breaking and the waves are settling down. The plan was to do a lesser bottom time but Hannah’s gas consumption was so good we extended it to 25 minutes rather then 20 minutes. We had two missions: recover a brass pressure gauge from the boiler room and recover a radio box from the sand. Hopefully we could get both done but not a concern if we ran short on time. We had some sort of curry slash chicken soup thing for lunch which was filling and tasted good but could have been a bit more variety. After which we jumped in and headed down to the wreck. The first mission was to recover a pressure gauge from the engine/boiler room. Hopefully the pressure gauge needle would be fixed giving us a greater indication of how it sank. As I entered I could see the gauge from a great distance reading zero. With not educational value we left that in place and exited the engine room. Arriving an the radio the idea was to see what channel or frequency the radio was tuned into and recover the whole item. Unfortunately the radio was very heavy and required some greater planning to recover it. This planning needed to be done topside so we went on an exploration of the wheel house. Hannah caught the sight of a sink, a very old style sink with beautiful brass taps. This sink is not attached to anything but is in a difficult area to penetrate. We decided we would discuss this option topside as well. The dive ended with a small penetration in the hull of the vessel giving Hannah even more time to explore the levels of the massive wreck. However our time was cut short and it was time to make our way back up with a total elapsed bottom time of 25 minutes. After all decompression was done we surfaced to be greeted by blue skies, finally. This meant there was a slim, a very slim chance we might be visiting the pottery wreck which would be done live (shot line only) so the weather needed to be decent at least.
Back on board it was shower and dinner time, everyone chatting about the various recovered items from below and then the Trident slipped into a quiet hum with just the generators grumbling and paper pages turning.
Off to bed early, tomorrow is early again with getting up at 7. We want to be done diving and on our way before lunch so we can either get back to land on time or so we can get to the pottery wreck on time. My hope is for a final dive on the pottery wreck but it’s not worth it at the cost of safety in bad weather.


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