Thinking Diver

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Rebreather Diving in Corsica

by Erik Dasque

While I am resting at my parents in the South of France?, I thought I’d write a quick trip report on the week I spent diving in Corsica.

 

A bit of background for those who don’t know much about the Island: Corsica is the largest french owned island (3,351 sq mi, roughly the size of Porto Rico), south of the mainland (110 miles), just north of Sardaigna and west of Italy (56 miles). As such, it is in the Mediteranean sea and enjoys temperatures in the high 60s at depth in the summer (and mid 90s on land). Corsica is very mountainous above the water and many of the large boulders found on land can be seen underwater. It has a lot of costline (620miles). One can fly to Corsica through Paris (Orly) and Marseille (MRS) as well as take an overnight ferry (with a car, which is what I did). Those are very large ferries capable of transporting 2000+ people and 700 cars.

 

Raised in the south of France, I had never been to Corsica and didn’t quite know what to expect (you don’t usually vacation in the Dominican Republic when you live in P.R.). I chose Corsica for this dive vacation because it was a good place to take my parents (for my dad’s 90th birthday), Corsica's beautiful coast an easy place to get to, far away from where I now live (Boston) and a beautiful island to boot. Furthermore, the presence of a rEvo instructor implied a rebreather friendly structure in Porticcio/Agosta on the west coast where we stayed (we rented a 4 bedroom villa for $2000 a week or so).

 

I dove with Corse Plongée, owned by Nicolas Caprili (FFSSM, PADI & IANTD instructor). Nicolas has put together a great team with Laurent, Tristan, Thomas & Guillaume. I emailed him in advance so as to make sure he had sorb, helium and O2 for me. Air France was kind enough to misplace my rEvo III for 5 days so he even rented me a rebreather until I finally got mine back.

 

I did four dives with Guillaume, a new instructor in the club who arrived the same day I did. Diving in a mixed team (OC, CCR) was a first for me and Guillaume was a very good buddy. We discovered a plethora of sites together. France and Corsica are on a more mellow diving schedule that I am used to and people generally only make 2 dives a day (one in the AM, one in the afternoon). I made four dives in 25-30m (80-100ft) with Guillaume, most of them with no deco (Guillaume did have some deco, diving on Air). The night before the last day, Nicolas and I prepared for a Normoxic Trimix dive, filling dil, O2 and bailouts (21/35 and EAN 40). The next day we made a really nice dive to 55m.

 

Some more details:

  • I dove with my new Pinnacle 5mm Merino. It was ok for 60mn dives in 65F water (at 25-55m) but not warm. The suit seemed a bit stiff and maybe a tad small when I first got it but it fit perfectly and felt great.
  • Corse Plongée lent me a few bailout bottles. They are steel 65 & 72 I think and as such very negatively buoyant. So buoyant in fact that with a pair, at 55m my rEvo wing couldn’t lift me off at all. I had to cut off Nicolas’ trim weight and he mine. They work well though
  • I brought my own Travel Stage Bottle Rigging (one from DR and one from Deep Sea Supply which I really dislike – Tobin and I got into it once and he really doesn’t stand behind his products). It made it easy to grab any tank and rig it quickly to be a bailout bottle. They take little space and are good to have.
  • While Corsica has a few wrecks around its coastline, the gulf around Ajaccio where I have is mostly tempered water reefs. They are beautiful, very tall boulders populated with much sealife. We’re talking 60m+ tall moutains of boulders, on top of each others in what sometimes seems to be precarious balance. We saw large fish (Dentie/Dentex/Brem – Merou/Grouper), lots of Chromis Chromis, lots of Scorpion Fish (ate one at dinner), tons of wrasses, nudibranch, quite a few spiny lobsters (juvenile and large specimen), octopus. Often, looking up from 20m, the water would be filled with hundreds of fish all the way to the surface. At 55m, I was delighted to see a lot of Anthias, one of my favorite specie. I even caught a glimpse of a Mola Mola/Sunfish/Mole/Poisson Lune) in the water and at the surface (√-check, it was on my list of things to see). In any case, lots of fish but I want to make sure I put an emphasis on the underwater scenery, those large boulders are fantastic, beautiful underwater structures.
  • Corse Plongée has two ‘semi-rigide’ – zodiac like boats with a solid bottom. They’re easy to get into (christmas tree ladder) and out of (roll over). As a rebreather diver, they always let me splash first and come back on the boat last, very nice. Before diving you load up all the gear in a truck, walk 100 yards to the beach, bring the gear in the boat and go dive. Most dive sites are 10 minutes from the beach.
  • The rEvo III mini hybrid worked really well. Doing 1-2 dives a day I flew it manually at 1.3 using the Shearwater as a parachute at 1.1. I mostly dove Air. I used stubby 3L tanks that Paul sells in Europe (3L at 200bars, I don’t know what the US equivalent is). I used a 4lbs weight for trim but 8lbs might have been better (5mm wet suit, Steel 72 bailout, steel mini rEvo III)
  • I didn’t take any photos. Taking a rebreather overseas for the first time (with all technical equipment) was stressful enough, combined that those were my first relaxed dive on the rEvo that I didn’t want to bring my camera housing (though I did bring my 5D MkII and my LX3 I didn’t dive with them).

I want to thank Nicolas, Guillaume and the rest of the team for being so accommodating, helpful and making my dives great. I recommend Corsica & his organization for diving. You might not find great wrecks there but the dives are wonderful, the club is well organized and Corsica is beautiful.

Feel free to ask any questions




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