Three Scousers, a Brummie and Me
Its another first - a liveaboard report in verse. Unaccustomed as he is to rhyming, John Bantin (with apologies to Sir John Betjeman) offers his take on a recent tour of big-name Red Sea sites

Three Scousers, a Brummie and little old me
Have come for a diving trip to the Red Sea.
Our boats Tiger Lily, she looks a bit plush,
We check out our cabins, theres no need to rush.

Tiger Lilys a big boat, some would say grand,
With two crew to each guest, this is luxury land.
Shes long and shes lusty, her hulls made of steel,
Her chef too is gifted, we scoff our first meal.

Two dive-guides give briefings, theyre Khaled and James,
They know all the wrecks and remember our names.
Theres Michael and Dougie and Johnnie and Wigan,
The first is quite small, while the last is a big un.

James is an Aussie, his names Curtis-Smythe.
The dive deck is spacious, well it is for just five.
Forget hyphen-hyphen, hes now Jimmy Smith,
Khaleds Egyptian, the crew kin and kith.

We set up our stuff. Theres a lot to remember.
Have we got all our kit Only booked in December.
Bags are unpacked, torches plugged in to charge,
Some are compact, whereas others are large.

Cambands are fastened, regulators connected,
Pressures are checked, computers adjusted.
My tanks filled with nitrox, the others breathe air,
But I am a bit older, so thats only fair.

We set sail from Sharm, its old military port,
Spread out in our cabins. Saving space Not a thought.
Woken at six, then with breakfast all done,
Its into the water. How warm is that sun

Our first dives a check-out to sort out our weights.
We get through our gases at varying rates.
I take up the option for a 15 litre tank.
The outlay is small, it wont break the bank.

Its winter in Egypt, the seas a bit chilly,
Theres a stiff wind blowing around Tiger Lily.
Last time I was here it was tropical seas,
The water this times only 20 degrees.

I brought a thick wetsuit but Ill need more rubber.
Its all right for Wigan, hes got enough blubber.
James, to the rescue, gives me an extra jacket.
Worn over my wetsuit, I know I can hack it.

The boys are from Britain. They like rusty metal.
Their kits ready for diving. No more need to fettle.
Were soon at the first wreck. It lies near a light,
Were at Beacon Rock, its a famous dive-site.

The Dunraven steam-engines on show back in Blighty,
An upturned hull, when it was once quite mighty.
What happens to wrecked ships defies all belief,
So smothered in marine-life, shes now coral reef.

Cruise over to Gubal, Abu Nuhas, more wrecks,
Giannis D is the first. We are soon on her decks.
Visit the engines, taking care not to stay,
Swim through the wheelhouse, dont lose your way.

Inside the funnel, a grouper is lurking,
It wouldnt be there if the engines were working.
Fin up to the bow, come back a bit later,
The reefs suffered with oil from this sunken Greek freighter.

With a wind from the North, its by rubber boat,
Even swamped by the waves, we are certain to float.
Once over the dive-site, into water we plop,
Its a comfort to know a boats sitting up top.

The Carnatic lies waiting, soft coral-clad spars,
From transom to bowsprit, like so many bars.
Lionfish hunt glassfish, all crowded together,
A flurry of movement - life isnt forever.

A steam-sailing ship that once came to grief,
When the man who was steering failed to notice the reef.
I still hold memories of her brass in my head,
Now its all gone to Oxford and sits in a shed.

Overnight at Bluff Point and its time to move on.
There are several wrecks waiting, as wetsuits we don.
The Rosalie Moller sits gloomy and sombre,
Shes on even keel, sent down by a bomber.

The millions of glassfish mean plenty to feed
The jacks that attack them and take what they need.
The sterns a long swim but not too far, I feel.
Lionfish in numbers await the next meal.

Shes a serious dive and a little bit deep,
But there is no current, dont lose any sleep.
Consecutive dives here mean deco takes time,
But on the way up you just hang on the line.

White-caps are forming, waves starting to chop,
Tiger Lily makes progress, solid as a rock.
No rocking or rolling, shes built for such weather,
If sea-sickness affects you, dont go on boats - ever!

Back over the gulf to the wreck in Shab Ali,
The Thistlegorms famous as any wreck can be.
Its loaded with stuff, the debris of war,
Twas hit by a bomb and went down with a roar.

Motorbikes on trucks, and tyres and trains,
The tracks of a tank, the wings of some planes.
Her stern mounts two guns. Theres no sign of a bell,
Mid-section reminds us of battle - war hell.

Away on the seabed and now home to puffers,
A ghostly steam-engine, its bogeys and buffers.
The vessel looks massive, the focsles quite far,
The wreck is the proof of the wastage of war.

Barracuda in gangs and jacks in a school
To bring up a shell-case would make you a fool.
The sea in the morning is tranquil and calm,
But day-boats from Sharm now give cause for alarm.

Time to start engines, move on, dive a wall,
Ras Mohammeds the place, deep water and all.
Colourful soft corals, and Anemone City,
Hundreds of Nemos but no Sharks Tale, what a pity.

The current is strong here, a bit of a flow,
To fight it is foolish, so dodge it like so.
Slip behind coral heads, so that shelter is sought,
You can make progress if you give it some thought.

Young Jim wants to leave us, its a bit of a bore,
Hes off to Cairo so we put him ashore.
Khaleds kingpin now, hes number one man.
We head further North to the Straits of Tiran.

Gordon and Thomas, they are not very far.
The scousers remind me of young Ringo Starr.
Woodhouse and Jackson, named after more heroes,
The channel is narrow, its no place for errors.

The hulks of the Lara and Lulia stand witness,
Poor navigation is a nasty business.
We cruise under water with trumpets and sting rays,
Its easy and relaxing, in so many ways.

Khaled swims by with an unconcerned turtle,
It moves gracefully with him, not wishing to hurtle.
Safe for a moment, orange anthias quiver,
Avoiding that fate redmouth groupers deliver.

My pals have swum on while I snap the gorgonia,
No other divers around, it couldnt be lonelier.
Its so soothing to be in the undersea realm,
I hope that Ive captured it all on my film.

The water is clear and conditions are easy,
The sea isnt calm and the weather is breezy.
It might be a bit nippy but its cheaper in winter,
If I came in the summer Id be a lot skinter!

Too soon they have gone, seven days in a flash.
We settle our bills. We dont need much cash.
Our bags are packed for a night at Crown Plaza
Its the first time in a week that my face sees a razor.

Were soon in the sky in a 747,
Our diving adventures have been simply heaven.
Its back to old Blighty, the North-west and Brum,
What a wonderful trip, and not a single bad tum!

  • John Bantin travelled at the invitation of Libra Holidays/Goldenjoy Dive (0870 241 5187). A weeks all-inclusive safari on Tiger Lily costs from£769, with departures from Manchester and Gatwick.

  • the
    the well-known wreck Giannis D
    Ras Mohammed
    and the engine of the Giannis D
    Tiger Lilys dive platform
    the Bren gun-carrier on the Thistlegorm
    Ras Mohammed
    a lionfish on the wreck of the Rosalie Moller
    Divernet Divernet Divernet

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