Rottnest Island, Western Australia: Avid diver Peter McMahon marvels at the coral and marine life as he embarks on another underwater adventure at Little Parakeet Bay, Rottnest Island in Western Australia.
Rottnest Island is a divers’ delight with a host of shipwrecks, 360 fish species and about 20 species of coral. It is also Peter and Margaret McMahon’s favourite anchorage.
They enjoy exploring Perth’s best diving spots from their Riviera 37 Open Flybridge.
Peter bought his first Riviera in 2006 and being an avid diver and a fan of the cartoon character Scooby Doo, he aptly named his boat Scuba Doo.
Peter said Scuba Doo was berthed at the Fremantle Sailing Club which gave them easy access to Perth’s best diving and boating locations.
“My wife, Margaret, and I enjoy spending the day cruising up the Swan River and stopping for lunch in one of the many safe mooring areas or right in front of Perth city,” he said.
“We try to go out at least a few times a month and winter is one of our favourite times of year because the waters are clear and calm. We do a lot of whale watching just off Fremantle and it is amazing how close they come to the boat. We turn the engines off and drift, and on many occasions we have had both mother and calf come up to the boat.
“They come so close, you could step onto them from the marlin board. This is possibly one of the greatest experiences anyone can have on the water.
“My other great love is diving. I started scuba diving at the age of 19 in Melbourne, and the experience of diving into another world safely allows you to look at marvelous coral, holes and caves. The myriad of marine life is amazing, from small shrimp that clean in and around the mouths of fish and eels to cleaner fish who have ‘cleaning stations’ where the fish come and wait in turn to have parasites removed.
“There are beautiful ‘Nemo’ fish of all sizes and colours, schools of fish that allow you to swim among them, as well as various sharks, turtles and sting rays. This is their wonderful world, which we can enjoy and we need help to preserve it sensibly.
“I am a member of the Historical Diving Society (HDS-SEAP) whose members preserve diving history for the future. I was also a member of a group of Hard Hat divers who completed the first world course for Recreational Hard Hat Diving in Portland, Victoria. We now do demonstrations at the Fremantle Sailing Club.”
Hard hat diving is the name used to describe traditional diving equipment, which consists of a bronze diving helmet with a hose attached to an air pump on the surface, a canvas diving suit and weighted boots to allow the diver to walk along the ocean floor. This was the traditional method used by Pearl Divers around the world until the 1950s.
“Diving in the Hard Hat is a totally unique experience. The set weights 80 kilograms and a team of at least three is required to assist. Once you are in the water, you can actually float along or just walk on the ocean floor.
“I began diving in 1969 and learnt to dive with single hose regulator systems in the days before gauges and buoyancy compensator (BCD), much of this equipment was locally made as retail stores were only just getting equipment in from overseas. My first set of tanks were from an aircraft oxygen system.
“Recreationally, diving the hard hat system is no different to driving a restored antique car. At least twice a year, a group of us take qualified divers for experience dives, which is a great way to preserve history. Most of us are also members of the Historical Diving Society, but the Society does not conduct these diving experiences.
The perfect day out for Peter and Margaret is to anchor at Rottnest Island, enjoy a dive around the coral reefs before retreating on board for a relaxing afternoon lunch.
“I have always loved the ocean and boating gives me the opportunity to interact with it. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to experience it from such a luxurious vessel,” Peter said.