Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The P-29 Kondor Class patrol boat

I last dived the P-29 last summer, and from what I hear, she has become the best wreck dive site for marine life. The P-29 lies at 33 metres and can be found almost straight ahead of you at the divers entry point in Cirkewwa. The tugboat Rozie lies nearby, but the two wrecks are too far apart to be dived in one. What i suggest is a morning dive on the Rozie and an afternoon dive on the P-29. While the P-29 does not lie at a great depth, she does have a feeling of "being in the middle of nowhere", with cold blue water all around. There is no drop off, no reef, no shelf, no nothing. You approach her with a 250-metre or so swim, and the best tactic to conserve air is to start shallow and then sharpen your descent as soon as you see her ghost begin the form on the white sand.
She was scuttled on 14 August 2007 and even last year - just two years into her new life as a diving attraction, she had already amassed some weird and wonderful creatures. The most intriguing of which is a moray eel, which lives in a small hole just above the midships hatch. It truly is an experience to just maintain neutral buoyancy alongside the eel and just watch it as its head bobs in the undercurrent. The vessel was already becoming home to a colony of algae last year, and by accounts heard this year, she has added to her covering.
The vessel is safe to be penetrated, but caution is advised. She is not a small vessel, and never forget, she lies at 33 metres and it's a fairly long swim back. In fact, one would advise heading back on 75-100 bar of air to allow for anything unplanned. If you do get back with plenty of air, there's plenty to see back at the reef which leads to the divers' exit.
She's not my favourite dive, but she is a bit of a challenge and you do have to watch yourself in getting there and back. Do not attempt to get to her through a head-on current. She is too far away, too deep and it is too tiring to get there. But if conditions are good, and you pace yourself getting there, you have one of two choices... admire the marine life or have fun on the wreck. The controls are all still in place and you can have a fiddle about on the deck or in the hold. If it is not the height of summer, wear a thick full suit and hood - it can get pretty damn cold down there.
Her sister ship, the P-31 is scuttled in the balmy waters of Comino under the tower in the Tal-Matz area. She is a much easier dive, and is only accessible by boat.

Technical details

The P-29 was built by Peenewerft shipyard as a Minesweeper for the German Navy. She then served with the Armed Forces of Malta for over 12 years and was involved in numerous patrol and border control operations. 

52 x 7 metres, with a 2.3 metre draft, powered by twin diesel engines, max speed 20 knots, max crew 20, 361 tons.

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