Koh Lipe is known for its stunning recreational diving, but right on our doorstep we have one of Thailand’s best shipwrecks. The Yong Hua, resting on the sea bed at 40 – 45 m, is right on the limit of what can be achieved with recreational equipment but makes a perfect technical diving location.
The Yong Hua is a large fish processing vessel that sunk in the late 1980's due to an onboard fire. A salvage attempt was made but the lift failed, fatally injuring one of the salvage divers. The flotation tanks used in the salvage attempt are still attached to the wreckage, and add an interesting feature to the wreck.
The wreck is 49m long and the hull is still intact. With a beam of around 10m, the top of the hull starts at 30m. She is lying starboard side down and the props and bridge structure are still clearly identifiable. In the 26 years since she sank the wreck has become heavily colonized. Large schools of fish team through the structure while hard and soft corals cover the hull.
October marks the traditional start of the holiday season on Koh Lipe, when the Southwest monsoon gives way to the more forgiving Northeast wind. Off season the winds had blown the marker buoy off the wreck site. The team from Davy Jones Locker set out to relocate and mark the dive site.
Using sonar and GPS equipment and over 30 years combined experience finding and marking wrecks, the team soon found the telltale sounder return of the wreck. The shot weight was thrown on the windward side of the boat, and the carefully coiled line fed smoothly into the water followed by the marker float and top tensioning weight.
First into the water were DJL proprietor Tim and Koh Lipe branch manager Ed. The depth and heavy workload of this dive made narcosis a serious consideration, so the task of correctly securing the line and recovering the shot weight fell to Tim. Using a CCR rebreather and helium based gas mix allowed Tim to maintain the clear thinking required to reposition the line and tie in to a secure rail on the port side of the hull, while Ed, using the more traditional twin tank configuration held off in a support roll. Once secured the shot weights were sent to the surface using a lift bag, giving the signal to the waiting divers on the dive boat. The captain tied into the line and the second team entered the water.
By carefully planning the time and day of the dive for perfect tidal and weather conditions everyone was able to enjoy the beauty of the wreck before heading back up the line to complete their decompression obligations and surfacing.
With the wreck now marked for the season DJL have this dive site at their disposal for suitably qualified divers, plus as a training ground for a wide range of courses in deep and wreck specialties, plus technical diving courses using twinset, side mount or rebreather.