7 hardy divers went to Porthkerris for Easter

Porthkerris – Sealife to Pondlife!

Over the Easter weekend, seven hardy divers made the long trip to Porthkerris for 4 days’ of diving off Cornwall’s southern coast. The first three days saw us exploring estuaries, go searching for wrecks and getting up close and personal with all sorts of sealife. The fourth day involved some very exciting sub-aqua activity as well, but not in the way we’d hoped!

The Log Cabin

We (Emily and me) arrived at Porthkerris Divers on the Thursday evening while it was still light and so were able to appreciate that the dive centre had a wonderful aspect right out to sea and the amenities looked very handy indeed. Here, check it out for yourself…

Save for Nathan, who joined us later that night, we were the latecomers as Verity, Aidan, Alex S and Keith had already setup camp in the log cabin, our home for the weekend. We unloaded our kit, negotiated our way around the fearsome guard….peacock(!), and then everyone headed to the pub for dinner. The Five Pilchards in Porthhallow (just a few minutes drive from Portkerris Divers) did the job nicely has it has a cosy pub feel and good food at decent prices.

Everyone was in bed early after the pub, to get ready for the first day’s diving.

First Day – Helford River

If you wake up early enough and it’s a clear morning, you can watch the light flood in large log cabin window from the rising sun over the sea. I caught a glimpse during an early morning toilet trip and it really was something. I went back to bed though to catch some more zzz’s and prepare for my first sea based dives in a dry suit…I was a little nervous to say the least.

Around 8am we had got all of our kit loaded into the cars for the short trip to the shingle beach and then transferred all of that to the RIB, including the cylinders which had their first fills back at dive HQ in Marylebone….

The Porthkerris Divers’ tractor had the RIB in the water in no time and we were off gliding through the calm waters with Keith at the helm to our first dive spot, Helford River.

Nathan and Keith acted surface cover as Emily and Verity formed a buddy pair and Alex S, Aidan and me a formidable dive trio…well, it was more like a three legged race team with me as the comical third leg! Not being used to the dry suit in salty water (the area of the river we were in was still somewhat salty and I had only one practise day in the suit at freshwater Vobster Quarry in Somerset), I hadn’t weighted myself sufficiently and had trouble getting down. Eventually though a duck dive and heavy finning downwards (luckily I equalise easily enough) got me to the bottom and although I had some issues staying down, we completed a beautiful dive at around 14 metres depth in 12C water with a very gentle drift. There were lots of sea urchins, sponges, dead man’s fingers, what I believe were dahlia anemones, a square crab (who was keen to ward us off his patch!) and goby.

Emily had similar weight issues as me, but more sensibly went back to the boat for more lead. Emily’s main concern about the diving though had been the cold, which she is more susceptible to feeling than myself (a dive in 7C water at Vobster had almost put her off UK diving!), but an investment she made in a Fourth Element Xerotherm thermal base layer did the trick and warded off the chill.

Keith and Nathan then tried another wreck near the river for their dive, before we headed back to shore.

First Day – Volnay Wreck

After Verity had tackled the somewhat confusing voucher system for air fills at Porthkerris Divers and we had some warm food in our bellies from the well stocked onsite cafe, we headed out to sea again. This time to the Volnay Wreck – a 117m steamship which sank in 1914 and which lies at around 20m below the waves. It’s fairly broken up and flattened and had a healthy amount of life around it, which we all explored in the same buddy pairs in two waves. On our dive we saw the ubiquitous cuckoo wrasse, a couple of spider crabs, more goby, some delicate sea fans, a nudibranch, pipe organs and sea urchins and loads of other stuff.

We rounded off a great day’s diving with a home cooked meal – kudos to Verity (head chef) and Aidan (sous chef) for preparing – and soon after eating, we had all headed off to bed, knackered from the first day of diving.

Second Day – Downas Cove

With a small breakfast and coffee washed down quickly and no need to launch the RIB from shore, we were an efficient and well-oiled machine on the second morning. The sun threatened a few times to make an appearance on the longer boat ride out to Downas Cove, near Lizard Point. I think we were supposed to have dived on a wreck (let’s call it wreck A) but neither my buddy pair with Verity, nor Aidan and Nathan’s pair nor the second wave trio of Emily, Alex S and Keith were able to find it! Not that it mattered though – it was my favourite dive – watching an undulate ray glide through the 8-10m viz (a few metres better than the dives the previous day) was one of the reasons. Dogfish, a camouflaged thornback ray, rock cook, ballan wrasse and even more cuckoo wrasse were some of the many other reasons.

Whilst the first wave was down at 20metres plus, Emily, Keith and Alex S got to watch a seal playing about in the waters near the boat, so we were all on the look out for the big stuff the rest of the weekend. The following day did not disappoint – more on that below!

Second Day – The Manacles (sort of) and Porthkerris shore dive

Aidan and Nathan did a drift dive along a reef in the afternoon while the current was still running strong. The rest of us opted for a more gentle dive on the The Manacles at the penwyn wall later in the afternoon during slack tide. Descending the shot, I was excited about this dive as I heard the wall was teeming with colour and life. A surprise then when Verity and me discovered a shot suspended in a green void with nothing to see but salty water in all directions – well, except for Keith who joined us and looked a little bit confused by the fact Verity and me were starting to ascend again! He fixed a lift bag to the shot and soon we were all back on board the RIB, shot and all, heading back to shore. All was not lost though because when you’ve got air left, why not dive?! So Nathan, Alex S and myself did a shallow shore dive among the kelp and pipefish and, of course, cuckoo wrasse. I also successfully practised DSMB deployment for the first time in open water and agreed with Alex to try for real the next day at depth, which would hopefully count towards my sports diver course, which Emily and me have been working on since joining the club in February last year.

A relaxing BBQ on the beach in the evening, put on by the dive centre cafe, was the perfect end to an awesome day’s diving.

Third Day – Downas Cove

Alex S took us back to Downas Cove on the third morning’s diving to search again for the elusive Wreck A. Alex S and me formed one buddy pair and Emily and Keith formed the other for the first wave. Verity, Nathan and Aidan opted for a drift dive afterwards on the reef. The abundance of life wasn’t quite so noticeable this second time at Downas Cove, but it was successful all the same as I managed to complete the DSMB deployment first time whilst battling against a cramping hamstring (just to add to the pressure!). Emily spotted some dogfish on her dive and came up smiling.

Third Day – Mohegan Wreck

We had a long wait on the beach until the small slack window late afternoon to dive the Mohegan, a 145 metre steamer that sank in 1898. With the Cornish sun belting over the water and a pod of dolphins spotted close to shore, it was an enjoyable wait indeed. Whilst we acted surface cover for Alex S and Keith to do their afternoon drift dive on the reef, we had a closeish encounter with the pod which was heading out in the direction of Downas Cove and being trailed slowly by a few interested dive boats – that was pretty special.

I thought the dive on the Mohegan was a good one, as I’ve not dived many large wrecks in the UK which still has plenty of its parts still recognisable. So getting a good look at things like the boilers on the Mohegan and picturing how the men would have fuelled them to power the ship made for an exciting dive for me. Some of the more experienced divers though felt there wasn’t enough life on the wreck, but I spotted a tompot blenny for the first time on the dive (as well as starfish, cuckoo wrasse and ballan wrasse) which was plenty enough life for me!

That was Emily’s and my last dive of the weekend, as we had a few days’ holiday planned in North Devon from the Monday and so it was a fitting end to an educational and interesting weekend’s diving and we both felt that we had gotten better at handling the drysuits and more confident at UK diving in general (being warm water PADI learners, the UK is a whole different ballgame!).

A trip to The Five Pilchards that evening took a surreal twist, as Keith and Alex S following us to the pub in the Land Rover had a malfunction on a steep hill and the vehicle ended up the PorthKerris divers’ pond – which was a better destination than off the steep cliff at the bottom of the road! Keith and Alex S were thankfully fine, although the hunt is now on for a new vehicle to tow the RIB. I understand there was still plenty of excitement on the fourth day even if though there was no diving, as recovery teams and cranes turned out to remove the Land Rover from the pond and the RIB from the sea and there were lots of spectators to watch the events unfold. No one can say that trips away with London Diver No 1 are anything but eventful!

Here’s looking to my next trip in Swanage at the end of May.

Declan

A dive trip to Mozambique (Tofo Beach)

For many years I had heard of the diving at Tofo beach in Mozambique, both from South Africans that I had met, and from the tales of whale sharks told by other London Diver members Morgan and Hannah who had worked nearby at Barra.

At last Joy and I had the chance to visit this not-very-accessible place – it conformed to my belief that the best places in the world to visit (if you like remote) will take you at least 3 flights from Heathrow… We flew to Johannesburg, then on to Maputo and then finally to Inhambanne. When we got there after about 18 hours we could reclaim our bags in this baggage reclaim area:

after all, even my hand baggage had been taken off me since there were essentially no overhead lockers to put it in!

We were based at Tofo Scuba (https://www.tofoscuba.com/) which was the original scuba center in the area (although there are now 5 as it’s become so famous). The entire coast of Mozambique is hundreds of miles of perfect soft sandy beach which allows for some boat manouvers which would certainly not be encouraged on Chesil Beach…

They have a tractor which drops the boat on the sand and then pushes it over the sand into the sea (no trailer at this point), then when you get back you just drive up the beach on full throttle…. Certainly saves time compared to all the slow approach to pontoons.

Anyway you are probably wondering what the diving was like – we did 4 days diving, 2 dives per day. All in the range 25-31m on Nitrox 30. There is a lot of life, with a huge variety of fish, turtles, coral etc water temperature was 24-26C when we were there in April. Here are few pictures that try to capture to density of fish:
(circling kingfish)

(and a massive turtle)

(pretty cool tree coral)
And then a few more novelty ones like this exceptionally well camoflaged frog fish just look at the lips…

and a bit of lion fish action!

We also saw some reef sharks, and a pair of very interested devil rays that look rather like mini manta rays. Sadly we missed out on seeing manta rays ourselves despite a couple of dives on ‘manta reef’ but they group saw then on our last day (when we couldn’t dive due to flying!!)

For those considering a trip, and hoping to see the megafauna the guide we had (born a bred in Tofo Beach) recommended August as the best month, since there are also humpback whales in the area, and perhaps more types of shark. It’s worth noting that sadly the number of whale shark sighting in this area are quite a bit lower than they were 10 years ago so don’t pin your hopes on that.. but the diving is cool and the people are wonderful as well so worth putting on the list!

Barny and Joy

Diving in Jordan

(by Roberta Lenart)
The idea of visiting Jordan came from a scuba diving magazine that described a trip to Aqaba on the Red Sea, the only coastal city of Jordan. It appealed to me not least as did not just talked about what’s underwater but also went into detail describing Jordan on land. I wanted to see Petra (re-discovered by IndianaJones) just as much I wanted to dive in the Red Sea. The two together really captured my imagination and decided to pay a visit.

After short research it was clear that weather is going to be a factor as summer temperatures can rise into the high 40s while during winter snow might fall in the North of the country and water does cool down. For what I wanted to do both on land and underwater September seemed to be the best time and since I read the article in September it gave me a year to plan and prepare. At the end I spent 2.5 weeks in Jordan including four days of diving.

Jordan is mainly desert and after a week in the sand I was ready for South Beach how south Aqaba is known. The street leading up from the sea is home to dive centres / hotels / restaurants. Seemingly they all offer similar packages but after closer inspection I think there are variances. I stayed at Red Sea Dive Center not least as they were willing to negotiate the price. They turned out to be a very organised and professional centre with friendly dive guides and brand new equipment.

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The dive sites themselves were superb too. All within a couple of minutes’ drive from the centre and all dive sites are shore dives. It’s similar to what I experienced in further south in Egypt: visibility in the low 20s and water temperature in the mid-20s. Coral is in good condition and there is so much to see! Under every rock and in between there is something to look at (flounder fish, stone fish, crown toby, lizard fish, turtles, eels, just to name a few) and it’s all dynamic: I missed when our dive guide liberated a smaller octopus from a bigger one and only saw the ink in the water and the retreating bigger octopus. It was quite a scene. I enjoyed watching a curious hermit crab trying to peek into / under his new neighbour’s shell brought there by the above mentioned dive guide. One of the highlights was for me to see a 15 cm seahorse in the last five minutes of my last dive. I did not realise it then and was told only later he was carrying eggs.

Other than the wonders of nature there is a tank and a ship wreck both sunken for divers to be explored.

I hope this brief recount entices you to pay a visit to this corner of the World!

The Diving Officers Report – 2016 Season

This blog is adapted from the Diving Officers Address to the AGM in October 2016

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Firstly some summary statistics for the year…

Dive count from RIB 2016: 184.  Mad diver award (for most dives) winner: 27 dives. Trips:9. Number of different divers: 20.

(Dive count from RIB 2015: 182. Mad diver award winner: 23 dives. RIB trips:6. Number of different divers: 18)

So we grew on every count!

We kicked off the season with a well-attended Christmas trip to Stoney where groups of people had to re-enact their favourite scenes from their favourite films. I have seen some really shocking things underwater but that definitely took the biscuit.

Thank you to all of you who attended, it was really nice to meet with Romain’s lovely family.

It was also the occasion to welcome Lukasz and Marcos to their first ever UK dive. My first UK dive was also a Christmas dive although it was in Wraysbury proves that there has been an improvement in the club over the years! Although the water was a bit chilly we did manage a good twenty minutes and we even made it to the plane.

In March we started the season with London Diver’s traditional rescue scenario weekend. On the Saturday we went through some real-life style drills where Aidan, James, Andrew and Sofia shown us what it takes to become a BSAC Dive Leader. One of my highlights was when Nathan jumped off the boat to simulate a man overboard  but although most people on board noticed nobody said anything for a while; Nathan, i don’t think it is because it was you, definitely

To do with us all being a bit rusty. I also found really entertaining  when Andrew was left on is own on the boat and had to lift up un unconscious James with no help.

Our next trip saw a small group heading to West bay. It was the occasion to meet Peter who joined us on a dive trip for the first time. The vis was quite Challenging that weekend but we did dive on some very good wreck like the Saint Dunstan and the Bagytano. It was good to be back in Westbay too which we had avoided for a few years due to the lack of air compressor. It is very handy that the Harbour Master is now in charge of it and that we don’t have to go to that horrible tackle shop like we used to.

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Andrew organised our next trip over the first May bank holiday weekend and had the very good idea to extend it one extra day. The trip was well subscribed and we had a good mix of steel and rock diving with some stunning vis on the Glen Hallen and the Scilla. We also managed to visit twice hands deep which is definitively one of my favourite UK dive site. We did avoid the lighthouse this time as some of us were still traumatised by what had happened there last time.

After this we went to Weymouth. Barny organised this trip. We were in full plankton bloom and dived through some really challenging condition but still we had a very enjoyable weekend.

We continued our tour of Dorset with a trip to Swanage. Nathan organised that one, the weekend coincided with Swanage seafood festival which was quite handy at lunch time. The Weather conditions were not ideal over that weekend but Nathan was never fazed out even when on one occasion because of sea conditions, his plan A turned into plan B which turned into plan C. Well worth always being prepared!

We returned to Westbay at the end of June. Chris organised this trip and we had some very good reef diving over West and East tenant which I am never bored on Thank you Chris for organising this trip!

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We returned to Weymouth in early August. Barny once again organised this trip. I missed this trip unfortunately, however I have heard of an attempt led by our most accomplished and respected divers (Nigel and Keith) to tow Roberta all kited  up water-ski style from Persy to the shot line! This sort of things always happens when the D.O. is away.

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We returned to Swanage again organised by Nathan – on this trip we saw Declan and Marcos for the first time. It is always very positive and refreshing for us oldies to have new members on a trip and especially when it is their first ever dive trip! Marcos not only finished his last Open water dives and is now focusing on the exam paper but he also entertained us no end.

I remember receiving an SMS from Nathan describing Marcos status as “last seen bare feet and wandering in his pants through town looking for a sandwich”!…Nathan arranged to dive places which we don’t dive much, like the wreck of the Venezuela which according to those who dived it was really good (it still gives Barny a nightmare with the number of lobster sightings) and this is a good reminder to us all that there are so many dive sites in the channel that we should try to take some risk and not only dive places that we have dived already  many times. We finished the weekend in beauty with a sea horse search in Studland Bay.

After that Emma had organised a live-aboard trip aboard the Halton to the Shetland. The trip was full and saw a mix of club members as well as of friends of the club. The trip was very good; stunning good vis,  good food and good company. Although according to one of the crew members we were quite high up on the list of the most annoying dive party. I think they got a bit shocked when Andrea and Emma loaded two crates of booze.

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For the last trip of the year, we went back to WestBay. This was organised by Verity. This was Verity first trip as Dive Marshall and it was really unfortunate that we were blown out on the first day however people who attended made the most of it, either going for a hike or windsurfing. The Sunday was much better although very very choppy still and if it was not for Barny’s determination, I think we would have given up. But we went to the Baygitano and to my surprise, I had never seen such good visibility on this wreck. We actually return to the Baygitano in the afternoon, firstly because we forgot to pick up scallops on the first dive but also because it was too difficult to drive the boat to the Heroine which was our intended site.

In general I think we had a very good year. I think logistically it was much easier. Having the boat stored in Dorchester makes it easier for us to get the boat on sites. It makes it as well less tedious for boat towers especially on the return journey home. It does have some disadvantages though that we need to keep in mind: for example the trailer and the boat do not get the amount of TLC that they used to  when they were on Nigels drive. And it shows a lot. I hope Nigel won’t have a fit when we winterise perseverance this year.

It also means that realistically we are limiting ourselves to which area we can reach and this is one of the reason we dived so many time in Dorset this year.

Having said that there are still many, many dive sites that we have yet to visit that area and we should take advantage of the variety of wrecks and reefs that we are lucky to have access to.

I would like to finish this report by a big thank you to all of you that organised a trip this year,

Chris, Andrew, Barny (at least three trips), Nathan (two trips), Verity and Emma.

I would also like to say a big thank you to a very reliable and dedicated team of instructors led by Leigh for the time that you give to the club every Tuesday, Aidan, Alex Marshall, Jon and of course Leigh.

Alex

Diving Officer

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Shetland Islands – September

The London Divers Expedition for 2016 was to Shetland in September. Eleven divers spent a wonderful week diving, touring round the islands and enjoying life on our liveaboard ship.
Shetland is a special place for diving as it is less intensely dived and fished than many parts of Britain. With reliably good visibility (generally we found 10 to 15 metres) and plenty of wrecks and scenic sites, there is something for everyone.
Wreck Dives
Our first day was spent diving locally from the main port of Lerwick. We explored the Pionersk, a Russian factory ship which sank at anchor in a storm. It was a big a big wreck with lots of fish including my first cod. Often eaten, rarely seen.
Another notable dive was the E49, a British submarine sunk by a German mine in 1917. All of the crew perished and it is certified as a War grave. The good visibility allowed us to see the largely intact hull lying part exposed in the sand. We explored the conning tower which was on its side and even the long periscope was intact.

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Conning tower of E49

SeaSearch Dives
I performed two SeaSearch observation dives to help record what wildlife is present today in Shetland so that when recorded on the central database, it is possible to compare with observations in the future and to benchmark against other parts of Britain. Giants Steps was an amazing scenic dive with plenty of wildlife especially Dahlia anemones of so many colours and patterns. The second was a superb drift dive which I also did as an assessed open water exercise as part of my BSAC Dive Leader training. I have never seen so many dog-fish. We could not help benefitting from the enormous scallops above water, seen below being expertly cooked by Nathan.

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Sun Star

My 100th Dive
I was very pleased that this milestone would happen during the expedition and I was so lucky that it turned out to be my favourite dive of week. The Fraoch Ban is a small trawler which sank off Brassay island in 1999 and is now populated with masses of colourful plumose anemones and surrounded by curious flatfish. The dab now actively follow divers to feed from any food stirred up by the divers’ fins. See the video to understand why we loved this dive so much.

team nathan-cooking

The Big 100 celebration

The MV Halton
Our home for the week was a converted Scottish trawler which was amply suitable for some of the windier days we experienced. The equipment, facilities and cooking were very good and such fun for partying in the evening.

boat

Shetland
What a special place. We travelled to the island of Unst which has the most northerly pub in the UK. Whilst drinking the delicious locally brewed beer we were further north than the capitals of Sweden, Norway and Finland and nearer to Norway than we were to Inverness. The Vikings may have left a long time ago but there is still something unique about the scenery, the traditions and people.
We had a brilliant time on the trip. Several of us progressed in our diving including me who did planned deco dives and used Nitrox for the first time as well as progressing my dive depth. What more could we have wanted.

wind

BBQ’d Scallops

 

For the May bank holiday a few of us headed down to the Dorset coast to enjoy some fine weather, and get up close with some plankton bloom…!

We kicked off with a dive on the Arfon, a new site for the club (http://www.divernet.com/wreck-tours/p301720-wreck-tour:-88-the-arfon.html) which we managed to find pretty easily (near to the Aolian Sky) however sitting at around 35m it was extremely dark and murky so after short dives we returned to the surface with the intention of finding some shallower dives for the rest of the trip…

With the plan already in place to have a BBQ on the beach that afternoon the mission was to find some scallops to enjoy – we headed for a quick picnic in Lulworth cove and then dived the Black Hawk (where Alex and I saw a ray) and followed Keith’s guidance on this site of ‘swim South for scallops’ – the result was mostly successful with the group picking up a dozen for our tea. We stopped off for some Dorset ice cream in Weymouth old harbour before heading back to Portland and stoking up the BBQ.13323441_1054446957911049_1657667974352576383_o

As we woke up to another day of blue sky with much better visibility above the water – the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast stretched out for miles – we headed for the Binnendjik (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Binnendijk) which sits at around 25m; she sank during WW2 and it appears was carrying a cargo of tyres, copper wire and lobster. This was a fine dive, enjoyed by all and being the 10m shallower than the day before the light was quite good – one to recommend!

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We finished the weekend with a fun drift across Lulworth banks, before heading home!

Barny

Solo Diving? by Chris Askew

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Solo Diving?

BSAC says no! BSAC is not just a club, they are the SCUBA diving sports official governing body in the UK and they have decided that diving solo is not safe, and yet there are now several other training agencies that will train you to be self reliant on a dive and another one who will even train you to dive alone. With the limited opportunities I have to dive with the club this year I decided to take one of these courses to become better able to look after myself and not rely on an unknown buddy.

Solo diving is an interesting situation. Would you consider yourself to be diving solo if you are an instructor training an unqualified diver? And what about if you get separated from your buddy? There are a several circumstances when diving when you simply can’t expect your buddy to be of any help to you should you get into trouble. When diving with someone you don’t know, you may find that they also can’t be relied upon in an emergency, at which point it could be too late.

The training I took was the SDI solo diver training course at Wraysbury. You need to be 21+ years old, qualified to Advanced Open Water (SDI qualification, somewhere between Ocean diver and Sports diver) and have logged at least 100 dives to do the course. SDI class the course as a recreational diving course, so you are limited to a maximum of 40m depth and no overhead environments, including mandatory decompression. SDI also stipulate that you must use a dive computer for all your diving. These limits obviously would only apply if you then go diving solo.

The course covers everything you need to know to prepare, plan, and execute a dive completely by yourself. Extra equipment is needed including a backup air supply. This could be a pony cylinder, twinset with isolating manifold, an independent twinset, or a stage cylinder. I dive with sidemounted independent cylinders which it turns out are ideal for solo diving. They are totally independent of each other so a problem with one wouldn’t affect the other. Other important pieces of equipment are backup buoyancy controls (drysuit is fine in open water), spare dSMB with reel, spare mask and cutters for lines and nets.

Other aspects covered in the course are proper (proper) planning of the dive. This covers gas requirements, no-deco limits, entry and exit points, route, navigation, time in and out, potential hazards, site conditions, and other practical considerations that could affect the dive. Having someone on the surface who knows your plan and what to do if you don’t make contact by a certain time is also an essential part of the preparation.

The course also covers when not to dive solo. If you are someone who doesn’t keep an eye on your gas supply and dive computer, or you aren’t very thorough when checking your kit then solo diving probably isn’t for you. There will also be times when you could dive solo but aren’t really in the right frame of mind for it. Part of your pre-dive checks includes asking yourself “am I prepared to get myself out of this if something goes wrong”. And then there are some helpful tips on avoiding a Lance Corporal Jones style “DON’T PANIC” moment.

As you can see this course covers a lot of theory, and I’ve probably missed other bits too. The course doesn’t end there either. There are three dives to do. One is a bit of a checkout dive to make sure you can dive safely enough, with mask clearing, regulator switching, and dSMB deployment skills. The second dive is a helpful gas consumption rate test to give you some numbers that will help you to plan your gas requirements on future dives. And the third is an actual solo dive that you have to plan and carry out by yourself. Your instructor stays out of the water for this one. There are certain things you are expected to do during your solo dive such as give your instructor your plan, enter and exit the water at your specific times, and show that you have adequate gas for the dive. To prove

that you are paying attention to the time during the dive you are asked to deploy your dSMB at a specific time, and you also show you can navigate around the site by visiting specific features.

It was slightly strange being in the water by myself, but it was very nice to be able to dive without trying to keep tabs on someone else, especially in the typically low visibility of Wraysbury. It was also nice to be able to spend as much time as I liked looking at stuff that I wouldn’t want to hold my buddy up for. Things like the crayfish, mussels, and the bryozoans are quite nice to have a bit more of a look at. Also, diving in Wraysbury meant there were a lot less hazards than diving in the sea so it was easy to relax during the dive without worrying about entanglement, DCS, or getting lost. Will I be diving solo again myself? Probably, but only under the right circumstances, and only if a suitable buddy is not available.

I have learned a lot from taking this course. The benefits of diving with a good buddy, the situations where you would be better off by yourself, and areas where I can further improve my own diving. I also have a greater appreciation of the responsibilities we have to each other but also how brilliant it is to dive in a club where the enjoyment and fun of diving is further enhanced by people with a great attitude to diving safely with each other. Thanks everyone, and I hope to be diving with you soon.

Sipadan, Borneo, from Roberta

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At the end of March I combined two of my great passions: traveling and scuba diving. While on a whirlwind of vacation in South East Asia I followed advice from a Malaysian scuba diver friend who insisted the best place to dive in the world was at Sipadan, off Borneo.

Sipadan was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. The huge pillar that forms the atoll IMG_4753functions as a shelter for many sea animals and fish and this attracts the whole food chain even the biggest fish of the oceans to this area. Thousands of species of fish swim amongst the coral, an abundance of turtle species can be spotted and sharks are common visitors as well. It helps that Sipadan is a protected area, you cannot stay on the island itself and there are only 120 dive permits per day distributed to the dive operators in the area.

OperatorsIMG_0636 request you to dive with them for four days one of it is at Sipadan. Early booking is highly recommended. The non Sipadan dives are around Mabul Island and Kapalai resort. I found these dives to be superb too and conditions matched of those of Sipadan: 29 degress 12-20 meter viz and calm waters. The main difference is that there are sharks (grey reef and white tip) at Sipadan and the number of each specie you can see there. At one point we swam in a school of 2,000 big eyed trevally! I will not try to give a detailed list of fish names you can see in those waters. Some of the highlights were for me, in growing size order: a tiny seahorse hiding in a coral, a hunting flamboyant cuttlefish (this was quite an attraction!) and a hammerhead shark. I also saw for the first tim13240643_10154418776344384_2292525004442144682_ne octopus changing colour, crocodile flathead, orangutan shrimp, spiny devilfish to name a few. In times like this I wish I knew more fish names and was more observant!

All in all in my modest dive experience Sipadan and Mabul did live up to their reputation. I also liked and would recommend the dive operator I used: they were efficient, professional, environmentally concerned and locally focused. It was interesting to see that many dive leaders and indeed guests were from Scandinavian countries: apparently their governments do not discourage from traveling to the area. While security is a concern in the area in my view all the measures are there to keep you safe and sound and would recommend a visit to this paradise!

Trainee Dive Leader does Plymouth

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Organising and running a dive trip is very satisfying. In one way it allows you to go to areas you want to visit and put the emphasis on the dives that you want to do, but even more rewarding is knowing that you are providing an opportunity for others to share in the sport you love.

As part of my journey to becoming a BSAC Dive Leader I have now organised three trips and each one has been more challenging than the last.

My main objective when choosing a location as trip dive marshal is to make the logistics as simple as possible and to choose sites that have the best visibility in the area.

Like many of the sites on the south coast , Plymouth fits the bill and as it is so good I chose to extend the three day bank holiday weekend trip to four days.

On our trip were 8 divers and two non – divers who came down to enjoy the area and the company.

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I had checked the weather and I knew day 1 would be fine and the “vis reports” Facebook site said that Plymouth was the place to be.

The Mountbatten Centre is a purpose built watersports and accommodation centre with a pontoon and air fill station attached, so it ticks all my logistics boxes.

Day one involved two great wreck dives in vis of 8 to 10 metres. HMS Scylla is a navy frigate sank deliberately for scuba diving about 12 years. Large holes have been cut to make it safe to enter and exit the main internal spaces. It looked imposing in the clear water and the bright light gave Verity and I the confidence to explore inside some of the hold space knowing that the well lit exit was right in front of us.

After a bacon bap for lunch it was time to take on the most popular wreck dive in the UK, the James Eagan Lane. This was one of the Liberty Ships made by the United States to help keep Britain supplied from across the Atlantic in the last war. It was sunk in 19zz full of cargo. With such good vis and brightness, Aidan and I were able to explore many parts of the wreck , and it’s vast array of contents. I finished the dive by deploying a dsmb mid – water as part of my dive leader training course.

FB_IMG_1463643016019After discussions with Alex and Keith I had three alternative plans for day two to cater for the uncertainty with the weather.

Our club rib “Percy II” showed it’s strength against the wind and waves for our 12 mile journey to Hands Deep reef .
The journey was worth it, with my best UK dive ever. The sheer beauty of the surroundings, wildlife and the good vis was superb. And on top of that we even found slack tide!

As the weather worsened we surfed back to Mountbatten on top of the wave-tops at lightening speed. After our picnic lunch we headed out again and found a sheltered spot near Shags Rock for a pleasant dve in underwater gardens and forests.

Sunday evening was spent at the very welcoming Clovelly Bay Inn, before a welcome nights sleep.

Day 3 was our much needed rest day. After exploring the newly restored Royal William Harbour area we watched contestants in the single handed Transatlantic Atlantic Yacht Race make their valiant start in very lively winds. It was great to be in the rib waving at many of them and some even waved back!

To me it is a Plymouth dive tradition to dine at Platters fish restaurant in Plymouth. This year they did not let us down. I cannot believe Keith and I got through all those mushy peas!

Keith once said to me that of you find good conditions on a dive trip don’t be afraid to go back to them rather than take a chance with a new site. So for our last day we repeated our trip to Hands Deep and then the Scylla. Aidan managed to find the famous North Wall of Hands Deep and I was blown away. The carpet of multi coloured jewel anemones was like a giant pick and mix sweet stall. Who needs to go to the tropics when this is on our doorstep?

Aidan showed me what exploring the Scylla was really about and it was by far my best wreck dive ever. Going through the large hole up into the bridge of the ship was amazing. In the sunshine and good vis, we went along corridors and into and out of rooms with confidence.

Altogether a great four days in Plymouth and a great celebration of British diving. Thanks to Sofia, Wendy, George, Alex, Verity, Aidan, Keith, Peter and Jennifer for a great weekend. A special thank you to Verity for taking the photos and being a wizz on Twitter and Facebook.

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New Site Launch – now you can contribute

We have put this new site together in a way that makes it easier for club members to keep it up to date. We hope that dive marshals will be able to add trips reports, blogs and photos and the site can be a key port of call for members to find out what’s going on, book trips and get useful information. Furthermore it pushes to the front all the new media we are creating in the form of our youtube channel and twitter.

If you have ideas for great content that can be uploaded let Aiden or Barny know!