Basking Shark - 04/07/09 to 05/07/09
Present: Kara Cubbage, Matt Anderson, Elena Couce, Ali Carpenter, Nick Fyson, Hannah Rose, Maggie Gamble (guest), Ben Knights, Charlie Milner, Jonny Day, John McGeagh.
The Lizard Peninsula is a basking shark hotspot and with record numbers of sharks recorded this year 10 UBUC divers and 1 guest headed off to Porthkerris for a bit of shark hunting on PK divers' 45 foot catamaran. It was an early start from stores to arrive at PK beach in time for the 1.30 charter. The weather was lovely but choppy out at sea and it soon became apparent that our chances of seeing sharks under those conditions were slim. PK divers suggested we rearrange the trip for the following day, split into two sessions at high and low tide to maximise our chances of seeing one, so we went shore diving instead.
I was surprised how different PK reef was compared with during March. The masses of urchins were replaced by shoals of inquisitive cuckoo wrasse and candy stripe flatworms, the crack of life had a new inhabitant, the clingfish, and the sea was 14 degrees. Some of us saw scorpion fish, a lobster and squid eggs and there was even a pod of dolphins hanging around the reef.
That evening we stayed at PK divers' basic campsite. The toilets were all the way down on the beach and the showers were a pound a shot so I resorted to showering under the kit wash hose. Not a campsite I'd recommend for more than one night but it served its purpose for us.
The following morning we kitted up for 8.30 am shark spotting. The weather was much better and Mike, the skipper, informed us that some of the kayakers had seen a baby (8 foot!!!) basking shark at the back of the reef the day before so we were all hopeful that we'd find a shark. Unfortunately after 2 hours searching, covering the area south of PK beach to the tip of the Lizard, we had still not seen a shark. We returned to the beach for some more shore diving and the first crisis of the trip. Ben was feeling ill from the chicken he ate the night before. We blamed the bbq tender (Matt) who was too busy discussing the fact that "it's badass to eat your relatives". Then we had the second crisis of the trip. Kara had lost her wallet! After a fair bit of searching and a high degree of panic we decided that (in her own words) our DO is the most retarded person on Earth. The wallet was in the leg of her drysuit!
The weather worsened as the day went on and none of the 15 fisherman out that day had reported sightings of sharks so we decided to go for a dive on the second boat trip. We dived the Helford River, 12 miles from PK beach. Diving off the cat was an experience in itself; a luxury compared with club boats. The maximum depth was 12 metres and the flooding tide gave us a little push up the river. The bed was littered with seashells and hermit crabs scurrying around. Once you got your eye in the area was covered in life; long-legged spider crabs, whelks, sea hares, peacock worms, slipper limpets, harbour crabs and gurnards. One lucky pair even saw a thornback ray! We all succumbed to the cold and surfaced well before our air-time was up, but not before collecting some scallops for dinner.
Despite not seeing the sharks it was a brilliant weekend. Finally, well done to Jonney for getting his Sports Diver.
St Chamond - 29/08/09 to 31/08/09
The Bristolian's all met at stores at the beginning of a thunder storm. It was the cracks of thunder, followed by lightning that immediately put Ben Knights off the thought of spending 3 nights camping in Cornwall. So we we're one man down before we left the car park.
Undeterred we set off in the middle of a storm and eventually arrived in Cornwall at 11pm. The London & Exeter people arrived shortly afterwards and all setup camp quickly. Apart from Tim who complained about losing his "Bivy bag" and tried to put up a one man tent with the help of three people (which still took ages).
We all made our way to Hayle despite a forecast of winds force 4-5 occasionally 6! Yet the sea was relatively calm. We tried to make for the free slip JL suggested, but got busted by the Harbour Master who spotted us on his patrol and forced us to cough up for launch fees as the whole estuary was within the harbour limits. It was at this point that I realised I had left the GPS and Echo sounder batteries in Bristol. Forced with the thought of scuppering the trip before it began I had to bite the bullet and drive to the nearest town to buy a brand new Garmin GPS for myself.
The Harbour master then warned us about going out to sea given the conditions and the sand bar of doom, but we headed out anyway! We approached the dreaded sand bar with caution and luckily found only small waves. It wasn't until we were out to sea that we had high rolling swell.... This was manageable and we tried to shot the St Chamond. This was difficult as we were late on slack and the surrounding seabed had a terrain that varied by 4m and we were looking for Steam trains and wreckage that stuck up by 2m. So, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Several of us tried doing exploratory dives on the seabed looking for the wreck. It was nice enough with good viz and plenty of life, but still no sight of steam trains. With the tide changing and little time to get back to Hayle within the 6 hour window before we were locked out by the sandbar, we decided to head back home. Mike then decided that he wanted to head home and our number had now decreased to 10 divers.
We setup the BBQ and chilled out with a few beers while Mr Luxford the campsite owner filled up our cylinders. No faffing around with mobile compressors, this man had one installed on the campsite that came off a submarine. It could fill a twinset in a minute and required a huge generator as big as our stores as the mains power is insufficient to drive it!
Today I discovered that my torch battery could power the Echo sounders. So armed with another tool we once again headed out over the sandbar to face force 5-6 in the Atlantic. We were more optimistic of finding the wreck today, especially as we discovered the prior evening that I had input the GPS coordinates wrong. So again we drove around dragging the shot back and forth with divers going up and down. In the end Steve & Emma got close as they found girders and small amounts of wreckage, but no trains. So we gave up and decided to head for the "Zone" a cargo ship sunk in 1917 by a U-boat.
We found the position quickly and saw a small echo on the GPS, so we hauled the shot in and Oli declared that the shot was "100 percent, absolutely, definitely on the wreck". Tim & Dora swam down and confirmed that surprisingly it actually was. In fact it was right between the boilers! After the day of disappointment we found a huge bits of engine and prop shaft surrounded by huge shoals of fish and some of the biggest Conger eels I've ever seen.
Then back to shore for Fish & Chips and waving good bye to the non-Bristolians who headed off for Nik's birthday our number decreased to 6 divers. It was back at shore that I managed to stupidly trip over the chain on the slipway carrying a twinset and managed to break my fall by using my face. Luckily I escaped with just scrapes and brusies, but was not looking forward to explaining my black eye on Tuesday on my first day of my new job!
After discussion in the pub the night before we decided to follow Dora's plan and dive the same wreck that Richard Alexander recommended that was the Syracusa. When Stefano told us that this wreck was named after his home town in Scilly we knew we had to dive it!
Launching from Newquay was interesting with only 6 bodies. However we were rewarded with the sight of 2 seals in the harbour that kept swimming up to all the boats. About 2 miles out we found the wreck site and after a couple of minutes we saw a small lump on the echo sounder, chucked in the shot and after diving down we discovered it was slap bang in the middle of the wreck. This was even better than the Zone as it had an intact bow, and more of the structure remaining with the propeller still on the seabed. Again there was loads of life and fish everywhere.
For a second dive we tried the headland nearby with Tim & Dora first in the water. Within 10 minutes their SMB had been hooked by a angler. He tried with all his might to haul the divers out of the water, but Tim just tugged back thinking it was the boat cover trying to communicate. Tim eventually surfaced and all the anglers were disappointed.
Ali & Stefano didn't have much luck either with the waves and the poor viz near the cliffs. So, Oli and I tried a rock closer to Newquay and were greeted with similar conditions. Except Oli manged to catch a huge lobster and we immediately aborted the dive to recover our dinner to the boats.
After recovering the boats and heading back to Bristol we ended up cleaning the boats and finishing up about 10:30pm and then straight home to bed.
Photos of the trip can be found here: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/AndyKiddier/StChamondTrip
Plymouth - 05/09/09 to 06/09/09
Friday 4th September: The general plan was to meet at stores at approximately 5.30pm to roll up the boats, check over kit and pack the van. Calum, Tom N and I arrived at stores at the ETA and managed to pretty much sort all the kit before there was any sign of other divers. We were an efficient team and had moved the majority of the kit to just outside the car park when more man power in the form of Dave L, Ben K and Mike P arrived. We were all packed and left by about 7.00, Dave and Ben in the van and Calum, Mike and I in Mike's swish audi.
Travelling a steady 80 mph on the motorway in Mike's car we were bound to reach Fort Bovisand at least an hour before the van. This would allow us time to pick out the best bunk beds, grab a couple of pints at a local pub and settle in for the night, prior to their arrival. Or so we thought... Top tip, when travelling to Fort Bovisand and using sat nav, don't just type in Bovisand and aimlessly follow the directions. After an hour of driving around the wrong side of Bovisand bay (breaking through a locked gate, driving round a caravan park and stopping multiple tourists in the street) we finally found the Fort, just in time to meet the van in the car park. The only slight consolation was the "cosy" bunkhouse with a sea view. Bedtime was about 11.00pm.
Saturday 5th September: We woke up to find the sea was very calm and the sun was out. After a relatively leisurely breakfast of cereal and toast provided by the guys at Bovisand we approached the task of setting up the boats and emptying the van. All the divers that were stood around waiting for their charter boats from the Fort found it very amusing seeing 6 weedy divers pulling their patched up, deflated boats from a van. But this did not deter us, and sometime later we were ready. All that we were missing were two divers lost around Plymouth trying to find the sea. Dora and Jules arrived just in time to find us loading their kit onto the boat. The engines seemed to be having a good day and started near enough first time.
We were blessed with the weather (it had been windy all week) and the 30 min journey out to the Scylla and James Eagen Layne was relatively painless. Once at the dive sites, it was as if every charter boat in Plymouth had descended upon the two wrecks, however once underwater it was relatively quiet. I think our morning's faff meant that most of the charters were picking up their divers as we were dropping ours in. Everyone enjoyed their first dive on the Scylla, I would like to thank Dave for an enjoyable hour, of which about 40min were spent exploring the rooms and corridors of the wreck. Visibility was good, despite the heavy winds during the week. Once everyone was up we decided to explore the local coastline to find a good spot to beach the boats and hop off for lunch. However on approaching the beaches we soon found ourselves amongst crashing waves and thought better of it. Lunch at sea seemed the far more sensible option. For the ladies (Dora) who hadn't already taken a pee over the side of the zodiacs this was a chance to hop aboard a charter boat (much to the amusement of the skipper) and take a toilet break. This toilet break put mine to shame, however on returning back to the boat Dora's lady like status was quickly removed when she shouted out "ive already been down on a white buoy today!" (in reference to us finding the shot for the JEL).
The dives on the JEL were enjoyed as much as those on the Scylla, with Calum and Dave finding a conger eel in a hole. With diving finished we returned to the Fort. That evening we lost Dora and Tom but we definitely didn't lose the boats. After about 45 min and about 1000 knots the boats were secured in the harbour. We enjoyed take-away curry and beer before bed, eating out of tea-cups with plastic M&S spoons.
Sunday 6th September: The plan was to get up early and get in the water by 9.00am. Even with the faff of a lost fin and a search and recovery dive in bovisand harbour, we were not far off this target. With only five divers onboard (Dave was ill with man flu), we headed out to the Mew Stone. I adored this dive (thanks Ben K). Dropping just off from the small Mew stone in about 6m of water and heading West we found lovely rocky reefs and plenty of life. Ben claims he saw a shark, I definitely saw an extremely large dogfish and a conger eel. We spent much of the dive drifting with the mild current and managed to find lots of piece of china plate (which Ben now has in a Tupperware box). While we were enjoying our dive, the boat handlers were manically trying to protect our SMB from a fleet of sailing boats racing past the Mew Stone. Ben and I returned the favour on their return journey. We finished the day diving the Breakwater. Ben and I tackled the Fort, while Calum and Jules dived for food. Not only did they return with a net bag full of edible crabs but they also managed to salvage a "new" anchor and chain for the club boats.
All diving was finished by about 1.00pm on the Sunday and after hosing down the boats at the Fort, eating Dora's birthday cake and packing the van we left Plymouth at the respectable hour of 3.45pm.
Thanks to everyone who came on the trip (esp. Dave for driving), it was properly chilled out and hence very enjoyable. Thanks to the weather for being glorious and thanks to the Bovisand guys for being so helpful throughout.
Bovisand Boozeup - 07/11/09 to 08/11/09
On Friday night everyone met at stores to pack the van. Not needing to take the boats the van was packed within the hour, and all were jolly and sang and danced a merry jig. Ian, lord and captain of the van set sail with trusty navigator Kara (long suffering DO). Along the journey there were many pitfalls and wrong turns. Due to terrible navigational skills and technology failure the van arrived at Bovisands three hours later.Bovisand that night could only be described as something straight out of a horror movie, The Shining comes to mind.
Day break. After surviving the night and 5 missed calls later, the early risers from Bristol started to appear in dribs and drabs at the Bovisand Fort. On arrival all could see the diving conditions were amazing and we stood in awe on the harbour side staring at the churning sea.
Realising that we (Ian) had left the lights on in the back of the van for the whole night, it was left to the club handy man (Oli) and his band of skivvies to bump start the vehicle. Van started and parked (precariously close to the edge of the harbour), people started to kit up. The excitement could be felt at the prospect of 0.5 meters of viz in the water. Long suffering DO then suffered a little more. For the third club trip in a row her drysuit wrist seal split and she had to resort tothree dives in an old Bovisand semi-dry with multiple holes. While the first boat wave set off to the Plymouth Breakwater at 10.30am (a bunch of rogues and misfits onboard), the rest of the troop kitted up to enjoy the diverse sea life that Bovisand Harbour had to offer. The find of the day has to go to Andy K for his keen eye and spot of a conger eel in 2 ft waves, 3m depth and 0.5m vis. Andy even managing to mark the spot with his SMB so the rest of us could enjoy his find. With the 1st boat wave back and reports of poor viz and strong currents we decided to cancel the second and save our money for booze. But before the weather became ugly (gale force 9 expected) those that fancied a second/third dive braved the conditions again, much to the amazement of the Bovisand Dive Centre. Rain incoming, dive kit got packed away with much haste and people went off to enjoy the 5* accommodation of the Fort. With people washed, we set off for the nearest local pub, killing time before picking up our dinner.
At 7pm, Nicola, Katie, Ian and Kara picked up the biggest box of curry the world has ever seen. On arrival back at the Fort we found 22 divers huddling in one bunkroom under the light of dive torches. Reports from the guys of the Bovisand dive centre were that the Fort had been hit by lightening while we had been at the pub and infact the whole of the local village had suffered a power shortage. The lack of light and electricity didn't prevent us from keeping the Booseup as the social trip it set out to be. Music was generously provided by Oli's mobile phone, and later Simon's car (parked outside the bunkhouse), drinking games maintained the spirit of the evening. Sunday: Bed, Breakfast, Hangovers, Home.
Red Sea Trip - 03/01/10 to 11/01/10
Divers: Kara, Ian, Mike S, Vicky, Dom, Ali M, Stefano and Pointless Pig.
For photos see: http://www.ubuc.org/forum/gallery2.php?g2_itemId=822
Day 1 – Our holiday began early in the morning, with 6 out of 7 of us meeting at the Union stores at 2.30am. Dom was to meet us at Gatwick check-in desk 4 hours later, he was currently asleep in a lay-by AHP parking. Check-in was interesting, with a 20kg weight allowance, all but Dom’s suitcases were at least 26kg and warranted heavy luggage tags. Luckily Mike was savvy and just by flashing our BSAC/PADI/GUE diving cards seemed to allow us to pass through without paying the £12.00/kg excess, phew! Breakfast at Café Rouge killed time before departure and Dom was keen to practise not only his Egyptian but brush up on his Italian (under Stefano’s supervision) aswell –“ ehhh non sporgersi”. After a 5 hour flight and a mute version of Ice Age 2 we arrived in Sharm el Sheik, 5.30 Egyptian time. A quick bus journey to the liveaboard and our holiday began. After removing our shoes (it was the last time we saw them for a week) we had an intro talk from Pete and Reda, the dive guides. Later that evening we set up the dive kit and dinner was served. The boat remained moored in Sharm that night.
Day 2 – The Whirlwind left Sharm at about 5.30am the following morning, it was an early morning start, 6.00 wake up. This is a typical days routine on the Whirlwind liveaboard: Wake up 6.00am, dive 1 brief; dive 1; breakfast; a bit of sleep; dive 2 brief; dive 2; lunch; dive 3 brief; dive 3; a bit more sleep; dive 4 brief; dive 4; dinner; chill time. It’s a packed schedule of diving, sleeping and eating, with the later two tasks always signalled by a bell, by the end of the week we were completely Pavlovian conditioned; in fact many of us are still finding it difficult to remember to feed ourselves. The first dive of the holiday was a check dive. You could feel the excitement brewing as we moored up at the dive site and the reef was visible from the boat. When we jumped into the water the amazing visibility really became apparent. Mike described it well “it makes me feel short-sighted” he said. On my first dive on the week I saw a large fantail ray, ~2m across, a turtle and more fish than you can hope for. Following the first dive we had a long ropey crossing to Sha’ab Abu Nuhas Reef where we dived the wrecks of the Carnatic and the Giannis D. On the Giannis D we got our first glimpse of dolphins. Those that weren’t completely shattered did their first night dive on the sheltered side of the Reef. –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Day 3 – Out first dive of the third day was the wreck of the Chrisoula K (Abu Nuhas). This was a German ship launched in 1954 and sank in 1981. Like many of the wrecks we dived this week it had the unlucky history of being renamed in its lifetime. Apparently it is bad luck to change a ships name, the Chrisoula K was previously named the Anna B and the Dora Oldendorff. The Chrisoula K still held all it cargo of tile which are stamped MADE IN ITALY (yes, written in English). After breakfast we moved up the Strait of Gubal to dive the wreck of the Ulysses. This was a beautiful open wreck and pointless pig’s first dive of his holiday. After lunch our third dive was on a flattened insignificant wreck aptly name the Barge. This turned out to be one of the best dives of the holiday. Jumping straight off the back of the Whirlwind we descended onto the skeleton of a boat. Very quickly everyone realised we were not alone. Five very playful dolphins lured us off the port side of the wreck. Stefano was particularly amazed by the dolphin, chasing and swimming alongside them. The dolphins were very selfless, sharing themselves between everyone. Ian and Ali were buddied together on this dive and while everyone was mesmerised by the dolphins they both swear to have seen a shark in the distance, the only shark sighting of the week. Not only did we see dolphins on this dive, but we all saw giant moray eels, lionfish, squirrelfish and bannerfish. Towards the end of the dive the dolphins returned but unfortunately air runs out! So on surfacing we snorkelled with the dolphins. The 4th dive of the day was back on the Barge, but at night. Sharks at night, we worried. We dispelled our worries by planning an underwater photoshoot. We wanted to use our torches to write UBUC with light underwater. On descending in the dark we positioned ourselves for the photograph, at this point Mike kicked George, the local giant grey moray eel in the face. Dom descended onto a crocodilefish and Ian nearly knocked out a lionfish attracted to our lights. The photo never worked and we split up the team to explore the Barge at night. After the dive we recapped our day and finished the evening with a game of cards, Ali took his time and claimed he had “the strategy” or did he? Vicky won! –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Day 4 – Site 1. Bluff point our first drift dive of the week. Breakfast, typically some egg based meal, either fried/pouched/scrambles/omelette, with fruit, bread, meat and cheese. The second dive was that of Shag rock and the wreck of the Kingston. This was so beautiful, a wreck that looked like some ancient sunken village and a reef of endless hard coral interspersed with the mast and prop of a boat. During the interval between dives Stefano decided to prove his manhood by jumping off the top of the boat (~15m from the sea), everyone cheered on but left the jumping to him. Anticipation rose as we approached our third site of the day, the formidable Thistlegorm. This was the first of three dives on this wreck and was planned as an orientation dive. The Thistlegorm is probably one of the most dived wrecks in the world and consequently it pretty usual for there to be at least 3 or 4 dive boats to be moored above it at one time. The whole two days we were there we saw no other boats, we were very lucky. Our orientation dive tooks us round the main decks of the boat, round one of the two large locomotive trains that it carried and past the cargo of trucks, carriages and motorbikes. The wreck is also home to so much life, we saw schools of dolphins and barracuda at the end. Smooth the prop, saw the locomotives, amazing collapsed train carriages, schools of oversized batfish and bannerfish a lone barracuda and finished the safety stops with 5 very playful dolphins. Dom and Ali explored the wreck on their own and were lucky enough to attract the attention of the dolphins earlier that most, they spent 10min of their dive closer to dolphins than they ever imagined, this was their favourite dive of the trip. Kara, Ian, Reda (on 0 bar open circuit) and Stefano snorkelled with the five dolphins after the dive, you know it is good when the dive guide is getting excited. The night dive that evening was a return to the Thistlegorm strong currents meant that this was a very different dive from the earlier one. –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Day 5 - Morning dive on the Thistlegorm, excessive penetration for that time in the morning, trucks, motorbikes, rifles and everyone stayed inside the wreck looking around for about 30min. The second dive was at a site called The Crack. This was supposed to be a zodiac drop-off and a drift back to the mothership. However the current had different plans for us. As we approached the gap in the reef that led back to the Whirlwind we were met by a chilled out turtle and a crazy current. Dom and I decided it was futile swimming into the current so followed the turtle’s strategy, put up our dSMB and sailed out to sea. Other highlights of the day were Stefano jumping off the back of the boat, swimming approx. 400m into the distance in a fruitless chase of distant dolphins; the wreck of the Dunraven and a night dive around numerous pinnicles revealed lots of hidden treasures. The night dive revealed a massive sleeping Napoleon wrasse, a tiny, gutsy cuttlefish and something about the full moon sent the boys a little crazy. Firstly Mike attacked Dom, Dom then a little confused attacked Ian by pulling his reg out of mouth (don’t worry it was all in a playful manner), Dom then preceded to chase Ian around a bewildered couple on their 6m safety stop, while Ian pulled out his best underwater ninja moves. Kara, Mike, Ali and Stefano saw massive baitballs of fish herded by barracuda. The evening finished with a foaming Jacuzzi which flooded the upper decks of the Whirlwind. We had our own snow in Sharm while the UK froze! –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Day 6 – Dive 1. Shark and Yolanda – an eventful dive with strong currents, culminating in a pile of toilets, 5 bluespotted stingrays, a cheeky cornet fish that stalked Mike and Ian and a small cave swim through at 6m safety stop. Further dives that day were wall dives on the surrounding reefs. A massive thanks to Vicky for giving out her signature so many times that evening, Ali is getting a little closer to completing his Dive Leader and Stefano and I have cheekily signed off some of our Advanced Diver experience dives! –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Day 7 was our last day of diving, everyone was in pain with their bodies falling apart – Kara had random bruising, Ian’s skin was on fire, Dom and Ali’s feet bared the marks of the Stigmata and Mike and Vicky’s ears had near enough given up the goat- Stefano was going strong. Jackson Reef held really strong currents that the UBUC lot battled through, other divers didn’t make it back to the Whirlwind and had to be shamefully picked up by the zodiacs. Our last dive - Gordon Reef (everyone “a little bit sad”). But we didn’t let this stop us making it an eventful one. Firstly Vicky had trouble with first stage and had Ali and Ian to the rescue. Dom and Stefano dived in nothing but their panties to celebrate Stefano’s 100th dive (Stefano is so Italian he chose to wear pink pants), and a long awaited glimpse of an eagle ray really topped off a brilliant week. Moored up in Sharm, we all went out for the evening, it was a novelty to be wearing shoes for the first time in a week. Our first port of call was the camel bar, a local pub for British divers. We were a little wierded out by the apparent need for patio heaters. This was all forgotten however after a couple of cocktails and some drags of Shisha. We all knew that Ali had been converted to the darkside (or just very drunk) when he insisted in smoking the shisha longhose style. –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Day 8 and 9 – After a slight lie in till 7.30 we had packed, breakfasted and said our goodbyes to the guides and Whirlwind crew. After checking in to a hotel in the centre of Sharm we lunched by the beach, lounge round the pool, held table tennis competitions and Dom contemplated getting Gary henna tattooed onto his arm. After much hanging around and a lack of communication from the travel reps we deduced that our flight had been cancelled and we were to be taken to a local Hilton. Unfortunately the concept of a free bar was too much to take by the Bristolian students and the night decended into Russian karaoke, Ali performing Sinatra and a lot of very drunk disco dancing. Hangovers pursued the next day and were alleviated if only a little by a massive breakfast. The excitement of a UBUC crazy golf tournament were dashed when Dom booked out the whole course and took all the golf clubs, but forgot to tell the rest of us. He played all 9 holes on his own. We all waited in reception to find out the details of our flight, after much confusion and multiple free ice-creams we were off to the airport. We were all loving Dom’s translation book – Shabah muma walla buba (does it look like its mummy or daddy?) and it must have tired us out so much that most of the flight was spent sleeping. We arrived back to the UK to find cars covered in snow, but the roads were ok and we were home by about 1.30am. Stefano slept the whole way. –“ ehhh non sporgersi”
Many thanks to the Dive Guides Pete and Reda and to the all the Whirlwind crew. You were all so helpful I hardly remember how to put my own fins on. A hello to the rest of the boat, the Pauls, Angela, Mike, Keith, the Neives, Matt, Jen, etc……..
Ice Diving - 16/01/2010
Divers: Oli, JL, Steve W, Emma Y, Tomas R, Ed, Stefano, Geoff D, Elena, Me
We all met at stores at a leisurely 9am and started hunting for suitable floaty ropes and the correct kind of regulators and after some faff and visiting various houses to collect forgotten kit we set off across the Clifton suspension bridge. Steve and Emma were coming up from Exeter and after I called them to check on their progress they declared they were only an hour from Chepstow. Somehow they got the idea that we were diving in a welsh quarry, which they were suitably mocked for! So, we all eventually met at the pond to find there was amazingly about 2-3 inches of ice still there. I had been down the the night before to check the ice (and disturbed some of the locals enjoying the secluded spot) and we were lucky that despite a rainy night and a warm day we still had enough ice. So Oli began enlarging the hole in the ice while JL went through the rope signals with us all. We then proceeded to kit up with 2 divers in on at a time tied on to ropes and standby divers on longer ropes ready to jump in and rescue anyone in difficulty. We all had a go swimming beneath the ice, walking upside down, poking hands and sticks through holes in the ice and even digging holes in the ice on the surface to stick their heads through. Some people didn't like the initial immersion in ice cold water, but after gentle persuasion everyone persisted and had a go. When all was finished, several people decided to smash their way through the ice and through the carnage smashed up most of the ice sheet on the lake. We then all went to the local pub for pie and chips and a beer to warm up. Link to photos: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/AndyKiddier/IceDiving2010
Burton Bradstock - 07/02/10
Present: Tom Bennet, Kara Cubbage, Andy Kiddier, Kara Cubbage, Mike Shepherd, Tom Hardman, Richard Johns, Helen Bowden, Tom Cassey, Ed Drewitt, Ian Smith, Autumn White, Hannah Rose, Alexander McNeill, Elena Couce
Burton Bradstock is a great location for a training dive, with a lovely sandy beach, fossils, and a variety of sealife to be found underwater.
After an early start from stores, and passing at least 5 road-killed badgers on the way, we got there at high tide, with calm weather and an inviting sea.
However, all was not as it seemed. 4 pairs kitted up and entered the sea, with the aim of following a fault line from the coast. Kara and Tom H were first under, but surfaced soon after with visibility of ~5cm. A leak in Elenas drysuit started to fill with water, so all made a hasty exit back to shore and a plan B was found. Chesil Beach was attempted next, 10 minutes down the coast. With a stony beach, the visibility should improve. Entry was more difficult this time, with a steeply shelving beach, but this dive was also aborted with little improvement in vis.
To hearty cries of 'yay diving' we heading to a plan C - driving 10 minutes upcoast to a pub car park and diving in the adjacent river.
This time the vis was far improved, and everyone who wanted to dive got the opportunity, and saw copious crabs and beer cans. There were a couple of 'messiah' moments when people hit a sand bank in the middle of the river and began walking on water.
So despite only properly diving on the 3rd attempt, everyone had a go, some trainees got some skills ticked off, and we all retired to the local for scampi, burgers and sausage and mash.
Fairy Cove/Brixham - 23/02/10
Divers: Calum, Hannah, Ed, Tom H, Tom B, Danni, Fliss, Andy K
After a meet at 8:30am and a minimum of fuss the 8 of us set off from Torquay. I was optimistic about the weather and the conditions we would find. I was given a map of the cove with an x marking the spot of the German Torpedo boat wreck by Phil Harrison the area coach. It all sound promising and although it's January I thought the sea wouldn't be too cold (Gulf stream and all) and with no plankton the sea should be fairly clear in Torbay. How wrong I was.....
We arrived at the cove to find a steep flight of steps down and after lifting all the kit down we found that the short surface swim round the corner was in fact a marathon swim. We had to have shore cover on the beach and then a secondary shore cover on the cliffs round the corner to keep an eye on the divers. The drysuit divers went in first to test the waters to only find it was a lovely 7 degrees and half a meter viz. We found something down there, a piece of barnacled sheet of metal, but hard to say it was a ship wreck. Ed assured that on sunnier days it's better!
To avoid further disappointment I decided to packup and change the trip to Brixham Breakwater. It was already 2pm by this stage and late in the day. Fortunately for me no one protested at having to get all the kit back off the beach and into the cars and remaining in our suits we headed off to Brixham and the promise of better viz and scallops.
We found a the viz there was 2 meters or more and I emerged from the sea with Tom H clutching a large haul of scallops only to find Calum and Tom B had an even bigger haul! Meanwhile Fliss and Hannah swear they found a lobster or at least some clawed creature poking out of a hole.
So, at dusk Ed and Danni, and then Tom, Calum and I descended back into the sea to confirm if there were in fact any lobsters while everyone went for a cup of tea. There was a lot of crabs, but alas no large crustaceans for the pot.
We ended back in Bristol after 8pm and after washing up and all went home with part of the haul for dinner.
PK - 19/03/10 to 26/03/10
Location: Porthkerris beach (most of the time)
People who attended: Lots
Dates: 19-26th March Weather: Varying from pleasant to cyclonic
I can't say this with much authority since this was only my third PK, but I think this may have been the most relaxed PK training trip for dive planning ever. And it is all thanks to Tim. For Elena, Hannah and I it didn't start that way. Tim had offered to organise the training rota for the first weekend, but on Friday night all we were handed was a list of the instructors with trainees next to their name. That was it; one list, no times, no locations, just names, I was nervous. With nearly 20 ocean diver trainees, 20 people hoping to get their sports diver qualification and only 6 or 7 instructors we needed to try something radical. And the week was radical.
After leaving stores on time, amazing, the journey down was subject to a heart-stopping moment when the van hit a badger. Fortunately for our excess, the van had escaped damage, however, the badger may not have been so lucky. Unknown to us, Andy had also had an eventful journey although, thankfully, it was subject to better wildlife conservation: Following a slightly sketchy turn, he was met with the blue flashing lights of a tailing police car. Curiously however, despite the illegal turn, the dodgy trailer, the number plate made of gaffer tape, the broken light board and the fuel cans on top of the boats, they just wanted to know if he had stolen the boats! Needless to say this wasn't a problem and he and the rest of us Pk'ers were happily in bed by 11ish.
A wake up call the next morning at 7 by the kettle fairies followed by a sandwich making conveyor belt meant we were all on the road to PK by 8. We arrived to perfect conditions for surfing. While myself and the trainees looked quizzically at the sea state, Tim did not flinch. So, how was diving going to work? Well, there wasn't really a true rota - each instructor was given 3-4 trainees to look after for the weekend and that was it. They decided who they took in and when, what training they did with each trainee and when it was time for lunch. Andy really embraced the system, to the point that he hardly left the beach. With 5 trainees under his care, he had one trainee waiting on the beach with a filled cylinder while his previous trainee was taking his empty to the compressor. For the instructors less organised than Andy we enjoyed the challenge. In true Tim style, those that weren't training attempted a dive on the manacles. Despite the rota being less than conventional there were a lot of smiles emerging from the sea. The evening was wonderfully catered for and after an very dirty but yet again unconventional blind buddy (especially for Andy) everyone slowly decided that it was late and they were tired and it was time for bed.
It was pleasing to arrive at the beach on Sunday to better weather and calmer seas. Calum and Sam had arrived the night before and they were soon put to work trying to get the compressor started. As many will know, that was how most of the days started - the compressor didn't like to start without a fight. The day's diving again produced smiles and joy as people got more confident and started getting assessments ticked off. Some of the new crossovers got a taste of their first boat dives from our zodiacs and even after a less than slack dive on the Outer Voices good times were had by all. Throughout the day patches of nice weather meant a few pink faces returned to their caravans in the evening. After an enjoyable meal of fajitas, a few drinks in the bar and a relatively early night for those doing the rota, everyone was in bed before midnight.
The good weather held out for most of Monday too as training became more urgent since many of the instructors were leaving that evening. Lots of assessments got ticked off and by the end of the day most of the crossovers were ready to progress to do their first free, OD/OD dives. Similarly, Tuesday followed as another good day. A number of the trainees got up at 6 o'clock to cook all the instructors and committee a proper fried breakfast. We all appreciated it and with new found energy we headed to the beach raring to go. The first boat wave headed to Raglan Reef at just gone 10.30am, hoping to catch slack. Unfortunately the weather had turned, and although the sea was calm, fog had closed in, so much so that the transects were no longer visible. The GPS did very little to help us so we decide to drop the buddy pairs on a bunch of rocks south of the pinnacle. The fish finders indicated a gently sloping gradient to about 17m, ideal for our newly experienced ocean diver pairs. Reports of the dive site were good and the ocean divers enjoyed their freedom without the instructors. The second boat wave of the day was an exploratory one; a few of us had dived Helford River last summer and thought it was a brilliant site to take trainees. The boats left at 2.30pm and hugged the coastline, travelling west up the mouth of the river. The divers returned to shore with stories of rays in the sand, giant sea slugs and bags of scallops for dinner. The end of Tuesday saw a couple of car-loads of divers leave as planned, unfortunately taking the good weather with them.
Following the changing weather, the smooth flow of the week's diving came to a swift end on Wednesday when the compressor died after a mere five minutes of running. At least an hour of tinkering from Sam, Calum and Andy didn't lead to anywhere but frustration, so it was left for Oli who diagnosed a breakage and helpfully ran off for spares. This aside, with the aid of the PK compressor, a fun day ensued. A morning wave to the river returned another very happy group of divers bearing more goodies including a fair haul of mussels found amongst the crab-infested bottom.
Thursday, we woke up again to Sam's cheery awakening, only to be also met with wind and rain. We'd heard the weather was going to deteriorate, even verge on cyclonic, so we headed down to the beach with a little trepidation. Our newly qualified divers were all paired for fun shore diving, with plenty of treats to be found on the reef after Alex, Richard, Katie and Nicola jumped in to hide crème eggs throughout. The instructors were similarly treated with combating the increasingly rough seas as they went out to the Mohegan. The first of the instructors, Oli and Andy were dropped in before the remaining buddy pairs began to kit up. Unfortunately for those remaining though, the sea got worse, resulting in a cancelled dive, four dizzy instructors and Calum turning an unhealthy shade of green. Naturally however, Oli and Andy enjoyed a lovely calm hour-long dive with glorious vis, lobsters and the distant calls from dolphins? they were called several names behind their backs. Upon return, after flooding a boat and fighting to land them, the weather still hadn't improved. Shore diving had been mostly called to a halt and only a few people persevered on for one more cheeky dive, including Alex M who managed to clog his first stage up with crème egg goop. The fun day seemed like a bit of a loss since it hadn't gone to plan but it was only when we stopped and listened, that we heard the happy chatter from all directions - everyone was still making the best of the day and having a great time. That night we said our farewells to a few more people and the 48 strong band of divers was now down to 20.
Friday's weather was much the same as Thursday but we didn't let that stop us. Elena and I had planned an epic first boat wave to the back of the reef, to allow sports divers and dive leaders to tick off some final assessments. It had taken us nearly an hour the night before to work out how we were going to coordinate all the assessments and divers. Due to massive waves on shore the boats had to be moored out from the beach and the buddy pairs had to swim out fully kitted to board safely. Unfortunately in the confusion our perfectly constructed rota plan fell apart. Much to our surprise this didn't end up mattering much and all the assessments that needed doing got ticked off. The only person who really suffered was Alex M, who, during his Dive Leader rescue found himself towing (with his weight belt down round his arse) into the current for 15min, towards an anchored boat. Oli, like the compassionate boat handler he is, didn't think to un-anchor and instead watched Alex struggle with great amusement. The waves picked up in the afternoon and after a few heroic beachings during the mornings shore dives we decided to call it a day. The final thing to do was to get the boats back to shore.
Alex M and Andy were volunteered to swim out to the buoyed boats and ride them in. After sitting out at sea for over quarter of hour, watching those on the beach being continuously knocked down by the surf a break in the waves gave them both the opportunity to drive in. After Alex had swiftly beached his boat, Andy showed everyone how it was done. As he approached the shore a massive wave crept up from behind him, by that point the engine was off and out of the water and there was no turning back. Miraculously the wave took the boat right up the beach with no help from anyone and when the sea receded the zodiac was perfectly positioned on the sand. Andy claimed that he had planned it all along, and that such skill only comes with being an advanced diver!
Beach clear up was fairly swift, everyone could hear the beers calling. That night we had our second buffet, accompanied by a few beverages. After the weeks prizes had been awarded the committee/instructors were given bottles of alcohol and a £40 bar tab by the trainees; from that point on the night seriously deteriorated. So much so that I can't remember anything else from the night! What I have heard however, is that Ian fell asleep outside on some crates, Andy freaked out at a carrot and most people didn't see their beds till gone 4am. I woke up at some early hour of the morning in our caravan lounge with King Rich (who's bed I had occupied) lying asleep fully clothed on the floor. Everyone was hanging Saturday morning and with only Tesco cornflakes to soften the blows we made a fairly swift exit from the caravan site at about midday.
Thanks to everyone who returned to help with unpacking on Saturday afternoon, thanks to Hannah for sorting the curry the same evening and to all the instructors (Andy, Tim, Jez, Jamie, Anthony, Dave, Mike P, Simon, Mike S, Oli, Elena, Calum and me) who were invaluable to us over the week. Thanks to Sam(s), Dan and Alex B for keeping the compressor running, to Katie for filling our bellies with pasties every lunch time, to Gemma, Alex M and Alex H, our new boat handlers and to Nedege for recording every single dive (totalling 500+) at the end of each day. Thanks to all the trainees for the fried breakfasts, alcohol and more alcohol and finally to everyone who helped make the week a big success.
Manacles - 29/05/10 to 31/05/10
As only 4 of us, Nick, Sally, Stefano and myself were going from Bristol we met Thursday night to pack. As we had no van to take the mobile compressor and not everyone was going from Bristol we wanted to take as many cylinders as possible. Some how we managed to get a total of 16 cylinders and a twinset into 2 small vehicles. We met up Friday and battled through the traffic to get down to the campsite overlooking PK beach. The forecast was force 5-6, occasionally gale 8, sea state moderate to rough, but we were undeterred.
On Saturday we decided to try launching from Porthallow slightly further north than PK and closer to Helford River. After unpacking the boats the locals gathered and informed us that "no diving" meant "No divers allowed here" and not "no shore diving". They let us off, but told us not to come back!
Then we headed for the river to hide from the worst of the weather and the fun started. We suffered lots of engine breakdowns, lost weight belts and had to refuse help from concerned passing boats. Nick was chuffed though as he landed a huge bag of Scallops. So we headed in for lunch and anchored the boats.
Half an hour in to lunch Hazel asked if one of our boats is meant to be so far out in the bay. Then everyone asked where the other boat was and what the grey shape drifting into the horizon was! With a strong off shore breeze we had underestimated Sthe weight required to keep them anchored. So Stefano and I swam out to sea to try and catch them. This was potentially very foolish as they were going at some pace, but we had help on shore. I ended up about half a mile drifting further out to sea, while Stefano belted past at quite a pace. At about a mile out to sea he was within 10 metres of the boat when he had to suffer the indignity of being picked up by PK divers who then took the opportunity to take the piss out of him and reunite him with our boat. Stefano then rescued me and we then recovered the other boat that was drifting miles out to sea. It turns out the person who phoned PK divers was an ex-ubuc member from 30 years ago or had informed them that there might have been salvage in it for them.
We then tried to find the wreck of the Volnay for a second dive, but without transits we gave up and dumped people on the back of the reef. At least we found a good pub in Porthallow that evening within a 10 minute walking distance of PK. The girls complained that their arms ached from all the heavy lifting and from holding the throttle on the tiller when driving the boats. Their complaints were duly ignored.
The next day we awoke to find flat calm seas and sunshine and we started to plan our days diving on the manacles. Only then did we find that Dora had been suffering severe pains in her forearms all night. I think we all suspected that this could have been caused by her being forced to carry her own kit and do her fair share of lifting boats, but we did the decent thing and phoned DDRC in Plymouth. They said the pain could have been masking other symptoms and she had better come in for an examination. So Jules took one for the team and drove Dora all the way from PK to Plymouth.
The rest of us went for a dive on the Mohegan. Bearing in mind it was spring tides and half way in between slacks we were expecting a bit of a current, but not the water rushing past us at breakneck speeds. It was so strong for the for the first lot of divers that it was impossible to fight the current. Hazel handed her compass to me and buggered off to the surface, leaving Nick and I to try and fight to the wreck, but ended up drifting along at a fair pace on our own. The second lot to go in were Sally and Stefano, but luckily another RIB turned up and shotted the boilers of the wreck for them claiming that it was low water slack. They put there own divers in only for them to be swept away from the current. So, Sally and Stafano were briefed to pull themselves down the shotline and hold on. They used their arms to pull themselves along the wreck and managed to spend the whole time on it despite the estimated 3 knot current. As this was Sally's first UK wreck dive it wasn't ideal, but I think she enjoyed it!
After the first dive we received a phone call that Dora was indeed not bent and had in fact just sprained her arms. They had conducted extensive scientific tests to determine this, that involved tickling her and sticking needles into her. Apparently the chamber attendant was very keen to stick her in the pot, but they just couldn't find an excuse to do it. So after another long car journey for Jules they arrived back in PK for the second dive. Conveniently for Dora she was well enough to dive, but had to be excused from carrying anything heavy for the rest of the weekend for medical reasons!
As we had missed slack on the Manacles we headed round to the Volnay armed with transits. It took a lot of discussion before we settled on what we thought was correct before Stefano and I jumped in to conduct an underwater search. Unfortunately Stefano's drysuit feed was the wrong one for his suit and he suffered a severe squeeze eventually relieved by a bit of underwater drysuit feed sharing. This did result in a freeflow and a cloud of silt, but was dealt with. We then had to navigate through the silty waters for 25 minutes until we stumbled across the wreck and tied off an smb for Dora and Jules to find the wreck afterwards.
As we were down to 4 and a half people now, we had no choice but to moor up the boats rather than drag them out of the water and then headed to the pub again to be told stories about DDRC and all the promotional tatt they had recieved on their guided tour of the facilities.
With boats already in the water, we managed to be out of bed by 7am and have first divers in the waters on the Mohegan slack by 8:45am which is a record first! Hazel, Dora and Jules had a beautiful dive round the whole wreck, whilst Stefano and I jumped in last and got 15 minutes on it, before being swept away by the current and drifting along for another 20 mins.
We then packed up the boats, got Mr pk to tow the up the hill and after a bacon sandwich headed back to Bristol to wash up the boats.
Everyone got what they wanted. Nick got sea food for dinner, Hazel got out of a quarry dive trip, Jules got to see the regional bsac coordinator at the recompression chamber, Sally got to see a wreck, Stafano got to drive boats, I got a post-exam adventure, and Dora got out of doing any hard labour.
Portland Crossover - 17/10/09
Bonfire Nightdive - 05/11/09
Vobster Quay - 11/11/09
Vobster Quay - 29/11/09
DIRX weekend - 05/12/09 to 06/12/09
Babbacome - 06/12/09
Vobster Quay - 27/02/10