Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Wreck Count 2011

Well, we set our sights on knocking off 55 different wrecks this year as its the clubs 55th year and we've not done too bad.  I still have some to add from those dives I wasn't on but so far we're not doing too bad.
  1. SMS Dresden - Scapa Flow
  2. SMS Karlsrhue - Scapa Flow
  3. Cotavia - Orkney Islands
  4. El Gran Griffon - Fair Isle
  5. Gwladmena - Shetland Islands
  6. Jane - Shetland Islands
  7. E49 1st World War Submarine - Shetland Islands
  8. SS Tonis Chandris - Shetland Islands
  9. Wrangels Palais - Shetland Islands
  10. Fujikawa Maru - Chuuk
  11. Betty Bomber - Chuuk
  12. Emily Flying Boat - Chuuk
  13. Futagami Tugboat - Chuuk
  14. Gosei Maru - Chuuk
  15. Heian Maru - Chuuk
  16. Hoki Maru - Chuuk
  17. Hoyo Maru - Chuuk
  18. Kansho Maru - Chuuk
  19. Kiyosumi Maru - Chuuk
  20. Nippo Maru - Chuuk
  21. Rio de Janeiro Maru - Chuuk
  22. San Francisco Maru - Chuuk
  23. Sankisan Maru - Chuuk
  24. Seiko Maru - Chuuk
  25. Shinkoko Maru - Chuuk
  26. Shotan Maru - Chuuk
  27. I-169 Submarine - Chuuk
  28. Sutsuki - Chuuk
  29. Eisen 761 Tug - Chuuk
  30. Unkei Maru - Chuuk
  31. WMJ Pugh USN YFR - Chuuk
  32. Yamagiri Maru - Chuuk
  33. Yubae Maru - Chuuk
  34. Kyarra - Swanage
  35. SS Pomerania - Dover
  36. HMS Brazen - Dover
  37. City of Brisbane - Brighton
  38. Hera - Mevagissey
  39. Kanteong - Mevagissey
  40. SS Persier - Plymouth
  41. Glen Strathallen - Plymouth
  42. James Eagan Layne - Plymouth
  43. HMS Scylla - Plymouth
  44. SMS Brummer - Scapa Flow
  45. F2 - Scapa Flow
  46. YC21 - Scapa Flow
  47. SMS Markgraf - Scapa Flow
  48. SMS Seydlitz - Scapa Flow
  49. SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm - Scapa Flow
  50. SMS Coln II - Scapa Flow
  51. SMS Bayern Turrets - Scapa Flow
  52. Tabarka - Scapa Flow
  53. Pinnace - Scapa Flow
  54. Emperor Fraser - Northern Red Sea
  55. Kimon M - Northern Red Sea
  56. Giannis D - Northern Red Sea
  57. Chrisoula K - Northern Red Sea
  58. Carnatic - Northern Red Sea
  59. The Barge - Northern Red Sea
  60. Rosalie Moller - Northern Red Sea
  61. Ulysses - Northern Red Sea
  62. Kingston - Northern Red Sea
  63. Thistlegorm - Northern Red Sea
  64. Yolanda - Northern Red Sea
  65. Alex Van Opstal - Weymouth
  66. Aeolian Sky - Weymouth
  67. Oceana - Eastbourne
  68. SS Salado - Lundy
  69. Unnamed Barge - Guardalvaca, Cuba
  70. UB 97, UB 106, UB 112, UB 128, UC 92 - Pendennis Point
  71. MV Karwela - Gozo
  72. SS Stavronikita - Barbados
  73. Bajun Queen - Barbados
  74. Pamir - Barbados
  75. Eilon - Barbados
  76. Berwyn - Barbados
  77. Fox - Barbados
  78. Ce-Trek - Barbados
  79. Unnamed Fishing Boat - Kuredu Island, Maldives
  80. Balena - Hurghada

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Riding the Valkyrie! - Scapa 2011

So I returned to Scapa!  It felt like I'd been away for ages but it was actually only a year, almost to the day. However, this trip surpassed last years pretty much from the start.

Firstly the boat was nice, not just to look at but everything was where it made sense to be!  There's a big dive deck, nice size lounge with flatscreen, dvd player and collection of dvds as well as the prerequisite dive magazines and some books.  From the lounge you drop down a ladder to the sleeping deck with 6 two-bunk rooms which weren't any smaller than a Red Sea liveaboard except the beds were above one another.

Back upstairs, the enclosed walkway from bow to stern has a wire to hang your dry suit on between dives as well as cubby holes for your flipflops and bits.  Then you carry on to the service area with the tumble-dryer and access to the other shower room, a hatchway to the engine-room (No Entry), door way to the wheelhouse and the kitchen/dining room at the stern.

We were met by Hazel (Skipper), Dug (the dog), Rob (boat boy) and the rest of the team who had come up earlier.

When we had our briefing Hazel told us that the weather might not be too great towards the middle of the week but we'd look and see what happened on the day, (remembering my last trip I was already planning trips to the Italian Chapel, Distilleries and Stone Circles) but the next couple of days would be fine.  She also explained that Saturday was a fend for yourself day so we should go and find something to eat elsewhere and suggested the Ferry Inn.  Its changed a bit since last year and to be honest, although it looked nice it was blooming expensive, beer and food all London prices which was a little disappointing.

The diving for the week was brilliant, all on twin 12's except for 4 on Inspiration rebreathers which meant we all had some bottom time on even the deeper wrecks.  I know some of the club still talk about doing 50m dives on a 3lt Pony and still doing 20 minutes of deco but I took all the gas I could.

Sunday we did Brummer & F2, Monday Markgraf and Dresden, Tuesday Kronprinz Wilhelm & Tabarka, Wednesday Karlruhe and Seydlitz, Thursday Koln and Dresden, Friday Bayern Turrets and Gutter Sound.

The one day we thought we'd lose actually was really good and although a bit lumpy coming back onto the boat was all good.  By the end of the week Rob was getting sick of asking me how the dive was as I loved every single one.

One of the reasons for this was that Hazel made her dive briefs so detailed and clear that I knew what i was seeing when I went down.  Despite being here and doing some of the same dives as last year I saw things that I just didn't realise this time.  I found the Armoured Control on ever boat that had one, we saw the guns, the swim throughs, did the penetration, got in, on and around all the wrecks in a way that I totally missed last year. I know that some of it was down to having longer bottom times but mainly it was down to know where to go, what to look for and what things would look like when I got there.

The other big plus about the trip was the food!  Helen runs the galley and going hungry is just not going to happen on this boat, Lunch is always enormous, Dinner simply massive!  Everything is freshly prepared and just superb.  There was one diver who didn't eat meat and his food looked as good as ours and sometimes better!  As one person mentioned it was like going on an eating holiday interspersed with a bit of diving!

All in all this has to be one of the best trips I've been on and I cannot wait to see what next year is like. I'm also going to keep my eye open for any slots that become available as I can't wait to come back.

A blog from Plymouth…… (Photo’s by other ?)

by Kim Thomas

The Bermondsey BSAC trip to Plymouth in 2011 saw us try out a different charter from last year. This year we used “Explorer” from the Mountbatten Dive Charters, which operate their boat along with their own B&B.

What a bunch of divers
First impressions count, and with most us all arriving on Friday (at various times during the day), the B&B was probably the best B&B we have ever stayed in regardless of location. The accommodation, its cleanliness, the quality of breakfast (not a cheap and greasy!), the hosts, really were aspiring to match the quality of a boutique hotel! A really good start!!

The marina where the boat was located was a few minutes drive, or perhaps a brisk 10-15 minute walk. The air station was equally conveniently located being a few minutes walk from the boat mooring.
The Saturday saw breakfast at 8am, then a quick mosey along to get the kit on the boat. Car parked in a nearby free carpark, we were ready to depart. The wind was quite breezy, and the wave height, while not challenging in itself, the single hull, single prop boat did get tossed around a bit. Joe excelled himself at feeding the fishes!!

Would you like to touch my claws?
The first days diving saw us at the Persier at 30m followed by the Glen Strathallen at about 20m in the afternoon. The viz was brilliant! Brett found a dive reel with a bottle inflated SMB (worth about £100), in brand new spanking order…. Lars lined off the wreck with great urgency to find anyone with a big good bag. Following him back, we turned a corner to see the biggest lobster you have ever seen! In the end Lars was the only on who had a goodie bag, and it took Lars, Brett and myself to get the blighter into the bag. Mariette looked on in awe at this display of machismo!!!
Photo’s on the boat to prove, then the lobby was put back over the side…(the chances would be high that he would be a tough old beast to eat!!)
Sunday saw the weather improve, with the James Egan Layne and the Scylla on the agenda today. The viz was infinitely better than last year. The J.E L is a divers playground, and while is very different from the first time I dived this wreck in 1985, is still good fun! The Scylla was easy to penetrate, with easy routes to daylight. The skipper also unfortunately busted his GPS, and so lost access to all his marks. All dives would now need to be pre-shot….
Barry's new dive hood!
Monday saw the weather improve further still! The morning’s dive in the 30m deep channel to Devonport was a Scallop harvesting expedition, most coming up with a good haul!!. The second dive was back to the J.E. B, due to the GPS issue.
Another great dive, with a safety stop at 6m still on the wreck!
Packed all the kit and was home by 7.30pm or so!!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Swanage - 20th August 2011

by Victor Grayson

10 club members made an incredibly early start for a day at Swanage. Again, everyone was at various levels of experience and the group included 3 of us currently training for our Sports Diver qualification.

The first dive – the wreck of the Kyarra (sunk in 1918) – was booked for 7.30am, with 9 of us diving from the catamaran Spike. After a very clear briefing from Pete the skipper, we arrived at the dive site, south of Swanage. I was buddied with Brett and was ready for my first dive in British seawater. Despite having a decent amount of experience diving abroad (albeit mostly on easy follow-my-leader holiday dives), the scare stories I’d heard about UK diving always being cold, dark, dull, dangerous and difficult made me apprehensive. I’m glad to report, however, that none of this proved true – entry was easy, one minor problem (a freeflowing octopus at the surface, which lost me 80 bar) was resolved quickly enough, visibility was better than I expected and with the water at 17-20°C it was not cold at all. And the Kyarra wreck is impressive – lots of holes, nooks and crannies to look into, a collapsed deck, and the thing is big – we had a good look around and still only saw about a quarter of it. Lobsters, a conger eel and plenty of fish were seen. Brett and I went down to 26 metres, clocked 35 minutes underwater, and ascended with a DSMB. Exit was easy thanks to a diver lift (truly, humankind’s greatest invention since the wheel) on the back of Spike.

Our second dive – also from Spike – was Peveril Ledges, where we used a DSMB throughout the entire 55 minute drift dive, reaching a maximum depth of 15.6 metres. I enjoyed this dive a lot, although some folks were disappointed at not finding scallops. Still, we saw plenty of crabs, and for me it was all good experience.

At 3pm most of us did a third dive under Swanage Pier, staying very shallow at 4.4 metres (we couldn’t have gone any deeper without a shovel), and seeing shrimp and lots of fish. One day I’ll dust off my guide to British sealife book and learn the names of all these creatures. The sun had come out in the afternoon, and was illuminating the sea floor either side of the pier – very atmospheric. Or hydrospheric, even.

On the surface, between dives, some of the group went down the road to forage and to listen to sea shanties at the Lifeboat Week event nearby. In the distance we could see the Bournemouth Air Show in progress. The set-up at Swanage Pier seems pretty good – the car park is properly marshalled, there are trolleys to use and the dive shop on the pier filled our cylinders between dives. And the place is popular – there were dozens upon dozens of divers visiting, many doing training around the pier, others going out on the several trips that Spike made that day.

The drive back – past the amazing Corfe Castle and adjacent village – is impressive, too. All in all, a successful day out, a great introduction to UK sea diving for 2 of us, great weather in the afternoon, and a chance for us Sports Diver trainees to get 3 dives signed off.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Training in muddy puddles!

We tried out Holborough Lakes the weekend before Lundy.

This was a new site for all in the club although it is close to Leybourne which some people have used before.

The entrance to the lake is hidden away behind a petrol station and through a guard post as the area around the lake is being built on.

The lake is a reasonable size with a river feeding into it at the top and a weir at the bottom so there is a bit of flow but nothing that you really feel.  You only really notice it when the novice you are diving with hits the bottom and disappears into a cloud of silt, as it soon drifts away.  It has a good concrete ramp, a pontoon and a large kitting up area with tables.

There are a few platforms at different depths for training as well as various boats, cars, mopeds, tractor tyres which are all roped together so you can follow them round as well as being buoyed.

There is silt on about half of the bottom and the rest is clay and as long as you stay off the bottom then visibility is good. A good test of bouyancy and loads of life, mainly Perch some other small fish and tadpoles although Pike are reported as being in there somewhere.

Quite a few people turned up and we ended up with 9 divers and surface cover.  All in all a good day as it was only half-an-hour away so we were all home early afternoon after 2 dives.

Thanks to Dave, Paddy & Steve for assisting and taking people in and thanks to Teresa, Joe, Victor, Ken & Anna for turning up.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Chuuk May 2011 - The Dave Rankin Story

This is Dave's trip report on Chuuk, unfortunately he lost his photos but I'll get some from Andy and Ross and put them up on the website on their own gallery.

Monday 9th May, the day has finally arrived when Andy and myself are off to Truk Lagoon. Months of talking about it, booking flights and stopover accommodation, packing and weighing bags, unpacking bags and discarding hopefully unnecessary kit and reweighing has come to an end – we are off.

First problem, I get a text from Andy saying that the M25 is at a standstill. Traffic reports say up to 2 hours delay. This is not good, we have a flight to catch. However, with a bit of luck he manages to get off the motorway and get to me via the lanes of Kent and Surrey, still not a lot of time to spare though.

We arrive at the airport, deposit bags and go for a coffee. So far so good. We say goodbye to my wife and go through security.

2nd problem. My torch in my hand luggage causes problems. Because the x-ray machine cannot properly see the batteries, they want me to dismantle it. No problem I say, you get me the tools and I will gladly do so (my tools are now somewhere deep in the bowels of Heathrow along with the rest of my dive kit). First security man refers to his supervisor, who says ‘we need to see inside the torch’ I say ‘get me the tools etc etc’ , 2nd security man says ‘I need to refer to my supervisor’ eventually after  seeing and speaking to the 3rd supervisor they agree to let me take the torch through in hand luggage. Hint, pad well and pack torches in hold luggage.

3rd problem. Whilst all of the above is going on Andy discovers that he has left his sweat top in the coffee shop. I phone my wife, who manages to retrieve his top and give it to yet another security person who passes it through the x-ray machines and into the safe hands of Andy.

At last we board the plane for the non-stop overnight flight to Singapore. We have 3 seats for the 2 of us so we can stretch out a bit, watch some movies and try and get some sleep.

Hint, Singapore Air is just the best. If you are awake they feed you and provide drinks. Result!.

We have a two night stop-over in Singapore, and what a lovely place it is. We managed to cram in a fair bit in our time there, and it’s reasonably cheap to eat out if you avoid the restaurants, and go to the markets and eat with the locals. Curry and drink approx £2.

Thursday we transfer back to the airport for another Singapore Air flight to Manila. We discover the delights of a Singapore Sling. 2 of those go down very well, thank you very much.

At Manila we meet up with Ross who has flown out a day later via Qatar, and after multiple security checks, form filling, passport checking and rechecking we board the Continental flight to Guam. 3 hours of nightmare, seats are cramped, food is rubbish and the attitude of the attendants a complete turnaround compared with the Singapore Air girls. At Guam we transfer yet again to another Continental flight which will take us to Chuuk.

Same uncomfortable seats, same moody attendants, and an inflight meal (bacon roll) which was served with as much finesse as you would experience from a burger van at the side of the road.

At last we arrive at Chuuk airport – it’s hot! humid! and dusty.

We retrieve our bags and load them into a wagon for transport to our hotel for the night. The driver apologises for the state of the road, which is being dug up so they can put drains in. The speed limit on the island is 15mph, if you could do that it would be a miracle. I don’t suppose there was more than 10 metres of tarmac anywhere. Pot holes the size of bomb craters and full of water and nobody seems to care.

The Truk Stop Hotel, is basic, but appears to be clean (didn’t look too hard). So rather than stay around the hotel, the 3 of us go for a walk. The local kids are friendly, calling out to us from the ‘jungle’ that edges the road, always smiling and asking us to take photos of them – which we do – before giggling amongst themselves and running away. 3 local guys chop down coconuts and pass them to us so that we can drink the sweet milk inside, surprisingly refreshing.

Back at the hotel for a meal a couple of beers and an early night, but didn’t get too much sleep, thanks Ross!

Next morning, after breakfast, we transfer to the SS Thorfinn, an ex Norwegian whaling boat, which is lovingly looked after by the owner Captain Lance and his Chukese wife. Because there are only us 3 and a couple from Milton Keynes we get to have a cabin each, another result.

We unpack our dive gear and after a briefing by the skipper on dive rules and dive times we have lunch and then get ready for our first dive. Thorfinn offers up to 5 dives a day, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. So fitting in the food, pastries and cakes at 6am, breakfast 7am, lunch 1pm and dinner 7pm and snacks in between times, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for catching the sun.

I am not going to give a description of each of the dives that we did, there are more than enough books and info on the Internet for me not to have to report on each of our dives. It is enough to say that I have seen more portholes, telegraphs, helms, light fittings, shell cases and ammo in one week than I have seen in all my other dives over the years put together.

By following our local dive guides, we penetrated deeper into the wrecks visiting engine rooms, cabins, holds, shafts and passages than we would have done if we were diving alone.

Each dive ended with at least a 2 minute stop at 18mtres, a 3 minute stop at 9 and a 10 minute stop at 6 , this is in addition to what was shown on our computers.

The longest Ross and myself hung on the line was approx 60minutes thanks to our Suunto Geeko computers which penalised us heavily if we ventured below 45 mtrs.

Day 1
Fujikawa Maru
28.9 mtrs
54 mins

Betty Bomber
Day 2
Nippo Maru

Kiyosumi Maru

Sankisan Maru

Emily Flying boat
Night dive
Day 3
Hoki Maru

Heian Maru

Gosei Maru

Night dive
Hoyo Maru
Day 4
Seiko Maru

Yamagiri Maru

Unkei Maru
Day 5
Shotan Maru

Kansho Maru

Yubae Maru

Tug Eisen 761
Night dive
Kiyozumi Maru
Day 6
San Francisco Maru

Rio de Janeiro Maru

Shinkoko Maru

Night dive
Fujikawa Maru
Day 7
Submarine I-169

Shark feeding

These are my max depths and my times, Andy and Ross will have recorded similar but different figures. On day 4 Ross and myself decided to let our computers de-fizz after the 3rd dive, as they were requiring us to perform massive amounts of deco. which meant the others sitting in the boat for ages and us not getting much of a  surface interval.

All of the transport to and from dive sites was by fast aluminium hulled ribs with twin 150hp engines pushing us along nicely so that each dive site was no more than 15minutes from the Thorfinn. We each had a seat locker for our kit, and the entry into the water was either jump, backward roll or walk down between the engines. Recovery back into the boat was by taking fins off and climbing a ladder situated between the engines. A drop tank was always available at 6 metres in case anybody had a shortage of air, it was never used.

Our last afternoon aboard was taken up by drying our kit, and having a walk on one of the islands, Dublon, where we could see the remains of the Japanese occupation and see how the locals are making use of the infrastructure and buildings left behind after the war.

Our return to the UK was a reverse of the outward journey, Continental Air from Chuuk to Guam and Guam to Manila and Singapore Air Manila/Singapore/Heathrow.

Same sort of bad and indifferent service from Continental, same excellent service from Singapore Air.

Andy and myself said goodbye to Ross at Manila as he was flying out by Qatar Air to Doha and had booked himself into a hotel for the night as his flight was the next afternoon.

We on the otherhand had about 11 hours to kill in the airport. Hint – avoid Manila airport at all costs if you have longer than 30 minutes wait. It must be the worst airport I have ever had the misfortune to visit.

The only bar in the airport closed 10 minutes after we got there so we couldn’t even drown our sorrows.

We made up for our experience in Manila on the Singapore to London leg, a couple of beers, and 4 very nice Singapore Slings helped the 13plus hours go a little bit quicker than it would have done otherwise.

Hint, top deck on an Airbus 380 is very comfortable and quiet.

So was it worth it?
Would I go again?
Would I go on Thorfinn again?
Is there anything I would do different next time?
Yes – avoid Manila – find another route into Guam.

The standard cylinders offered on Thorfinn are 220 bar 11ltr tanks. Ross and myself had pre-ordered a 2nd 11ltr tank and twinned them up. Andy had the option to do the same but wisely didn’t. All of my dives were completed on one tank, so if there is a next time,  I would just use a single and maybe take a pony cylinder for one of the deeper wrecks, justincase. I would also beg, borrow, or hire a dive computer that wasn’t a Geeko!.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Dive Fest 2011 - Bermondsey Strikes Back

We're on the way home. Dive Fest concluded. We came, we saw, we dived, we photographed, we ate, drank, sang and danced! Ok, some of us did.
Picture of Lars creeping up on a dogfish

 The 2011 Dive Fest was just as enjoyable as last year, although the hard boat was a nice change. Although our skipper on the rib last year was brilliant, it was pretty tiring.

We had dives booked Friday, Saturday, Sunday afternoons and Monday morning. Unfortunately because of the wind Sunday and Monday got blown out but both Friday and Saturday were blinding! Great weather, flat calm and 10-12 metres viz on every dive. The only minor down side was that with dives in the afternoon we missed the Beach Olympics and other events on in the afternoon but we did get to sleep in and Lars & Mariette provided some fantastic bacon for breakfast butties.

Kim, Lars and I all entered the BUIF Splash-In photography competition on Saturday and just managed to get our entries in by 7pm thanks to some fast driving by Clive and Kim. We're still waiting to see if we won anything!

Plenty of live to see, we even had squid on the Kantoeng wreck, a first for most of us. We also managed to kill off the last of our Dive Leader qualifications for Lars, Mariette and I, with the exception of Shot Recovery by Bag.

Either very close or an enormous squid!
The rest of Dive Fest was a good laugh, Top Hats & Tiaras party on Friday, (we all dressed up), Suunto Sci-Fi Curry Night on Saturday (we didn't find out until late so didn't dress up) and Hog Roast & Barbecue on Sunday. We even had Peter and Egus arrive and although they didn't dive with us they did do a Try-Dive in the pool!

Weather on Sunday was a bit lairy so we ended up going to the Eden Project and then to Fowey to get a cream tea and take in the Aquarium. With the weather continuing badly on Monday we all headed home.