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.