Monday, 31 December 2012

Bermondsey BSAC Christmas Bash - 12th December 2012

by Victor Grayson

In a brilliant turn-out on a cold evening in mid-December, thirty-odd club members (plus partners) took over an entire restaurant - the very good Jaflong on Lordship Lane, East Dulwich - for a night of civilised dining and sober reflection upon the year's diving experiences. With comedy Clive compering (and organising), prizes were awarded, some with deadly seriousness, others with none, as follows:

Best trainee of 2012 - Jill.
Most improved diver of 2012 - Bjørn.
Biggest (above the call of duty) contribution to the club in 2012 - Steve (for the Canada Water dock dives, and help with training).
Best buddy pair of 2012 - Alan and Colin (for their eventful dive in Newhaven).
Biggest boo-boo in 2012 - the incurable romantic Navneet.
Best club trip organiser of 2012 - Victor (for the Brussels trip).
Tallest story of 2012 - Brett (for his "massive crayfish" story).
2012 silly kit prize - jointly awarded to Colin, Elaine and Chris.

An impressive array of dive and stationery-related prizes were then dished out in the raffle (Chris won everything), and long after 11pm a merry bunch of revellers ventured on to The Draft House for a few more lemonades before bedtime.

Normal Wednesday meetings at the pool will resume on 9th January 2013.

Nemo 33 Trip - 17th-18th November 2012

by Jane Jackson

Somehow one expects a lie-in on a Saturday at this time of year, so what were we doing crawling out of bed in the middle of the night on this particular Saturday? Answer: going to Brussels to dive a 35m deep indoor pool on the outskirts of the city. 

Sixteen of us (thirteen from Bermondsey, and three from DAGSAC) met at seven o’clock in the morning on an overcast November Saturday at St. Pancras International for a weekend in Brussels, under the excellent organisational skills of Victor. After an uneventful train journey to Brussels and bus and metro ride across Brussels to the hotel (Brussels has an excellent system whereby you buy one ticket which covers your entire journey including changes provided you take no longer than forty minutes). We dumped our bags, and set off to explore and find lunch (pizza and pasta for the group I was with), before meeting up at the hotel to check in and set off for Nemo 33. 
The White Hotel is worth a comment, as it had pretensions to display the development of art and design in Belgium since 1945. I don’t know if all rooms had copies of a small coffee table book describing such development, but there was one in my room, along with a cast of a sculpture of a bull’s head. There was certainly a significant effort at style, whether or not successful (I’ll let my fellow divers decide). Other things included a bike in the foyer, and the lifts which were idiosyncratically typical of this type of hotel where the users of the lift have to open the doors, but they also had small representations of human figures variously painted on the doors and wall. Nevertheless, it was a comfortable hotel with a good variety of food for breakfast and served until 11.00, which other hotels could learn from, not that we were able to take full advantage of it, as we had to be at Nemo by then.
Back to Nemo 33. This dive centre cum restaurant resides in the outskirts of Brussels, the most significant thing about it being the pit which (according to my computer) was 35.1m deep at the bottom. The whole pool is about 20m square with a temperature near that of warm bath water. There are varying depths, immediately on entry it must be about 1.5m, where everyone mills around putting on fins (as you are not allowed to jump in you have to walk down the steps, although on our second dive, a number of people from the other group diving, insisted on stopping on the steps to put their fins on – understandable if less than 5’4”, but not if 6ft!). Much of the pool is split between 10m and 15m depth, where we were allowed to practice freediving for the first ten minutes of the session. Then back out to put on scuba kit and back in again to explore the rest of the pool. In one corner was the 35m octagonal pit, reached either by swimming across directly to it or through a swim through, which had a couple of underwater caves at either side which could be surfaced. I was diving with Mariette and on the first dive, when it was just our group plus three others, there was nothing to worry about as we all descended steadily to the bottom, variously amused ourselves for the 10 minutes that we were allowed down there, doing fin pivots etc. A nice slow ascent, another mill in the 10 and 15m areas, until the session finished. This was followed by a very pleasant Thai meal in the bar area, quite mild which I prefer. Return to hotel and off to a local bar for a few drinks before turning in.
The next day’s dive was a little more exciting as we shared our session with another group of about 30 people with very varying skills. Most of them plunged straight down the pit, and after Mariette and I had suffered being bumped into several times, we gave up and pottered around for 10 minutes or so in the shallow bit with Victor and Ken, who seemed to have come to a similar conclusion. However, as 10 minutes is the maximum time permitted to be below 20m, we just had to bide our time before everyone else came up and we could descend ourselves. The most interesting thing with all those people expelling all that air in a confined space was that it so reduced the water pressure in the pit that it created a significant current pulling us towards the pit.

This was followed by a stroll round Brussels, people variously visiting art galleries, museums, finding a nice lunch somewhere, before we all met up again at the Gare du Midi for a smooth journey back to St Pancras, disregarding the tedium of having to go through UK Border Control twice!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Instructor Foundation Course, 3rd & 4th November 2012

by Victor Grayson & Ken Gordon

Twenty-eight divers, including Ken and Victor from Bermondsey BSAC, gathered at Trinity School, Croydon, not – as might be assumed – to learn to speak proper, but for a two-day Instructor Foundation Course, the first step in BSAC’s instructor training.
The day started well – there was a catering truck, breakfast room, make-up trailers and wardrobe all laid on in time for our arrival at 8.45am. It was almost as if we’d walked into a telly set. Most importantly, the heating was on and the front doors were open. Sadly, we soon discovered that there was indeed a TV crew on site that day making a pilot for a Sky sitcom and that no, the catering wasn’t for us.

After following the BSAC signs around this labyrinthine, well-resourced private school, we found our instructor trainers, classrooms and classmates. Attendees were from various London branches, or came from more exotic places such as Southampton and even Switzerland. Everyone was qualified to at least Sports Diver level, but people’s range of experience varied significantly – among us were seasoned divers, people from university branches, and school kids from Trinity School’s own dive club.

The excellent (and slightly Eddie Izzard-ish) Ben Thompson from Exeter branch was leading the course, assisted by seven instructor trainers. The day began appropriately with a look at what makes a good instructor, and how people learn. Next we were given lectures on planning, preparing and presenting a diving theory lesson, and a demonstration of a well-done 10-minute lecturette. After watching a video explaining how to conduct a practical lesson, we broke up into groups of four students (and an instructor trainer) to plan our own attempts at a theory lecturette and pool lesson, which we’d be delivering the following day. The last main activity of the day involved us moving to the school’s pool, and each group’s instructor trainer conducting a short lesson (on rescue breaths) which we then assessed and discussed before spending a further hour in the water, seeing how various skills can be taught – this itself was revealing to those of us who’d crossed over from PADI and hadn’t done the Ocean Diver pool lessons, or who’d learnt certain variations of each skill in our clubs.

We went home with heads filled of useful acronyms/mnemonics – SEEDS, STEP, REAP, PAVE etc. Our evening in Peckham involved a takeaway curry, marker pens and syllabus summaries, all put to good use as the fireworks went off outside. Homework done, Ken went off to find props for his theory lesson, and an early-ish night was necessary.

Beginning with another pool session on Sunday, we delivered our practical lessons in the same small groups we formed yesterday, each time reviewing what we’d got right and what we’d change, and getting very useful feedback from our fellow students and instructor trainers. Ken’s lesson was on snorkel surface dives (or rather, waving your legs about above the surface), while Victor attempted to teach buoyancy, which went well despite running over time.

Back in the classrooms, we bravely took off our coats (the heating was off) to deliver the 10-minute theory lecturettes we’d prepared the night before, with a lot of what we’d learnt yesterday making sense and proving useful when put into practise. After lunch and the last lectures and group work (on open water lessons, which covered everything from how-to-teach-in-poor-visibility to what-to-do-if-your-students-are-distracted-by-Manta-Ray-in-Wraysbury), we were done. Congratulations and thanks were dished out, as were Assistant Diving Instructor logbook stickers, and some healthy networking went on before home time.

This course is well worth doing. We got a lot out of it, there were plenty of laughs, we now have a huge amount of ideas and resources to make use of in future lessons (much of it contained in the comprehensive instructor’s manual and CD-ROM), the instructor trainers were excellent, and the entire course was a brilliant confidence-booster and provided a thorough grounding in the essentials of diving instruction.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Buckland Training Trip, 7th October 2012

by Victor Grayson

With lots of us needing to get wet again before the end of the dive season, a trip to the lake was in order. Brett was the organiser. This time we opted for Buckland Dive Centre ( ), hoping for better visibility than we had on our last lake trip. 12 divers (plus 2 non-divers) were on this trip, some having been on the eventful Shoreham dives the day before.

Everyone had different reasons for diving today - some of us continued our Ocean Diver and Sports Diver training, Ken was refining his kit configuration and buoyancy, and others just wanted to get some practice in and build their confidence in the water. Sally, Mariette and Victor concentrated on compass navigation and DSMB deployment. Lee, Navneet, Jill, Grant the younger, Steve, Bjørn and Rajan also dived.

Buckland is easy enough to find from our side of London (take the A2, then follow the signs that say "Brett"!). Entry is £10 per diver, and cylinder fills were £5. The kitting up area was well organised - Bermondsey BSAC were allocated an area with proper benches and enough space for everyone. The dive centre's dog happily accepted tummy rubs from any willing donor.

The visibility proved to be good enough - 5 metres in some places, so that the site's various underwater features were easy to find. The famous shark, however, was away being repaired (as it was when we were last here in March), and the site map on the pontoon needed updating - this created some confusion underwater! 

Supreet was celebrating her birthday today, and (with Rashi) brought amazing food to share with the club, which was very much appreciated.

The sun shone for most of the day (as it always does when we come here), and we were home by 4.30pm. A successful trip.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Club Committee Meeting - 13th September 2012 - Notes

The club committee got together on Thursday, 13 September, to discuss and review training, the dive calendar and other ongoing activities.
Thank you to those the provided feedback on topics that should be discussed and activities considered.

  • The club will acquire a new (2nd hand) stab for trainee use
  • A rescue skills review session will be organised as a pool session. ALL club members are encouraged to join the session to make sure all divers have buddies that are up to date and in shape with their rescue skills
  • Booster theory sessions will be organised to cover off multiple lessons in one sitting - for Ocean as well as Sports Divers (dates tbc)
Dive Calendar 2012 & 2013
  • As it was non-official club trip, the outstanding Scapa payment will not be subsidised by the club. Info will be communicated to relevant members
  • The dive site survey from earlier in the year will be used as the basis for bookings in 2013
  • In 2013 we'll aim to have at least one Ocean Diver and one Sports Diver+ dive per month (within the season)
  • Some members might be asked to help arrange official club dives for 2013 to share the workload
  • A club dive is defined as a dive that has been identified as a favourite amongst members through the survey, meets training requirements and diver abilities and fits the tides and date availability. These dives are determined by the committee. Where a non-committee member is asked to help with arrangements, it will still be a club dive and will be listed on the Dive Calendar. Only official club dives will be subsidised in case of shortfall of numbers
  • The west coast of Scotland is being considered as a club holiday trip in 2013
Other bits
  • We're looking to book out an entire Indian restaurant for the Xmas meal. Details to follow
  • If anyone has a mobile to donate for the club phone, please let us know? (we have an O2 simcard)
  • A second Litterpick session will be organised in Canada Water on October 14th - ALLWELCOME
  • Any donations of lead weights and masks would be greatly appreciated

Comments and suggestions welcome.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Underwater Litterpick - 2nd September 2012

by Jill Nicholls and Bjorn Gale


All in all it was an excellent day to pick up underwater litter. Spirits were high as we descended upon and then into Canada Water.

There was an undercurrent of excitement as to what would come up from the depths first. Not surprisingly it was a shopping trolley, much decayed and covered in algae. Lots of people stopped to see what was happening and watch the litter be pulled from the water. I think my favourite part of the day was when a little boy was introduced to the crayfish, probably seeing one up close for the first time.


Firstly I'd just like to say what fun! When I first heard about it I knew I had to get involved as it is all excellent experience and as a novice diver I want to gain as much as possible. I also wanted to experience the other side to diving. Diving with a mission or agenda to serve a practical purpose other than just for pleasure. The atmosphere was buzzing and most of the club turned up to support. it was also fun to speak to passers by who were all very interested in what was going on.

The water was warm, but descending only a few metres the visibility quickly started to diminish. When we were close to the bottom the temperature suddenly dropped and the visibility went from little to zero! Quite un-nerving I have to say, thank goodness for the sturdy rope to hang on to. I even experienced a gassy, fomenting gunky smell at the bottom  too, even through a mask! We dived for about 50 minutes and we managed to retrieve a shopping trolley, a stack of cones, planks of scrap wood, metal and bags of tin cans and a shopping basket. A highlight was Brett catching a massive cray fish. We kept it in a bucket and it drew lots of attention. We let it go at the end.

Great experience with Bermondsey BSAC, would definitely do it again.

It Started out as Salcombe... - 25-27th August 2012

by Ken Gordon and Jane Jackson

Saturday by Ken
Saturday on the dive formally know as Salcombe...
Off to N50°20'56.67" W3°34'38.47" (aka Dartmouth harbour office steps...) we go, 105 of Dagenham's best horses dragging two sets of dive kit up hills almost at walking pace.
In Dartmouth various members of bsac42 leap out of a waterside breakfast place and point us the correct way.
The boat is blue and quite cosy, very much a squash and a squeeze.
Once all the kit has been shoehorned into place all the drivers are thrown off to make more room or maybe to park *on the other side of the river* we motor across to pick them up on the Kingswear side.
The first dive was a low reef off Tinsey Head, a bit north of Start Point and offering a good view of the lighthouse.
The bottom, about 15 to 18m, was a mixture of boring sand with the odd scallop and more interesting rock formations. These were like slate on edge, rising maybe a meter or so, with lots of long thing gullies to hide in. Hiding was further aided by the poor vis, maybe a couple of metres. There were plenty of crabs, mostly swimming ones but a couple of medium sized edible ones too. A few small fish were hanging about but mostly the game of not losing your buddy occupied the mind. It couldn't have been too bad though, we lasted about 40 minutes before starting back for the surface.
After some hours trying to figure out how to get the less liquid fraction of chicken soup out of a mug while motoring north back towards Dartmouth we jumped in for the second dive. This was on an underwater pinnacle lying between a couple of sets of rather pointy and upright rocks on the north side of the river mouth.
The bottom is in the twenty somethings, we saw 19, and the top about 10. This was rather like diving a wreck life wise, with the usual pouting and pollock appearing as silhouettes in the mixed vis, dead mens fingers and some great anemones. The vis varied from "ooops where has she gone?" to maybe 3m. Despite the rubbish vis this was a good dive, we managed nearly fifty minutes, and would be excellent dive in better conditions.
The grey but calm day had deteriorated to a grey an blowy day, so getting out was more of fairground ride than usual. Since we were close to home it didn't take long to get back in, get air, go to the pub etc...
Sunday by Jane
Arrived in Dartmouth Harbour at 8.00 am, and the place was already buzzing. A much more pleasant day, sun was shining and much of Dartmouth seemed to be taking the opportunity to get into their boats and yachts, the gig racing heats had started before we left the harbour, as a prelude to the following weekend’s Dartmouth Regatta.
First dive of the day was on an old collier the Bretagne which sank in 1918. The wreck is around 250ft (70m) in length and lies in about 30m of water, about 5 miles east of Torquay. The shot line was well sited on the wreck and Brett and I made an easy descent to the upper deck of the wreck. As with all the dives of the weekend, the visibility was poor, but might have been the best of the four, at about 3m for most of the time. The wreck actually looked like a ship, not just the usual hunks of strewn metal so often found. It was also very popular with fish, although I failed to see any congers, which several buddy pairs spotted, there were more fish mainly pouting and pollock on this wreck (albeit spotted through the gloom) than I’ve seen in UK waters – which explained the presence of anglers over the wreck and the odd bits of filament and angling weights caught up on the wreck. Swam between decks coming up beside a pulley encrusted on to the deck. Swam over the side and came across several edible crab in the crevices caused by the degradation of the wreck. Brett found a good sized lobster but couldn’t persuade it out of its hidey-hole. There were several types of anemone together with dead man’s fingers. Made our way back to the shot line, and used it to ascend, making the usual safety stop at 6m.
The second dive site was back towards Dartmouth at the Mewstone (there seems to be several of these – certainly one near Plymouth, and I guess is a name given to rocks offshore frequented by sea birds). The tedium of the journey was enlivened by lots of sea birds, particularly gannets diving/plummeting into the water and the wind was also beginning to pick up a bit so it was more bouncy. We anchored in the shelter of the Mewstone and soup was served (an interesting variation on pulse and smoked meat) lentil, I think, and smoked sausage.
The Mewstone was formed of a ridge of rock square to the land, which continued in a curve under water for some distance. The top of the ridge was some 11-8m deep and landward side descended to about 20 m, with the seaward down to at least 30m. The shot was on the landward side. Brett and I descended down the shot, tracking the ridge away from the Mewstone on the landward side. Briefly popping over to the seaward side, before tracking the top of the ridge back into the shelter of the Mewstone. There was not so much life here as there had been in the morning, but lots of small starfish and a few pieces of soft coral, together with several spider crab. Made a more rapid ascent than was desirable, and Brett followed shortly afterwards.
On the journey back to Dartmouthit was clear that the wind had continued to pick, but fortunately it was only a short journey back to Dartmouth. However, during the course of the journey the skipper checked the shipping forecast and informed us that the following day would be force 5-7, southerlies – and therefore with the wind blowing straight on to land, no sheltered spots along the coast for diving the next day.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Holborough Lakes (T)raining Day - 14th July 2012

by Victor Grayson

Saturday saw 17 of us trot down the road to Holborough Lakes for a day of training. There were 5 Ocean Diver trainees, 4 Sports Diver trainees, 6 instructors and Sally who came along simply to get some dives in (but ended up joining in with the SD trainees, doing rescue skills), and a guest appearance was put in by long-lost diver and former Club Treasurer Anna.

Brett had organised the day into 4 sessions. First, OD trainees got in the water to do the basic skills (mask clearance, DV retrieval etc) that they’d already practiced in the pool, while SD trainees were shown how to use a compass in a dry practical with Kim. The remaining 3 sessions alternated wet and dry, with OD trainees (Bjorn, Grant, Nav, Raj and Tom) ticking off various skills, and SD trainees getting familiar with Resusci Annie and her terrifying clicking sternum.

The 2 SD dives (sessions 2 and 4) were eventful due to the very bad visibility. The lake was especially busy with several clubs and schools present that morning, resulting in rather a lot of silt being kicked up and visibility ranging from practically zero to a metre or 2 towards the far end of the lake. This meant repeated loss of buddy/instructor/orientation, but Adam and Victor managed a successful compass navigation from a platform to a wreck, and all SD trainees (including Alan and Elaine, now in re-tailored drysuits) completed a Controlled Buoyant Lift followed by a very tiring tow with rescue breaths. We were knackered, yet inspired by Brett’s rousing “you’ve-got-it-easy-I-had-to-tow-Ross-in-a-howling-gale-in-the-Atlantic-whilst-being-attacked-by-albatrosses-and-all-I’d-had-for-lunch-was-a-handful-of-hot-gravel” speech.

It rained, but as it was warm and not windy, it was tolerable, although our kit got pretty muddy. We were all packed up and (vehicle problems aside) ready to go at 2.30pm.

Big thanks to the instructors – Kim, Brett, Mariette, Lars, Ed and Steve – for their patience and for giving up their Saturday for a murky but fun day out in Kent.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Committee Meeting - 20 June 2012

On Wednesday, June 20th, the club committee had a meeting to discuss ongoing training, kit status, the dive calendar, etc.

  • We reviewed the Equipment Rental agreement: all Ocean Divers have access to club kit as long as they are in training. Once qualified, all members are subject to a kit rental fee. (see the Equipement Rent Form and the T&Cs on our website).
  • With limited club kit availability for open water dives, each member will only be able to rent one cylinder per days' diving
  • As part of ongoing kit reviews and upkeep, most of the kit have been serviced for this season
Dive Calendar
  • The Nemo 33 trip (Brussels) has been scheduled for November 17th & 18th - this promises to be a good weekend trip, so all are welcome!
  • Going forward, all members will be included in organising the club dive calendar. The recent survey provided good insight into the majority's preferences, so this will be used as a reference for the 2013 dive calendar
  • BSAC's Litterpick project seem like a good potential club activity - we're exploring options
  • We're looking into options for a Summer BBQ - suggestions welcome!
  • A Rescue Skills Review night will be arranged one Wednesday night - ALL members will be encouraged to attend
Strange how a 3h meeting can be summed up in a few lines...

Let us know if you have any questions.  

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Scapa Flow June 3rd -8th 2012

Four members from the branch (myself; Brett; Ken and Eddie), were joined by 5 members from other BSAC branches (Dave Porter from DAGSAC; Serge Weinstock from Clidive; Mike Tonge and Cat Burgess from Hellfins; Mary-Ann Craig from BSAC Direct) to dive Scapa Flow and the Outer Islands over the diamond jubilee weekend……

We all travelled up on the Friday, with a stay overnight in Inverness, with the final leg to Scrabster to catch the ferry to Stromness.
I was picked up at 5.00am Friday morning by Brett in the car. The planned estate car was replaced with a saloon car, so some economical packing was required. Fortunately we were hiring cylinders from the boat, so both space and weight was saved, but with two lots of dive kit and luggage the car quickly filled up……, and we still needed to pack one more passenger.

Arriving in North London at 5.45, we picked up Mary-Ann, who fortunately packed light, we got everything in the car and headed north up the M1; M6 and M6 toll; so by 9.00am we were near Manchester.

With a rotation of drivers, we arrived at the Tullibardine distillery halfway between Stirling and Perth at 13.15 with a tour booked for 14:00. It really didn’t take much discussion before a “trip” bottle was bought…!

With a scenic tour via Fort William we arrived at the B&B in Inverness a little after 19:00.

The Saturday morning, following a hearty Scottish breakfast, we all set off to Scrabster….!
Arriving in Stromness at 13.00 on the Saturday it was a short drive to the MV Valkyrie, rated one of the best liveaboard dive charter boats in the world. Luggage loaded and kit assembled; we were ready to go!

DAY 1 - Sunday

SMS Karlsruhe
A light cruiser of the Konigsburg II-class.  It lies on its starboard side and was in approximately 28m metres of water. Visibility was very good being in excess of 10m. Much of the ship has been damaged by salvage operations with several salvage breaks, but the remaining parts still contain many interesting features with an intact stern section complete with anchor capstans and the anchor.

F2 and YC21 barge –This dive consists of descending the shot line to the YC21 barge that was used in salvage operations which sank in a storm in 1968, which while significantly smaller was almost more interesting. With easy penetration to the cabin, a frame that contains part of a mirror is still mounted on the wall. The holds still contain a gun salvaged from the F2 as well as also containing the winch engines and a generator.  A line across the seabed takes you to the F2. The F2 was a torpedo recovery vessel and never really took part in any action and isn’t part of the German fleet that was scuttled, it sank in 1946. The boat lies on its port side in 18m of quite cold water. Visibility was very good being in excess of 10m. The wreck has also been extensively salvaged around the stern. Unrecognisable wreckage lies strewn all over the sea bed. The bridge structure is quite intact and the mainmast still lies across the seabed. On the foredeck there is a well preserved 4 inch gun turret with its breech mechanism exposed for inspection by the interested diver. Anchor chains are clearly visible as are the paraphernalia of cleats and capstans.

The afternoon saw us off exploring some of the Neolithic heritage with a long walk from the Stones of Stenness, the nearby Neolithic  Barnhouse settlement discovered in 1984 and then to the large diameter Ring of Brogdar….

DAY 2 - Monday
SMS Dresden
Lying on her port side the seabed was at 27m at the bow and 38m at the stern she rests  on its starboard side, it is almost intact. With both a stern and bow shot line, we descended the shot line on the stern, which was attached to the rear guns near the officer's quarters where even the bath is still fitted.  

The hull itself is relatively intact apart from salvage damage around the engine room, with the bridge structure still intact. At the bow, the shield (which would have been painted) is still attached to the hull just at the bow.  

Seydlitz debris field - The Seydlitz was fully salvaged, but debris remains over the depression where the ship lay. However a current saw this change to a drift dive which took us away from the wreck site, although we did come across the searchlight irises and the ship’s anchor.

The afternoon of Monday saw us off to visit the Maes Howe, a spectacular Neolithic chambered cairn built with layered stone slabs. Built some 5000 years ago it is older than the pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. It was occupied by the Vikings in the 12th Century as a shelter from a storm, where they carved “kilroy was here” type graffiti in their native runic writing.

DAY 3 - Tuesday
SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
One of the large Konig-class dreadnought battleships of the German Fleet that fought in the Battle of Jutland, it settled virtually upside-down on its starboard main deck in 38 metres of water. Much of the superstructure is buried in the seabed.

This wreck is enormous! Her hull, however, is relatively smooth and uncluttered. To get the most from this wreck you must get to the sea bed and work on alongside or in by descending off the port side of the hull. With about 4m between the port deck and the seabed this dive is not for beginners!

Along the gunwales are the casemate gun turrets - 7 per side. Although many are badly broken the forward two are still relatively intact.

Our dive was cut short when my 2nd regulator decided to provide 75% sea water with every breath.
SMS Brummer – A mine laying cruiser this lies on its starboard side in 34 metres of water we descended the shot line and then headed towards the stern.  The salvage break allowed entry into the coal hold.  Proceeding towards the bow another swim through along the mine tunnel with an exit hole.  With 25 minutes deco racked up, we ascended back up the shot line with total time underwater of 68 minutes.

Day 3 also saw the lighting of the Stromness Jubilee Beacon on Brinkie's Brae, the hill above the town. It was a bitterly cold evening, but warmed up considerable once lit. The evening ended with a beer in the pub.

DAY 4 - Wednesday
SMS Markgraf

Another of the dreadnought König-class battleships and was lying in 44m to the seabed almost upside down on her port side.  

My second dive of the day was aborted soon after jumping in with a free-flowing Octopus that wouldn't stop.

DAY 5 - Thursday

SMS Coln
The Coln is relatively intact light cruiser and sister ship to the SMS Dresden, with a single salvage break towards the stern. The shot line was attached to the lifeboat davits, and immediately went forwards where a large hole in the hull plates near the bow lead to a long swim-through. The armour control tower was evident along this route, where you could either go over or under the tower. Going under would be a far more dangerous penetration, so passing over the top we exited the swim through near the lifeboat davits where we started.  Proceeding to the stern past the salvage break aft guns were evident.

SMS Brummer – Weather was now playing a significant part in determining dive sites, with some really not diveable because of the sea state, hence a return visit to the SMS Brummer

DAY 6 - Friday
F2 and YC21 barge - The weather was quite stormy, and while the original plan was a return to the SMS Dresden, the sea state was too rough, we reverted to the more sheltered site of the F2 cruiser and YC21 barge.
The second dive of the day was called off due to the weather, so Plan B was put into operation – The Pub!

The end of Day 6 saw Brett, I and Mary-Ann, heading off to Kirkwall to catch the midnight ferry to Aberdeen, where with a berth booked we woke early on the Saturday morning to drive the long road home......

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Messing about on boats.....

On the evening of the 18th June, I was messing about with boats......

As a recent new member of the Maritime Volunteer Service based at the City of London unit near Tower Bridge, alongside Brett also, we get to practice boat handling, whether a RIB or a chance to play with their hardboat LD1.

Anyway back to the events of 18th June....

The RIB had been brought back to its Tower Bridge base earlier that day after being berthed in Putney for a few weeks. The task was to then drive the RIB back to Putney taking one of the earlier crew so he could pick up his car. Driving a RIB back up to Putney you are limited to 12 knot speed limit until you get to Wandsworth Bridge when the speed limit drops to 8 knots. Along the way you have to avoid the other much larger vessels such as the Thames Clipper or other pleasure craft.

Having successfully dropped the earlier crewman off at Putney, we turned around to head back to base, passing the various landmarks on the way.......

As we approached the Houses of Parliament, we ran out of fuel......which is not a good idea. We managed to avoid drifting into the exclusion zone outside parliament (special forces with guns are likely to be pointing them at you!), we drifted under Westminster bridge, while refuelling the tank from the gerry can......

Having then re-primed the system we tried to start the engine....NOTHING! The battery was flat?

By now, we are a hazard to the Thames Clipper who helpfully slow down to allow us to be tied on the their side and towed gently into the London Eye pontoon......

By now the word has reached the City of London unit, who thankfully had enough people to raise a crew for LD1 who came up river to tow us back......

The rescue from the London Eye pontoon.....

On the return to base, it was determined that actually it was the starter motor that was f*%ked...

 On the evening of the 18th June, I was messing about with boats......!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Another sunny day - Brighton 13th May

by Victor Grayson

Due to Eastbourne being blown out 2 weeks ago, our first dive of the year with Dagenham Sub Aqua Club (DAGSAC) saw us venture down to Brighton Marina, for 2 dives from the boat Brighton Diver II. Leaving London at a not-too-painful 7am, 4 of us joined 7 DAGSAC members for ropes away just before 10am. Paul was the skipper, and the boat was great: it had space, tea and a lift – 3 things that make any right-minded diver happy.

Although we had originally planned to dive the Pentrych wreck first (that was the site some of us visited on a recent trip from Shoreham, and had excellent visibility), we instead travelled further out to dive a wreck (or wrecks?) whose identity is/are uncertain, but which is/are known by many divers as the City of London. When we arrived, the boat Buccaneer was already there – skippered by Chris with Dave, that’s the boat we went out with from Shoreham the other week.

Descending using a line, there were no problems finding the wreck(s), which cover a fairly large area and which is/are very broken up. We reached depths of around 24 metres, seeing edible crab, starfish, anemone, soft coral and lots of bib, as well as beautiful shimmering pollock towards the end of the dive. We had been forewarned about the visibility, but 3 metres still let us see plenty. Unfortunately, due to a lack of a properly fitting suit, Elaine had to sit out this dive. Ken, Alan and I formed a buddy trio, and DAGSAC members buddied up to match experienced and less experienced divers (including one diver doing her first dip in British sea water). We ascended a little messily with a DSMB, clocked 34 minutes in the water, and got back on board using the boat’s lift.
The second dive – which Alan didn’t do, and in fact slept through it in the cabin – was a drift along an apparently un-named ridge just south of Brighton. The ridge was more or less a continuous 9.5 metre depth, although we could go off into deeper areas along the way (but didn’t, as we feared the kraken). Visibility wasn’t great – 1 metre, possibly 1.5 in places, but we still came across a plaice and other fish. The most impressive thing we saw was the tail of a large conger eel, and – in another hole further long – it’s very wide body, however we couldn’t find a third hole with its head. During the dive Ken and I couldn’t understand why our DSMB was being pulled in the opposite direction to the current – later on, over lunch, we learnt that it had become entangled with a DAGSAC DSMB, which eventually had to be abandoned (but was later retrieved on the surface). Sorry, DAGSAC – we had no idea! After a 28 minute dive, exit from the water was less fun as the waves had begun to pick up, but there were no real problems, thanks to the boat’s lift.

Elaine – full of the energy that us weary divers lacked – unloaded all of our kit onto the jetty, and heroically carried a cylinder at least some of the way to and from The Brighton Dive Centre for filling. Whilst that was being done, the 4 of us went to eat outside, overlooking the marina, with the sun still shining. Some of now have pink foreheads (the only lobster we saw today). On the way home we visited Ken’s friends in Brighton, and got home around 8pm.

It was great to meet Gillian and the rest of the friendly bunch from DAGSAC, the dives were fun, the boat was great, the weather was AMAZING, and the lunch hit the spot. A grand day out.

Divefest Lite! - 5-7th May

We did it again! Despite Divefest being cancelled earlier in the year due to sponsorship issues the event still went ahead with a slightly reduced supplier base but the diving and entertainment were still top notch.

We managed 3 days of diving although Monday got cancelled as the weather looked like it was going to be bad so the hard boats went home.

Despite that we had a great trip and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves with a couple of people getting their first sea dives in.

Bjorn's Report
The boat set off at 1pm, the tide was low so the boat was quite a way down off the quayside. This meant all kinds of wizardry was needed to get 24 cylinders and all the other gear down safely. There were some big swells in the sea so we needed to ensure our cylinders were well secured. We travelled to the first dive site, which was a reef. My buddy Clive was briefing me on what was going to happen during the dive. Safety procedures to follow if we got separated and what was going to happen at the end of the dive regarding the DSMB.
We got our equipment ready and performed our buddy check. When we reached the site, pairs of divers exited the rear of the boat. I took a large stride into the water and swam over the marker buoy. I got a rush of cold across my back and I realised that in the heat of the moment I forgot to zip up my suit! It was too late to do anything about that so I just had to suck it up. We gave each other the OK signal followed by the descend signal and we went down following the rope to the bottom.
We reached the bottom which was at a depth of about 20 metres. I had added 2kg to compensate for the extra buoyancy of the sea, but felt that I was quite heavy and took me a while to become neutral. There was a reasonable current and we were being drifted across the reef. The visibility was much better than I expected at about 8-10 metres. It was a very peaceful and relaxing dive considering my semi-dry suit was undone and I didn't really fall victim to the cold nearly as much as I anticipated. We saw spider crabs walking about, various corals and some beautiful fish. We even found a scallop which we kept for eating later. We regularly acknowledged each other with the OK signal and regular updates on my air supply.

When my air reached 100 bar we stopped, Clive unrolled his DSMB, handed me the reel and began filling it with air. When it got enough lift He let go and it shot up to the surface. We ascended up the cable towards our 6m safety stop. As the air expanded we got lighter meaning we had to dump air out along the way, but i was unfamiliar with this BCD and the dump was very short. I couldn't find it quickly enough and at approx 8 metres I shot to the surface.
Clive came up to about 3-4 metres and told me to descend, which I did, back down to 6 metres. We stayed here as long as we could (10 minutes) to prevent any DCI. Then we reached the surface where we waved the signal to the boat, which came and retrieved us. When we both got back on board we debriefed and Clive decided against doing the second dive as a safety precaution.
All in all it was a very enjoyable dive which I thought went generally very well. Two things I have learnt from this dive is always remember to do up your suit! Secondly, be much more ready to respond quickly to buoyancy on the ascent.
Peter's Report
I enjoyed my first two dives at Dive Fest 2012 and how different they were. My first dive was like a fun dive, the second dive was more instructive. My first time out in a small boat, which was moving all over the place, was ok. When standing I found riding the movement of the boat with your knee’s helpeed, or being on my hands and knees.
On my first dive I had taken a little too long to jump in as the boat was still moving and I guess moving further away from the buoy. Once in the water my buddy (Clive) and I OK'd each other and went down. About 10 meters down I did a buoyancy check and went diving. We saw lots of Hermit Crabs, Spider Crabs, Wrasse and a mix of Ballan Wrasse,  lovely blue florescent fishes.
My second dive, I was in a lot quicker and together with my buddy (Kim) went down. I was surprise to find so much seaweed, was not sure if I could touch it, which made me take a little longer to sort out my buoyancy. I stayed very close to my buddy whilst he explored the dark areas with his torch, diving through the seaweed checking under small cliff rocks and under debris.  We saw Wrasse and a mix of Ballan Wrasse and Corkwing Wrasse, Spider Crabs and Edible Crabs. Also various anemones around and within the boiler. By now I was down to 100 bars of air and it was time to head home.
Two great dives which will be add to my experience of diving. I would like to thank Clive and Kim for my day and to thank all that were there on the day.
Can't wait for next year!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Swanage Weekend - 14th-15th April

Swanage Weekend - bring your own weather!

by Ken, Chris, Elaine, Alan, Colin and Grant

As this was such a group effort for all involved, rather than telling the story myself I decided to ask some of the folks on the weekend for their contribution.  The result may be quite long but stay with it as it really is a snapshot of what people got out of the trip.  All told it was a great trip and I'd just like to thank all those who took part for making it worthwhile.

Next time I might edit it a bit but on this occasion its live and unadulterated. 

Day 1 - Ken - Assistant Dive Manager for Saturday

Having arrived early Friday evening we dropped off our stuff at the B&B and walked for a good 2 minutes to a handy pub. There we met most of the rest of the group for a couple of beers and something to eat. 

Saturday morning started pretty early (for drivers – passengers got to have a nice lie in), with memories of the August pier queue.  However I found that I was fourth in the queue and Brett was second. I might have stayed in bed a bit longer…  Once the pier opened we moved our cars on and returned to the B&B for breakfast, Brett gate crashing our B&B.

After a unhealthy breakfast we all wandered back down to the pier for a 9am ‘ropes off’. Being assistant dive “manager” I got to have a clipboard equipped with soon to be damp bits of paper and a pen and the pleasure of hassling everyone to tell me how much air they had.  By the second dive I was asking people to remember how much they had started with so I could write it down after the dive.

We all kitted up and dragged our kit up close to the boat. It might have been better to do that in the other order. Then the time came to get the kit on the boat, find a space and head on out. The briefing followed a little way off and then we were heading out to the Valentine Tanks. At this point we all needed to get our kit on and sorted, at the same time as writing down the air, times in etc. Richard followed me in and to the shot managing to neither be left behind or land of my head, which was a bonus. Down the line we went and had a good bimble about - finding the resident conger hiding under the tank – then moving on to the other tank along the line between them. Vis was ok but not startling and we did meet some traffic coming the other way. After another bimble we returned to the first tank had a bit more of a look and went back up the shot after about half an hour underwater.

Once back on the surface we go back on the boat feeling pretty happy that all had gone well and having had a nice dive. Now Brett and various others were not looking so happy. Colin had had his shiny new regs dump all his air, meanwhile Brett’s camera had gone awol and Jane had lost a weightbelt. Many turned down mouths… The skipper tells everyone to leave a note with the shop in case anything is found another day.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse overnight and so the other divers due to be on Spike between our two dives had been cancelled. This gave us the luxury of leaving our kit on the boat while having a bite to eat and warming up a little and getting fills.
The second dive was the Peveril Ledges drift, which was much better than in August. We stayed on the rocky stuff most of the time, seeing a few crabs, a dog fish and the odd lobster. There was a reasonable tide and a good time was had by most of us. This time I really did get people to remember their air in and then collected up air in and out afterwards. The weather was getting a little bit more weathery by now. With something of a wind and a slight chop having made the lift a bit more of a game.

After we were back on the pier a hardy few went in again almost immediately for the benefit of ticking of skills. We finned out to the pier with a plan to swim along the piles and do some exercises down the end followed by some towing back to tick off rescue skills. However the vis was comically poor. Navigation was by following the shadow of the pier – bright green being to far right, dark green too far left and black being when you bang your head on a pile. Nobody was going to be able to tell whether there were any trainees there, let along whether they had cleared their masks etc, so we gave up and returned to the steps being towed by now somewhat cold trainees.
Out we got, finally getting dry and warm, filling up with air for the morning. Next back to the B&B for a rest followed by an evening of food and beer.
Day 2 - Chris - Assistant Dive Manager for Sunday

After arriving on the pier early to secure the best parking spots (and being the first group on the pier for 2 hours), we kitted up and boarded Spike for a dive at the Fleur De Lys. With the sun out today, those of us in semi-dry and wetsuits didn’t suffer from the cold quite so much.

The Fleur De Lys is fairly broken up at a depth of around 13-14m and gave the chance to get some distance line practice in. Some chose to exit following the shot line at the wreck and a few of us moved away and explored the surrounding seabed exiting on a DSMB.

For the second day running we had the boat to ourselves for the day, so after a quick return to the pier for air fills we set off around the bay to do a drift dive called ‘The Lighthouse’. At a depth of between 10-14m (although the skipper mention mid-twenties which were not to be found this time) we all descended and drifted for around a mile exploring the rocky ledges. Several people sighted crabs, lobster and Ken found a golf ball. Most importantly Victor reached his hundredth dive.

After de-kitting and finally getting warm again, the weekend was finished off with fish and chips!

Elaine and Alan - 1st Bermondsey Dive and 1st UK Sea Dive
Alan and I were very excited on our first ever dive with the club this season, and set off for Swanage bright and early at 3.30am on Saturday morning. We aimed to be queueing for a carpark space at 6.30am only to discover our first hitch at 6.15am when we realised that our sat-nat has taken us to the Sandbanks ferry crossing (which was shut at this hour)! Off we went the long way round finally breathing a sigh of relief and arriving around 6.55am.

Having borrowed some "semi-dry suits" from the shop (which seemed to us to be 7mm and 5mm thick 2-piece wet suits! As we managed to fill up the suits with cold water as soon as we jumped off the boat J Awesome!) we set up our equipment and went on our first dive at Valentine Tanks! There are two tanks linked together by a rope underwater and although visibility was not great, we saw some sea life that was completely unafraid of us! Oh yea, we spotted a large conger eel under the tank! Its head was at least a metre in length where Alan tried to poke its head with his BARE HANDS!!  

Unfortunately the lack of sleep, cold and seasickness caught up with me so I didn't do the rest of the dives in the afternoon, opting for a really long hot shower and a really nice nap in a really warm bed. Alan did say however that he enjoyed being the "victim" for the peer dive helping to train the ocean divers,and that he had caught a huge crab with tiny claws on his drift dive only to put it down to try and grab some scallops and realising that he had drifted too far away to grab the crab floating halfway in the water again! (He has now vowed to get a bag for his hauls on drift dives so nothing can escape!)

On Sunday we had a good night's rest, lovely full English breakfast at the B and B and went for the Fleur De Lys, a sunken fishing boat. This was a chance to test our skills with a reel and unsurprisingly mine got stuck! Lesson learnt - bring a huge reel! Alan managed to go around the whole boat with Brett but he also vowed to get a big reel as it was a nightmare trying to wind back the small reel!!!!! The 8 degrees temperature of the water didn’t help at all!!

The drift dive in the afternoon was also very relaxing, where we spotted starfish, lots of rocks and weeds on the bottom and occasionally other sea life! I also learnt a lesson here, when your air is hovering at 160 bar after your first dive, don't play the fool and go re-fill it so that you give yourself the maximum time underwater! Alan got disappointed as he didn’t find any scallops nor edible crabs when this time Brett did have a bag with him!

My final thoughts - British seas are really choppy and cold! Next time we will be prepared with our brand new dry suits (Yes! No more wet AND cold feeling), probably some seasickness pills, actually bring the huge reel underwater and not the teeny tiny one, and we will try to get there the night before the first dive for some much needed rest!
Hope to see you there on our next dive together!

Colin - 1st Sea Dive

I must of experienced every emotion & feeling over the course of the weekend, lows & highs; failure, disappointment, achievement & accomplishment. Worry, stress, panic, confusion & why?! Calm, peace, tranquillity, enjoyment & utter adrenaline! There were occasional frowns, even a grumpy outburst or two, but plenty of smiles :-) Looking back, the odd chuckle too. Would I do this again? Absolutely, it was AWESOME & I can't wait for Eastbourne & The Great Diving Getaway! Special thanks to Brett & of course everybody else.
Grant - 1st Sea Dive

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Easter Weekend Swanage Trip - 7th April

It's Easter weekend and we're not diving!  What is going on?

That was the thought that ran through my head when i finally worked out Easter was coming up!  Unfortunately by that time most people already had plans which meant that it was probably going to be me, myself and I and threesomes can be problematic!

However, to the rescue came Clive and Steve who were equally up for a dive over the weekend sometime.

We decided on Swanage as, despite its distance, its fairly easy to do as you ring up, book a space and then turn up.  The weather looked like it could be ok so it was all systems go.

Steve collected me at 3:40 and then we tore off to Clive's to find him loading up the car ready to go, although without any bacon butties.

Clive, can we get it in the car?
As expected the roads where fairly quiet and we got down to Swanage and ended up 5th or 6th in the queue.  We were then treated to 2 car loads of muppets who decided to join the queue in reverse and when the gats opened they actually reversed all the way down the pier...right up to the point where the banksman stopped them for us to do a three-point-turn and reverse into a tidy little space by the shop.  the expressions on their faces was priceless.

The Railway Children
We had a fair bit of time before the dive so we went up the road for a wander and were inexorably drawn to the railway station where we paused for some quiet reflection and pictures of the steam crane.  Then it was back to the Seagull cafe for a coffee and finally a bacon buttie.

Around 9:00 we started kitting up and were at the end of the pier ready to load onto the Skua at about 9:15 (yes a little bit early) for our 10:00 trip.  We loaded the boat and it ended up with 12 of us, 2 rebreathers and the rest on singles.

Steve and Clive waving at the camera!
It was a short trip out to the Kyarra and then we were in!  I can only say at this point that I'm glad that Steve and Clive had yellow and orange suits on respectively.  Otherwise we'd all have been diving solo. we got to the wreck together only because we went down the same shot but at the bottom the viz was about a metre although it was a very short, dirty metre.  We had a good bimble around but it seemed that even the fish weren't up for it as there was very little life free swimming, it was all sheltering under the plates and wreckage, nearly ever piece of plate we looked under had something hiding under it.

We held out for 30 odd minutes and then decided it really wasn't going to improve so headed up.  Once on the boat, freezing cold (wind had picked up) and contemplating a drift in similar viz we decided not to do the second dive and just get some lunch.

All told the day was a good laugh and as we all know a day with a dive is better than one without!