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!

Friday, 13 April 2012

The strategy of organising Branch Diving within Bermondsey 42

This is a document to describe to the wider membership the strategy adopted for branch diving this current year, and hopefully for years to come....

Dive boats are booked firstly a year in advance in some cases. Rarely can boats be booked at the last minute. The odd dive spaces however often appear at the last minute on other clubs charters, but with a branch as active as ours we cannot operate that ad-hoc.

The criteria used are:

Tides – I will aim mainly for neaps. Some charters such as “Dive 125” out of Eastbourne helpfully provide information on whether the tide is flowing or ebbing, whether the surface interval will be a few hours of as many as 4 hours.

The day – Based on the above, I will also aim to provide a mix of day dives that will be Saturday's and Sunday's.

Somewhere different! - In order to keep things interesting, I will try out new boats. The "same old, same old" really doesn't inspire does it? It is not a valid argument either to state "we always go there". Diving should be a challenge. To see new sites, new wrecks, new reefs, new pubs even! Keeps things interesting!

Filling boats! - Historically we have never been good at filling boats. Sometimes we do, but over the past few years, it has only been bad weather with a skipper "calling it", that we have avoided some big losses. To mitigate this we tried a "joint venture" with Dagenham BASC last year. The year before that we booked some spaces on some RIBS. This year we have a number of boats where the limit is 8 rather than the normal 12. Next year, with more trainees ready to compete for dive spaces a different strategy again might be required.

Weekends – I will try and put some weekends in the mix too. This year, because of the Olympics we chose to avoid Weymouth, but a number of weekends have been booked.

We are returning to dive a long weekend at Mevagissey. Formerly known as DiveFest (now defunct), those going decided to make it work regardless. This is the 3rd year we have been there. In 2010, just 4 of us went. In 2011, there were 5, but this year 12 are going for 4 days of hard boat diving.

We are also committed to diving equally further afield in Salcombe over the August Bank Holiday. This is a new location, that will give access to some sites we reach from Plymouth, but a few new sites will be available too.

We also have two weekends in Swanage, but I’ll talk about those specifically below in the Training section.

Holidays – A branch tradition that was revived a good few years ago, with a branch trip to Malta. Followed by a couple of trips to the Red Sea, the Scilly Isles, with other private trips to Norway, Micronesia, the Orkney and Shetland Islands. A loosely applied logic is that destinations would alternate between a UK based location and a warmer clime location every year. This year a trip is organised to Scapa Flow (and probably wont be returning for a good few years). Next year, further trips are planned back to Micronesia and also to Antarctica.

Training – We are a vibrant club. Any visit to the pool on a Wednesday will be a witness to the activity that takes place. We have many trainees, some of whom have completed their pool training, some still undergoing. These will be the Diving Officers and Chairman's of the future. It has always been stated that maintaining a commitment to training is the lifeblood of any branch. We don't need to look too far afield to see branches that have given up on training and membership dwindles to nothing. Members move away and aren't replaced. Financial commitments change priorities. Bermondsey BSAC is approaching 56 years of existence and is looking more healthy now than ever. With a limited number of dive spaces available for trainees (after all half the spaces would need to be Dive Leaders!), we have booked a number of training weekends in Swanage. The Dive Leaders get their own decent dive first thing, with the remaining day filled with “get 'em wet” diving, whether by boat to an easy location or “under the pier”. With so many trainees a radical solution is needed. Some training day dives have also occurred at the nearby lakes of Kent.

Dives organised by others – I would firstly argue, why does it HAVE to be organised by the DO? The answer is that it doesn’t, but it is usually left as the “DO's job”. So if any diver wants to arrange there own diving that suits their own needs then GO FOR IT! All that matters is that the diving is organised to the level of competency of those going, and that the Code of Safe Diving Practices is followed, and the DO is advised. If you dont tell the DO, and ignore Safe Diving, then you are at risk of not being covered by the BSAC Insurance should something happen. It would also be helpful to not book anything that clashes with the branch list.

What the DO does not do! - The DO does not book dives to satify the needs of any particular individual.

What the DO does do! - The DO endeavours to achieve a balanced dive programme that reflects the needs of as broad a spectrum as can be achieved. The DO will never satisfy everybody....!

If anyone wants to repond with comments please do!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Diving from Shoreham 1st April 2012

by Kim Thomas and Pat Connelly

The day started sunny, but still quite cold outside with the external temperature sensor on my car reading 4 degrees C at 8am, when it was time to set off. However by the time we all arrived in Shoreham at 9.30, the sun had risen far enough in the sky to start improving the outside temperature.

It may have seemed like an April fools day joke when it appeared on the dive calendar but the day turned out to be anything but.

The Buccaneer is a new destination for us, and based at the Sussex Yacht Club in Shoreham along the coast between Brighton and Worthing, and a different part of the South coast to our usual haunts giving the chance to try some new wrecks. It isn’t a large boat, with bench seating on one side only. It became clear why the skipper limits the boat to 8 divers. In fact we were only 6, so we were able to test out the boat with relative ease.

Parking is “wherever you can between the boats”, with 2 trolleys available to transport kit down on to the pontoon and then onto the boat. “Ropes away” was at a leisurely pace at about 10:15 with tea and coffee being handed out. We met at the civilised hour of 10am, parking was right by the pontoon, and the sun was shining and the sea flat calm all day.

It was a “blast from the past” for Kim. The skipper Chris and his crew Dave were members of Brighton BSAC when he was also a member, so it was great to see them again after some 23 or so years.

We were given the safety briefing before we departed, including how to use the head and where the O2 set was….. We were also briefed on the skipper’s routine for the anchor. He uses a grapnel, and the first pair would use a piece of string at the end of the rope to tie the anchor line to the wreck. They would then unhook the anchor chain and send it up on a lifting bag. The subsequent pairs would come down the tied off rope.

The dive pairs would be Kim/Ken; Pat/Victor; with Barry and Maggie diving together.

After a short steam out we kitted up for the first dive on the “Pentrych”; sunk by U-Boat torpedo in 1918 in 21m of water. Jumping in with usual anticipation we were not disappointed. The first thing we all noticed on the “Pentrych” was the amazing viz which was well into double figures. You really could wander off and still see your buddy. With amazing viz you could really see the splendour of this wreck. It was stocked with plenty of fish life which with the sun shining offered some good photo opportunities. The wreck itself is broken up with the boilers exposed, ribs standing up in a few places and plates scattered about. The wreck is small enough to go around it twice in the 40 minute dive the viz being so good you could recognise where you were on the wreck

Barry brought up a crab (too small, so thrown back), and a nice Plaice. Pat brought up a bigger crab, but berried, so also thrown back too. A good few lobbies weren’t coming out to play.

After a short surface interval we dived on the inshore wreck of the “Miown”, a concrete barge. This was a trip down memory lane for Kim as this was his first ever sea dive in 1985. The wreck is very broken up and not really recognisable as such, with a few plates and lumps of concrete forming a new reef. The tide had turned and visibility was reduced to about 3m, life on the wreck is more of the small variety, starfish crabs and fan worms. After half an hour we called it a day and surfaced.

Once back in port a post dive de-brief was held in the conservatory of the yacht club where we all agreed that on April fools day the joke was on those who thought it was too early in the season as we had enjoyed what will be one of the best dives of the season.

Monday, 2 April 2012

LIDS 2012 - Maybe LIDS lite would have been a better title...

A good number of the club membership went to the London International Dive Show this year but after speaking to most of them the general consensus seems to be that it was a little sparse.

If you didn't get a chance to go then take a look at the picture and see for yourself but there just seemed to be a lot of space between the stands and the stands themselves were very small.  After speaking to a few of the exhibitors it seems the cost for a stand has gone up quite a bit.

There were some good presentations going on, Mark Powell talking about Solo Diving, Paul Rose (yes the bloke from TV) talking about his diving life and then various others ranging from filming Crocodiles in the water to How to win Photography competitions.

We did meet the skipper from the Newhaven boat we've booked for a couple of trips this year and he seems a really nice guy and I think we all got some ideas for where we could potentially dive next year as well.

The Southern Region team very kindly put some of our cards out on their table and quite a few went which is always a good sign.

There were a few bargains to be had and some of our newer members took advantage but after the success of the Big Scuba Show last year it just didn't seem to stand up.

What did you think?