Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Shoreham – 20th April 2013

by Jill

I woke up to a bright sunny day and was thankful as it seemed to be a pretty great day for a dive.

It wasn’t too early of a start and I was picked up by fellow BSAC 42 member Ed. The drive to Shoreham was uneventful and we arrived at the boatyard in plenty of time to haul our kit onto the boat using the trolleys provided. Two by two the other divers arrived and did the same. This dive consisted of 8 divers; Brett, Kim, Ed, Lars, Mariette, Chris and Pat. Soon enough it was time to ‘set sail’ at about 11.30 am.

The air temperature was still pretty chilly for late April and the wind picked up as we proceeded along the channel to open water.

Our Skipper Chris was on his own today with his first mate having suffered an injury. Chris was a great help around the boat and especially at providing cups of hot drinks as this was a life saver later on in the trip.

This was a day of firsts for me. My first UK sea dive and my first wreck. It took roughly an hour on the boat to reach the first dive site. The seas seemed to be relatively calm however that didn’t stop me from feeling a queasy from the trip. Our first dive spot was the wreck of the 'City of Waterford', a passenger steamship that sank off of Beachy Head, Sussex in 1949 after a collision with another ship in fog.

I was told I would be going in last, which gave me plenty of time to get my kit ready. As the other divers prepared to get into the water, I waited. It was a good time to watch the procedure of how to enter the water. Timing was a pretty critical factor so that you would land as close to the buoy leading to the wreck as possible. Everyone did a great job

Then it was my turn to go. Brett went in first and I followed shortly after getting the signal from the skipper. The water was awfully cold it seemed (in my wetsuit). My dive computer said the water was a balmy 7 degrees. Any extra movement let a little more water in so I tried to keep still.

After acclimatizing a little, Brett and I started to descend. I had been warned that the visibility would not be great but I wasn’t ready for how little light actually made it down to the wreck and how dark it really was. A torch was definitely needed!

I stuck pretty close to Brett for the dive as we toured around the wreck. There was various marine life in sight and the first thing I saw were tunicates stuck to the side of the wreck and fish which kept just out of our torch beams. A few of the divers found scallops and crab as well. After 40 minutes, I was definitely feeling the cold and it was time to get out of the water. We started to ascend and did a 3 minute safety stop. I thought getting back onto the boat might be a problem but Lars was able to take off my fins while I was standing on the ladder which was a great help.

We all had hot drinks while waiting to arrive at the next dive site which was the ‘Pentrych’, sunk by U-Boat torpedo in 1918 in 21m of water. I decided to give this dive a miss as I hadn’t quite recovered from the cold of the first dive. Apparently the visibility on this dive was a bit better. Pat and Chris were able to find a good size lobster, lucky them!

After we reached port and put our kit in the car, we were off for a well deserved drink before returning home!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Buoyancy And Trim Workshop - 30th March 2013

by Ken

The BTW is a day long course to help divers understand and improve their buoyancy skills, the idea being that once buoyancy is second nature when deploying a DSMB mid water or holding a stop.

Having stayed overnight a couple of miles away, I arrived at Vobster Quay at 8.15 to discover the gates were still closed and a queue of a dozen or two cars ahead of me. Eventually I as let in, handed a plastic tag to use instead of money, and parked down near the water. This was my first visit and I was impressed, mostly because the water is close to everything including the parking.

Asking in the shop I was pointed upstairs to a classroom where Martyn Bowie and various instructors from Southern Region were hanging about. Gradually the rest of the students appeared. They were a mix from new Ocean Divers through to Open Water Instructors and people with more than twenty years diving behind them. We soon got going with a couple of hours of lectures covering the symptoms of bad buoyancy, getting weighting correct, use of bcd vs drysuit and how to adjust your angle in the water (trim) by adjusting kit.

There were twelve students and four instructors so about 11.30 we were split into groups of three students. My task loading was reduced by having both my fellow students called Caroline, I made up for that by diving a configuration I’d never tried before. Since getting a new suit and wing it was the first time I’d dived a single cylinder. I literally had no idea how much lead to use so once we’d been briefed I got in quickly to check whether I had enough lead to get down.

Then we were off for the first dive which concentrated on seeing how our control and trim were to begin with and a couple of exercises to see what needed work. This involved some hovering and keeping still by a small winglet on a sunken plane and then later seeing how we rolled when getting neutral and the keeping arms and legs completely still. Following those we stopped a couple of times on the way up with a proper stop at 5m. This is where my new suit got the better of me. Rather than being nicely horizontal I spent half the stop with my feet pointing at the surface partially upside down! This wasn’t any fun but since I didn’t have an excess of gas in my suit I wasn’t at risk of disappearing skywards but got to practice rolling out of the inversion.

The last part of this dive was to dump the gas from our cylinders and do a weight check, making sure we could stay down in 3m with a nearly empty cylinder.

Once out of the 5C water it was time for a hot drink, some food and some analysis of our issues. One of the Carolines had been being rolled over by her pony cylinder and moved her lead about a bit. I lost a couple of kg of lead from my belt and replaced it with ankle weights hoping to be better able to stay horizontal.

Due to the cold it was agreed that the second dive would be as quick as would cover the evaluation. Thus the dive consisted of a lot of hovering. We trried to keep different stop depths within a narrow band while not having to fin or wave arms about. Once that was over Caroline and Caroline abandoned us, allowing me to redo some horizontal hovering to see how the ankle weights had helped. Finally I spent three minutes dumping 100 bar from a 15l at 4m to be sure I still had enough weight to stay down. Being forgetful I did this in one long purge so managed to freeze the first stage. James has my reg to fit a cold water kit now.

Once out the first priority was to get warm again. Luckily Vobster has the best changing space I’ve encountered, both warm and dry. Then it was debrief time. Caroline was much happier having fixed her rolling problem and Martyn was happy that we had all met the required standard. In fact all twelve students had met at least the ‘Gold’ standard of +/- 0.5 m which is required for courses such as Advanced Decompression Procedures.

This was a very good course. It was very helpful to be able to just concentrate on this one fundamental aspect of diving that is so important for how relaxed you feel in the water.

More details here:

London Dive Show - 23rd-24th March 2013

The weekend of the 23rd and 24th March saw club members venture through the driving sleet to Excel in East London, for the annual London Internation Dive Show. Bermondsey BSAC had a stall, or a "pod", in the BSAC corner of the hall, nestled between Aldershot and Bushey & Borehamwood branches.  Both days went well, with many people enquiring about the poster of our litterpick dive in Canada Water last year, and we received a good number of questions about the club, what we do, where we meet, how often we dive, and what training we run.

Thanks to Mariette, Lars, Dave, Clive, Eddie, Teresa, Victor, Elaine, Alan, Jane, Lee and Brett for setting up and staffing the stall and/or generally helping out.

Buckland Training Trip - 13th March 2013

Lee, Maggie, Jane, Chris, Victor, Bjørn, Peter, Jill, Daniel B and Frank gathered on Saturday morning for training, shakedown dives, and a bit of a bimble. Lee organised and instructed, Maggie provided shore cover and noted air, times, depth etc, and Jane also stayed dry and assisted divers. 8 of us did the first dive, 4 did a second. Due to other groups cancelling that morning, Bermondsey BSAC had the run of the place (or the splash of the place, due to the lake having been topped up by recent rainfall). Jill and Daniel both completed dive 001 - the first Open Water Dive/Lesson of the Ocean Diver training.


It was a somewhat chilly Saturday, and a brave group of ten souls travelled down to the Buckland lake dive centre to dip their toes in the water. The air temperature was a balmy 9 degrees Celsius and I later found out the water temperature was 5 degrees although I wasn’t sure what this would be like. The last time I had been diving was in Mexico and the water temp was like a warm bath. On my part there was quite a bit of slow movement getting ready to get in the water.

I was buddied up with instructor Victor who went over the pre-dive checks and what we would be doing once we got into the water. By the time we were done, the other divers had already entered into the water, and since there was very little shrieking from the water temperature, Victor and I decided it was time.

It turns out 5 degrees is very much like an ice bath and the greatest effect was a burning feeling on lips from the cold which never went away. Visibility was reasonably good I thought and I could see Victor at all times while following the underwater lines that led us to the platform where I carried out the skills test we had planned. We were in the water for approximately 20 mins and by the end I was very happy to get out.

All in all it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and would definitely go again (although hopefully in a dry suit next time!).

Daniel B

My first lake trip. My first open water dive. My first trip to Buckland.

It was a grey day, a cool eight degrees with a water temperature of four. I was anxious, but quietly hopeful that my history of tolerance to the cold would help me. Well, that and six millimetres of neoprene!

The joviality of the group was infectious and soon everyone was laughing and swapping stories. Then came time for the eight of us that were going in the water to kit up and take the plunge. By the time I had all my kit on I wanted to get in the water to cool off. I took a moment to observe that I was strangely calm given the circumstances but soon lost that thought as I followed my instructor Lee down the entry stairs and into the water.

I was encouraged by the fact that I didn't feel cold, just wet. After struggling at the surface for a few seconds I followed Lee below. The water was murky, with lots of suspended matter spread evenly in all directions. Even so we could see clearly for several metres, which I gather is pretty good.

We found a line heading out to the left from our start point and followed that. We passed several “sites” along the way, including a computer keyboard on a desk, which made me laugh – a very strange experience when one has a regulator in one's mouth. Then, emerging out of the gloom was a wreck – the first I'd witnessed under the water with my own eyes. A fantastic site, evoking all sorts of emotions.

After exploring the side of the wreck Lee and I moved onto a nearby platform and carried out the exercises that were the formal part of the session. It was only when I needed to use my hands to remove my regulator that I noticed just how cold my fingers had got – the rest of me was fine but my hands were painfully cold. So, although I was enjoying my underwater experience, I was glad when Lee signalled our return to shore. Then followed what felt like an age – my fingers unwilling to grasp the clips that released my fin straps. Again Lee came to my rescue.

Upon our return to shore Maggie, our surface cover for the day, informed us we'd been down for 28 minutes – very respectable given the temperatures involved and my general lack of experience.

Firsts are always memorable and I shall take the memory of that day to my grave.