Sunday, 9 March 2014

Maldives trip - January 2014

by Pat

We flew out of Gatwick on a grey Sunday afternoon, arriving in the bright sunshine of Male, capital of the Maldives, the next morning. There we picked up the seaplane for the 45 minute flight to Koredu where we boarded MY Monsoon, our home for the weeks diving.

On arrival, a check dive is normally done on the House reef, but unfortunately some our luggage was delayed due to the weight restrictions on the seaplane. But all was not lost as Manta Rays had been spotted nearby during the week and Chris Tricky, the Dive Guide /Manager, rustled up some snorkelling kit and we set off in the RIB to a nearby reef. Within minutes we were in the water with the Mantas – they were huge – size of a dinner table! So there we were - the first “must do” in the bag and not even unpacked yet. The luggage duly arrived a few hours later and we set of for the Northern Atolls.

The weather was kind to us – a bit windy but sunny and we dived three or four times a day, the greediest of us putting in 20 dives over the week.

With the exception of Ship Wreck Alley and Koredu House reef, the diving was all on coral walls/pinnacles that the locals call Thila or Ghiri. 

The current was very strong on occasions, and seemed to be unpredictable even for the dive guides. Once or twice reef hooks were needed to avoid being swept away. Sometimes the current was confused – changing direction or suddenly increasing locally without warning, and even the odd down draught just to keep it interesting. On one occasion I released my SMB and realised I was in a calm hollow as the SMB went up about 10 feet and then went horizontal at an alarming speed, dragging me up and over a reef where the others were shark watching!  

But the funniest thing was definitely watching two sets of divers drifting towards each other on opposing currents, with the split point somewhere between them.

Some of the dives were very challenging – and not to be recommended for a novice.

As the week went on we ticked off all the essentials of a trip to the Maldives, encountering sharks on four dives including a cleaning station, eagle rays, turtles, moray, a second snorkel with manta, tuna, jacks, octopus, barracuda and dolphins on the surface. The fish life is prolific, I can only describe it as being in the middle of a shower of confetti, although they do scatter when the sharks first arrive. There are so many parrot fish the background noise is the munching of coral of which there is an abundance of – healthy soft and hard. Visibility is generally about 30m.

One afternoon between dives we went ashore to a deserted agricultural island and went foraging with the crew who went up the trees for coconuts, took the tops off them so we could drink the fresh milk and then opened them up so we could eat the flesh. The taste was wonderful – nothing like the supermarket mutants we get at home. Wandering round the island with the crew, we were offered various wild treats to eat, not sure what they all were but an interesting visit to the island.

On another evening the crew set up a barbeque on a deserted island, eating under the stars with the crew trying to race land crabs was a memorable experience.

A few words on the boat and crew: Monsoon is a purpose built Red Sea liveaboard, spacious and comfortable, the diving is from RIBs allowing you to be picked up/dropped as near to reefs as possible. Nothing is too much trouble for the crew and Chris, the Dive Guide/Manager who has been on this boat for about 7 years, has contagious enthusiasm and is very knowledgeable. The food is excellent and plentiful, and the diving is effortless (except when swimming against the current). If you like marine life, big and small, the Maldives is a must.

But all good things must come to an end, and after 7 days of wonderful diving with a really great  international crowd we returned to Koredu to catch the sea plane back to Male and then on to the UK.

More photos are online at:

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Boat Handling course - 1st-2nd March 2014

by Teresa

Slightly nervous about being on the Thames for 2 days in early March as I am prone to feeling the cold. We were fortunate with the weather (although still too cold for me) in that the sun came out on both days and we finished just before the rain started on Sunday. The course was based next to St. Catherine’s docks at the headquarters of HMS President. This is the base for the Maritime Volunteer Service which is a charity run organisation which allows a group of keen and skilled volunteers to develop their skills in boat handling (in other words play with boats).

Grant, Colin and myself were the keen trainees along with three dive members from Clidive. Our trainers were Don, Joli, John and Ben. Kim was our trusted helper for the 2 days trying to get the boats started and fitting in some well needed knot practise when possible. Joli was the overall organiser and managed to pack in a full programme for both days. The course comprised of theory sessions on the hard boat and long practicals on the river.

Day 1

Our first jaunt was with Joli to the Thames Barrier where we were then shouted at by the Port of London Authority because we were too close and quote “didn’t you have your radio on?” We must have been too absorbed in the driving to hear him! I practised a few manoeuvres with varying success. Finished practical at about 3pm and had a late well earned sandwich before digesting chartwork theory by instructor Ben. He was an excellent instructor and managed to make plotting a journey using a compass look relatively easy. I must buy that special instrument he used that made it all a lot easier. Finished by 5.30pm and had luckily warmed up from being out on the Thames earlier.

Day 2

Straight into the RHIB the next day. Ben took the three of us out on the RHIB. I now felt much more comfortable behind the wheel and managed to do most of the manoeuvres as expected. I can now pick up a diver from a RHIB without running over them and time the drop-off (approximately) for the diver to get to the buoy. The diver was simulated in the shape of a large water bottle. Initially picked it up when it was thrown in water as didn’t want any more litter in the Thames! My particular favourite manoeuvre was a sharp lefthand then sharp righthand turn consecutively. Felt a bit like Bond girl without the youth and glamour.

Another theory session by Joli in the afternoon and knot practise by Ben. I have to say knots are not my strength and I said something like “I can’t do knots” to which Ben replied “if you can tie your shoe laces, you can do knots”. Eventually I managed to do a bowline knot and a few others. A final practical session for both groups in towing each others’ boats with instructor Don enabling us to practise those knots again. Finished the day in the nearby pub for a well-earned pint and dive chat as well as chat about the Maritime Volunteer Service. Some Bermondsey members are interested in joining the MVS to build on the boat handling skills we have learnt over the weekend and all of us are keen to complete more courses in chartwork and GPS. Overall an excellent course run by very committed, patient and skilled volunteers who really deserve more than a pint in the pub at the end of the day. Big thanks must go to all the instructors who gave up their weekend to train all of us to become semi-competent boat handlers.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Club Committee Meeting - 26th February 2014 - notes

In attendance: Pat, Ken, Ross, Daniel, Victor

Ken explained that students from the University of Greenwich came to the pool last week to ask if they could do some underwater filming as part of an art project. This will involve one woman (who has diving experience, but would not be using dive kit) freediving in the water. Other students would not be in the water.

Agreed in principle to help with this project, however this will require some planning to make sure the filming goes smoothly and is done safely. We need more information about the short film (what the scene involves, how long it will take to film etc), and the students will need to be at the pool early and will need to be aware that we only have the pool for an hour. Daniel highlighted that training may also be taking place in the pool. Club members with underwater filming experience could be asked to help. Pat suggested BSAC and local media could be contacted to run a piece on the project, and that a copy of the completed film could be posted on the club website. Ken to contact students to obtain more information and to feedback the committee's thoughts. Daniel to look into publicity opportunities.

The Barry Maisey Award 2013

At the club's christmas social on 11/12/2013 (this time held at Il Giardino, Peckham) the inaugural Barry Maisey Award was presented to Steve Bull. Maggie presented the award to Steve for his regular, reliable and quiet helping out with training and other club activities. Steve is the very first recipient of this annual award, which was fashioned from Barry's dive knife, bronzed and mounted. Congratulations, Steve.