Thursday, 17 December 2015

BBSAC Xmas do - 16th December 2015

25 of us gathered at the community-owned Ivy House in Nunhead for this year's xmas do. Clive and Sally provided amusing hats for everyone. The Ivy House dealt with our large group very well.

Pat the Chair presented Sally with the Barry Maisey Award for her hard work this year, which included putting together the club's grant funding application, doing the Instructor Foundation Course, delivering a lot of training (at the pool, lakes and at the Swanage training weekend), promoting the club and initiating try-dives via Facebook, postering and promoting in connection with the This Girl Can campaign, helping with legal queries, and generally being of assistance (and noticing when assistance is needed) on Wednesday evenings especially. On top of all this, she recently qualified as Dive Leader, which is also beneficial to the club. Well done, Sally. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Silfra dive, Iceland - 7th November 2015

by Victor

This was a dive I’d been wanting to do for a long time, and I finally got the chance during a six-day trip to Iceland in November. I dived with who seemed like a decent outfit, although Scuba Iceland ( also look like they might be worth a try. Two dives with cost 39,990ISK (about £204 – yep, Iceland is still expensive). This includes equipment, hot chocolate and biscuits between the dives, and pick-up/drop-off from/to your accommodation in Reykjavik. Today we were collected at a very civilised 10am, and dropped off at 4.30pm. The dives were led by Rachael, an instructor from Northern Ireland. Other staff helped out during kitting-up, and took a group of snorkelers into Silfra just before us five divers got into the water. The drive from Reykjavik takes about 45 minutes, and we experienced some dramatic weather (including rainbows) on the way. Entry into the water is via a short walk, and a platform and steps fixed to the rock.

There’s not much I can add to the huge amounts of online information and the many recent magazine articles about Silfra, other than to confirm these two dives definitely lived up to the hype. The water is unbelievably clear (visibility of well over 50 metres, probably a lot more), and yes – to repeat the cliché made over and over online – diving these waters felt like flying. In such good visibility, the variety and intensity of the blues in the water was incredible. The near-silence underwater was also notable, and differed greatly to the relatively noisy UK sea waters we normally dive in. Silfra is full of glacial meltwater, and apparently safe to drink – it was fun to take out our regulators for a sip. The dives lasted 33 and 32 minutes, and involved a gentle drift down the fissure, passing through wide and narrow spaces, always with unobstructed access to the surface. There is a point in the dive where you can pause with each hand on the rocks to your left and right, however Rachael explained that it’s not quite correct to say (as some guides do) that one rock is the edge of Europe and the other is part of North America – both sides of the fissure are within the rift valley which is a no-man’s-land, not part of either continent. We saw no wildlife other than a few bright green weeds, however trout apparently live in the lake fed by Silfra. Maximum depth on both dives was 14 metres. The water – at 2 degrees C – was the coldest I’ve ever dived in, but the equipment we were provided with (Bares neoprene drysuit in decent condition, undersuit, hood and thick 3-fingered mitts) was adequate – only my hands and face got really cold. My dive computer, however, decided it was too cold to function, and my camera battery – although almost fully charged – started running low at the start of the second dive. A bathroom at the car park has hot running water, thankfully.

Silfra instantly entered my top 10 favourite dives. I would do these dives again, without hesitation. Snorkelling here would also be worth doing, as you don’t need to be underwater to appreciate the excellent visibility.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting - 2nd November 2015

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting, 02/11/2015
Venue: Victor’s
In attendance: Pat, Clive, Lee, Teresa, Ken, Victor
Apologies: Chris, Ross, Colin

Grant funding
  • This is progressing. Ken to provide last bit of information so Sally can submit application.

Xmas do
  • The Ivy House has been booked for 16/12/2015. Victor is collecting deposits. Venue needs menu choices 2 weeks in advance (so by 02/12/2015). We’d prefer 1 large table together. We won’t know which room we’re in until we know numbers. If the room is unsuitable for announcements etc, Barry Maisey award and other awards could be given out at the AGM instead – this is to be decided once we know numbers. 

Training and post-training dives/activity
  • 2 students have recently begun Ocean Diver training (OS2 will be completed this week, with a lecture the following week), and various people are part way through their Sports Diver and Dive Leader training. Some have almost completed. Those who haven’t been seen for a while need to be contacted.
  • Several members became Ocean Diver qualified this year. The club now needs to encourage and facilitate diving for these members – Red Sea and Nemo 33 trips may be suitable, and the Sports Diver course can commence in the new year.
  • Various ideas for keeping newly-qualified members engaged over the next few weeks were discussed. These included starting Sports Diver lectures over winter, sessions at Seven Islands (DSMB use, navigation, lifting bag deployment, ditch and retrieve, CPR, buoyancy practice with hoops, search and recovery etc), asking newer members to speak with newcomers and/or assist with a specific task, and volunteering as casualties for pool lesson SS1.
  • Mentoring of members who complete the Instructor Foundation Course was also suggested.

2016 dives
  • 10 people are now on the Red Sea trip, plus a friend of Sally and Clive’s. Spaces are still available.
  • No club kit shall be leant for the Red Sea trip.
  • Noted that the club is not liable for non-members on the Red Sea trip.
  • Pat to forward liveaboard bringlist to Teresa for circulation – this would be useful to newer members.
  • DSMB and rescue skills session in the pool would be useful for Red Sea trip attendees. Testing of kit early (before departure) shall also be encouraged.
  • Mevagissey (Scubafest) boats will be booked once announcements are made by organisers – this will probably be in the new year.
  • A trip to Nemo 33 may be added to the 2016 dive list – to be confirmed.
  • Renting a van or minibus for the Scapa trip was discussed. Daniel is willing to do some of the driving. A 2-day drive (stopping overnight in somewhere like Aviemore) means more than 2 drivers will probably be needed.

2017 dives
  • Ken suggested fixing a date (early, before the 2017 dive calendar fills up) for a shore-based trip, intended to facilitate diving for newly-qualified members.
  • Ken also suggested a trip to Scotland – St Kilda, Shetlands or Mull.

  • Some recent blog entries have been posted.
  • Ken needs 2 solid days to work on the new website.

Snorkel members
  • As agreed over email (after the last committee meeting), a “Snorkelling Member” will be charged £26 per annum (or £2.50 per month) in club/pool fees, in addition to the £18.50 annual BSAC membership.
  • Once the current Snorkel Diver cohort have completed their course, they would be able to continue snorkel practice in the pool. Emily can be offered a try-dive. Snorkelling trips to Kimmeridge Bay or Swanage are likely to only happen as part of a dive trip to those locations.
  • No new snorkel training courses will be commenced this year.
  • Interest in the Advanced Snorkeler course has been expressed by 1 member.
  • Noted that Open Water Instructors can sign off the Advanced Snorkeler course.

Falmouth fills
  • Progress on this matter was discussed.

  • Teresa noted the folk night at the Ivy House was cancelled, and suggested an India-themed event at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 27/11/2015.
  • Socials were needed in November and January. Previous suggestions were recalled.

60th anniversary
  • 02 or 16/07/2016 were possibilities for the anniversary barbeque/gathering. 02/07/2016 to be suggested to Ross.
  • Victor to speak with Dave and Ed about contacting past members.
  • Teresa to liaise with Alex regarding food.

Club kit
  • In the light of today’s update from Ross, means of keeping track of club kit were discussed. Submission of BSAC membership cards (as a deposit) was suggested, but committee preferred (and agreed) that – in future – club kit (including cylinders) will not be issued directly to students, but will instead be handed to instructors who will be responsible for that kit, and for its return after the dive.
  • Call for return of club kit to be included in next weekly email.

Barry Maisey award
  • A nomination for [to be revealed at xmas do] was made and agreed.

Next meeting and Annual General Meeting
  • AGM to be held on Wednesday 03/02/2016, 8pm.
  • Next committee meeting to be held on Thursday 14/01/2016, 8pm. Committee nominations will then be invited via email the following day, with 25/01/2016 being the deadline for nominations.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Stoney Cove - 18th October 2015

Sally and Geraint went to Stoney Cove for this month's lake trip with Lee and Clive, where Sports Diver (update) and Dive Leader training was delivered. Resusci Anne made an appearance, and Sally finished off her Dive Leader practical skills.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Gozo - 10th-17th October 2015

by Jane

Four of us (Chieko, Colin, Jane and Lee) went for a week’s diving in Gozo, the second island of Malta (well Lee was there just until the Wednesday) in mid-October. The weather was warm, and the sea sufficiently so to require only 5mm shorties.

We stayed in a basic B&B in the village/small town of Marsalforn on the north coast of Gozo, and dived with Gozo Aqua Sports. Our dive guide was mostly Matt. Apart from the sea life much of the interest is the fascinating rock formations found under water, creating natural gullies, chimneys, caves and arches.

For most of the week, dives were constrained by which way the wind was blowing, limiting the availability of sites. All the dives were shore dives, and the first was on the south coast at a place called Hondoq, a nice relaxing check dive, no deeper than 13m, mainly over sand and sea grass, most memorable for an excellent view of a small stingray burrowing for prey in the sand. This was followed by a dive which, while of a similar depth, was in a narrow inlet with cliffs either side. It was therefore a sort of wall dive but without the need to maintain a constant awareness of depth, and there were also a couple of small caves to explore.

The following day we were a little more ambitious and dived the top 25m of a pinnacle, with a large number of fish feeding on the algae and other encrustations on the pinnacle with jacks just of the site in the blue. The afternoon was the Inland Sea, one of the classic dives in Gozo. It is formed by the intrusion of the sea through a tunnel, creating a shallow lake which one crosses before submerging and swimming through the tunnel, taking care not to be run over by the boats taking the sightseers out to sea to see the Azure Window.

A wall dive with lots of incrustation and other life is found to the left of the exit, whereas to the right, as our brief foray showed, was much less interesting.

On the Tuesday we lost Matt, and Duncan took us out for the day. The first dive was the usual check out dive site for the centres based in Marsalforn, and which we had been unable to do on the first day because of the wind. Duncan had great pleasure in finding interesting things for us to look at and we had a very leisurely dive for over an hour including octopus, and an unusual scorpion fish generally found in deeper waters. 

Unfortunately I managed to kneel on a fireworm and felt unable to dive that afternoon.  Everyone else went off to Reqqa, another of the more celebrated dives, often with excellent wildlife to see. On the Wednesday Lee left us to make his way back to the UK, journeying back to the airport on the local public transport.

On the Thursday Chieko had a day of rest, and just Colin and myself (with Matt) revisited the Inland Sea, only to find that we couldn’t park, so went to the adjacent site of the Blue Hole which is a dive through a wide chimney, out at the bottom and an exploration of the cave behind, under the Azure Window, round the promontory and back through a very interesting narrow and bendy chimney into the coral garden before exiting on the other side of the Blue Hole, which for me was one of the best dives on this trip. The afternoon was a return trip to Xwenjni Bay by Marsalforn.

On the Friday Chieko managed to forget her booties in the morning, so just Colin and I repeated the Pinnacle dive of a few days earlier. We were accompanied by a German couple, one of whom managed to run out of air, despite Matt regularly checking our consumption, which curtailed the dive a bit. We then tried the neighbouring site in the afternoon, to which Chieko had walked during the morning dive and had found empty. However, by the time we arrived in the afternoon there seemed to be a conspiracy of white cars occupying all the parking spaces, with no sign of any divers! Therefore after a bit of a further drive around because of various problems relating to parking and other access issues the three of us revisited Hondoq, and found the stingray again.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Coron - 7th-8th October 2015

Travelling all that distance to Taiwan made it worthwhile taking a 2 hour, 20 minute flight to Manila for a week in the Philippines. Travelling down to Coron Town on the island of Busuanga, the plan was to do some dives on the many WWII wrecks in the surrounding waters. I booked these dives with Neptune Dive Centre ( I stayed at Jazmine’s Place ( which was cheap and OK, but there are probably better accommodation options available.

An early (7.30am) start on the Wednesday began with analysing and labelling our cylinders. Neptune have a good system – the dive leader (Tan, who is brilliant) made sure we had analysed and noted our % O2 and MOD ourselves, and had written these (with our names and dive number) on a yellow and green sticker on each cylinder. Neptune also kept a record of what % O2 we were using. Briefings before each dive were illustrated and very clear – they had to be, as we would be penetrating wrecks. Down at the harbour we boarded a bangka named Kuracha, which had plenty of space and cover, and 6 crew (including dive centre staff) for 5 customers – a ratio I’ve never seen before. There was a constant supply of soft drinks all day, and the boat had a head. I dived with Han and Keli, 2 excellent divers from China, and we were led by Tan. 2 other less experienced divers stayed at shallower depths with another instructor and didn’t enter the wrecks.

The first dive was the Akitsushima, an Imperial Japanese Navy seaplane tender sunk in 1944. This is some distance to the west of Coron Town. We reached depths of 32.6 metres and dived for 45 minutes, entering the wreck and passing through various parts of the interior. After lunch we dived the Okikawa Maru wreck (a Japanese oil tanker, 168 metres long, with several long purple-and-blue aeolid nudibranchs on the deck) for 56 minutes. We reached 24.7 metres. We finished the day on the Morazan Maru wreck, an English-built cargo and passenger ship where we moved through a couple of fairly narrow holes to see inside tiled shower rooms, cargo holds and other spaces.  We got back to the dive centre at about 6pm. All 3 dives today were great – although I’m not normally mad keen on wrecks (or entering them), these were impressive, relatively intact, supported a decent amount of wildlife, and – inside – were very atmospheric where the outside light entered via portholes and rusty openings. Visibility wasn’t fantastic – no more than 5 metres (I read later that this is due to local agricultural run-off), down to 2 metres inside parts of the wrecks. Other than close-ups, my photos didn’t turn out so good.

On my second and last day of diving I turned down an invitation to dive a wreck on the north side of Busuanga where apparently 20 metre visibility is guaranteed. The cost, early start, and jeepney journey across the island didn’t seem worth it for 2 dives. Instead I did another 3-dive daytrip on the south side of Busuanga, this time from the boat Dhel, a smaller (but big enough) bangka which took us to the Olympia Maru wreck. Unfortunately, although I had understood we would be diving on air today, nitrox was brought out to the boat, and yesterday’s analysing and labelling of cylinders wasn’t repeated due to there being a bit of a rush at the dive centre in the morning. I hadn’t analysed the gas myself, I wasn’t certain that the “36%” written on masking tape on my cylinder was accurate, and there was no analyser on the boat, so I proceeded with caution, and – with the agreement of the other diver who also had concerns about depth and penetration – stayed at depths shallower than the MOD for 36% O2. This meant we did not enter any wrecks today, which was fine, as there was plenty to see on the outside, including bat fish and many lion fish.

We then had the best lunch I have ever had on a dive boat – an amazing sweet potato curry cooked on board by the skipper.

The second dive of the day was on the wreck of the Kogyo Maru, a large supply vessel lying on its side. Of course, on the day that my camera battery had run out, photogenic wildlife was out in force, including 2 fat nudibranchs with purple, white and yellow bodies in a well-lit, accessible location with little current. Lion fish and scorpion fish were also seen. It was on the third dive of the day, however, that I really regretted not having a useable camera – on the “Coral Garden” drift dive along the southwest side of Lusong Island we saw a huge variety of coral, and at least 4 different species of nudibranch, in a variety of colours and shapes. Brilliant dive.

These 6 dives were very good, Tan was a particularly good dive leader, my rented dive kit was decent enough, the weather was fine, and water temperatures (mostly 29 degrees, up to 33 at the surface) were lovely. The dives plus kit hire and lunches cost me 9,000 pesos (£126). I’d come here again, and would dive with Neptune again, although a liveaboard may be a good idea, so we could access the further-out wrecks/reefs where visibility is apparently better. A dive on the Irako wreck, and dives on reefs where sharks have been seen, would also be good.

Taiwan - 26th September - 1st October 2015

Taiwan might not be an obvious choice for a dive holiday for Europeans, given what other dive destinations exist a similar distance away, but a little research confirmed it was worth travelling to the south of the island (after a brilliant 5-day mountain trek in the north) for some warm, colourful dives south of the Tropic of Cancer. We booked 6 days of diving with Sheffield expat Andy Gray (, who operates through Dive Pro ( in Houbihu in the Kenting National Park. We stayed in Dive Pro’s accommodation (basic, clean en-suite single rooms with AC and TV, but they also have a dorm) above the dive shop.

On our first day of diving we drove in the back of a pick-up truck the short distance to the harbour and boarded the Nanjing, a dive boat with plenty of space and cover. Andy was amiable and had the right attitude towards wildlife conservation. Dive Pro staff kindly did most of the shifting of kit for us, and cold water and snacks were available. After that good start, things didn’t go so well – there was no safety briefing before the dive, Andy drifted off at the start of the dive before we had completed our weight checks, and to join him we had to surface swim a considerable distance (without SMBs or our flagged boat nearby) across water being used for jetskiing and inflatable banana boat rides. Gareth from our group had trouble descending, and after Daniel rejoined him on the surface, they were picked up by another boat. It was only 20 minutes into the dive that I was asked where 2 of our group had gone.

Needless to say, words were had before the next dive, and although we still weren’t entirely convinced we were diving safely, the 4 other dives we did with Andy passed without incident, however after 1 dive there was a long wait for a pick-up, due to our boat attending to a group of freedivers some distance away. All these dives were from the Nanjing, and were scenic dives over corals and interesting rock formations. I don’t think I’ve seen such a wide variety of different types of coral on a single dive before. Moray eels, lion fish, clown fish and other critters were also seen. Visibility was good to excellent – up to 20 metres. Waters were 27 to 29 degrees.

Day 4 was blown out due to Typhoon Dujuan (aka Typhoon Jenny in the Philippines). Although we avoided the worst of the cyclone (it passed over the north part of Taiwan), it made the waters in the south too choppy to dive.

Andy was not available for the rest of the week, and we did our remaining 4 dives with Dive Pro’s Taiwanese staff (Mike, Rudy, Olga and others), who gave us illustrated briefings, and who were very good at pointing out features and creatures during the dives, including a tiny thing that resembled a scrap of seaweed (possibly a sargassum fish), 2 nudibranchs and many barracuda. These were all shore dives, one known locally as the “outlet”, where water used for cooling the nearby nuclear reactor is pumped out, resulting in visible thermoclines where the 30 degree water met the cooler (as low as 25 degree) sea water. The other dive site was the “feeding area”, so-called because many of the dive guides operating in the area unfortunately bring bread to attract fish with.

9 dives, 7 nights in a single room, kit hire and 3 lunches cost me NT$27,430 (about £553). Eating options in Houbihu are limited but not bad, and on some evenings we took a 20-minute taxi ride to Kenting Main Street, which is brilliantly hectic and brash, and worth a look. If you get blown out, there is the nuclear power station visitors’ centre and local fish market to visit, otherwise the massive Museum of Marine Biology (out of town – get there by taxi or bus) is recommended.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting - 10th September 2015 (abridged notes)

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting, 10/09/2015
Venue: Sally and Clive’s
In attendance: Pat, Clive, Lee, Teresa, Ken, Victor, Sally, Ross, Colin
Apologies: Chris

Matters arising
  • No matters arising from last 2 meetings (other than those already on the agenda).

Grant funding
  • The application for grant funding, prepared by Sally, was discussed.

60th anniversary
  • Pat had received comments from 3 members regarding a possible 60th anniversary event. Nobody expressed interest in a black tie event.
  • Various ideas were discussed, bearing in mind the level of interest among members. Agreed that piggybacking onto a ball at the Clarendon Hotel (Blackheath) wouldn’t work. An event at a hired venue might cost over £1,000. Victor would prefer to mark the 60th anniversary by visiting 60 dive sites, posting a short history of the club on the website etc, rather than a specific event.
  • A combined 60th anniversary / summer social event was suggested. Ross offered his garden and basement. Agreed to do this in July on a non-diving weekend – Ross to advise what date would be best. Club to pay for food and drink (but attendees will be asked to pay a small sum). Alex to be asked to do food again.

  • No apparent progress has been made since the committee last discussed this matter.
  • Ken to work on this project. Timescale not currently known.

  • BSAC’s “Buddy Guard” policy and procedures have been published.
  • Committee noted that the club has to follow this policy.
  • Teresa recently prepared a letter to be given to parents/guardians of children and vulnerable people joining the club. Emily’s parents have been given the letter.
  • Parents/guardians are to be asked to accompany their child until he/she is poolside. Teresa to look into whether this needs to be mentioned in the letter to parents/guardians.

Snorkel training
  • Some members have expressed an interest in snorkel training.
  • Agreed to carry on offering the Dolphin Snorkeller course for a discounted fee of £10, without requiring BSAC or club membership.
  • Ken confirmed Dolphin Snorkeller students are still insured even if not a BSAC member.
  • Agreed to require full BSAC and club membership for Snorkel Diver course and above [post-meeting note: committee later agreed over email that a “Snorkelling Member” will be charged £26 per annum (or £2.50 per month) in club/pool fees, in addition to the £18.50 annual BSAC membership].
  • Noted that the club needs a snorkelling instructor. East Dulwich branch had planned training for this, but Teresa hasn’t heard any more from them.

Dive lists
  • 2016 dive list has been circulated, and needs to be posted on website.
  • Victor to circulate again, with a reminder of the club’s cancellation policy, and information regarding accommodation, transport and use of club kit. All new members will need to be informed of what is and isn’t organised by the club.
  • A new member had signed up for the September Weymouth trip, but was apparently not aware that the club does not normally organise accommodation. Agreed in this instance to not charge her if she does not attend Weymouth.

  • Xmas do will be on Wednesday 16th December. Victor has a venue in mind and will organise.
  • There will be no pool sessions on 16th, 23rd and 30th December 2015. Pool sessions will resume 6th January 2016. Ken to book pool accordingly.
  • Committee to give thought to who should receive the Barry Maisey award this year.

  • Ken has enquired about possible weekend pool sessions, but has received no response from Seven Islands.

Falmouth fills
  • Action related to the bad fills received on the recent Falmouth trip was discussed.

Other business
  • Clive and Sally recently attended an open day at RNLI’s Tower Lifeboat Station. RNLI can arrange a tour for up to 18 people in October or November. Agreed to do this.
  • Another dry dive (to 50 metres) is to be organised, probably over winter.
  • Ross noted that Greenwich Yacht Club would be open for London Open House Weekend.
  • Teresa suggested attending folk nights at the Ivy House, Nunhead.
  • Next meeting to be held on Monday 2nd November 2015.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Falmouth - 29th-31st August 2015

For the August bank holiday weekend we headed down to Falmouth, for what we hoped would be 3 days of diving from the boat Wave Chieftain, skippered by Nigel, launching from Mylor. All weekend we were entertained by a family of birds who had nested on the Wave Chieftain, the chicks coming out to sea with us, and mum and dad greeting us each time we returned to harbour. 

Saturday's diving was good enough - Hera wreck and Lath Rock, visibility not too special.

On Sunday we were out to sea (at the SS Carmarthen wreck site) and almost fully kitted up when most of us noticed our air had a strange odour - the smell of freshly manufactured garden hoses, kind of. We'd got these fills the previous afternoon from Seaways near Penryn. Needless to say we didn't dive that day.

On the Monday we dived the SS Carmarthen and the Volnay.

We stayed in various B&Bs in and around Falmouth. We had a decent feed at the historic Pandora Inn on one night.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Buckland - 16th August 2015

10 of us got in the water today, with another 2 staying dry on the surface. Training was delivered, shaking down was done, kit was tested, Jörn and Ishka attended with new baby Amelia, and Angela read the Financial Times while we dived. Another successful visit.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Budget training weekend – Swanage, 8th-9th August 2015

With its diving infrastructure and proximity to London, Swanage is a good place for a weekend of training, and for easy dives for newly-qualified divers. A 2-day, 4-dive trip was organised mainly for the benefit of newer members of the club who needed to tick off open water dives.

Lee, Clive, Sally, Colin, Sara, Victor, Willemien, Anne and Miro travelled down on the Friday, Georgi on Saturday morning. Most of us camped at Swanage Bijou Camping, which is a tidy, summer-only campsite within walking distance of the town centre. Staff at the campsite let us leave our tents pitched until Sunday afternoon, which meant we didn’t have to frantically decamp and pack away dew-damp tents early that morning.

Those of us carrying club kit went down to the pier early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to be there when the pier gates were opened at 7am. This is where Ross’s car (borrowed by Sally and Clive) and the van (rented by Victor) proved very useful – it meant we could get all the club kit down to the pier early, and – along with Lee, who also came down early – could kit-up together near the steps to the water. It also meant others could have a longer sleep at the campsite, and walk down to the pier later in the morning when it was time to dive.

Lee organised the dives. On Saturday we did a dive under Swanage pier in the morning, which allowed us to sort kit and get used to the water before the afternoon’s boat dive (Fleur de Lys - £20 per diver), which for some of us was our first ever dive in UK waters. On Sunday we did another boat dive (Valentine Tanks - £24) at 10.45am, followed by an afternoon pier dive. Waters were a very pleasant 17-18 degrees C, visibility was 5 metres under the pier and 5-10 metres on the boat dives, and a fair amount of wildlife was seen, including Leach’s spider crabs hiding in snakelocks anemones under the pier, conger eels at Valentine Tanks, large jellyfish seen during our safety stops, mermaids purses and tompot blennies. An additional trip to Kimmeridge Bay for snorkelling didn’t happen due to time constraints – a specific trip (or half a day of a future weekend visit) may need to be organised for that next time.

For food we went to a local chippy on Friday evening, booked and ate at La Trattoria on the Saturday (pretty good), had pasties for lunch, and visited a local caff for breakfasts. Some of us were slightly devastated to learn that Kaffee und Kuchen on High Street has closed down, but we tried to remember that cake is not the most important thing in life.

The weather was brilliant pretty much all weekend, although it got chilly at night in our tents. Some of us had slow journeys home on the Sunday. Sara’s guitar unfortunately remained unplayed all weekend, which only means there will be even more enthusiasm for her debut campsite performance next time. A lot of open water dives were ticked off over the weekend, which meant that – following their Ocean Diver exam the following week – Georgi and Miro were able to qualify as Ocean Divers in a relatively quick 11 and 13 weeks respectively. Also of note, this was relatively inexpensive weekend, due to most of us camping, doing pier dives and eating fairly cheaply. A similar weekend could probably be done even more cheaply with more car sharing (which saves on pier fees and campsite parking, as well as petrol) – that can be our challenge for next year’s visit (already scheduled for 6th and 7th August 2016).

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Buckland - 19th July 2015

Buckland again! The club has welcomed so many new members this year, these monthly lake trips are proving to be a good idea. Today's trip was the best-attended so far, with 11 of us in the water. Errol, Miro and Georgi did open water dives (for their Ocean Diver training) with Lee and Ken, Sally and colleague George dived together, Victor dived with Sara, and even Big Kev dusted off his leaky drysuit for a rare dip in UK waters, buddying with Daniel who was testing his twin set. Clive provided shore cover and useful assistance.

Water temperatures were as high as 19 degrees in the shallows, dropping to around 16 degrees at 10 metres. Visibility was good, away from the busier parts of the lake. The sun shone for part of the day, decent dive times were achieved, training dives were completed, and we visited the cafe at the other end of the lake after our dives.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Bermondsey BSAC BBQ - 18th July 2015

Around 20 members (past and present) gathered for this year's club barbecue, kindly hosted by Teresa in the Peckham/East Dulwich borderlands. Alex did a great job as chef again. Thanks, Teresa, for having us.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Shoreham - 11th July 2015

by Ben

On the 11th of July 8 members of the club went on a sea dive out of Shoreham. With clear blue skies and a comfortable 16 degrees water temperature, we set out on the 1.5 hour journey on the Buccaneer to the first of the day's dive - the "Ore Wreck". Previously know as the Concha, she was a Belgian steamer weighing 883 tonnes and sank following a collision with another ship called Saint Filians, after a 20 year long career in 1897. Vis of 6m meant that what little remains of the Wreck other than the exposed cargo of iron ore, such as the stern propeller, were visible. 

Following the first dive, sea-sickness was beginning to get to myself and Ken, making us even keener to get into the water for our second dive - the Jaffa. The Jaffa was a 1400 tonne armed (4-7 inch guns) merchant ship built in 1897. She was sunk by a German torpedo on 2/2/1918 with the loss of 10 lives. The wreck was very much intact with 3 boilers clearly visible. Huge lobsters seemed to appear around every other corner (though somewhat elusive to Pat). Another highlight of the dive was Ross and Colin's world record-breaking attempt at the longest decompression stop - only ascending after a painstaking 25 minutes. All in all, both dives offered a great opportunity to explore and a great first taste of a sea dive for me. 

by Clive

Saturday 11th July just couldn't come round quick enough! We had a day's diving booked at Shoreham-on-Sea onboard the excellent dive boat Buccaneer. The reports of warm water, excellent underwater visibility in the Channel and warm weather above were making the wait very painful indeed.... The days sure did tick slowly past! 

At last it was upon us, The Saturday dawned bright, but a tad windy and it took some clever planning by Sally Homer (dive Marshall) and boat skipper Chris, to give us a plan to fit in two wreck dives and then be back home snug in harbour before the expected wind speed rise increased too far in the afternoon. Their plan worked superbly, ropes were duly "off" at 09.30 and on board were the usual suspects of Sally, Pat, Ross, Lee, Colin, Ken and myself, joined on this notable day by Ben Udall who was itching to get in the water for his first ever sea dives.

Our ride out was a little lively but we arrived at the the first wreck "The Ore Wreck" in ample time. Once kitted up we pulled ourselves down the line to find that the effort was well worth it, the viz was 8 metres or more and the ship was laid out below us like an architect's drawing! It looked like a ship and was ready to be explored. Not that the ship was easy to see - there were so many fish, that at times you couldn't see where you were going! And as for the other residents, every nook and cranny had an occupant. There were crabs, lobsters and scallops in abundance, some of which made their way into young Ben's goody bag! 

Everybody came safety up and the talk was all about just how good a dive that was. Possibly one of the best? But ....that reputation lasted for only an hour... Now we were ready to explore the "The Jaffa". The Skipper was again spot on with the shot and down we went to find yet another spectacular wreck, again teeming with life and even better visibility to see them with. Numerous good size crabs and lobsters, sometimes even in pairs! The wreck was shallow, the water warm and there was lots to see. It genuinely was a shame to have to come up! But of course we did and Ben's mask was now filling with water due to his huge grin and sheer excitement! Congratulations to Ben for completing his first two sea dives, although it was impossible for everybody not to enjoy what could easily be two of the best UK sea dives of this season.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting - 9th July 2015

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting, 09/07/2015
Venue: Teresa’s
In attendance: Pat, Clive, Lee, Teresa, Ken, Victor
Apologies: Ross, Colin, Chris

2016 dive list
  • Chris has booked Pembrokeshire. Plymouth trip is also booked.
  • Lundy trip is likely to be in late July. Victor contacted other branches that will be turning 60 next year, with the intention of splitting the boat. Ipswich and Bath branches have expressed interest.
  • Pat to speak with Woody re: Weymouth trip.
  • Agreed to run Swanage weekend trip 15-16/08/2016 [post-meeting note: we meant 13-14/08/2016].
  • Red Sea trip planned for February half term (starts 15/02/2016). The level of difficulty should be set so that newly-qualified divers are not excluded, although we don’t yet know who from the club will be interested in this trip. Needs to be announced to members soon, to get an idea of numbers. Trip will be a 1-week liveaboard, and will form part of the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Equipment (including wetsuits) can usually be rented on such trips.
  • Agreed to run day dives from the south coast from June to October. Organisation of these can form part of Dive Leader training. Keen divers can book themselves onto additional dives if they wish.
  • Agreed to carry on doing monthly lake trips. The timing of these trips will be set so as to avoid neap weekends, if possible.
  • Timings of neaps next year are challenging. This might mean reverse profiling, getting up earlier or starting dives later in the day.
  • With the bookings so far, the assumed date of Scubafest, and the monthly lake trips, an initial 2016 dive list can now be circulated to members.

2015 dive list
  • There are a few empty spaces on the Falmouth trip, due to drop-outs. Also, Sally and Clive will not be diving on the Saturday.
  • Weymouth trip needs more takers. This trip can be made suitable to newer members.
  • Brighton dive on 27/09/2015 has been cancelled, mainly due to its proximity to the Dieppe trip. The club didn’t lose a deposit for this cancellation.
  • Unclear why the 25/10/2015 dive is on the list – although it was minuted in previous committee meetings as being proposed and then booked, nobody recalls booking it, and skipper has no booking for that date on his website [post-meeting note: this trip will be deleted from the dive list, as will the cancelled Brighton dive, and the Poole weekend].
  • Several students have signed up for the next lake trip, and Swanage.
  • Victor to ask Daniel to post updated dive list on website.

  • Training is progressing well.
  • Next Wednesday 3 people will need to do a lecture and a pool lesson in preparation for the July lake trip. Ken suggested doing the lecture at/before the barbecue, and is willing to do it.
  • There have been 11 try-divers in recent months who have not (yet) joined the club. Victor to inform them by email that an Ocean Diver course will begin on 12/08/2015 (with both a lecture and pool lesson in one evening).
  • Another try-dive, and a new member’s skills review, need to be included in the training schedule.
  • More volunteering from the club’s instructor pool is needed, to help spread the jobs. Emails to individuals may help.
  • Kim is to retrieve the box of club fins this week.

60th anniversary
  • Pat to top and tail his draft email to the club, setting out ideas for events, and requesting expressions of interest. Red Sea and Scapa trips will be highlighted.
  • Individual members have been asked if they could take on organising a 60th anniversary social event, but nobody has volunteered yet.

Grant funding application
  • This is being worked on by Sally. Teresa to provide information re: safeguarding for application.
  • Buying wetsuits was discussed again. Grant funding might also be used for buying new jackets. Club’s jackets are serviceable but old.
  • Noted that capital funding probably can’t be spent on equipment rental.

  • 18 people have paid so far. Victor to email club again, including Teresa’s bank details.
  • Music needed for barbecue – Clive to sort this out.

  • Clive has uploaded text to the new website, which was created by Daniel.
  • Ken to devote some time to website.
  • Victor to do white water rafting trip report.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

White water rafting, Lee Valley - 5th July 2015

White water rafting is more or less the same thing as scuba diving (minus some of the equipment), so the club ventured up to the northeastern edges of London to visit the Lee Valley White Water Centre, one of the retained Olympic legacy venues. Clive organised the trip. 

We arrived half an hour early to check in, were issued with wetsuits, boots, helmets and PFDs, and were split into 2 groups of 7 people, each with an instructor. After a briefing and an optional first dip in the lower pond, we all had to jump in and do a swim test in the rapids, which was great fun and which Ben referred to as "sick" (youthspeak for "good"). We then received instruction on how not to fall out of our inflatable rafts (and how to climb back in if you do), learnt which end of a paddle went in the water, and began our circuits of the Olympic slalom. 

Eamon took Georgi, Maria, Ross, Steve, Ben, Victor and Daniel, and gave us 5 runs, each time adding something more challenging like riding the surf that powered through the human-made channels. It wasn't long before someone fell in. Some managed it more than once, and Ross even achieved a half circuit of the course without a raft underneath him. Everyone was safe, though, given the equipment we were issued with, and the several members of staff that lined the route to help people who had become detached from their rafts.

The other group, comprising Maggie, Teresa, Sally, Sara, Vinay, Clive and Colin, claimed to have had nobody fall in, which obviously cannot be true. Another group - not linked to the talented rafters of Bermondsey BSAC - saw their raft capsize, leaving the whole group clawing their way to dry land as we cruised by with most of our group still on board. We sympathised.

The venue is incredibly well designed, and enables efficient kitting up and briefing. There are lockers, and a cafe upstairs overlooking the slalom, where we debriefed later on. An on-site photographer hovered. Paths all around the site enable spectators to come and watch people like us master the art of rafting (or falling in). The cost was £50 per person, and groups of certain size receive a bar voucher. 

Brilliant day out. Thanks, Clive.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Weymouth – 27th-28th June 2015

by Pat

We had the first of our two weekends in Weymouth this year on the 27 and 28 June. The weather forecast was good and did not let us down – the only time it rained most of us were under water. 8 of us from Bermondsey dived this weekend, plus Ian and Pete from Derbyshire and (on the Sunday) Giulia and Katharina from Imperial/Chelsea and Fulham branches. Dave was aboard and assisted.

The first dive on Saturday was a drift on the bow of the Black Hawk, a small wreck in 15m. We dropped into the water and drifted onto the wreck. The visibility was about 15m, masses of fish life, crabs, nudibranchs and crustaceans. After twenty five minutes on the wreck we drifted off across the sea bed for one of the highlights of the dive – a particularly aggressive wrasse who picked a fight first with Andy (see photo) then with Pat. We then came across a large cuttlefish, changing colours as we watched it.  The second dive of the day was on the Alex, again with swimming pool visibility, where we saw plenty of life including several congers.

After a great day’s diving we all went out for dinner in the evening to an Italian on Brewers Quay to relive the day.

On the Sunday we drift-dived the Lulworth Banks in the morning and finished the weekend in the afternoon with a 30m dive on the Aeolian Sky, a big wreck that is a real treat with the great visibility we had again, although the strong current (we missed slack water) meant it was a challenging and short dive for some of us. Nudibranchs and plenty of fish were seen.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Solstice lake dive – Sunday 21st June 2015

Buckland again for the club’s 4th lake dive of the year. Thought had been given to doing shore dives at Seaford instead, however it was decided that a less tidal site was needed for today’s training. Ben went in with Clive to do his first open water dives, while Vinay completed his with Lee, bringing him tantalisingly close to becoming Ocean Diver qualified. 

Buckland was quieter than it was the last time we visited, so we had a decent amount of space for kitting up, briefing, debriefing, sunbathing, dragonfly spotting, solstice celebrating and eating cake.

Ross, Victor and guest star Frank dived as a trio, doing a 64-minute sightseeing tour to depths of up to 12 metres. It was good to be able to do a relaxing dive, seeing the various aeroplanes, boats, pumphouse well, plastic shark and gnome garden in relatively good visibility (5 metres in places) and decent temperatures (17 degrees at 6 metres, 13 degrees at 12 metres). The sun shone for some of the morning. 5 of us went in for a second dive, and we were all done by 2pm.