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).

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