Sunday, 28 February 2016

Down to Margate - Walpole Bay tidal pool, 27th February 2016

Some of us had been curious for a while about this dive site, which featured in a Sport Diver article a few years ago ( ) and is only a 90 minute drive from SE London. NB – this site is not to be confused with Margate’s rectangular “boating pool” or lido, both of which are further west along the coast.

Arriving at midday, the waters in the pool were calm and settled, and appeared to have some – albeit not amazing – visibility. The tide was coming in. We parked in the free car park (immediately adjacent to the water, and accessed via Hodge’s Gap), Ken and Ruben got hot chocolates from the caff around the corner, Victor did a reccy to the Walpole Bay Hotel (food until 5pm) and nearby bowling club (lunches until 2pm and bar open later), and Sally and Clive provided shore cover, assisted with kitting up, and made a photographic record of the club’s first UK dive of 2016. Lee’s video of us kitting up is now online:

Unfortunately, by the time Lee and Victor had kitted up, waves were rolling in over the pool walls, reducing visibility to zero. Entry was tricky, and the waves made it difficult to reach any of the 3 pool walls, so we decided to swim underwater into the centre of the pool in an unsuccessful search for anything of interest, or at least an area with better visibility. We had to dive hand-in-hand, as the visibility was so bad we could not even read our computers, and there was a high risk of losing each other.

After around 20 minutes in the water (or less, according to our computers which wouldn’t register the shallow parts of the dive), we exited via the steps (the beach between the cliffs and pool was now submerged), with Ken gallantly wading in to help us out. Depths of 2.5 metres were reached. Water temperature was 6 to 7 degrees, but we didn’t feel cold due to our physical efforts and the shortness of the dive.

Had we arrived 2 hours or so earlier, we might have had a decent dive, however the rough seas and our decision to dive close to high tide meant we didn’t see anything today. Still, we got the chance to test new and old kit, and learnt useful lessons about the effect of tides and conditions at this site, about its suitability for training and novice diving, and about on-site and nearby facilities. We’ll be back, next time diving closer to low tide (with a possible second dive outside the pool wall earlier or later in the day), in better conditions.

After today’s short dive we drove down the road for ice cream at Morelli’s in Broadstairs. We deserved it.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Wrecks 'n' Reefs - Red Sea, 13th-20th February 2016

by Daniel

Our arrival

After a barely tolerable four and a half hours aboard an EasyJet flight to Hurghada we were met by a Scuba Travel representative who gave us our visas and sent us through passport control. A coach was waiting to take us to our boat, Whirlwind. Whirlwind was to be our home for the next seven nights.

Upon arrival at the marina I had to endure the most terrifying ordeal: crossing the gangway onto the boat (I have fallen into the sea crossing one of those on a previous dive out of Shoreham). Safely aboard we were taken to the saloon for our introductory talk and paper filling organised by our guides for the week: Gomaa and Halmosh.

First dive

Our first dive was a check dive at a fairly sheltered location so we could all check our kit, weighting etc. It was a beautiful reef with lots of different hard and soft corals and hundreds of different fish species. Our guides were very patient with us and offered friendly advice to those that wanted it.

It was also an opportunity for us to get into the routine of kitting up, checking gas, and buddy checking on the boat before entering the water. It gave us a great overview for how things would work over the week.

The routine

Six in the morning wake up calls, four dives a day, food and sunbathing in between. So followed several days of amazing diving. As a group we were offered guided or unguided dives – clearly they trusted us – on all but the night dives; these would be unguided. Each dive was preceded by a briefing by one of the guides on the screen in the saloon. Pictures of the site were annotated with main points as the guide walked us through the plan for the dive, indicating points of interest and an appropriate route to take to ensure we saw everything.

The start of the week was mostly reefs, ranging from expansive coral gardens across slow slopes at 15 metres to plunging walls that disappeared into the blue depths hundreds of metres below us. The range of animal and plant life was amazing and captivating. It's one thing to see it on a TV programme or in someone else's photographs but it's quite another to see it first-hand. Everywhere you looked there was something going on from squabbles over territory to long-distance pursuits for food.

A highlight for me was the moment we all turned to see our guide (Halmosh) giving us the signal of a shark and pointing. We all followed at pace to see it only to find ourselves straying slightly too far into a current going the wrong way. My buddy for the dive, Xin, grabbed my hand and let me do the finning for both of us until we were back in the right current. The current gradually increased until we were moving at quite a pace along the reef wall – great fun!

The latter part of the week was mostly wrecks which brought a different selection of life and different corals and plants. Most of the wrecks we dived included some swim-through sections which added another dimension to the diving – especially to someone who struggles with buoyancy control like me! I only bashed metal on metal twice all week though – a personal best!

The old lady

I don't think it's possible to comment on a Red Sea dive trip involving wrecks without including a special mention of the SS Thistlegorm. Due to the socio-political climate of the time we were gifted three out of four dives on her without another boat in sight! Only for the fourth dive did we have company.

The ship itself is magnificent sitting mostly upright at the bottom of the sea like a colossus. Its holds are full of jeeps, motorcycles, rifles and other war-related supplies. The swim-through sections are great fun and add another dimension to the splendour – I can easily see why it is sited so frequently as being among the best wreck dives in the world.

Our first dive on her was in what our guides called a “medium” current. The wreck mostly protects you from this current, especially if you dive it the way the guides tell you to! Only in a couple of places did we have to work hard to get across a gap to the next sheltered area.

The night dive we did was amazing – so many different forms of life than during the daytime and it gave the wreck an unearthly feel to it. A fantastic moment for me occurred when I came into view of the second hold to find my buddy Geraint (“G”) illuminating a swimming turtle with his floodlights like something out of The Abyss or Close Encounters. The removal of the current made the dive much easier and more relaxing and allowed us to take in more of the ship’s details.

My buddy

Buddy diving is a core principle of BSAC diving and this trip was no exception. For all but two dives I was buddied up with Geraint and I was very fortunate in that regard. More confident than myself in the water I was more than happy to let him lead the way on the mostly unguided dives we as a pair opted for. Our shared love of diving and mutual respect made for a very easy and relaxed week's diving and his flood lighting meant I didn't miss anything on a night dive either! As I'm always the slowest to kit up I often found him sitting half kitted up just waiting for me to get a certain way through before continuing – much to the amusement of the rest of the group!

The group

Of the 20 or so guests on board we were the largest group (a dozen or so). Among the rest were a family from Essex and a few teachers from oop North. Everyone was very friendly and relaxed and we soon started exchanging stories and making fun of how long it took me to kit up for every dive. Buddies were occasionally swapped around to make life easier on some of the singles in the group and to minimise the number of people diving as a three.

The crew

We were very well looked after. From cleaning our rooms, cooking and serving our food and helping us kit up to serving us drinks and putting movies on in the saloon for us to watch the crew did a fantastic job. It made for a much more relaxed atmosphere that I'm sure was enjoyed by all throughout the week.

The Friday night party

...was over by 20:35. 'nuff said.

All good things…

So it was that we departed Whirlwind with fond farewells and promises to return to the Red Sea in the future. We spent our off-gassing day lounging by the pool or on the beach at a resort in Hurghada listening to a very eclectic mix of music (“Jailhouse Rock” followed by “I'm Too Sexy...”???) before being transferred back to the hotel for our 28 hour flight back to London, the cold and the rain.

Monday, 22 February 2016

60 dive sites in our 60th year

Bermondsey BSAC 42 turns 60 in 2016, and to mark this anniversary we are planning to dive at least 60 different dive sites during the year. Please check back periodically to see how we're doing - dive sites will be added to this list as and when we visit them.

[October 2016 update - we did it! The wreck of the SMS Markgraf was the club's 60th dive site of 2016. See more recent blog entry for a full list of sites].

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Bermondsey BSAC AGM - 3rd February 2016

In attendance: 23 members
Apologies: 3 members
Chair: Pat

Chair’s opening statement and welcome
  • Pat welcomed attendees and noted the meeting was quorate. He noted that 2015 had been a good year for the club.

Minutes of the previous AGM (04/02/2015) and matters arising
  • These minutes are available to view on the club blog. Minutes agreed.
  • There were no matters arising.

Officers’ reports
  • Training Officer – Chris reported that, in 2015, the club had trained 1x Dolphin Snorkelers, 3x Snorkel Divers, 8x Ocean Divers, 1x Sports Diver and a Sports Diver refresher, and 2x Dive Leaders.  23 try dives had been delivered, and 2 club members had done the Instructor Foundation Course. Lee thanked Chris and the instructors for all their hard work this year.
  • Diving Officer – Lee noted BSAC’s 2015 Diving Incident Report, and the trends it revealed. The club has an entry on page 38 (re: the Falmouth fills). Bermondsey incidents were discussed – none of these resulted in DCI or injury, however they highlighted where the club needs to focus its training (in SMB deployment, for example). 8 club divers entered a decompression chamber early last year, but did this for fun, not out of necessity. Clive noted BSAC’s new resuscitation rules. The 2016 dive list was discussed, and it was noted that take-up was slower than this time last year. Lee noted that dive medicals are not hugely expensive (around £60), and that members should have one if they think they need one. Dave asked if there was still a requirement for refresher training before the first dive of the year – Pat confirmed there wasn’t, but the DO can determine whether someone is fit to dive or not.
  • Equipment Officer – Ross noted that the club had acquired 3 wetsuits and 2 regulator sets this year, but lost 2 Dacor regulator sets. Other Dacor regulator sets are functioning but are old. Mixing of manufacturers in regulator sets is not recommended nowadays. The club has masks and fins in a range of sizes, 4x 10-litre cylinders and 4x 12-litre cylinders. New arrangements for lending club kit to members were noted – instructors will take responsibility.
  • Secretary – Victor noted that most of his work as Secretary involved weekly emails to members, answering emails sent to the club, and taking minutes at meetings. Chris and Colin were thanked for sending emails and taking minutes when he was absent.
  • Treasurer – Ken handed out an accounts summary and noted that the club was in a reasonably good position financially. The club will be slightly cash positive at the end of 2015, once members have paid the club back for the equipment cleaning done after the Falmouth fills problem. Ken is pursuing matters with Seaways on behalf of the club. Pat asked members to remember to pay promptly after dives. Ken asked if members could use an obvious payment reference if possible when paying online. Colin reported that the club currently has 39 members.
  • Chair – Pat had little to add to his earlier opening statement, but reminded members that the club would be celebrating its 60th with an anniversary event at Ross’s place. Dave queried what the cost would be – Pat answered that this hadn’t been settled yet, but it would be reasonable. Pat also mentioned that Mevagissey dates have been announced, and that interested members will need to sign up soon, as accommodation is being snapped up.
  • Welfare Officer – Teresa noted that BSAC’s Buddyguard policy had been published in 2015, and the club must follow it. Instructors and volunteers must abide by its code of conduct. The club also needs to adopt an equal opportunities policy and a whistleblowing policy. Noted that parents of children will need to attend non-pool dives.

Grant funding
  • Sally took on the job of applying for grant funding on behalf of the club. She researched what sources of funding were available, and settled on applying to Sport England’s Small Grants Programme for a grant to fund a project to encourage try-diving in the club’s 60th year. This would be spent on equipment for try-dives and open water dives, namely 10 sets of kit including smaller cylinders.
  • Sally announced that the bid was successful, and Sport England have awarded £8,225 to the club. Sport England require an amendment to the constitution to include a “fully charitable dissolution clause”.
  • Pat thanked Sally for her work on this project.

  • A motion to amend the constitution, as per Sport England’s requirement, was considered. The amendment would add the following text (in bold) to paragraph 17 of the club’s constitution: “17. If a resolution to dissolve the branch be passed at a general meeting and confirmed by a two to one majority in a postal ballot, circulated to all members of the branch, then the branch shall be dissolved. This being so all funds, property and equipment will be disposed of by a majority vote of the branch members. All property and equipment will be given to an organisation with similar charitable objectives or to the National Governing Body of the sport”.
  • Victor spoke in favour of the above motion. The matter was put to a vote and was carried unanimously.
  • Dave proposed a policy motion to limit the number of years the position of Chair can be held by the same member to 3 years in a row. Dave explained that this was intended to bring fresh blood and new ideas to the role, and would encourage new people to come forward and get involved in running the club.
  • Ken spoke against Dave’s motion. It was noted that 5 people had been nominated for Chair this year, but only 1 person accepted their nomination – given that there was no shortage of nominations, the proposed motion would not make a difference, it was suggested.
  • Pat expressed a desire to see more people coming forward, volunteering and shadowing. Sally noted that if any member has an idea, they shouldn’t hesitate to speak up. Victor noted that there were many small jobs that needed doing in the club, and that anyone in the club could do these.
  • An issue with Dave’s motion was noted – if passed, it would not change the constitution, so there would be no constitutional barrier to a person standing and being elected as Chair for more than 3 years.
  • Dave withdrew the motion. Pat thanked Dave for raising the issue and provoking a discussion about volunteering with the club. 

Canada Water masterplan
  • Victor noted that LB Southwark had cancelled an £8m refurbishment of Seven Islands Leisure Centre. Public consultation on the Canada Water masterplan had been announced – this project will include a new leisure centre to replace Seven Islands. Masterplan exhibition dates were noted. Members were encouraged to attend, and/or to lobby their councillors (around a third of the club live in LB Southwark). Secretary to write to LB Southwark about the new leisure centre, and the facilities we’d like to see provided.

  • Although the 4 committee positions were uncontested, an election was still required by the club’s constitution. All candidates had been seconded.
  • Victor reported that 3 members had cast their votes in advance, and had sent apologies.
  • A secret ballot was held.
  • Pat was elected Chair, Lee and Clive (jobshare) were elected Diving Officer, Ken was elected Treasurer, and Victor was elected Secretary.

Other business
  • Medical self-declaration forms were collected.
  • Pat closed the meeting at 9.30pm.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting, 14th January 2016 - abridged notes

Bermondsey BSAC committee meeting, 14/01/2016
Venue: Teresa’s
In attendance: Pat, Clive, Lee, Teresa, Ken, Victor, Chris
Apologies: Ross, Colin

Red Sea trip skills training
  • This didn’t happen on 13/01/2016 (pool closed due to a lack of chlorine), so the two sessions will be held on 20 and 27/01/2016 instead. Noted that a skills review is also scheduled for 27/01/2016.

Mevagissey divefest
  • Dates have just been confirmed – 30/04-02/05/2016.

  • Daniel was working on this at the end of last year, but is waiting for Victor’s input re: graphics.
  • Removal of pictures, club phone number and calendar from current website was suggested, so it looks less out of date.

Falmouth air fills
  • This was discussed.

Grant funding
  • The club’s grant application to Sport England was conditionally accepted. Sport England will require an amendment to the club’s constitution, proof of expenditure and analysis of benefits.

60th anniversary
  • The summer event is to be organised by the next committee.
  • Victor is yet to contact past members.

2016 dive list
  • Take-up so far has been slower than this time last year, although this year more dives are scheduled, and the committee is aware that several active divers haven’t got round to signing up for dives yet.
  • Large hard copy of the dive list is to be brought to AGM.

  • Lee to do presentation incorporating graphs from BSAC incidents report, and will note the club’s 2015 incidents.
  • Victor will put forward the abovementioned motion to amend the constitution. If Sport England haven’t provided details before the AGM, Victor will ask the AGM to delegate authority to the Secretary to make the necessary changes.
  • Colin has nothing to add to what was set out in the end-of-year newsletter, and so won’t be presenting a report at the AGM.
  • Teresa will raise BSAC’s Buddyguard policy, and DBS – some renewals may now be needed.
  • Medical declaration forms will be completed and collected at the AGM.
  •  Club kit arrangements will be explained to members at the AGM. As agreed at the last meeting, kit 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.
  • Victor to circulate AGM agenda and invite committee nominations in an email tomorrow.

Any other business
  • Victor to retrieve the club stamp.
  •  Regarding training, Terry is not continuing, and Aleksandra is taking a break from training.