Diving - The adventure continues!
More UK Diving - Later in 2017
After Jordan, the next few dives were on more familiar territority, at Vobster Quay, NDAC and Wraysbury.
After an aborted attempt to dive the M2 Submarine from Weymouth (The M3 motorway was closed for 12 hours and we suffered 3 of those, missing the boat!), Julian, Paul, John and I signed up for a BSAC "Try Tech" event at Vobster in early October.
Diving should be all about new experiences, so we went to Vobster to undertake a Rebreather experience dive.
We had a brief, briefing, and were then helped into out Rebreathers. We carried out a few minutes 'pre-breathing', which gets the chemical reaction in the 'scrubber' going and lets us check that it and the sensors are all working correctly.
The AP unit I tried felt about as heavy on my back as my 15 litre tank, but I didn't need to carry any weight, so possibly it was a bit more.
This done, we jumped into the water and swam over to the shallow area, where we attempted to sort out our buoyancy. With no air escaping from the closed circuit, you can't breath in and out to control your buoyancy.
We got to an OK level of buoyancy quickly, but I found I was struggling to get air from my mouthpiece. Unlike a cylinder, the rebreathing loop is run by the power of your lungs and I guess I just wasn't breathing enough to get the air circulating. I thought I'd got it going, but once we left the shallow area and were down in 6-7M I was sucking on what felt like an empty tank!
I almost bolted for the surface (We weren't given bailout air of our own to switch to), but our instructor/guide showed me a button on the unit that allowed me to push diluent (air as we were diving shallow) into the system and, whilst I used this a few times after that, it helped a lot and as we swam on and down to 12M or so for the next 20 minutes, I found that it became natural to breath at my normal rate, sometimes a bit harder and faster, as I recognised the fact that I wasn't really rationed in how much air I could consume.
All kitted up, but looking like a Borg-Garden Gnome!
Julian and I both found the buoyancy less trouble than we expected. I did put a bit of air in my wing and suit now and then and then have to dump it, but from my memory and now looking at the profile of the dive, there wasn't lots of ups and downs and what there were were quite contained.
The experts explain the system to Julian
On the positive side, the lack of bubbles is nice, both in terms of not disturbing the numerous Perch around and in terms of the peacefulness of the dive.
By the end of the dive I felt I was breathing comfortably on a rebreather and that my buoyancy control was acceptable and I'm sure both would improve considerably with a handful more dives.
One bonus is the chemical reaction warms and humidifies the air, so you stay warmer, although I wouldn't say that on the shortish, shallow dive we did that I could tell the difference.
Paul gets the explanation
If rebreathers were affordable, I might well consider one to extend my diving. The weight to move around is much less than a twinset and the constant oxygen level is a great feature as is the nearly unlimited gas supply.
It was a great opportunity to dive something different in a more realistic environment than a pool and I would say I came away with a more positive view of rebreathers because of having more time to get used to it.
John's always enthusiastic about diving new tech, does it show?
If you get a chance (it was open to all SD and above), give it a try!
Julian and I followed that up with a normal Open Circuit dive, where the most noteworthy thing, in an enjoyable dive, was the rapid drop in temperature (from 16 to 8C) around 15M! We didn't stay long at depth!
We did note how many Perch there were around, far more than usual at Vobster.
Only a week later, we were off to NDAC to carry out some training dives for some of our Sports Diver trainees.
These went without incident, I joined Paul and Dawn, who carried out an SMB dive (thrilling event!) on her first and a 10M mask clear and CBL on the second.
Vis was pretty good and the nature of the dives meant that we more or less just had a couple of leisurely dives above 20M, being able to find the next 'attraction' from the last very easily.
I did spot the wreck that had been sitting for many months on the road down to the quarry sitting around 20M and after a quick look on the first dive, we all swam to it on the second, after Dawn's exercises were complete.
I'd started the dive with a half empty cylinder, so there was no opportunity to go into the wreck, but it's clearly setup for that, and we'll pop back sometime with full tanks for a better look.
Running low on air by this point, I ascended the shotline from the tugboat, while Paul and Dawn swam back to the slip. We both arrived back about the same time, but with very low water levels in the quarry, I had the easier task of getting out by using a ladder on the pontoon.
Sadly, our day ended in tragedy as some of us tried in vain to assist in the resusitation of a technical diver - No doubt details of what happened will come out in time, but all our,including the professional emergency services who arrived as quickly as you could expect (and Paul, a fireman by profession, and another diver who is a paramedic were trained in first response and amongst the first on the scene, administering CPR and oxygen), efforts were to no avail and he was declared dead at the scene...
It was certainly a sober end to the day, and we had to hang around for a while until Paul and Julian who'd administered CPR directly, finished with the police, which made us realise that our training is actually for something real and not just a theoertical event. That said, we all hope to never be in such a situation again.
It had been reassuring and impressive to see how divers came to his aid, rather than just hanging back, afraid to get involved or 'do the wrong thing'.
The following weekend I planned to visit my Mum, but things changed a bit, so Julian and I took in a couple of leisurely dives at Wraysbury on the Sunday.
The visibility was quite poor, sadly, but that didn't stop us finding lots of the attractions on both dives.
In fact we both felt that we'd seen some we'd never seen before, but whether that was down to the vis or genuinely the case is hard to say.
As at Vobster, and NDAC, there were lots of Perch around and we even spotted a young Pike at one point.
After the previous week at NDAC, it was quite good to have a couple of easy dives and just get back into the swing of things.
I had a dive on the M2 planned for Friday 20th October, meeting up with Chris, who'd moved onto Guildford BSAC club, along with some other people, but being retired had time in the week to go.
Sadly Brian (Storm Brian, that is) put the mockers on that, but as I'd taken a day off and Chris was free, we went to Vobster and had two lovely 40+ minute dives with vis up to 10M and virtually no-one else there. I'd certainly recommend diving there on a week day, if you have the chance, but the price increase to £19 did make us wince slightly.
I'd set myself a quite modest target of 35 dives for 2017 and I'd reached (and exceeded) that by this point.
I had a hankering to get one more day in at NDAC and go and visit the tugboat with a full tank, before calling it a year and Paul, John, Julian and I set off on the first Saturday in November to do so.
Expecting cold weather I took my very thick and buoyant Polar Bear undersuit, but it turned out to be very mild and, in between the odd downpour, mostly sunny!
On the first dive I felt overweighted witn my usual 4KG extra for the PB undersuit, so I dropped to just 2 for the second dive, but I left my belt in the car and rather than track up the hill, used a spare weight from John, tucked into a BCD pocket, which through my trim out significantly, so I used a fair bit of air on each dive.
John, Julian and Paul prepare for the first dive.
The first dive, Julian and I jumped in and headed straight out, past the larger plane and onto the double decker bus, doing the regular swim through, going up the stairs and out through the back window on the upper deck. We carried on to the Wessex helicopter near the bus, which is starting to look fairly corroded, and then dropped down to just below 30M in the pit before working our way back up to the shallower shelf, taking in the swim through box complex and finaly finishing our dive with a safety stop by the Land Rover (which is usually at near 10M, so indicates how low the water level was this late in 2017).
Paul and John were messing about with their twinsets and came out a little after us (I think our dive times were pretty close, though) and we took our cylinders up to be filled while we had a bacon roll and a mug of tea, during our surface interval.
After an hour or so, we picked our cylinders up and took a minibus back down to the lake, with the intention of visting the Tugboat wreck.
We jumped in and then descended, heading across the lake, passing the second, nearly skeletal Wessex Helicopter, which I don't recall ever seeing before, and working our way around until I recognised the ledge over which I'd found the wreck on our previous visit.
I got the attention of the others, we all dived together this time, and we swam to the wreck. Vis wasn't as good as on our last trip, so my photos were generally terrible, but we poked around inside the wreck, finding it a little smaller than first impressions had suggested and less easy to explore inside.
Julian and John take a break on the Tugboat's rail.
After a bit of exploring and messing about on the boat, we headed back up, past the Abbot SPG and Stalwart, through the containers until we reached the Land Rover again to complete our safety stop.
Julian explores the Saracen APC...
It was quite a good day, with the chance, for once, to enjoy NDAC without having the pressures of training or less experienced divers to worry about and it was good to come back and have an enjoyable day, after the trauma of the previous visit.
...and then the Stalwart
We were ready to leave by 2, having had a 6:30 start, and the drive back was trouble free, meaning I was home by 4.
That might well be it for 2017, chances to dive in the sea are limited now and, with shorter days and colder weather, the incentives to get out and dive in the inland sites are fewer.
I plan to send my drysuit off for a much needed investigation of (and hopefully fix for) the constant small leak it suffers in the next few weeks, so my next diving could well be in 2018.
With Mandy already booked on a Butterfly spotting trip to Croatia, I plan to do some exotic warm water diving next season and get my annual dive count up a bit on this year...We'll have to see how that goes.
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