Diving - The adventure continues!
More UK diving in 2018
With the RIB still out of action, things went a little quiet after the Plymouth weekend.
I planned a couple of shuttle diving trips out of Swanage, in July and August, but didn't get back in the water at all during June.
My next few dives were tame affairs, taking part in training dives for Ocean Diver Trainees on their first open water dives at Wraysbury. Vis wasn't good on these dives, but the trainees aquitted themselves well.
One of our recently qualified Ocean Divers wanted to get some more experience, so I arranged a couple of shallow shuttle dives out of Swanage. The first dive was on the small wreck, the Fleur De Lys (supposedly a small wooden fishing boat, but little remains to tell that now). There were a fair number of fish around it, but most agreed that the swim to the nearby barge and exploring that (and a gentle, on this occasion, drift back towards 'The Fleur') was the more enjoyable part of the dive.
As we didn't get long on the first dive, due to one of my '3' being the new diver who was struggling with air consumption (and buoyancy) against the tide, a couple of us had a short bimble under the pier. Vis was OK and we saw a few fish, but I'm still unconvinced about this as one of the 'great shore dives of the UK'.
We also did a drift dive, later that day on the Peverill Ledges, which is a reef area, comprising stone ledges. There was a gentle current which enabled us to drift over the ledges, taking in the crabs, lobsters, blennies and other fish in bright and fairly clear conditions on a sweltering July day.
Everyone who came along enjoyed the Shuttle diving experience, which was good as we had a fair number booked on a full weekend of such diving in August.
The next few dives were mostly training others again, a couple of Ocean Divers in truly dire vis in Wraysbury (we all did remarkably well to stick together, but if you can dive that, you can dive most things!) and then accompanying some PADI AOW cross overs who were drysuit diving for the first time in Open Water down at NDAC in Chepstow.
Swanage Lifeboat Week, August 2018
These two trips, though, were punctuated with a popular trip to Swanage for the end of their 'lifeboat week'. I'd arranged a couple of days diving there the previous year with little interest (only Ria and Dawn, then inexperienced Ocean Divers, came along on the first day and I was alone on the second, diving with strangers, but it had been good even so - It never bothers me to dive with different people and they'd all been competent, confident divers). As a trip was planned the week before to Porthkerris, I almost canceled the plans, but it seemed that a few people were interested and as the time got nearer we had 9 and 8 divers booked onto the shuttles for the two days!
As it turned out that we only had Sports Divers and above, we decided to focus on the wrecks at their depths, as many of them hadn't dived the Kyarra, Aeolian Sky or Carentan.
We turned up, mostly, on Friday afternoon and evening, and enjoyed live music in Prince Albert Gardens, just above the pier and a few real ales (and other drinks for those less inclined to ale!) before retiring to our accommodations, I was camping as were a couple of others, whilst some were B&B'ing or hotel'ing it.
Another couple of people joined us on Saturday morning and we dived the Kyarra first. In contrast to last year's great dive, this was more typically dark and a bit murky, but moving forward from the shot, I found a built up area of the wreck I'd never seen before, but it did seem that the reception was a muted one to the dive.
Luckily we found the vis better on the Carentan that afternoon and the enthusiasm levels for this smaller wreck were much higher, except from John, whose neck seal leaked and filled his drysuit!
Many of us planned to dive the Aeolian Sky and the Fleur again the next day, but the weather was against us and the skipper informed us that diving the Sky wasn't going to be possible in a phone call that evening. A couple of people decided to go home early, but most stayed and watched another couple of bands and enjoyed a fun evening.
Even though our diving was cut short, most people seemed to have enjoyed the mix of diving and socialising and more than a few asked me to arrange it again next year, so we'll see if it proves as popular then - I'll try and dive the Sky and the Tanks on the first day next year, if we go.
Wreck diving from Weymouth, September 2018
The first weekend of September had long been booked as a 'Cannon Survey' weekend, giving some of us a chance to put into practice what we'd learnt on a Nautical Archeolgical Society (NAS) course on about the only wet weekend of the 2018 British summer!
We arrived at the boat, the Wey Chieftan 4 which we'd used for May's survey weekend, with a view to diving the same sites. Some just came along to look and a few of us planned to do some measuring.
Dawn, who was my buddy for the first dive, had an O-ring fail (it happened to another buddy in Swanage earlier in the season, too - Am I becoming a jinx?), so I dived with Cameron, our Diving Officer, and Will who hadn't dived in a couple of years, but has always been a steady diver and it proved to be the case again as we explored the 'Brandy Wreck', with me spending most of my time capturing some video footage for Dawn on her GoPro.
Both Will and Cameron clocked up some deco (I had a weak Nitrox mix), so I waited with them, which meant I used up more air than I needed to, so the afternoon dive on the shallower Blackhawk Bow section was curtailed a bit.
I'd never dived this before, trying once but never seeing anything, but this was a lovely picturesque dive with fish galore, some very large, a reasonable amount of wreckage and 4 Congers, some hiding themselves inside rusting winches.
Even with limited air, we span this dive out for 47 minutes, so good was it.
We enjoyed a curry in Weymouth and a night of dubious quality sleep, before getting up crazily early for a 7AM ropes off, the alternative being a dive at 7PM.
On the Sunday, we went around Portland Bill as the wind had shifted and enjoyed a dive on the 'Alexander'. The vis wasn't the stellar 15M we'd had in May and there was a bit of a current running, but Dawn and I managed to measure a couple of the cannons and one of the anchors and everyone enjoyed exploring this old wreck (not me!) and we picked up some line and flags which had been left in the May visit.
The final dive was on a 'mystery site'. Richard, the skipper, reported his sidescan sonar had found something that could be a wreck or just rubbish, but when we dived it we found nothing proud of the seabed, just some rope, lots of old cables, some old Admirality crockery (apparently the fleet used to gather here back when we had a Navy) and a few crab. We'll have to remain in the dark, for now, about what the sidescan found, but it was interesting to be diving looking for something that might or might not be there.
I wouldn't want to make a habit of it though!
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