Great day at Vobster @ the charity Santa dive for RNLI and Dorset Air Ambulance – massive success, very relaxed dive, lot of fun and all for a good cause in Xmasy snowy day.
Divers: Michal, Andrew, Jack and Henry!
We flew into Valetta on Thursday 17th Nov to forecasts of thunderstorms, windy conditions and generally a poor diving outlook, but Henry & Grace had arrived the day earlier and reported good weather.
For anyone who hasn’t been to Malta before, being an old British territory, it all seems very familiar but with air temperatures of about 23-25° and not dissimilar water temperatures this was going to be a pleasant end to our diving season. Originally the trip was planned for Gozo but the travel time to get there and the claim that at this time of year there were more places to shelter from the Nov winds, made the main island of Malta the final destination.
We had a big complement of 12 divers and one non diver and were all picked up from the Alexander Hotel on Friday morning and driven to the dive centre. ‘Divewise’ was a short walk away from our accommodation in Paceville, near St. Julians Bay. Viv, the owner of the centre had been a joy to deal with via email in the setting up of this trip and we were formally introduced to her and our guides Mike, JR and Yarick.
Dive 1, was right in front of the centre in what I believe is called Il Merkanti Bay. This was really a checkout and weighting dive but it was great to again get into a Mediterranean azure sea with fantastic visibility.
Dive 2 was a short drive to Valetta where we dived just under the huge fortress walls that surround Valetta. We dived HMS Maori, a 115 metres long British destroyer that sunk in Grand Harbour of Valletta by German air raid attack in February 1942. It’s pretty broken up and lying in 15m of water. Nothing particularly notable about this wreck but still novel in that we were getting into the water from a pretty historic vantage point.
Having being warned about the worsening weather conditions for the next few days, we were offered the opportunity to hire a more traditional boat and travel to the small Island of Comino, the following day.
Dive 3 was easily the highlight of the trip even though I had dived Santa Maria Caves, Comino, a few years ago. The caves are approached by boat and some entrances to differing parts are pretty narrow but they widen quickly on the other side for those who might think that claustrophobia might kick in and it’s reassuring to know that your guide has done this many, many times before. Because of the complexity of caves, arches and overhangs, the team of divers look pretty spectacular framed against the light streaming in from where the cave opens to the sea again whilst swimming with an abundance of sea life.
Once back onboard and rested with some packed lunch we headed back to the main island for Dive 4, a somewhat slimed down version of what we had already done but equally interesting. I believe the site of these caves is called Mellieha Bay. Before leaving for the evening, the dive centre had warned us with the increasingly poor weather, the following days diving might be cancelled.
As you can imagine, diving wasn’t the only pastime in Malta. It also has a bustling nightlife with decent restaurants and bars and it’s not terribly expensive, but then again we are a London club so its all relative, I suppose. We were also in the middle of the Autumn Nations Rugby Tournament so an evening by a large television screen was not unwelcome.
On the last day we were pleasantly surprised to have been offered 2 dives at Marsakala in the South of Malta, despite the weather forecasts. Brian had decided to sit out the Dive 5 as the entrance to the water looked a bit unstable and as the rain came on it looked like he made the right call. The other 11 divers entered the water in what looked like a giant squadron format and we kept at about 12 m depth until directly above the first of the tugboats in order to preserve air. There are three boats in this site, the St. Michael and No 10 tugboats as well as a more modern boat, the P33 patrol boat that has suffered more from wave action and is quite broken up even though it was scuttled as recently as 2021. We had been warned that the vis was not going to be so great but were pleasantly surprised. Everything appeared to be very calm underwater and we had a long swim back from the wrecks, slowly following the rising slope of the sea bed. Calm, that is, until we decided to surface near the shore where a hand rail was conveniently installed to aid divers. I was reminded of those documentaries about wild weather as above water it looked like a hurricane had just descended on our exit plan. Extremely heavy rain and strong winds meant slow going on the last bit of the swim to shore but more importantly the visibly was hampered by the wind and rain on the sea so it was difficult to keep a check on other divers to make sure they had all got out safely. Having done this once or twice before the guides had anchored some rope to the handrail which once spotted made things a bit easier.
I had an easy decision to make for the second dive which was going to be the on the second tugboat. JR, the guide asked me what I wanted to do and I was quite happy to call any further diving off. After changing in the local facilities and rushing to our vehicles, Brian & Mark returned with hot coffees for the windswept team. What fine fellows!
Might be worth posting some of the costs should anyone need to do research for further Malta dives. This was a Nov. 2022 organised dive with Divewise dive centre at a cost of €210 per person. The boat as an extra to reach Comino at €35 p.p. A twin room was around €85 p.p for 4 nights, breakfast included.
Credit – Paul (Trip Organiser)
Every year, we use our AGM to reflect on the last 12months of diving and club activities. We have reports from our committee members, we give out our annual club awards and vote in next years committee.
This year, we said thank you to our outgoing Dive Officer Michal, Equipment Officer Mark and Training Officer George and welcomed to the Committee Henry as our new Social secretary. We also had a few committe members shuffle positions as well as some stay in their positions:
Diving Officer will be voted in by the committee in our first meeting on the new term.
Every year we give out 2 prestigious awards for Diver and Club Person of the Year that are voted for by our members.
Diver of the Year is an award presented to members than have used the last 12months to continuely advance their diving skills. This years it was awarded to Mark for attending almost all of the club trips, making good progress to completing Dive Leader and upskilling with his new twin set configurations.
Club Person of the Year is awarded to a Putney BSAC member that has gone above and beyond and contributed emensely to the club over the last year. This year, the club voted for Steve, our Boat Officer, for all of his hard work and perservence to get our new rhib Femti up and running. Huge thank you to Steve – we’re all very excited to get out on the boat diving next season.
The final award we present at our AGM is the Skomer Claw, presented for the biggest diving related mistake or mishap. This year, due to one mishap (that managed to not actually win the award itself) we got a new award, the Stoney Diver, for the runner up to the Skomer Claw. (To read more about where this award came from check out the Stoney Trip Report)
Winner of the Skomer Claw: Mark – Despite it already happening once this year, Mark didn’t learn from other mistakes and managed to take his phone to 35m on the Markgraf in his dry suite pocket.
Runner Up and Winner of the Stoney Diver: George – After diving got blown out, George made the most of it in Swanage’s ‘The Club”. But he didn’t leave much to the imagination on his return back to the hostel for his fellow room mates following a late night shower.
Congratulations to all of our award winners, a massive thank you to our outgoing committee members and good luck to this year newly elected committee – here’s to an amazing next 12months.
Our 2022 edition of the AGM photo competition was another chance for our budding underwater photographers was to submit their best photos from the last 12 months. Our club members are allowed to submit one photo to each of our two categories, UK and Abroad, these are then voted for on the night!
We had 7 entries for the UK competitions that really showcase both our members skills but also the incredible life and scenery the UK has to offer. It had been great to get a full 12 months of diving in after a couple of covid disrupted years!
Winner of the UK Photo Competition: Emma with her photo from under Swanage Pier
We had four submissions for the abroad category:
Winner of the Abroad Photo Competition: Tim for his photo of an Angleshark in Lanzerote
Huge congratulations to our winners Tim and Emma
When Tim Watson organised a trip to St Abbs, I thought it would be perfect to add the Farnes on to the end of trip as we have travelled so far and the Farnes only being about 40 minutes away from St Abbs in Scotland.
So, with accommodation and the boat booked with Sovereign Diving, 6 of us who were on the St Abbs trip finished diving on the Sunday and made our way to Seahouses to find the accommodation. We were surprised by just how nice the accommodation was as not that expensive and the breakfast was great as well. After a few beers in the Old Ship and some food, we were joined by Nick Harrison who flew into Newcastle airport and was picked up by Mark.
The weather that hadn’t been great in St Abbs was still with us but we did manage to get out to the Farnes and we are so glad we did as had a brilliant 1st dive with everyone reporting loads of interaction with the seals, the 2nd dive at the same location due to the weather, saw seals right at the start but then they all disappeared we think they sensed the weather that was about to come is as when we got top side the weather had deteriorated and the journey back to Seahouses was not direct as usual but going close to Bamburgh Castle where so we all checked our eyesight. The evening was followed by a fish and chip supper and a few beers.
With the weather still not great but much better than it was coming back the day before and a change of Skipper we once again headed out to the Farnes but this time to a different location and had another wonderful dive with the seals (Nick Harrison seemed to be the trips Seal magnet), the 2nd dive was at the same location but we were advised to 1st swim along the wall in the opposite direction this allowed us to see a little bit more life before returning to play with the seals which were out in force once again. This was followed by the obligatory last night curry and a couple of drinks in the Old Ship.
Nick Harrison, John Heagney, Mark Glowrey, Byron Nurse, Helen Lacey, Brian Long and Emma Spring
Credit – Brian (Trip Organiser and Chairman)
It’s been five years since Putney BSAC last visited St Abbs, a quiet harbour village in the Scottish Borders. As a club we have been there many times before but this was an opportunity for a new generation of club members to dive at one of the best scenic diving sites in the country. It’s marine reserve with a large number of reefs teaming with life.
One of the most famous animals is the elusive wolf fish, a dark stone fish that hides amongst the rocks. Some divers will visit St Abbs several times before getting their first sighting. Of course John and Brian saw four on their first dive, and practically tripped over them on every subsequent dive.
Of course St Abbs other great diving feature is the 10 min journey time to the dive sites and a 10m walk from the accommodation to the dive boat. Surface intervals in a warm cafe and a late ropes off time will please any diver.
The relaxed diving pace gave us plenty of time in the evening to relax. On the Saturday Mark generously took on the role of group chef and cooked us a fantastic spaghetti bolognese. Michal jokingly made a flippant remake about wanting crepe suzette flambé for dessert not expecting anything to come of it but Mark wasn’t going to step away from a challenge. So we were all treated to delicious French dessert Scottish Borders style.
Since we lasted visited St Abbs has become famous for something else other than diving. It was the filming location for New Asgaard in Avengers Endgame. The village museum boasts a replica Mjolnir and Stormbreaker (Thor’s hammers) which tourists can be seen posing with for photos on the cliff edges. Of course we didn’t miss the opportunity to pose with them as well.
All in all another very successful dive trip, with some great diving and beautiful scenery above and below water. It’s a long drive but it’s well worth it.
Credit – Tim (Trip Organiser)
Scapa flow is easily one of my favourite dive destinations. I’ve been banging on about organising a PSAC trip since my first visit in the centenary year of the scuttling of the German High Seas fleet back in 2019. The trip went in at our dive planning meeting back in 2020, leaving plenty time for people to get dived up and get comfortable with twinsets and accelerated decompression to make the most of our time there.
The journey for most of the club started very early on Friday morning with a 13hr journey up to the Weigh Inn in Scrabster for a much-deserved pint and a bite to eat to kick off the trip. We were seven strong from Putney SAC (me, Charles, Michal, Helen, Mark, Andrew and Leszek) three from Hellfins SAC (Jon, Matt and Nithin) and one from Warrington SAC (Mike).
A nights’ sleep and a Northlink ferry later everyone arrived at our home for the week MV Karin – skippered by John Thornton, a veteran skipper of Scapa Flow and a very accomplished technical diver who was part of the 1997 expedition to HMHS Britannic. Once everyone was unloaded and set gear up, we headed to the Ferry Inn for a few pints before heading to the local Chinese to eat onboard.
The following day started our diving off on SMS Dresden, one of the four cruisers still on the seabed in the flow. The visibility was not amazing, but everyone was happy to get on their first piece of WW1 rust of the trip and shakedown any nervous apprehension. Dive two took us to SMS Karlsruhe, another cruiser in about 25m of water. The visibility was much better, allowing the main sights of the 5.9” casemate guns, anchor capstans, teak decking, rudder and the infamous armoured control, where the door had fell off and trapped a diver around 20 years earlier, a few minutes of decompression later and everyone was back on the boat for some celebratory beers… first day of Scapa complete!
The wind was scheduled to increase overnight, and it sure did. We still managed to get out for a lumpy dive on the F2 and YC-21 in the lay of Hoy, but with a bit of struggle getting back on the lift, the days’ diving was called, and we headed back to Stromness. Eager to take in the Orcadian sights, we headed over to the Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners of war and maintained in great condition to this day… we then obviously headed to the pub!
Day three saw the wind die down and we were back out to the high seas fleet to carry on with our cruisers, dive one was SMS Cöln in around 36m and dive two was SMS Brummer in around 35m. Both similar dives plenty of 5.9” guns to see if you have a keen eye and both have their standout differences, most noticeably the bridge rail and search light iris on the Brummer, and the machine gun mounts and armoured control on the Cöln. Sadly, the Brummer is showing significant signs of deterioration even in the couple of years since I first dived her.
Day four brought us flat calm weather and we got straight on to one of the “big boys” of Scapa, SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm, a König class battleship. Dropping down the shotline we landed on the hull, then headed over the side following the line down to the 12” guns in around 38m of water. I could hear Charles exclaim “they’re f*ckin’ huge” through his regulator… they certainly are a highlight of Scapa flow and my favourite sight on the trip. Dive two brought us to the UB-116 in Hoxa sound, visibility was easily 10m on the white sandy bottom allowing some great pictures on the conning tower (big thanks to Jon for lining off to it!). Dive three… yes dive three, took us to a small fishing boat called MFV Responsive near Burray to catch up on the lost dive from day two which was a great dive to end the day, lots of life and would be a great option in bad weather.
Sadly, the stern toilet had become blocked the previous day and caustic wasn’t freeing the blockage… but not to fear “turd-buster” Denby was on the case and had the pipe unblocked in no time, despite John shouting “put your regulator back in!”
With the bog unblocked we headed to Burray to overnight in a different port, visiting the Sands pub for a nice meal and yup, you guessed it some more beer!
Day five was a great day, possibly my favourite wreck ever – SMS Markgraf and the one that has always eluded me on previous trips – the blockship Tabarka. The Markgraf is another König class battleship sitting overturned in around 44m of water, we all took variations on the classic route down the anchor chain to the gun-run and on to the officers’ accommodation with intact portholes partially open. We then headed onto the hull to see the gigantic rudders and then bagged off very content with the dive. The Tabarka was an excellent second dive. Gin clear water in around 15m, but the tides run quick. We all jumped in negatively buoyant and headed straight inside to take a look around… this is a very photogenic wreck!
Once up from the dive we headed back to Stromness with the sad realisation that we weren’t going to get out for our last day of diving. The winds picked up a hell of a lot, blowing F10! We sheltered most of the day in a local café, then headed over to Kirkwall for a curry before waiting for our evening ferry to Aberdeen (which was delayed for 3 hours due to bad weather).
All in all, a great trip with great company. It was really nice to have two London clubs come together and of course my dad, who has probably done more diving outside of Capernwray this year with PSAC than he has done with the Warrington club!
Credit – George (Trip Organiser & Training Officer)
In conjunction with Steve Gibbons I have been running a series of boat trials both on the river and the sea. After eventually getting the broken bolt drilled out and a new bolt fitted and after checking we had no leaks it was time to get the boat on the water. So on Sunday 17th July we had the1st trial down the Thames to Richmond lock after asking to go through the fuel tank emptied on us so after apologising to the lock keeper we decided with the fuel we had left on the boat it was time to turn around and head back to Putney, with a stop at the White Hart in Barnes for a swifty where George joined us (We now know we can fit a bike on the boat).
Crew Steve, Mark, Paul, Brian and for a bit George
On Sunday 7th August we had the 2nd trial launching from Bracklesham Bay it was very quickly obvious that although reliable the boat is down on power, so our attempts at project Florida was doomed to fail. We then headed in to Chichester harbour for a bit of practice in boat traffic, then back to Bracklesham Bay for boat recovery.
Crew Steve, Mark, Nick H, Michal and Brian
Thursday 18th August saw us launching on the Thames. As we thought it may be a problem with Fuel we were using a spare tank connected directly to the engine thus eliminating any problems with the fixed fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel filter and primer. Unfortunately, this was not the problem but we are now are step further by eliminating these. It was a nice evening so rather than just give up when we realised this wasn’t the solution, we did a little trip down the Thames, giving more people experience with Femti. Once the boat was safely back at the HYC a post trip pint in the Boathouse was the order of the day.
Crew Steve, Paul, Liam, Emma and Brian
We will continue to look at the lack of the power we have a few ideas and hopefully be able to get her out diving before the year end.
Credit – Brian (Chairman)