Dives planned, tanks filled with the perfect mixes, and a sunny forecast, we were back down to Swanage to complete the plans from a few weeks earlier.
After a nice first dive around the Carentan, with plenty of bottom time and good gas switching practice, George and I were well set for a dive we had been wanting to do for a long time. Chips for lunch followed by some optimsed decanting and we were ready to go.
The Kyarra did not disapoint, a huge wreck with lots of life and plenty to explore. With 40mins bottom time we managed to cover from the boilers to the bow and back again, but still so much more to see.
Credit – Charles (Trip organiser)
We spent our time mostly diving on the South Coast so diving in the Atlantic was certainly an interesting prospect. We had proposed doing this trip with Aquaholics on the Northern Ireland North Coast a year earlier but Covid scuppered those plans. Helen had recently moved to Ireland so we decided to split the plans between Belfast Lough and the Causeway Coast, named after the nearby Giants Causeway. The group of 10 divers split initially into two groups, one accommodated in Bangor and could explore Belfast before the dives and the other based on Carlingford Lough, a good base for those who fancied visiting Dublin and doing some outdoors pursuits such as hiking & kayaking etc.
The first dive in Belfast Lough was a bit of a shock to the system as while people in London were experiencing 36°C temperatures, we had rain and hail on Belfast Lough and about a metre of vis on the first dive on the SS Troutpool. It did improve though markedly on the second dive.
At the end of day one we drove to Ballycastle on the Northern Ireland Coast. The landscape is very dramatic up there, home for many location shoots for ‘Game of Thrones’ etc with impressive cliffs, and big rollers coming off the Atlantic. Our accommodation was in the suitably named ‘Aqualodge’ which had a large garden and a very modern fit out mainly aimed at the diving fraternity. Equally impressive was the proximity of the hard-boat just across the road in the marina which was the one of two bases for the Aquaholics dive boats.
We had 2 reef or wall dives around Rathlin Island which because of it’s shape usually offers some shelter from the winds but by far the most impressive dives on the North Coast was on the Lough Garry, a wreck standing upright and very much intact at 32m with about 20m vis.
I for one wasn’t looking forward to diving back in Belfast Lough after the diving up North but was more than pleasantly surprised when we had decided on diving on the SS Chirippo and diving with DV Diving. The wreck lying on it’s side with the hull exposed was covered in dead man’s fingers and coral and the vis was superb, allowing for a great end to our diving in Ireland.
The Crew: Paul, Helen, John, Aidan, Brian, Emma, Jack, Andrew, Michal, Byron Organisers: Paul & Helen.
Credit Paul (Trip Organiser)
After being asked if there was any diving for Ocean divers in April in the coming months. I rapidly setup up a dive for Ocean divers and above out of Newhaven for the 29th May. With a couple of weeks to go before the dive the Newhaven skipper called to say he had sold the boat, so we were left high and dry. A quick look around and a Facebook post and we were back in business on Aquanaut just a little further west along the coast in Littlehampton.
So early on Sunday the 29th May, 8 of us met up at Littlehampton the sun was shining as we left the harbour and headed out on the hour steam to the Concha wreck once there and all kitted up it was in to the water. As we made our way down it was clear (or not) that the visibility was not bad, but a plankton bloom was upon us reducing the overall visibility. The Concha is well broken up wreck with the main area being the boiler another structure that none of us could identify and a small prop at the stern. The wreck was full of life with Bib/pouting, crabs, tompot blennies, lobsters (one large one), squat lobsters, congers, a nudibranch and for one lucky dive pair a fair size cuttlefish.
The 2nd dive was on the Waldrons reef just outside Littlehampton harbour is a nice little drift with plenty of life. Highlights included Dogfish (Catshark), thornback rays, ballan wrasse and tompot blennies.
Anna, Brian, Byron, Emma, Helen (Guest), Mark, Michal and Nick Harrison.
Credit – Brian (Chairman and Trip Organiser)
After a week’s delay due to high winds, eight Putney BSAC members drove to Selsey East beach for a day by the sea and two shore dives. We based ourselves just east of the existing lifeboat centre and walked the kit from the road to set up ready for the first dive.
After a dive briefing, the first wave started ~ 9am, this was aiming to be roughly 4 hour before high water scheduled at 12:15. It was a good first dive for all, with plenty of life including many spider crabs and also a juvenile ray and a cat shark. As high tide was approaching, exiting after the dive was manageable and the group enjoyed the surface interval lazing in the sun.
We waited patiently for the current to stop running, with the recommended dive time of 3 hours high tide, the second wave started at 2:30. Another good dive, with slightly better vis (almost 5m), with more crabs and cat sharks and even a pipefish found showing the variety of life you can see at just 5m depth. The downside of shore diving was more obvious on the exit of the second dive, with low tide on its way, it made for a long and tiring walk back up the beach to dekit.
It was a successful day and a good way to get ready for the UK diving season. Note to self – you can burn in April in the UK even if it’s only 12degrees.
Credit – Nic (Comms Officer and Trip Organiser)
Second week of April seen our club on first sea diving trip to Swanage. Weather forecast was not great, and temperatures were low, weather changed and we had a lovely sunny weekend, temperature not so much and we had to scrub the ice on car windscreens in the morning… 4 dives conducted – Valentines tanks and Fluer de Lys on first day is classic Swanage diving day in the bay with lots of life and surprising okish vis.
On Sunday we went out to SS Clan MacVey wreck, which was a wreck that none of us dived before followed by a drift over Peveril ledges + done some scalloping (where in total we collected £100+ worth of scallops, under watchful eyes of skipper Bryan to make sure all were well above the landing sizes – so big success as well).
Nice weekend with lot of fun (although most on my costs as usual)… Elodie finished her Ocean Diver qualifying dives and Andrew the same for Dive leader – well done to both. I must say that diver of the month goes to Elodie who braved the dives in the wet suit and did really well, more over Elodie also mastered perfectly (i.e. confidently and assertively) her first time as assistant dive manager! Well done Elodie (although next time Elodie pls pls go to pilot house between the dives – I was freezing just by looking at you) !!
Many thanks also to Bryan from Swanage boat charter who skippered the Viper and also crew in Cumulus Outdoor center where we felt well looked after (I will not quote all pubs we visited during the weekend – it would be long list…). Lastly but not less importantly – some people though need to think about their behaviour … – no Nick – its not ok to steal the DSMB from your DO during the dive and trying to nick his scalloping bag as well !!!
Credit – Michal (DO and Trip Organiser)
In July 2021, just as Covid looked like it was starting to go away, Egypt opened up its borders again to divers. With it, a wide array of liveaboards, inaccessible for so many months, looked an enticing way to kick start the 2022 diving season. With a week of leave locked in for me over February half term, I announced at our dive planning meeting in October 2021 that I would be going on this trip, and anyone else was welcome to join me. A few people expressed some tentative interest, but ultimately Byron was the only other person who was willing to take the Covid risk. And as Omicron tried its hardest to ruin Christmas, it felt for a while as if everyone else in the club were the smart ones.
Luckily come February, not only had Omicron been dealt with, but the Government had decided that Covid travel testing was also a thing of the past, so we boarded our flight to Hurghada. After battling our way through the airport scrum, we got our visas, had our passports stamped and were taken to the M/Y Firebird – home for the next week. On board we met our dive guide, Chris, British friends Helen and Peter and solo Polish diver Arec. We were told four more Austrian divers would be arriving during the night before we set sail in the morning.
Our first check dives were at Gota Abu Ramada reef, a short hop from Hurghada. We each demonstrated that we could complete all our drills (some more successfully than others) and saw an Eagle Ray, Spotted Ray, Barracuda and Lion fish. We also got to know our group – Arec was more at home in the water than on the boat as he swam laps around the rest of us, while Helen and Peter dazzled us with their amazing photography skills. We then got back on the boat for a vomit-inducing all-night journey to the Brother Islands. After seeing a school of Banner fish at the Little Brother, we then completed two dives at the Big Brother, with a trip on to the Island and to the top of the Lighthouse in between.
The next day was our first wreck of the week (it was the Wrecks and Reefs Itinerary after all) as we dived the Chrisoula K. After a photo by the prop, we went in to the hold and finally to the engine room. A fantastic wreck. After breakfast we did the Giannis D, again going in as far as the engine room. Thank goodness for Chris, our amazing guide, as with the ship lying at 45 degrees on the sea bed, we all would still be inside now without his excellent navigation. After spying some dolphins on our way back to the Firebird, we ate lunch on our way to the SS Thistlegorm.
Our first dive in the afternoon we circumnavigated the entire ship, seeing the prop, the guns on the stern, tanks and motorbikes. Then that evening I did a night dive with Peter, exploring the main superstructure. It was like diving in an aquarium with fish life all around us, however unlike an aquarium the current was incredibly strong and we both looked like flags in a strong breeze as we hung on to the boat line during our safety stop. The following morning, we penetrated the lower cargo hold while after breakfast we did the upper cargo deck, kitchen and bridge.
And so, the wreck part of the itinerary was sadly completed, as the wind (and therefore current) picked up for the rest of the week. Next, we ventured to Umm Ush reef, where we saw eels, nudibranchs, gobi and urchins during the day, in addition to hermit crabs, cornet fish, feather sea stars and a puffer fish that night. We then visited Siyul Soraya and Siyul Keber the next day before a couple of dives at Shaab El Erg, where we saw a massive Napoleon Ray and a Napolean Rass. We finished up the trip at Umm Gamar before heading back to dry land to off-gas with some beers at an all-inclusive hotel!
Many thanks to Byron for keeping me company all week, to all the boat crew for being amazing, and to new friends Helen, Peter and Arec.
Credit – Adam (Trip Organiser)