Swanage – 24th June

On a beautiful warm weekend in June, 11 of us went to Swanage for a weekend diving on Femti, our club RHIB.

We dived the Valentine Tanks and Kyarra, did a drift at Old Harry Rocks and of course some Pier diving. One of our Sports Diver trainees also signed off their assistant dive manager lesson.

The water was a balmy 19 degrees and the visibility good, considering the number of charter boats and other RHIBs out there that weekend. Having been to Swanage a fair few times, we are used to a lot of life on the wrecks there, but we couldn’t have imagined the large shoal that met us at the bottom or the number of conger eels poking their heads out to take a look.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed a large barbecue at our accommodation with far too much food and lots of laughter.

On the whole Femti did well, taking groups of divers out in waves and finding the wrecks with ease. Unfortunately she did have a leak in one of her tube sections, which meant a lot of pumping to keep the tube rigid. A new job for our boat enthusiasts in the club to look into with in the next few weeks.

Overall a fantastic weekend was had by all. Big thanks to Steve and Mark for their help with the boat and Nick for the sorting the barbecue.

Emma – trip organiser

Ibiza – May

Five Putney BSAC divers ventured to the “White Island” of Ibiza in May, known for hippy culture in the 60s and raves in the 90s and beyond. Despite some jocular comments at the HYC that “larging it at Pasha” can not be logged as a dive, there is also some excellent underwater activity to be had in the marine reserves and wrecks, including the extremely impressive Don Pedro, a 160m container ship wrecked in 2007.

We dived with Scuba Ibiza, a dive operator in the Marina Botifac. Paulo and the team operate a large commercial RHIB with the berth by the dive shop. The cost of the diving for the three days was €209 (plus €10 fuel surcharge) .

With sea temperatures around the 17-18 degree area, there was some debate as to what to wear, with the party splitting between wet and dry suits. Both parties seemed to be perfectly comfortable with the usual advantages and disadvantages of both types of protection. Should we return later in the year (and we might!), it will be very much a wet suit environment.

The first day’s diving was requested to be relatively easy and a “shake-down” before the deeper adventures on day two and three. It proved a little more challenging than we would have liked with a circumnavigation of the small island of Malvi Gross, just off shore from Platja de’Bossa. Wind and moderate-to-rough sea conditions also caused some additional challenges. Helen had some problems with her BCD inflator and abandoned the dive early, ably assisted by her buddy Paul. The rest of us pushed on round but ended the dive on low gas after a long swim (by UK standards). The second day’s dive, on a shallower profile and smaller island proved easy going.

Day two saw the weather ease and the team head over towards Espardell , near Formentera to dive La Patforma, a huge sunken concrete structure, originally used as a fish farm before sinking in the mid-nineties. The structure lies between 12 and 32 meters, and is teeming with wildlife; eel, lobster (I think slipper lobster) , scorpion fish and a huge shoal of barracuda. The structure is very photogenic and the dive was enjoyed by all.

The third day’s diving was the big wreck dive; the Don Pedro, which sank quite recently, in 2007. Some salvage has been performed but the wreck lies intact propellers and many features visible. The holds can be penetrated and there are swim-throughs of various lengths. We dived on Nitrox 29, using 15l cylinders. The first dive took us down to the upper deck, and then to the propellers at around 35m. We did not have much time to spare (it was a no-deco dive) so a quick trip round the stern and up to a shallow profile on the upper rail before ascending. The second dive saw us penetrate the forward hold via a hatch, exiting at the bow ramp and then swimming back to the shotline at roughly midship.

That brings me to the end of the diving, but several members of the party added on extra days to enjoy the islands, with Byron and myself visiting Formentera.

In summary, great diving, comfortable accommodation with a rooftop bar, a party vibe and fun to be had exploring the beaches and town. Ibiza is very accessible flight-wise and in the off-season, reasonably priced. I would also note that the Don Pedro is of similar size and depth profile to many of the Scapa wrecks, and can be used as useful familiarisation for those dives, but in a warmer and high-visibility environment. We hope to come again.

Diving on the Don Pedro

Credit – Mark (Trip Organiser)

Isle of Wight – 28 April

Over the bank holiday weekend, nine members of Putney BSAC headed over to the Isle of Wight to dive the wrecks in the Sandown Bay conservation area. Following some trial runs, the trip was the first major outing for our club RHIB, Femti.

On Saturday, Femti was loaded up with seven divers and ably crewed by Steve and Brian. Femti had been resting in Bembridge Harbour overnight and after necessary preparations, we headed out to sea. We met some navigational challenges in the harbour channel; however, these were soon fixed with the help of some oars. Once out to open sea, we headed to Sandown Bay for our first dive. The wreck of the Camswan sits about a mile offshore, in 18m of water. The 335ft, 3,426-ton ship was a cargo vessel sunk in 1917 on her maiden voyage. We managed to shot her on the first attempt and descended the line to see what we could find. The visibility was restricted to say the least, with the spring algae in full bloom. We saw some of her cargo of coal and the odd crab. However, the dive was mostly spent in close observation of small details and keeping a hold of our buddies, rather than appreciating the full wreck.

Mark & Michal in Freshwater Bay.
Tim strikes a commanding pose aboard Femti.

The second day saw a reduced party on the RHIB of four divers. We had learned the previous day that seven was a stretch for Femti. With a lower complement of six she handled and cruised much more comfortably. At 18 knots we were headed for the wreck of the Highland Brigade, a 385ft, 5,669-ton merchant vessel. The Highland Brigade was torpedoed by UC-71 in 1918, carrying a cargo of tin ingots and telephones. In deeper waters of 28m, a few attempts were needed to shot this site; however we were successful in the end. The dive proved to be quite challenging; at greater depth the algal bloom obscured all light, creating night dive conditions in the middle of the day! With visibility at less than a metre we hugged the surface of the wreck, hunting out pieces of old telephone and the odd bit of marine life. For those who didn’t join the RHIB on Sunday, a trip to Freshwater Bay was made. The picturesque alcove on the Southwest shore of the island proved a good spot for Mark and Michal to splash around and a prime spot for Paul to grab a coffee whilst providing ‘shore cover’. The day’s diving was rounded off with a good BBQ, held at our caravan accommodation.

The Highland Brigade.

Whilst the visibility limited the diving somewhat, the trip was an enjoyable and valuable experience. We have learned a lot about how to load and handle the RHIB to best effect. As ever there are a few issues to take away and work on; for example, a new chart plotter would be a worthwhile addition. We also now know that about 6 divers is the limit of her capacity. We look forward to getting the RHIB out again soon for more diving, hopefully with more to see!

Sunset at Ventnor.

Credit – Nick H (Trip Organiser)

Malta – 17th November 2022

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)

Boat Trials – Summer 2022

1st Trial (Thames)

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

2nd Trial (Sea trial)

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

3rd Trial (Thames)

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

What Next

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)

Swanage – 25th June 2022

Kindly organised by our TO, George, a crew of PSAC divers headed down to Swanage for the weekend of the 25/26th June with a plan to dive the Carentan and the Aeolian Sky on the Saturday, and the Kyarra on the Sunday. The trip was also part of the “work up” for the diving later this year with divers practicing both deeper dives and accelerated deco with EON 80% stages.

Sadly, the weather had other plans and the skipper of the Mary Jo had to cancel Saturday’s dives due to increasing wind and sea conditions. However, local conditions in the bay were not bad and the club enjoyed some under-pier diving, albeit somewhat over-equipped with twinsets, Nitrox 32 etc in what was at times a chest-deep environment.
The weekend was certainly not wasted with a couple of under-pier dives, evening drinks on the roof terrace of Gee Whites and a pretty decent dinner at the Anchor Inn. As a Dive Leader trainee I was also able to gain valuable experience as top cover, and as deputy trip organiser, as well as participate in the Practical Rescue Management session on Sunday. The latter was ably run by Charles Denby and George and assisted by new member and instructor Jack.
Thank you to George for organising, and all the instructors for the as ever generous time and patience.
Last but not least, shoutout to George and Liam who managed to discover Swanage’s only nightclub and were “largeing it” until the early hours of the morning.
Credit – Mark (Equipment Officer)

We are back in the pool!

Following strict Government guidelines and Covid safety measures we are back in the pool. There is a one way system at the leisure centre, we have to wear face masks, adhere to social distancing and keep to our bubble groups. But, with the days getting shorter and winter around the corner, it is really nice to have something to look forward during these difficult times. We have been doing try dives, training, swimming and are looking forward to hosting a twinset try dive in the coming weeks.
Photo: Elodie our youngest member who is being taught to dive by her Father – our boat officer Nick.

O2 Course

On 26th January we held our annual oxygen administration course at the Hurlingham Yacht Club. There was a good turn out of 5 instructors and 10 trainees. Over a mixture of practical and theory sessions we covered basic life support, casualty assessment, oxygen administration and diving incidents. Though we hope never to have to use these skills, the club encourages all members to keep up to date with them. A fun day was had by all, however Resussi Annie was exhausted at the end.

Brighton – 31st March 2019

Despite the windy weather, 12 keen members of Putney SAC headed out for some diving just off the coast of Brighton on the 31st March 2019. A nice late start for a change and a quick stop off at Newhaven Scuba to pick up some rental cylinders got us to Brighton Marina at about 12:30pm ready to board Channel Diver and head out for the afternoon.

Due to the weather not being quite as bad as anticipated we stuck with the original plan and headed out to the SS Pentyrch, a 103m long cargo ship torpedoed by UB-40 (the German submarine, not the band!) on 18th April 1918 on a voyage from Tyne to Genoa with a cargo of coal. The visibility wasn’t great and the conditions were very choppy, with a bit of swell down on the wreck, butnevertheless a very interesting wreck and definitely one that needs another couple of visits to properly explore it.

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