Egypt: M/Y Firebird, Wrecks and Reefs Itinerary – 10th February 2022

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)

Boat Handling Course – 22nd January 2022

After some hard work giving our new RIB (Femti) a bit of TLC towards the back end of 2021 and early 2022 it was time to run our annual Boathandling course.
Tactically chosen for the cold winter months to ensure we have plenty of keen boat handlers ahead of the diving season, four members (Andrew, Charlie, Henry and George) braved the cold Thames.
Saturday was our theory day excellently provided by Steve. We even managed a brief launch and recovery with the old RIB (Putney Diver) and a small amount of boat handling practice.
Sunday was the big practical day: Nick took Putney Diver out with Andrew, Charlie & Henry for their drills and Steve took Femti out with George (with Michal and Brian) to check her over again after a bit of trouble shooting on the engine and to practice the relevant drills for the Boathandling course.
A great day out and lots of knowledge passed on, ready for using on the south coast very soon!
Credit – George (Training Officer)

Vobster – 15th January 2022

Organising a trip to an inland lake should be easy right.

Announced in October 2021 a trip to Vobster in January, I wasn’t expecting much interest but slowly I was getting more people interested and by Christmas I had 11 nutters sorry divers and 1 spectator. Usually organising a trip to an inland lake is easy tell people where and when to turn up and jump in the lake, but during a pandemic the lakes have changed the entry rules. Vobster being my initial preference now has membership rules, so I looked at NDAC which just before Christmas announced it was closing for January, Stoney Cove was mentioned as alternative as well as a few lesser-known lakes. Then though a contact of John Heagney now encamped in Bath, Jonathon Hudson a member of Bath SAC with John and the South West regional coach arranged for us to use the Bath SAC membership so we could all get in to Vobster without having to pay membership.

The Day

So, with a meet time of 7.50am at Vobster it was a very early start for people travelling from south west London, I had opted to stay with John a mere 25 minutes away so not sorry to miss the early start.  Once everyone had arrived and parked up, we split in in to 2 pre-arranged groups 1 for twin set divers and 1 for single cylinder. With Vobster turning misty the kitting up process was not done with any urgency and after about an hour and half later the mist had cleared, and the 1st divers jumped in to the barmy 8 °C degree water. We were greeted by amazing vis of around 15m and everyone had a pleasant dive if not dry dive. Step forward Adam, Michal and Charles who’s drysuits didn’t seem to be that dry. After a stop for getting cylinders filled, hot food and drink from the snack wagon to warm up. Drysuits were repaired well Adam’s and undersuits hired to replace the wet ones. We had our 2nd dive of the day. Another nice dive with the vis very slightly less than the 1st but still amazing although still damp for Michal and Charles. Once diving was complete, we packed up and headed for home some of us via the Talbot Inn in Mells which I can highly recommend for a post pint after Vobster.  My impression of Vobster had not changed out of all the inland lakes this is my favourite easy entry and exit to the water, great vis and friendly staff.

Thank You

Jonathon Hudson for arranging entry and Nic Denby for doing the dive sheets, assisting divers and the photos.

The Nutters

Adam, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Charlie, Cameron, George, John, Liam, Michal and Mark

PS

We have our 1st nomination for the Skomer Claw for 2022 as Charlie turned up with an out of test cylinder

Credit Brian (Outing organiser) 

Accelerated Decompression Procedures – 13th November

A few members of the club have been interested in progressing our diving to longer bottom times, and the deco requirements that come with that. The opportunity to learn to use a richer gas mix to reduce the amount of deco time was something 3 Putney divers were keen to explore.We booked onto a weekend course with the BSAC wales region, to be held at NDAC, along with 4 others from various other BSAC clubs. After completing the online lectures we were ready to go!

The first day started with learning how to mark up the stages and checking out the various equipment configurations, followed by an in water skills lesson. Great to recap some skills as well as learning the gas switching procedure. Second dive of the day was lead by the instructors, taking in the highlights of NDAC and a gas switch on the ascent. Having learnt a huge amount we retreated to the gurka curry house for a well earned rest and some time to contemplate everything we had learnt.The second day was the time to put everything we had learnt into practice. Cam and I had a solid dive plan, neatly written up in our wet notes and we were ready to go. The dive went really smoothly and we had clearly learnt our lessons from yesterday, gas switching was much smoother and the deco stop much more controlled. Following the post dive debrief we were delighted to hear we had met the requirements and passed the course.

Overall ADP was an interesting course and would recommend to others looking to accelerate their deco. Really interesting to switch to a more technical mindset, where planning and preparation are even more important.

Many thanks to all of the instructors (5 instructors to 7 students!) and especially to Mark Lewis for leading the course.

Credit Charles

Friday 5th November Social night goes off with a big bang.

Fireworks night saw a Putney social night, 6 of us gathered at the Boathouse in Putney for a few beers and some food. Once complete we headed down to Putney embankment and caught a firework display from one of the many yacht clubs that are housed there. Once that display had finished it was Putney’s turn to set off our special fireworks the 1st of which made such a big bang that we drew quite a crowd to the Embankment after letting of a few more fireworks it was time to depart. So we headed off to one of our old haunts the Bricklayers Arms to wrap up a good night. The pyromaniacs were Emma, Mark, Grace, Henry, Steve G and Brian.

Credit Brian

2nd November 2021 AGM: Committee and Awards

2nd November brought round out Annual General Meeting. Along with a report from each officer, we vote in the new committee as well as voting for our photo and club awards.

We have welcomed three new members to our committee: Liam (Secretary), Grace (Social Sec) and Steve (Boat Officer). Stephen takes on the new challenge of Chairman, while George moves to training officer and Emma becoming our membership secretary. Sarah, Nic and Mark continue their current positions as Treasurer, Comms and Equipment Officer. A huge thank you for Cameron, Helen, Michal, Ellie and Nick L, who all stepped down this year, for all their hard work on the committee over the years!

It was then onto the fun part of the evening – The Awards! To find the results of our photo competition – look here. After the photography awards, we go on to vote for the Club Member of the Year – awarded to a member that has made great contributions to the club across the year, and the Diver of the Year – someone who has developed the skills as a diver over the past 12 months.

Brian won Club Member of the Year for his incredible dedication to supporting trainees with pool lessons and quarry trips, as well as always being down the HYC with a smile on his face (and a pint in his hand).

Grace was awarded Diver of the Year for starting on her UK diving adventure this year, for completing her Sports Diver qualification and all with a wet-suit, something that we all know is amazing commitment!

Finally, we give out our Skomer Claw trophy – an award given out for the years biggest faux pas. This one is always highly contested and this year had 5 nominations:

  1. Andrew – For forgetting his regs and having to drive back to London for them on a quarry trip
  2. Steve – For driving to Newhaven via Portmouth towing the rhib
  3. Cameron – Shearing off his gauge when giant striding in Pembrokeshire
  4. Nick – Forgetting to attach the boat to the trailer properly
  5. Paul – For jumping in with his dry suite zip undone

and the winner is… Cameron (and here he is presenting the award to himself)

Another fantastic year for Putney BSAC – here’s to many more!

2021 AGM Photo Competition

Every year, at our AGM, we hold a photo competition for our budding underwater photographers 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 8 entries for the UK competitions that really showcase both our members skills but also the incredible life and scenery the UK has to offer.

Winner of the UK Photo Competition: Sarah with her shot of a Tompot Blenny

We had three submissions for the abroad category, not bad considering the limited amount of travel this year.

Winner of the Abroad Photo Competition: Nic with her image of a Galapagos hammerhead

Wraysbury – 30th October

On 30th October, 6 members of Putney BSAC went to Wraysbury to do some training and experience dives. Despite low visibility our trainees ticked off their compass skills as well as other lessons and at the end of the day we had two newly qualified sports divers. Congratulations to Henry and Grace on this great achievement.
Credit – Emma (Training Officer and Trip Organiser)

Swanage Training Trip – 18th September 2021

In September, we organised one of the most ambitious training trips Putney BSAC has done.
8 instructors, 8 trainees and our trusty RHIB went to Swanage for the weekend, doing a mix of hardboat, RHIB and shore diving. This included 6 members who have joined since the pandemic and for some, this was their first time in British waters. We did some (pretty fast) drift dives, the Fleur de Lhys, Swanage Pier, Peverill ledges and one of our favourites – the Valentine Tanks. The tanks didn’t disappoint with good visibility and teaming with life, including some massive moray eels. On the whole the weather was pretty good and we were able to enjoy a large barbecue and toast marshmallows one evening at our accommodation. We signed off 4 ocean diver, 7 sports diver and 6 dive leader lessons, as well as gaining experience in the water, a huge testament to both our instructors and trainees.
Credit – Emma (Training Officer and Trip Organiser)
Extra Credit must be given to Emma for organising the most logistically complex trip we’ve had and all with a smile. Everything went pretty smoothly and a great time was had by all! Thank you Emma!

Training Days – September 2021

In early September we did two quarry trips in preperation for our training weekend in Swanage.  Our ocean divers trainees went to Wraysbury for their first experience in open water. Our sports divers signed off the dreaded rescue skills and another lesson in St Andrews lake whilst a couple of our dive leader trainees practiced their skills. We had great weather and a fabulous time was had by all
Credit – Emma (Training Officer and Trip Organiser)