Monday, 3 November 2014

50m Dry Dive

We all met up in St Johns wood at the London diving chamber. 

Me (Joel), Caz, Wayne, James C, 
James W., Ray, Ian and Kathryn we're going for a 50m dive, in the dry!

On arrival we were told to change into medical scrubs which made us all look pretty silly we had a brief on what to expect and how it will happen. Then off we went into the chamber, we were originally going to go in two groups of four because it is a small chamber but the doctor was happy to take all eight of us at once which was a first for the chamber to 50 m.

It was very cosy inside and as soon as the door shut they started to blast in compressed air and as we descended it got very hot and sweaty...

It only took a few minutes to get to 50 m (Caz was giggling well before that). It feels very strange at pressure we all sounded like 'pinky and perky'. The doctor was very funny he told us all to try and whistle (which is impossible) just to laugh at us trying. Narcosis at 50 m is an amazing experience and the time (15 min) went by very fast.

The humidity was at 100% at 50 m the doctor said it will get very foggy when we start to ascend a few minutes later we had vis nearly as bad as Wrasbury and everywere was damp as the fog soon condensed in to a fine mist. 

The went as we ascended and we were all given oxygen masks to aid our decompression (25 min on 100% O2). It turns out you leave the chamber with less nitrogen in you body than you had to start with. 

I would recommend it to any diver all the staff were great fun and very professional.
We concluded the evening with a nice ruby and a couple of beers

Big thanks to Caz for organising the trip


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Chepstow trip report (Saturday 9th August 2014)

The day started at a very early 5am but the sun was out and the sky was clear and the anticipation of a good days 
diving soon made me forgot it was 5 amin the morning.

The plan for the day was straightforward: i) to fnish off my sports diver qualification and, ii) to have a great days diving.

On arrival to Chepstow we meet up with Paula, Steve, Andrew and Dalma and discussed the plan for the day, Steve very kindly offered to take Russell and I in to finish off our last lesson which was SO1 Diver rescue skills, We knew this was going to be a long lesson with lots of ups and downs so we took our time kitting up and getting down to the waters edge, the plan was to find a 10m platform and do some CBL to 6 m and if Steve was happy then we would do a CBL to the surface and carry on with rescue breaths and tow to the shore.  

The lesson went really well, Steve put us through our paces with a good tow to the shore.  Once the exercise was over, I went to put my mask back on to finish the dive and found that i failed to keep a good hold on it and I must have dropped it during the rescue, so Steve always the organised one pulled out a spare mask seemingly out of thin air and the rest of the dive was now a search and rescue mission as we "never leave a mask behind". We retraced our path during the rescue and just when my air was getting low I spotted it, sitting on top of the platform.  After some underwater high fives we returned to the surface and practiced un-kitting an unconscious causality at the shore.

Before the lesson started I was nervous that i would forget some of the steps, but although the lesson was tough I found that all the practice with CBL and rescue skill in the pool helped me to go into auto pilot and I remembered all the steps without thinking about it. It just proved to me that the more practice the better even if it is in the pool at 2 m.

After the dive we sat down with Steve and he confirmed he was happy with how the dive went and once he had spoken to Paula he was happy to sign us off. 


We had a very long surface interval as we had a lot of ups and downs on our first dive. So Russell decided to do the Zip wire with his son David who had joined us for the day and i was told it was great fun although not as fast as they would have like, this was mainly due to the wind on the day.

The plan for the second dive was to do our depth progression to 25 m. We decided to dive the plane which is at 25 m so we did a long surface swim over to the marker for the plane and descended into the depths, 5 m extra on paper didn't seem a lot but in really I found a lot of differences, the pressure seems different and the loss of colour was much more apparent at 25 m than I have noticed before. I also notice the difference in my air consumption I think this was partly down to the depth difference but also my excitement didn't help, we started to make our ascent, Steve had a new SMB reel he wanted to try so he sent up his DSMB and we did our 3 minutes safety stop.  With about 1 meter to go I look over at Russell to find his hood had filled with air and made his head appear 5 times bigger. He has now put a small hole in the top to let any excess air out the top of his hood to stop this happening again, another learning experience noted.

The whole day was a great success and brought together a lot of hard work and training.  It is a testament to the club and all the instructors for all the hard work to get people like me to be a qualified sports diver and to always feel safe and secure when diving with club.

A big thank to all for all your hard work and time.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Plymouth - August 2014

Last week a group of us went down to Plymouth, the plan being to dive the off shore reefs from Falcon of Dartmouth, a boat and skipper that a few of you know. As luck would have it Ben's leave from the navy coincided with the trip so he was able to meet us in Plymouth and join the trip. 

The first evening we met up with ex DO and long time member  Dr Lee Johnstone and his wife for a very enjoyable evening in the Fox Hound. After a long spell of great weather we woke up on the first days diving to heavy rain and strong winds. To be fair to Tony and Lol they gave it a go and we poked our nose's out past the break water but although the weather had improved the swell was just too much to get out to the Eddystone. Unlike a lot of skippers out there, Tony refused to put us in just anywhere for the sake of a dive and canned the day at great expense to himself. "Well try again tomorrow" Sitting in the pub (funnily enough) that evening we get a text saying that" the wind has swung round and should flatten the swell enough to get off shore" ,so next morning in bright sunshine we head out to hands deep. 

In keeping with the vis all along the south coast this year I wouldn't describe the vis as great but at about six to seven meters it was a very good dive. Lots of jewel anemone's of differing colours covering the cliff face, small lobsters and other crustaceans, couple of small congers and lot of Pollock. I'm sure I even heard Craig comment on the actual dive and marine life as well as his equipment and deco ect. The second dive was on the Eagan Layne. A couple of locals on the boat had told us that the winter storms had taken their toll on the wreck and we found that a lot of it had collapsed and quite  a bit previously hidden have been exposed, still a great dive with vis of about 6 mts, lots of life. 

Despite the disappointment of losing a days diving it was a very enjoyable trip.


Monday, 16 June 2014

London to Brighton Cycle Ride, June 2014

We set off from the Club Hut at 6.20 am and arrived at Clapham Common in time for a leisurely 8:00 am start to the 2014 British Heart Foundation London to Brighton cycle ride. The team; Paula, Stan (aka Steve), Helen, Ian, Heather and James set off towards Brighton.

There were one or two delays on the way as there were a number of serious accidents involving cyclists which meant that rest of us (there were almost 30,000 on the ride) has to wait while they looked after the casualty in the middle of the roads ahead.

The ride was long (55 miles in total) with a couple of gruelling hills (Turners and Ditchling Beacon) and an equal number of great down hill sections where we could get speeds of up to 40 mph (which can be quite scary). The six of us tried to stay together, for both moral and technical support which was useful when James' back tyre picked up a puncture.

At the top of Ditchling Beacon (the highest part of the ride) we celebrated with an ice cream and then headed down the final hill towards the finish line.

We finally reached the sea front in Brighton at around 6.30 pm. It was a great fun day with some very happy memories. 

A HUGE 'thank you' to Richard and Jen for moral support and bringing a big van to drive us back to Bushey at the end of the tiring day.

Who wants to come next year?

Friday, 13 June 2014

Portland Harbour Training Weekend, June 2014

We left on a Friday afternoon at about 8.00 pm and settled in for a long drive down to Portland. The three hour drive meant that we then only got there at 11.00 pm and were just in time for the dive brief for the next day. We were all sharing two caravans in the Caravan Park in Portland.

On Saturday morning, we went down to the Portland Marina where we all got our cylinders filled by Scimitar Diving. When we had all changed, the boat refused to start for ages, and eventually had to be jump-started. The diving group split into two groups on the separate ribs, ICY Diver (thanks to Imperial College Underwater Club) and the Bushey Diver.  We paired up with our buddies and got ready for our first dive, the Countess of Erne. At this point I was very excited but also nervous as this was my first ocean dive. The Countess is an old paddle steamer, used as a coal hulk in many ports. It sank in the Portland harbour on 16 September 1935. The actual dive was quite cold for me because I was in a semi-dry, but still it was an excellent dive. The visibility was pretty good and there was lots of animal wildlife like fish and crabs. On the sides of the ship were also lots of coral and shells. On the surface, the water was quite calm and the sun was beating down on us, drying us out quickly after we surfaced. 

When all the divers returned, we came back to the Marina to get lunch and refill our tanks. Our second dive that day was The Dredger, a vessel used as a sand dredger until it sunk. On the dredger, we saw lots of fish, all of which I don’t know the names for, and a few crabs, the biggest one I saw was probably bigger than a dinner plate, and was put in front of my face to scare the life out of me (thanks Ray). After we came back up from the Dredger, the sea was still quite calm and warm. Getting into the rib was just as elegant as the first time, with a lot of flapping and grunting included. We then returned to the Marina, where we again filled our tanks for a third dive. For the third dive, we dived the Countess of Erne again, going to the deck as a maximum depth (at around 6m). We then went back to the caravans where we ordered Chinese takeout and did the dive de-brief for that day. 

Sunday was our second, and last, day of diving and we woke up early in the day to pack up our clothes and wash the dishes, and in general, clean the caravans. We then rushed to the Marina to get changed as fast as possible. We wanted to fit in two dives before we left. Our first dive on Sunday was the Black Hawk, or rather, it was meant to be the Black Hawk. Unfortunately, the shot had drifted onto a sand bank away from the wreck and only one pair got to see the Black Hawk. Instead the rest of us dived some mud banks which were full of crabs and coral, and even a few fish every now and then. Again, our second (and last) dive of the day was on the wall just outside Portland harbour. Because of the high amounts of silt and chalk washing off of the cliffs, the vis was not very good with less than half a metre of visibility. When we returned from our last dive of the day, we unloaded the ribs and found a hose to wash our kit there. We packed it all onto a trolley and took it to our cars, where we packed our kit into the cars, said our goodbyes to the weather, and headed home. 

It seemed like it was only a few hours ago that I was setting off to Portland, I would be sad to see it go.

by Kye Cunningham

Friday, 30 May 2014

Scapa Flow, May 2014

May saw 7 divers from BBSAC travel to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands for a week's diving among the wrecks from the German High Seas fleet from WW1.

Scapa is a fantastic natural harbour among the Orkneys, which has long been used as a naval base due to the protection given by the surrounding islands.

The BBSAC trip had been planned for 18 months and eagerly awaited by all those attending as Scapa Flow offers some of the most interesting and challenging diving available in the UK, and arguably the world.  The area is full of local history, but the most notable event occurred at the end of the First World War then the German fleet were all interned at Scapa while the peace negotiations were underway. After some months, and as negotiations were being concluded the German Admiral gave orders for the entire fleet of 74 ships to be scuttled.  Of these the majority were salvaged over the next 20 years, but 7 notable wrecks remain, including 3 battleships and 4 'light' cruisers.  These are all significantly sized ships, with even the cruisers being 150 m long, and they sit fairly far down at 30 to 45m.   In addition to these 7 ships from the fleet, there are many other wrecks around Scapa, including a number of 'blockships' which were used to protect the entrance to the bay during WW2.

After a 12 to 13 hour car journey we reached Scrabster on the north coast of Scotland to catch the noon ferry to Stromness and after a short journey (90 mins) were in Orkney to settle in to the 2 cottages rented from the local dive centre and have a relaxing evening before the start of the diving on Sunday.

On the Sunday we set off at a sensible time, heading out at 9am (for the wrecks in the Flow, tide times are not an issue). Our boat for the week, the "John L" was an old tug that had been converted to a dive boat, complete with lift, thankfully.  It was well suited to the trip, having plenty of space inside and on the deck, and a helpful and attentive crew.

It is fair to say that our first dive that day, literally blew us away.  None of us had expected the visibility to be so good, at 12 to 15 m, and such that you could really appreciate the sheer scale of these ships.  Our first dive was on one of the 7, the "Dresden" and we were all pleasantly surprised by how much there was to see - you could spend a week diving just one of these ships!

Between dives on the day we dropped off at the local maritime museum in Lyness, which was to prove to be a regular lunchtime haunt.  There is a fair bit to see here, with a museum full of exhibits from both world wars, a cinema built inside a giant oil tank (think 'I-max' with a forties flavour..) and a nice cafe which served a huge variety of cakes - including as many flavours of chocolate tiffin as WW1 ships....

Our 2nd wreck of the day was on the F2, a German escort boat, this time from WW2.  Smaller than the WW1 wrecks, this is nonetheless a great dive, particularly for a second, sitting at just 16m, and is in fact 2 wrecks in one as the wooden barge used for her attempted salvage sank in a storm while tied to her by a 30m line. The 20mm guns removed from the F2 are still clearly visible in the barge.

The 2nd day saw us diving on 2 more of the light cruisers. Firstly the "Koln", which was exceptional, being in even better condition than the "Dresden" and again with 12 to 15 m vis.  The 2nd dive of the day was on the "Karlsruhe", the shallowest of the fleet, at 'just' 28 m, but also the most deteriorated - nevertheless an impressive dive, just tempered by the quality of the ships already seen.

The next day we dived on the last of the cruisers, the "Brummer", and it wasn't until the 4th day that we dived the first of the 25,000 ton battleships.  At 175 m long these were all impressive to see, but the "Kronprinz Willhelm" was arguably the most impressive of the three.  All 3 lie upside down, but the Kronprinz on the greatest angle so easier to see underneath, where some of her 12" guns are truly impressive to behold.  We were even graced with a visit by a seal at 30 m.

The 2nd dive of day 4, we went out to one of the block ships, the "Tabarka" which is a little out from the Flow and so really needs to be dived at slack. A relatively small and shallow (15 to 18 m) wreck this also proved to be a great dive.  Starting with a negatively buoyant entry so you can get straight down and not miss the wreck, you need to get inside quick before the current builds up and so almost the entire dive is conducted inside the ship, which is a quite sizeable space.  Swept by the currents, the visibility on the Tabarka was exceptional for British diving, at 20 to 25 m.  This meant you could easily see our entire group in different areas of the ship. There was also plenty of life within with some sizeable crabs and lobsters wedging themselves between rocks.  The dive ended with deployment of a DSMB and and a fairly swift drift away from the wreck.  

The next day we dived the 2nd and deepest of the battleships, the "Markgraf".  Visibility was starting to deteriorate as the plankton bloom could be visibly seen developing in the water, though at still nearly 10 m was not bad!  It has to be said that lower vis and a little less light did not seem to detract from the experience of diving these wrecks and in some way adds to it by creating a more 'ghostly' atmosphere around these historical behemoths, which have been beneath the surface for nearly a century.

For the second dive that day we went on a scalloping dive around the remains of the salvaged "Seydlitz".  Not much of the ship remains but there was plenty of food to be found, enough for a decent starter which we followed up that night with a traditional meal of haggis, needs and tatties, accompanied by the local spirit.

On our final day we dived the last battleship, the "Konig", completing the seven from the fleet, and then made a second dive on the "Koln", which was generally considered the favourite.

Among other experiences from the trip, of note was a trip out one evening to visit the Churchill barriers and the beautiful "Italian chapel" built by Italian POWs during the Second World War using a Nissen hut as starting point, the great hospitality and friendliness shown by all the staff of the "Diving Cellar" and on the "John L" and 3 pleasant and hospitable bars which were visited occasionally.

And so after an absolutely fantastic week's diving had by all, which could not be dampened by the Orkney weather (which was consistent and simple to forecast - if it wasn't raining, it had just rained and was about to rain), we headed back on the long journey home - a long way to travel but more than worth it !!

Here is a great video from Alex:

Dartmouth, May 2014

Saturday - The Falcon II roped off at 8:30 and then dropped uson the Maine at 10:30. The Maine lies in ~34m of water, breaking up with lots of life and big shoals of bib. Unfortunately,it was covered with monofilament fishing line and ropes, probably left over from last winters storms. A few divers found a discarded stage cylinder with regulator containing 80% O2 which was unceremoniously savaged (swagged). :)


The second dive of the day was Gammon Head, which was a rocky white reef sand bed lying at 17m. There were lots of reef life and inquisitive cuckoo wrasse. Gammon Head was also reported to be the site of a wrecked paddle steamer (1800?), but no one found the wreckage.


Back on land, tanks were filled, food was cooked, a generous bowl of spag. Bol. was eaten, a generous bowl of apple pie with custard was eaten and beer was drunk.


Sunday - We gained 2 more divers from the club and we travelled 1.5 hours to the Bretagne. It was an intact WW1 wreck with a lovely vaulted bow with plenty of life. She laid in 28m ofwater and 4m proud. It was easy to access the engine room and boilers. As with the previous wreck, there were many fishing hooks and lures (plenty of opportunity to use shears, knives and net cutters!). One of the divers found plenty of fishing weights who he kindly donated to a nice fisherman who stayed off the wreck whilst divers were on it.


The second dive was the Emsstrom. This new wreck was only deemed safe to dive March/ April 2014 having sunk in 2013. She laid on her starboard side in 30m of water and was essentially in pristine condition. All of her fixtures and fittings were intact (tables, consoles, gauges, notice boards, etc). We were surprised about how much life was on the wreck despite her underwater age. However, not all the team, got to dive her as a muppet from another dive boat pulled our shot off the wreck and onto a featureless seabed (despite being told not to pull on the shot if they were gonna use it)! It was a unique opportunity to dive a new and unmolested wreck, let's hope it stays like that (Ed - as if!).


Sundays dinner was a curry house. Curry was eaten, beer was drank. We headed home and drank whiskey under the stars.


Monday It was an early start on Monday morning in attempt to miss the forecasted southerlies. Our dive was at the Middle Black Stone, a pinnacle lying at 8m-17m. It was covered in life (anemones, polyps, dogfish, crustaceans and scallops). We had an exciting return to the boat as we had failed to avoid the southerlies. So, in the interest of people's breakfast, we returned to shore for cream tea before heading home.


All in all, a fantastic weekend!


Addendum - Brussels sprouts do not belong on a dive trip! Whiskey, beer, dessert wine and any alcoholic beverage do!