Walks in the hot weather, superb diving in warm water and nice food, what else would we want?! And two lucky members encountered Whale Shark in the close distance!
Waking up at 6am on Saturday morning to the pitter patter of rain on the caravan window was not what the gorgeous sunny weather of the previous month had promised. Nevertheless, Swanage Pier beckoned so, after a quick breakfast, it was off to the pier to ensure that we would get a parking place on said pier when it opened at 7am. All Argonaut cars arrived at the same time! Next to Divers Down who supplied all necessary needed extra equipment and who also promised to fill tanks in a hurry if needed. (The perfect second hand dry suit for Mark was a necessity Rachel!)
Figure 1: Arriving at the Pier on Saturday morning, Rachel, Trevor and Chris
First dive was under the pier, a useful shallow dive for those of us who had not yet dived that year to get back into the swing of things. On the way out there was plenty to see including crabs and fishes (not technical I know) and other bits and pieces under the pier. As usual, it was easy to find our way out but more difficult to get back with the tide starting to push against us and the suspicion that we were going round and round in circles (Navigation by surfacing seemed to fix that).
Next dive was the Fleur de Lys on the Mary Jo. Pre-dive chat seemed to indicate that it was a pile of wood on the sea floor. However, giant stepping off the Mary Joe and descending the shot line showed that there was still a distinct shape to it. It was a bit busy to start, with all 12 of us bumping around but we all soon separated. It did take us two circuits to find the line to the steal barge which was definitely in one piece. We saw plenty of Wrasse and many Sea Squirts on the barge.
The team decided against a cheeky third dive and repaired to the caravan park to freshen up before going to the Black Swan. We couldn’t get inside so we were outside (which was fine being hardened divers). The meal was great fun with much banter and joking around.
Sunday morning started with a beautiful view from the caravan park and once again we were outside the pier by 7am. Once on the pier we had to wait till 11am till our first dive so clearly we had to disappear to the nearest café for breakfast and chat.
Figure 2: : Breakfast with Chris, Akiko, Boggie, Sarah, Trevor and Alex
The first dive took us on the Mary Jo again to the Carentan in 30m of water. Down the shot line the water got darker till we approached the wreck with the water brightening up again due to the reflection of the sea bed (orn possibly because the clouds had parted). I managed to see the sonar eye but missed the highly polished toilet seat. Saw a Conger eel hiding in a tube. Time at 30m was short so with 5mins before deco started the DSMB was deployed and up we went. Clearly on the boat there was much talk about who had gone the deepest with 10cm being the difference between first and second place.
Last dive for me was a drift off Old Harry on the Viper with the sea getting rough and sea sickness threatening. We had to hang around for the shot line marker buoy to pop up as with any tide, it went below the surface. When all was ready the whole boat disembarked like a parachute jump and off we went to the bottom. I used a buddy line with Trevor as my SMB pulled hard and threatened to separate me from my buddy. Saw many ghostly dog fish but not much else. Most of the sea bed was gravel and gave me to wonder whether it would have been like this 200 years ago before the advent of bottom trawling. Well before gas or deco time became a problem, we surfaced as there was little to see.
Some of the troop stayed till Monday but I left on Sunday having had a great weekend. Many thanks to Rachel, Mark and Sarah for organising the trip. I look forward to next year!
In late summer a large contingent of Argonauts (and friends) headed up to the Northumberland coast for a week of fantastic cold water diving. The Farnes are home to one of the largest grey seal colonies as well as a wide variety of birds.
The conditions didn’t disappoint, with dozens of close encounters with seals, huge lobsters, wolf fish, octopus, crabs and vast walls of coral. For several in the group, it was the first big diving trip after qualifying as Ocean Divers – and it set the bar high!
Here’s a few photographs from the trip:
We had a nearly record club turn out for the first big dive weekend of the year, as fifteen Argonauts members spent an enjoyable few days diving from Swanage.
To warm up after Winter and to give several new members their first taste of open water diving we started off under the pier. It was easily one of the best dives of the weekend as we saw spider crab, edible crab, a huge lobster, cuttlefish, wrasse, sponges and some impressive soft corals. The shafts of sunlight (when it wasn’t raining!) coming down between the wooden beams was spectacular.
Our next dive was with Swanage Boat Charters, on the famous Valentine Tanks at 15m. Despite poor visibility (and nearly losing the line!), we did manage to find both tanks, as well as a huge shoal of bib, some nice spider crabs, dogfish and a monstrous resident conger eel. Being such a big and friendly club, we then headed off to the pub to talk about the exciting new experiences of our first sea dives.
We woke the next day to a very British summer, with a light drizzle as we were putting on our dry suits. But we were glad we did as we headed off to do the Old Harry Drift For those of us that are new to diving, a drift is certainly a strange and exhilarating experience as you whiz over the seabed spotting things like dogfish and crabs as they zoom by.
Lastly, we headed over to the other side of the bay to dive the Peveril Ledges. Here there’s a drift dive with a difference as huge horizontal slabs force you up and over, while keeping an eye out for fish and invertebrates. Luckily, just as we were preparing to surface we did spot a big thornback ray.
That’s all for our Swanage trip, looking forward to more dives this summer!
Having joined in Autumn 2015, this month three brand new Argonauts members achieved their Ocean Diver qualification!
Training was carried out over the Winter at our regular Tuesday evening pool sessions in Victoria, London – none of the group had ever dived before. After learning all the necessary skills, gaining confidence and waiting for warmer weather(!), we spent the weekend at Stoney Cove to try everything out in open water.
With excellent visibility and excellent training from Argonauts instructors, we have four really enjoyable dives down to 20m. We even found nessie, some monster pike and a huge shoal of perch.
At the same time, another established member progressed from Ocean Diver up to Sports Diver.
Now, as proper BSAC divers, we can’t wait to get out into the sea!
If you’re thinking of learning to dive, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
After a year of planning, our club trip to the Scilly Isles began with the long drive from London to Penzance, with the Isles of Scilly another three hour ferry trip beyond. The process for loading dive kit and luggage sits somewhere between a jumble sale and a rugby match. As we’re a mostly organised club, we ended up with only my car on the wrong side of the chain that separated a deranged forklift truck from humanity.
The crossing was fairly calm, but the building swell soon revealed who had remembered their seasickness tablets. Olivia planned to revise for her Sports Diver exam – notes in one hand, sick bag in the other. At around question 18, the revision ended suddenly.
Hugh Town, on the island of St Mary’s, is beautiful. Our accommodation overlooked the neck of land connecting the “Garrison” to the main island. It wasn’t long before the lure of pasties, ice cream and a pub took hold..
We needed to be at the harbour for 8:30 the next morning to load our dive bags and tanks onto the dive boat, Moonshadow. There was a mad scramble to get everything on the boat, which was a little small for 12 divers, and the jumble sale theme returned as we climbed over a pile of tanks and kit, each of us trying to assemble a working set.
Throughout the week, we got to explore the different islands from the water. The diving was a little chilly (14oC) but fine for those in drysuits. The dive sites included wrecks, scenic reef dives and seals! Most of our dives were accompanied by Pollock, and every wall was covered in colourful jewel anemones. The visibility varied throughout the week, following the weather. Some days we could see the surface from 20m; on others, it was a respectable 5m. The wrecks were a mix of new and old, the Cita being the most intact. The Colossus is the most historic – wrecked in 1798, it comes complete with a guide-book to navigate around the historic site!
Jolene the skipper was great. She knew every nook and cranny of the islands and always found us somewhere to dive, whatever the weather. On one trip, she brought her children on board. They were more interested in Sarah B’s fluorescent three-eyed monster hat than us. Thankfully (for us), the hat found a permanent home in the Scillies.
We dined out most evenings, with the odd take away and meal in cooked at the accommodation. On the last night, we had an end-of-trip meal at one of our favourite restaurants. We each recounted our most memorable moments from the trip, which was a lovely way to round off the week.
Phil, who’s midway through his sports diver training, gets the first dives of the season under his belt in Swanage.
It’s Friday evening , I have checked and re-checked my diving kit and packed a good bobble hat and outer coat to wear on board after each dive, as UK diving can be a bracing experience. I’m happy everything is in place, including the cake and apple pies I promised my Best Caravan buddies that I’d bring with me to complement all their goodies. So with the Blues Bros on the CD, like Jake Elwood, I have my sun glasses on, a full tank of fuel, a pack of Mr Kipling’s and I’m on mission from the sea gods of Swanage.
Having arrived at The Palm Beach Hotel where the bell boy took care of my kit, known locally as the Swanage Bay caravan park, I headed straight for the bright lights of the bar and immediately had to clear my ears at the cackling, high pitch screams of the resident karaoke singers. Following a swift drink, the tinitus in my ears soon became my cue to hit the sack and look forward to early morning breakfast with my best caravan buddies.
The first dive under the pier left me with mixed emotions as visiblility was almost zero and buoyancy an issue. The second dive drifting off the Fleur de Lys left me emotionally scared, trying to deploy my first DSMB in open water – still all part of the enjoyment Trevor told me afterwards. I was down but not beaten. A few beers and a good night’s most welcome sleep saw me up and at ‘em the next morning for a dive with Boggie, to see the WW2 Valentine tanks, followed by an afternoon drift dive. WHAT A GREAT DAY! Forget the buoyancey issues of yesterday – I was down there with the fishes, crabs, eels and a good mile and a bit drifting at what seemed like break neck speeds, “2 miles per hour, kid” Boggie informed me later.
Back on board, the sun was shining and Swanage was my Hawaii, minus the coconuts and splendid cocktails! However, a fresh strawberry ice cream and a stroll with my diving buddies completed a marvellous weekends diving with the Argonauts. Roll on the Scillies in July!
Emily finds diving off the west coast of Scotland just as beautiful as she remembers it.
It’s five years since I last dived off Mull. Then I was a relatively inexperienced sports diver in a wetsuit. These days I’m a slightly more experienced dive leader, although less hardy in the comfort of a dry suit. I have fantastic memories of that first trip to Mull, and it didn’t disappoint this time round.
We were blessed with the most perfect weather all week – sunshine and flat calm seas – which only added to the beauty of the area, both above and below the water. Some of us made the most of the weather and a free day the first day by climbing Ben More – the highest mountain on Mull. A first mountain for some, with stunning views of the island and across to Skye and the mainland. Although some knees didn’t recover from the descent all week…
We had a fantastic week’s diving a mix of wrecks and walls. There was so much life, including squat lobster, crabs, conger eels, wrasse, goby, cod, butterfish, sponges, fan worms, and lots anemones including jewel and plumose anemones.
Some of the highlights included:
My absolute favourite though was the Hispania which we were able to dive twice. It is completely covered with pink, peach and cream anemones. It looks like a pink furry wreck – and is very pretty. There is a lot of life on it – we managed to spot scorpionfish and lots of nudibranchs, as well as pollock, cuckoo wrasse and a small eel – amongst others. This is probably one of my favourite wreck dives ever!
We were lucky enough to have catering at our accommodation from the wonderful Jules and Jem, who cooked up delicious meals every evening, and made us great lunches for the boat. We also had time to explore the pretty town of Tobermory and the beautiful island of Mull with it sea eagles, seals, mountains and beaches.
All in all, an excellent week diving with great friends in a fabulous location!
This was a lovely warm water trip, which everyone seemed to really enjoy. Highlights were that:
Must not touch category:
We dived with Aqua-Marina in Vista Sur. It was well placed for the beach, restaurants and the appartments which were right behind the centre.
We also had our own wet room at the dive centre equipped with toilet (unflushable), showers and washing facilities which was really handy.
There were too many of us for the one boat so we spent the first two days in three groups:
After the first two days the trainees joined the others so that we just had two groups.
The third day was rather rough – quite a challenge for the trainees’ first boat dive. They all got down though and enjoyed a picturesque dive.
The diving included:
The underwater landscape was mainly terraces of ledges that go down to a sandy bottom with pinnacles/gullies and overhangs.
Trevor’s GoPro flooded on El Condesito – but it survived!
The biggest decision most of us had to make was whether to go for a large beer (jarra) or a small beer after the day’s diving!
… we all had a jolly good time!
18th – 19th May 2013
After a long winter, we knew the water would still be quite chilly but we were all excited nonetheless for the first opportunity this season for most of us to ‘get wet’. It was also the first trip for newly qualified Ocean Diver Phil.
We travelled down to Swanage on the Friday evening and made our way – in part via the pub – to the caravan park and tried to get at least some sleep before a very early start the next day.
There were two separate morning dives. The early risers had a tide to catch at 0725 and had to persuade the kit hire shop on the pier to open early! The weather was clear and surprisingly calm, certainly in comparison to a similar trip last year. We took the Mary Jo a short distance to the shotline for the Fleur de Lys. As well as the wreck, which lies at around 14m, a fair number of fish were to be seen including dogfish and wrasse.
The lazier morning group enjoyed a relaxed time under the pier, a good opportunity to test out kit after the winter and get our “diving legs”.
In the afternoon we took the Mary Jo out to Peveril Ledge for an exciting drift dive at 18 – 22m. The current was pulling fairly strongly, so we deployed buddy lines and SMBs at the start of the dive, before everyone rapidly got pulled in separate directions. A great whiste-stop tour of the Ledge, with lots of local sea weed, starfish, dogfish, wrasse, and even a huge ray.
A slightly later start on Sunday saw us rested…after another evening in the pub! We started with a fairly shallow and gentle drift dive, to just 8-10m on the Tanvil Ledge and saw more wrasse and dogfish. The second dive on Sunday was the by far the most special. We travelled out further in the bay and descended to 15-20m over the mussel beds for a very fast drift dive! The current was strong and so most pairs used buddy lines. The vis was not bad at all and there were again a number of fish to be seen. For some of the more recently qualified divers, there were comments such as ‘the first dive where I really felt like I was diving’ and for the veterans (!) it was also an enjoyable dive. Charlie & Trevor even saw a cormorant swooping down to 6m as they did their safety stop!
So overall a great weekend. A couple of achy ears with dives therefore wisely aborted and a little bit of rain towards the end, but also lots of sunshine, smiles and an aching to get back in the water again soon!