All posts by Kyoko Kakizaki

Swanage, 29th-31st May 2021

One small positive of lockdown meant I had the funds to replace some of my aging dive kit and my ill-fitting dry suit. Having spent an unexpected fortune getting regulators and cylinders serviced (tip: put your transmitter on a short hose to prevent people breaking it by using it as a handle!) and following a brief test at Wraysbury it was finally time for our annual pilgrimage to Swanage.

Leaving home slightly earlier than normal didn’t make my journey any quicker as most of southern England also seemed to be heading towards the south coast, but I arrived just in time to join the rest of the gang for supper in the pub.

I’ve not needed to get up particularly early since we’ve been in lockdown and getting up on a Saturday morning to get a place on the pier at 7am was a slight shock for the system but worth the effort. We didn’t have a really early dive that morning so this allowed plenty of time for assembling the remaining parts on my camera, a wander round Swanage to see what had changed and a breakfast in the cafe.

The first dive was under the Pier; it was high tide so that made getting in the water down the steps a little easier, no needing to stagger/crawl painfully along the rocks battered by the waves which is even more challenging with a bulky camera. We had a good pootle under the pier. The visibility wasn’t good but we found things to look at – mostly admittedly crabs – and I had fun trying to use a new flash and snoot that I had only tested previously at the kitchen table. It proved to be an excellent opportunity to take photos worthy of the Crap Fish Photography group – getting the snoot pointing in the right place was definitely an art I had yet to master and in poor visibility the backscatter was lit up beautifully!

Our first boat dive was Old Harry’s Drift. This will always be memorable site for me as it was where I did my first sea dive back in 1996; I saw one crab and as I had only dived inland lakes before I was starting to wonder why people dived in the UK. As I hadn’t dived off a boat in the UK for about eighteen months I was slightly nervous but there was nothing to worry about. Having put the DSMB up, clipped on with a buddy line (even though my buddy and I have done hundreds of dives each we do it for convenience) we continued to fly along the bottom in a cracking 2 knot drift. The visibility was two metres at best but there was still lots to see including dog fish, crabs (of course), dover sole, a variety of anemones, lots of leathery sea squirts, even more slipper limpets, sponges, queen scallops and deadmen’s fingers some with baby sea slugs on them. At the end of the dive we ascended back up to the safety stop then out … eventually, whilst we were barely at 15m the DSMB line was reeled out such a long way with a small reel it took a few minutes to reel the line in again. Whilst you could argue that I shouldn’t have let the line out so far, I also decided that whilst its more fashionable to use a smaller reel nowadays and they are less bulky they are also more fiddly and I decided to switch back to my larger reel when diving in the UK.

On day two we did the Fleur de Lys and the barge. Whilst its broken up considerably more now the Fleur was a bigger boat than I had remembered. It was still too small a dive site for a boat of ten (and the second boat not long behind us) and the bottom quickly got kicked up so having circulated it a couple of times once my buddy and I had found the line to the barge we headed off there where the visibility was better. If only I had brought my camera! We saw so many nudibranchs including yellow-edged polycera, orange clubbed sea slug, thorny doris, and the violet seaslug, plus lots of eggs and a sea hare. There was lots to see and we didn’t need to drift off the boat.

Our second dive that day was on the Valentine Tanks. We were dropped in just before slack so when we first went down my buddy and I needed to swim quite hard against the current as we headed along the line to the second tank but before long the current eased. After what seemed like a long swim without much to see (they have changed the position of the line between the two tanks so now you have to follow a V underwater to get to the second tank) we were rewarded with conger eels, starfish, more nudis, wrasse, a crystal sea slug (see photo). I was also unsuccessfully trying to get my snoot to point at a topshell at until another buddy pair (not from our club) crashed straight through my site and we decided it was time to go back to the first tank. There we saw another conger under the rock plus lobster and a double spiral worm (photo) in crevices of the tank. Another good dive.

As most UK divers are painfully aware, when we go on dive trips we often end up having to do something else instead. This means we regularly end up going walking and the more adventurous of us have even tried our hands at kite surfing. Whilst the weather was glorious and the club had two more dives organised for the Monday (the first being the Kyarra) I decided to go stand up paddleboarding off the pier instead. Having only done it a handful of times on a lake I realised once I was on the board that it was quite a bit harder doing it on the sea. Fortunately all those with a Go Pro on the trip were on the dive boat so there is no recorded evidence that I spent the first thirty minutes just trying to stand up and remain standing for more than ten seconds … by the time the dive boats came back in I was up and making it look like I knew what I was doing.

Whilst it was a smaller group than our usual Swanage trips, all in all it was another successful trip, I have got my UK diving legs back on and am looking forward to diving again with the seals in Farnes in September.

Reported by Sarah A, Photos from Sarah A and Preeda

Wrasbury Diving Lake, 3rd May 2021

On Monday 3rd May Alex, Sarah A, Emily, James and Jessica headed to Wrasbury Diving Lake for the first ‘warm’ up dive of the year.

It was a good opportunity to dust off kit and check everything was in full working order. Sarah got to try out her brand-new dry suit, and Alex his new pony. It was also great to see some friendly diving faces in real life as opposed to on Zoom!

The water temperature was a balmy 11 degrees, and we spent around 45 minutes exploring the bottom of the lake. Not too much wildlife spotted, but we did see a couple of very large pike and many crayfish.

Despite the typically poor Wrasbury vis, we actually managed to find more sunken objects than we have on previous visits: a submarine, multiple boats, set of traffic lights, part of a fuselage (toilet cubical still intact) and a large plastic Ganesh?!

After the dive, it was back on dry land to tuck into a tin of infamous Veys’ ginger flapjacks, and some hot bacon butties. Both well earned!

Thanks very much to Alex for organising, it was a fun morning and we all look forward to more water time in 2021!

Reported by Jess

Mercers Park Diving Lake, 12th September 2020

On Saturday 12th September seven of us (Alex, Chris, Sarah B, Ollie, Julia, James B and Jess) met at Mercers Country Park Inland Diving Lake, in Redhill, Surrey.

This was a new location for all of us, and having read good things online, we were excited to see what was in store for us.  A former sand quarry, now turned into a watersports and diving lake, meant that the area was a hive of activity when we arrived at 10am, with a number of divers alongside windsurfers, kayakers and SUPers.  Despite the buzz, we all agreed that there was lots of space for easy kitting up and parking, and it didn’t feel too hectic. With different areas of the lake partitioned for sailors and divers, it all seemed quite organised!

The lake is surrounded by an underwater forest and is home to freshwater species such as pike, perch, roach and giant carp. Unsurprisingly, James was very enthusiastic by the fish spotting opportunities, and along with safety of course, which underwater hand signal to use for each fish became an important part of the dive briefing.

After kitting up in the sunshine we headed into the water. With an average depth of around 8m, we all enjoyed a long dive. While the visibility was maybe not quite as good as claimed on the website (we’ll blame the large group of divers who entered the water just before us), it was certainly better than we have experienced at other inland sites! We had fun exploring around the twisted tree trunks and between us, spotted a pike, rudd, a large shoal of young perch, a couple of carp and even some freshwater mussels. Perhaps Sarah had the catch of the day, finding an intact mug and old Nokia mobile (possibly intact – who knows!) on the bottom of the lake.

After, it was time for a sandwich and a socially distant catch up in the sun, before we headed home. Thanks to James for organising, and a big shout-out to new member Julia, for completing her first UK dive, and first dive with the Argonauts!  It’s great to have you!

Reported by Jess

Swanage, 25th-27th August 2020

With meticulous forecasting, our Swanage trip coincided with the worst August storm in living memory. We were joined by Steve W, an ex-club member and Howard, a friend of the club and our link to the Scuba Trust.

Our first day, in true dive trip style, was spent walking along the Dorset clifftops leaning into 60mph winds. A further walk in the afternoon included a stint of abseiling down a muddy slope to the beach and shopping for nick-knacks that were doomed to join a large existing collection of nick-knacks.

The Dorset clifftops leaning into 60mph winds!
Big waves hitting by storm Francis

Day two was exceptionally successful from the diving perspective. We had arranged a dive at 3:30, which would follow a leisurely walk in the morning to Old Harry Rock. Due to a shortcoming in communication, we discovered, after queueing 20 mins for pasties, and upon arriving at the head of the queue, that we had to be on the pier NOW!!! Stomachs rumbling, we scrambled to load the boat, ready to head out to uncertain visibility at Peveril Ledges.

The dive did not disappoint. As expected, the visibility was about a metre. With startled wildlife caught in our torch beams as we passed, we narrowly avoided hitting the ledges. Despite the gloom, we spotted an undulate ray and some decorator crabs.

The Second dive, on the Valentine Tanks, was very good. The visibility was much better and the tanks full of wildlife. The tanks housed some huge conger eels, lobsters, large edible and spider crabs, lumpsuckers, pipefish and a lot of bib. A very memorable dive.

Our next day’s diving started with perfect weather and a drift dive below Old Harry. The visibility on this dive wasn’t what we had hoped, but we saw a gurnard, a ray and lots of ordnance as this area had previously been used as a firing range.

Started with perfect weather
On the boat!

During the long surface interval, we made up for the previous day’s missing pasties then cowered in our cars from the torrential rain. Finally, we set off for the last dive of the trip: Peveril Ledges once more. This time, the visibility had improved and we spotted an undulate ray, dogfish, a baby conger eel and a shoal of bib. During the dive, the wind had picked up, making the sea rough, so it was good to be back on the boat.

Look closely at the face of Zoltar

Reported by Trevor, Akiko, Sarah B and Boggie