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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 Jet2.com 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

 

Widewater Beach, Shoreham-by-Sea, August 2020

The 8th August saw our first club dive near Shoreham-by-Sea on Widewater Beach. It was going to be a scorcher with temperatures in the mid-30’s but calm seas, no wind and favourable tides (more on this later).

Six divers fought for parking space (Jess, James, Akiko, Chris, Trevor and Ollie) with four support crew (Sarah – DO, Alex DL training, Emma and Riley – the mascot for the day).

There were several firsts in the dive, Ollies kit, Alex’s training and Riley’s first time on the beach. We set up our stall on the busy beach and got the SEEDS briefing done before the divers inserted themselves into their dry suits. Risks we considered over and above the usual were jet-skis (deploy DSMB’s), fishing lines (take a line cutter) and getting lost (take a compass). Entry was down a shallow shingle beach with the dive being due south until a small ledge was found followed by a swim East until 1/3 air used and then a return. The dive was limited to 60 mins max…what do they say about plans never surviving first contact? It was noted that the yellow buoy should not be reached during the dive.

We tried to get divers in the water ASAP as sitting in a dry suit with temperatures in the 30’s is no fun. Jess and James were efficient as usual and in the water and diving but 12:50. Trevor and Chris got in next and were off 10 mins later with Ollie and Akiko getting in at 13:10.

With the divers out of the way, Sarah then went through planning with me (Alex) whilst Riley (12 weeks old) bravely went to the shore to see if he could eat the sea water.

 

Riley, the mascot enjoying the sea.

Sarah and Alex then kept a watchful eye for DSMB’s to be deployed and sure enough after 60 mins one came around the corner of the groyne (the beach version) as James and Jess returned bang on time (a prize is on its way). Shortly after, Ollie arrived without kit from the path at the top of the beach. He and Akiko had drifted four groynes down so now had to bring their kit back. Finally, we saw the last DSMB deployed but way out past the yellow buoy. Binoculars suggested that this might be the Trevor/ Chris pair but this wasn’t certain. They did seem to have found a couple of paddle borders who stuck with them as the drifted further West. At about 14:40, Ollie, who had been dispatched to find the lost boys, found the errant divers way down the beach.

Everyone had a good time including divers, shore cover and of course the day’s mascot. Viz was about 5m and a variety of flora and fauna spotted including baby cuttlefish and long straight seaweed. It was a good shake out for equipment with also a couple of lessons for the dive brief. First, even a 0.1 knot current will push you the best part of 200m down a beach over an hour (a considerable distance with full dive kit on) and second if you cannot find an objective ensure that there is a plan in place.

 

By Alex

Photos&Video: ‘Riley’ by Alex, ‘Divers’ by Sarah A, Video by Trevor

 

 

Lyme Regis, June 2019

After a week or two of almost constant rain, the forecast for our Lyme Regis weekend looked promising. We arrived Thursday evening and managed to get our act together enough to come joint first place in the pub quiz at the Pilot Boat.

Highlights from our weekend’s diving in Lyme Regis

We had a relatively late start the next morning, heading out to dive the M2 submarine, a bumpy ride to the west of Portland Bill. On the wreck, the visibility was good which made navigation straightforward. Alex and I were able to complete a full tour, covering the hangar, torpedo tubes, the stern and conning tower. Along the way, we met some large congers, pollack and tompot blennies. A smoother ride took us back towards Lyme Regis and our second dive, a drift off Charmouth, where we saw some large spider crabs and dogfish. This was a picturesque dive, with slabs of rock that were undercut, in some cases by several metres.

dive boat
Heading back to the harbour

Our second day started at the more usual time of 8:30 and with calm conditions, we travelled out to the wreck of the Baygitano. The shot line took us down near to the boilers, which were home to congers and tompot blennies. There were more large congers lurking under the wreck’s metal plates, along with some large edible crabs. The only downside to this wreck was that it was covered in snagged fishing line, some of which we recovered for proper disposal. The second dive of the day was the submarine HMS Sidon, which is intact and sitting at around 35m. We dropped to the seabed, where we spotted a crawfish near the hull. From there, we continued up the port side, to the torpedo tubes and bow. We then made our way along the deck towards the conning tower, from which we ascended, accompanied by two large jellyfish.

The third and final day started early again, beginning on the dredger, St Dunstan. The visibility wasn’t as good as the previous dives, but this was made up for by the appearance of a large angler fish next to the boilers. The wreck was surrounded by impressive schools of bib and as with other wrecks in this area, there were plenty of large conger lurking in tubes and crevices. Towards the bow, we could make out large cogs and drums, part of the original dredging mechanism. Our second and final dive of the trip was a drift dive at the foot of Golden Cap. This was characterised by large boulders on a sandy plain. There were lots of juvenile bib, spider crabs, a candy stripe flatworm and dogfish.

In all, this was a great few days diving and Rob, our skipper on Blue Turtle, helped us make the most of it. He even provided lunch!

Who went?
Chris (organiser), Alex, Boggie, Sarah B, Emily, Gareth (non-diver), Trevor

Swanage 2019

Weekend conditions

Water temperature of 11 degrees Celsius.

Wind speeds of force 4-6 on Saturday, 2-3 on Sunday.

Friday 3rdMay 2019

We made our way across to Swanage on Friday afternoon/evening, arriving at the Swanage Coastal Park, successfully navigating our way from the south east.

News from Bryan, the Skipper of the Mary Jo (our chartered weekend hard boat), was that high winds forecast for Saturday, meant no dives were currently planned for Saturday, unless weather conditions improved.

On settling into the Coastal Park, we made our way into Swanage for dinner and after dinner drinks at the Black Swan Inn!

Saturday 4thMay

The next morning, we waited in anticipation for news of improving weather conditions, and Bryan confirmed the planned afternoon wreck dive to visit the Fleur de Lys was on! 

So, mid-morning we headed off to Swanage Pier and found sufficient car spaces to park up side-by-side off the pier and begun making our preparations, with the assistance of the shop/rental shop of Divers Downs.

With the Mary Jo ready and with divers and equipment safely on board, we made our way out into Swanage Bay to where the Fleur de Lys lay in waiting.

Following a successful dive outing and an opportunity for some of us to try our new equipment(!), we settled into pizza and pasta, followed by an early night, in anticipation for what was promising to be improved weather conditions for the forthcoming day.

Sunday 5thMay

At 0630 we queued briefly for parking on Swanage Pier under clear blue skies and a rising sun, in anticipation for the days’ 2 planned drift dives. With parking and preparations complete, we set off once again on the Mary Jo.

<Peverill Ledges>
With slower tide speeds and improved visibility, Peverill Ledges gave us increased opportunities to spot wildlife and other maritime objects.

<Old Harry Rocks>
The tides were noticeably stronger off Old Harry Rocks and probably as close an experience as we’ll get to being flying superheroes (or being in a washing machine)!
With the second of the days’ drift dives complete, we began making our way home, for a well-earned night’s sleep, and fortunately with a Bank Holiday Monday to help rest up and recover.

Particular thanks to Trevor for organising!

By Ollie

Pembrokeshire August 2018

We arrived at our cottage in St Ishmaels on the Pembrokeshire coast on a bright sunny afternoon. Sadly the weather wasn’t quite as kind the following morning, with stereotypical Welsh rain and too much wind for the dive boat to go out. But we took the opportunity to explore the area, with a trip up to St David’s – as well as an unscheduled trip to Halfords to replace a broken car battery… And we even cooked up a curry feast, followed by a blackberry and apple pie, decorated with an artfully crafted octopus! 

 

Blackberry and apple pie before cooking

The weather was a bit breezy for the rest of the week (although no more rain and lots of sun), which meant the diving was spread over the week. Most of us managed to get in a good three days though. And the diving was great. The boat was very spacious, and the skipper Brian really knew his stuff, having dived here himself for years. He gave detailed briefings, and we were treated to lots of sealife. Unfortunately, the vis wasn’t great due to the weather, but we still managed to see plenty. The highlight for me were all the crustaceans, including lobsters, lots of different crabs, squat lobsters, shrimp and huge crayfish. Akiko and I even sotted a lobster who had clearly just finished a rather tasty meal of one of these crayfish, judging from the shell scattered around! There were also lots of fabulous sponges – more varieties and much bigger than I’ve seen in UK waters before. Another great spot was the huge scallops, half buried in the sand and busy feeding. There were plenty of flatfish and gobies, the odd tompot blenny, and the occasional wrasse appeared out of the gloom!

Our boat

 

And when we couldn’t dive, we made the most of everything this beautiful place had to offer. We explored the stunning coastal path, with craggy cliffs, practically deserted and dramatic beaches, baby seals in the coves, and lots of birds. There was swimming in the sea, body boarding, and cycling. And some of us made the most of the wind to practise our kite-flying skills! It also turned into a bit of a gourmet trip as we made the most of the self-catering, with home-made pizza, pasta, and yet more blackberry desserts!

Broadhaven

 

Red Sea 2018

Twelve Argonauts, with kit, flew to the North Red Sea in May 2018 for a very memorable six days of diving aboard the good ship Whirlwind booked via Scuba Travel. 

 


We had a packed itinerary with the possibility of four dives per day including a daily night dive. We thus all chose to dive on Nitrox to ensure that we could get maximum value out of the possible 22 dives. 
Highlights of the trip were seeing dolphins (one doing a victory roll in front of us), a heart made of stones on the sea bed left after an undersea wedding, several trips to the Thistlegorm (both outside and inside) and to also to the Giannis D. 


There was some great wall diving with an abundance of both flora and fauna including a Spanish Dancer, lobsters, blue spotted rays, stone fish, moray eels, puffer fish, leaf fish, octopus, napoleon trigger fish, turtles, bat fish and a white tipped reef shark.


Aside from diving we developed the new sport of “fin cricket” played between those on the boat’s dive platform (with a fin) and those in the water (bowlers and fielders)
This was a great trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
All, bar one, of the photos are courtesy of Tom Pepper and you can see more of his work onwww.tompepperphotography.comor on instagram @tompepperphotography

By Alex

Lanzarote in October 2017

In October, an intrepid foursome headed to Lanzarote for some autumn sun and underwater fun.

The weather was beautiful, hot, sunny and calm waters. The water was a balmy 22 degrees and crystal clear.

We did 7 dives in total, all of which were lovely and easy (max depth was about 27m, great visibility and no current) and with lots of life, especially fish.

We saw: barracuda, shoals of sardines and other unidentified fish, tuna, triggerfish, jacks, an ANGEL SHARK, sting rays, an eagle ray, octopus, cuttlefish, flat fish, nudibranch, squat lobster, cleaner shrimp, moray eel and SEAHORSES!

Plus, we visited the excellent [underwater museum](https://underwatermuseumlanzarote.com/en/) which was a really fantastic and unusual dive among the statues, all of which have a message. What’s particularly nice is that they limit the number of divers in the museum at any one time which means you really do get to enjoy the ‘exhibits’ – I wish they did this at some other dive sites!

We spent our evenings exploring the restaurants of Puerta del Carmen – a surprisingly good variety to choose from, and playing games at our lovely apartment.

Overall, a wonderful, relaxing and beautiful trip!

DETAILS:
We dived with Atlantis Diving: http://atlantislanzarote.com/nuevo/ who also arranged our apartment.

 

by Claire & James