The email arrived in March – “Who’s interested in a two dive trip to Swanage? Kyarra (in the morning) and the Valentines Tanks in the afternoon” with the possibility of a cheeky dive on the pier in between! Well, it would be rude not to say yes! Me! ME! ME!……..
The interest was gauged, an additional boat booked and itineraries refined….. the excitement was building, rental kit organised, buddies agreed and transport arranged.
The final update arrived at lunch time on Friday – not good news – the viz was rubbish (non-existent!) so the trip had been postponed. Within minutes the club Facebook group was alive with ‘Plan B’ options. Oceanview had been looking forward to getting wet so wet they would get!
The group was split. Some would be off to Vobster near Frome but we opted for NDAC (National Diving and Activity Centre) near Chepstow. The viz would be better and there is more to see just a mere 50 miles difference.
It was 4.30 Sunday morning and the alarm was ringing – whose stupid idea was this! The car was packed up last night so we rolled into our thermals, swigged our mug of tea and then hit the road. It was dark and not overly warm (always a worry!) but as the sun rose in the rear view mirror the temperature slowly increased and the miles to our final destination decreased.
7.55am we arrived. With forms already downloaded and completed it was a speedy process to get in to the site. We then realised that the mini bus pick up point had been changed since our last visit so I moved the car a little closer. Our thoughts very quickly turned to breakfast…… you can’t dive on an empty stomach so off to the café to source some bacon butties and mugs of tea! Yum!
With divers fuelled, we started to unpack the car and saw more of the Ocean View crew just arriving. Greetings and general banter exchanged we kitted up and jumped on the next mini bus down the steep slope to the floating pontoons. It was 9.00am and there were only a hand full of other divers preparing to jump. Perfect!
We planned to dive on Buoy 12 – the Wessex Helicopter Mk3 at 25m. From there we would head north(ish) and try and pick up the cruiser and Landrovers in 7 – 10m to finish off. We kitted up and took our giant strides in to the water. A whopping 8 degrees and 15 metre viz! Worth the 170mile drive! After a short surface swim we descended down the line and very quickly the helicopter came in to view. Down and down until we hit 28.5m!….. all the rain over the last few months has raised the water level so the helicopter is now at 28.5 rather than 25m and also a number of the marker buoys are below the surface of the water.
I had my camera to take a few snaps. I attended a camera workshop that Oceanview ran with Steve Warren and Lisa Collins back in March and wanted to try out a couple of the tips I had received. Snap, click, snap….. my buddy will get bored of posing soon! The viz was amazing and the helicopter a very interesting wreck. We circled a couple of times and then decided to shallow out and find the Landrovers…… We ascended the cliff wall and eventually came to a ledge at 12m which opened up to reveal a land rover and the training platform which is actually an open ended container you can practice swimming through.
Getting a little chilly the signal was given for the safety stop and as we looked up we could see the pontoon overhead – perfect!
We climbed up the ladder back on to the pontoon to be greeted by our fellow Oceanviewers who were preparing to start their first dive of the day. We recounted our tale of fantastic viz and they beamed with excitement and hurried to get in.
We climbed on the minibus with our kit for the vertical ascent back up the slope to the main car park. As we pulled up in a cloud of dust and opened the doors we were greeted by a sea of faces… 20-30 divers with kit ready and waiting for the next ‘taxi’ to the pontoon……. Getting there early had definitely paid off!
We dropped our tanks at the filling station and went for a well-earned mug of tea and a chocolate bar! The sun was shining and we warmed up while watching the mad/brave people zooming across the quarry on the Zip Wire………. Using the large site map by the café we planned dive 2…….
Tanks filled, we kitted up and waited for the bus…….. the hoards that we passed earlier were just coming back up so it was quieter again – perfect!
Dive 2 was to be the bus, divers’ bell and the gnome garden – a shallow bimble was all we wanted and this would be perfect. We descended over the single decker bus which should have been at 16m but was now nearly 20m. We were greeted by a group practicing swimming through the bus being led by a diver in the most amazing bright green dry suit……. Very hard to loose!
Rounding the back of the bus we saw some tubes that had been placed for practicing swim throughs with changing depths, the diving bell and then an odd attraction topped with a couple of gnomes surrounding a fully decorated Christmas tree – only in a UK inland dive site!!
Content from our dives we packed up our kit, said our farewells and headed home. It wasn’t Swanage but we all had a great day out and most importantly got wet……we can look forward to Swanage another day…….