Plymouth August 2023 – Trip Report

Diving with In Deep Diving Centre aboard Panther

Skipper – Hugo Challis
Deck hands – Robin and Julian

Well how time flies. No sooner had we stopped talking about our 2022 trip than the 2023 run down to Plymouth had come around again. So once again, twelve members from the branch loaded up their cars and vans and headed South for what was hopefully to be a memorable weekends diving. I state hopefully as the weather forecast was not good to say the very least! But that wasn’t the first of our problems. The drive down proved to be quite an ordeal. Well it was for some of us. The lucky ones that set off very early had a relatively pleasant journey down whereas those that left after 9am ended up having to endure a drive in excess of nine hours! No fun at all but we kept our spirits up and the banter in my car helped to make the journey bearable.

On my way down, I was in contact with James with regards to our planned itinerary. James and I had already agreed it the week previous but as we all know, it’s always weather dependent. It looked like we were going to get constant Force 4 Northerly winds gusting Force 5 all weekend. Well it is what it is and we would make the most of things.

This year, we were staying in the Mountbatten Centre as our usual home from home, the Boringdon Arms had closed its accommodation for refurbishment. We arrived at the MBC at approximately 6.30pm. No time to even unpack as we had to be at the Clovelly Bay Inn for 7pm for dinner which as ever, proved to be a lovely meal.

Front view of the Clovelly Bay Inn
Team members (L – R) Alan Jones, Andy Rath, Steve McElroy, Ray Cramer, Jeff Jones and Andy Parsons enjoying their meal in the Clovelly Bay Inn. The food in here is first rate!

After our meal and a few beers, we all made our way back to the MBC to start getting kit ready for the following morning. It was to be an 8am meet at the boat for a 9am ‘ropes off’. The early start was so that we could get the cylinders sorted and the skippers boat briefing sorted. Kit preparation was a little bit different for some of us this year (Garry, Ray and I) as this was our first trip using our JJ rebreathers. In fact, half of the group were diving on rebreathers this time. How times change!

The kit and everyone are aboard. Just listening to the boat briefing from Robin before ropes off for the start of what will hopefully be another great weekend.

From L to R. Jeff, Robin, Ray, Andy P, Alan and Garry with Peter seated
From L to R. Kat, Andy R, Steve & Gal Mc

Saturday 26th August 2023
Dive No.1, S.S. Maine.

Just like the previous year, the Maine was to be our first dive of the weekend. Conditions as expected were a little ‘lumpy’ but not that bad that we were never going to dive! Kitting up was fun. The Maine is a ‘must do’ dive whenever you get a chance to do it. Once again, it didn’t disappoint!

Inside the hold area of the S.S.Maine
Terry returning to the shot line at the end of the dive on the Maine

The shot was dropped just at the boilers and we made our way down the line into what was probably some of the best viz we had experienced in recent years. It was easily 15mtrs and possibly even better closer to the bow area.

Just to make certain that the shot line could be found comfortably, some of the group attached strobes to it. It could certainly be seen from a good distance away.

Once we had managed to orientate ourselves, we made our way around and through the wreck. It was a really lovely dive. Especially inside which is easy to both enter and exit at multiple points and is a sheer joy to swim through. We also made a point of making sure that we saw the ladder that has now become the must have picture for all those diving with a camera.

Once we were all back on board Panther, hot drinks and pasties were prepared by the crew for lunch. And just how good do those pasties taste after an hour of being under the water.

Saturday 26th August 2023
Dive No. 2, S.S. Persier

Everybody was buzzing after such a cracking first dive and obviously looking forward to the next one. We made a change of plan earlier in the day due to the impending weather conditions and decided to do the Persier as our second dive. She is a wreck from the second world war having been torpedoed in 1945. This wreck is diveable at all states of the tide as well so is visited quite a lot. This was obviously the case on this particular day as a few boats were seen leaving the site as we approached it. The shot was deployed and it was soon time to kit up and get in.

The steering quadrant of the Persier

We descended the shot line into what was disappointing viz when compared to the mornings dive. It was probably down to around six metres. As usual, we clipped our strobes on to the line, got our bearings and set off. The stern area of the wreck is well worth a visit as there’s lots to see including steering gear and rudder. We spent the majority of our dive on the aft section of the wreck as it is much the more interesting part of it. Deco obligations were building up for some so we headed back towards the shot line. This is when you appreciate the strobes being clipped on to it as it makes the line so much easier to find. We unclipped them on our way up and duly carried out all our deco requirements. We headed back for the MBC after a great days diving and all looking forward to a nice meal and a few beers. We usually only head over to the Barbican once per trip but the fact that we were staying at the MBC meant that we were very near the water taxi stop so took the opportunity to head over there to eat and take in the Saturday night atmosphere. We were booked into the Three Crowns for our meal. Disappointingly, we were told that the garden area was closed for dining. But the staff in there were brilliant and soon sorted out tables for twelve people all seated together. The food was once again very nice and the atmosphere was upbeat with everyone discussing the days diving and what we could look forward to for the next day.

The arrangements for Sunday had to be changed due to the weather forecast worsening, The original plan was to head out into Bigbury Bay once again but Whitsand Bay was forecast to have the better or should I say the less worse conditions so we just brought Mondays plan forward.

Sunday 27th August 2023
Dive No.3, S.S. Rosehill

It was an 8.30am start on the Sunday as no briefing was needed. We had a slightly more leisurely breakfast in the MBC and the beauty of staying here is that the moorings are right outside.

The forecasted winds were blowing as expected and we knew it would get ‘interesting’ once we got out into open water. But once we rounded Rame Head, it wasn’t too bad at all and we knew that we were going diving.

We had a little distraction on the way out though. Our wreck finder Ray had researched some more marks and Hugo had agreed that we had plenty of time to go and take a look at them. We checked the first of the two marks out on the way to the Rosehill. The idea was that if it looked worth it, we would send a diver in to go and take a look just as we had done the previous year. The echo sounder showed a distinctly diveable mark so the shot was deployed and Ray kitted up to go and take a look. He entered the water with us all hoping that he was going to find a new wreck. After twenty minutes he returned to deliver the bad news. The mark turned out to be a large rock pile. Sighs all around!

So on to the Rosehill it was to be. Not a bad back up dive when all is said and done.

There was already a boat on the wreck with a shot in place but their skipper assured us that his divers should all be on the line by now. So the skippers agreed a plan which was for Panther to move off some way and to gently lower our shot over the side in a very controlled manner. This was done very expertly in my opinion. I was to be the first one down out line and tasked with ensuring that our grapnel was secure in the wreck then to release an indicator to inform them that all was good. I completed this then ascended a few metres to attach my strobe which I did. Strobes are a good idea on this site as the viz is not particularly brilliant when compared to other areas. This is probably due to it being an old dumping ground.  I then swam off a short distance and turned around to get my bearings while waiting for my buddies to join me. Imagine my surprise when I saw two strangers making their way up our shot line.

Once we were all together, we headed for the stern where there is still a gun to be seen as well as the engine, gearbox closer to the boilers. Its an easy enough job to follow the prop shaft to the stern. Making our way back to midships, we had more than enough time to go to the bow to take in the anchors. They are well worth seeing as they are massive. I was surprised how quickly we reached the bow as it usually seems to be a long swim out over deck plating.

We now turned back and headed for the boilers and the shot line. Well when we reached the boilers, there was no shot line to be found. There was probably at least eight divers swimming round in circles looking for it. So it was to be a DSMB deployment and ascent. Not an issue.

Once back on Panther, we learned that the other boat had recovered our shot line with our strobes still attached! I’ve still got no idea how that happened!

It turned out that our strobes got back to the MBC before us lol.

Sunday 27th August 2023
Dive No.4, Ray’s Wreck / Terry’s Tip

The intended second dive of the day was the mark that Ray had found the previous year. Unfortunately despite finding it, he never got to dive it in 2022.

There was a little buzz of anticipation on the boat as almost everyone likes to have a little mooch around. This site gets very silted up very quickly due to the nature of the dive. We all clipped our strobes on to the line on the way down but these actually proved quite difficult to find by the end of the dive due to the vastly reduced visibility. But no-one seemed to care and they were all having what appeared to be a great time. Some of us found the shot line and others deployed their DSMB’S.

There was plenty of chatter aboard the boat as our divers discussed their dive and what they had seen on it. The Congers on this site are massive and you can get up close to them. I think everyone was happy with how the day went and looking forward to enjoying a beer or two and enjoying dinner which was to be at a restaurant that we frequent every time we go to Plymouth which was Lacky’s Balti House.

But before dining, we had a bit of a sweat on to find a pub that had Sky Sports as Liverpool were playing Newcastle that afternoon and we had a fair few Reds in our group.

I had done some checking prior to heading down to Plymouth to find a pub close to where we were staying and thought I’d sorted it. Well it turned out that said pub had cancelled their Sky subscription. I did have a list of alternatives but unfortunately didn’t get to see the game myself. Thankfully some of the others did and were treated to a fantastic Liverpool comeback thanks to Darwin Nunez.

Just had to get that one in!

Monday 28th August 2023
Dive No.5, Fairylands Wall

We were back heading out towards Bigbury Bay for the last day of diving. We elected on doing a reef dive first so that we could get onto our last dive for slack water later. Fairylands is basically a wall dropping down to maybe twenty metres at most. It is full of nooks and crannies where you can find Lobster, Crayfish and various fish. It’s one of those dives where you can be rewarded if you are prepared to look closely. We ventured along the reef with it on our right hand shoulder. Visibility was amazingly good. Easily twenty metres! Especially at the area where the bottom was clear of any rock and weed and it was just bright golden sand which reflected the available light.

We kept a close eye on our bottom time on this dive as we were aware that we would be doing our deepest dive for our final dive of the weekend. Rather than staying down too long, we limited our dive time to forty five minutes. As a group, we all headed back for the shot line where we made our ascent.

Once we were all on board, Hugo took Panther into a fairly sheltered bay so that we could at least have our lunch and cuppa in relative calm water.

With lunch over, we headed back out but not to our intended final dive as Ray had another mark that he wanted to check out. Hugo eventually found the mark on the echo sounder and deployed the shot. Again, Ray kitted up and descended the shot line and we waited. He was under water a lot longer this time and we all thought that our last dive might be changed at the last minute. Ray eventually surfaced to report that the area contained some metal but it was not worth diving. This mark was thirty nine meters deep so that meant Ray missed out on our final dive of the weekend which was to be the wreck of the Marie. But he had dived it a few days earlier so was content to have missed out in order to do some exploration.

Monday 28th August 2023
Dive No.6, S.S. Marie

Well it was the final dive of our weekend and to be the deepest at forty metres, the new Sports Diver recreational depth which had recently been changed by the BSAC. One of our group was using it as his qualifying dive.

Hugo easily found the mark and sent the shot in. we all kitted up in good spirits as this is the newest mark within recreational limits in the Plymouth area. It had only been identified earlier this year by a team from In Deep.

We sent all the rebreather divers in first with the open circuit divers following ten minutes or so later.

Steve McElroy and I were the first divers down the line again. The viz was awesome! Fifteen to twenty metres! I quickly set the grapnel in place and we tied our strobes to the line. We now had a few minutes to have a quick look around before our OC buddies joined us. Once the did, we set off in different directions. Kat and I headed for the bow and we found the Admiralty anchors that we were looking for. Two main anchors and what I presume was the spare. We bumped into just about the entire group while on this dive. You could easily see divers in the distance. We headed back towards the stern and although this wreck is badly corroded and disappearing into the sea bed, it proved to still be an amazing dive. At depths over forty metres, deco starts to rack up pretty quickly. So with our agreed bottom time looming, we headed back to the shot line where we met Steve and Gail. We collected our strobes as per usual and made our ascent. The line was becoming very busy the shallower we got so I came off it and deployed my DSMB. My buddy Kat saw me do this and left the line to come and join me. I noticed that Steve and Gail did the same.

Two of the Admiralty pattern anchors that can be found at the bow area of the S.S. Marie
Cuttlefish on the wreck of the S.S. Marie

So, that was the end of the diving for this weekend and what a fantastic dive to end it on. It could not have gone better in all honesty!

All that was left for us to do was pack all of our kit and get it all off the boat once we had arrived back at the MBC then get ready for our final night out which was to be over on the Barbican once again. Just as we did last year, we booked the group into the Fisherman’s Arms for our final meal. The food here is just amazing and the beer isn’t all that bad either! We all caught the water taxi over and were made more than welcome by the staff at the Fisherman’s. If you read this and are ever down Plymouth way then you should make a point of booking in here. You will not regret it!

The atmosphere at the table was a really vibrant one. Firstly, the diving had gone well despite all of our reservations regarding the forecasted weather! The choice of where to dine each evening had worked well.

The only downside was not being able to finish the weekend off in the Minerva which is the oldest pub in Plymouth as it was closed apparently. Ah well, there’s always next year!

The gang in the Fisherman’s Arms
From L to R. Terry, Kat, Peter, Ray, Jeff, Gail, Steve, Garry, Andy R and Andy P. Missing from the picture are Alan and James who had to return home immediately after the days diving

I would like to thank all of the group members for allowing me to use their pictures from the weekend and also for a really brilliant weekend.

The group members for this trip were as follows.
Garry Bolland, Ray (The Baron) Cramer, Michele (Kat) Woodward, Alan (The Major) Jones, James Brandon, Steve & Gail McElroy, Andy Rath, Peter Beaver, Andy Parsons, Jeff Jones and myself.

Kat and Terry flying the branch BSAC flag

Aqua Adrenaline – July 2023

Well, I joined Branch 5 to get wet, and this weekend certainly enabled that!

Raising the profile of Branch 5, with the club marquee, and a RHIB, down at the Albert Dock.

Many thanks to Phil and Angela Coggins for getting it all set-up both days, and Wendy Pretlove for boundless enthusiasm!

Thanks also to those who also helped out , over the weekend….Terry , Sue Kidds , Peter Cheesewright , Graeme Cooper , Chris G.

And it was good to see Martin Campbell in his element, racing on the Mersey!

Jan Ryan

Training Day – July 2023

A great day was had by all today at Eccy Delph for the ADM practice for the SD trainees. Also we had some OD training taking place. Weather wasn’t always on our side but everyone agreed that it was loads of fun and everyone took something from the day.

Well done to all the SD trainees.

Thank you to all the instructors and trainee instructors for your time and patience. Fabulous as always. We can’t do this without you

Well done to George and Adam for completing your first Open Water dives, you both did really well.

Congratulations to Gary for passing into the ranks of Ocean Diver after successfully completing his final dives

And finally huge thanks to Terry Maloney for putting on such a fun and informative day for everyone…a great time had by all.

Wendy Pretlove

Quiz Night – June 2023

Another good night had by all at this years Quiz Night.

A good turn out considering its the summer and a lot of members are off on holiday. Plenty of brains were tested to their limits with a range of questions but everyone seemed to enjoy it. With the collections for the quiz and a very generous amount collected in the raffle plenty of money was raised to help pay for the new boat which arrives next week.

There was some dubious marking and interesting applications of the rules but we think this years winners were Paul & Julie, Ange, Wendy & Tim.

Whilst this years wooden spoon winners were Ben, Bell, Jan and Steve.

Keep an eye out for next months social/fund raising evening !

Malta June 2023 – Trip Report

Another great trip to Malta this year, organised by the Major and diving with Divewise / Techwise. This year’s trip was spread over ten days with the main group heading out on the Monday for a week whilst Steve and Gail came out the day after and the lucky few stayed for the full ten days. Most of the group were there for recreational diving with some wanting to do some deeper and longer dives and your truly booked on to do the IANTD Normox Trimix course.

Day one went off without a hitch until we arrived, the airport wasn’t too busy and the flight was on time. But we left Manchester in the middle of a heatwave and arrived in Malta to rain, wind and coolish temperatures! It was actually too rough to even get in on the hours reef for a shakedown dive so we just unpacked all our kit, did the paperwork and went off to try and check in. Well, everyone else did, I had to hang around and spend a couple of hours going through dry drills and kit checks with another student, Ildikó who was there doing a tech refresher and would be my buddy for the first few days of the course.  It took a while for Saffa and then Alan to check everything, re-adjust a few things and then practice the drills we would need for the next day. 

Andy, Jeff, Val, Sue, Lucky, Kate, Chris, Major, Gary, Jay at the Long Room

Back at the hotel we had finally been given our rooms so just about had enough time to unpack, have a quick shower then head out for some dinner. We all gathered at the Long Room where nearly everyone had their famous Caesar Salad. Still as good as ever, nice way to start the trip off.  It was early to bed for most of us after the 2am start to catch the flight.

So, the first days diving involved the group heading off for a shakedown dive along the reefs at Cirkewwa, then heading out to the Rozy for the second dive. Meanwhile Myself and Ildikó were well and truly drilled by Alan and Saffa. Shutdowns, stage work, fining checks, no mask swims and more. Then, after a brief catch up on the surface, a dive off to the P29. Unfortunately, with the current being quite strong we had just about got in sight of the wreck when we had to turn round and head in.  Stupidly, I’d only worn a thin base layer having misjudged the temperature in a drysuit so by the time we got out after well over ninety minutes I was freezing!

Chris and Ildikó being
‘instructed’ by Saffa and Alan
Major on the Rozy
Lucky and Jeff

After heading back and washing the kit everyone headed back to their hotels apart from me and Ildikó. We had to sit through a video of more or less the whole dive being critiqued! Or basically pulled apart…. all part of the learning process !!

After getting back for half six just had time for a shower then we were off to make our table at the Avenue. Steve and Gail had arrived, so it was all twelve of us together for the first time. Unfortunately, it was a public holiday next day and the restaurant was overwhelmed. The service was terrible but fortunately the food was great but it did make for a long day.

Wednesday the weather finally improving, so everyone was going off on an old, converted fishing boat for a day’s diving to Comino…. apart from me and Ildikó. The boat trip sounded amazing; the first dive was to Santa Maria caves followed by a dive on the P29’s sister ship the P31. The pictures looked great, and everyone sounded like the had a really good dives. Meanwhile myself and Ildikó went back to Cirkewwa again with Alan to practice everything we had go wrong the day before! We just did the one dive on the P29 but it was ninety minutes and beside a few issues seemed to go quite well. Although the final twelve minutes of decco were painful as I was still freezing.

Santa Marina Caves

Once back and after sitting through another video of all our mistakes we were finally released to head off for a shower and dinner. The main group headed off to the Asian Kingdom for a Chinese Buffet but myself and Kate just went to the small Greek restaurant just round the corner from the hotel. It wasn’t very Greek but nice and reports back from the Chinese were very good.

The next day was like a military operation for poor Viv and the dive centre. They had a TDI instructor course being run by Mark Powell starting, which included Alan, us and a large party of eighteen from Edinburgh university.

So, they packed us all off to the Faroud as soon as possible to get us out the way. The main group all set off together and did two dives whilst myself and Ildikó went out for one long dive with Saffa and Mike. It’s always a great wreck to dive and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Our long dive was really good, got to see most of the wreck in one go which was great, as well as practicing dropping off and recovering the stages. But after ninety minutes I was freezing again! I warming up by grabbing an ice cream coffee (or two maybe) from the Blue Cave bar before we headed back to base.

Andy on the P29

We headed up for a beer from the usual bar by the Tulip then some of us headed back down to the centre to join in a litter pick on the house reef organised by Divewise. I gave up and borrowed a nice thick under suite from Viv and then we all headed in to see what we could find. After an hour, and feeling warmish for once, we came back with a surprisingly large pile of rubbish, mainly glass and plastic. Every bit helps!

House Reef Litter Pickers

Rather than head back for a shower, the litter pickers just headed straight for the Long Room and ordered dinner there and were joined at various times by the rest of the team.

The next morning we were all out together again, this time heading for Gozo and the inland sea. Ildikó had finished diving the day before and I was getting a two day break in the course. So, I joined up with Jeff and Dave to do one long dive from the inland sea with Nadine guiding whilst the rest of the group did one from the inland sea and one in the blue hole. The Major wasn’t keen on the walk to the blue hole so he dragged the long suffering Gary back into the inland sea on the second dive.

Kate and Gary on the P31

Everyone enjoyed their various dives and I was much more comfortable in the thick under suit, even after a two hour dive. Jeff had a lucky escape just at the end of the dive. His suit bottle had run out so he was relying on his wing to finish the dive and just as we surfaced in the inland sea the inflator fell apart! It’s a good job it had waited until then to fail!

After getting another ice cream coffee we headed back to the ferry and then back to base to wash up. It was getting on by then so we headed straight to the bar for a drink. We decided to split up for food with some wanting to get back for a shower and others wanting to go straight out. Gail managed to get a booking at the Gozitan for six so myself Kate, Jeff and Lucky joining her and Steve whilst the rest headed to the Long Room again.

The Gozitan was quite an experience. We all went for the tasting menu which was a combination of starters followed by a choice of main course. They stated bringing us starters at about eight and were still bringing them at ten by which time we were all stuffed. Which was when they brought out the main courses! Jeff’s face was a picture when he was presented with a huge plate of ribs after so much food. I think he managed one and the rest went in a doggy bag!

Saturday was a different as we were out on the Divewise rib. It wasn’t running right but was ok for short runs. The target was the Bristol Beaufighter which sits just off the coast outside the house reef. Saffa took us out in two waves, Myself, Jeff and Lucky first as we did a longer dive followed by the rest. It was a nice dive but it’s not a huge plane and so after swimming round it a few times it we had seen it all.

Jeff on the Bristol Beaufighter

I just did the one dive and went back to spend the afternoon with Kate who was having a day off. The others went off on the rib again to dive on the Tug2. A shallower wreck, again just off the Divewise reef. Reports were that it was another good dive.

The Major in trim or recovering the shot as he called it
Jeff and Lucky on the Bristol Beaufighter

That night we were supposed to be meeting up a the dive centre again for Pizza with Alan and Viv but unfortunately it started raining again which washed that idea away. Myself and Kate headed back and managed to get a table at the avenue whilst the rest headed off for Chinese again.

Next day was the last full day for most of the team and a few had decided to take the day off to spend a bit of time with their respective better halves or just do a bit of sightseeing. Jeff was packing up as he was going home a day early. For the remaining hardcore group it was another boat dive, this time on the Imperial Eagle. Steve, Gail and Kate got a lift round to Quora on the rib whilst myself and Lucky drove round with Mike and a couple of other customers, Big Dave, here for his MOD3 and Carl, a Danish Sidemount diver.

I had a really nice chilled out dive with Lucky but pushed it a bit going off to see the statue on the reef so were last up and after quite a bit of decco were over the set time limit. Was expecting a roasting from our cox for the day, Saffa, but he must have been in a very good mood.

Lucky at Kristu tal-Baħħara

I was still getting wet so gave the afternoon a miss and went back in the van. The rest or the techies went off to Cirkewwa whilst Steve, Gail and Kate went off on the boat with Saffa to dive on the HMS Maori just off Valletta. Everyone except Big Dave said they really enjoyed the diving…. He was still having problems with his unit.

Before I got to head back to the hotel, Alan, who had given me endless stick over my attempts at dive planning, gave me the full theory session on how to plan a dive his way. Have to admit, it was absolutely brilliant, everything suddenly made sense with the planning as well as a lot of other stuff I’d been doing for a long time but just because Id been told that was the best way to do it without understanding why.

That evening, after just having time for a shower it was back out again as a group. As it was the last one for most we all got together to again at the Avenue. The service was back to normal, the food was great and it was a very pleasant evening.

So, on the Monday whilst most were heading home Kate and Jay set off for Comino on the boat again, this time with the big group from Edinburgh Uni. I was back on the course so set off for Gozo with Kevin who was going to be my instructor for the practice and sign off dives and Mark who was going to be safety diver.

Surface break at Cirkewwa

We were diving the MT Hephaestus, the new wreck, sunk in August 2022. It was supposed to be another recreational wreck along with the three other boats sunk at Xatt l-Aħmar but ended up at almost 46m on the deck and worse a twenty minute swim off the shore.

Entry this time was from a cove further round the bay from the one used for the three main wrecks and was much easier. After a thorough briefing we set off. It actually took nearly half an hour to reach the wreck and was bleeding hard work keeping up with Kevin who has the frog kick you would expect from a semi pro downhill skier! After dropping off the stages there was just time for a quick swim round the wreck before collecting the stages and heading back up. I didn’t manage to get everything right but managed to do the needed stops and gas switches as well as acting as decco captain so was pretty happy.…and it was good enough to be allowed to go for the sign off dive.

Once we got back to base and cleaned up there was just time to sit through all the video footage of the dive then spend an hour with Kevin, this time planning the mixes and gas requirements for the sign off dive the next day.

That evening was Gail and Steve’s last so we met up with them and Jay for some food. We went back to the Greek round the corner from our hotel and had a nice but very long meal. Me and Steve had gone for the full mezes and the kitchen lost track halfway through and after a few moans to the staff finally got out of there at closing! Nice food but not sure I’d go back again.

There was just me a Jay left for the final day. Kate was having a day off. It was my signoff dive so got the gear together and checked the gas before heading off to Gozo again. This time with Kevin, Mark and big Dave…. Who was still having problems with his unit. Not great when your getting ready for a 100m diving course!

We were diving Raz il Hobz, a bay just north of the wrecks at Xatt l-Ahmar. The road down was terrible but the entry into the water much easier.

There wasn’t much to say about the dive, it was about getting the switches and timings right rather than seeing anything. From the shallows it drops down to a huge rock pillar which sits on a ledge at 40m then from there it was down a wall to our planned depth of 56m. From there it carries on to over 100m but that’s for another day.

Was concentrating so much on not forgetting anything and making the right switches at the right places I don’t remember seeing anything of interest. We joined up with Mark on the way back up who was waiting at 40m and acting as safety diver. Dave was supposed to be there too but had more problems with his unit and had bailed out rather than mess up my dive. Thanks Dave!

Apart from a couple of minor issues everything went ok and after a couple of drills whilst completing the decco it was back to base. Was hoping that was it, but no, there was an exam to do. Great.

I’d always thought the BSAC exams were terrible in the way they were written, but the IANTD ones take it to another level. I was pretty sure I’d failed and worse I’d have to wait until the next day for the results as Alan was tied up on his own course.    

That evening we just went back to the Avenue again then early to bed, yet another long, long day.

That was it for the diving so just had a day wandering round Valletta the next day whilst Jay headed up to Mdina, the walled city. We got back to the dive centre in the early afternoon as I was convinced I’d have to take the exam again but by some miracle had passed. We had an hour to kill after packing all the kit so headed back to our new favourite café for lunch and a coffee. Dolce Sicilia, a Sicilian restaurant just up the road from the centre. Fantastic coffee, food and best of all, cannoli!

Once back, Kevin and Alan were free so I just had to sit through a video of the day before and get a debrief before they signed me off! Job done.

Kevin gave us a lift back to the hotel with all the bags and we set to work trying to fit everything back in.  A late meal at another great find, Leyla, a Lebanese just five mins walk from the hotel, was probably the best food of the week. Will be back there again next year.

Next day Saffa picked us up from the hotel, then collected Mark, who was going home for a few days, and got us back to the airport in plenty of time for the flight. Which was delayed by an hour anyway.

Jeff, Jay, Andy, Gary, Steve, Kevin, Major, Chris, Lucky
Gail, Nadine, Kate

So the end of another great week in Malta. As usual, Divewise / Techwise were fantastic. Couldn’t ask for a better dive centre. From my point of view the teaching and instructors were fantastic. The diving was good and the company was as good as it gets. Thanks to the Major for getting the ball rolling and organising it. Roll on next year!

Chris Mills

Cocktail Night – May 2023

A great night had by all at the cocktail night.

John and Wendy did a great job of mixing all kinds of very professional looking (and tasting) cocktails for lots of very enthusiastic members.

Watch out for next months social night / fund raising event

Cape Verde 2023 – Trip Report

Towards the end of 2022 Alistair Reynolds and The Major were cooking up a plan for an early trip abroad in 2023. Alistair suggested Cape Verde as an alternative to the Red Sea and the plan then came together. The idea of warm water diving and a top all-inclusive hotel persuaded a whole bunch of us to sign up and the deposits went in.

Unfortunately, Alistair had to pull out early in the new year due to health problems which was a real shame and then the week before we flew The Major was also had problems, finally pulling out the day before we flew on his doctor’s advice.  Not a great way to start.

Anyway, after a fairly friendly five thirty start we headed to my all-time favourite airport, Manchester. However, this time I must admit, was amazed. The new T2 building was finally finished, and the parking and bag drop at the TUI desks went remarkably smoothly. Security followed which was again a shock, the staff were pleasant and helpful!!…. Twenty-minute queue and only another twenty to get through scanning, despite every tray being rejected, ironically, not because of the contents but due to dodgy barcodes on the trays.

The departure lounge was a disappointment, had set my heart on a full English but there were massive queues outside all the big bars. But, Surprisingly, managed to get a cheap breakfast from a taco bar! It was in a tray and came with a wrap instead of toast but was very nice all the same. We joined up with Dave and Kelly here then met up with Terry and Marg and Gary and Sue at the departure gate. No surprise that Mr Maloney had arrived in time to wander straight into the bar without queuing and get a full English.

Anyway, all onboard without too much fuss we settled down for the six-hour flight. Hadn’t been looking forward to this but it wasn’t too bad in the end, the plane was fairly comfortable and was sat with a really nice couple from Yorkshire so it was soon over. Cases collected we headed out to our coaches for the transfer. Just wish my huge diving bag had wheels…. The transfer was only about half an hour. Wasn’t sure what I was expecting of Sal, but the only word for it is barren. Where there were hotels there was greenery but everywhere else is sand and rock. No sign of people or the alleged 40,000 goats!

On arrival, have to say the hotel was impressive. The exceptionally well-travelled Marg had been before and described it as one of the best hotels she had ever stayed in, one of the main reasons for choosing this one. Check in took half an hour with what looked like three of four coaches all arriving at the same time, but the free glass of bubbles took the edge off. Was more than happy to let the porter take our bags to our room for a small tip, really should have got a bag with wheels!

The hotel was big but didn’t feel it with lots of separate accommodation blocks, all well spaced and a max of three stories and each surrounded by grass and palms. We were on the middle floor and was very impressed by the room. We had no sea view but a nice balcony, plenty of space, two double beds, nice bathroom with a huge walk-in shower and unexpectedly, free optics in the room. Whisky, gin, vodka and rum and a fridge full of free mixers and water! All included in the price…. this could be a messy holiday!

The bags arrived just after us so we just dumped everything, found our costumes and headed down to the pool for an hour or two. It was a bit cloudy but still pretty warm, especially compared to the UK. The pools were fantastic. Five in a row right next to the really impressive beach. Of the five pools, three were fifty-meter full width with two smaller bar pools in between. Pleasant temperature as well. Managed a couple of lengths but had forgotten my goggles in the rush to get down there. Still all very nice till I got out and sat down…. and started to get eaten alive. Had checked up on the Mozzy status before we came as they love me but didn’t find many mentions. But turned out that everywhere we went outside in the hotel there was every kind of biting thing.

Anyway, headed back to get washed up and meet up for dinner. We were eating in the main dining room first night. One of six separate restaurants on site. We met up in one of the many the lounge area for a drink first then headed over. It’s a massive area so found a table to seat eight then headed in for food. What a selection! Everything you can think of, fish, carvery, sushi, salad, pasta, local dishes and an amazing choice of deserts and puddings to follow…. as well as an exceptional choice of cheeses. Any though of taking it easy went straight out the window. Had to be careful with the wine as well. Once you said you wanted some they were round every time your glass looked low to top it up. After a wide-ranging choice of food and far too much afters we retired to the lounge again for a last drink then headed for bed. It had been a long day and we had a fairly early start.

So, diving day one had arrived. We met at the other main dining area by the pools for breakfast at half seven. This was the earliest to open and we were being picked up at ten past eight so didn’t give us much time. This was probably a good thing as the breakfast choice was also amazing. With great coffee too. We left Sue and Marg as they don’t dive and headed up to reception.

Was a bit nervous about the diving as I’d booked it and we’d paid up front. Choosing what looked like one of the bigger centres with the bigger boats. But luckily needn’t have worried. Their van was outside with what turned out to be our guide for the week, Eric, waiting to load our gear up for the five minute drive to the dive centre. Once there we met Romina, who I’d booked everything with and Fabrizio who run the centre together. We filled out the usual paperwork then got a briefing on the plan for loading up and launching. Which turned out to be very slick.

Mr Barlow, who had forgotten to bring any shorts or trunks despite his p.a. putting it on his list ran off to buy some from the small shop next door. Once he returned, we started getting our wetsuits on and packing everything else into net bags. This is when Dave realised his shorts were a bit tight and spoke with squeaky voice for the rest of the day.

The bags were loaded onto the van then we were driven the five minutes to the pier. From here we carried our bags to the end of the pier where the boat was waiting. The pier is amazing, lots of different traders and basically a fish market. Not for the squeamish. All sorts being fileted and gutted. But at least we knew the fish would be fresh for dinner!

The instructors passed all the bags down to the boat crew and we got on from the steps. The rib we were using was huge, 9.5m with twin 150hp engines and three bottle racks. The six of us were at the back with plenty of room with another four divers up front, with two guides and two crew. The captain Antonio turned out to be exceptional over the week. We had all the time we needed to put our gear together and get ready whilst he slowly made way out of the moored boats in the area. Once we were ready he put his foot down and we were at our first site five minutes later. Just offshore from our hotel!

 Sites are chosen on the fly as the currents are really unpredictable round the bottom of the island. Our first one that day, The Three Grote’s turned out to be ok but many times during the week we had to change sites last minute because of the run. Anyway, Eric, our guide gave us a briefing on the site, a reef/wall, 20m max with three smallish caves. Nice way to start. We all got ready and managed to get in. It was only when you tried to roll in you realised just how big the tubes were on the rib. You had to shuffle right back before trying to roll off!

The dive turned out to be a leisurely swim along a reef wall about 10m high in places with great visibility At least 20m, probably a lot more. There was a huge quantity and variation of fish, most notably exceptionally large pipe fish which we’d never come across before. Up to a couple of feet long with two to three inch thick bodies. The fist of the three caves went in about three or four metres and was also teaming with fish, with some big shoals most noticeable out the way out. The second and third were a bit smaller but still full of life, with a large ray swimming round one of them…. very nice. The dive ended on a flattened wreck which just had a large boiler remaining, this was covered in large shoals really colourful fish. Nice way to finish.

Back on the surface, the boat was waiting, all we had to do was take off our wings and the crew lifted them onto the boat, along with cameras, lights and fins, then when we were ready just climb up the ladder. No way to get onto those tubes without a ladder!

There was then twenty minutes of sorting out kit and swapping cylinders for the second dive. After that we settled in for a ten minute ride over to site two. During the surface interval Eric filled us in on the next dive. This was to be a smallish and shallow wreck called the Santo Antao. She was 45m long and is now broken into roughly three parts, the middle being broken up but the two ends fairly intact.

Once in the water it was a really nice dive with great vis again. Plenty of time to swim around the wreck and poke into the various holes. The first thing we noticed were the puffer fish lying in the rocks and weed around the front section. Took a while to work out what you were looking at but then realised there were dozens…

Around the wreck there were again lots of shoals of fish, with a couple of rays, more of the huge pipe fish and a apparently a turtle at distance but I didn’t see that one. We spent a really enjoyable hour drifting round and taking it all in but by the end was glad to get up…. was starting to feel a bit chilly. It was around about 21 or 22 degrees for most of the dives but got a bit chilly if you weren’t fining a lot.   

After climbing aboard again it was just a case of packing everything back into the net bags and stowing them in the front of the boat whilst the captain headed in slowly. At the pier the boat dropped us off at the beach, I guess for safety reasons. Eric had said it was only waist deep but as we found out it was a good six of seven feet and a bit of a swim back in. Not easy when you had undone your semi dry to your waist and it was now full of water! Once bailed out we met the crew back on the pier and found all our kit had already been brought up and loaded into handcarts along with all the cylinders and these were pushed back to the dive shop with us following.

At the shop all we had to do was wash the gear out, hang it up and get changed. The dive team there were going to look after it overnight, so we gratefully accepted the ride back to the hotel. Well, most of us, Gary wanted to get his steps in… 

It was only half one when we got back, so we met up with some of the others for lunch in the pool restaurant to discuss the days diving and enjoy more of the fantastic food…. and cakes…. and a beer or two. The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling round the various pools. Enjoying a few lengths and trying not to get bitten.

We met up for the evening at the lounge again then headed over to the main restaurant. We had our usual table for eight and tried not to eat everything on the menu. Its really hard when there is no set menu and there is such a variety of amazing foods to choose from…..followed by an amazing choice of deserts. Anyway, after dinner and a couple of drinks back in the lounge we called it a day and headed back to the room.

Day two started like day one. A bit cloudy but still nice and warm and another big breakfast, just far too much choice! After being picked up again, at the shop we collected all our gear together got packed and walked down to the pier. No lift this time, had to work off all that food! Once on the boat again we headed out to see if our first site could be dived. We were hoping to dive Boris, the only real intact wreck around but unfortunately the current was too strong so we headed a bit further out to Choclassa.

This was another good dive, down a line from the boat to a plateau reef covered with all sorts of nooks and crannies and covered with all sorts of fish. The vis was even better than the day before. At the edge we dropped down further to about 30 metres to an amazing overhang, covered with bright yellow anemones and orange Soldier fish. We followed this round for some way through sholes of fish of all kind and poking into the many crevices. Great to see so much life on the reef and also amazing views out into the blue. Eventually we headed back up onto the top of the plateau and following Eric back up on a SMB.

Lovely dive but was glad to be heading back up as had started hitting deco after we dropped over the edge and still had four minutes by the time we got back to six metres. Once we were all up the boat came in a picked us up then headed off to the next site.

This turned out to be Caldaia, the boat whose boiler we finished on the day before. This was a very shallow dive, a max of 10 metres but in parts as little as three. Over an hour drifting slowly on the current and in the wave surge pottering round the reef. Lots of the fish we had seen before and some new ones to me, including a Scrawled Filefish. Even a small nurse shark hiding in a hole but must admit, I couldn’t really see it very well and didn’t want to put me had too far in to try and get a picture……

By the end I was really cold so glad to get back in the sun and head back to the beach. Kept my suit closed this time and got off the boat last so could at least stand up and keep my hat dry!

After collecting our gear, wandering back and washing up it was time to head back to the hotel for lunch and more food. Took it easy at lunch as Sue had kindly booked us all into the Steak House for dinner and I could only eat so much. We found a quiet spot by one of the quieter pools for the afternoon and managed to get twenty lengths in…. more to keep away from the biting things than the exercise. We decided it was time to head in to get ready when the bonkers bingo started at the bar pool nearby.

So, after a shower and a bit of a rest it was soon time to head down to the pool side restaurant again as this was where the Steakhouse was housed. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their meals, my fish was amazing…. as was the desert! The staff there were fantastic, managing to deliver a really nice three course meal for a hundred people, after a long day of breakfasts and dinners whilst smiling all the way through…..and we were only the first sitting, there was another group after us!

After a couple of drinks back in the bar we headed for bed, it had been another long but enjoyable day.

Day three started just like the others except the clouds had gone. Just big blue skies and another big breakfast.

After kitting up and loading onto the boat we headed out to the try and dive the Boris again. Today we were in luck apart from being joined by an annoying older British diver who had been everywhere, done everything and now wanted to join our group and tell us all about it. Unfortunately for Terry, as he looked the most experienced diver he latched himself onto him. Ah well.

Anyway, the Boris is a Russian trawler called Kwarcit that had been caught ferrying illegal immigrants from Senegal to Cape Verde and impounded. In 2006, not knowing what to do with it, the authorities sank it as an artificial reef. Its sits upright with a max depth of 30 metres.  

We headed down the line, Mr Gungho obviously racing to be there first and nearly causing a problem as Kate and Dave had to take it slowly because of their ears.

The dive on the wreck was great. Its not massive, but is intact and whilst there were ways into the hold and bridge area there didn’t seem to be much to see more that could be seen from the entrance point. Needless to say someone had head inside straight away…. on his own. Ah well.

The whole wreck was covered in life. Rays, Jackfish crustations and some massive pipe fish. Even bigger than the ones we’d seen so far. There are supposed to be Frog fish and Nurse sharks but I did spot any. We did see some Nudibranchs but only with a magnifying glass…. yes we’re old people and Kate always takes one with her!

With the delays at the start getting down we were soon on our way up again… only managing half an hour before heading back up. Back in the boat we switched bottles, and Terry’s new best mate, having found out he was an instructor was trying to persuade him to sign off on some training! Cheeky git.

The second dive was to be Lost Anchor. This became a bit of a joke and it ended up being the second dive a few times and we’re fairly sure it’s just a different part of the second reef we had dived the day before. It was still a great dive, loads to see including a few rays, congers and a couple of nurse sharks, one about four or five feet long, hiding in the reef. Did see a turtle at distance but some of the others saw more and got a lot closer. Didn’t find the anchor though!

After getting back and washing up we were fortunate to find out Terry’s new mate couldn’t join us on our last two days diving as they were fully booked….. Ah well.

After another restrained lunch we headed back to the pool for the afternoon. This time I went for it and managed 40 lengths, unfortunately without sun cream so by bonkers bingo time my back was starting to get very red….. and I’d been bitten a lot more!

The evening meal this night was again thanks to Sue, who had booked us all into the Italian restaurant. Also, as the next day was Sunday and an enforced break day as all the dive centres were closed, meant we didn’t have to be too careful about how much we drank. The food in the Italian was exceptional, a really great buffet starter with all the usual suspects followed by a great choice of mains. Think the lasagne was the choice of most but I went with the fish again. All accompanied by goods wines and followed by more sweets and cheese.

Back in the lounge bar I discovered they had my favourite pastis so I had a few of them whist Terry, Marg and Kate got stuck into the Ballantine’s. Nice end to another day.

The next day it was nice to lie in for once. It was also another sunny cloudless day and already getting warm when we grabbed a late breakfast then decided to walk into Santa Maria, the local town. There’s really not a lot there, a couple of streets with small shops selling mainly very expensive clothes and the odd bar and café. We did get hustled into the local market which was a big mistake. Ended up paying way too much for a pile of junk just to get out! We found a supermarket of sorts, run by the obligatory Chinese bloke and got some evil smelling anti bug spray as well as some great knock off ray bans for five euros or a pile of Cape Verde Escudo’s. Of which I had plenty after using the very confusing cash machine in the hotel and ending up with £160’s worth!

Anyway, after that we headed back to get a coffee from the bar in the hotel before heading down for lunch. Whilst there we bumped into a very dirty looking Dave and Kelly who had just come back from a two hour buggy safari round the island. They had really enjoyed it but as there is manly rock, dust and sand outside the hotel grounds and the buggies didn’t have screens they looked like they had been sandblasted.   

They went off to get cleaned up so we headed off for lunch then sat around the pool again for the afternoon. The bugs seemed to really like the bug spray so I got bitten some more and fell asleep long enough to get my front the same colour as my back.

That evening we were back to the main restaurant again which was no hardship. The food was amazing again, the only problem being trying not to eat all of it.  The deserts were getting harder to resist and Gary looked to have developed an addiction to the flumps on offer in the kids section! So, after another nice meal we turned in fairly early again, but only after a quick round in the bar.

Monday we were back to the diving. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was warm again. After another big breakfast, Marcio collected us and we started kiting up. We had been trying to organise a night dive before the end of the week although Terry nearly did for the plans when he told Dave he wasn’t interested as there were too many sharks around at night! We eventually talked Dave round but we will still short as Gary wasn’t interested either. However it looked like a couple of the other customers diving this week were interested so we had our fingers crossed all day.

We were hoping to do Boris again as the first dive but when we got there the change in wind direction overnight meant the currents were too strong for most of the sites we had dived so far. Se we headed off round the bottom of the island and up the west coast some way to a reef / wall called Peridao. The dive was nice without being spectacular. There didn’t seem to be the same abundance of fish on this reef but there a couple of nice Morray but a bit disappointed not to see any of the promised turtles that are supposed to be resident. Still it was still a nice 45 minute dive with good vis.

For the second dive we again hoped to go back to one of the wrecks but it turned out Lost Anchor was the only choice due to the current. On the way back we were lucky enough to see a humpback whale breaching in the distance.  Well, I could only see the spray but those with better eyes assured us it was a whale. The crew did try to get a bit closer but it was moving too fast, even with twin 150’s on the boat.

Back at Lost Anchor we spent another hour drifting and poking round on the reef. We found a couple more nurse sharks and a few rays and there were plenty of fish including an inquisitive puffer fish that followed us round for quite a while. This time we did see the Anchor, or what’s left of it… it was being used as the the mooring for the line that we were using and had a nice ray hiding underneath.

Back at the shop we sorted our kit out and got confirmation that the night dive was on! Fantastic. So we headed back to the hotel for a big lunch and few hours more hours in the sun. It really had got quite warm by now, pushing into the high twenties, very nice for March.

Marcio collected me, Kate, Dave and Kelly at five and after picking up another customer down the road headed back to the shop. Marcio was organising the night dive but Eric was coming with us as well. There was a much more detailed safety briefing for this dive as you would expect with everyone having to make sure all their torches were working well before we left the shop.

After this everything went ahead as it had during the day but the sunset was spectacular from the pier and from the boat. We got to the site, Pontinha, with plenty of time to spare before full night so the Captain could check on the current. Everything was good so we got a final brief and got ready to get in.

We had all done night dives before in at Capernwray but this was our first night dive at sea so there were plenty of nerves as we jumped in and headed down the line. It was completely different in the dark and as expected took a while to get ourselves organised and settle down. Everything looked far more vivid as you could only see what was in the torch beam. There were lots of fish we hadn’t seen during the day, a few lobster and what we think was a snake eel. It slithered out the sand and moved like a snake on the bottom but is apparently a fish.

Although it was just short of a fifty minute dive it was all over too quickly. Was amazing to see so many different fish compared to the day and to see so many of the day fish sleeping in the reef. Coming up to the surface was spectacular as well. Being off-shore with no light pollution the stars were stunning.

Back onboard everything was back to its normal efficient self and we were soon back at the pier to swim in. A nice touch was that Marcio stopped at a beach bar on the way back and bought us all a beer!

We were washed up and back at the hotel by about half nine so had plenty of time to drop the kit off and head to the restaurant to grab a late dinner then catch up with the others. The only downside to the night dive was that we missed out on a meal at the Japanese restaurant. From what the others said it was a really good with some great Wagyu steak. Ah well, that will have to wait for next time.

We had a quick drink then headed back to get a shower and try to get some sleep.

The last day started with clear skies again and warmer still. After another big breakfast and being collected again we got our gear together at the centre and headed off for the boat. We really wanted to do Boris again but again the current was too much so we headed back to the site of the night dive, Pontinha.

The dive went a bit deeper than we had the night before but there wasn’t really a lot to see. A couple of big moray and a couple of lobster but it really was quite sparce compared to other sites we had been too. … or maybe it was just we had done too many of the same kind of dive. We did find a largeish nurse shark but my gopro decided to freeze just before we found it. Typical.

During the surface break and on our way to the next site we were lucky enough to see another whale breaching. This time I was told it was a mother and calf but again, given the distance all I could see was the splash. We tried to get Eric to take us back to Santo Antao for the last dive but apparently the current wouldn’t have been good there so we were taken to Farol. This is another shallow dive which we were fairly sure was part of the lost anchor reef but nice all the same. There were again lots of cracks and gorges to investigate with lots of the local fish around. Some moray and ray but nothing new. We did spend some time poking round the flattened remains of a wreck but there was nothing, but the skeleton of the keel left to see.

And after another pleasant hour that was it, diving done. We had all chipped into a pot to leave a tip and decided that it would be nice to split it between the Captain and Eric. Fairly sure they would all pool all their tips anyway but want to show our appreciation of the great way we had been looked after on the boat and also by the way Eric especially had looked after us during the week. Really was a very well run centre with a very friendly and helpful team, wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to other divers.

Once we had all the kit back we spread most of the gear round the balcony to dry but following a tip from Mr Maloney we took our wetsuits down to the pool and hung them over loungers for the afternoon, turning every hour or so. Whilst they were cooking we spent a pleasant hour or two in the bar pool with Dave and Kelly, trying out some of the cocktails.

The last night was another trip to the main restaurant, which wasn’t a problem. We had our favourite table again and probably a bit too much food and definitely far too much desert then retired to the lounge for a few drinks to finish off a great week.

Next day started with an early breakfast followed by the usual game of Jenga, trying to get everything back in where is came from then heading down to reception to check out…. still wishing I’d got a dive bag with wheels. Was expecting more fuss but checkout was very quick so joined the others to wait for the coach. Ours was the last of three or four to arrive but first to get to the airport from some reason.

Unfortunately, this still put us at the back of a very, very long queue at the bag drop. Tui were obviously running on a skeleton crew and it took well over an hour to get to the drop. This went ok for us but Dave, Kelly and Gary had to get the a rep involved to get through without extra charges. The staff there didn’t seem to know about the extra 5kg allowance for divers. Next was the queue for security, which had just two scanners, one of which seemed to be permanently dedicated to wheelchair users and families with prams. This took another hour but fortunately neither of us were pinged for anything. Finally we joined the queue for passport control, which only took another ten minutes. 

So, in the end we managed half an hour in duty free and had just grabbed a coffee when our flight got called. Typical. We rushed it down and joined the queue only to be left standing there for twenty minutes. After finally getting onto the runway we were then held up for another ten minutes waiting for a lift to load two wheelchair users onboard. Naturally, as soon as it did arrived both got up and walked up the steps under their own steam!

The flight back was on a 767 which I have to say, wasn’t very comfortable. Both overhead lockers by us were full of flight crew bags so ours had to go in the ones behind which just pushed the problem onwards down the plane. For a bigger plane there wasn’t much legroom and the seats were quite hard. We also had two larger girls sitting in front of us who bent the seats every time they moved.  

The flight was right on time and the only delay came at Manchester airport as there were no steps ready. Bit annoying as we were right next to a walkway but that’s Manchester for you. Happily this meant the luggage was already on its way round when we got past passport control so we were soon ready to say our goodbyes head off home.

From the back forward. Kate & Chris, Marg & Terry, Sue & Gary, Dave & Kelly

All in all, a great week with some really good company. Looking forward to the next one already.

Thanks to everyone for the use of their pictures.

Race Night – April 2023

The club held a very successful race night on 22nd April. Organised by our very own John Dunne, the turnout was quite limited and everyone who did come had a great time, plenty to eat and mostly lost their shirts! Betting on the races was pretty intense and the club made a substantial amount toward the new boat fund.

Karting Night – Feb 2023

A great night was had by all on Saturday night at Team Sport in Liverpool. Big thanks to John Dunne for organising and wearing a very fetching Pink race suite. We had a really good turn out with so many we had to split into two groups. Some great racing as well as some very ‘competitive’ driving seeing quite a few drivers black flagged and having to go to the pits for a telling off!

At the end of the evening Martin Campbell and Kelly Baird took the honors in the two group final races and after a good laugh everyone headed off into town for a few beers and a plenty of discussions over tactics.

The Green Group. 3rd John Dunne, 2nd Mike Mansell and 1st Martin Campbell.
The Yellow Group. 3rd Robbie Edwards, 2nd Alex Naylor and 1st Kelly Baird.

Expedition Planning Workshop – March 2023

Date: March 16th 2023

Instructor: Chris Wood

Cost: No fee as this is a branch workshop

This is a presentation for all diver grades but primarily aimed at prospective Dive Leaders and Advanced Divers to give them an insight into what is required to plan and execute a successful dive expedition.

Booking: To register, please add your name and number to the sheet on the club notice board

Karting – February 25th

John Dunne is organising a karting night at TeamSport in Liverpool. The date is now confirmed as 25th February. The cost if £50 and details of the evening are below. If you are interested put your name down on the sheet on the club noticeboard or contact John directly.

Exclusive Grand Prix

Race it out to the finish line in our grand prix styled race. Groups can enjoy exclusive use of the track during the sessions, which consist of a combined practice and qualifying session, followed a short break before lining up on the grid ahead of the big race. There can only be one winner on top of the podium – so make sure it’s you who takes home the gold, and not your nearest rivals!

If you’re looking for an event with a little bit extra, this is the event for you! Whether you’re celebrating an occasion or just simply want to enjoy some high-octane fun with your mates or family, we’ve got you covered. With guaranteed exclusive use of the track for your group, an upgraded race format and trophy presentation to finish – you can arrange an event to remember!

Who can race?
Grand Prix are available for ages 14+ with a minimum inside leg measurement of 29 inches (Adult karts only) and groups must have a minimum of 12 depending on track capacity at your desired location. Some of our larger locations require a minimum of 14, 16 drivers or if we are running on one our awesome international circuits.

What’s the format?
It’s a simple yet very effective race format built with finding the ultimate champion in mind. Once you have been signed in, kitted out in your racewear and been through our safety briefing, its race time! You and your group will have exclusive use of the circuit whilst on track and will start things off with some practice laps to learn the circuit and get to grips with your kart before moving onto qualifying which is all about the fastest lap, just like in Formula 1 it only takes a touch of magic on one lap to take pole position. Your race will start out on the grid with an endurance style sprint to the chequered flag, where the aim is to hang to first place or risk the glory being snatched from you by your competitors. After every session on circuit drivers are rewarded with a break where you’ll be able to view your personalised lap times via email, or via our free app, of your performance and after the final session at the end of your Grand Prix it’s capped off with a trophy presentation for the top 3 drivers over on the podium.

The exact format and timings do vary from venue to venue as listed below:
2 x 15 minute – 5 minute practice leads straight into a 10 minute qualifying session, the race is a 15 minute sprint to the chequered flag.

What’s included?

  • Race-suit and helmet hire
  • Safety briefing
  • Exclusive track use
  • Personalised lap times emailed to you or available by downloading our app
  • Trophy presentation

How long is the experience?
We recommend to allow 1.5 – 2 hours in total from arrival for your Exclusive Grand Prix experience for groups of up to 30.

All members of your group will be requested to arrive at the venue 30 minutes prior to your designated track time. We’ll get everyone signed in, into their race-suits and after a short safety briefing everyone will head to the pits.

Tug of War 2023

merseyside sub aqua club

Mersey Divers vs New Brighton Lifeboat Crew

There was a great turn out again for the annual new years days tug of war competition between the Mersey Divers and the New Brighton Lifeboat Crew. The good weather brought out a huge crowd to watch the very well organised lifeboat crew win again with another 2-0 victory. Although we had them worried this time on the first pull!

The Mayor of Wirral, Councillor Jeff Green, was there to officiate and present the Bob Grant memorial trophy to the well deserved winners.

A big thanks to the New Brighton Lifeboat Crew for organising the event as well as providing a great buffet afterwards. Thanks also to everyone from Mersey Divers who took part and came to support their side. Thanks to Vince Clegg for the photo’s.

The event is held to collect much needed donations to help support the RNLI. With the great weather and a large crowd over £1400 was raised for a great cause.

Mersey Divers 2022 team

Dive Trip – Malta – June 2023

The Major will be running a diving holiday from the Divewise Dive Centre, St Julian Bay, Malta between Monday, 5th. June and Thursday, 15th June 2023, that is a 10 day period and the idea is to give everyone as much freedom as possible to make whatever arrangements suit them.  Therefore you can go for a week, a long weekend or the full ten days.  The basic flight details for the Monday are on Easyjet, Flight number EZY 2273 departing at 0540 hours in the morning.  The return leg a week the following Thursday is on Easyjet, Flight number EZY 2274, departing Malta at 1125 hours.  In recent times we have chosen to stay at the Cavalieri Hotel which is no more than a 10 minute walk from the dive centre.  This offers great accommodation and is suitable for families. Some punters have also chosen to book a package holiday through Love Travel that comes out at about £800 for the week including flights. This may be the best deal in town. However, there is a wide variety of accommodation close to the dive centre to suit all pockets ranging from hostels to five star hotels. So the main points are as follows:

  1. It is suitable for all grades of divers from Ocean Diver to Technical Diver and all grades in-between.  The diving really is excellent and in very clear water.
  2. You can do as much or as little diving as you want, also non diving partners and children are perfectly welcome.
  3. You are expected to book your own flights and accommodation (list of suitable hotels is available).
  4. Alan will book the transfers for you and arrange the diving you want to do via Divewise.
  5. Let Alan know if you intend joining the party.

Contact Alan Jones for more details.

SDC – Chartwork and Position Fixing – TBC

Date: TBC 2023

Lead Instructor: Pete McGrady

Cost: £5 club contribution plus training pack
Hard copy (printed) £35
Digital copy £24.37

Booking: To register, add your name to the booking form on the club notice board.

If you need any assistance ordering your training pack from the BSAC online shop, please contact the lead instructor or a member of the training team.

Please note: This course will only run subject to minimum numbers. Max student number to be confirmed.

SDC – Mixed Gas Blender – May 2023

Date: 20 & 21 May 2023

Lead Instructor: Alistair Reynolds

Cost: £5 club contribution plus training pack
Hard copy (printed) N/A
Digital copy £24.37

Booking: To register, add your name below.

If you need any assistance ordering your training pack from the BSAC online shop, please contact the lead instructor or a member of the training team.

Please note: This course will only run subject to minimum numbers. Max student number to be confirmed.

SDC – Accelerated Decompression Procedures – April 2023

Date: 15 & 16 April 2023

Lead Instructor: Steve McElroy

Cost: £5 club contribution plus training pack
Hard copy (printed) £78
Digital copy £41.25

Both include oxygen stop tables

Booking: To register, add your name to the booking sheet on the club notice board.

If you need any assistance ordering your training pack from the BSAC online shop, please contact the lead instructor or a member of the training team.

Please note: This course will only run subject to minimum numbers. Max student number to be confirmed.

SDC – Boat Handling – March 2023

Date: 18 & 19 March 2023

Lead Instructor: Alan Jones

Cost: £5 club contribution plus training pack
Hard copy (printed) £52
Digital copy £37.87

Booking: To register, add your name to the booking form on the club website.

If you need any assistance ordering your training pack from the BSAC online shop, please contact the lead instructor or a member of the training team.

Please note: This course will only run subject to minimum numbers. Max student number to be confirmed.

SDC – Automated External Defibrillator – January 2023

Date: 2 February 2023

Lead Instructor: Chris Wood

Cost: £5 club contribution plus training pack
Hard copy (printed) £28
Digital copy £24.37

Booking: To register, add your name to the booking form on the club notice board.

If you need any assistance ordering your training pack from the BSAC online shop, please contact the lead instructor or a member of the training team.

Please note: This course will only run subject to minimum numbers. Max student number to be confirmed.