Malta June 2022 – Trip Report

So, the Major put out the word that he was going to Malta and everyone was welcome. Having not been abroad for a couple of years due to the dreaded Covid we jumped at the chance…. and so did a quite a few others.

Sean flew out first on the Thursday with Dara and the little guy, Shea, mixing diving with a family holiday. His weather reports were great and also no problems at the airport….. even better.

The rest of us set off early Friday in a two different groups. Kelly, who had no sleep after finishing work late, drove Me, Kate and Dave up in his truck, parking at the drop and go service by T3. Really impressed and will use again.  A short bus rice to T1 and all good…. and that’s where it went to crap.

You will have to excuse my rants about Manchester Airport. It is without doubt, the worst airport I have ever had the misfortune to use and if there was any other option, I would go elsewhere. We’ve been to lots of airports in lots of countries over the years, from very small to very big, but non compare to the utter disorganisation and contempt that is shown to customers there.…. and that was before covid!

Easyjet advised arrival two and a half hours early, we were just short of three…. at 3.05am for a 5:55am flight. We got out the lift at the departure hall and had to join the sizeable carpark queue. No problem, we’ve got three hours and it was moving. An hour later we got inside and joined the bag drop queue, which was tolerable until the last 20 meters where it just became a scrum and a fight to get to the self-service bag drop machines and then out again to join another queue to drop the bags off. Another forty minutes gone and security still to go, was starting to get a bit twitchy now.

We then realised we were at the back of another massive queue just to get into the security hall. That did not move for ages then moved quickly until we were near the door…. and stopped….. typical. We did meet most of the others whilst passing along the ‘snake’, the Major, Gary, Sue, Jeff and Peter had arrived fifteen mins before us and that seemed to have bought them quite a lead.

Anyway, we finally got into the security hall to join another queue…. a very slow queue as there was only three open lanes out of about twenty….and only an hour to go. Very twitchy now. Nearly half an hour later they started pulling people out the queue who were going to miss flights, which thankfully included us. We were taken to another fast track channel only to be stopped by a moronic Asian girl with three carrier bags of liquid cosmetics arguing about taking them through….. duh.

Once we got her out the way it was the usual fight with the scanners, everything out of the bags and pockets into about ten different trays, trying to hold your pants up whist being scanned by hand even though you’ve just gone through a huge, very expensive looking, scanner. Then having a bag rejected because of a forgotten electrical item! Fortunately, another passenger had insisted on the manager coming over to get things moving and we persuaded him to push our bag through too.

So, we got through with about fifteen minutes left to take off, only to hear last call for us as the gate was closing…… wonderful…… we had to leg it through duty free and down to the Easyjet hall… to find our flight was right at the very end…. smashing…. I think we only made it as they didn’t want to delay the flight taking our suitcases off. We got our seats….. last ones on board.

Joke of an airport….. and end of rant.

After a thankfully normal flight we landed in Malta to thirty degrees and blue skies. After breezing through security and having retrieved our bags we were met outside by Steve (The General) and Howard from the Divewise team who had come to pick us up….. as well as Alan, the owner and another customer Steve who had both been on our flight as well.

Following a half hour drive we arrived at the Divewise center on the Westin Dragonara Complex in St Julian’s. The center is very well set up and managed by Alan’s better half, Viv, as well as a great team of very friendly and very competent staff, all I believe are instructors.

The first job, as usual with most centers, was to get a tote box and sort our dive gear out, fill out medical forms, make up weight belts and generally get ready for a shakedown dive. There we a few reprobates on our crew who had indulged on the way out so they were made to wait until the next morning for their shakedown dives.

There was a bit of a panic for me and Jeff when we were told that because of some of the answers on our medical forms we needed a medical sign off! Oh no! I had visions of sitting on the beach all week! But fortunately, this just involved walking five mins to a local chemist for a consult with a doctor. We did have to wait twenty mins as he was out on a call, but once back it was a five-minute check-up and thankfully everything ok for us both. Twenty well spent euros and we had our medical certificates. If only you could get that service in the UK!  

Back at the center, we kitted up and after a short walk over to the beach we got in with our guide Nadine. She ran us through a few mask clearing / reg recovery drills and then it was off out of the enclosed shallow area and into the deeper water. It was a bit choppy so not easy getting across and out of the entrance but fine after taht. The house reef is a nice dive but the water was a bit cooler than expected so we were glad of our lava core tops under our wetsuits. After a very pleasant forty-minute dive it was back to the center to wash the kit and put it all away, ready for tomorrow.

We were all staying at different hotels so most of the others only had a short walk but of us were fifteen mins walk away at the Cavalieri Art Hotel so the General very kindly gave us a lift over with the suitcases. After a very smooth check-in and getting a really nice room with a balcony and sea view we unpacked and went for a quick swim in the hotel pool and the last of the afternoon sun.

That evening, after a bit of a wander round, we strolled over to meet up with the rest of the crew at Long Rooms, an Irish Bar in the middle of St Julian’s. Despite seeming to be in the middle of all the action it was a nice pub and served food, so we stayed there to eat. The food was fantastic and very cheap, so everyone was happy! I had a Maltese platter which I hadn’t realised was a sharing platter when I ordered, it was huge, but I did my best. After being up at 1am we were flagging so headed back to the hotel early, don’t think we saw much after nine o’clock…

The next day was very relaxed for those of us who had done a shakedown. We didn’t have to be there until 11am, so we had a leisurely breakfast with Dave and Kelly at the hotel before setting off. Have to say the breakfast buffet at the hotel was fantastic, pretty much everything you could want including freshly cooked omelets…. took some restraint that week as wetsuits don’t stretch that much!

The walk to the dive center was a bit up and down but wasn’t a problem, although did get a little sapping as the week went on as the temperature got up well into the mid-thirties after Tuesday.

When we arrived the errant crew had completed their shakedown dives so it was just a matter of testing the mixtures in the cylinders and loading up. everyone was diving on Nitrox for the week so the lead instructor for each day insisted of everyone testing their own gas and filling in log sheets. Nice to see this, gives you some reassurance of a well-run center. After loading the cylinders and dive boxes on to the two trucks it was off for the fifty-minute dive to Cirkewwa at the top of the island.   

Side mount Sean in Cirkewwa dive carpark

There is parking at Cirkewwa which seems to be set aside for dive companies use, and as usual there were plenty there. Not sure how true it is but there are apparently 60+ dive companies on the islands. Anyway, we parked up, got kitted up and then climbed in via the steps and pool called Suzie’s pool, halfway down the prom. Quite slippy on the last few steps and on the entry which gave the Major had a few problems with his bionic hip, but we got there in the end.

The target was the P29 Patrol boat, a 52m former patrol boat for the Malta Armed Forces. She was made safe for divers and the environment then intentionally scuttled in August 2007 as a dive site. She lies upright on a sandy bed, 37m at the bow. Unfortunately, she is also 150m offshore which is a bit of a swim. 

Me and Kate had been Ocean Divers when we last came to Malta and hadn’t been allowed out to the P29 so we were really looking forward to this dive….. and it didn’t disappoint. Lisa and Alan (the Boss) were leading so we had to be on best behavior. We swam out at about 10-15m to conserve air but alsoto keep below the many jelly fish that were hanging around about 5m. So glad we had gloves and hoods on!

The vis was amazing, 30m+ and seeing the boat appear as we got closer was stunning. We landed on the deck and set off to swim round the superstructure. Needless to say, everyone scattered in different directions giving Alan and Lisa kittens trying to keep track of us all. With the swim and me only having 200 bar at the start we only really got time to swim around the upper deck once and then again 10m further up by the bridge before we had to turn round and start the swim back. I think about six of us headed back with Lisa with the rest, on twins and re-breathers, spending more time and coming back with Alan.

P29 Appearing out of the blue

The swim back at 10m is a bit boring and disorientating at times. More than once during the week, because of the lack of reference I felt like I was sinking when actually rising. Really had to concentrate on the dive computer to maintain the right depth. Closer to shore we hit the reef which surrounds Cirkewwa, and it gets more interesting. Lots of sea grass and clouds of Damsel fish make for a really pretty last five minutes swim and then safety stop in a partially enclosed area with about 7m depth. Then it was out via the same staircase and time to pack up the truck. Really enjoyed the dive, but as always, it wasn’t long enough. Was surprised looking back at video later how many fish there were, I was so blown away with a wreck that actually looked like a boat that I hadn’t really taken them in.

Before setting off we grabbed some lunch from the amazing snack van in the car park. Run by a really nice that did some amazing food. Wraps were fantastic and he will heat them on a hotplate for you. After that, we set off back to wash the kit and head back to the hotel for the last hour of sun and a swim by the pool.

The hotel has a buoyed off area in the sea next to the pool area, so I thought I’d go and do a bit of open water swimming. I’d remembered by googles for once so jumped in and started swimming up and down. Unfortunately, I’d total forgotten about the jelly fish and after about ten minutes kicked right into one. I’ve had a few stings before but nothing like this, it was like being electrocuted. Managed to get back to the side and run it under hot water but nothing really helped and it ended up in big red welts. They took days to go down then came back after a week or so and itched for days. This seems to be a feature as a few others got stung and had similar effects. I’ve still got scars from it now so will be sticking to the hotel pool or wearing a wetsuit if I ever go back in there again.

One of the many varieties of Maltese Jellyfish

By joint consent it was back to the long room for tea again that night. Chicken Caesar salad this time after recommendation from the night before and it was probably the best I’ve ever had. We were still tired so headed off early again, just dropping in at the ice cream shop on the way back….. just has to be done. Very nice it was too.

The next day was a full day with an 8:30 start at the dive center. The usual routine of testing the gas and packing the gear onto the trucks, then away for nine. Today we had the South African, Marinus, or Zafa as he was known driving our truck with Kevin the Swiss the lead instructor for the day driving the other. We were back to Cirkewwa again but for two dives this time.

The first was the tugboat Rozi, the smaller of the two wrecks there. She is still 35m long, complete, recognizable and sitting upright in about 34m to the sand. She was a working boat from the UK originally but like the P29 was scuttled as a diving attraction in 1992.

We went in off the dock by the carpark lighthouse this time, which is easier, but has a drop ranging from about six to ten feet depending on which part you jump from. This is a fair way kit on……. takes a long time from stepping off to hitting the water.

It was another 150m swim out, but was more prepared for it this time, took more time and arrived with a lot more air. Also, there is more of a swim over the reef on the way which was a bit more interesting.

The wreck again appeared in the distance, a complete boat sitting upright, even looked like a tug boat…. But even with the extra air there was only really time for a slow swim round the deck then another round the bridge before turning to head back in. Did notice the fish a lot more this time, hundreds of them, mainly damsel fish but some bigger stuff too.

Tug Boat Rozi Upper Deck

Once back at the reef we took a lot more time swimming over it and even had time for one of the swim through vertical tubes in the reef before heading back along to Susie’s pool to get out.

Back on the shore it was straight over to the food van for another tasty hot wrap and a cup of tea before switching tanks and getting ready to head back out to the P29 again. It was a smaller group for the P29 as most of the group decided to take a tour of the reef and arches instead.

With getting more into the swing of the swim out was it a better position again when we got there. Instead of dropping straight to the deck we headed forward at about 15m and dropped down on the bow. The front gun is still in place and a great spot to investigate. Taking our time and coming up slowly and taking a good look round the bridge and radio masts before joining up with the rest for the swim back.     

Kelly and Kate on the swim back

Another great day of diving. The vis was just as good as yesterday. Not sure exactly how far but could almost see the bow of the P29 from the stern and she’s over 50m long!

After getting back, washing kit and heading back to the hotel it was straight out to the pool for an hour again. Needed to cool down as it was way into the 30’s again. Dave and Kelly went for a snorkel in the sea pool but even wearing a mask and keeping a good watch out Kelly got stung on the arm by a jellyfish. Glad I stuck to the hotel pool.

That evening was a change of location. We arranged to meet at the Avenue, a sprawling restaurant that takes up a whole block, with five or six different rooms all decorated in different styles. I had the chicken kebabs which I can very much recommend.  We again only had a couple of drinks there then headed back via the ice cream shop.  Absolutely knackered with the heat and diving even though we were on nitrox. Some of the others headed back to the Long Room for a few more before turning in. 

Next day was a change of site and another half eight start. Today we were heading out to the other side of the island, to Wied Iz-Zurrieq, a small village located just next to the famous Blue Grotto caves. The target being the wreck of the Um El-Faroud. This is a 110m long oil tanker that was badly damaged in an explosion whilst in Valletta’s Grand Harbour. She was too badly damaged to be repaired so was made safe and scuttled as a diver attraction. She sits upright in 38m, complete but split in two towards the bow and has opportunities for exploring inside.

Kevin was driving us this time and Alan brought the other half of the group.  Fortunately, we managed to get parked right at the end of the road fairly close to the entry point as the hill is exceptionally steep and the main carpark is a good 500m further up!

The Quay at Wied Iz-Zurrieq

We had to carry all the kit down the hill and steps for about 30m to a quay next to where all the tourist boats tie up. Hard going even in just the morning heat. After kitting up and being warned by Alan that we couldn’t go inside the wreck… spoil sport….. we took a stride entry then went straight down to 10m. This was needed as the tourist boats are constantly passing and don’t really watch out for divers….

The wreck is again 150m offshore so yet another swim. This one is completely in the blue so really quite disorientating. Good job Alan was leading the way to give a point of reference. The wreck is amazing when it appears. A huge ship and we arrived, pretty much over the stern. We started by heading straight down to the prop and rudder as they were still attached. Massive, and impressive to swim round….but not for long at that depth. We came up and swam along the main companion way and out onto the main part of the deck. It’s a huge ship so could only just make out the broken section in the distance but been told there was not much up there, so we just came up the superstructure to the upper companion way on the other far side.

The Prop on the Um El-Faroud

Had a bit of a panic here as I lost Kate. I had thought we were going over the top and she though we were going straight on and whilst I was looking through a porthole she went. Had a search round but couldn’t see her so made my way up to the meeting point on the top of the superstructure. Nearly everyone else had gathered and Alan was swimming round constantly counting everyone and trying to keep track of us.  He the shot off to chase Peter who had missed the bit of the brief about not going inside! Anyway, Kate appears a few minutes later and with Perter chased out the inside we set off back to the wall.

A long swim again and following a safety stop under the dock, popped back up with 50bar left. Perfect. Climbing out on the sea wall ladders was a bit of an effort as was lugging the empty cylinders back up the steps and road to swap over and carry back down. The only thing for it was to head to the café further up the road for a wrap and the most amazing iced café ice cream drink.

The second dive was back to the El-Faroud again. This time Alan said that if we all behaved and did what he told us he would take us for a tour through the superstructure and down to the engine room. The only instruction was to keep following the diver in front and not to head up the funnel when we turned from the engine room to the way out.

All went well, we followed each other in through a number of rooms then down a quite tight staircases and corridors to the engine room. Really was pretty cool. Did get myself caught on a bit of something sticking out the floor at one point which slowed me down for a few seconds till I managed to free it. Anyway, not sure who but led the way but caught up just in time to see a The Major, Peter and Kate heading up the funnel…. great. Couldn’t catch their attention and was about to follow when Alan appeared and pointed the way out…. in a way that didn’t suggest a discussion. I followed the rest out and up to the top of the superstructure to the meeting point and we were joined a few minutes later by Alan and the other three who had come out the top of the funnel….. cool really.

Um El-Faroud Engine Room

Following another swim back and safety top under the dock, poped up but only with 40bar this time….. not so perfect. Anyway, then there was just getting out and lugging all the kit back to the trucks and loading up for the trip back…… after another iced café ice cream thing of course.

After washing and packing gear away were informed it was and early start next morning as we were going to Gozo…. Needed to be ready to roll at eight.

Given the good food the night before most of us agreed to go back to the Avenue again. Gary had taken a day off to go sightseeing with Sue but joined up with us again. Dave and Kelly went off for a meal together at a Greek taverna. Sean, Dara and Shea had started earlier to make sure the little one was ready for bed on time and so were in a different room.

We were in the very formal wood paneled room sat at a huge dining table. All very impressive. Again, the food was great, I had a chicken Caesar salad, I think.  Probably distracted with Gary’s immense Calzone! Never seen anything like it and although he did his very best it defeated him in the end.

The hard cases headed off to the Long Room for a nightcap but we headed back knowing there was an early start the next day….. and we needed an ice cream.

We were first down for breakfast at seven next morning for another really nice but quick breakfast before heading down to the diver center. We were there for half seven, had the cylinders tested and packed along with all the other gear bang on time. Off we went, heading for Cirkewwa again, but this time to grab the ferry. Mark was driving us, a customer really, but a regular visitor and also a dive instructor, following Ben in the front truck. We were lucky enough to drive right onto the ferry and after parking up, escaped the heat to the passenger compartment. The trip only takes about half an hour including docking at each end.

After a coffee we got back into the trucks and thankfully were out fairly quickly. It was so hot in the car deck. Anyway, five minutes into fifteen minute drive down to the site there was a minor disaster when Ben clipped a curb on a tight corner and the tyre exploded. No one hurt but the tyre and the wheel were done for. Everyone jumped out and set to trying to find the tools, jack and the spare wheel. This turned out to be under the van and the bolts were pretty seized. After a lot of effort Sean managed to get them moving but they then both eventually snapped off. Ah well, At least we had the wheel. Ten mins later we had the wheel changed and everything loaded up again and were off down the really narrow roads to Xatt l-Ahmar to dive on two of three wrecks that have been scuttled to create artificial reefs for divers.

There is a car park there but nothing else and it’s fair walk with all the kit down twenty meters of steps and across about a 100 meters of rock to reach the water entry point…. And in the mid-thirties. Gary and Perter did a great job of getting their kit and The Majors down there. Don’t think his bionic hip would have managed that.

Car Park and Entry at Xatt l-Ahmar

The first wreck was to be the MV Karwela, a 50m long ex passenger ferry scuttled in 2006. She is intact and sitting on sand at 41m at the stern. It’s been stripped right out allowing divers to swim the full length on different decks. Big holes are cut in the sides for easy exits and there is a really nice staircase towards one end.

Once kitted up, entry was down some awkward ladders which wasn’t easy, then it was just down and yet another swim out at 10m. The swim out wasn’t quite as far this time but not really any reef to break up the blue. With the bottom being around 40m we stuck to swimming round the middle and upper decks. Not as many fish on this one but really nice swimming along looking out all the windows.  The staircase was nice but didn’t fully appreciate it because of the direction we came at it. Would spend a bit more time there next time.

Inside the Karwela

After a bit more swimming around, and all too quickly it was time to head back. Could probably have stayed a little bit longer but we were starting to run into decco and didn’t have that much gas left so headed back, better safe than out of gas. After a safety stop by the ladders it was an awkward climb out and then time to lug cylinders back up to the trucks and fresh ones back down.

Side mount Sean posing over the bridge of the Cominoland

After a good break and some sandwiches we had brought from the boat we kitted up again to head out to the MV Cominoland. A 35m long former cruise ship also sunk in 2006. She sits upright on sand with a max depth of 41m. Again, she has been stripped out completely to allow divers to swim along two of her decks.

This time we persuaded Ben to let us swim out on the surface to save gas before going down. Although it didn’t look far and there wasn’t much of a current it took a fair amount of time. Probably explaining most guides reluctance to surface swim to the wrecks.

Down the chain to the Cominoland

Made a change going down the chain from the marker buoy and seeing the wreck appear from above. We swam the length of the middle deck and met Ben at the stern who pointed out some Nudibranch’s. Way to small for me to see but apparently very nice. After a swim along the top deck decco was again close so we headed back up to 10m and swam back in. A really nice wreck, not a lot of life but very scenic.

After the safety stop, climbing out and lugging the kit back to the trucks was glad of a rest whist we headed back to the ferry. Again, only a short wait and we were on and having a well-earned coffee in the onboard café…. Oh and getting a Gozo fridge magnet from the gift shop of course.

After the drive back and the washdown we joined the rest for a post dive drink at a bar outside the Majors hotel, the Vivaldi, before heading back to our hotel. Really were starting to feel the pace now. We met at the Long room again and decided to stay there for food, we had a table outside and were too tired to move really. Forced myself to eat another Maltese platter then we left everyone else to have more drinks whilst we headed to the ice-cream shop and the hotel.

The next day was another early start as we were going out on a boat for a change. Also, it was the Majors birthday….75! Viv had organised a cake so we embarrassed him a bit, well as much as you can, then left him to put his kit together. He and Gary were diving on twins this day as a warmup to get ready for a deep dive they had planned with Alan for the Friday. Sean wasn’t with us today as he was flying back the next day and was spending the day with the family.

Happy Birthday Major

Once the cylinders were analysed and everything was loaded up we set off for the twenty-minute drive to the quay at Qawra. Alan was leading the overall group with Ben and Joe driving the trucks. The surprise was that the boat was a large traditional fishing boat converted for diving and party trips. Very nice. We got everything we needed aboard and set off, starting to kit up on the way.

Kitting up on the way out

We were diving the Imperial Eagle, a 45m long ex ferry and cargo ship which lies about a mile off the quay on a sandy bed at a max depth of 45m with the main deck at 32m. She is another purpose sunk wreck, scuttled in 1999 as an artificial reef and as part of a marine conservation area. Also, off the bow of the ship is a large reef which has a large Statue of Christ a short swim into it.    

Alan must have begun to trust us as Me, Kate, Dave, Kelly and Peter were left to our own devices whist he, Ben and Joe took Alan and Gary in along with Jeff and a couple of other customers doing technical courses.

There is a special buoy marking the wreck, and we were supposed to follow this down and head off on a baring from the block at the bottom to find the wreck. However, as we started going down we could see the wreck from about 15m down the chain! Absolutely amazing. We headed for the stern and swam along the full length of the deck which has been opened up to a long swim through. Really nice with plenty of fish along the way.

Arriving on the Imperial Eagle

 Once on the bow we headed off to find the statue. Bit nerve racking heading off into the blue at depth but it only took about five minute to spot it and swim over. At about four or five metres tall it’s quite impressive so we spent a while posing for photos before turning back for the wreck. As we got there, we only really had enough time for a quick look at the bridge before heading off to the chain to begin our assent. Fantastic heading up and seeing all the twin set and unit divers still swimming round…. only a bit jealous.

Kristu tal-Bahhara (Christ of the Sailors) and Peter

Back onboard we had just about sorted our kit out by the time the others started popping up. Took a bit to get the Major out as the ladder climb up to the boat was hard work but they managed it and we headed back to shore and then center.

Recovering the Major

For the afternoon it was just the five of us again, the rest taking time off after the morning dive. This time Alan was taking us off to the walls of Valletta to dive on a wreck that had been sunk during the war. HMS Maori was a British destroyer that took a direct hit to the engine room whilst moored there in 1942. She was eventually allowed to sink just of Fort St Elmo in about 15m of water. She has taken quite a battering over the years and there is now only a few recognisable bits left.

We had been warned to only bring essentials as the dive trucks were targets for the local lowlife so nothing should be left on show and there was no boot. After parking up at the side of the road entry was just climbing down a couple of steps and into the water. Nice, no big swim.

It was a very relaxed swim over the reef and at no more than 15m for the whole dive. Very nice after all the deeper stuff. The vis was a bit murky at only 10 to 15 meters…. wow, soon forget UK diving! There wasn’t really much of a boat to see, mostly chunks of plate with a few larger sections still visible.  What looked like a gun at one point and part of the bridge you could swim through. But there was loads of life, lots of fish and quite a few octopus but they couldn’t be tempted out. Was really hoping to see one of the sea horses found there but no such luck. Alan did manage to drag us out after just short of an hour and took us on a scenic dive back taking in most of sights around the outskirts of Valletta. Very nice afternoon.

Alan waiting for us outside a small entry point on the HMS Maori

Once back we stopped for a quick one in the bar outside the Vivaldi again before heading back to get ready for the evening. Gary and worked with Viv to organise a well-known Indian called the Emperor of India, mainly for the Majors birthday and partly for us to say thanks to Viv and Alan for looking after us all week. The meal was really good, plenty of different curries and bread on offer. Sean, Dara and Shea had joined us for their last night and the little guy was good as gold. The Major got another cake, this time with a sparkler. Everyone was happy…. and we were very happy after an ice-cream on the way back.  

More Birthday Celebrations

So, the last day had come. The famous five were in a group together with the lovely Lisa driving and keeping us under control. We headed back to Cirkewwa for yet another go at the P29 and for a reef swim round the harbour later.

This time the P29 was absolutely covered in fish, big, little and shoals. No idea what most of them were but looked amazing. Lisa guided us down through the deck this time, along a couple of corridors and through a couple of rooms, really good. We then followed her through some of the superstructure and back out nearer the bridge. When we all re-grouped around the mast it was like an aquarium, so many fish. Superb diving.

P29 Looking Down on the Fish from the Bridge

After the obligatory wrap from the snack van it was back out for the last dive. Up and down the Cirkewwa reefs. There had been some very noticeable thermoclines during the week but once you pushed through you didn’t really notice the cold. Probably as most of the dives involved a good swim to warm up first. But we all noticed it on this last dive. Probably a mixture of fatigue catching up mixed with the leisurely pace. Lots to see on the reefs, plenty of fish, jellyfish and the odd octopus hiding in holes and lots of nice sea grass. Lisa took us through a couple of swim throughs and then onto the large arch. A great spot to swim round for photo opportunities. After this it was back along to Susie’s pool for a safety stop and to warm up.

That was the diving done. Just back to wash up all the kit and put it out to dry ready to be packed up later. We wandered up to the bar to meet up with the others, back and buzzing from diving the HMS Stubborn. A pretty much intact WW2 British submarine lying a couple of miles of Quwra on a sandy bottom and at 56m. Not a bad effort for a 75 year old…… with plenty of help from Gary I suspect.

The Major at 56m on HMS Stubborn

Anyway, the last evening wasn’t as messy as it could have been after starting with two bottles of bubbly in the Major and Peters room. But we then we did follow it with a very civilized meal at the Avenue, in yet another room. The Calzone defeated Gary for a second time, and I had the chicken kebabs again…. very nice too. After a last drink at the Long Room, we called it quits and headed back via the ice-cream shop…. Good job it was the last night, the staff new us now!

Next morning the general picked us up from the hotel after breakfast and we played Jenga with all the dive gear trying to fit it back into the suitcases. Once done we said our goodbyes to the team and The General and Howard drove us back to the airport. After no more than fifteen minutes to drop the bags and then ten minutes through security (are you listening Manchester Airport!) we were ready for the flight home, after a bit of real duty free.

All in all, think everyone agreed, this was a really great trip. Really good diving, great dive centre and staff and best of all great company. Thanks to the Major for getting it all started and to everyone else for making it such an enjoyable trip. Roll on the next one…….

The crew, The Major, Gary and Sue Horsman, Peter Bever, Jeff Jones, Sean, Dara and Shea Cafferkey, Dave Barlow, Kelly Baird, Kate Mills and myself, Chris Mills.

Some of the crew after the bubbly!

If you’ve made it this far well done for putting up with my ramblings and hope its given you an insight into diving in Malta with Divewise.

Isle of Man – April 2023

Following on from this year’s successful trip to the Isle of Man diving out of Port St. Mary, I have reserved the corresponding weekend for next year (2023). The concept of the trip will be as was intended for the one this year whereby we take a group of our new relatively inexperienced divers and team them up with some of our more experienced divers and introduce them to a weekend of UK hard boat diving. So with this is mind, it wont be on a first come, first served basis but rather two lists which as allways will be on whoever puts their names down first.

Minimum number of dives post qualification will be six (quarry or sea)

Twelve divers maximum!

The cost of the trip is £255 per person which is for three days diving and three nights accommodation on a room only basis. Air and Nitrox fills will be extra. Air fills this year were £5.50 for a 15ltr cylinder.

A non-refundable deposit of £75 secures your place. If for whatever reason you have to cancel then the onus will be on you to arrange a replacement diver but I will assist on this as hopefully there will be a list of reserves.

Deposits will be refunded providing a replacement can be found.

You will have to book your own ferry crossing but will be shown how to do this if required. The ferry cost will be approx. £55 (2022 prices) return for a foot passenger. We will be met by Michelle and Steve on arrival in Douglass and transported to Port St. Mary. They will make the return journey after completion of diving on Monday 1st May.

If interested, please enter your name on the trip form posted on the club notice board. For any further details please contact Terry directly.

UPDATE: this trip is now full. Contact Terry for reserve positions.

Farne Islands – July 2022

Diving

The plan is to take both club boats and 12 divers to the Farne islands for a weekend or morning wreck diving and afternoon shallow scenic dives at Knivestone with the possibility of seals on board. The wrecks we will be focusing on are the Somali and Abessinia.

Wreck diving level: Sports Diver minimum
Scenic Diving level: Ocean Diver and above

Accommodation: 3 Nights

Arrival: Friday 8th July. Noon onwards
Depart: Monday 11th July.

Bluebell Farm Studio Bunkhouse, Belford, NE70 7QE.

Sleeps 12, £62.50 per person
(Please note, this price is the same for each person regardless of whether leaving on Sunday or Monday)

Air fills available locallally (TBC

Boat Levy

All divers will be required to pay £15.00 per day boat levy. This is to cover ongoing use and equipment coasts for wear and tear of the club boats.

If this sounds like your cup of tea please enter your name on the interest form on the club notice board. For more info you can contact Sean Cafferkey.

Fishguard – May 2022 – Trip Report

Fishguard : Platinum Jubilee Bank Holidays and weekend

Having planned ahead, examined the tidal options for possible locations, booked the campsite for the Queens Platinum Jubilee bank holiday and weekend well in advance (it was always going to be busy), organised crews for a club boat and the Majors, of course the worst threatens. The weather forecast is worsening with respect to wind. But we’re gassed up, ready and excited to explore three or four wrecks from Fishguard, South Wales.

The weather forecast was not looking too promising

The original plan included a new mark and two named charted marks, with a requirement for Dive Leader and above qualifications. The marks changed over time, as we replaced the known marks with a new one and a different, unnamed, one giving us expected depths of 32, 42, and 52m to the seabed. As planning progressed it became apparent that the shallowest mark had been known about and dived previously, but it was still new to us.

The new mark had only been in the public domain for a few years; at 42m the plan was to probably do that one twice. The deepest mark was last described in 1971 (prior to the latest survey in 2021) and was the furthest offshore; there were no hints of any diving activity – having looked at a survey image, it looked great and there was a named wreck mark, some miles away, which had no survey trace, ie it wasn’t where they thought it might be but it was the right size for this mark.

Travel down on Wednesday, with an early start to ensure that the boat could get past the swimming pool and gym cars! With four days diving everyone was traveling in their own vehicles and mostly with all their cylinders, with a mix of a rebreather, twinsets and 15’s, plus stages.

Terry’s base camp with dive cylinders prepped and ready

Our little spy (Garry Bolland, who went down a week early for a holiday) had been passing on titbits of info and the camp site was sounding great. A few miles away from the slipway, up narrow country lanes and the campsite driveway, we had to leave the boats near the site entrance.

A good-looking boat enhancing the campsite entrance

The launching options had to be investigated when we got there – was the RNLI slipway private or not? A phone call had stated it wasn’t their slipway, although signage and personnel on site stated otherwise! It seemed to be out of bounds, so we were stuck with the Goodwick slip, which at least was practically brand new and double width although it dried at low tide. Car parking was excellent and cheap, with reserved spaces for vehicles and trailer too, although some spaces were being replaced with EV charging points.

Day 1 – 14 miles NE to the site of the SS Sutton (possibly). After a delayed start, the launchings went well, and we tootled off on a great sunny day with fine sea airs! Unfortunately, the lack of boat diving presented some rustiness amongst the crew – the shot was deployed without the buoy! Still, two boats, two shots so the club shot was deployed. Unfortunately, that rustiness struck again, and the boat drifted down onto the shot whilst the divers were getting kitted up, wrapped the line and needed some attention. As time was very pressing, we descended the shot only to find that it was no longer on the seabed. So, it was sent up with a lifting bag, and other divers descending keenly dropped off into a free water descent. Neither group found the wreck! The shot line was re-rigged and deployed to let the second wave have a go, which were successful in finding a wreck albeit in poor viz of less than 2m.

Scallops were seen although none were taken. Dolphins had been spotted too, from the boat. After some time taken with lunch and soup, the return to the harbour and slipway found it drying. So a wait ensued before the retrieval of both boats, utilising muscle power to push the trailers out as far as possible, and a (newly acquired) very long line to retrieve them.

Strumble Head lighthouse from the campsite

Day 2 – a quick bimble around towards Strumble Head with a bit of breeze. Here, for the first time, we had difficulties with the slack dive time. Having found the mark (with some adjustments required to get a good echo sounder picture on the club boat) and deployed the shot you can imagine that we were not particularly delighted to see that the pressure on the buoy was increasing and indeed the buoy was getting lower in the water. So even as the first wave was preparing, we had to abort the dive, with a great team effort to recover the shot and line intact.

Evening meals were split between the pub option and a BBQ. Pub options were sometimes tricky, with no availability for walk in service. The BBQ was very pleasant using the sites’ equipment, although difficult to believe it was so late in the year, a chill breeze was blowing.

BBQ besides Garry’s mansion

Day 3 – although the weather had been kinder to us than forecast, it blew up overnight and even plan B (from Milford Haven) was cancelled. However, the wind started to drop after lunch and Day 4 was on.

Day 4 – Back towards Strumble Head, two and a half hours earlier than the model showed. The mark was found and shotted, with a minor adjustment to place it bang on. Whilst preparing for as the first wave it was noticed that the current still seemed to be increasing. Terry and Garry went in first and place a strobe on the shot line, before exploring the stern section of the wreck, with its boiler, engine and propeller clearly visible in at least 6m viz. I dropped in with Dave Stead and found the bow and its Admiralty anchor on the seabed. Aware of the increasing current, I made this a short dive, with minimal decompression, surfaced up the shot line and the second wave of Steve Mac and Steve Baxter were dropped in. Everyone enjoyed the dive, with total times of 60 minutes each.

The campsite, basic and slightly exposed

Thanks to the team who signed up for an adventurous dive trip to new marks over four days. We wouldn’t normally take quite so many dive cylinders with us, but with a bit of lending and borrowing it worked out well (except we never used it all!).

Team – Ray Cramer, Alan Jones, Gary Horstman, Dave Stead, Steve McElroy, Terry Maloney, Garry Bolland, Dave Smith, and last but not least Steve Baxter.

Ray Cramer, Trip Organiser

Isle of Man – May 2022 – Trip Report

Isle of Man trip with Discover Diving, Port St. Mary
Friday 29th April to Monday 2nd May 2022

Some members of the group preparing for their dive at the Sugarloaf Caves site.
Pictured from left to right are Steve Cowley (skipper), Terry Maloney, Garry Bolland, Chris Mills, Kate Mills (kneeling), Tony Smith, Dave Barlow, Kelly Baird and Andreea Gamulea.
Not pictured are Shaun Williams, Hannah Williams, Katie Condron and Paul ‘Bez’ Berry.

So finally, the planned trip that was scheduled for May Bank Holiday 2020 with Discover Diving got underway. Only two years later than planned due to all the restrictions put into place due to the outbreak of Covid when it appeared that the whole world was put on hold. The idea behind this trip when it was first conceived was to take a group of newly qualified divers along with some more experienced members and give them an introduction to a weekend hard boat diving.

The leaving of Liverpool. Sounds like the title of a song

One change to our plans was that there was no early sailing on the day of departure so we had to catch the 7.30pm ferry from Liverpool to Douglas which meant that we would arrive in Douglas at 10.15pm.
When we arrived in Douglas, Steve and Michelle from Discover Diving were waiting for us to transport us to our base for the weekend in Port St Mary. Our accommodation was on the top floor of their house cum dive shop cum bunkhouse. I’m sure the stairs are getting steeper or is it me and the rest of us for that matter just getting older lol?
We had a little bit of form filling to do but nothing too complicated. We added our medical forms to the pile of completed forms and that was basically us for the night. I think that we all had one drink before retiring to our respective rooms which had already been allocated. Six gents in the large bedroom and four ladies in the smaller bedroom with one lucky couple getting their own double room. I don’t think many of us even remember putting their heads on their pillows that first night! Thankfully it wasn’t too early a start the next day.

Saturday morning dawned. The weather wasn’t as bad as we had feared it would be when we had checked the forecast before leaving Liverpool. Steve had said it would be fine and therefore it was time to get ready to go diving. A good few of us were up early especially our intrepid breakfast cookie Tony Smith who was aided during the weekend by Chris and Kate Mills. Tony does a fair bacon and sausage sandwich. After a leisurely breakfast, we all headed down to the shop. Now a word of warning to everyone. Be sure that you take everything you need when you go downstairs. You have been warned!
Once we were all assembled by the minibus, we were shown the ropes by Michelle. Each diver was given a number from one to twelve at the start of the weekend. The twelve pairs of cylinders were also one to twelve so we all knew which cylinders were ours. A nice easy system to follow. There were also twelve bags of weights numbered the same way.

Paul and Katie chilling prior to or first dive in Bay Fine.

We loaded all the dive kit onto the new (for us) minibus that Steve and Michelle now own. Five divers were also loaded onto the bus and it headed off for the harbour where all the kit was unloaded so that the minibus could return to the shop to have all the cylinders loaded on board as well as the remaining divers.
Once at the harbour, all the necessary kit plus one cylinder per diver was then loaded onto the boat. We would be returning to harbour after the first dive to change our cylinders. When we were all aboard, Michelle gave us a thorough boat briefing. Once this had been completed, we were left in the capable hands of our skipper Steve and his able assistant Kathryn for the day.

The first dive of the day was to be in Bay Fine. This is a scenic dive which included a wall. This dive was an easy meander along a wall which we kept on our right hand side but occasionally swimming away from it to head through gullies created by large rocks and boulders. There were plenty of Wrasse to be seen, the two dominant species being Cuckoo and Ballan, also Coalfish and Pollack plus myriads of juveniles of different species as well as various Starfish, Urchins, Lobsters and crabs. My buddy Hannah and I came across other buddy pairs during the dive and eventually bumped into her dad Shaun with Garry at the end of the dive. After forty minutes, both pairs decided to finish their dives and Garry and I deployed our DSMB’s and we all started our ascents. A three minute safety stop was completed before surfacing. When we were back on board, Kathryn served us tea, coffee and cake. What more could we ask for?

So our first dive was over and we headed back for harbour so that we could unload our used cylinders and pick the full ones up for the second dive.

The second dive of the day was to be a site named Garden Rock. The name came about as it’s a huge rock about the size of a bungalow, sitting on a sandy sea bed. There was a slight run which some of the less experienced divers weren’t too comfortable with but most of them still managed thirty five minutes or so. Once the dive was over, we headed back for the harbour. Steve informed everyone that kit such as suits, BC’s, wings etcetera could be left on board overnight and for us just to take what was necessary back to the flat.
It was a very relaxed atmosphere that night. The beers and bottles of vino were opened and everyone congregated in the dining area for drinks (in moderation of course!) to chat about their day. Both the highlights and the lowlights were discussed as is usual. My lowlight was the fact that I had somehow managed to trap the cable from my thermo valve in my zip. I didn’t spot it so ended up doing the first dive getting gradually wetter and wetter and colder and colder. It was the first time that I had dived without my heated vest so hadn’t realised that this could happen. Serious schoolboy error that won’t ever be repeated! Until the next time lol! I still managed a forty five minute dive though.
As for dinner that evening, some of us went to the Fish & Chip shop and some stayed in to enjoy a sumptuous cheese and chorizo sausage platter supplied by Shaun.

The cheese and sausage was supposed to be a pre dinner snack but by the time we had demolished it, some of us were too full to consider going out for any more food!
We did however still have room for a drink or two so a bunch of us headed down the road to the local pub The Albert a couple. All in moderation as ever!
So after a couple of drinks, most of us ambled back to our accommodation and bed. I’ll bet that quite a few of us don’t recall our heads hitting our pillows that night!

Sunday morning dawned and the weather was looking a little bit grim. The sea state wasn’t looking ideal and the rain was quite heavy.

Thankfully, we were scheduled to start an hour later than we did on Saturday so breakfast was a very leisurely affair. As promised, Tony who was ably assisted each day by either Chris or Kate supplied sausage and bacon butties for those who wanted them. Plus tea and coffee of course.
We met Michelle and Steve down at the shop for 9.00am where we were given the dive details for the day. The schedule was to be a dive by the Calf of Man in the morning and then a dive on the wreck of the Citrine in the afternoon. But instead of loading the boat at Port St Mary, Steve would run around to Port Erin pick us up there. The same format as the previous day was put into action and all the cylinders and various items of equipment were loaded onto the minibus. Then it was off to Port Erin with about two thirds of the divers. The rest would follow on the second shuttle run along with the cylinders and kit.

Port Erin headland

The sea was considerably calmer here thankfully so we were all looking forward to our first dive without getting tossed about in the boat on the way to the dive site. There was a fair bit riding on this dive as prior to coming over to the island, Garry had given a ZOOM presentation on what the trip would be like. In his presentation, he had given a promise that we would see seals on this dive. After a lot of banter between Garry and Kate about the possibility of seeing seals, a small wager was set. As it turned out, Kate had never seen a seal while underwater before. So if no seals appeared then Garry would buy a round of drinks for the group. If the seals did make an appearance, then the group members would all buy him a drink. I’m sure that he appeared to be very nervous the closer we got to entering the water!
The dive site was a boulder wall sloping down to about seventeen metres or so. The best plan on this dive in my experience is to pick you depth for the first half to three quarters of the dive then shallow up to about six meters or so and swim along above the kelp. The seals seem to like this depth plus they must feel a lot safer as they can hide in amongst the kelp if they feel threatened. We varied our depth between twelve and seventeen metres or so. One seal did join Tony and I but it didn’t stay long. It made me wonder at that point just how the others were getting on. Besides the seal, we did see lots of lobsters, various crabs and the usual fish suspects such as Coalfish and Pollack as well as Gobies, Blennies etcetera.
Once back on board, all the talk was obviously about seal encounters. Who saw what? How many did you see? How long did they spend with you? And so on and so forth. Kate put Garry out of his misery by telling him that she and Chris saw quite a few seals. Another box ticked. And all celebrated with a nice brew and more lovely cake served up by our deck hand Squid.

Kate finally gets her wish to see a seal…… and a real one as well!

We now headed back to Port Erin so that we could change our cylinders ready for our second dive. We had lunch while Endeavour was tied up. The weather had improved quite a lot from when we first set out in the morning. In fact, the sun had come out and a party atmosphere was developing shore side with music being played and lots happening on the beach.
Our second dive of the day was to be on the wreck or more to the point what is left of the SS Citrine. She was originally a small cargo ship built in 1921. She ran aground in thick fog in March 1931. There were I believe only two survivors out of the crew of ten. The survivors scaled the cliff face after swimming to shore. No mean feat even on a clear day!

Terry, Tony and Gary on the Citrine

There is no shot line on the wreck. After dropping into the water, it’s a case of swimming down the kelp covered slope onto the wreck site. Tony, Garry and I reached the wreck at the stern. We had a look around here before slowly making our way forward. There are a good few prominent features to be see, the biggest being the single boiler. The engine is still in place also. There are also winches, chains and the spare propeller located at the bow. We didn’t see the spare propeller on our first visit to the bow but with plenty of gas and time to spare, we revisited it and found it quite easily. We all agree at this point to end the dive so all sent DSMB’s up making our three minute safety stop before surfacing. We were the last ones to surface after a fifty minute dive but the others were only just ahead of us.

We now steamed back to Port St Mary as the weather had improved even more and the sea had flattened out quite a lot. Once berthed, the usual cylinder unloading took place and we headed back to our accommodation and a nice hot shower. Oh and a pre shower beer lol.

Enjoying a couple of drinks in the Albert Hotel

That evening saw some of the group heading for the local Italian restaurant which is just up the road from the dive centre and others electing to get a meal from the Chinese takeaway which is even closer to the dive centre. After we had all dined, we met back at the accommodation and agreed to going for a couple of drinks down at the Albert Hotel.

We only had a couple because we were all aware that we had an early start the following morning which was to be our final days diving prior to heading back home. We met Steve, Michelle and Kathryn in the Albert and spent a pleasant evening chatting about guess what? Yes, diving! Why wouldn’t we?

Monday morning was an early start as we were aiming to catch the 3.30pm ferry back to Liverpool. We already knew the plan for the day as we had discussed it in the pub the night before. The first dive was to be in Castletown Bay with the second dive being the Sugarloaf Caves. The weather conditions for Monday were as expected. Nothing short of perfect! The sea was flat calm with no wind.
Casteltown Bay was only a short run form Port St Mary. Once on site, Steve cut the engines and gave the divers a briefing. We were told that we would be dropping in on kelp but to head east and by doing so, we would make our way to the buoy in the middle of the bay. We descended on to kelp then followed our compass bearings and found the gulley’s that we were briefed about which led us into deeper water. The kelp eventually thinned out as we went deeper and the visibility was a good eight to ten meters.
There was the usual compliment of fish and inverts to be seen. I tried my best to find Nudibranch’s but failed miserably. As Garry and I finned along, a singular seal joined us and checked us out. It didn’t stay around for long though and didn’t return so obviously we weren’t interesting enough! The highlights of the dive for me were the two Octopuses we spotted. Garry thought it might have been the same one but I was convinced that one was much bigger than the other. The first one squirted a lot of ink in order to confuse us whereas the second on just swam along and we followed it for quite some time. Poor Garry must have been well miffed as he elected not to take his camera in on this dive. Isn’t that always the case! We were starting to feel a little chilled on the dive and Garry indicated that he would prefer to end the dive to which I agreed. Once again, DSMB’s were deployed and we started our return.

Dave doing a Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and following the yellow brick road in Castletown Bay

The usual safety stop was completed before surfacing. It turned out that we were the last pair up. We secured our kit and enjoyed a nice cuppa and yes you’ve guessed cake as we headed back to Port St Mary so that we could change our cylinders and sort our kit out for our last dive of the weekend which was to be Sugarloaf Caves.

Once we had all changed our cylinders, Steve pointed Endeavour in the direction of the dive site and off we went. It actually isn’t too far from Port St Mary. The caves aren’t actually full caves except the first on which only has an entrance so it’s a case of swimming into it and turning back once you can go no further. The main one is more of a fissure in the rock but it certainly gives you the feel that it is a cave. If you look up though, you can see the surface. By the time we had reached the dive site, we had all had about one and a half hours surface interval or more so kitted up so that it would save any rushing later when we had to head back to Douglas to catch the ferry. We entered the water as a group and once we had descended, made our way towards the rock face and the first of the caves. There isn’t a lot of room at the far end of the first cave so everyone took things nice and slowly and allowed the pair in front of them sufficient time to reach the furthest point at the back and turn around before making their way into the dark. Once we had all taken a look around this cave, we made our way along the cliff face with it on our right hand side to look for the entrance to the main ‘cave’.

From memory, the opening was awkward to find due to the amount of kelp growth. We made one mistake before getting back on track and finding the opening which we couldn’t fail to find this time. There was nowhere near the amount of kelp growth around the entrance when compared to the last time we had dived it which had been four or five years previous to this trip. Everyone was aware that they should take their time swimming through here as this was the main part of the dive. They all seemed to be enjoying it!

Dave and Kelly exiting the main cave

There are not masses of life in the cave due to the reduced light levels but there is the odd anemone where some light hits the wall plus odd crabs and fish. There are a good few Gobies or Blennies if you care to look for them. Most of these are at the three entrance/exit points. Once we had exited the cave, we meandered our way through the large boulders that had some kelp growth on them but it couldn’t be described as a forest! We just followed the easiest way through. We were all hoping that the Guillemots etc would be in a feeding mood and think that our bubbles might have been prey fish. Sadly the birds weren’t in a feeding mood that particular day. We all completed approximately forty five minutes before each pair delayed one of their DSMB’s and started their ascent.
So the final dive of the weekend was over and done with and the boat headed back for Port St Mary where the minibus was waiting with our dive bags on board. Once moored up, all kit and cylinders were unloaded and the packing commenced. Thankfully it was a nice day so that made the task much easier. When all the cylinders and dive bags had been loaded onto the bus, we headed back to the shop and accommodation to get a quick shower, change and a bite to eat if you wanted it. We stripped our beds and tidied the flat up as best as we possibly could. The rubbish and recyclable items were taken downstairs before we all headed into the shop to settle our outstanding bills.
Michelle drove us into Douglas with the help of one of her friends who took three or four of our group in their car.
We arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time so all that was left was to say our good byes and express our thanks for a great weekend and that hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before some or all of us were coming back again.
Check in was empty thankfully so we went through the process which included sending all our heavy dive bags up the conveyor only to find that the bags wouldn’t fit through the opening at the top of the conveyor. Well by the time this was rectified, there was what can only be described as a fair sized queue behind us! I’m sure other passengers were cursing us. Eventually we boarded Manannan though and were treated to a perfect crossing. The sea was like glass for most of the way back to Liverpool. I took the time to finish off the dive logs on the way back so that I could get them to the Diving Officer as soon as possible.
As we collected our bags, we all bade each other goodbye as there was no point hanging around because we were all heading off in different directions anyway.
So the long awaited weekend was over. As the organiser, I just hoped that everyone enjoyed it and had lots of fun and laughs along the way.
A really big thank you to Steve and Michelle @ Discover Diving for all their hard work in trying to ensure that we had a great trip. Also thanks to Kathryn and Squid for looking after us while we were on the boat. And a special thank you from me to Ethan for washing and drying my soaking wet under suit and base layers. And a final thank you from me the organiser to the group as you all helped to make it a really enjoyable trip!

Terry Maloney a.k.a Zippy (trip organiser).

Anglesey – April 2021 – Trip Report

Our chairman, along with Anthony Fitzpatrick kindly suggested and booked the campsite for the diving weekend with electric hook ups to make for more of a glamping than camping experience with some having very impressive blown up, beds. The main purpose of the trip was to give new trainees their first taste of sea diving off a boat and a shake down post covid for more experienced divers who wanted to refresh their skills.


The campsite at Pencraig was a great camp site with a café, shop, toilet, and shower block as well as the electric and water hook up for each spot. It was always going to be a busy weekend with a big boxing match and a derby also to be included in the itinerary of the diving weekend.


The weather forecast was good but some concerns about wind meant the Assistant Diving Officer had to check the sea each morning to confirm whether diving could go ahead. We’ were gassed up, ready and excited to explore a couple of wrecks called the SS Missouri and the Hermine.


The dives were relatively shallow at 12 to 13 metres and there was no guarantee as to what the visibility would be like.


Most Campers arrived on the Friday and once tents, campervans and caravans were all safely in place the group split into two, those who fancied a curry at the local curry house and those that wanted a pub lunch. A drink or two was had to wash down the food but then it was back to the campsite to get a good night’s sleep for the first of two planned dives on Saturday.


Everyone was up early and loaded the ribs with their cylinders, rebreathers and twinsets and although it was very windy at the campsite the sea was reported to be calm in the bay and the dive was given the go ahead. Both ribs were launched from the slipway, and we headed out.


The new trainees at that stage were still studying their Ocean Diver qualification and it was the first time they had been on a rib and out to sea. Nerves and excitement were high in equal measure and each trainee was paired up with a very experienced Diver as their buddy and assistance was given kitting up on the boat.

The Divers all waiting for the boats to be launched for a days diving. Looks like Phil had rolled in the sand in his dive suit here!


Our skilled boat captains got us safely over the wreck and the trainees went in with their buddies first so they didn’t have to sit getting nervous for too long. Helpfully the wreck had 3 visible markers which meant the divers could navigate down one of the three shot lines to ensure they landed directly onto the wreck. Once all trainees were safely heading down to the wreck it was then the turn of the more experienced divers to refresh their skills and hopefully enjoy getting back into the water.

The Chairman & Diving Officer getting completely overshadowed by the lovely Faye whilst trainee Alex looks on


The visibility at 12 to 13 meters wasn’t the best but you could still make out wildlife, parts of the wreck and have an enjoyable dive. Once all divers were safely back on the boat, we headed back to shore for a lunch break and to chat about the morning’s dive before heading back out again for the afternoon dive which was to dive the wreck Hermine.


The trip out was a lot longer on the rib and brought the boats close to rocky areas, so we had to rely on the boat captains experience to keep everyone safely away from the rocks and have a good dive.
There was no shot line, on this wreck and it proved that a diver or two may not have been correctly weighted and the odd bit of lead had to be found to assist them. The visibility was not as good as it had been that morning, but all divers managed to get into the water for varying lengths of time.


Some enjoyed the dive; some felt the visibility wasn’t the best, but everyone still had fun. That was day one of diving done and it was back to the campsite for a little rest before a trip to the local pub to watch the big Tyson Fury fight.


Sunday saw us getting an extra hour to get ready before heading to the shore to launch the boats. As it was Derby Day it was decided we would only do one dive today and we all decided we wanted to dive the SS Missouri again from different shot lines to see other parts of the wreck.


The visibility was like the day before and those that dived all reported having a great time. A buddy pair reported seeing an octopus and got a great picture of a Nudibranch Facelina Auriculata as seen in the picture below.

After safely returning to shore and back to the campsite some had to leave for work the next day and those that stayed watched the derby in the local pub. With the majority of divers being reds the blue supporters left quickly after the first goal was scored. After a succesful result for the reds we headed back to the campsite for a few drinks and a reflection around the camp fire of the weekend and how much we had enjoyed it, we had an ealy night ready to pack and head home the next day.

A couple of members, Eddie Dorrian and Graeme Cooper also came along for the weekend to do a few shore dives, with Peter Beaver joining them on the Sunday and Graeme’s report of the diving is detailed below:

Diving on the Saturday, we chose Porth Dafarch. This was largely because we managed to get parking down on the slipway, which made for good shore access, with no need to carry weights and cylinders up and down the hill. We were also able to kit uo on the steps, directly by the beach.

The sea was a bit choppy because of a strong wind, and the waves stirring up the sand made the visability bad. We went out along the rocks on the east end of the bay then simply went across the bay (east to west), heading back in along the rocks. Max depth 5 metres, but a dive’s a dive.

We got a second dive in, which was better. The wind had dropped and the visability had improved. We pretty much repeated the first route, but went further out and deeper, exploring the rocky shoreline at the west end of the bay.

On the Sunday, Peter joined us, but after breakfast Eddie had to head home. Peter and I stayed with Port Dafarch for diving. We headed out long the bay’s east side, before heading further out along the west side rocks. Still not deep, (6 or 7 Metres), but far enough out to be among some nice tall kelp, with rocky gullies around the headland.

So a few good relaxed shore dives, plus the chance to catch up with other club members. Can’t claim that the dives were spectacular, but for me this type off accessible shore dive was useful for getting back into the sea after the winter and refreshing my diving skills.

———-

Its safe to say that going away on club dives gives everyone a chance to get to know each other better, new and old members.  Some members even just came for the weekend away and to enjoy the sights and didn’t dive. The feedback from the trainees who attended was that they had an amazing weekend not only diving, but getting out on the boat and getting to spend time laughing and joking with other more experienced divers and members and they picked up hints and tips that will be invaluable to their diving skills going forward. If you are new to diving and haven’t yet experienced a dive weekend away I would strongly encourage you to go for it, you wont regret it.

Trip members : David Edwards, Robbie Edwards, Martin Campbell, John Dunne, Sean Cafferkey, Ian Bennett, Dave Barlow, Kelly Baird, Faye-Louise Northam, Steve Baxter, Andy Parsons,  Sue Kids, Pete Cheesewright, Alex Naylor, Mark Williams, Graeme Cooper, Eddie Dorrian,  Peter Beaver, Phil Coggins, Angela Coggins.

Report prepared by Angela Coggins, Trainee Ocean Diver at the time of the trip, now qualified Ocean Diver and working towards her Sports Diver qualification.

Chairman’s Letter May 2022

Hi Folks,


Diving season is well and truly upon us, we’ve had trips to the bay, the Isle of Man and Anglesey, and there are trips planned to Malta, Bridlington, Pembroke and Cyprus, plus many quarry weekends. So let’s all be safe. If you’d like to organise a trip anywhere and you’re not sure how, just ask and we will help you sort it out. We’ve had to cancel the summer bash as there wasn’t enough interest, but Vince is organising a curry night at the club – date to be arranged. 

I’d like to wish Katie and Paul a speedy recovery, and thank Katie for all her hard work as the Communications Officer: you’ve done a fantastic job. Also thanks to Bel for all her hard work behind the bar. I’d also like to welcome Angie Coggins to the Committee as the new Communications Officer. 

Other news: we are getting the new compressor fitted this week. Chris Mills is sorting that out – thanks Chris. We have also reviewed the Towing Levy because of the price of fuel, and have increased it to 50p per mile, to be reviewed in 3-4 months. Also, we have a levy for boat courses which is £25 – that’s the levy and the fuel. We have to have a levy to cover oil and maintenance on the boats.

Thanks for all your support.  

Dave Edwards
Chairman, BSAC Branch 5

Assistant Diving Instructor Development Scheme (Part 2)

Alistair Reynolds will be running part two of the in-house training course for instructors on Saturday 26th March. Details of the day will be supplied nearer the date.

Part two of the course will cover planning, preparing and presenting pool lessons.

This is an in house course intended for those who have completed an instructor training course and would like a refresher, The course is also open to anyone who is interested in going forward to the BSAC Instructor Foundation Course but would like an introduction into what’s involved or is not sure if their skills are at the right level yet.

Anyone interested should fill their Name and Email Address below and hit submit to send to the training team

Holyhead August 2022

Ray Cramer is planning a trip to Holyhead in August this year for technically qualified divers only.

This trip is to dive on a specific new mark which Ray has found. Reported length 24m, width 12m, height 10m. No magnetic data due to it not being deemed a wreck until post processing. Remnants of a keel and single boiler.

The site lies in a strong tidal flow. There are only five suitable weekends in 2022 with two diveable days for two waves of 60 minutes maximum dive times. Three are very early season, there is the planned weekend and a further weekend in September which could be used if the planned weekend is postponed.

The plan is to use Holyhead slipway. A weekend could be made of this, weather permitting. A suitable campsite could be Cae Ffynnon Caravan and Camping site, Rhosgoch, Amlwch.

Dates: August 20th and August 21st

Diving will be using the Majors boat and one of the club boats.

This dive is suitable for technically qualified divers only.

Anyone interested should contact Ray directly or put their name down on the interest sheet on the club noticeboard.

Malta June 2022

The Major is running a trip to Malta this year commencing Saturday 18th June and returning Saturday 25th June. The diving will be with Alan and Viv Whitehead who run Divewise in St Julian’s Bay.

As with previous years, anyone interested will need to book their own flights and accommodation. Rough costs for diving will be supplied closer to the time.

Anyone interested in the trip should contact Alan direct or put their names down on the interest form on the club noticeboard.

Fishguard June 2022

Ray Cramer is planning a four day dive trip to Fishguard for the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.

The plan is to use the Fishguard slipway with a primary objective to dive on a newly surveyed/discovered unknown mark so flexibility of diving other marks may be required.

Dates: Thursday 2nd June to Sunday 5th June. Traveling down the day before.

Accommodation: Hillfort camping who have reserved a field for trip use.

Diving will be using the Majors boat and one of the club boats.

This trip is suitable for Dive Leaders and above only.

Anyone interested should contact Ray direct of add their names to the interest form on the club noticeboard.

Name Depth Length Height
Unknown 39m 45m 4.5m
Baron Carnegie 43.5m 110m 7.5m
Moyallon 49m 83m 13m

Holyhead April 2022

Ray Cramer is organising a trip to Holyhead on 9th & 10th of April this year. This is for Dive Leaders and above to investigate a mark lying at approx 38m.

Reported with length 24m, width 6m and height 3.4m, slight magnetic anomaly, upright, bows partially buried/collapsed to ESE. Boiler midships high point.

The site lies in a strong tidal flow and there is only one weekend in 2022 which allows two diveable days for two waves of 60 minutes maximum dive times.

The plan is to use Holyhead slipway. A weekend could be made of this, weather permitting with suitable small campsite being Cae Ffynnon Caravan and Camping site, Rhosgoch, Amlwch.

Dates: April 9th 2022 and April 10th 2022.

Will be using Alan’s boat and one of the club boats.

Anyone interested should contact Ray or put their name on the interest form on the club noticeboard.

PLEASE NOTE: This trip had to be abandoned due to the weather.

Practical Rescue Management Feb 2022

The branch finally managed to complete another one of the outstanding Skill Development Courses that had been postponed due to the Covid pandemic. So on February 13th, a group of eager students and instructors gathered at Eccleston Delph Dive Centre to get the course underway.
The weather forecast for the day was persistent rain, heavy at times but thankfully, the weather Gods smiled upon us and the whole day stayed dry apart from the final half hour or so.

We all met around 8.30am and new member registrations and renewals were completed before assembling in the café for a welcome and brief discussion about the day’s proceedings. This was followed by a discussion on various types of incidents that we as divers might encounter during our days out whether it might be on land or at sea. The emphasis of the discussion was on the possible dangers and keeping safe during a rescue. This led into the introduction of the Dive Managers role and the problems that they might face. With this all fresh in the student’s minds, they split up into three small groups each having both a lead and assistant instructor to teach them.

The plan for the morning was for these three small groups to work their way through a couple of scenarios, working at a slow deliberate speed with the instructors guiding them through the process of carrying out a rescue and teaching the methods that might be required as well as encouraging the students and correcting any poor techniques.

Also included in the morning session was a spot of rope throwing to a potential casualty. The rope throwing practice always brings an element of fun and laughter to the session. It can actually become quite competitive as well with everyone trying to outdo each other. Thankfully no ropes were lost on this session as everyone remembered to keep hold of one end of their rope. I’ll say no more about that!

This brought the morning session to a close and all the teams assembled at the café for lunch and an informal chat about what they had been doing during the morning. There were plenty of laughs emanating from the group so it seemed that they were all enjoying the course so far.

The plan for after the lunch hour was for the three small groups to merge into two larger groups where the scenarios would be managed by the teams with the instructors mainly observing but coaching and prompting whenever necessary. So during the lunch break, the instructors for the two groups assembled and decided what scenarios that they were going to allocate to their respective groups. Each group would complete a minimum of two scenarios so that all members of the team would be able to complete the various roles such as Dive Manager, rescuer, casualty etc.

The weather was holding up so the group briefings took place at the waterside. The instructors gave the group members an outline of what the scenario would be then the groups decided on their roles and responsibilities. The group that I observed which was led by Steve McElroy, Alan Jones and assisted by Stuart Langley had a lost diver reported for their first scenario so obviously that consisted of an underwater search and rescue by some group members followed by full life saving procedures encompassing the use of a defibrillator and Oxygen administration. Due again to the Covid guidelines, no rescue breaths were performed but the reasons for this were re-emphasised to the students. At the point when life support was required, the actual casualty was replaced with a resuscitation mannequin.

Their second scenario had a twist in the tail. The group were told that it was two divers on the surface with one of them in a distressed condition and being towed in by their buddy. The twist was that they didn’t know that the diver conducting the towing was going to suffer a suspected heart attack. Well this really did kick the team into action as they now had two casualties and really had to start to think about their priorities!

After each scenario, the groups were debriefed by their instructor team. Particular attention was given to their input into the discussion, giving their thoughts on what went well and what they could do to improve their performances going forward.
The other group which was led by Michele Woodward, Alistair Reynolds and assisted by Steve Mills covered scenarios were on the first, two divers surface close to their cover boat but with one of them clearly distressed. The distressed diver then sinks back to the sea bed so a search and recovery was initiated. Thankfully the outcome was a good one as they had the second wave of divers already kitted up waiting to go in once the first pair had returned.

Their second scenario was where a pair of divers on a club dive out to a shallow wreck overrun their agreed dive time. Divers where sent in to search for them. They found the pair of divers but one of them was tangled in fishing line, starting to panic and running low on air. Not a nice situation to ever find yourself in! The importance of carrying your own personal cutting tool became evident in this scenario.

Just like the other group, the instructors debriefed the team, drawing out their thoughts on what went well, what if anything they would do differently. The students were encouraged to become proactive and consider the ‘what iff’s’.

With the afternoon scenarios completed, the groups went back to the car park area for a short debrief before heading off for home or the White Lion pub. Invariably, the topic of conversation in the pub centered around the course. It appeared that the students enjoyed the day. What it did do was got everyone involved thinking about what they could do to make their diving safer and thereby more enjoyable which I would personally take as a sign of a successful course!


I would like to express my thanks to the students for taking part so enthusiastically and putting themselves in the hands of the instructor team. They were in no particular order, Chris Mills, Kate Mills, Andreea Gamulea, Andy Parsons, Dave Barlow, Kelly Bird, Katie Condron, Nigel Thomas, Phil Bradley & Viki Walsh.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the instructor team for giving their time to teach on the course. They were Alistair Reynolds, Steve McElroy, Alan Jones, Michele Woodward, Garry Bolland, Steve Mills & Stuart Langley.
A special thanks to Garry Bolland who assisted me greatly when my printer died a death. And thanks to Ray Cramer for the loan of some ropes.
A big thanks also to the lads at Eccleston Delph Dive Centre in particular Andy Godber who was so very helpful whenever a favour was requested!

Terry Maloney

Chairman’s Letter February 2022

Hello folks, 

That’s Christmas and New Year done, and hopefully now we’re getting back to normal. Just a quick update on things In the club. 

We have a lot of training going on, and all our instructing team do this voluntarily and at their own cost, so if you put your name down to do a lecture, pool session or to go to the quarry, please don’t let them down. They put a massive amount of time and effort into organising and preparing these courses. 

We have a shiny new boat so let’s start organising trips and get back into the water. Remember anyone can organise a trip and get it signed off. 

We have also ordered a new compressor. The old and new committees have been working tirelessly to sort all this out over the last year, so now we need all your support to raise money to replenish our club finances. Try and get down the club, and please come to any functions that are coming up. Just get involved in whatever we have going on. Remember, it’s your club. 

Vince Clegg is putting on a summer party at Birkenhead Rugby Club on May 28th, details to follow. There are also a few dives coming up, so get involved. If you’re still a trainee, you can still go on any dive weekend, just to see how it all works, but obviously, if the boat is full, you’d have to sort out your own entertainment for while the dives are taking place. 

We appreciate all your support, it’s what keeps the club going.

Safe and happy diving,

Dave Edwards

Chairman, BSAC Branch 5

Chairman’s Christmas Letter 2021

Well folks, Christmas is nearly upon us and we are looking forward to safe and happy diving in the new year. First and foremost, I’d like to once again thank the Committee members that have kept the Club going through Covid-19, and I’d like to say a special thanks to Alan Jones (aka the Major) for steering us through the last four really difficult years. Now it’s time for the new Committee to guide the Club to our next chapter, but we can’t do it without the help of all the members. We require all of you to help, in training, trips, club events and just making everyone, new and old, feel welcome. 

Remember folks, anyone, regardless of diving grade, can organise trips – just ask another member and they will help you, or point you in the direction of someone who can. Also, you can do most boat courses regardless of grade: you just need to be enthusiastic. We are looking at taking the boats out (when the weather is a bit better) for members who are not qualified, to give people a feel of how to launch, handle and retrieve the RHIBs, and have a play on the river. Info will be on the board and Facebook ASAP. 

Also, on Thursday 23rd December, Bel is organising a Raffle and Karaoke Night in the Clubhouse, so try and get down to show your support – all proceeds going to the new boat and compressor fund.  

From myself and all the Committee, we wish you all a merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year. Let’s go diving!

Dave Edwards
Chairman

Chartwork and Position Fixing Course

The Major will be running a Chartwork and Position Fixing course over the weekend of the 22nd/23rd January 2021. The Saturday being classroom based on theoretical navigation. The Sunday, (weather permitting) will be with the boats out in the Mersey. looking at both conventional and GPS navigation.

The costs will be £32.50 which is required for the BSAC course materials and unique reference number needed for course completion. There will also be fuel and boat levy costs for the river session.

Numbers will be limited to the first 10 and those interested should put their names down on the form on the club notice board.

Special Christmas Club Evening

Bel and Katie will be hosting a special Christmas club night on 23rd December. Doors open as usual at 7pm with the fun starting at 7.30pm. There will be food, a raffle, an auction and Christmas Karaoke!

So, come on down, have some fun and raise a bit of money for the club.

Majors Late Xmas Bash

The Major is once again organising his late Christmas Bash. This years will be held at the Irby Mill on Saturday 18th December. The participation list is up on the club notice board but numbers are limited to 50 and places are going fast. Get your name down quickly if your interested.

Chairman’s Letter October 2021

The Chairman’s Last Post

Hello everybody……….Well the time has almost come for me to slope off into the sunset having performed the role of Chairman for 8 out of the last 10 years.  It would be remiss of me not say that is has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the club and with your help and that of the committee in supporting me in steering ‘the ship’ through some choppy waters.  It would be good to claim that the club is now in a better shape than at the outset of our journey, but I guess that is for you to decide.  

One thing I would mention is that we have finally reached an agreement with the Council over a new ten year lease for the club and for the first time this will include the boatshed, albeit they will retain the right to review the tenure of the boatshed at any time after the five year point.  This is highly unlikely, but comes about because the boatshed is actually part of the leisure centre complex and could be subject of redeveloped in the future. 

The actual hand over of the current committee will take place at the club’s Annual General Meeting, commencing promptly at 9.0pm on Thursday, 18th. November 2021.  It would be great to see a full club house and remember this is your turn to bring the current committee to task as well as hear the outline plans for the forthcoming year from the new committee.   This is your opportunity to make your feelings known and make a difference.

With the diving season coming to an end this is an ideal opportunity to finish off your training and develop new skills at the quarries, the instructors are there virtually every week, so it is only up to you to attend.  In addition, I will be running a Chartwork and Position Fixing SDC over the weekend of the 22/23rd. January at the clubhouse.

Turning to the social side of things, the club’s annual dinner dance was a rip roaring event and attended by just over 100 members and their wives.  Would you believe we raised £1,507 for the club after expenses, which is by far the largest sum we have ever achieved.  Our thanks go out to Dave Edwards for organising the show as well as his band of helpers, which included Graeme Cooper for providing the place cards and Belinda with the ladies for sorting out the raffle.

I am also reliably informed that Belinda and Katie Condron intend running a social event at the clubhouse during the run up to Christmas, so watch this space for details.

Finally, The Major’s Late, Late Christmas Bash has been organised at the Irby Mill for Saturday, 18th. December.  In effect, we take over the entire restaurant area, but numbers are limited to 50 places, so first come first served.  The list will be on the notice board this coming Thursday and I would suggest that you book your place ‘pdq’ to avoid disappointment.

That’s it folks, once again my appreciation goes out for all you help and support over the last decade. Take care and safe diving.

Alan Jones
Chairman

Dinner Dance and Awards Evening 2021

It was another very successful dinner dance and awards evening this this year, held again at Birkenhead Park Rugby Club. This year attended by well over a hundred members, partners, family members and friends. After drinks and introductions there was a superb meal, supplied as usual by Alleycats, followed by more drinks, a lengthy prize draw and then the awards.

This year Vince Clegg was awarded Diver of the Year in recognition of all the hard work put over many years behind the scenes and more visibly during the re-development of the bar area in the club.

The Andy Marshall trophy for trainee of the year went to Andy Parsons. Andy also achieved his Sport Diver certificate this year.

This year, the Golden Egg award for the biggest cockup of the year went to Tony Fitzpatrick in honor of his tussle with a rampaging gatepost.

There were also some special club awards given this year.
To Alan Jones, for the years of service he has given to the club as chairman, keeping it running smoothly through some very difficult circumstances.


To Belinda Condron for all her efforts helping run the bar, baking cakes and organising events.


And finally to Chris Mills and Graeme Cooper for their work in re-developing the bar.

After a really enjoyable evening, some dodgy dancing and as a result of raffles and auctions over £1500 was raised for the Club. A great result. Big thanks to Dave Edwards, Belinda Condron, Graeme Cooper and everyone else who helped organise the event.