The Big Pike Hunt

Five intrepid divers left home at ridiculous a clock for the first dive of the year. Phil was keen (understatement) and arrived at Stoney Cove bang on nine a.m. with Steve. Paul, David and I arrived a little later but there was still room in the lake front car park! In fact, there was only Phil’s car there.

Phil had two missions, the first to work on his depth progression and the second to look for the big pike whilst circumnavigating the pit. Steve took him down to 25 metres on the first dive only to find out after the dive that Phil had already done a 25 metre dive. Mission failed.

Meanwhile, Paul, David and Myself had a mission of our own and that was to find the two new wrecks. We headed out to the Nautilus submarine in the clear 7 degree water from the steps and on down the cliff to the Wessex helicopter, then we swam  to the Stanegarth via Nessie. Paul had heard that a bearing of 140 degrees from the stern of the Stanegarth would take us to the Defiant. By the time we had moved away from the stern to set a course, we could see the tug boat in the 15 metre viz. From the end of the wreck, we could see the trawler Belinda and beyond that a tracked tank that none of us knew was there. We headed back the way we came and followed the anchor chain from the Stanegarth to the cliff and up to the Viscount nose cone before heading back to our entry point.

We heard that there were pike under the shop, so Steve and Phil headed out to the shop to fulfil Phil’s second mission. They found a dozen or so pike but no monster! After 25 minutes Phil got bored and they turned back. A 59 minute dive but only half of one side covered. Mission failed.

Having had a stoney burger and chips while Steve and Phil were diving, it was our turn to look for the pike. We jumped in at the bus stop and gently swam out to just beyond the shop where we found the pike and spent some time watching them floating around without a care in the world while I took a couple of photo’s. Heading back, we found a few crayfish and went for another look at the sub and the room under the pub before finishing our dive.

A good start to the year, whilst Paul found that a dry suit and three under suits kept him toasty warm, David felt the cold a little. Steve found his 5mm gloves kept his hands warm but had difficulty in operating a camera. I was just happy to be diving and even though Phil failed his missions, he claimed it was his best dive yet, (wait until you dive some sea wrecks), and he picked up a new nick name. PIE.

Hoping for a great diving year.


Diving in the Bahamas

Drifting in a line where you can see from one end of the group to the other is a difficult feat when done in the murky waters of the UK, but in the Bahamas it’s easy!  Entertained by a few sharks and turtles, we drifted for a considerable distance in fast, clear flowing water. It also gave the opportunity to muck around with each other, like riding the tank like a horse jockey, forming skydive stars and have divers diving in and out of them, making it one of the better drifts I have done in a long time.

Schooling Spade Fish on the Coba Cage

Now, I don’t have much live-aboard experience, as I only have done 2 of them previously, but we were asked by Mark Evans to join him on a live-aboard Aqua Cat cruise  around the Exumas Cay Islands in the Bahamas last November, a request that we just could not refuse

Well two weeks ago it was time to put down the tools of the trade and swap them for some diving gear.

We flew on a Saturday morning to Nassau straight from Heathrow on a BA flight. Arriving at the Nassau International Airport, we were greeted with the smallest airport queue in the world! We were done and dusted in the blink of an eye and standing outside with our bags, waiting for the taxi ride to the boat.

The boat itself is a purpose build catamaran which boasts 3 levels. It has a large spacious dive deck with ample room to store your gear on the rear of the boat, large bedrooms and a massive dining room come lounge with attached alfresco deck, and a large upper sun deck. Both the dining room and the sun deck boast free help your self beer pumps and soda fountains

Diving consisted of a “late” morning start with the first dive around the 09:00 am mark, (after breakfast!), followed by an 11:00 am ish dive. Then lunch, with a third dive at 02:00 pm with small break then a dive at 04:00 pm. Dinner was always promptly served at 06:00 pm and to finish the day’s diving a night dive at 09:00 pm. After which the beer or cocktails flowed freely.

A Young Reef Shark at the Shark Feed

Food was plentiful, a combination (fusion) of American (North and South) and European Cuisine, interspersed with the local catch of lobsters. (or crayfish in normal terms)

Diving was a combination of deep wall dives in the mornings to shallow reef dives late at night with an increment of shallower and shallower reefs as the week progressed. There was always plenty to see, anything from nudibranches, flamingo tong snails, big eyed jacks to sharks. Every dive boasted a wide array of different species of crustaceans and fish. Diving was easy with lots of exits on the boat. The girls preferred the back entrances low to the water line, as a common entry point while the guys, used the 6 foot side drop, all making it easier to exit the boat en masse. We had a large mixed group of Northern Americans (USA and Canadians) and Europeans. We also had a mix of diving qualifications ranging from freshly new open waters with 6 dives to the battle hardy 5000+ divers. This mix gave a good interaction and lots of fun underwater and above!

The highlight of the trip was diving with the Sharks during the Shark feed. The bait was lowered and secured to the anchoring point of the boat and we sat in a semi circle around the bait ball, watching small juvenile reef sharks tearing into the block of ice. Now we were at a maximum depth of about 10 metres, but boy did we get hit by deco, some more than others. I will mention no names but you know who you are! 😉 xxx. So compulsory hanging on the line and sucking the spare tank was a bit of a must when you have 27 minutes of deco to do. Most of use got away with 5 to 7 minutes though 🙂

Another fab dive was diving at Sea Station 3000(tm) or the Coba Cage. It’s a big big octagonal trapezoid submerged fish aggregation device that is anchored at 30 metres to the sea bed and sits just under the waves, just shy of 10 metres. It’s a massive structure and with the recent hurricane activity, the top part netting was torn away, leaving a large semi saucer shape floating in mid water! The sheer scale of the structure is immense!

A Bat Fish, The bad... the Ugly..... 🙂

We not only explored the underwater landscape, but above water, as excursions were organised on a regular basis to the land to explore hidden beaches and see endangered wild life. One of the excursions led to an island inhabited with grape loving Iguanas that would come running to the beach when they heard the first sign of the RIB. Grapes were fed to them on sticks, but the occasional toe was also preferred, making the human attached to it jump higher than the Iguanas could!

The last excursion was the Marine Park HQ, exploring the island it sits on, with its azure waters and powdery parrot fish poo beaches. It was a fantastic end to the trip and before we knew it we were back in Heathrow, and back in the hustle and bustle of the human word.

As I said, I don’t have a lot of live-aboard experience, but this was a 5 star floating divecenter/come hotel!! Ace!!

Hajo and Sarah

Weymouth Weekend 4th/5th September 2011 (aka “Czech Dive”).

Last September’s trip to Weymouth had seen some particularly rough weather wipe out a day’s diving and it was with much anticipation that we ventured to Weymouth early September, in the hope of a full weekend’s diving – it didn’t disappoint!

Basing ourselves at the Bunk House in Portland, most arrived Friday evening and assembled at the Cove Inn for a quick scoop before an early night. Impressively, as we all went off to bed Jeremy was landing at Gatwick airport and headed straight over to Portland to arrive in the early hours.

Up before dawn on the Saturday morning, ropes off from Weymouth quay was 0645 on Woody’s boat “RW Two”. Joining the 12 intrepid Aquanauts was “Wee Shazzy B”, tagging along as “Boat Biatch” for the day. There was some concern about how Sharon would react to spending a day on the boat with Woody, though I was more concerned for Woody, to be fair!!

Sea conditions weren’t too bad, though an unusual “corkscrew” swell began to take its toll as we headed out for the first dive of the day – the Eleanor R. Lying in circa 26-30 metres, this is a wreck which Woody hadn’t been to in around 20 years and apparently he had come out the day before especially to find it. Visibility was ok, though poor light made the descent feel more like a night dive below 10 metres. The Eleanor R is renowned for Conger Eels and there was much discussion post dive about just how many there were. Frustratingly, myself and Nick G didn’t see one!! Clearly this wreck is not dived very often, and is all the better for it in terms of fish life.

Following a surface interval close inshore to escape the swell, the second dive was a full on scallop bash off Portland Head. Fittingly in Weymouth, the scalloping was of Olympic standard with a very impressive haul brought back on to the boat.

Back on shore, several of the group elected to enjoy the weather and impressively walk the 5 miles or so back to Portland.   A celebratory high tea back at the Bunk House marked Jo’s birthday together with the ringing of bells – more precisely the fire alarm which was set off by the birthday candles, but luckily for us a Fireman was on hand. Saturday evening was a cracking trip to the local Tandoori to further celebrate. Unusually Bonz didn’t seem to have his normal appetite, though that might have been the mention of the specially requested quadruple Fahl.

Returning to the Bunk House, we chatted to some Czech divers who were also staying there and swapped a few dive stories over a shot of Metaxa, before heading off for some much needed sleep and another early start. Some got more sleep than others as our Czech friends decided to party hard  well beyond 4am, much to the chagrin of Hajo and Sarah who bore the brunt of it, and were none too impressed!!

Sunday dawned to something of a murky start as we headed out to sea to dive the Alex Von Opstal. The journey out was made all the more entertaining by Mr Willett’s world class knot tying, as he stepped into the role of Boat Biatch, in the absence of Wee Shazzy B who didn’t fancy another day at sea.

Lying at a similar depth to the Eleanor, vis and light on the Alex turned out to be much better than the previous day making for a really enjoyable dive and apparently there was a conger there as well, though I didn’t see it – again!!

Second dive was another productive scallop bash in a similar area off Portland Head, before returning to Weymouth, and a gloriously sunny afternoon.

Thanks to Christian and Vanessa for the excellent dive management and what was a cracking weekend all round!!


Cuttlefish Nick


Rainy Day in Vobster

After waking at an unholy hour and packing up the car we headed down the M3 on the way to Vobster (I have to mention the music entertainment from Steve and Charles, it was quite something to behold).

The day, which was mostly a training day, was rather successful. All in all around 13 people one by one drove up to Vobster Quay, and you can’t help but be wary of where you park for fear of your car turning into a diving attraction (what with all the motor vehicles at the bottom of the lake!) One by one we all geared up in the sun and braced the ever so chilly Vobster waters (if not so cold for those with dry suits) and I think quite a few people got some training done before the good old British weather kicked in and the largest surprise ever, it started raining. This seemed to lead to log sheets dying slightly… which we are still keeping under our hats!

After a lunch (with a few hungry eyes glancing at a certain ‘decompression burger’ that, to be honest, I’m scared of even asking about.) As part of Dive Leader training we all participated in an incident drill which was all well and good until one ‘unbreathing’ casualty mysteriously disappeared… only until we realised Bonz the ‘unbreathing’ casualty had gone to have a cigarette. There was also some incredible acting from a widow and a doctor’s receptionist’s daughter’s best friend, just to make it that little bit trickier.

But all in all a very successful day ending with a flurry of Qualification books being flown at various instructors resulting in gaining one Qualified Ocean Diver in the Form of Lizzie and James completing his Sports Diver Qualification. So all in all a rather successful day and Vobster has definitely made my list of Dive Sites to return to, but for now its home to wash the kit in fresh water.