Plymouth – Easter 2012

Plymouth (3rd – 9th April 2012)
Accommodation:  The Mount Batten Centre
Skippers: Steve Wright, Seeker and Glenn Lindsay, Maid Maggie
Sites: Breakwater, Glen Strathallen, Cannonball Alley, HMS Scylla, James Eagan Layne, Penlee Point, Fairylands, Mewstone, and probably more…!
Divers (32): Salman Al-Nasir, Chris Aspinall, John Beatty, Stephan Broek, Dave Brown, Amy Chantry, Danny Copeland, Ray Coyle, Stuart Cuthbertson, Alana Dempsey, Tom Donald, Dan Edgar, Gerd Engler, Emma Gilhooly, Duncan Gilby, Sadie Gornall-Jones, Jenny Hardy, Gareth Jones, Pippa Kay, Emma Keeley, Claudius Kerth, Michal Koziara, Jonathan Landless, Stewart Marsden, Alex Muhl-Richardson, Shea Shin Ng, Ross Peel, Josh Smith, Paul Snary, Georgina Stooke-Vaughan, Jack Whiteley, Martin Wilson.
Diver experience (at start of trip): 8 novice divers, 6 ocean divers, 6 sports divers, 7 dive leaders, 5 advanced/first class divers.
Non-divers: Angie Thornley
Water Conditions: 9-10 degrees Celsius. Visibility generally reasonably, down to 2-3m at times.
Weather: At the start of the week, grey with intermittent rain/drizzle and a strong offshore
breeze, which prevented dives on the inland side of the Breakwater (incl the Fort) and left the sea surface choppy but diveable. Skies cleared towards the end of the week, with less breeze and a warm sun.
Stuart writes:
2012 was a real return to form for SUSAC, with our annual Easter training trip to Plymouth welcoming the largest number of divers in many years. A mammoth organisational feat even for a single boatload, this year saw two charter boats each doing four shuttle runs per day for five days – more than 450 person-dives in total!

Being one of the farthest of SUSAC’s regular dive sites from Sheffield, a full day was allowed for travel at either end of the week. The majority of people arrived via car, with carpooling organised by Amy Chantry. A supersize transit van driven by Emma Keeley (Equipment Officer and SUSAC’s very own “SCUBA-mum”) ensured that enough club kit was on hand to keep
everybody diving through the week, and kept the cars free for people. A few arrivals by train to Plymouth station were able to be collected by those who had already arrived.

Dive briefings were held every morning over an early breakfast (provided by the Mount Batten Centre kitchens) before first ‘ropes off’ at 0830 sharp most days. Dive Leader and Sports Diver trainees used the trip to complete the dive planning and management (DPM) elements of their qualifications, ably supervised, mentored and cajoled by SCUBA-mum. Many valuable hours were also contributed by Ross Peel (Training Officer) and Chris Aspinal (Diving Officer) to make sure the dive planning was a success, both for the DPM trainees and for everybody else.

SUSAC’s appetite for food and entertainments was stronger than ever, with the self-catered, BBQ-and-portable-stove based cooking arrangements running surprisingly smoothly (all choreographed once again by SCUBA-mum, with BBQ provided by John Beatty). Lunches were a help-yourself sandwich-crisps-chocolate-and-fruit affair. With the last wave of divers arriving back to shore after 6pm, planning was crucial to avoid late suppers and wasted evenings. Thirty-three hungry mouths were fed each night thanks to everybody’s willingness to chip in during surface intervals throughout the day – whether shopping, chopping, basting or
burning.

With the dishes washed, all repaired to the Mount Batten Centre’s comfy ‘Iso Bar’ for the nightly ‘Port O’Clock’ debriefing from that day’s dive manager (accompanied by a glass of Ruby) and a teaser from the next day’s manager. Socials were also held on certain nights, organised by Alana Dempsey and Alex Muhl-Richardson, including a pub quiz, bingo, and a lighthearted look at how to identify Britain’s varied marine life.

The packed dive schedule allowed our novice and crossover divers to get plenty of dives done on shallower and safer sites, whilst still giving the sports divers a fair share of dives. This paid off by the end of the week, with every single newer diver accomplished enough to enjoy the deeper dives on iconic sites such as the Scylla and James Eagan Layne. The contribution that
this trip made to the progress of our trainees was significant – whilst few specific open water lessons were completed, every novice diver ended the trip confident and competent in the water, providing a sound platform for later completion of open water lessons.

Thanks are duly owed to Ross Peel and Chris Aspinall again for ensuring that the trip was a success in terms of training. Their efforts would all have been for naught, of course, had it not been for the small army of dive leaders and instructors who came along. These, our most experienced divers, selflessly put up with long days, more dive-fatigue, and of course
the inevitable faff that comes with newer divers (we’ve all been there!), and cannot be thanked enough. Astoundingly most of them even stayed awake through the evening socials, and taught the rest of us a few tricks along the way…

Despite the need to use shallow sites for many of the dives, the diving was still plenty of fun.  Plymouth is known for the brilliant range of wrecks and reefs on offer, and due to Spring tides there were multiple opportunities for drift diving. On the other hand, those same tides got the better of our skippers on more than one occasion, with divers being promised a drift
only to jump in and find things as still and murky as Capernwray late on a Sunday afternoon.  Conversely, a dive planned for the Eagan Layne at slack had to be aborted after the first buddy pair in found themselves clinging to the shot in a monumental current!

Sightings of a dolphin pod from the surface were a highlight for some, and other marine life included dogfish aplenty, tompot blennies, many varieties of wrasse, some flatfish, prawns, congers, and both spider and edible crabs. We even managed to fit in a night dive towards the end of the week, for 12 sports divers and above, on the wreckage of the Glen Strathallen.  Despite the logistical difficulties around the day’s normal dive plans and dinner plans, this was a resounding success and should certainly be repeated if possible.

Divers (and skippers) also spent the week being thoroughly amused at SCUBA-mum, who -thanks to a club raffle back at Christmas – spent the whole week diving with an oversize bright pink strap-on over her drysuit. This not only worked as a lure for marine life, but served as a superb SMB whilst waiting to be picked up at the end of dives.

The week ended with a ‘Noah’s Ark’ fancy dress party, a traditional SUSAC sing-song, and a range of awards. Alex Muhl-Richardson unanimously won ‘Muppet of the Week’ for putting his mask up on his forehead after the night dive – and consequently losing it into the briny deep when he removed his hood. He spent the rest of the night sporting a skin-tight pink-on-green
t-shirt proclaiming his title, whilst novice Emma Gilhooly was awarded ‘Diver of the Week’ for showing the most dramatic improvement in her diving skills over the five days. The Dive Managers and Assistant Dive Managers all left sporting bright red beanies à la Cousteau.

It’s hopefully clear from this article that the Easter trip to Plymouth is a big affair for SUSAC – not only for all divers as a “not to be missed” holiday, but also for the committee, core members, and training team in terms of organisation. Whilst I was nominally the trip organiser, my role extended primarily to sending vast quantities of emails, organising meetings, and telling other people to do stuff. It would undoubtedly not have been the success it was without all those mentioned above, looking after food, kit, transport, dive plans, training, safety, and entertainments.

Nothing more remains to be said, except perhaps – “See you in 2013!”

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