Where: Torbay, “The English Riviera”
When: 1st – 4th May
Who: Quentin S, Tom D, Jack H, Chris T, Shin N, Marco S, Ruth GM, Jasmin K
Organiser: Quentin S
Accommodation: Le Papillon Hostel
Cost: £190 (Diving, Travel, Food, Accommodation)
With kit loading taking place on Thursday before we all headed off to the ex-chair’s (and ex-ex-ex-chair’s) birthday meal, our departure to the south coast was a bit scattered as people managed to skive off work at various times.
The long drive down was uneventful aside from the worlds slowest pizza oven and the worlds largest traffic jam on the outskirts of Bristol, and we all made it to the hostel in time for a brief Port o’clock before bed.
The first days diving got off to an early start as we went to visit BSAC 08 to get our tanks filled and discuss plans for using their boat in the afternoon. We were met by their DO, a kindly bearded fellow promptly nicknamed Mr BSAC (Sorry Steve!). The weather was not looking good with the tail end of a storm that had hit on Thursday night still blowing itself out, and we were sadly, but not unexpectedly, informed that the boat wouldn’t be going out today (Or over the weekend at all).
Mr BSAC gave us his recommendation for the shore diving site that was likely to have the best vis (Babbacombe Bay), filled our tanks for us, and sent us on our way. At first look the site didn’t look promising, with evidence of a landslide on the far side of the bay and the sea an attractive mud colour. Despite this, Shin, Chris and I excitedly kitted up and frolicked into the sea, where Shin made the in hindsight excellent decision to fix buddy lines before descending. Tied together in a suitably Bondage-lite way, we descended into the murk, hoping to see some of the promised mating Cuttlefish. As soon as we sank beneath the surface it became clear this wasn’t our day, the silt closing in and all three of us crashing into the squelchy bottom (or in my case the top of Shin’s tank), unable to see the bottom, the surface, or our buddies in the 10cm vis. A brief pause was rudely interrupted by a yank on my line, pulling me along the bottom in the direction my unseen buddy was finning. After a brief re-surface and discussion, we decided to try and stick it out for a few more minutes and chalk the dive up as an experience dive, so sank back into the murk. The only piece of wildlife found on this dive was a giant spider crab, which Chris found by effectively head butting it, but it provided good practice of coping with (extremely) poor visibility and a swift education in the virtues of buddy lines.
Unsurprisingly it was decided to abandon any attempt at a second dive, so we elected to return to the hostel and then relocate to a pub for the afternoon and evening. Quentin and I were assigned to do a supermarket run on the way home to pick up some essentials that hadn’t been brought with us (Port, as our current supply seemed to have evaporated). It had also been requested that we pick up some ketchup for the breakfast bacon sarnies and at this point Quentin and I noticed that normal ketchup and “fiery chilli” ketchup had identically shaped labels. A quick label swap later and we set out to join the others at the pub, still giggling at our nefarious scheme.
The afternoon was spent playing a round or two of Cards Against Humanity, before a pub dinner and a visit from Mr BSAC with some navel charts to help us plan the next days diving.
The day began with bacon sandwiches. As Chris and Tom asked for the ketchup Quentin and I exchanged meaningful glances, this was the moment. The first bites were had, and a slightly confused, but sadly not flaming at the mouth Tom asked if we’d changed the bottles. Turns out chilli ketchup isn’t that chilli. After that mild (get it?) disappointment we set off to try the dive site recommended to us by Mr BSAC the night before. After a brief detour to a golf course (Quentin’s Sat-nav programming skills leave a lot to be desired…) we arrived at a delightful sandy beach, complete with huge waves crashing into the shore. It was decided that perhaps this dive site wouldn’t be any good, and after freeing the Land Rover from the dunes we set of towards Jenny Cliff at Tom’s suggestion: Suspiciously edging us closer and closer to the Plymouth Gin distillery he fancied visiting…
The less said about the dive the better, it was very similar to the previous day except Chris head butted a rock instead of a crab, which thankfully I witnessed although he didn’t seem to appreciate my John Beatty-esque underwater giggles.
After everyone had had an opportunity to float in the murky soup we packed up and headed into Plymouth for the afternoon. It being the bank holiday all the distillery tours were fully booked, so instead we had a wander around the aquarium to have a look at some of the wildlife we’d planned on seeing on our dives.
Back at the hostel, a huge batch of chilli was cooked up, and the evening was spent playing Cards Against Humanity with Port, crumble and lacto-custard.
Having decided that diving in the sea was overrated, we headed to Vobster, an inland training site vaguely on our way home.
This being a deeper inland site than what we’re used to in Capernwray it was decided that Chris, Shin and I would do a combination of my Sports Diver depth progression to 30m and Chris’s planned deco experience dive. Having being briefed by Chris about our max time and depth from his many tables and gas planning calculations we headed over to the water and plunged in, snorting at the overheard comment about how the vis wasn’t very good. Revelling in the 5m vis we descended fairly swiftly down to 29m, and after I stubbornly stuck my arm down to get a depth reading of 29.9m on my computer we began our ascent. Before the dive Chris had drilled into us about the importance of us hitting 6m at a certain time or else. This came slightly unstuck on our way up when we passed by a very exciting armoured car tank thing and we all got a bit distracted playing in that. Nevertheless we hit our stop practically on time, and after doing one minute of (unplanned) deco (we were diving on tables with a flat bottom profile) surfaced.
The second (planned) deco dive passed without incident. We managed to find the plane we were looking for which caused some particularly groovy underwater dance moves from Chris (who was navigating), and I won at scissor, paper, stone during the deco stop.
After everyone had finished their diving and Tom had returned his very exciting torch that he’d borrowed from the shop it was time to head home, which did take a while!
Many thanks to Quentin for organising the trip, BSAC 08 for their offered boat which we sadly couldn’t use, to Mr BSAC for seemingly making it his personal mission to make sure we managed to have a good sea dive (he failed sadly) and to everyone on the trip for helping make a weekend of not exactly stellar diving thoroughly enjoyable!