When: 27th March – 2nd April 2013

Where: Plymouth

Weather: Variable

Accommodation: The Mount Batten Centre

Boats: The Maid Maggie and The Seeker

‘Whoopee, I love diving on the Plymouth Breakwater!’ thought just about everyone at one time or another during SUSAC’s Easter trip to Plymouth. Unfortunately, they were all being sarcastic and if I could sum up the quality of the diving we experienced in four words, they would probably be ‘visibility’, ‘s**t’, ‘swell’ and ‘and’, but not necessarily in that order. However, if I could sum up the trip as a whole in four words, they would probably be ‘fun’, ‘awesome’, ‘and’ and ‘badgers’ (I may have made that last one up) and that is thanks to SUSAC!

So the diving started (and, as it happened, continued) on the Plymouth Breakwater and the nearby fort, under the command of veteran Dive Manager and Club Training Officer, Ross Peel. These are easy, sheltered dive sites that are great for first time sea divers to get to grips with all the stuff that first time sea divers have to get to grips with, like sorting out how much lead weight to carry and deciding which piece of marine life they want to annoy next. The first day went rather well and people seemed to grasp quite quickly how kit storage, air fills and getting stuff on the boats worked.

The second day saw an additional site added to the plan, the wreck of the Glen Strathallan, and Jack Whiteley at the helm. Everyone rejoiced at the thought of a dive site that wasn’t on the breakwater, although some divers became overexcited and expressed their joy by vomiting violently into the air. The award for first chunder of the trip went to me when I sprayed a fine mist of bile and Coca Cola  into the Plymouth Sound.

The third day was managed by me and, given the good conditions on the surface, the proposed dive sites were the wrecks of the SS James Eagan Layne and the HMS Scylla. Good weather on the surface is great but, as anyone who has plunged their head into a bucket of boiling clove oil can attest, it doesn’t necessarily translate to good conditions under the surface in a bucket of boiling clove oil (or the sea). Unfortunately we didn’t have anyone who’d plunged their head into a bucket of boiling clove oil to ask, we just had a load of divers, so two boat loads of us tried to get dives in pretty horrific ground swell. This meant that for as long as anyone cared to stay down, they were repeatedly pushed forward and dragged backward by surges of water, often into bits of wreckage or their buddy. Needless to say, we didn’t try to dive the JEL or Scylla again, but we did head back out to the Glen Strathallan.  In an effort to keep up with a tradition established in past years, when the two boats passed each other, a number of us on board the Maid Maggie stood up on the benches and mooned The Seeker. This is a risky business as the bow wave from the passing boat often causes the other boat to rock and can catch a diver with their pants down (quite literally), but no one was caught off balance this time!

A rounded determination to continue diving saw Ray ‘Big Raymond’ Coyle supervise on day four. As you might imagine our diving day was relatively uneventful, apart from an alternate source ascent effected by Emma Gilhooly on a soon to be out-of-air Josh Smith (it turned out that Josh had been trying to fill the sea with air using a free-flowing second stage). Jenny Hardy also managed to forget her drysuit and then make her way back down to the boat wearing Josh Colby’s suit instead – apparently the letter ‘J’ was enough.

Given the conditions mid-trip, James Leyland had been left wondering if he might be managing a trip to the gin distillery rather than the last day’s diving, but SUSAC had true grit and we once again buckled up and dived the breakwater fort.

The final day’s diving saw Tom Donald enter the water without his suit zipped up properly… causing him to promptly leap out again, get his suit zipped up, and dive with six inches of water in each boot.  The day also saw Raymond break the diver lift on the Maid Maggie. I was particularly annoyed at this last event as I was the one on the lift at the time and Ray broke it through sheer force of will from her position in the water. A particular highlight of Monday’s diving was some marvellous mammary modelling from some of SUSAC’s ladies (see, I can do alliteration), in response to the mooning from day three.

As the diving wasn’t much, I feel this report should consider some of the other goings on while we were staying at the Mount Batten Centre. On our first evening we all dined at the Mount Batten Hotel, whose menu was a rich and vivid spectrum of culinary delight, from foods that were fried to foods that were served with gravy and all of the soggy, carbohydrate, cheap-bulk-purchases in between.

On Friday night, Tom and Ross gave their traditional talk on marine life, allocating all underwater creatures names within their own informative and semantically correct designation system.  For example, all eels are “snakey bitey fish” and anything you can put on a plate is a “tasty fish”.  Later than evening I was surprised to find myself presented with a scotch bonnet chilli, but, being the outstanding fellow that I am, I did the honourable thing and ate it in three sizeable pieces. This was an act that my guts did not thank me for at 4am the next morning. Saturday evening saw the creation of a new professional sport, Gerd Ball, all you need is a ball, the 1990 Mister Germany winner, a pair of Crocs and a willing competitor. Gerd Ball will definitely be making a comeback in 2014.

On Sunday, after some careful tuition from Steve Capes, Jack, Ray and myself hosted a knot tying session for some of our novice and trained divers alike. This was a great success, but quickly became competitive – luckily we were able to subdue and tie down our students before it all got out of hand. We also had a quiz, organised by our lovely social secretaries, and a pleasant time horsing around with security cameras, condoms and bits of string.

Monday night was the pinnacle of the trip’s social activities, with (almost) everyone pairing up and dressing up to the theme of heroes and villains. Some came as more traditional existing characters and some came as newly developed characters with their own back stories, but everyone put in a good amount of effort and a good time was had by all. I particularly enjoyed Ross as Shaun from Shaun of the Dead, complete with facial hair and red on him, Emily Holtham and Alice Halstead as the Marshmallow Man and a Ghostbuster and Josh Colby and Soo Parkinson as a diver and his worst enemy, the common cold! The ‘Most Hammered’ award (no, not for blacksmithing) goes to James Montgomery, who enjoyed his prize of a horrific hangover for most of the six hour journey home in the Sport Sheffield minibus. Other awards included ‘Best Limbo’, which went to Mauricio ‘Flex Mex’ Montano-Rendon, ‘Most Mischievous’, which went to Gerd ‘The Word’ Engler, ‘Largest Sack’, which went to Josh ‘I’m just Pleased To See You’ Smith, ‘Best Regurgitator’, which went to Ray ‘Like Starlings Do’ Coyle and ‘Early Retiree’ which went to Laura ‘There’s Ice In My Thong’ Bird.

So, in summary: diving poor, social good and general good times. Please don’t feel disheartened if I haven’t mentioned your name in this brief and light-hearted report – that is almost certainly a good thing as it means you didn’t do anything particularly stupid. Thank you again to Alana and Emma, all the instructors, the other dive managers and assistant dive managers, the food marshals, those who washed up and everyone else for making it a fun trip in the face of adverse conditions.