Easter training trip 2010 – full of tales of diving and comedy, April 2010

Portland Expedition, March 2009
26/03/2009
OUUEG helps research by hunting for sea urchins in Plymouth, May 2010
01/06/2010

Dates: April 2010,
Author: Luke
Flickr Photo Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ouueg/albums/72157636190878935

So, take a deep breath (but remember to breathe normally on ascent) – here’s the ET 2010 trip report!  In summary – awesome trip, lots of diving, no incidents, few breakages and lots of comedy so thanks guys!

On Thursday the 1st April, the intrepid adventurers set off to do some diving!  With everyone agreeing to meet at 10am at the club hut, we’d mostly arrived by about 11 (it was traffic, not oversleeping, honest!) and set about loading up the kit van and the Landrover.  After our usual trick of forgetting to put in the blackboards until the rest of the van was full and gathering every bit of useable dive kit we could find, people leapt energetically into their various vehicles and we were off!  Leading the charge were a couple of cars, tasked with the important job of buying food (with instructions not to base meals around smoked fish and courgettes this year), followed by the kit van and tailed a long way behind by the Landrover.  We all agreed to meet at a service station for a junk food lunch but failure to notice which service stations we were passing precluded this…  The landy picked up the boat from Torquay and then limped down to the furthest reaches of Cornwall in search of that first pint of Doom Bar.  Many hours later, we arrived with a tired Tom having driven the entire way (cheers Tom!) and had a drink or two to celebrate our arrival.  At this point, there were about 8 of us down so we managed to sleep in relative luxury without being crammed into every available space in the caravans.

First thing next morning and we found ourselves on the beach.  We paired off and went in for shore dives initially to wake us up and remind us how the sea worked.  Diving with Adam, we happened upon a nice looking shot weight, weighing 56lbs.  After considering a couple of options (didn’t have a lift bag) I figured walking it back would be the best solution.  I attached the very small DSMB I had with me to the handle to take some weight off and we then took turns to stomp it back to shore.  Some time later (it was quite slow going) we were up a shot, though with rather sore arms…  After our shore dives, we decided to quickly launch the boat.  Or at least, we would have if we could have worked out how to turn it on…  As the people assigned to boat handle hadn’t used it in a while, they weren’t familiar with the new system for turning on the instruments (for future reference, there’s a switch hidden under the junction box in the side of the console).  Once we’d found someone who knew this, we managed to get the echo sounder and the radio working but there were still no signs of life from the GPS.  Given that we could see the spot we were going to, we didn’t think that was too much of a problem so after watching virtually every other club on the beach make a hash of launching their boats (including one club dropping theirs off the trailer and then launching both their boats without a handler onboard), we launched in an extremely smooth manner, looking like professionals, and soared over to the back of the reef.  Some nice dives later and we were back on the beach, only to be invited for a night dive and barbecue with Imperial.  Several sausages and burgers later (after a bit of a scrum over the barbecue with forty people crowded around a tiny little thing), we canvassed our divers to see who wanted to dive.  At this point, we were up to about 12 attendees but only two of us (Paul and I) were up for it.  Half an hour later, we were back out, dragged through the waves by some very enthusiastic Imperial College shore cover people who proceeded to dump me fully kitted up in the surf on my face without a reg in (though the effort was appreciated).  Back to the campsite for some beers and then back to the beach the next day!

We were now on Saturday and the weather decided to remind us of its potential, with stronger winds causing consternation on the beach.  We managed to launch the boat first and nip out to the Volnay where we started our daily tally of people ‘feeding the fish’.  There was a decent amount of swell going on and the crowd of boats on the dive site by the time we were picking up divers made it more of a challenge, but once again, our expertly skilled boat handlers showed their talents and we were back at shore.  After swapping over kit, we set off again in weather that was becoming more marginal so we opted to stay close to land and dived the back of the reef.  People now started becoming ill left, right and centre and after that wave, we decided that enough was enough and it was time to land the boat.  Coordination between our divers in helping to land the boat was perfect and even in the swell, we got the boat back safely.  Back to the campsite and a few beers…  Some of us then went on to Cadgwith to meet Tim and Ilaria who were down in the area (but not diving, for some reason…) and after some light refreshments and a nice dinner, it was home to bed.  I think there may have been a box game happening at some point and the next morning there were a few people a little worse for wear!

James’ car had got stuck in the mud in the campsite so a few of us tried to push it out.  Unfortunately, I was stood behind the wheel when it started to spin and was covered pretty much from neck to shin with thick brown mud…  Nice!  We got the car out and then headed down to the beach for more training and diving.  Somehow, we got the GPS to turn on although not in time to show Imperial College the wrong site for the Mohegan (see later).  Nevertheless, a nice dive on the Manacles and then more, more, more back of the reef and Volnay dives.  Think it was about now when we first tried to dive the Rock Island Bridge, without success…  Despite having both GPS marks and transits, someone had clearly borrowed the wreck as it wasn’t down there (though there were some nice things to see and a LOT of scallops).  Afterwards a lovely scallop dinner and probably a couple of beers.

By Easter Monday, we were pretty much peaking in terms of numbers with probably 25 people on the beach.  This made marshalling a bit trickier, especially as some people were only down for part of the day before driving back home, and we were fitting in four or five waves of boat diving, as well as lots of shore diving to get rescues and navigation dives done.  We now had some newly qualified sporties and we were getting in some good dives on different sites, including the Carmarthen and the Rock Island Bridge and a few dives out on the Mohegan.  The instructors were still heavily involved in teaching and driving the boat, being occupied for virtually every single wave but the balanced diet of pasties and tea kept us going through the worst.  Dive leader training was now well under way and good progress was made by all.  Kit failures were pretty minimal by this point, other than the usual torn drysuit seals (lots of late night, post-beer fixing sessions explains the glue spills on suits…) and inflator hoses.  PK grit was getting into everything and we were emptying regs of grit almost every dive so that they didn’t freeflow.  This culminated in it leaking a bit underwater and me taking the extremely smart decision to empty it out underwater.  I mean what could go wrong?  Other than the internal bits starting to float away…  We had a couple of near misses with weightbelts, including one where I had to sit on my buddy underwater to get his back on (glad there wasn’t a camera around then!) at the bottom of the Volnay.  We were also doing extremely well in terms of recovering lost kit – Ian’s fin that he dropped on the Volnay was miraculously waiting for him the next day on his lining off dive and we recovered two or three weightbelts that were lost getting in to the boat.  Masks that were lost in the surf came back to shore, as did fins and random clips, Stephen’s keys and glasses were found under a stone on the beach when he lost them (the search made slightly more amusing by him having to wear his prescription mask to look for them) and Ali finally found her dive computer a week later.  After denying vehemently that it could be in the pocket of the drysuit she borrowed, can anyone guess where it was?

More and more diving and lots of good weather followed.  About mid-week, we had to recover the boat from Falmouth as PK became too choppy to safely land the boat (much fun was had trying to stand in breakers to swim out kit and pretty much everyone got wiped out at some point!).  This did provide an excellent opportunity for some drysuit surfing, though, which succeeded in exhausting us all!  The appearance of sumo suits for all those without cuff dumps was now pretty regular on the boat and I was doing my best to make sure that everyone got as much practice of climbing into the boat as possible between dives.  We then went over to Falmouth for fish and chips one evening, followed by a couple of beers.  Ali’s dad had his boat there so some of us had a quick tour and arranged for him to come over the PK the next day for a cheeky dive.  On the way back, it was necessary to stop at Asda to stock up on junk food and other supplies, ready for the fancy dress party the next night, after which we discovered that it was possible to eat ice cream with a credit card in the landrover (I think the tub may still be in there…).

Next day and back to the Mohegan.  We were getting good at getting divers onto this now and the next challenge was to get people through their DL skills and rescues.  Giles was doing his rescue scenario and I was meant to ‘go missing’ on my 6m stop while Tom continued to the surface.  Ali was in my drysuit as none of the many suits she’d tried on fit her and the suit I’d borrowed was leaking massively.  It was so cold that I had to swim in circles around the shot line singing at full volume to distract myself (not sure that the singing helped, but it kept me amused…).  Getting back to the surface, we had an excellent recovery into the boat followed by what felt like hours of CPR (I never want to get that close to Paul again.  He could at least brush his teeth!) – all in all a good attempt.  Ali’s dad was apparently disappointed that it wasn’t a real incident and just a drill and Paul managed to lose his reel AND a buoy getting into the boat!  Giles managed to drop my weight belt (I know you’re supposed to in real life, but this was just a drill…) and so that meant we had to go back there the next day to recover it (oh, the hardship!).  That night, and fancy dress.  The theme this year was children’s TV and had some of the best costumes ever (even though many needed explaining).  We discovered that crab claws are tougher than tin cans (that was a bit messy – kidney bean juice everywhere!) and that Ghostbusters can dance!  Also that a grown man can fit into a child’s Mr Men costume…

Another early start the next day and more diving (of course!).  Steve A had torn his suit and so wasn’t diving and when we got to PK, Mike reckoned it’d be too rough to recover.  We decided to head to Falmouth and to expedite things, launched the boat and motored over while the kit van and Landrover went by road.  Our swift arrival gave us plenty of time to fill up on pasties but somehow, I ended up in the water with my sunglasses sinking fast…  Had I had a mask, I would have got them then but had to wait for the kit van to arrive to rescue them.  Then we had to move off the slip as they were lowering boats in, delaying us further…  After our first dive (in my nice leaky suit, thanks Ali), I grabbed a weight belt and tried to duck dive to retrieve them.  Unfortunately, the shift in tide meant they’d gone from being in four feet of water to about three metres, and it just wasn’t happening, meaning Tom and I had to do a retrieval dive in full kit off the pier with Tom finding them almost instantly!  I landed on the biggest pipe fish I’d ever seen.  Coming back from a dive, we happened upon a pod of dolphins so the entire boat kitted up and jumped in to swim with them, those with snorkels mocking those of us who had given them stick for them all week!  Great fun, though also a bit sobering when you see just how big and fast they are!!  Last dive of the trip was on Black Rock where we set a challenge of who could bring back the biggest crab.  Paul, Ali, Mary and I dived as a pair of pairs and there was much amusement with underwater crab fights.  Paul somehow managed to temporarily run out of air and Ali lost her buddy for quite a while as he was hovering directly over her…  Eventually we got back on the boat and realised, sadly, that it was over…  A swift pint in the pub and back to the campsite for a final night of drinking.  Those tasked with buying beer were a bit enthusiastic so to get through the remainder, a game of centurion was proposed!  The sound of that alarm going off every minute still strikes fear into my heart, but with only two people failing to complete (and only Paul actually being sick), we’d made a good dent on our supplies…  Special mention to el presidente for his complications to the game for the last 20 shots (and for the penalty rum shots!).  A late night walk down to the beach to look at the stars was next on the cards and then, the next morning, the unpleasant task of tidying and packing…  then the drive home!

This report could never capture even a bit of how amazing the trip was, and thanks to everyone who came.  Especially to all the instructors, boat handlers, organisers and marshals, without which this wouldn’t be possible.  We’ve set the bar high for the rest of the season and next year, but I think we’re up to it!  Now just the bills to look forward to…

Other incidents that I can’t place temporally…

  • Muhan stamping on my groin as I helped her into the boat and apologising by kicking me in the face with her fins next time I helped her in (you would think I’d learn).
  • Mary kicking me in the face with her fins when I helped her to get into the boat. 
Muhan seeing an octopus (apparently…) 
’Air hockey’ with straws… 
Failing to see any fish at all on a dive, only to get back to the shot and being surrounded by a huge shoal of (possibly) mackerel!
  • Lots of people dropping their weightbelts getting into the boat (wait until the person on board has hold!
  • 
People randomly mysteriously falling overboard repeatedly
  • 
Managing to get so much water in the boat that the mars bars started floating out over the transom
  • 
Mary setting fire to my most favourite jumper ever
  • Ali having graffiti left on her face while she ‘slept’ by a mysterious figure with orange nails
  • 
Clare ‘forgetting’ to wake up one morning
  • 
Pete failing to wake up one morning and being locked in the caravan (and no-one noticing) then Muhan claiming the caravan owner had rung to tell us he was trapped and needed rescuing)
  • The Ghostbusters dance
  • 
The hot cross bun competition
  • My dry gloves popping off at every opportunity (until I found how to fix them!)
  • 
The seal in the bay that turned out to be a buoy
  • 
The huge lobster in the back of the reef that no-one else saw and couldn’t be caught (Muhan again)
  • 
Paul attempting the tangerine challenge without peeling it first (and having to abandon the attempt)
  • 
Losing an aerial off the boat and breaking the case of our new O2 kit
  • Getting a late fine nearly every day for being last off the beach
  • 
Having a barbeque but eating so many snacks beforehand that no-one was really hungry then…
  • Someone apparently reversing the kit van into a car
  • Someone driving the landrover into a bank, bending the footsteps on one side and then having to kick them back into place
  • People forgetting to take weight belts on the boat (Ali again?)
  • Sarah refusing to get up and having to be dragged to the beach
  • Paul with his various make-up attempts (see facebook)
  • 
Springboard diving off the bows of the boat in Falmouth harbour (and people going completely head over heels as they slipped off the nose!)
  • Piotr’s military style marshalling (we didn’t dare disobey!)
  • Singing Beach Boys all the time (even underwater!)
  • Ali converting my lovely dry drysuit into a sieve in only one day (that had lasted me four years without any problems at all!)
  • Failing to get any low-viz dives in at all over the trip (surely a record!)
  • 
People insisting on swimming into the current on drift dives
  • 
The ‘mammoth’ (tiddly) crabs brought back to the boat
  • 
Tom’s huge haul of clams, most of which had already been eaten by something else
  • Andy trying to juggle stones underwater (with relative success)
  • 
Margreit going into the sea with her drysuit zip undone
  • Me managing to tie myself in fishing line and hooks after ‘rescuing’ a nice lead fishing weight (not sure where the line came from)
  • The five pastie day (can anyone beat that?)
  • Ian’s weight belt slipping off on the Volnay on TWO dives
  • 
Piotr’s DSMB that refused to stay connected to his line
  • 
Getting almost every vehicle stuck in the mud at the campsite
  • 
’Someone’ throwing sand on Steve A on the beach because he wasn’t moving and they thought he might be dead (alcohol may have played a role there)
  • Every other boat on the beach doing something stupid at some point (snapped painters, crashing into the trailer, dropping it off the trailer onto the road)
  • Mouldy cheese on toast
  • 
Losing at least one set of caravan keys most days (and them invariably turning up in Paul’s pocket)
  • 
Craig putting his hood on back to front
  • 
Me putting my tank on back to front and taking probably a minute to work out why the hoses weren’t in the right place
  • Every set of dive tables in the boat exploding into a mass of loose pages floating in the bottom
  • 
Gaffer-taping people into suits to fix torn seals
  • Ali wearing everyone’s clothes (and getting them ALL soaked)
  • My undersuit developing a personality (and aroma) of its own

Mary’s flatfish comment

– 
Mary: So what happens when divers go really deep in the sea? Surely the pressure crushes them.

– Luke: People are made of mostly water and that doesn’t compress so divers are fine

– Mary: But flat fish live on the bottom and they get compressed.

<<< Laughter >>>


Giles’ shotting attempt

Paul made a shot for the Mohegan and passed it to Giles to throw over the side. Giles throws it in and the shot is clearly hanging off the buoy. Giles claims Paul made the shot too short which Paul vigorously denies, blaming him for improper throwing technique. We circle round pick it up and Paul throws it back in and this time it’s the perfect length. Case closed.

Paul failing miserably to shot the Mohegan

We agree in the pub to shot the Mohegan for imperial on the 2nd or 3rd day and I confidently claim I can find it no problem. The next day I motor out to the site with no GPS and nothing looks quite right as one of my transits involves lining up a clump of tress and the trees are gone. No problem I know roughly where the wreck is and drop the shot anyway. No sign of the wreck. The next day we’re out at the Mohegan again and I realise I was lining up on the wrong rock and was a good 500m away.

Tom being a bit cheeky on his DL lifts

Tom is doing his Dive Leader lifts with Mary as a body. At 6m I hold up a slate telling him I’m unconscious and he proceeds to lift me to the surface. On the surface he tows me to the boat and Steve the BH asks why he’s not giving rescue breaths. Tom replies “I saw him breathing when I lifted him”. Paul obviously needs to be much better at holding his breath.

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