Dates: Halloween 2011,
As a newcomer to the club and to UK seas I arrived at the hut excited and fashionably early. As people slowly arrived I was glad to see that we had a nice mix of experienced UK divers and newcomers; all of which seemed to share, at least to some extent, my weirdly enthusiastic attitude towards diving in cold water. Tom then arrived in the dive mobile and James in his van which he let us use for all our kit. Between them they kindly drove the 9 of us for 4 hours down to Plymouth picking up Ali at Plymouth station on the way with some remarkable timing. Rachel took the back seat in the seven seated dive mobile where she promptly “worked” deeply for the most of the journey.
When we arrived at the camp site in Bovisand we were all very pleasantly surprised at how nice the caravans were. We had two of them, each adorned with nice sofas, a fireplace and a well equipped kitchen to cook the contents of our goodie bags. In each caravan there was one coveted double bed. In ours we played a game of 5’s for it, which Harry promptly won. Next Simon aka ‘Bacon-man’ chose his apprentice for the trip, which was Sophie, who had at the time grown strangely attached to some bread. After some drinks and chatting we all headed off to bed to rise for what promised to be a good day of diving.
In the morning we woke early to the smell of bacon and eggs – aromatherapy that actually works – along with the sound of heavy South Westerly winds beating our beloved caravan. This didn’t bode well for diving in Plymouth so we got our things together and headed off to Torquay to the well sheltered site at Babbacombe. There we met Ali’s dad Rob and prepared for our first dive of the trip. We arrived at high tide which made the entry nice and easy for the first dive which was handy as us novice dry suit users figured out our weightings and got used to the suits. I had the pleasure of diving with Rob first and then promptly volunteered as soon as that dive finished to go in for a second with Ali. The second was at lower tide and resulted in an amusing shuffle across rocks and kelp. Babbacombe proved to be a nice little introductory site, despite the slight lack in visibility, where some were lucky enough to see 3 lobsters on one dive. There were Dogfish and Various Crabs seen, and even a diving Cormorant seen amongst other things. We picked up two moderately sized Edible Crabs for later, mine of which was clearly bigger than Ali’s, despite her objections.
In the afternoon we headed round the bay a little to Paignton in search of a shallow wreck we had heard about. The walk down to the site put a few people off but most of us braved the steps to set off in search of this wreck. I was with Harry, James with Sophie and Tom with Rachel and Simon. We surface swam out for a little while then dropped down in shallow water and it was clear the bad weather had taken its toll. It was like diving in strong chicken stock, but determined divers that we all are we persevered for a good half hour in which Harry and I saw a few starfish at least an inch in length and bumped into some kelp. Happily we compass navigated ourselves back to the entry point and surfaced meeting Sophie and James who had seemingly had the same idea. We all retreated back to the van as a beautiful British drizzle began with Sophie bringing a fair amount of kelp with her as a souvenir. Diving over we headed to the caravan.
As we arrived home we were welcomed by the Ali and Rob accompanied by the smell of cooking. A starter of our hand caught crabs, fresh as can be, followed by sausage, mash and onion gravy. As conversation started to rise from the silence that accompanies good, hearty food I decided to make a big G&T in a Halloween bucket to be accompanied with seasonal Haribo. Unfortunately it turned out the Gin was Rachel’s… and she hated tonic… and I had made it befitting of a hardened alcoholic. Oops. In good spirit we all spent some time trying various concoctions to try and hide the tonic taste, one of which Simon took a keen liking to. Unfortunately the taste of quinine seems to be more resilient than Ali’s nemesis lobster and we gave up. Soon after, as the drinks were flowing, the Monster Munch challenge which Tom had spoken so highly of began. Many of us competed, some doing very well, some laughing too hard to chew. Then came Tom. He had talked big… and did not disappoint. To try and describe it would be a folly. Man and Monster Munch in perfect harmony. It was a sight to behold. Day one complete.
Day two started similarly to day one except for the skeleton eating breakfast with us and the mysterious absence of Ali. We all gathered our Halloween costumes into the van and James along with Aga and myself took the scenic route to a dive centre in Plymouth for some good quality air fills. Today was the day to take the RIB out of Mount Batten harbour and into the waves to hunt out a diveable site with a bit more depth. The journey out was fantastic as the waves reached 3m or greater outside the harbour wall and Tom handled the boat beautifully through. There were smiles and costumes all around. There was a Joker hat, James with a SAW mask, Harry shouldering a parrot and Sophie as an 8 year old boy pumpkin… amongst others. We eventually reached the site and dived into 12 -15m of water. Unfortunately even here the visibility was like soup. We all had a look around with the promise of finding the mountains of scallops that were somewhere there. I had my carved pumpkin with me and decided; since I didn’t have a torch and therefore no chance of seeing anything much other than Simon and Aga; to carve a hole in its back and shine Simon’s torch through it. In the murky water the effect was so much better than I had hoped for and Simon proceeded to flood his mask a couple of times. Soon after Mr Pumpkin made an uncontrolled buoyant ascent and accidentally became a seasonal DSMB. He was recovered by the boat and then sat on by me on the way back as I carelessly messed with my computer and slid off the RIB’s cushion straight onto him, much to everyone’s amusement. Soon after he was given a sea burial and saluted off by skipper Tom. RIP Mr Pumpkin.
With the diving over we headed back to Oxford stopping off for fish and chips just 5 minutes in, which was an inspired idea. At the hut the remaining beer and food was split up. I got a 20p pizza that had been left out a long time and smelled like vinegar after I cooked it. I ate it anyway. Sitting here writing this I can’t help but think that it was the only bad thing to come out of this Halloween trip.
Thanks to Tom, James, Ali, Simon, Rachel, Sophie, Harry, Aga and Rob.