Sidemount Diving

My dive count is currently at forty-six, I’m certainly still a beginner when it comes to diving and I feel the need to constantly remind myself of that. The feeling when on a dive is like nothing else I’ve experienced; for the duration of a dive you’re immersed in something immensely dangerous, with equipment that requires a great deal of skill to operate safely. What’s strange, is that the sensation on a dive is completely unique- it pulls friends and dive buddies together with a common sense of care, concern and thought. There’s a deep level of camaraderie that runs, even with complete strangers throughout everyone involved. This has taught me a lot about myself, about the way I need to operate, remaining calm, watching out for others and pulling a group together to make sure we complete the goal in hand. Diving is an addiction, but one I don’t intend to give up!

Sidemount cylinders

One type of diving in particular has always interested me: sidemount. This style of diving is where instead of having the scuba unit on your back, you place it (or them) on your side. The unit is usually a little different, instead of the typical single cylinder, two cylinders are placed with one to the left and one to the right of the diver. This brings multiple different issues, such as managing multiple cylinders, multiple regulators and controlling differentiating buoyancy. However, sidemount does have some great benefits: it’s much more comfortable(!)- no more heavy cylinder strapped as you waddle around, it gives a much more natural profile in the water making diving and swimming much easier and you have increased redundancy with multiple cylinders.

Buckland Lake

My first attempt at sidemount was in a swimming pool (a not very deep, pool!). It was immediately obvious how much more comfortable the dive was – I couldn’t wait to try more and loved the experience. Fast forward and I get the opportunity at Buckland lake to complete my certification. The dives were very different in an open water environment, buoyancy is a very different experience with a sidemount harness on. When ascending I found myself needing to almost duck dive and dump from the rear valve, fine, but a little different. The comfort was great and the reassurance of having a second cylinder was fantastic. Of course, it looks very cool too – which has to count for something.

Sidemount Shore

I passed my certification that weekend and am looking forward to trying it out again soon. Undecided if it’s the way forward for my diving future, there’s a lot to think about and to buy too - but it’s certainly appealing. Perhaps I’ll wait a while and think about if it’s the correct path, that said, very glad I gave it a try and would recommend to any beginner divers to do the same and see if it’s for them. Of course, the experience wouldn’t have been possible without Tony and Janine Mansford at Southern Scuba who have been nothing but fantastic in allowing me the chance!

Dry Suit Diver

I've got a lot of overtime coming up over the next few weeks and months, so I thought I would get some more diving booked in to have something to look forward to. Turns out I couldn't do the weekend I was hoping for, but could do this weekend instead. Well, why not. Down to the lake for a second weekend. As you'll know I did my Open Water in a wet suit, which was rather chilly. Almost all UK divers use a dry suit to stay warm, it's simply too cold in the water - I was keen to give this a go as i did get cold. I was quite optimistic about just how much warmer a dry suit would be, turns out, quite a lot, it was actually rather comfortable!

I did three dives for my Dry Suit. I performed a confined water dive, where I practiced my skills, which were all fairly similar to that in a wet suit with the exception of the fit pivot and hover using the wet suit as buoyancy (instead of the BCD). It's a strange thing to experience, and can most easily be explained as essentially wearing a big bag containing some air. This makes things interesting when you move in a certain direction, if you end up with your feet above your head then that will continue to be the 'floaty' part! Unlike a BCD where the bladders are basically in the same place. It's odd, but I eventually got used to it.

I then did two open water dives, where i was able to go a bit deeper and practice neutral buoyancy. It was really good to get back out again, I really enjoyed being at the bottom and not being so cold!

One strange experience when first using a dry suit is being at the bottom with basically no air in the suit, ascending and all of a sudden having lots of air (which promptly took me by surprise!). I didn't really think about it on my first dive, but felt a bit silly afterwards!

Really enjoyed training for this and now really, really want to got to Silfra in Iceland to do some cold water diving. Seriously, Google Silfra - the water is amazingly clear.

Update, got my card!


Open Water Diver

I'm a certified diver! This weekend I  went along to Southern Scuba's Buckland Lake in Cliffe and completed all of my Open Water dives. It was a fairly nice day but the water was rather cold! buckland_lake_1

Over my four dives I completed all of my skills, many of which I had already practiced in the pool. These included removing and replacing my SCUBA unit at the surface, removing and replacing my weight belt at the surface, performing a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA) and carrying out a 5m safety stop.

buckland_lake_2My cumulative  dive time so far is 74 minutes and the deepest point of my dive was 9 meters.

UPDATE: My validation card came!