March 2017 - The Missing Blogs

March was a much quieter month than the previous two, but the start of 2017’s scuba season. One of my annual goals was to gradually purchase all of my equipment for a Liveaboard diving trip to Egypt in September; I had before now been reluctant to buy too much to avoid getting things too quickly and then wishing I had purchased the more expensive or better equivalent the first-time around. The first thing this year was my diving computer, a very crucial piece of safety equipment this allows me to see my depth, dive time, gas mix and uses an algorithm to calculate how long and how deep I need to perform a safety stop. The watch I bought was the Sunnto Zoop Novo, only an entry-level computer (some cost more than a thousand pounds!) but perfectly adequate for the diving that I will be doing and can serve as a backup if I buy another in the future.

My Zoop Novo Diving Computer

My Zoop Novo Diving Computer

With my shiny new computer, it was time for the first dive of the year! I took a day trip with Southern Scuba to Vobster Quay in Somerset. Vobster is a disused stone quarry, now filled with freshwater and serves as an outdoor activity park for scuba divers, free divers and swimmers. It’s one of my favourite in-land diving spots, for £30 or so, you can have a good day out diving with almost no hassle getting in and out of the water, great for training and practice. Vobster has some very cool underwater attractions too, with planes, boats and even a set of 3-meter high fibreglass clowns!

Vobster Quay, Diving Centre

Vobster Quay, Diving Centre

Another one of 2017’s goals was to achieve my Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner certifications, work was very supportive of this and funded the course in London for a week. The course was run by QA and has to be one of the best training courses I had been on; the trainer knew the course back to front, was incredibly knowledgeable and was very easy to follow. Prince2 is a project management framework and while I’m no project manager having an understanding of the practices has already proven very valuable to progressing projects and working closely with project managers who follow the framework well. I would certainly recommend the course for anyone involved in projects within a technology team.

Towards the end of the month, we took a trip back to Cornwall (a somewhat popular destination this year!). Spending time with family, we visited the Annual Beer and Mussel Festival hosted at Rick Stein’s Cornish Arms pub. The festival was a lot of fun, we had some interesting live music and plenty of never-before-tasted beers! One beer I particularly liked (according to untapped) was White Cross IPA from Black Flag Brewery, who also produce Fang, which is an incredible beer..

Cornwall Beer and Mussel Festival

Cornwall Beer and Mussel Festival

Before heading home, we had some food in Mevagissey, only a short drive from home Mevagissey is picturesque working fishing port, it has some great pubs and restaurants too, but gets rather busy in the summer months. It also happens to be the place where last year I crossed Number 13 - Catch a fish off of The Bucket List (which I don’t seem to have blogged about), the catching a fish affair was all much simpler than I had anticipated. Just off of the harbour wall, there were swarms of Mackerel, who all seemed to want to jump on the hook, one chap was literally filling a bin bag full of the fish he was catching. We took the Mackerel home and cooked it on the BBQ – it was pretty good!

Mevagissey Harbour, Cornwall

Mevagissey Harbour, Cornwall

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!

Scuba Diving - Vobster Quay

Janine and Tony from Southern Scuba offered me the opportunity to come along to Vobster Quay last weekend. Vobster is a fresh water inland limestone quarry in Somerset, about a three hour drive from home. A perfect chance to get into the water and start diving after the Christmas.

vobster

This was my first time I had been to Vobster and I was very impressed with their setup, a good flat area for kitting up and getting ready, with most spots under cover. They had a good sized shop, hot food/drinks and an attended fill station. The kitting up area is right next to the car park too, so no need to walk a long way or carry equipment very far. One of the coolest features is their wristband 'tab' system, which allows you to buy what you need, gas, food, drink, accessories and then simply pay when you're finished.

Vobster was the first chance I have had to try my new regulators and BCD out which I bought just before Christmas, they have been sitting patiently in the cupboard at home. The Regulators I had serviced by Kent Diving a few weeks back and was keen to make sure they worked as they should. Both BCD and regulators were fantastic, very happy with them and despite being second hand look and appear brand new. It really makes a huge difference using equipment that is mine to use and tweak to my preference.

Me with my new regulators and BCD

Me with my new regulators and BCD

Janine & Patrick at the car

Janine & Patrick at the car

We did two dives over the Sunday and saw some interesting underwater attractions, a very large boat, tunnel, toilet(!), commercial jet plane and a car. The dives wern't too deep, most of the time we were about 12 meters down. I managed to get quite cold in a leaky dry suit, but enjoyed all of the dives and can't wait to come back and do some more exploring.

This year is going to be a busy year for diving, aiming to get my PADI Sidemount, Rescue and Nitrox certifications in order to be ready for a liveaboard trip to Egypt in September. Once I have those certifications completed I should be in a good place to either move to Master Scuba Diver or progress into Divemaster.