Two of three members of the Scooter Mafia turned up last night for the night dive, along with about twenty other divers on the whole site!
We arrived on site at about half past 5 for a 6 o’clock kick-off.
After a dive briefing covering the plan, some safety aspects regarding diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs) such as separation hazard and passive/active torch comms, basic operating procedures, etc and how to be a rebreather buddy (sit through the CHAOS pre-breathe, do a bubble check at the surface, look out for the red flashing light of doom, modified gas sharing drill, etc), we enjoyed two 45 minute dives.
Having stashed the scooters on the line provided for that purpose at the Bus Stop, we completed our buddy checks. We dropped in, did a bubble check, retrieved the scooters, hit six metres, sorted ourselves out and then meandered gently down the roadway under power to thirty metres to check on how things are down there (brown hazy gunk layer from twenty-four metres down to twenty-eight metres, super dark and brown below).
Back up to the twenty metre shelf, past the block house, Land Rover and Wessex, then carried on around, almost to the pirates walking the plank, before our slotted twenty minutes outbound leg expired. We ascended to six metres and made our return the way we came, spending a little time buzzing around the pub and the Nautilus at max throttle, purely for scientific reasons, you understand, before leaving via the sunken steps at around 45 minutes.
After a one hour surface interval, we were back in a little after 8 pm. (Nitrox 32 means this is still well within the No Deco Limit for our planned second dive.)
This time, we were headed out to the Stanegarth by the direct route to try and get some footage on Marc Coxon’s DPV-mounted GoPro.
We did our bubble check, retrieved our trusty steeds and after some checks, descended the cliff at the back of the cockpit with scooters at the “ready” position, made bottom, checked a couple of things and quickly picked up the anchor chain.
Arriving at the Stanegarth, we followed the plan, doing a first lap anticlockwise in convoy before I split off and made a second lap the other way, the better for Marc to get some awesome video! We met up at the anchor chain, signalled the return along the chain and swooped down and along the chain in the cliff’s direction.
Well, one of us swooped!
The other one experienced a sudden loss of fabulousness and came to a halt shortly after the point where the chain met the bottom.
Seeing his, I first reduced my speed as I could still see his lights, and I hoped he would catch up, but he was still stationary. I stopped on the line, hovering like a pro about two metres above the bottom, but when I didn’t see him start moving, I returned to help.
I found a buddy looking very puzzled and a scooter that made all the proper noises but a prop that would not turn! A closer investigation revealed that the prop had come loose on the shaft but was still loosely attached. After briefly exchanging signals, Marc clipped his scooter off like a stage, and we set off swimming towards the cliff. I did offer a tow, but with plenty of gas and only a short swim, he declined.
I said, “We set off swimming.”… Mainly, Marc swam, and I did the honourable thing and selected the lowest possible speed, which perfectly matches the speed of a regular diver. Fortunately, after just a short way, I thought to check that Marc’s prop was still on the shaft, and it was a good job I did check!
After checking to make sure we had sufficient gas and no-deco time remaining, we went back and retrieved the prop (saving Marc a hefty £655 bill!) before returning to the cliff, ascending to 6m and out at the sunken steps to finish the dive at a little over 40 minutes.
Avid readers will be delighted to hear that the prop was later re-attached and the nut re-tightened, and he can remain a member of the Scooter Mafia!
Night diving is, frankly, flippin’ awesome. You get excellent visibility; it’s just about a million times more fun than daylight diving for reasons that I just can’t quite put into words. It’s like the same rush you get when you first explore the underwater world, but all over again because it feels like you’re not expected there, yet at the same time, the darkness is comforting in a weird way.
We saw loads and loads of life, far more than you would in daylight. We saw several large pikes, including one that was actively hunting and another that settled above my head for a while (I did wonder if Marc was having a fit at that point because I had no idea why he was gesturing at me like that!).
There were what I can only describe as gazillions of crayfish, ranging from the usual big boys down to some genuinely tiny ones. If anyone has read the Usborne kids’ books, it was like hunting for the little yellow duck – there’s one in every scene if you know where to look!
There were loads of baby perch, and even the algae in the water was transformed into magic glowing green glitter particles!
Visibility was good to excellent. I’d estimate five to then metres minimum, more in many places, and more than three metres even in the low vis places. The water temp was a solid 14 degrees, so it was still enjoyable.
I enjoyed the return on the first dive, along the cliff on the far side at six metres. It’s a bit of the Cove that almost nobody goes to. There are a couple of little bays at 4-6 metres, about the size of the one where the Gresham wreck is past the pub and blockhouse, joined together by what I like to think of as a goat track. There is lots and lots of aquatic life there, even in the daytime, with sunken trees and all sorts of good stuff to see. If you ever fancy a longer swim, it’s a great place to go, but remember to use the rule of thirds to plan your dive. The real one, not the BSAC one:
Available Gas minus Minimum Gas, divided by three. 1/3 to get there, 1/3 to get back, 1/3 for emergencies.
For 220 bar, fill in a single 12, less your 40 bar minimum gas from six metres, leaving you 180 bar usable, so each third is 60 bar. Swim out until you hit 160 bar (40+60+60=160), then turn around and swim back. This is called your Turn Pressure.
You can also plan based on half your planned total dive time, so turn around at twenty minutes on a forty minute dive (or at your Turn Pressure if you hit that first!)
The next available night dive will be on Wednesday, 6 December, and I’m going. I’m very happy to run it as a club dive again if people would like, and this time, you have lots of notice to sort your kit out and get your permission chits signed!
I have a spare primary torch and a backup light that I am happy to loan to anyone coming night diving. Would that be a barrier?