By Matt Walters, Dive Leader and Assistant Instructor.
Diving Saturday 19th May 2018
There are times when a weekend leaves you absolutely buzzing, this was one of them.
Myself, Roger, Billy, Owen, Ben and Simon went out Saturday on the RIB and our 3 new OD’s got their first taste of UK sea diving….and what an experience for them, 5-6m viz on the Countess meant they could see almost the whole wreck and some of the features on it including nudibranchs such as Yellow Edged Polycera and a tiny Crystal Sea Slug. After a lap of the wreck, Roger and Billy posed for some photos to capture their experience at the bow before we returned to surface up the shot line and went to Castletown for lunch.
After an enjoyable lunch at the Aqua Hotel and discussing the excellent conditions with other diving parties, it was decided to visit the Dredger, a site that I had not dived before. The viz was (brace yourselves) 10m+! The excitement did end there either, not only did their first venture out to sea give them flat calm and sunny weather and tropical viz, they were also treated to an up close and personal experience with a pair of squid! According to ‘Great British Marine Animals’ by Paul Naylor, squid are rarely seen by divers, so the diving gods more than treated us. (The picture is darkened to show detail).
Between the sections of wreckage Roger and Billy were treated to spider crabs, a selection of anemones including snakelocks and daisy, and some dogwhelk. The viz was probably the best I have ever seen in the UK and it was a fantastic dive. I even managed to see something I had not seen before, a masked crab, which are usually buried out of view. Its long antennae are a distinctive feature and it dug down and raised pincers in a defensive posture when the three of us loomed over it.
The excellent weather was much appreciated as It was my first time taking divers in to the sea as a Dive Leader, as was It Ben’s first time being dive manager and Simon’s first time coxing the boat since we gained our powerboat level 2 qualifications back in November.
A great thing about this club is its team ethos and that was more than evident when disaster seemed to loom…No tell-tale on the starboard engine meant the risk of overheating and engine damage so we had to return from the Dredger on one engine. While the others were refuelling I donned my fins and jumped in the water to check the inlets for any signs of blockages, and after a glance up to into the outlet pipe I could see something inside which was confirmed by Billy also having a look.
A textbook navigation of the channel back to Ferrybridge by Simon and Ben saw us return safely and we managed to resolve to issue, a conveniently placed bit of wire was shoved up the outlet hole resulting in sludge coming out so pipes were reattached, engine cover put back on and the prop lowered into the water bucket…problem solved. On a side note, Simons piloting skills meant our new shiny prop is still exactly that, without a scratch on it.
So in to Billy Winters for a pint we went to reflect on a perfect days diving. The sun was out, the seas were calm, the viz was extraordinary and we saw some amazing wildlife – could the weekend get any better? Actually, it did! The next morning, I, along with 5,000 other residents of Thatcham and Newbury were piling onto buses and trains to Wembley to cheer on the towns football team in the FA Vase final. Thatcham Town won 1-0 against Stockton Town to end an incredible season winning the League, and the FA Vase for the first time their history. I am still smiling now, and no doubt will be boring the rest of the club members in the Fox and Hounds with tales of viz, squid and a cup final win for many years to come.