South Coast launching Sites We Often Use
Boatyard at Ferrybridge Marina, Weymouth DT4 9JZ. Launching only
The RIB is often stationed here for the diving season. The marina is just South of the Ferrybridge bridge at the north end of the causeway. There is a shared car park with watersports/café which gets very busy in the summer. Buy your day ticket from the boatyard as this is much cheaper than feeding the machine. There are no toilet facilities at the boatyard but there are public toilets 400m South on the causeway which are best used before you go to the boatyard.
You can take your car into the boatyard to drop off your dive kit by the RIB but it must be parked outside of the gates during the day. Click here for a link to the Ferrybridge Marina website
Swanage Pier – Swanage, Peveril Point Road, BH19 2BB. Launching and shore dives
Swanage Pier is often used for a first open water dive in the sea as there is masses of marine life living on and around the pier supports. Max depth 6 metres.
Facilities include public toilets about 150 metres along the road from the pier, toilets on the pier (if you pay for pier entrance) and air and Nitrox fills (often very slow) at Divers Down www.diversdownswanage.co.uk, tel: 01929 423565). There are cafés and food vans in the vicinity.
Kimmeridge Bay BH20 5PF. Launching and shore dives
This sheltered bay can be used either to launch the boat or as a shore dive. There is a series of shallow reefs running out from the bay with lots of life. Important: you must use a SMB at Kimmeridge due to the amount of boat traffic.
Once you are close to Kimmeridge follow the road up a steep hill and onto the ranges, turn left down the hill, round the bend at Steeple Leaze Farm, past the turning to Steeple church and take the next right to Kimmeridge and the sea. Just keep following the road through the village, past the toll booth (opens about 8.30am) until you come to the car park signpost – ignore this and take the second track on the right. Park on the grass about 100m from the toilet block. There are toilets at the car park (and external tap with screw-thread nozzle), but no other facilities apart from an occasional ice cream van! The slip is about 100m beyond the toilet block. The Lulworth Ranges are open to the public most weekends. For information about the range opening times, see www.access.mod.uk and search for Lulworth Ranges, tel: 01929 404819.
West Bay DT6 4ER. Launching only
There is a good new slipway at West Bay which enables easy access for RIBs to dive the wrecks in Lyme Bay. The slip is difficult to use when there is a large swell from the South.
At West Bay after 100m the road bears sharp right, leading to the old harbour. The road continues around the right hand side of the harbour, which is the route to the new slipway. Check where to meet with the Dive Manager. The long-term car park on the left as you enter West Bay is much cheaper than those by the harbour and has good toilet facilities.
Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy DT5 1SA. Launching only
All boats and cars need to register at Reception as a group. Launch and parking fees are competitive; facilities (toilets, showers, changing, bar, café, wash-down hoses, etc, all close to the car park) are good. Three slip ways, one usable at all states of tide, and lots of pontoons for mooring. No gas. O-Three nearby. Avoid Regatta weekends (check website www.wpnsa.org.uk, tel: 01305 866000).
Portland (Castletown Slip) DT5 1BD. Launching only
This slip can only be used by a good 4×4 vehicle for launching and recovery at low tide.
After crossing the causeway onto the Isle of Portland, follow the road as it bears left up the hill and then bear left after 200m where the main road does a hairpin to the right. Once the road has straightened out at the bottom of the hill, look for the Aqua Sport Hotel on the left. There is a car park just after the hotel and then the public slip. There are toilets at the Aqua Sport Hotel car park and in the hotel; nitrox and air at Breakwater Dive Centre (www.divedorset.com, tel: 01305 860670 or 860269) beside the hotel; food and drink at the hotel; one dive shop within 50m. The Aqua Sport does not allow you into the cafe if you are wearing a dry suit.
East Wittering (Bracklesham Slip) PO20 8JS. Launching only
The car park and slipway are at the end of the road on the left hand side. There are toilets and a small café next to the car park; shops in the village; dive shop, with air and nitrox, at Wittering Divers, 12 Oakfield Road, East Wittering, www.witteringdivers.co.uk tel: 01243 672031
Itchenor PO20 7AY. Launching only
Itchenor is only used if East Wittering is not available due to weather conditions. There are few facilities at Itchenor and it is a 45 minute journey from the slip to the open sea (slightly less at high tide). There is a sandbar at the harbour entrance, with a channel on the extreme west side (examine the chart carefully before your first visit). A34, M3, M27 (east), A27 to Chichester. Turn right at the second roundabout and follow the A286. After about 3.5 miles, bear right onto the B2179 (at a roundabout by a Texaco petrol station) and then follow the signs for Itchenor. In Itchenor we meet in a car park on the left, about 200m before the road ends at the slip.
Calshot Jack Maynard Road, SO45 1BR. Launching only
Follow the B3053 past Fawley until you reach the sea (at Hillhead) and then turn left, this leads into the Calshot Activities Centre (www.calshot.com). Pay for parking in the skislope/rock climbing building, if not on entry. Toilets, showers and food (bar snacks) are available in the ski-slope/rock climbing building. No gas. Fresh water wash for boat (with hose) at slip.
Littlehampton, Ferry Road, Littlehampton, BN17 5DS. Launching only
At Arundel the A27 goes to single lane then take next roundabout turn RIGHT to FORD. Follow this over the railway line past Prison and then LEFT at next roundabout (A259). Follow this road: Ferry Road is first turn on your left (you go back on yourself), this is the turning for the Marina (BN17 5DS) where there is parking at no cost but launching is expensive. Boats are launched at the Marina Slip by the marina tractors. Fuel in the marina is also expensive, so arrive with full boat tanks.
Weymouth and Lyme Bay Dive Sites
Scimitar Diving have produced an excellent interactive map on their website that is a great tool for planning dives in and around the Portland area. Image copyright Scimitar Diving.
There are a range of facilities (parking, food, air, nitrox, toilets) available at all of these sites.
Cromhall is great for first open water dives, rescue training and testing out new kit as it is less busy than the other sites, has a wide gently sloping beach area and a max depth of 17 metres. NB Cromhall is currently open only at the weekends. There are limited food facilities here so a packed lunch is advisable.
Cromhall South Gloucestershire, GL12 8AA. As you get near the sat nav position look out for a coach yard on the right hand side through some large gates, go diagonally through the yard, through a scrap metal yard and look for the gate on the gravel road in the top right hand side of the yard, this is the entrance to the quarry. Click here for link to Cromhall Quarry website
Vobster is a great place for training and recreational diving as it has a shelf at 12m and max depth of 35m. There are many points of interest in the lake, ranging from a shipwreck to a 30m long tunnel. Vobster does get very busy at weekends and membership is required if you want to park in the lower car park.
Vobster Quay, BA3 5SA is in Somerset, just north of the village of Vobster, about 5 miles from Frome and 4 miles from Radstock. Click here for link to Vobster Quay website
The visibility at Vobster can be up to 15 metres
There are many things of interest to see at Vobster from tunnels to Helicopters, see the video below from a dive in January.
The NDAC has a range of depths down to 80m and a selection of underwater attractions. There are also above water attractions such as a zip wire for non-diving partners. Their restaurant is excellent. Top tip: Make sure you have all your kit with you before you get on the shuttle bus down to the water!
The National Diving and Activity Centre (NDAC), Chepstow Tidenham, LP16 7LH is just north of the old Severn Bridge (now the M48). From Newbury, take the M4 and then the M48 to Junction 2. Turn right at the junction, and again at the next roundabout, onto the A48 northbound. NDAC is on the left after 1.2 miles, at the village of Tidenham. Click here for link to NDAC website
Stoney was the original dive site in the UK and is still the biggest and busiest, especially at the weekends. This flooded granite quarry has a training shelf at 7m that is packed with fish and a blow off valve assembly down at 36m. Visibility is usually good.
Sapcote Road, Stoney Stanton, LE9 4DW, Stoney Cove is in Leicestershire between Sapcote and Stoney Stanton. Access is from the M69, Junction 1 (note that there is no northbound exit at junction 2, which appears on the map as being more convenient). After entry to the site you will come to a crossroads. Turn right for the main facilities unless directed to park elsewhere (there are three car parking areas). Top Tip: Go mid-week if you want to park within 100m of the water! Click here for link to Stoney Cove website
How to use the club’s VHF radios
Both boats are fitted with identical digital selective calling (DSC) radios. DSC allows for a Distress signal to be sent out with the press of one button. This message also contains positional information via the GPS. DSC also allows selective calling to other stations and other features. DO NOT PRESS THE DSC BUTTON UNLESS IT IS AN EMERGENCY. THE COAST GUARD REPORT FALSE ALARMS.
The club also owns two handheld VHF radios, with carrying cases, as backup. Legally, these radios may only be operated by a person with a marine VHF Licence, or under supervision of such a person. This should not practically prevent the use of the radios for the purpose of ensuring safety.
In an emergency
Using channel 16. When you state the boat’s name you must also give the 9 digit DSC or MMSI number which is on the console.
Using DSC. Lift up the cover marked distress and press and hold the button for 5 seconds. Hold until 5 short beeps change to 1 long beep. Wait until an acknowledgement is received from the Coastguard. Channel 16 will now be selected, make a normal emergency call. The DSC system is connected into the GPS so your position will have been transmitted as part of the DSC call. Other vessels with a DSC radio in the area will also have received the distress notification.
Receiving a distress call
If a distress call is made from another vessel the alarm will sound. Press CLR to stop the alarm. “RCV DISTRESS” appears in the display and channel 16 will be selected. Monitor channel 16 in case the Coast guard require assistance. You may also receive distress acknowledgements or distress relay calls. The alarm will sound (CLR to stop) and “RCV DTRS ACK” or “RCV DTRS REL” will be displayed. Channel 16 will be selected. The button marked 16 will select channel 16 if pressed. It has been preset so that if you press it for 1 second it will then select channel 72, which is Portland Coastguard’s routine traffic channel. To select Dual or Tri watch press the CH button. This will monitor your current channel, channel 16 and if set to Tri watch will also monitor 72, which has been preset as the calling channel. If you are operating away from Portland’s area for an extended period of time you may wish to change the calling channel to that of the Coastguard station whose area you are in. To do this:
Press the Up and Down arrow buttons together
Push the 16 button for 1 second. The call channel appears
Push the 16 button for 3 seconds (until a long beep changes to 2 short beeps)
Push either the Up or Down arrows to reach the selected channel.
Push the 16 button to select the indicated channel as the calling channel. Press the CH button to cancel at this point.
Reset the calling channel to 72 before returning to Newbury, please.
Receiving non-distress DSC calls
You may also receive non-distress DSC calls. These may be an individual call to Kennet/Newbury or general calls to all vessels in the area.
The alarm or beep will sound depending on the category of call
The type of call will appear in the display
Press CLR to stop the alarm
Press ENT to reply the call, the appropriate channel will be selected for the voice call to follow on
Press CLR to ignore the call.
Guide to routine standard voice communications
16 – International Distress, safety and calling
6 – Primary Intership
8, 72, 77 – Intership
12, 14 – Port Operations
67 – Small Craft safety
What else do we need to do?
If the Coastguard get a report from a shore contact that a party has not returned as planned or if they get a report from a member of the public, then they will use the dive information that you gave the shore cover to plan a search. It is therefore essential that you leave a shore contact(s) with your plans and estimated time of return. You must also let the shore contact know when you return. Do make sure the shore party know which boat you are on – and make sure you use the right boat name and call sign!
Memory jogger for the boat names (the Coastguard might ask you!):
November Echo Whiskey Bravo Uniform Romeo Yankee Delta India Victor Echo Romeo
Kilo Echo November November Echo Tango Delta India Victor Echo Romeo
More information on the radio and the DSC functions is available. Please speak to the Equipment Officer if you would like this.
Other Members’ Zone pages and links:
Ocean Diver Information – course outline, picking up pool kit, what is expected, How To tutorial videos
How Much Does it Cost? – Current NSDC price list
Mary Hare school facilities – information on access to the pool, classrooms, boat shed, and use of the compressor
Going Diving – how to book on a dive, what to expect, what to take, how to decipher the inshore weather forecast
Using the RIBs – how to prepare the boat, launch and recovery, towing
Who’s who on the committee – the roles and responsibilities of the different committee positions
Social – fun non-diving activities