Training Day at Vobster
Having finally purchased a dry suit, this was my first opportunity to get some of my remaining Sports Diver drills ticked off in the UK. I was looking forward to it, especially as I had just splashed out on a cosy Weezle Extreme undersuit which felt like going diving in my duvet!
Jonathan and I set of at 6am on the long drive down from Kingston to Vobster in Somerset, having been told that it was best to arrive at 8am to avoid the queues to get in. We rolled up to the gates at 8.15, expecting a mile long queue..we were met by one man in a camper van enjoying a peaceful brew! We settled back for a quiet doze!soon to be woken by the arrival of Chris Hunka and John Parrish, then Jo and Dave, all of whom seemed far too full of energy for that time in the morning!
Vobster Quay is set in the middle of the sleepy Somerset countryside, near Frome. It is a 36 acre freshwater lake, originally a quarry, with depths between 6 and 35 metres, making it ideal for a variety of drills and divers with different levels of experience. Vobster is fed by freshwater springs, so whilst the first few metres can be very warm, there can be sudden temperature changes at depth. This was extremely noticeable on Saturday ﾐ the water was 19 degrees around the surface, but at 16 metres plus it was a chilly 8 degrees!
Ever wondered what the lake at Vobster Quay would look like if you drained out all the water? Well now – thanks to SEA (Group) Ltd and their state of the art sidescan sonar technology – you can see what lies beneath the lake waters. Vist the Vobster Quay website for more information
The day promised to be perfect, with clear blue skies and wonderfully clear water. I was imagining something muddy and murky, but the viz in the first couple of metres was so good that the rainbow trout had nowhere to hide ﾐ their beautiful colours and markings showed up flawlessly as they sidled around the shallows.
Hiring a cylinder and getting an air-fill on site was a pretty quick and painless process. Following a briefing by Jo, I began my first drill: dive leading / basic skills review (SO5) – something I was not particularly looking forward to. But once I had started, all the training kicked in and it was not half as bad as expected: I was pleased that the hours of forcing my brain to memorise sums for calculating air had not been wasted!
Jo and I were to dive the Jacquin II, a 15m wooden cabin cruiser lying in about 20m of water. Swimming out to the shot line at one end of the boat, we started to descend, only to re-ascend, then down again, up and down etc etc. My mask kept flooding despite having followed Chris Hunka’s advice to shave part of my hair off: the things we do for our sport! We finally made it down and had a mooch around in the chilly depths. The thermaclime was very visible as slightly sparkly or oily looking water. A mask removal (balanced precariously on top of the wreck) and couple AAS ascents later and we were back on the surface and out for a briefing: thank goodness I passed that one, even with the leaking mask nightmare!
Lunchtime: gradually poaching in the midday sun, we were all very relieved to take off our suits. The 窶歪afﾃｩ’ (burger van) was an interesting experience and test of patience for a hungry diver: jacket potatoes with ‘cheese’ (ﾒwe don’t have real cheeseﾓ) and ‘butter’ (ﾒwe don’t have real butterﾓ)! Having settled down to a heart attack in a bun, I felt very envious of all those experienced club members who had thought to bring sarnies.
Preoccupation with lunch was quickly dispelled when Jo told me I could also do my Assistant Dive Marshall drill, thereby getting one-up on Jonathan, who had sneakily passed Dive Leader Rescue Skills (DO6) in the morning with Chris And John. Christine Corner was managing a rescue scenario on the water’s edge, and I joined in to help resuscitate Annie. All went well once Bob Holroyde had finally been persuaded that Oxygen was better for the pains in his arm than his sandwiches! I then took possession of the clipboard, noting down everyone’s dive details before the afternoon’s dives.
For the afternoon I was to buddy Christine for her Rescue Skills (AO2), and would be ‘rescued’ from a 22m platform. We all reluctantly clambered back into our human poaching units, jumping into the cool water with big sighs of relief. Being ‘unconscious’ and motionless on a 22m platform in water of 8 to 9 degrees C was a little chilly to say the least, and if I had been feeling remotely drowsy from the hot sun this gave me a rude awakening! With hands rapidly turning into ice-blocks, the ascent was like being gradually immersed in a lovely warm bath! At the surface Christine had to tow me for 50metres, which sounds like a long way, but as the casualty, lying back in the warm sun, it wasn’t too bad. I’m not sure that Christine would agree!
Back at the shore, Dave offered to take me on a third, short, shallow dive so that I could catch up with Jonathan ﾐ he was 1 dive ahead of me!not that I was counting!! We set off along the edge of the quarry ﾐ it was really quite pleasant in the shallows & gave me some more practise in my drysuit, which had started to feel slightly less like diving in a bin bag as I leant to control the badly behaved air bubble within!
The day was coming to an end, and we all gradually packed up our kit and headed for home. Everyone seemed to have had a really good time, and a lot of drills were signed off successfully.
Thanks very much to all the instructors for giving up their time, and to Jo for organising what was all in all a very good day: the weather was amazing, the diving successful and the atmosphere happy and relaxed!