Shakedown at Vobster

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For the past 10 years I had always arranged a shakedown/training weekend at Gildenburgh, usually staying in the luxurious caravans they have down there. However all the facilities at Gildy have now been run down to such an extent that I decided to try out Vobster Quay, having heard nothing but good things about the venue we were not disappointed…


Some were down for both days and some were down either just for the Saturday or just for the Sunday. Rob had worked hard putting together a training schedule for those who wanted it. A couple of Instructors had to pull out due to illness or domestic reasons at the last minute and so Rob had more juggling around to do – and we were waiting around for people on the Saturday morning and they didn’t turn up, so there was yet more juggling around to do…..eventually, by about 10.45am we had a final plan!, the freezing cold waters of Vobster Quay were waiting…..I had travelled down with Mark East, if you didn’t know, Mark is the proprietor of “Carmate” an Auto garage in Shepperton. Mark had knocked off early for the day so we piled all out dive gear into the back of his car and set off for the 90 mile trip down the A303 to Frome, where we had booked our accommodation for Friday and Saturday night in the George Hotel (a pub).

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All went smoothly, following the Tom-Tom, until we got ¼ of a mile from our Hotel, when going up a hill the car suddenly cut out – Mark checked under the bonnet and said he suspected a broken fuel injector pump. Well, you are a mechanic Mark aren’t you? – yes, but I don’t carry things like spare fuel injector pumps in the boot unfortunately he said…. We walked the remaining ¼ mile to our Hotel and Mark phoned the RAC, mumbling under his breath “I have never broken down before…”

We walked back to meet the RAC van after about an hour, and the Patrolman confirmed Marks diagnosis of the broken injector pump. The options were, we got towed back to Shepperton or we got towed to a local garage which would have charged a fortune but probably would not be able to do it over the weekend anyway – so Mark asked if we could be towed back to the Hotel and then arrange a recovery home on Sunday after we had finished diving, this was agreed and before he left the Patrolman booked our recovery for 6pm on Sunday, all done and dusted…

All that remained was for us to book a Taxi that would be able to transport me and Mark and all our dive kit, including my Twinset, the 5 miles to Vobster Quay at 0900 in the morning….That all done, we went for a walk in Frome, which is very much a one horse Town, there isn’t a lot there, most of the shops are carpet shops, hoover shops, haberdashers, opticians, lots of banks, but there isn’t a lot else apart from PUBS, and quite a few of them, however on our walkabout we did stumble across a large modern looking Tandoori restaurant!, a quick decision was made to have a Curry – and it was a fantastic Curry, so much so that we decided to ask if any others would like to have another Curry on the Saturday night too.

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The owner of our Hotel was a larger than life character, 6 foot tall and about 4 foot wide, wearing a multi coloured waistcoat – he had a sense of humour as dry as Bombay duck. Our hosts were very chatty though and it provided us with some good banter over our beers.Our taxi was prompt – and the driver had no qualms about taking all our kit – we set off to meet the others at Vobster. The staff at Vobster said they had never seen divers arrive in a Taxi before with all their kit and tanks etc, our group had a little chuckle but were generally sympathetic. It was pouring with rain, and it rained all day long, from 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening… it was a really awful, damp, dreary, miserable day.So, when a chirpy Chris Chappell arrived at just gone 10am, I felt compelled to instigate something that would lighten everyone up. As most of you will know, Chris won the wooden spoon last year for a multitude of mishaps, for those of you who don’t know – it culminated in him arriving at a dive site minus his fins that he left at home, so he went and bought a pair and left them on the quay whilst he was loading the rest of his kit onto the boat, and as his back was turned the new fins went missing… so he then decided to drive all the way home to collect the fins he left behind originally, but whilst he was gone somebody from another boat came and handed in Chris’s fins to our boat saying one of their lot had picked them up by mistake! – you can imagine the stick he got when he got back. Well, with that in mind – and seeing Chris’s car boot open and his dive bag open with his fins on the top… I nicked one of his fins and stuck it down my drysuit and put it in my divebag.

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Chris appeared about 15 minutes later carrying a pair of fins – I was surprised so I said to Chris, “you got two pairs of fins then Chris?” – no I only bought one pair down he said, and “leave them alone!” – “well whose is this fin then Chris?” – to which he replied “you bastard!”It transpired that Chris looked in his dive bag, saw just one fin and assume he had left the other one at home…..so bearing in mind what happened last year, and that he had won the wooden spoon etc, he said he didn’t want to tell us that he had forgotten a fin – so he went and hired a pair of fins from the shop and wasn’t going to tell us!! – everyone fell about laughing as you can imagine.

So despite all the rain and the gloom and the freezing cold conditions – that little episode certainly cheered everybody up and put a smile on their faces!

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I was surprised at how good the visability was in the lake, at some points it was 10 metres plus – much better than Gildenburgh. There are lots of attractions in the lake, like an Aircraft, cars, boats, platforms at various depths, a crushing works and a tunnel that goes on for 30 metres and is pitch black but has a guideline that you can follow through it.So everyone had two dives, I certainly enjoyed my two dives, the first dives for my new Twinset, all was set up and worked like clockwork. Some of us had two students some had one, I had Roland and Dean with me, and they were great, one either side of me, both excellent buoyancy.

At lunchtime my dive marshalling head came off and my curry marshalling head was put on! – there were 6 for Curry on Sat night, so I said I’d book the table for 8pm, meet for drinks in our Hotel first.

There first day went really well, considering all the juggling around we had to do – well done to Rob and Chris Hunka who both displayed excellent skills of putting round pegs in square holes.

Vobster let me and Mark keep our kit at the site overnight so the Taxi driver was spared all our soaking wet kit in his cab! Dryed off and changed we were looking forward to our second consecutive curry. Gillian Wilsons curry had 9 whole chillies in it! – she didn’t eat them I might add, I had some of them…

Apparently, according to my room mate, I was “snoring like a pig” all night… despite taking a Sudafed. I have been suffering from sinus problems for years and it was particularly bad this weekend, I had real problems that morning so I took the decision not to dive for safety reasons and just to concentrate on the Marshalling and helping everything run smoothly.

Rob had gone home overnight, but Rachel was coming along so luckily we were only 1 Instructor down and most of the stuff that we wanted to achieve was done.Nevertheless, more juggling around by Chris was needed… and dive buddies swapped around to try to accommodate what we needed to cover.Lots was done on what was a very successful weekend, and really enjoyable, despite the awful weather. Divers that had no real experience of diving with drysuits in open water can now dive fairly confidently in them, kit configuration was sorted and divers trying new kit for the first time are now fully versed in the use of it, buoyancy and weight issues were sorted out, and of course drills were done – I’m especially happy for Roland who completed SO1 and SO5 in order to complete his Sport Diver training.Me and Mark were dropped off at our Car at 4.20pm – we all pushed it out of the car park ready for the recovery truck to arrive at between 5.30 and 6.30pm… there was a “mistake” and the despatcher had failed to book our recovery – they finally turned up at 8pm… if you are thinking of purchasing breakdown insurance that is not a good advert for the RAC!A big thank you from me to all the Instructors who turned up to help make the weekend work, thanks to Mark for giving me a lift down there, the Taxi driver who transported all our kit to Vobster and everyone else who came down on the weekend, grrrrrrrrrr to the RAC – and Mark says he is doing a special offer on car servicing for club members just to show he doesn’t normally break down – lol