We mourn the loss of our good friend and club mate Paul Feakes who has sadly passed away following a long illness
Paul was a diver’s diver, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, technical and vastly experienced as well as being a lovely, modest man. He did his best to dive every week and would happily set off to dive a new wreck somewhere in the UK or overseas. Paul was a founding member of Eden Divers, BSAC #1689 based in Edenbridge, Kent, where he inspired and encouraged everyone from novices to instructors to improve and learn on every dive. He was also a long time member of Kingston & Elmbridge, BSAC #17 where he held the position of Diving Officer. Dive trips with Paul were always fun, he enjoyed a good laugh and loved the banter and discussions following a dive. It helped that he had a wicked, dry sense of humour and we will never forget his smiles when we discussed dives or choosing wrecks to dive. Over the course of a long diving career, Paul had pretty much dived everything. He was the go to person to talk to when planning a trip or just needing advice on diving a particular wreck or buying equipment. He understood people and had a knack of pairing divers together, which more often than not resulted in the creation of new and long lasting friendships along the way. Paul was never happier than when he was in the water, imparting his knowledge and experience in his calm, and assured way.
When you dived with Paul you knew you were in very safe hands!
Words by Alex Kennedy, friend and club member
A Selection of Memories of Paul from Club Members
Paul will be remembered as a fountain of diving knowledge and a person you could get the best advice from on all subjects. He was a great pleasure to dive with and will be sadly missed at the club and on the boats. I always knew who to contact for any diving advice, he had many years experience and was a great diving officer.
I felt honoured and pleased to go to his funeral and to represent our club, it was held at the Bluebell Cemetery, Old London Road, Halstead, Kent on the 03 June 21. Within Covid rules it was well attended by mainly many of his old diving friends, with his sister Sue and partner Carol and relatives.
We as a club gave a monetary donation to Hospice on the Weald nursing home where he spent his last few days. Everybody spoke very highly of Paul, as a gentleman, wealth of diving knowledge, who always had time to help or explain any diving problems to those around him at the club, on the boat or on the diving trips.
He was a credit to our club and the other clubs he was involved in and I was very proud to be able to say a final farewell to him.
Len Hards, Chairman
Paul was a great diver, and brilliant company on the surface too!
He [Paul] was on my first sea dive in 20 years with Richard (at Richard’s request I gleaned – who was more nervous than me! )
Paul was cool as a cucumber as I sank, I think Shirley was nearby too, and stayed by my side as I adjusted myself to the surroundings my mask flooded, adjusting the buoyancy in a unfamiliar drysuit.
He was by my side throughout, the viz was great, Black Hawk I think and as I went up the line, he reassuring and attentive.
We both worked for BT, we had that in common and we would often chat online about this and that and shared the odd photo and had the same dog breed. He has a Ruby King Charles Cav.
He had done over 40 years in BT, man and boy, based in Kent I think he was mainly telephone systems maintenance before going into Customer Service Management. He stayed on after his time to complete projects, his last was delivering a new network to the Post Office.
Tony and I are so sorry to hear the sad news about Paul, fabulous guy wealth of knowledge and experience in the diving world, will be greatly missed.
Elaine & Tony
Alan and I will miss him terribly.
Jacqui and Alan
Paul was a kind and softly spoken man, who was very knowledgable on all things diving and life in general when you asked him for advice. As Diving Officer he helped me to analyse where I had gone wrong, or had a “learning experience”, on a dive. He was never judgemental, eager to help me and encourage me to keep going. We had a great Red Sea as a club with him in 2017. I will miss Paul.
On Thursday 26 November, 33 members and committee of Kingston and Elmbridge BSAC joined together on Zoom to host the club’s first, and hopefully only, on-line AGM.
Nothing, not even COVID-19, stands in the way of a Club Secretary running the club’s Annual General Meeting!
The evening went surprisingly well and free from technical issues. The raising of hands feature in Zoom was used by the tellers to count votes on agenda items that required it. And the chat box was used for any questions people wanted to ask during a particular agenda item or officers report, with the tellers watching to raise the question or ask the member to unmute and clarify more – it kept everything ship shape and running smoothly. More importantly everyone felt that their points were openly discussed and there was transparency in the voting.
There were some notable changes in Committee members. Dave T, our long standing boats officer stepped down to be replaced by James W. Dave has done a lot with keeping Sea King, our RIB in Newhaven, in good condition and is the font of all knowledge on dive sites and operating the RIB out of Newhaven. No pressure there then James 😉
We also thank Ian A for his again notable time as Bar Manager and appreciate all the work he has put in to making sure the bar is well stocked and supporting Eileen who comes without fail to help run the bar on a Thursday night. Ian’s role will now be held by Jon P. A BIG responsibility to make sure the beer/cider/wine/soft drinks keep flowing Jon 🙂
And finally, but not least is to say thank you and goodbye to Paul F from the role of Diving Officer (but not the club)! Paul has done a wonderful job of keeping track of all the diving we have done over the years, giving the annual Diving Officers’ report at the AGM into the number of hours dived and any incidents or mishaps we can learn from.
Sadly we haven’t logged so many diving hours this year as a club, but on the positive the only incident we had was Mr M forgetting his drysuit on one of the few dive trips that went ahead….for which he ended up with the 2020 Wooden Spoon award (had to get that one in there)!
Paul will be succeeded by Craig D, who had already stepped in temporarily to help fill his rather large rock boots earlier this year, but who is now the club’s official 2020/21 Diving Officer (ed. wolf whistles).
Long time club member Ian organised a “Fantastic Weekend” of diving (16th – 18th October) down in Portland. Ian writes:
A group of seven of from Kingston and Elmbridge BSAC club met on Friday night for dinner at The Boat That Rocks which sits next to the harbour where the group would be heading out from in the morning.
We spent the night talking about what to expect of the diving over the weekend and being that it was October we weren’t expecting much in the way of vis or good seas.
However, we woke on Saturday morning to blue skies and calm seas, it was amazing! The Diving gods must have looked upon us favourably!
We cast off from Portland marina aboard Skindeeper and powered through the calm seas for 1 1/2 hours to our first wreck, that of HMS M2 a submarine. It’s a bit of a sad story, as I guess all wreck stories are, but this submarine was on routine exercises when it went down in 1932. The submarine had been adapted to hold a hanger on its main deck that a float plane could take off from when surfaced. “The accident was believed to be due to water entering the submarine through the hangar door, which had been opened to launch the aircraft shortly after surfacing.”
The M2 rests at 33m, which at that depth meant the waters were dark but the vis was between 4 to 5 m with lots of marine life as well at the wreck itself to see. It was a fantastic dive.
On our return trip we stopped by and dived the James Fennel and some other wreckage nearby, with still the same excellent vis of 4/5m. The James Fennell was an Admiralty Trawler, bound from Gibraltar for Portsmouth. In thick fog she ran aground at rocks below Blacknor. Fortunately all the crew were rescued after their shouts for help were herd by a local man. She currently sits 15-18m on the bottom where she finally rested after numerous salvage attempts.
Saturday night we went out to Lin & Ozzie’s bistro in Portland and had a great three course meal from curried soup to one of the biggest flatfish I’ve eaten with bottles of wine 🍷. At £40 per head you can’t whack it. 😉 [Ed. most of that would have been the wine bill!]
Sunday morning the sky’s a bit overcast, but flat seas allowed us to head out 2 hours to reach the HMS Saint Dunstan that sits at 29 m depth. The vis was again 4/5m and she was so full of sea life on it!
The Saint Dunstan was a bucket dredger but was converted during the first World War to be used as a mind sweeper. She was subsequently torpedoed by the Germans and sank. It was well worth the journey time out to the wreck!
Second dive was a drift dive just off the Portland Harbour Sea Wall looking for a few scallops which we got & which also turned into the fastest drift Dive I’ve ever done the viz was crap but my God was it fun.
I could of stayed down there all day 😆😆 once we got picked up about half a mile from the shore it was the usual get cleaned up and say our goodbyes!
However Len, Mark and I [Ian] could not leave without going for the usual Club curry so booked another nights stay & strolled into Weymouth The rest we can’t remember! 😉
Brian writes about the club’s trip out of Dover last weekend:
We had a plan!
The weather had a different plan!
The weather won…
We’d aimed to go searching for the remains of a Spitfire along the Kent coast, but a week of strong Westerlies put paid to that. Chris, the skipper of dive boat Maverick* and veteran of the Dover diving scene, did some calculations, recited some magic spells and decided the Pommerania would be our best bet as a plan B. *(Mutiny Diving – Facebook Page)
An ocean liner from the 1870s (Steam and Sail), it’s one of the classic dives in this part of the world, littered with spars and debris, providing hours of entertainment for fans of rust, rope and broken crockery. Six such fans, Debbie, Tom, Chris, Jonathan, Glenn and Brian set out in the crisp dawn into a bracing Force Four to explore it.
The wreck is truly enormous and atmospheric, broken superstructure looming out of the darkness, congers snaking through pipes, ribs disappearing into the sand. Who needs visibility when there’s so much stuff within a few meters of you?
Back on the boat, cylinders refilled with air and divers refilled with sausage rolls (and, in Tom’s case, the Greatest Pastie Cornwall Ever Made), we formulated plan B Part 2.
We couldn’t dive the Spitfire, but we could go looking for something a bit bigger: a B17 Flying Fortress, Miss Lollipop, which crashlanded in 1944 having been hit by flack over Dunkirk.
The sea was flatter, but the viz was down to fingertip level, and in spite of an hour’s careful searching in circles using lines, we didn’t find it. However, there were the remains of something far older; Chris brought up a wrought iron grappling hook that must have come from a ship sometime from the 17th to 18th Centuries – it certainly didn’t come from a WWII bomber. Still, it was good practise for when we get a window in the weather and finally get to search for that Spitfire engine.
This is the way UK diving works: you make a meticulous plan, the weather, waves and visibility conspire against you, you improvise and come up with something else. Go looking for a bomber, find something off a pirate ship. As long as there’s banter, tea and hot sausage rolls the rest is details.
Trip report by Debbie. Photos by Debbie, James & Nick
Organising your first club dive trip can be a little daunting but as a trainee dive leader this was something I felt ready to do.
At the dive show in 2019 I met a skipper based in Ilfracombe who took divers out to dive off the coast of Lundy. I did my research and decided that this was the perfect trip for me to organise as the dives were suitable for all levels of diver and it was different to other trips previously organised by the club. We agreed on a weekend and I made all the arrangements.
Unfortunately 2020 has not been a good year for diving and our trip was scheduled to happen during the travel restrictions. We decided to reschedule the trip and in order to be COVID compliant we had to find a new hotel where everyone could have their own room. After much planning and with the weather in our favour we finally set off, forgetting how busy the roads to the south west are in school summer holidays!
Despite this all 12 of us arrived at the dock early Saturday morning happy, excited and looking forward to diving. It took about an hour and a half to make the 13 mile crossing from Ilfracombe to Lundy Island, unfortunately the forecast rain made an appearance on our journey over to the island which stayed with us for most of the day.
On arrival at Lundy we were greeted by easterly winds which ruled out many of the dive sites. The skipper had warned that we would need to keep our dive plan flexible to cope with this, luckily the skipper found a sheltered spot in Jennie’s Cove.
We all got ready and jumped in the viz and section on marine life was amazing. We explored the reef for about 40 minutes with a maximum depth of 22 meters.
We all paused for lunch regrettably the sea conditions were too much for two of our divers including my daughter who decided that it was time to feed the fish!
The second dive site was the Knoll Pins we were greeted by a couple of cheeky looking seals on the surface. My daughter rallied around and jumped in with me and we spent over 50 minutes exploring the knoll pins going to a maximum depth of 15 meters. The seals made numerous appearances but were too busy to interact with us. Again there was an abundance of amazing marine life
That evening we all enjoyed a meal out followed by an early night so we were fresh for the next day’s diving. We met early at the dock of Sunday morning but we were down to 10 divers as the two who had struggled with seasickness decided to stay on dryland. This was a shame as the sea was much calmer and there were no dreaded easterly winds.
This made it possible to dive our first choice wreck the Robert. We arrived at the wreck on the low water slack and as we descended down the shot line we were greeted by an amazing intact wreck on her side absolutely full of life. We explored the wreck for 36 minutes descending to a maxim depth of 26 meters. We spotted numerous crabs, fish. lobster, eels and a hungry starfish eating a dead crab.
After a break for lunch our last dive was to be with the seals, the skipper positioned the boat so we could see all the seals resting on the rocks. The seals were vocal about the incoming tide and seamed grumpy about their resting place disappearing underwater.
My buddy and I jumped in and we spent over 70 minutes exploring the Threequarter Wall Bay and the Pins, at first we saw loads of seals and while they were watching us they didn’t interact with us. Other divers on the boat were luckier and the seals checked them out. Again the viz was amazing and the underwater marine life was stunning.
Six divers, one partner and a dog headed headed down to Plymouth at the end of last month thanks to the Covid-19 lock down easing. Jon Phelps has kindly provided the following long, but entertaining write up of their antics…
Friday 24th July morning, bright and early your narrator got up, checked his kit, loaded his car and drove the short distance to his buddy for the weekend Chairman Len.
After loading the car with his kit and discussing what delights we had in our packed lunch we started a journey down to Devon….
The sun was out, it was a nice day, the traffic was light and we were on our way….. Our fellow divers Mark & Ian had set off earlier we later found out. My antiquated sat-nav was trying to divert me anywhere but the route we knew.
Otherwise the drive down was fairly uneventful, apart from the bottleneck at Stonehenge. We pondered the alternatives to the ancient monument. A tunnel underneath, a flyover? Knock it down and build a tower block? – Ban the tourists, what would the Druids do? But before we knew it we got through and we were soon motoring down the section of the M5, then the Devon Expressway, the hillside of trees you see southbound looks magnificent I thought.
A phone call from Ian to announce they were there came through, a call to Dougie to next. We were almost at Aquanauts. Unloaded the kit, a short drive to the Kynance Hotel.
Chairman Len went in to book us in. he was greeted by ‘Basil Fawlty’ pay upfront, paperwork done, temperature taken, all masked up (I have a shocking pink one)
We were allocated a room in the Retreat – ground floor, basic and comfortable. But the lack of TV remote control and not enough tea and coffee was disappointing. We freshened up, then headed for the Barbican. Masks in hand, going to meet Ian & Mark…or batman ‘n’ robin.
We sat outside a nice pub. The others turned up, Jason, Leanne and Richard, then on our way to the posh fish ‘n’ chips’……
The next morning we arose early. Had a breakfast in our room. Bacon roll, cuppa tea. Headed down to the harbour, loaded the boat.
No Outkast this year – She was faulty. However, Aquanauts Plymouth who organised our dives introduced us to Pete Fergus & Son. The boat called Venture, smaller and not as well equipped. There were no hot drinks and no pasties this trip. Yours truly, absent minded pinched a seasick pill from Jason as he boarded the boat. The sun was warm. After a safety brief, we headed out of the harbour, through the lock, and on our way. The waters were choppy, the skies had broken cloud. We motored on…The James Egan Lane was our destination, or the Scylla. Both good wrecks, the seas were crashing over the breakwater, it was high water. Once out the swells got worse. Both of those wreck were rejected, we headed to the Poulmic, a wreck I didn’t know. It wasn’t so rough there.
Time to get kitted up – zip myself up. Hold on, plug that in, hold on, check the air, put my arm through that, weight belt, fins, hold on. Ian my buddy was almost ready and he clambered over to me to assist. I felt queasy, Spray washed over me. I held on, I went green. Your narrator almost ready to jump in, shook his hand, no dive, Go with Len! I shouted over the noise of the engine, the wind and the swell. In a flash Ian seemed to skip over me, ‘I’m with you!’ He points at Len and Jason, ‘we goes as a three!’ In a few moments, they were all gone, under the sea. I spent most of the time leaning over the edge of the boat, I was ill, holding onto my glasses. I didn’t want to lose them!! The rain came down, it was windy, I was sick, Chris Fergus, the assistant gave me water. I wasn’t good company.
Luckily Jason had this to say for the dive I bailed –
‘First dive of the day, actually my first sea dive of the year. The weather was sunny – the sea was not calm, so we decided to dive on the famous Poulmic wreck – I hadn’t heard of it. With the high excitement and anticipation Jon blew his upper gasket and bailed out of the dive. Poor fellow, shame he missed it… Luckily for Ian, he joined Len and myself.
Wow! The first impression after jumping in was the viz – about 10 metres and it was warm (not surprising with all that sunshine up top!) Following Skipper Pete’s shot down it was spot on. Sadly, the Poulmic wreck is now a collection of horizontal plates of steel littered on a reef. With the good viz it was an easy threesome dive but the best bits were the hiding spots the Polemic provided for Conger eels and awesome spider crabs’
After what seemed like ages I saw a SMB pop up – I shouted Diver UP!!! Venture was manuovered to do the first pick up, another SMB stood proud above the waves. Another pair were picked up.
By all accounts the sea was OK at depth, the wreck was nice. Mark recalls diving it ‘back in the day – when he was just a lad. There was sea life, I can’t recall everything the intrepid underwater explorers said, but if I described the Kraken, it would not have been far off the mark.
Venture headed back to port, there was no chance we would stay out here any longer than we needed to. The team tucked into their lunch. I was still unwell. When asked what I would have had. ‘I don’t fancy my Curry sandwich’ was my reply. They all chuckled at my distress. I sat there, will my woolly hat pulled down over my head, the rain or spray came lashing across my face. I remember Ch. Len looking at me as I got more sodden. There wasn’t much shelter.
Venture headed towards the Fort. That’s what we decided to dive. I declined again. Ian, Leanne & Mark dropped over the side, to the sea bottom. Again, I sat there, I was no company to Chairman Len and 300Bar Jason who both did not dive.
The 3 stooges must have got dizzy going around the Fort, they were down for almost an hour. When they surfaced they all said what a good dive it was, the viz was great and there was lots to see, sea life and all kinds of rubbish discarded by generations people over the years. The currents encircled the fort which made it a challenge I believe. The Fort was built during the Napoleonic Wars, Ian was fascinated by the construction of it. Yours truly was cold but feeling slightly better. The short trip back to the harbour was swift, once back, dressed and warm. We got off the boat. My mission was to find a chemist. A cuppa tea first in the pub, we all went our separate ways. I walked into town, found the chemist and headed back to the hotel…..No TV remote, not even a fresh cuppa tea. I felt better. I called the reception, they replaced the TV, topped up the tea and milk. I ate my curry sarnie. My equilibrium was restored. I was ready for the next days’ diving!
That evening we headed to a seafood restaurant Rockfish – It was recommended – Seafood Linguine, a few glasses of red wine. Very civilised. Refreshed and replenished with good conversation. A good nights’ sleep was needed for Sunday, fingers crossed the weather will be better. I took my medicine and drifted away, after draping the duvet over Chairman Len who was half on/off the bed. Watching Chelsea must be boring if it makes him fall asleep sitting up!!
Sunday morning, it was warm. The sun was out. Thank goodness. The boat already loaded, after our breakfast rolls we headed out, straight out to the James Egan Laine. I felt great. Ch. Len and yours truly were the last to drop into the sea and go down the line. Like a dolphin Len found the shot and quick as a flash he lifted it up, ready for the skipper to retrieve. We were off. The viz was great. We drifted through the superstructure of the American liberty ship sunk in WW2. There were shoals of fish here and there, large hulks of metal, encrusted with limpets. I looked under the rusting plates that would have been the sides of the ship, seeking a conga ell. I didn’t see any. We saw Mark & Leanne, the sea was peaceful down there, and I monitored my air, as too did Chairman Len. I was relaxed, me, the sea, the shipwreck. Len pointed out a lobster. I drifted under some heavy metal as Len drifted over, as he launched the SMB. We soon were together and on our assent. We were very soon on the surface and Venture was there ready to pick us up.
Once aboard us all discussed the dive. Leanne mentioned all the names of creatures I forgot, Mark spotted a ‘crocodile fish’ big eyes and teeth! I felt good. Ready for the next dive. After our surface interval we decided to head into a cove and dive a reef called Piers Cellars. We dropped into the sea, and straight down to the sea bed, the viz was again super, we drifted gently in a grid pattern, making sure we didn’t go too far off course, checking the compass.
The kelp was vibrant purple, it swayed gently in the swell. There was lots of sea life, starfish, crabs and a cuttlefish whizzed past as Chairman Len did a good impersonation. I turned around and saw a large disc like creature not too far away, I alerted Len with wild circular movements with my arms. I was excited. A sunfish I thought. It had soon disappeared into the gloom before I had my camera pointed at it. Chairman Len looked at me unimpressed, we carried on the gentle drift. The seabed was like a slate type of rock, upturned slates and pieces could be broken off. I spotted a bright spider crab and decided to chase it down. It finally got away after I got I a picture. Lots of little fish and more crabs, Chairman Len indicated he was getting cold. We started our assent to the surface. The sea was clear. I wasn’t cold. I was drifting upwards, I glanced down. On the seabed below I could see Leanne inflate her SMB with Mark. Len pointed at something behind me. A large Moon Jelly fish was almost on my shoulder, I took a photo. We surfaced soon after. Back to the safety of the boat. The days diving was done. We were soon in the harbour, fully dressed and unloading Venture.
It was a change having a different Skipper – Pete Fergus, an experienced former Commercial Diver, BSAC trained, First Class, originally from BSAC Club no. 15 Hull. His son, Chris a HGV driver, and an occasional diver. They joined us in the cider barn, distanced apart for a cider or two. Pete was a very knowledgeable fellow, softly spoken, he has lost his dad to Covid. He shared some pictures of him recovering large ingots of copper from a wreck on the east coast. He spent a lot of time at sea, I think he was in the forces too. And now a writer. He gave us all a novel, based around diving in Cornwall. A good read he says (well, he would say that!)
We said goodbye to Leanne, Richard & Jason who all went on their way back home that night.
The four remaining dudes had the evening ahead of us. We headed into a pub to watch the football, different games, and different screens.
– Ian later suggested an interesting pub. We headed there, The Dolphin, full old fishermen and someone had a mouth organ. After a few beers here, a few beers there. The evening soon was full of conversation about the club and diving, where next shall we go? This year was a lean one. What was important was that Chairman Len was clocking up his dives, over 1900 logged now, in recent years, plenty with yours truly.
Monday – Home time! We had a full English breakfast, seated in the restaurant of the Kynance. Soon loaded the car and homeward bound. A stop at an American Diner Mattia Diner. Ian, was ahead of us, by a long way. I think his van is rocket fuelled. A nice drive home, Len fell asleep from time to time.
So 2020 has been a bit of a bummer for club trips abroad, even in the UK and has definitely effected the practical scuba club training…Although during the lock down our online Theory lessons have been a great success thanks to Dave (coordinating the online courses), Danny our Training Officer and all the club instructors who helped lead the lessons!
With easing of restrictions for COVID-19 and some of our favourite and new haunts as well as dive boats operations starting up again club members have also started to dive.
Debbie one of our club members has sent in a few words on the last few trips she has been on with the club and some words….
26/06/20 – Wraysbury Divers: Len, Jon P, Ian A, Danny, Brian M, Nick, Amanda, Zoe, and myself (Debbie).
(Wraysbury COVID restrictions was no signing in, changing rooms closed, toilet one in one out, food and drink had to be eaten in car, groups to stay smaller than 6.)
A fun day at Wraysbury and great to see some fellow club members after such a long surface interval. We had some dive leaders to be practicing their dive leading and management skills while less experience divers brushed up on their DSMB skills. Not the best visibility but lots of crayfish were found in the grassy areas.
01/07/20 – Wraysbury Divers: Len, Zoe, Danny, Nick, Brian M Dave W, Ross, Jackie, Brian and myself (Debbie).
Another fun day at Wraysbury, more practicing of dive leading and management skills from the dive leaders to be. Some club members tried out new kit such as side mounts and carrying a pony bottle for the first time. Vis was a bit murky but we found and explored the dive bell.
11/07/20 – St Andrews Divers: Len, Jon P, James. W, Ross, Jason, Krissy and myself (Debbie).
St Andrews COVID restrictions was mainly a reduced number of divers on site and kitting up benches re-positioned so that there is space to social distance. Also changing rooms closed.
First time at this site for many of the divers. We had more practicing of dive leading and management skills from the dive leaders to be. Visibility was better and we all found a scary looking figure on the yacht at 33 meters.
In line with Government Advice and BSAC’s principle to follow that advice [“to stop all non–essential contact with others and stop all non–essential travel, avoiding pubs, clubs and theatres”], Kingston and Elmbridge Sub Aqua Club has taken the decision to suspend our regular Thursday Club Night and activities for the time being.
This decision is under constant review and the Committee
will update club members of any change in this decision via our website,
Facebook and members email group.
For those wishing to get in touch, or just keep in touch,
you can still do so via our website,
telephone, the various club member WhatsApp groups and Facebook page.
K&E BSAC members all know that the benefits of diving
with our club are easy and regular access to dives, free unlimited air fills,
great training included as part of your membership, knowledgeable and skilled
divers to share experiences and learning with, and of course friendship from
being a club member.
I want to write about one of the other perks – diving in the
UK for £5.50….YES £5.50!
We are fortunate at Kingston and Elmbridge Sub Aqua club to
have Sea King, our club 6.7m RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), kept at Newhaven for
fast and easy launching.
With the club only an hour and half away and the sheer number of wrecks around the south coast to explore (Link), Newhaven makes a great little place to start many our club dives from. Our voyage plan had a 10:30am meet time at Newhaven marina for our divers, who were myself (Nathan), Dave T (also our coxswain), Jonathan M, Jon W, Gieta and Craig, also our club training officer and my dive buddy for the day.
As Sea King is stored in the boat yard, the first thing that
happens is to uncover her, put on board all the first aid, flares, O2, hand
held radio, GPS and echo sounder/fish finder electronics and to load her with
all our dive gear. A tractor launches
the RIB, we zip up drysuits and after a boat and dive brief (using the handy
checklist available on the members’ area of the club website!) we’re ready to
head out, having first obtained clearance to leave the harbour.
The wreck we were heading for was the SS Braunton, a 4,575 tonne, 116m long, steam ship carrying government stores from Boulogne to Newport which was torpedoed on the 7th April 1916 by UB-29 (Herbert Pustkuchen) 4.5miles south west of Beachy Head. There were no casualties, but 1.8 tonnes of ammunition shells still litter the ocean floor in and around her. Fortunately for us all the ordinance is thoroughly wet and in general only becomes explosive once dried out … but we were still under strict instructions not to touch underwater, nor bring anything back to the boat with us.
The weather was glorious and after 30 minutes of fast RIB
driving by Craig (and a few lumpy bumps on the way if you sit forward in the
RIB – remember that for next time Jonathan) we were at the GPS co-ordinates for
the wreck. After a couple of circuits around the site keeping an eye on the
echo sounder and there she was 35m below us, parts of her standing 13m tall off
the bottom and 116m long. Pretty impressive
to see on the echo sounder and we were all soon to see her in “real life” (NB
first time I had been on this wreck).
The dive plan was to get the first two buddy pairs into the
water, and then as usual for the third pair only going in once the first pair
had completed their dive. Jon and Gieta were the first to kit up, ably helped
by others on the RIB. Little known to
Gieta (or any of us), as she was sitting on the tube and getting ready, her
reel must not have been clipped fully onto her BCD and it silently dropped into
the sea never to be seen again …. or so we thought!
Craig and I were next to kit up, and after a buddy check I tried to focus on heading down to the wreck lying 35m on the sea floor. I don’t think I quite appreciated or understood how big SS Braunton was (amazing what use Google is after the event)! The vis was about 5-6m and there was enough ambient light down there to generally see without torches … however you need a good torch to see inside the wreck, a good torch being the one with you, and not that left by the front door of your house *** (name removed to protect the forgetful person) to see into all the nooks and crannies for conger eels, lobsters, unexploded ordinance kind of things…
Much of SS Braunton’s different decks have collapsed or been
ripped open by storms over the years, which is a good thing in some ways as
there are now lots of different layers of metal and holes for fish and marine
life to thrive in and for me to shine a torch into and find them.
When we arrived at the bottom of the shot line, which was on
the bow of the wreck, we were surrounded by a shoal of bib mixed in with
whiting, cod, pollack, wrasse and other fish I’m not so sure what they
were. We saw two huge lobsters and a number
of conger eels in amongst the pipes and holes with their noses just sticking
out ready to pounce. We also saw lots
of ordinance shells at the beginning, Craig spotted six shells still complete
in their box (I missed it) and as we swam over the engine room you could just
make out the shape of the engine. Above
us towered structures that must have been the ribs and spars of the boat still
As our shot line, expertly positioned by Dave and Craig,
took us down onto the bow we then moved gently along over the wreck to the
stern, taking our time in order to conserver air and prolong the time we had to
appreciate the wreck.
As our dive time was nearing 25 minutes and my air was
reaching 100 bar on my single 15l cylinder we signalled each other for me to
deploy my DSMB and then slowly made our ascent to our deco stop at 6m which
lasted for 12 minutes (the no stop time soon gets used up when diving on a
wreck and staying below 30m for most of the dive). At 6m I switched to my 7l stage cylinder and
we waited as the compressed air now saturated in our bodies was slowly being
released allowing us to surface safely.
As soon as we surfaced we found Jon and Gieta had positioned the RIB next to us and we passed up our weight belts while holding onto the side of Sea King, followed by our BCD with cylinder attached. We then fin kicked up into the RIB and once our kit was safely secured I tucked into a nice ham and cheese sarnie for lunch (this diving makes you hungry you know) while we waited for Dave T and Jonathan.
Once they eventually surfaced (that’s always a good sign on
a club dive trip) Jonathan appeared with two DSMB reels attached to him. It transpired that while diving he noticed
Gieta’s reel just sitting there on the wreck … they aren’t cheap, so this
brought some great relief to Gieta and I am sure a pint for Jonathan at the
club on Thursday!
While this was all going on Jon W, who took over cox’n, was
keeping an eye on the Dieppe to Newhaven Ferry “Seven Sisters”, who if I say is
slightly larger than our rib would be a massive understatement, as she was
steaming for Newhaven with us in her way.
Thankfully she saw our A Flag up, that means divers in the water, and
changed course. However, she got her own
back on us later…
We could have gone for a second dive, but as time was
against us and the vote was for a cup of tea, we headed back to Newhaven.
I got the chance to drive the RIB back, which is another
perk of joining a club (you get to try your hand at everything) …. we were
zipping along on a now flat calm sea, trying to see if we could get back into
the marina before the ferry could make it.
But, despite overtaking and being well ahead of the ferry when we called
the Harbour Master for permission to enter we could already see the pilot boat
pulling out to stop small boats entering the harbour to let the much larger
vessel, now committed (no turning back) to making her own entry, so we veered
off and kept well away in Seaford Bay until the she steamed past us into port –
thereby getting her ‘own back’ on us diverting her original course into
Now you tell me, where else can you go diving and have that
much fun and adventure for £5.50! Yes £5.50 is the price of the fuel used split
six ways. That is why Club RIB diving is
the most accessible and cheapest way to dive in the UK.
If you are interested in learning to dive, or you are already a diver and want to join KESAC and go RIB diving, as well as take part in many other trips in the UK and abroad that the club organises then contact us – we can cater for any diving you like, and on any budget.