A small group of Sub C Divers members hit the waves Early May Bank Holiday weekend with the promise of sun and maybe a spot of good viz, with a mixed bag.
Taking the club RHIB to get in some weekend diving organised by club Welfare Officer and BSAC Dive Leader Ian "Wilt" Gardner along with BSAC Open Water Instructor Nick Worthington and BSAC Sports Diver trainees Gary Williams and Lee Bevan. They were promised a weekend of Sun, however, they were first met with rough seas and fog on one of the days. Attempting to dive the Wreck of the Asmund. Here is Lee Bevan’s take on the weekend's events and explains in full narrative to assist and share his first RHIB diving experience with those yet to experience this type of diving.
On the late Friday afternoon, my family and I ventured into Wales on the slow-moving A55 with a trip that usually takes no more than just over 2 hours to almost double that time. We eventually arrived at the campsite where Wilt and Gary had been based all week…. By the time the Bevan’s had unloaded it was like Camp Bastian, Wilt in his trusted Caravan, Gary and Family in the Motorhome, The Bevans in their Motorhome and Nick in his tent… It fathomed a scene from “Carry on Camping”. We took over…
The time had come for me to have my first taste of RHIB diving. I had done a shore dive previously with Nick but never ventured into the Sea via an RHIB. I was nervous but also very excited. I was prepared, dressed and ready for the RHIB to turn up with Wilt, I was probably ready about two hours before I needed to be… but as the old saying goes Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
We started to load the RHIB with all the equipment, making sure the Cylinders were fastened down and the kit bags were all loaded ready. I was bragging that I had everything I needed as I am well prepared when Michelle (My Wife) piped up… don’t you need sun cream for your bald head? Which obviously meant she was talking to Wilt 😊
The RHIB was manoeuvred down the slipway ready for launch and whilst I have never actually launched a RHIB before, I knew it was very little difference to launching a big jet ski... Nick, Gary and I held onto RHIB until Wilt got onboard and did all his checks before allowing us to climb aboard. Wilt manoeuvred out of the rocky bay before opening up the RHIB which was my first ever experience hitting the waves, I have to admit I was pretty tensed up gripping for sheer life at first then moments later I started to relax and found the RHIB experience much more fun when I wasn’t gripping for life.
The first site we ventured to the Asmund wreck near Holyhead, The RHIB slowed down as the alarm on the sonar sounded, we were bang on the wreck, over went our shot line, with our marker Buoy (Not a lobster pot Marker) 😊
It was decided that I would buddy pair with Nick and it was at this point that I was following the huge volume of experience in the RHIB that day, I had no idea what ideal conditions were and had full confidence in the team. I looked down in the RHIB and it had a fair amount of water in the RHIB... At this point, I’m thinking…. We are going to need a bucket… then I learned all about the “Elephants trunk” drop this trunk down and give the boat a blast it empties the water from RHIB. We returned to our marker and having already discussed our dive plan on land which was reiterated to me on the boat… Air in suit / BCD “Boat's in Neutral” 3…2…1 Go… Nick and I drop backwards off each side of the boat, the boat drifts away, We both work our way to the shot line… It was a little overwhelming at first to believe I was actually navy seal dropping into the sea. This time last year this would never have happened or even been agreed.
Nick was absolutely brilliant in supporting me, he stayed very close by and continued to promote and apply my ocean diver training. We both ventured down the shot line and got to the Asmund wreck… Yes, I was genuinely expecting there to be a ship upright on the seabed, but nope... It looked like someone had dropped some girders and beams into the Sea and buggered off. But none the less it was a wreck… The visibility on the way down the shot line was about 2m but improved on the bottom to about 4m. or so it seemed. This dive was only about 10m deep.
Me and Nick decided to move our shot line weight as it was literally stuck on the wreck, we moved to a sandier bed to make it easier to recover once the 2nd set of divers had gone in.
Nick and I decided to venture off the Asmund and started to explore some reefs in search of marine life, at the end of our dive Nick launched the DSMB and offered me the “L” shape to place my finger and thumb circular – not to grip the line but to use as a guide. We finished our dive at 6m and carried out our 3-minute safety stop before surfacing. As We broke the surface the RHIB with Wilt and Gary was literally already there waiting.
Nick had wound his DSMB, Wilt shouted “Split” this indicates for me and Nick to split up so that the RHIB can come between us, We are then to grab hold of the grab lines, De-kitting in the sea is completely different to any previous de-kitting I had done…
You first hand up your integrated weights/weight belt up to your RHIB buddy, unclip all your clips, Velcro straps and dry suit hoses, counting to three combined with your RHIB buddy lifts your BCD/cylinder on to the RHIB. Once it is safe to do so you fin up and get yourself into the RHIB… So there I am facing down in the RHIB gasping for breath with my knees bent and fins pointing in the air. Your buddy de-fins you and you're free to get upright and offer assistance to Nick who is still in the water.
Next, it was Gary and Wilts turn to venture into the water… off these guys went and Nick and I stood guard like stalwarts repaying the favour when they surfaced.
I also cannot stress enough how important the Buddy check is, no matter if your new to diving or have years of experience, we all miss tiny little things especially when distracted and have so many things going on.
On Sunday we woke to thick fog, we were not really sure if we would get the RHIB out today and decided to wait till around noon. thankfully the majority of the fog had burned off and the dive was going ahead. Again, the dive plan was discussed and decided on land and reiterated on the boat, we headed for the Abbotsford wreck. We set off from the slipway, it was cracking flags but as we ventured out into Sea I was thinking… I can’t see the horizon, I looked back I couldn’t see land, I looked right and I couldn’t see anything. 😊 Thankfully Wilts navigation skills paid dividends as we went past the skerries and passed the Mouse eventually turning up at Wylfa Power station. This time it was the turn of Gary and Wilt to dive first as we stood as stalwarts. Then it was mine and Nicks turn to dive. The water was calm, it was almost like glass. The sun was beating down. It was beautiful.
As Nick and I ventured the water, we went down our shot line to the wreck of the Abbotsford. This was more like it, this wreck appeared to be huge and had more recognisable parts that resembled a boat. I could hardly believe how vast this wreck was. Majority of our dive was on the wreck. It was awesome. At the end of our dive, Nick launched the DSMB which once again I placed my finger and thumb loosely around the line as a guide as we approached our 6m safety stop. I was very happy with my buoyancy control as I had no difficulties and the only movement was my breathing and pivoting. We broke the surface and once again like magic the boat was waiting for us, we de-kitted and got ready to head back.
We headed for the Skerries to see the Seals as we entered the rocky area we moored up the RHIB to a huge BUOY and chilled watching the seals. I had never seen actual seals before other than on TV or in a zoo so to see 40 plus Seals basking on the rocks was pretty amazing.
Wilt manoeuvred out of the Skerries into open water when the question came… “do you want to have a go at driving the RHIB” My reply was “Does a bear crap in the woods?”
I suppose it felt like Driving Miss Daisy at first” but as I became more confident I had a bloody good go, standing up with my backside resting against the backrest, gripping onto the wheel, watching my colleagues from the corner of my eyes bounce at every wave… Literally awesome... Loved it.
Upon our return…. what a treat The girls had been awesome (Michelle and Julie) had taken our cylinders to Anglesey to get refills. We could dive on Bank Holiday Monday.
Bank Holiday Monday day three- The weather was stunning and the guys decided that we would venture out to “Lamb rock” By this time I was becoming well accustomed to launching the RHIB, I had my own little jobs that I would undertake. We headed past Skerries and past the Mouse and all of a sudden, we saw a Dolphin break the water so Gary spun the boat around, Neutralised the boat as we sat and water for more Dolphin action. We must have scared it away… we ventured onto Lamb Rock, we managed to Moor the boat to the old RNLI Slipway…. The visibility was awesome… you could see the seabed no problem about 5m.
Nick and I dived first albeit from the RHIB but this really was a shore dive. The visibility was fantastic. I saw numerous fish, starfish and crabs and then a pretty decent sized Dogfish shot from under a rock, both me and Nick headed towards where the Dog Fish had settled and rested on the Seabed, it just looked AND stared at me, I got pretty close with my video camera before it decided to slowly move away…. We surfaced with our DSMB and the boat was there to collect us from the water. We moored the boat back up to the slipway as Wilt and Gary ventured into the stunningly clear water giving them some ten minutes before we untied the boat and manoeuvred to a more visible location ready for Wilts DSMB.
Once the dive was over Wilt took us to the Brickworks, we anchored the boat on the beach as we ventured on land to do a bit of Urbexing (Urban exploring). Walking around this once awesome brick company with its Kilns and it appears to be only accessible from the sea.
I want to say a huge thank you to my dive buddy Nick for putting up with me. I was like a kid in a pick and mix toffee shop… I also want to thank Wilt and Gary for putting up with me too. I had an amazing time, I learned a great deal and I can not wait to do this again sometime in the very near future.
I was lucky enough to experience both ends of the spectrum in regards to weather. Apparently, the Saturday weather is more common, whereas the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday are very rare… and I should not go bragging about it at the Club… people would only get jealous.