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Club Training Early 2018

It’s been a busy few months at the ScubaMAD with both in-house training and running SAA Regional courses. Congratulations to Josh Walker and Michael Scott for passing their Elementary Diver certificate in early January in a very chilly but, reasonably clear Eight Acre Lake. The remaining weekends of the month were occupied with running an O2/EDFA and Club Instructor course. Many thanks to Chris Kean and Gary Lampon for their involvement in instructing and assessing and several ScubaMAD club members for assisting with the Club Instructor practical.

A lot of progress has been made with the intensive theory for the several Elementary and Open Water Diver trainees in the Club, and many thanks go to Charlie Beardow for his contribution to this. In addition, there has been continued development of three club members aiming towards their Club Diver certificate. Mel Haskell and Neil Parsons, following an extended break from training, have both taken the plunge again. Mel has been prepared to try out a dry-suit in the pool and is almost ready to start on the required exercises in open water. Neil is on the verge of completion of his Club Diver qualification after venturing into Eight Acre as if he’d not missed a beat. Well done to Claire Mortimer for braving a chilly and murky Stoney Cove to achieve her last few remaining Club Diver exercises and for coping unfazed with an unexpected free-flow of her AAS, and for re-trying at Eight Acre to tackle the pesky SMB exercises that eluded completion at Stoney. One more dive will do it – the next in her much more favoured tropical blue water of St Kitts!

The snows in March put paid to plans for the Open Water Instructor course, and adjustments had to be made. The theory session was completed a week later than planned and hopefully the three candidates from Mercia and Filey Brigg will be successful at the open water assessment this coming weekend. Thanks again to Chris Kean, Gary Lampon and Dennis Tammadge for their Instructor involvement and ScubaMad members who have volunteered to act as the candidate’s “students”

Congratulations to Mel Haskell, Neil Parsons and IKSAC’s Anthony Clarke for their success in the Club Nitrox course run at the end of March.

Winnie Tang made her second attempt to complete her first Elementary Dive this weekend at a slightly warmer Eight Acre, (now at 7OC). The previous weekend she had been unsuccessful due to a leaking drysuit. Because a planned Rescue Diver practice session was postponed, we had the luxury of having someone available to capture some photographs and video of the experience. It’s a shame the visibility was so poor – the weekend before it was at some 8-10 metres. It was nice to meet up with some members of IKSAC and Atlantis there too.

Hopefully we can arrange another trip soon for Winnie and Stacy Bonser to complete the mask and DV clearances needed to attain their Elementary Diver certificate. Josh, when recovered from his recent surgery, in another few weeks will be able to continue with his Open Water Diver dives in preparation for his trip to Borneo. Also, it won’t be long before we have four or five more trainees to a level to prepare for their first open water dives…. It looks like it’s going to continue to be be busy for the rest of the year!!

My introduction to diving in the UK

I first learned to dive in Egypt and always described myself as a ‘fair weather diver’. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy diving the warm waters around Egypt and Bonaire as well as the not so warm but equally stunning islands of the Galapagos. As an Advanced Open Water PADI Diver with 200 dives logged, I joined my local Sub-Aqua Association (SAA) club in Mansfield to meet like minded divers. I transferred my diving qualifications over to the SAA system as an Open Water Diver and started the process of studying for my next qualification, the SAA’s Club Diver.

I really enjoyed the SAA approach to learning. The lectures, held in the club house, were delivered by in-house trainers. The club in Mansfield is lucky enough to have a very active membership with many instructors available to offer their expertise. It made a refreshing change to the PADI approach; I was learning from people I’d built relationships with and it made the whole classroom stage so much more enjoyable. After successfully completing the lecture program and passing the exam, the only elements left were the open water skills. Many of these skills were signed off during a club diving holiday to Bonaire but others remained to be done and that’s how I found myself doing three dives in one week in the UK.

First of all, the need to wear a dry suit, hood and gloves made me really appreciate the ease of diving in warm waters! I wasn’t put off and decided to dive at Stoney Cove, with the Club Diving Officer, to get some more dives in and accomplish the final skills. As we drove down the M1 in the cool weather, much cooler than usual for the last week in March, I have to say I questioned my decision!

There were already a few divers at the site when we arrived and I was feeling positive; if others could do it and exit the water with smiles on their faces it couldn’t be that bad! After our preparations were complete and the Diving Officer confirmed our dive plan and advised which skills I needed to complete on the first dive we logged our details with our Dive Marshall and were ready to enter the water.

Even wearing a dry suit and hood didn’t mean the cold water hitting the exposed elements of my face in particular wasn’t a shock to the system. It most certainly was! I was dry but the cold water soon penetrated my gloves and there was no way of getting away from the fact this was the UK and not Egypt! The Diving Officer kindly gave me a couple of kilos as I was underweighted and struggled to descend and we were on our way. Regular checks to ensure I was ok helped me feel reassured as I faced the experience of UK diving for the first time. I built up my confidence on this, my first open water dive wearing a dry suit, and enjoyed exploring elements of Stoney Cove. I completed the air sharing skills exercises and have to admit to buzzing when the dive ended.

After a surface interval, during which we enjoyed sausage and bacon butties and warmed up, the second dive of the day was upon us. The Diving Officer explained the task I needed to complete, the deployment of an SMB and swimming for a short while whilst towing it, didn’t seem daunting and I was rearing to go. We discussed how I would attach the SMB to a platform at the dive site and inflate it using my octopus and I was ready to do it. If only it was as simple as it sounded!

After a comfortable bimble of the dive site, I attached the SMB to the platform and was ready to inflate it using my octopus. This is where it went wrong. I couldn’t inflate the SMB after a few goes and then my octopus jammed and went in to free flow. I kept (outwardly) calm and turned it upside down, hit it and put my finger inside to try and release the diaphragm but nothing worked. The air was just gushing out. I checked my gauge and was surprised to see how quickly my air had dropped from 150 bar in the tank to 60. I signaled to my buddy, the Diving Officer, who gave me their octopus so I could air share. I managed to get my free flowing octopus under control, by that I mean I could hold it in place so it wasn’t flailing about, but my tank was soon empty. My tank went from 150 bar to empty in 40 seconds but I was relaxed with the air share and the two of us were able to perform a controlled ascent to the surface including the expected safety stop. Whilst at the surface, the reality of what had happened sank in and I thanked my buddy for the air share and have to admit to feeling a sense of relief. This was quickly followed by the realisation that I’d be diving at another UK dive site at the weekend.

April Fool’s Day was the chosen date for me to join other members of the diving club in a trip to Eight Acre, just outside Hull. I left Mansfield when the temperature gauge in my car was reading only 2.5° and I found myself wondering about my decision to dive! I was committed to getting my final skill signed off and was determined nothing would stop me. Little did I know.

There was a great turn out of club members at the dive site that Easter Sunday. Some were just wanting to enjoy an Easter dive,o thers were there to achieve some skills towards their relevant qualification and of course there were several instructors who gave their time to help qualifying divers. I was on a mission. The Diving Officer was my buddy and we agreed that rather than using my octopus to inflate the SMB this time we used hers. After the comprehensive site briefing, completion of necessary paperwork and buddy checks, we were ready to get in the water and get the job done.

Yes, it was April Fool’s Day but I still didn’t expect what actually happened. We had a lovely dive around the site, looked at the sunken boat and enjoyed looking at the nosey fish. The water was cooler than at Stoney Cove just three days previously but this was not going to stop me from accomplishing the task in hand. Well that’s what I thought anyway. I used my buddy’s octopus to inflate the SMB but it managed to detach itself from the reel. The two of us just stayed where we were whilst we saw the SMB floating to the surface. My buddy held up the end of the reel string to which the SMB should have been attached! After a few moments of bewilderment, closely followed by some giggling, we continued with our dive. We performed the safety stop and when on the surface we couldn’t believe what had happened. The SMB was clearly floating in the middle of Eight Acre lake so we had a surface swim to retrieve it before exiting the water.

After two cold water dives trying to perform what should be a relatively simple task I made the decision that I was too cold to undertake a second dive that day. A few of us, including the Diving Officer, are going diving in warmer waters soon so we’ve agreed I can complete this task then.

So 2018 saw me undertake 3 UK dives in 4 days and I never thought I’d do that. Even though I didn’t achieve all I had set out to, I will admit to enjoying the experience although I think I’ll enjoy diving in the UK in the warmer months even more. I’m looking forward to exploring both Stoney Cove and Eight Acre again, later in the year when I hope the water temperature may hit double figures. I’d like to thank the Club’s Diving Officer for giving up two days to dive with me and help me work towards the final elements of my Club Diver qualification. I feel very lucky to be a member of such an active club with so many members committed to developing and training other divers.

Some of the club members at Eight Acre
Some of the club members at Eight Acre

Ao Nang, Thailand, 2016

Charlie Beardow, Dive Leader and Club Instructor

October 2016, Ao Nang Thailand.

For months before my trip, I researched many different dive companies in Thailand. I eventually finalised my location (with my sister’s recommendation) to Ao Nang rather than Phuket.

I decided to use Kon Tiki Dive Company, after reading many different reports and not being far from the hotel.  I emailed and reserved 4 days diving with up to 10 dives.

Upon arrival in Ao Nang, I went and registered with the dive company and completed all the paper work.

Next morning I was collected from the hotel and taken to a long boat for transfer to a larger dive boat. There were about 10 people diving with four guides. We had a major brief and introduction to the guides before being split into our smaller groups. Once in the small group we were given more detailed information on what we may see and procedures.

Day One went lovely, seeing all the fish and sea life. However, it was noticeable of a great amount of damaged corals. Once back aboard the boat we asked about the corals and informed that this was the result of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.

Day Two, We had new dive guides and new locations in the Bay of Thailand. Again, the dives were lovely and waters warm. One of the dives was next to a pinnacle of limestone that climbed out of the sea to about 100 feet with trees and other vegetation growing. Around the base, were many day boats with snorkelers swimming and splashing around. We jumped in and immediately dive onto an artificial reef.

Day Three, Only 1 dive today and my last in Thailand. The seas seemed a little rougher than the other days, and again another guide. 

I dive with a couple from the London region, the man had done about 100 dives but his wife was still relatively new to diving and was quite apprehensive about the sea state. The Guide takes the wife in as his buddy because of her apprehension and I dive with the husband. Once in the water the woman literally uses up all her air within 20 minutes because she is hyperventilating and a little panicky. She ends up next to me as we swim through a ball of fish. Whilst we are doing our safety stop, the woman is panicky so I hold her hand, stay with her until we surface, and get to the boat.

When I was trying to get onto the boat with the guide the captain decides to engage his boats propellers and move off, everyone shouts for him to stop and the guide and I eventually make it aboard. I am not happy with the sea state as it was 3 to 4 foot waves. I decide not to do anymore diving with the company and inform the lead dive guide of my decision.  Whilst they decide to do a second dive, I dismantle my kit and find that I had broken one of my BCD weight pocket pouch handles, so even if I had wanted to dive I would not have been able to ditch my weights if necessary. 

I never heard another word from Kon Tiki divers whilst in Ao Nang and when I eventually did hear from them, they claimed they tried talking to me on the boat. 

Moral of this story is, even if you do all the research into a dive company it may not turn out as you like.

Red Sea Liveaboard

January 2017

I’ve dived in Egypt many times over the last 15 years, exclusively from day boats in Sharm-el-Sheikh, but with the recent restrictions, getting to Sharm is far from straightforward at the moment. However, flights to Hurghada are readily available and as I’d never done a liveaboard before, I was rather excited at the prospect of a week aboard Bluefin.

My wife Anne and I, plus another couple of MAD Scuba Club members, Heath and Steve, arrived in Hurghada feeling a little worse for wear.  We had travelled over the Pennines to Manchester airport in the dark in a bit of a snow storm, waited in the snow for the Jet Parks bus and got rather cold. A few of us were still suffering from the after effects of a Christmas cold too, so not a good start to the holiday!  It was, of course, a little warmer in Egypt, but not as warm as we were expecting.  The temperature was in the low 20s during the day (cooler at night) and the sea breeze on the boat meant there was little chance for sun bathing and fleeces were very welcome.  It’s a good job we were there for the diving rather than the sun!

For those that have yet to try a liveaboard, I heartily recommend it.  It looks quite a bit more expensive than day boats initially, but when you consider that it’s an all-inclusive trip, the comparisons are a little more favourable. Note: there are some exceptions to the all-inclusive ticket, i.e. alcohol, but you shouldn’t be drinking that much on a diving holiday, liveaboard or not!

The food on the boat is nothing short of miraculous given the confined space the cooks have to work in. It’s plentiful and in my view, puts some top-notch hotels to shame. There are always at least 2 courses for every meal and snacks available in between. You won’t go hungry believe me!

The on-suite accommodation is good or great depending on how lucky you are with your cabin allocation. We had a one of the big doubles, which was fantastic, as good as many hotel rooms. We didn’t need the air-con at that time of year though!

So how does liveaboard compare? Everything is relative of course, but on a day boat it always feels a little bit of a rush – getting up and breakfasting at the hotel, catching the bus down to the jetty, travelling out to the first dive site in the hope that you get there before all the other boats, setting up your kit for every dive, including changing tanks and then the return journey back to port and your hotel, a quick shower and out to find something to eat, then start all over again tomorrow.

A liveaboard is an altogether more relaxed experience. You set up your kit once at the beginning of the week and that’s it. You use the same tank all week and it’s filled in situ between dives. Those choosing to roll out of bed for the optional pre-breakfast dive are woken with a cuppa and 30 minutes later you’re donning your kit for the first dive of the day. Including the night dive, there are 4 dives a day on offer, for all but the first and last day.

After every dive the crew are on-hand to assist in any way they can. They almost look annoyed if you try and do something for yourself – removing fins and gear and handing you a cup of hot chocolate as soon as you’re back on deck. Needless to say, that’s very welcome after a rather cool hour-long dive.  Perhaps I’m a bit of a wuss, but I’d recommend you pack a decent 5mm wetsuit for this time of year. The water temp was down to 22/23°C and my trusty 5mm is getting a little long in the tooth now and was barely adequate. I’ll certainly be taking another layer if I repeat this trip next year with the same suit.

We chose the Northern Wrecks and Reefs tour (www.blueotwo.com) and many of the dive sites will be familiar to those that have dived around Sharm before – Shark & Yolanda, Jackfish Alley, Thistlegorm, Dunraven.  Perhaps there wasn’t the abundance of life on some of the sites that I’m used to seeing later in the year, but it was January, so I guess that’s to be expected. It certainly beats 8 Acre Lake in January and I know, because I was in there the week before!

We did quite a few wrecks new to me such as the Dunraven and the Kingston (see below). None quite as impressive as the Thistlegorm, but I doubt there are many wrecks in the world that can match it.

The usual creatures were to be found without looking very hard. Blue-spotted rays and morays aplenty were on show, as were pyjama slugs.

The only thing I really missed was turtles. Other divers spotted one or two but I didn’t see a turtle all week. I don’t suppose we see that many later in the year, but this is the first diving holiday I’ve had there with none at all.

However, this was more than compensated for by the highlight of the week, a dive site called Dolphin House, which lived up to its name.

From a few minutes in, a mother and calf were buzzing one dive group after another throughout the rest of the dive. I was trying to take pictures of Anne and these pesky dolphins kept getting in the way!

It really was a most memorable end to the week and I will certainly be keeping my eye open for more liveaboard bargains in the future. If anyone is thinking of going and needs a buddy to take, stick me at the top of your list please!

New Year, new start – getting dive fit for 2017

There has been much said recently in the diving press about the importance to divers of ensuring they recognise the need to take responsibility for their fitness to dive.  Age does seem to be an emerging factor in relation to diving fatalities over recent years. Cumming and Watson (2016) in reviewing diving incidents in the UK in 2015 note, ‘Diver age and potential related health and fitness issues are still featuring and may be critical factors in this and recent years’ fatalities’. 

While diving includes a broad age range of people, the emergence of the sport over recent decades means that many divers are now reaching middle age and, therefore, are subject to the aging process as much as we all try and deny it.  As we age, we are naturally subject to wear and tear and for men from around the age of 45 years and women from around 55 years, it does appear that we are at a greater risk of the development in particular of coronary heart disease and its subsequent risk factors related to blood flow. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though, many people continue to dive into older age very safely. Older divers tend to take fewer risks and they tend to obey the rules.  And there are things we can do to ensure we dive safety as club members and dive buddies. These include having regular check-ups and taking advantage of screening tests that are now available from the age of 40 years from the NHS visit  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/nhs-health-check/Pages/NHS-Health-Check.aspx  for more.   

As important is keeping fit through regular exercise thus ensuring your heart and general muscle strength are the best they can be. It is important to remember too, that chronological age can be markedly different from one’ s physiological age, the reason for this is often life-style based. One of my running friends was 75 years old last month, his current half marathon time is still better than mine has ever been! Younger divers too must take responsibility for their own health, well-being and fitness levels as much as older divers because we all rely upon one another when we are diving.  So, what can you do to ensure you are as fit as you can be as a diver for 2017?  Take up screening opportunities, manage your health conditions effectively with your medical practitioner, cut down on smoking, lose weight, try to build exercise into your life not just for the new year but throughout 2017 and beyond. 

Your club’s weekly pool session provides you with  a great opportunity to start to build regular exercise into your life when not scuba training.  So come on in buddies, the water is warm, start to get some decent lengths under your weight belt – I’ll see you in the pool in 2017.

Reference

Cumming, B.  & Watson, J.  (2016) National Diving Committee: Diving Incident Report 2016 British Sub Aqua Club.

Provided by Ruby Oates

Mansfield & District Scuba Diving Club

A day’s diving at Stoney Cove

July 2016

Paul and I enjoy a couple of dives at Stoney Cove. We enter the water from the bus stop and then swim down the slope to the drop off. We turn left and along the edge at 35 meters until we find the pile of rocks.

scubamad-3Turning left again, we go to the old school bus and Paul has a swim through whilst I play with my new camera. It is then off to the Stanegarth and a swim aft along the hull towards the stern. Then we are off to the tug boat Defiant. From there we swim on to the Transit Van and the Wessex Helicopter. There is a lot to see in Stoney Cove!

Then we start our ascent, doing the safety stops along the way, and out we pop near the wall.

Paul Morton at Stoney Cove
Paul Morton at Stoney Cove

Then it’s off to the cafe for the well earned drink and a bacon butty.

Our second dive is as rewarding and enjoyable as our first of the day.

Many more dives to follow throughout the year, both here in the UK and around the world.

{From the website}

SAA Club Instructor Training

Congratulations to Elliott Kean on passing his SAA Club Instructor qualification today at the ScubaMAD clubhouse and Ashfield Leisure Centre pool. Elliott is one of our keen, Kean family, divers. Under the instruction and guidance of ScubaMAD’s Training Officer, Chris Kean (Dad), Elliott has progressed from joining the club as a diver trainee in 2011, to building up his experience in British quarries and seas and tropical waters of the Red Sea and Caribbean, developed to taking on more responsibilities as Dive Leader in 2014, to now starting on a path of teaching and assessing new divers in diving theory and diving skills in the safe confines of a swimming pool.

Elliott is (im)proving to be a strong asset to ScubaMAD. With his enthusiasm to increase his diving skills, he is in the process of training as SAA Rescue Diver and intends to progress to train and qualify as an SAA Open Water Instructor. With Elliott’s mature attitude and calm and patient manner, I’m certain he will become an excellent diving tutor and assessor. He will very likely attract more, younger prospective divers to the Club and will help maintain the philosophy of ScubaMad …to provide a safe introduction to diving in the company of like-minded people who give up their time to ensure the best possible training, with an emphasis on safety, in a friendly, sociable atmosphere.

Good luck Elliott, with your forthcoming Rescue Diver assessment and future diving skills training and development.

{From the website}

Training Dive at Eight Acre Lake

Congratulations to Anne for her success in passing her SAA Elementary Diver open water assessment, in very chilly water, at Eight Acre Lake on 8th March 2015. There’s no stopping her now….!
Anne has been a “scuba widow” for over a decade and seen her husband, Chris, committing regular evenings to give training sessions at the clubhouse and a local pool, or leaving her for long weekends to dive in Oban, St Abbs, Seahouses, and even odd weeks away in Sharm. She has also seen over that time both her daughter (Sam) and son (Elliott) get bitten by the “diving bug” and drawn into the deep.

Anne initially became a social member of the scuba club a few years ago, (probably to see more of her family!) and when they all went on their jolly hols, she took to doing some snorkeling whilst the rest of the family dropped below the waves. Over the course of several club holidays in the past few years, Anne has achieved her formal snorkeling qualification and become a competent “fish spotter”. Also, she has trained as a qualified first aider and O2 provider, and been surface supporter on many in-land training expeditions. Also she has been an active social organiser for the Club, arranging lots of fun events and fund-raising activities.

However, despite lots of encouragement, Anne has been quite resistant to the “lure of the deep” because of “all that clat” and hassle needed to get under the water… until now. In a few short months since returning from the last Club holiday to Bonaire, Anne has “gone for it”… attended lectures, trained in the pool, accumulated the required “clat”, passed the theory exam and successfully tacked the required exercises on a training dive in bitterly cold water, to start her diving career.

Anne is working hard towards becoming a Club Diver and diving with the rest of her family when on the Club holiday in June. I have no doubt she will achieve it (source: Diving Officer). She has an excellent tutor in our club Training Officer, Chris (I wonder if it is like teaching your wife to drive?), and the support and encouragement of every Club member, who all value Anne’s efforts in support of the Club.

Congratulations Anne! Good luck with the rest of the training, and “Roll on, June!”

{From the website}

Bonaire Club Trip October 2014

In October 2014 fourteen club members were lucky enough to spend two fantastic weeks of diving, snorkeling, eating, drinking and other ‘tourist’ activities in the divers’ paradise that is Bonaire.

Bonaire is located in the Caribbean, just north of Venezuela, and is part of the group of islands referred to as both the Dutch Caribbean Islands, and the ABC Islands; Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. You can find out more about Bonaire at Tourism Bonaire.

The main attraction of Bonaire for Scuba Divers is the fact that the vast majority of diving is unguided shore diving, something that is quite rare for vacation diving abroad. I am pleased to say that the diving did not disappoint! The quantity and variety of sea life is huge, with many of us seeing some species for the first time in the open sea.

The Elusive Bonaire Seahorses

Up until the final day’s diving, however, one particular creature had remained elusive – the seahorse. We had all searched around the areas where they could reputedly be found, but to no avail. Fortunately, a number of coincidences came together on that final day.

Firstly, I had met a couple of divers in a dive centre close to where we were staying, at the Blachi Koko apartments in Kralendijk, who came from the UK. I asked them where I could find seahorses, and after some armtwisting they revealed that two had been seen near a boat mooring on Klein Bonaire, the small island close to Bonaire. They also informed me that one of the guides from our dive centre had found them.

Secondly, our dive package included a boat dive, which we had postponed until the last day of diving.

Thirdly, the guide on the boat was the one who had found the seahorses, and he led us straight to them. A truly memorable end to a fabulous holiday!

Please enjoy the photographs.

Mick Lockton

michaellockton.photography

{From the website}

The SAA Flag Presentation at Eight Acre Lake

It was a pleasantly warm spring day, for a change, on the day (20/4/2013) that North Notts Nautilus Scuba Diving Club handed over a Sub Aqua Association (SAA) flag to Mike Mudryk, owner and operator of Eight Acre Lake in North Cave, East Yorkshire. The flag now hangs in the café, which has been a welcome retreat between dives during the cold winter days we endured earlier in the year.

Divers are guaranteed a warm welcome by Scuba Dream at Eight Acre Lake, and our club visits the lake regularly for open water training and assessment sessions, as well as just ‘going for a pottle’.

Eight Acre Lake: http://www.scubadream.co.uk/

Group photo, left to right: Phil, Danny, Charlie, Mike, Emma, Dawn, Scott, Cherie, Chris