Saturday 10 July 2010

Good Dive at Beadnell Point

Yes, I know, I haven't posted up any blogging on Glastonbury. I will do soon. Thought I'd recap a dive I did at Beadnell Bay last month... I dive there a lot, as it's very popular with my dive centre and lots of other local divers. Lots to see at a relatively shallow depth, and few nasty currents / sharp rocks / things to get entangled in, hence it's popular for taking newbie divers out.

This time around we dived off Beadnell Point; me, two instructors and two Open Water* students. I was buddying with one of the instructors, the OW students were buddying each other, the final instructor was buddying with all of us.

Beadnell Point is new to me. There are several dives available at Beadnell Bay, and previously I'd dived Knacker Hole and Lady Hole (yes, I know, interesting names!). The Point dive has the advantage that you can see the wreck of the Yewglen, which sunk there in 1960 after it accidentally ran aground. No lives were lost, but the ship is pretty badly broken up, as bits of it were salvaged after it sank.

It still makes for an interesting dive with lots of life, albeit with the slight disadvantage that the dive begins with a 20-minute walk from the car park. No laughing matter when you're in a 7mm thick semidry suit with rubber diving boots, carrying all your gear. I wear 8kg of weight when I dive in my semidry suit, plus the buoyancy jacket, tank, fins, mask and snorkel. After we got to the jumping-in point, we sat for a few minutes to catch our breath whilst the divemasters donned their masks and fins and jumped in to have a nosy around at the conditions. One commented that it was surprisingly cold. I commented that a little-known advantage of being a female diver is the absence of shrinkage problems.

Visibility was pronounced "good", we strapped on and checked our gear, jacket full of air, regulator in mouth, stand on side of rock, look straight ahead, hold bottom of tank, GIANT stride into the sea, hit water, bob back up again, signal OK, fin over to meet buddies, dive commences when everyone's ready. I took a quick peek through my mask into the water below, and saw a small shoal of fish beneath, always a good sign for an interesting dive.

Though the water was cold, it wasn't too bad. I often find I can feel more cold on the surface, where you're bobbing about not exerting yourself and the wind is slapping you in the face, than beneath the waves, where the neoprene can do its thing and keep me warm. This time around it was fine. We buddied up and submerged together.

It's hard to convey the transition from the air world to the diving world in words. If I were to try, I'd say that we slip from the white realm of the sky over our heads into the pale green world of the water, from weight into weightlessness. A truly skilled diver will hover effortlessly in the water column with barely a thought, and even a novice diver experiences the joy of being free to move in all three dimensions, a sensation that cannot be replicated anywhere else (swim, and you must come up to breathe, fly, and you must keep moving or fall down). It's magical enough even before you begin to see the fish and crabs in their natural environment.

We explored what remains of the Yewglen, spotting small silver fish, small orange fish, what I think was a plaice, several crabs and a large lobster. As the dive progressed, we worked our way along the reefs, pausing to admire the marine life on the way. I noticed with a certain amount of smug joy that buoyancy control is becoming just a little more natural for me now; on swimming up slightly to go over a rock, I reach for the jacket's inflator hose to let out a little air without having to think about it. I'm a long way off the skill of the instructors, who can hover cross-legged in the water with no effort at all, but I'm getting there. Slowly.

The dive in total was 43 minutes beneath the waves, maximum depth 10m, with excellent visibility (I'm guessing 10-15m). The only slight fly in the ointment was the buoyancy problems experienced by the OW students; one couldn't sink easily, one couldn't rise easily... perhaps we should just have let them hold hands! Due to this, some of us ran a little low on air, and we surfaced to swim back to the shore. Interestingly, we encountered another group of divers on their way out. (Interesting because the sea is quite big, and bumping into other divers is relatively rare even at a popular site, unless you're actually at the entry or exit point for the dive.) As dives go, it was a good 'un.

I'm also happy to report that I've now bought my own buoyancy jacket. Yay! Next stop on the equipment list: my own regulators...

Glasto review coming soon.

* Open Water = basic diving certificate awarded by PADI. The minimum required to be able to rent diving gear or get an air tank filled.

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