Saturday, 16 March 2013

SOUTH WEST DIVING WINTER SPECIALS

Only a week late but I thought that I should write up the diving I did with Gary on Top Gun at South West Diving.  The wife & I along with our local dive club here in Birmingham (The Dive Club) embarked on one of Gary’s Winter Specials. 

So, what is a Winter Special?  £1000 for the whole boat (based on 10 divers) for the whole weekend including:
·     Two days diving; two dives per day*.
·     Saturday evening meal at Boringdon Arms at Turnchapel (main course only).
·     Saturday night bed and breakfast at Boringdon Arms at Turnchapel.
·     Hot pasties between dives, hot sausage rolls on return, hot drinks & snacks throughout.
·     There is also the option for an extra night bed and breakfast at a cost of £25 per person.
*Usually 25m max and sites are dictated by the weather.
South West Diving's boat Top Gun is located at the Mount Batten Centre and is a modern 10m hard boat with a stern mounted diver lift, large benches complete with tie downs and cylinder racks underneath.  Inside the cabin is a ‘drip dry’ wet area and further towards the bow is the completely dry area.  Located inside there is a galley fitted with a microwave and hot kettle and an electric marine toilet.  In addition to all of the MCA required safety equipment there are plus medical oxygen kits and a drop tank if you should need it.  Although the boat generally takes 10 divers/non-divers they are licenced for up to 12 plus crew.
Day 1.  Unfortunately with the weather we’ve been having recently the diving was always going to be a little hit and miss, and when the report said southerly winds force 2-3 we knew it may be lumpy.  We arrived bright and early on Saturday morning to load the boat and found Gary waiting for us.  After a bit of kit prep the boat was loaded and we set off for the HMS Scylla.  Once past the shelter of the Breakwater, as predicted the sea was a little lumpy but we motored out.  When we arrived at the dive site there was another boat there (that shall remain nameless) and it was agreed that we could use their shot (as long a Gary recovered it and handed it back later as is the local etiquette).  He however neglected to tell us that his divers did a bounce dive due to nil visibility and the shot wasn’t even on the wreck.  5 minutes later we were back up and the other boat had buggered off.  Not happy.  We headed back inside the Breakwater and to be honest I was glad as I had seemed to have left my sea legs behind and was feeling a little queasy.  After a ‘light’ lunch we headed out to the Mewstone only hoping things would improve.  We duly jumped in and everyone descended expect for the wife and I as I proceeded to feed the fish as I thought they needed the food more than I.   Once I was feeling a little better we descended and actually the visibility was quite good.  The Mewstone was as you would expect, although I had never dived this particular spot so it was a mixture of sandy bottom & long kelp.  Our dive time was limited by the cold so after a gentle dive I deployed the DSMB and we ascended.  Once all divers were on board we headed back to the Mount Batten Centre, dekitted what we needed to, dropped of the cylinders at InDeep, and headed back to the Boringdon Arms for a shower and agreed to meet Gary for dinner.

Day 2.  Looking out of the window the weather had worsened and we were not optimistic however we headed down to the Mount Batten Centre.  Immediately after I arrived I text Rob to say the diving was off as there was swell inside the shelter of the harbour.  However Gary arrived and managed to persuade most of us (less 2) that we should go out so being the sheep I was I followed the others and collected our cylinders.  Why wasn’t I surprised when the staff at InDeep said we were mad?  Anyway after rebuilding our kit we headed out to Devils Point.  Due to its location inside the harbour it was sheltered so in we dropped.  At depth it was VERY dark so after a quick bounce we spent the majority of the dive at around 8m and we drifted with the current.  Lots of squidge but not much spidge however I did come back with a nice glass bottle.  All back on board we stuffed our faces with pasties, sausage rolls and chocolate all washed down with a nice mug of tea.  We spent the next hour or so waiting for the submarine to come in before heading back to the Mount Batten Centre.  Everyone was happy so we all decided to only do the one dive allowing us time for a nice leisurely drive home.
  
The Mount Batten Centre is located just outside Plymouth and is home to many water and land based activity centres.  If you wish to know more please visit their website. 
Whilst we were diving we used the Mount Batten Centre for loading/unloading and its changing facilities.  Hot showers and changing facilities are available for paying customers and are controlled via a locked door.  However if you speak to the reception and inform them that you’re with South West Diving they will buzz you through.  The facilities provided are spacious and clean and certainly beat changing outside in the wind.

Car parking is available but only to pass holders and those using the Mount Batten Centre accommodation.  Otherwise there is a strict 40 minute loading/unloading rule which is clearly stated on the many notice boards in the area. If you overstay this time there are cameras and expect to receive a fine in the most (based on previous experience).  If you're not stopping at the Mount Batten Centre but wish to use their car park and facilities there is a £5 fee.  Once we unloaded (and time will tell if we were less than 40 minutes) there are plenty of spaces in the council car park over the road and on street parking; all free of charge and all within a couple of minutes’ walk!
InDeep is a dive centre located within the Mount Batten Centre offering commercial diving, PADI, TDI and GUE courses.  It also boasts a dive shop and is equipped with the biggest & best gas filling system in Europe.  

When we arrived back at the Mount Batten Centre one of their staff was waiting for us with a trolley.  We were able to leave our wing, back plate and harness attached.  We only had to remove the regulators.  Unlike other dive centres I’ve been to InDeep require payment in advance of filling.  The cost of twin 12s with 32% Nitrox is £14.  The advantage of InDeep however is that they have 32% banked so your cylinders can be filled in minutes.

I witnessed the gas station being built last a couple of years ago and I have to admit it is one of the cleanest I’ve seen.  And with the walls filled with storage banks getting a fill is never a problem.
Dating back to the 1700s, Boringdon Arms is a traditional inn is located on the south-west coastal path above the shorefront in Turnchapel.  The Boringdon Arms has a variety of rooms available from family, double and multiple-occupancy.  The family rooms are en-suite whilst the remainder share toilets and shower facilities.  The pub itself is only a 10 minute walk from the Mount Batten Centre and if you’d rather not drive into town the water taxi operates nearby. 

Due to a late finish on Friday night we decided against travelling down and opted for an early start in the morning arriving just in time for breakfast.  As you near the pub some of the streets are narrow but do not let this put you off.  As you arrive at the pub if you drive straight past there is a free car park located on the right hand side opposite the Royal Marine barracks. 

For breakfast there is a selection of cooked breakfasts available along with cereals, juices and teas.  However it’s the evening meals that surpass themselves and I only wish I had taken a picture of the food.  Having order mussels to start I was given a pot full of them along with a side order of chips (as a starter!).  This could have easily been a main course at most pubs.  Then for the main course I ordered ribs.  An elongated plate came out and the ribs were at least a foot long.  Honestly.  Then there was the side orders on a separate plate.  Regardless of choice; steak, lamb shank etc… the results were the same and the price was the same as any other normal pub.  Oh, plus it tasted amazing.  Although I opted out of a desert for those that had one it was as you would expect.  I cannot rate the food enough.

The accommodation was clean and cheerful and suited our needs.  Towels were provided and there were plenty of charging points.  I would happily stay there again.

Summary
Overall, despite the weather it was a great weekend.  However much we would like to we couldn’t blame Gary for the weather or the incident on the HMS Scylla.  We had some fun dives, some excellent food and brilliant company.  At £100 per person for a weekends diving, accommodation and dinner Saturday, breakfast Sunday plus lunch both days it’s a steal.  The Mount Batten Centre has excellent facilities (although be aware of the parking restriction) and Gary is an excellent skipper; knowledgeable friendly and accommodating.  A thank you must go to members of The Dive Club for organising an excellent weekend but the final thank you must go to Martin (Janner) of Janners Mugs for being an excellent deck hand.  Always making himself busy with tea, hot food, manning the lift, rinsing masks, putting on fins etc…  We did Fundies together (report here).  Top man! 
If you’re in the market for mugs, steins or phone covers then give Martin a shout.  He has standard designs such as the one shown or can do a custom design; from a single mug to mass orders.
Go on give him a call, you know you want to!!!

The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.
Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI & SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: tim@rectotec.co.uk l