Devon 1995 - My Personal view

By Peter Miller

This is my view of Devon 1995. Many I hope will agree with me but some won't!

I hope that this will start all people who take part thinking about next year.

Devon is hard work, up early out in the fresh air, sand, sea and diving every day.

This year saw the club split dive sites for the first time ever. Was this weak dive marshalling?, aggressive selfishness on the part of some divers?, or too much influence by a few know-alls.

I saw two clubs put three large boats in at Start Bay without a lot of fuss. Our club did not even consider it.

Before Devon we have a meeting to plan diving and this is published before we go. What is the point when this is changed on the evening before the dive on the opinion of a few, not because of the weather but an obsession for using a launch site and base for diving that is totally unsuitable for families on almost 50% of the Devon week.

Are the bachelor divers and those without children trying to push family divers out and make them feel unwelcome.

Also these decisions seem to be discussed and taken in secret and presented to the divers - take it or leave it.

Several dives were run on the planned dive site and were good days.

We have been going to Devon for many years and some people have said we keep diving the same sites and should go somewhere else. Well before we rush to move some homework must be done. We need caravan sites for club members at a price that is reasonable. When we went to Cornwall it was very expensive. Haven, at Challaborough was 80-100 extra than Pennymore.

We need launch sites and alternatives if too windy, dive locations for all club members, not just deep diving that will take all day and leave novice divers waiting for ever on the beach while the top boys enjoy themselves. For we must remember that all club members have the same right to the use of the equipment for diving, and novice diving should not take a back seat for they are the future of the club.

Devon 1995 - My Personal View

By Mark Mumford

In reply to Peter Miller's article last month (above)

How pleased I was to have been able to put Peter's view into the last newsletter. It was a welcome change to see a member of the Club put his personal views into writing, and this is the sort of communication that I have always wanted to see.

Peter's article went into the newsletter with the minimum of editing - a full stop here, a comma there perhaps, but the content remained intact. This is a part of my responsibility as a newsletter editor.

This does not necessarily imply that I agree with all of Peter's comments, and this article puts a contrary view, that held by myself, and I believe, a number of others.

Peter comments that the Club was 'split' for the first time ever (in Devon on the Monday), and asks whether that was due to weak dive marshalling, aggressive selfishness, or too much influence by a few know-alls. The split occured after the Dive Marshals for the day had made the decision not to take the Tornado to Hallsands. This was a decision that I supported, having heard of the problems launching 'Northshore' two years earlier, and having seen Andy Hammond wreck his Landrover trying to launch one of the Alpha's on Hallsands beach on the Saturday.

Realising that the Tornado would be otherwise unused and available, a number of us talked to the Dive Marshals at Hallsands, the Diving Officer, and the Chairman, and obtained permission to take the Tornado to Plymouth instead, where sheltered diving was available, for which I had plans for Sports Diver Training.

In the end, this took a number of divers away from Hallsands (while leaving enough divers to launch the Alpha's), made use of the Tornado for the day, and resulted in an encouraging amount of training being undertaken.

To my mind, nobody lost out. It is clear that the Tornado was not needed at Hallsands, as a very small proportion of the divers at that site chose to have a second dive. (Incidently most who went to Plymouth that day did two dives!)

Peter makes other comments regarding our choice of caravan site, and I must agree with him. We use Pennymore at the beginning of the season, and obtain rates that are reasonable value for money, and affordable by most. Pennymore is ideally situated for all the dives sites we wish to visit. No doubt if we went later in the season, when the weather is a bit more predictable, and the water is warmer and clearer, then it would cost more, as other sites do in August as Peter quotes.

I also agree with his sentiment that Novice Divers must not be given a back seat, and this is something that I feel very strongly about. I disagree about the deep diving though. I do not think that this Club really goes in for Deep Diving. The Maine may be outside the limit for Novice Divers, but it hardly can be classified as 'Deep', when it is within the allowable range of inexperienced Sports Divers.

For the past few years, as Diving Officer, and Training Officer, I have encouraged people to train at their own rate, however 'fast' or 'slow' that might be. To my mind, there is no inherent advantage in taking two years to become a Sports (or any other diver) as opposed to two months. I object strongly to those who snipe on the sidelines and say that 'divers are being trained too fast these days'.

The important thing is for them to have met the requirements and standards of the training scheme, and to have developed the experienced required by the training scheme (and not that arbitrarily imagined by other members of the Club). If people want to criticise the speed of training, then please do so to me, and use me as an example, as I trained faster than anybody else in the Club (yet!). I feel that diving experience is proportional to the training you have done, including courses, the qualifications you have gained, and the amount of diving you have done, not the number of Club Annual General Meetings you have attended. There is also obviously a difference between the diver who has done two hundred dives and the diver who has done the same dive two hundred times. I don't think that this Club turns out any of the latter.

Since 1993 the Sports Diver training course has been recognised as an extension of the novice course, but in open water. The Novice Diver is held as being a diver, still under training, who has progressed to a point where he/she can develop his/her skills in open water (at his or her rate). I am prepared to devote as much time as is necessary, and I'm sure that there are many divers in the Club who will bear this out, to help progress divers to their desired position, where they can fully participate in Club activities.

I do not believe that Novice Divers can fully participate in all Club activities, as the BS-AC limits the depths to which they can dive. This is why I am keen that the Sports Diver Training Programme takes as little time as possible, consistent with the ability of students and availability of instructors to complete the required training to the required standard. This is also why I arranged to take the Tornado to Plymouth on that criticised day, during which we qualified four Novices as Sports Divers (including one at Hallsands!), and opened up a whole range of different diving for them during the rest of the week.

The Club is all about give and take, and yet I find that I have little time for Novice Divers who feel that as long as they keep coming to Devon year after year, and do no training whatsoever inbetween, then they will be catered for as well as another member of the Club. While I am happy to put myself out to almost any extent to train divers, people who are not prepared to put themselves out to complete their training should not expect to be treated as special cases by the Dive Marshals at Devon. I must point out that I do not apply this criticism to the Novice who qualified two weeks earlier, but to the Novice who has not got in the water since the previous Devon, and expects special dives to be put on for them. Thankfully, this lesson appears to be hitting home.

My final area of comment revolves around the issue of families on the dive site, addressing, as Peter puts it, 'Batchelor divers and those without children' as opposed to the 'families'.

I am uncertain as to which category to put myself in. Am I a batchelor, or do I count myself as a part of a family, along with Debbie and Laura? Certainly, the three of us have been coming to Devon together for the last three years, and I believe that the problems facing families with two active divers are greater than those where only one parent is a diver. However, the others in a similar position that I see, such as the Philips, the Messengers and the McConnells seem to overcome any difficulties without complaint. Perhaps a diving spouse is more understanding!

I enjoy the family atmosphere in Devon, yet I feel that we are principally a Diving Club, and while it is certainly possible to cater for all, diving is what it is all about - for me anyway. If we were not going to go diving every day, then I would not choose to go to Devon with the Club in the first place.

It seems that the 'families' card has been overplayed recently.. I recall two examples of a more negative aspect this year.

The first is the weekend that was arranged at Selsey 'for families'. This represents additional work on behalf of the Dive Marshals, and particularly the boat towers and cox'ns, who must get up considerably earlier to launch the boats at Littlehampton, and get back home also much later. Not only that, the additional running costs of the boat, in terms of fuel used, and engine hours run, which are considerable, is passed onto the divers on the day, not the families. Perhaps I would not have objected so much to this quite reasonable display of 'family diving' but for the fact that not a single family turned up on the Sunday.

The second example involves a dive from Newhaven on the August Bank Holiday, when, having launched the boats at the marina, the 'families' expected all the rest of the diving party to move location to Newhaven beach, where we would have a greater distance to carry all our kit. Thankfully, in the end, a compromise was reached, with family divers being dropped off where their families had chosen to relocate to.

Devon perhaps is more of a special event. It does have a family atmosphere, and special efforts should be made to accommodate those family members. This means sandy, preferably, beaches where the family can relax and play with buckets and spades while the divers play with boats and cylinders. I personally feel however that this should not come before a varied and interesting diving programme.

Sadly this year, the weather was against us, and we were forced to use alternate dive sites. These really are few, being Hallsands and Plymouth Sound for bad Westerly or South Westerly conditions. This also presents problems, as I continue to believe that Hallsands is not an appropriate site to launch the Tornado from, and QAB in Plymouth is far from enticing from the family point of view. In contrast, there is usually a number of interesting dive sites in Plymouth, even in the worst conditions, while Hallsands becomes comparatively dull in bad weather after a few days. A balance must be reached, and I believe that an appropriate one was reached this year. Thankfully, we no longer appear to use Bovisand.

No doubt better expedition planning can help allieviate some of these problems. If those organising events know in advance the number of families who are going to turn up for an event, and what the weather was going to do, then suitable arrangements can probably, and cheerfully, be made.

It is, however, a matter of proportion. Divers with families, if they are clearly in the minority (number wise), should not, I believe, expect to dictate the composition of the diving activities to the rest of the Club, but should instead encourage Dive Marshals to bias their choices toward launch sites that can accommodate both divers and families.

Of course, if those 'family divers' stepped forward and marshalled the dives, then they would have their own free choice of dive site, suitable to the needs of both divers and families, - as long as we didn't spend all seven days at Hallsands!

Peter's words raised some interesting issues, and whether you agree with his comments, or mine, or both, or neither, I think that the Club has a responsibility to provide interesting and varied diving appropriate to the skill levels of all its paying diving members. If families of those members, which may or may not include paid-up associate members, can be accommodated at the same time, through judicious advance planning, then the club will be a happier place for us all.

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011