2004 Diving Season Launched

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day sun, but even the dogs aren’t crazy enough to go diving on a cold and drizzly New Year’s Day. That’s how I came to find myself at 09:45 January 1st 2004, standing in the Wraysbury Dive Centre car park with my mobile phone pressed to my ear. The noise from the speaker alternated from “You have reached the T mobile voice mail service for….” to constant but unanswered ringing I couldn’t reach Dudley (Gray) or Dave (Champion). Hmmm, do I risk getting Brigette out of bed to see if Dudley has left yet? When in a corner the survival instinct takes over – I didn’t make the call.

Better late than never, or so they say, White Van Man pulled into the car park, parked the mobile dive centre and a motley crew disgorged themselves onto the gravel. The team comprised Dave, smiling as ever, Mark and Clare Nicholls and of course the inimitable Mr Gray. Kim followed in his own car and, a little later, as if by magic a Dominic appeared. So, that was it then; 6 divers and an assistant marshal as Mrs Nicholls had decided to stay a fully paid up member of the sane club.

Divers were buddied-up, myself ending up with my usual underwater life support system, Dudley. Some banter ensued about twinning 12s for me to make sure I got at least 20 minutes wet-time, surface support in general and Mark’s knack of losing himself, his buddy or both of them.

Time to kit up. “Do I need a hood?” wasn’t the most astute question I have ever asked, but being new to this cold water diving thing I wasn’t sure exactly how cold 4 degrees was. After a ride on the wobbly pontoon we were in and descending. I wore a hood but neglected gloves only to find out that a) rubbing your hands together under water doesn’t actually achieve the desired effect and b) exhaust bubbles are not warm enough to thaw fingers. Dudley found a scooter half buried in the silt and decided to live out his Evil Kenievel fantasy there and then, causing the biggest silt-out I had experienced so far. A little further on and we came under the scrutiny of a rather large Pike, with some even larger Carp (I think) in the background. We even managed to negotiate a swim through of an old cargo container

After my first-dive antics at Stoney Cove recently I was impressed by my ability to stay near the bottom in my dry suit and had been working on my air consumption so was not unduly worried about draining the loaned 15ltr in record time and cutting yet another dive with Dudley short. So it was with great consternation that 15 minutes into the foray I had to call the dive due to cramp. One limping (?) surface swim and a short but energetic fight with my fins later and we were standing by the van while Clare went to get the teas and coffees for everyone. Our heroine. 10m and 15 minutes on the computer, not exactly good but at least I had surfaced with some air in my cylinder.

The second dive – yes, it was a surprise to me too - was much less (more??) eventful. We were now diving as a triple, having been joined by Dave as Mark wanted to go over the marshalling sheets in the van with Clare. A likely story! After another bash at the fairground ride that was the pontoon in we went. I wore gloves this time. We managed to see a little more of the lake this time, with Dudley leading the way at a cracking pace but regularly checking on his less experienced charges. Let’s talk a little bit about underwater navigation. Up and down are simple enough, with Dave and myself having trouble getting down and me setting new underwater speed records going up when wearing a dry-suit. Dave and I thought we were heading NW while Dudley and the compass had other ideas. So much for OUR sense of direction. The Pike was in the same place; we managed a swim through on the cargo container again and even found the day-boat. Out of the water for the second time and much happier, with 10.8m and 30 minutes on the computer.

Dave needed thawing so we went and stood by the roaring fire that the proprietors had so thoughtfully provided. The heat was most welcome but I am not as sure about the toxicity of the fumes as they just seemed to be putting anything to hand on to burn. Once Mr Champion’s extremities were supple again and the shivering had stopped it was time for the party games. Due to time restrictions we only managed the one, a diving-biased version of that old children’s classic Hunt the Thimble but based around a search for my dive computer that wasn’t actually lost but cunningly hidden in my dry suit sleeve. Much fun was had by all and my penance came with having to reimburse the inn keeper for the first round at the obligatory drink stop on the way home.

I think a good day was had by all attendees and I would personally like to thank Dudley for organising the dip, Clare for the hot tea and humour between dives and Dominic for verifying the temperatures from his little black box. Funny though, because I didn’t even see him crash!

Mark Woods

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This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011