Mad dogs and Englishmen
.. but where was the sun?

The day started well, not too early and not too cold. The dive was planned for around 1 O’clock, so some of us met at the Club House around 8 as lifting the boats over the barricade would need many hands. Everyone was on time and in good spirits, though thankfully not literally after the New Year’s Eve celebrations of the night before. The customary boat checks done, a small hiccup discovered with Tornado’s steering meant we left a little later than expected, but a small convoy was soon on its way to the coast.

After a quick drive to Shoreham and parking up, an inspection of the public slipway showed we were lacking a vital resource…. the Sea! The tide looked to be still on the way out and, as the pubs weren’t open yet, we had to make alternative launch arrangements. Another quick drive and a reconvene at the lock saw Dudley expertly reverse the Tornado onto the slip. With Pete at the helm, the boat was soon in the water and making its way round to the pontoon to be loaded. Dave Champion decided caution was the order of the day, dropping the Alpha (smashing boat) into the water a little less smartly than his forerunner.

Dave, now with his Dive Marshal cardigan on, called us together for the briefing. The briefing was informative; covering the expected depth, was projected to be about 15m, setting a maximum dive time of 45 minutes and warning of a light current. Buddy pairings were also confirmed, boat allocations made for the ride out and what we were likely to encounter beneath the waves. Once the kit was aboard Andy (my buddy) and I had a buddy-briefing to confirm signals and our dive plan while we waited for the group.

We left via the lock about five minutes boat time away from the mooring. It was a clear day and in the shelter of the harbour it was calm and not very windy. I don’t know my force warnings but it must have been around 2 to 3 when we left the shelter of the harbour and headed for the reef. This would be my first dive from the British coastline. This was also my first experience of diving from a rib (5.5m Tornado). It was not scary, although there was a little apprehension mixed in with the excitement and I couldn’t have kitted up without help as we bobbed around. Andy and I were the first ones to kit up and, after a buddy check, Andy exited the rib first near the shot line. On the next pass it was my turn and I started to hyperventilate slightly waiting my turn, but on hearing the cox’s “3…2….1..neutral..GO!” I flipped backwards and found myself right next to Andy and the shot line. I’m sure I must have looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights, but a reassuring ‘ok’ signal from my buddy and my breathing calmed down as I signalled back.

Andy gave the down signal and I replied and watched my buddy sink. I let the air out of my jacket to find I was slightly underweight, so I used the shot line to sink myself for the first couple of metres and then found I was gently sinking into pea soup, with only bubbles rising from Andy below indicating which way was down. On reaching the bottom, computer showing 14.3m with a viz of about 2m, I could see Andy waiting for me and pointing to 2 dogfish lying on the bottom that I had landed right next to. As my eyes became accustomed to the new environment I could make out whelks, tiny crabs and thousands of shells littering the seabed. Once we had checked our equipment and the immediate area, I helped Andy inflate the DSMB, as dictated by the Marshall in the dive briefing. I let Andy lead the dive. There was a slight current and lots more dogfish, edible crabs and anemone’s were to be seen as we drifted, along with a few other sea creatures that looked like tiny white anemone’s (I’ve yet to identify) and scallops. The sandy seabed could not be see for the amount of shells littered everywhere. Our Cox’n Pete had told us prior to the dive that when enough of us were in the water he would let off a diver recall so that we would recognise it when we heard it next time. Emphasis was put on the “Not surfacing until you hear 2 consecutive BANGS!” It was very effective as you not only heard it but felt it a little to. The gentle current allowed us both to be moved along with no effort and view our new world at leisure. After 41 minutes we ascended to a 6m safety stop, where we stayed for 2 minutes before continuing onto the surface and the 1 ½ m swell. The boat looked tiny in the distance….

Once on board we needed to make a further 2 pickups before heading back to the harbour, making a teaching stop for an offshore marker buoy before racing for solid land. This was good as another 15 minutes and my breakfast may have made reappearance. The dive log would have shown when we entered and exited the water but only when we were getting changed I noticed it was 14:34!! The morning had flown by and the wind had picked up considerably as when we left the pub later it must have been about force 7. I know I’ll be back again for more.

p.s. There weren’t any dogs either!.

Roy Bhikoo

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011