Club Trip to Weymouth – Sept 2020

As the Autumn storms start to roll in across the Atlantic we keep a watchful eye on the weather forecast. The extremely changeable forecast went from a force 7 to a force 3 over the coming week. We decided to go for it with some of us opting for electric hook up at Martleaves campsite to keep a bit warmer !

When it actually came to launching on the Saturday the winds were a strong 5 gusting 6 North Westerly and bitingly cold. We attempted to get to the site of the British Inventor with the mistaken belief that there would still be shelter from the coastline but the wind against tide meant the chop was not pleasant. We headed for Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove with all of us getting our first soaking on the way there as the waves crashed over the boat ! We decided to dive just outside Lulworth Cove, sheltered from the wind and waves.

A new dive site to all of us, it was a fantastic suprise and very enjoyable with large rocky boulders interspersed with gravel. With depths of 10 – 14 meters and visibility 3 – 5m, both buddy teams had a good hours dive. Every rock was covered in colourful sponges, a variety of anemones and fan worms. Some of us were lucky to see a large cuttlefish camouflaged against the sea bed waving his tentacles at us.

Our second dive was in the shelter of Balaclava Bay and the Dredger. There were juvenile bib amongst the boulders making up the harbour wall and some lovely Snakelocks anemones on the dredger. We finished the day with a meal and drink at the Smugglers Inn.

With similar strong winds for Sunday we decided to have a leisurely start to the day, pack away the boat and enjoy a mega FEB at the Sailors Return at Weymouth Marina before heading home.

August Bank Holiday Weekend Dive Trip

Getting a campsite for a busy bank holiday weekend was a challenge  – even the pop up campsite we used last time was fully booked. However, perseverance by the Diving Officer eventually found a great little farm campsite at Rodden, 15 minutes away from the boatyard.  Surrounded by photogenic Rhea, friendly Alpacas, rare breed sheep that were giving birth to lambs as we watched and chickens and guinea fowl running around, it was perfect and not too busy. The facilities even had a box of earplugs to help with the cockerel’s early morning wake up call !   As the thunderstorm passed and the rainbow appeared we decided to walk to the pub at Portesham. Possibly not the best idea we’ve had – up and over the fields of cows and back along the road in the the rain. It does very nice food though!  

Typical of a Bank holiday weekend it was pretty breezy on the Saturday, so we prepped the boat for an early launch on the Sunday and checked out Chesil as an alternative.   With the waves breaking on the shore and a reported vis of a couple of meters, Quiddles cafe was definitely more inviting.  We followed this up by a mooch round Weymouth harbour, sampling seafood, oysters and a beer at the Brewers yard. There are worst ways to spend a sunny Saturday but it managed to wear out the Diving Officer ! 

The rest of the group arrived Saturday evening and we ate our dinner watching a beautiful sunset.  

With a North westerly wind, there was a choppy sea as we left Portland on Sunday and headed for the shelter of the coast line.  The Black Hawk again made a good sheltered dive site not reliant on slack water times. It was nice to see conger on the wreck peeking out of the wreckage. After a brief stop at the tropical-looking Lulworth Cove for lunch the sea conditions had improved and we set off to dive the wreck of the Binnendijk.  We were lucky enough to see Dolphins spinning and leaping out of the water on the way.  Not so lucky on the dive which ended up being on HMS Seabed  – but hey! it happens ! 

The Bank Holiday Monday was glorious, with calm seas and sunshine.  We made the most of it with an early start to dive the Aeolian Sky, followed by a drift dive on ledges on the way back to the harbour.   We saw lots of jewel anemones, white anemones (actinothoe sphyrodeta) and a squat lobster amongst the twisted metal and pipework with what looked like valves along it.

Dive Trip to Weymouth – August 2020

Our second Rib Diving Trip post Covid lockdown. The 30 degree heatwave was over and we had overcast, grey skies but very calm sea conditions  – ideal for diving.  Sea temperatures were a toasty 18 degrees.   A few of us were lucky to start the weekend early with a Friday afternoon dive on the Aeolian Sky with vis around 8m. It seemed rude not to make the most of the conditions and we had it all to ourselves !

We tried out a new “pop-up” farm campsite at Bincombe Bumps overlooking rolling Dorset countryside and Weymouth Bay.   Great views on the few occasions when the mist cleared and an amazing amount of other “pop-up’ campsites, as a sign of the times ! We had BBQ’s and socialising during the evenings whilst enjoying the views of the lit up cruise ships and Weymouth Bay.  Again it was fantastic to have newer members come and enjoy diving with the club.

There was Shore diving at Chesil cove on the Saturday for some of the group including our two Ocean diver trainees.  A post dive comment of “That was awesome” , says it all ! 

The Rib diving contingent dived the Black Hawk. Amazement and delight when we found that the shot-line we were unable to retrieve the last trip was actually still attached to the wreck !  There was the usual tons of life on it, including conger eels, sand eels, cuttlefish, lobster, huge bass, shoals of bib and pink seafans.   A quick lunch stop at Lulworth cove and then a dive at Durdle door in the calm conditions.   Nosed into the archway we dived through the arch and then drifted along the coast almost back to Lulworth.

On our way back to harbour we stopped for an up close look at the beautiful Queen Mary 2  – standing out amongst the other 7 liners moored up.  

We finished the weekend off with a dive on the Lulworth Scallop banks drifting over the ledges, spotting anemones. queenie scallops and ross coral.

First post lockdown Diving Trip Weymouth July 2020

There was extreme excitement for our first club diving trip post Covid lockdown. Our usual convenient campsite at Martleaves farm had been booked a couple of weeks prior to the weekend and we’d been keeping our fingers crossed the scheduled lifting of restrictions were on track.  For many of us it was the first time out of Northamptonshire and by the seaside in 2020.
As some of us were lucky to arrive Thursday evening we’d made special arrangements with the very accommodating George at the boatyard to launch the Rib on the Friday for it’s first 2020 outing. With 3 households on the boat it was easy to maintain the 1m Social distancing guidelines and we also had masks, shields and hand sanitiser available. The investment in the ladder last year really paid off as everyone is able to get themselves back on board, avoiding close contact and the usual man handling back over the tubes.
We headed to the Black Hawk, a good depth for shake down dives and to give the boat a nice long run out on such a beautiful sunny day. We passed the 9 cruise ships anchored in the bay and wondered when they will set sail again.   The vis was a reasonable 5m or so and the usual suspects spotted on the wreck including tompot blennies, sand eels, lobster and a Brill well camouflaged in the sand.


It was great to have two of our newest members on board and on a club trip you really get to know other club members.   What goes on tour stays on tour but that particular Rib trip will remain imprinted in the memories of those on board and everyone certainly got to know each other !    When we came to pull the shot line up it remained very firmly stuck inside the wreck, so we waved goodbye to it as we headed back to overnight in Portland marina.
With two additional members joining us on Friday evening we enjoyed BBQs and had a lot of laughs as we discussed the days events.  With clear skies we spotted the International Space station that passed  over us twice and most amazing of all we had great views of Comet Neowise.
The wind had picked up overnight, so we all took the opportunity to have a relaxed day and do some easy shore diving at the very sheltered Newton’s Cove.  A maximum 3 metres depth, the waters looked almost tropical.  There were lots corkwing wrasse guarding their nests and we also spotted a bobtail squid and decorator crab. Some of us saw a shoaling juvenile fish bait ball and intriguing mollusc and worm trails in the sand.  A site worth exploring and would be good for some training/progression dives too.   Beware you will need coins to pay for the £8 per day car park at the end of the road  – something we don’t often have to hand in these cashless days.
Our final dive on the Sunday was a drift over the Lulworth Banks picking up some much longed for scallops. Back in plenty of time to wash the boat down and get back home early enough to have scallops for dinner.

Ribcraft gets a ladder – March 2019

In early 2019 Club Members unanimously voted to purchase a ladder for the club’s Ribcraft paid for by club funds. The main aim of the ladder was to ensure diving from the Rib was more accessible for everyone and provide a safer (socially distanced) method of retrieving divers from the water. The usual method of hauling yourself up over the tubes requires a lot of upper body strength and many of us were increasingly requiring assistance from fellow divers to get back on board. Climbing up the ladder is so much more dignified than being manhandled like a beached whale !

Our Rib diving provides a very cost effective means of diving in the UK. A weekend trip can typically cost around £35 for a total of 4 dives, compared to hard boat costs of around £100 to £140. It also adds to the overall experience in allowing greater flexibility for club trips and gives members the opportunity to gain boat handling and seamanship skills.

August 2016 – Trip Report – Shetlands Liveaboard

A club trip to dive in the waters around the Shetland Isles was arranged for August 2016.  Trip organiser, Karen, summarises the weeks diving on behalf of the 12 adventurers…


boatThe Shetlands are the most northerly islands of the UK.  Travelling there from Towcester is a car journey to Aberdeen and an overnight ferry which arrives at the island’s main town Lerwick at 7am the next morning. It takes pretty much 24 hours to get there , although some of us chose to stop off at Carlisle the night before.  Why go all that way ?   Well this is one of THE best UK diving spots with fantastic marine life, shipwrecks and exceptional visibility.

There were 12 of us staying on the UK liveaboard, MV Halton skippered by Bob Anderson. Some of the group were liveaboard virgins but for those of us that have been on many a trip on the Halton over the years,  its a bit like coming home.  The boat is a converted fishing trawler and is very comfortable with 6 twin bunkbed cabins, 2 showers/toilets and an Aga in the galley. There is well-thought-out diving facilities including a diver lift and boxes under your bench to keep all your kit.

houseArriving on a Sunday we were met by Bob and his fantastic crew, Jen who was catering for us and Luke the Deckie/Tank topper-uppa.   Once your kit is all set up it stays set up for the rest of the week and your cylinders are filled whilst they are tied to the boat rails  – very convenient.

sea-slugOur first dive was the Pionersk  – a Russian fish factory ship lying at 22m just outside Lerwick.  A nice shakedown dive with an enormous ling tucked in under the stern.   Back into Lerwick for lunch and an walk in the sunshine spotting seals,  before going back out for a scenic dive on the Giants Legs.   The “legs” are two massive stacks that rise up the cliff at Bressay to form the cavern. The area is jammed packed with beautiful dahlia anemones, walls of dead mens fingers and many, many different types of colourful nudibranchs (sea slugs). Macro photographer’s heaven but with the slight surge my images were pretty disappointing  (or maybe it was just my rusty photography skills)  but a very enjoyable dive.



After spending the night in Lerwick our second days diving started with the wreck of the Glwadmena at 38m.   With stunning visibility you can see most of the ship as you swim along her.  She has 2 massive boilers  and a very photogenic bow.

After the dive we started steaming north for a few hours before a late afternoon dive on what is one of my favourite wreck dives the British submarine E49.    She was sunk after hitting a mine in WW1 with a total loss of life.  She lies in 35m on a sandy seabed , with the sand slowly claiming her. My photo taken 8 years ago (on the right) shows this clearly.  With the fantastic visibility, you can see the whole wreck as you descend the shot line.  Marine life is prolific, with some lucky to see octopus and the conning tower and periscope with its mirror still in place is fascinating.

wreck-2 We spent the night moored at Baltasound on Unst –  the most Northern island of the Shetlands.  Most of us had a wander up to the famous Unst bus stop which gets decorated every year in a different theme, before heading to the Baltasound Hotel where we discovered and sampled the excellent Shetland Reel Gin, distilled on Unst.

Everyone was keen to dive the E49 again so that’s what we did for our morning dive with others in our group also declaring it one of their favourite wrecks too.   The SS Tonis Chandris wreck was our afternoon dive.  It has a large engine block where you can easily see the con rods and pistons and friendly dogfish willing to pose for photos.

shet-ponyWe spent the night moored at Uyeasound on the south of Unst.   This was a beautifully peaceful harbour and most of us took advantage of walking our evening meal off and enjoying the scenery including the Shetland ponies and a Standing Stone.

With the weather closing in we managed a dive on the wreck of The Jane which has a much photographed propeller still in place and very friendly Ballan Wrasse.  With the current running a little the dive was finished off with a fairly fast drift and some scalloping.

propWe set sail for Lerwick as soon as all were back on board  – the weather Jonah (me) had finally caught up with us and we had a rough journey as soon as we got out of the lee of the islands.   There was some fairly spectacular sea sickness from one of us  – the details of which I will spare you and with one large wave another of the team managed to face plant the  saloon table, leaving his spectacles behind, a hilarious manoeuvre !  We were all pleased to end up back in Lerwick and were happy to spend the afternoon having a wander round town,  instead of braving the seas for an afternoon dive.

orcasThe next’s days plan was to dive the Fraoch Ban but the tides, wind and wave swell when we got round Bressay was very uncomfortable , so we headed back into more sheltered water to have a second dive on the Gwladmena.  With the vis even better than the first dive this gave us a great opportunity to get some good wide-angle shots of the wreck.    When those of us that dived were back on the surface we were told that just as we dived  under,  Orca’s had swam past !  “Yeah yeah” we all said  – what wind up merchants !   The couple of weeks prior to our trip , Orca’s had been sighted around the islands and close to Lerwick and we were hoping to see them but assumed it was going to be one of those “Oh you should have been here last  week” moments.   Well,  we still didn’t believe they were there until they were sighted as we were coming back into Lerwick harbour.  The Halton followed them up all the way up Bressay sound. We had fantastic views of them, at least 3 of them with one mother and calf. The mother was identified as an Orca called Mousa, named by the Icelandic group that research them when they return to their home ground.  A very memorable surface interval, we were very very lucky to see such magnificent animals. I don’t think the seals that were looking very alarmed around the harbour thought so though.

cheese-wineThe afternoon dive was on the SS Glenisla. She was sunk in 1917 after being involved in a collision and now lies in 45m of water, upright  and mainly intact.  A stunning and very interesting dive.  You could see the spare propeller, steam pipework and valves, boilers and small donkey  boiler, which looked a bit like a mine !  There are pieces of white phosphorous around the wreck that look like wedges of cheese.  Hence the “cheese and wine” photos.  We were under strict instruction to leave them there as they can become dangerous on contact with air.

With the weather settling down for our last day we dived the Lunokhods in the morning.

This is a Russian Klondyker (fish factory) ship sunk in 1993 and lies just under Bressay Lighthouse The wreck is broken into two main sections – the bow section is in 42m and the stern breaks the surface under the light house.  It made for an enjoyable dive, exploring the bow before working our way up the reef seeing various pieces of wreckage as our decompression stops disappeared.  There is lots of life on the wreck and the reef.

crabThe Fraoch Ban, a small fishing trawler was our final dive. She lies in 32m on her side and is covered with marine life and very photogenic. The surrounding sandy bed is home to many flatties, mainly plaice, that swarm around you to  find food as you disturb the sand.  You truly feel like you’re a “fish whisperer” and Bob has taken some stunning photos of them posing around him, which of course we attempted to emulate including some video clips.   One of those dives that yet again brought a smile to your face as you surfaced !

As the Halton steamed back to Lerwick all our kit and packing was done and were were ready for the overnight ferry back to Aberdeen.   A highly recommended week – the Shetlands is pretty hard to beat as one of the premier UK dive spots and team Halton delivers yet again, with detailed dive briefings on the sites, excellent catering and service.

Nature and Scenery Add-on
A couple of us decided to extend our stay in Shetlands by a week. Having dived the Shetlands a  few times, it was about time we saw some of the other scenery and wildlife that the islands are well known for.   We split the week into two and spent a few nights on the mainland staying at Scalloway and the second half of the week in Cullivoe on Yell.  You do need to be lucky for both the weather and some of the wildlife sightings. We had some luck with the wildlife, especially the puffins at Sumborough Head down on the South of Mainland and close encounters with an otter on Yell but apart from a couple of days the weather was wet and windy.  Despite this the scenery, particularly round the coast is stunning and can be very dramatic.  Its a very unique place in the UK and I would recommend a visit.


July 2016 – Trip Report – Mexico

Celine and Anna were in Caribbean Mexico for a destination wedding but diving was also high on the list of things to squeeze in…


img_9695-1Anna and I were heading to Mexico for a wedding, and although I was yet to complete my Ocean Diver qualification, I was determined not to miss the opportunity to go diving while we were there.  I spent quite some time researching dive centres in Playa Del Carmen, and found one I instantly liked among the many I contacted.  Blue Life Diving were totally understanding of my position as a novice diver, who’s never been diving in the sea, and who is yet to complete my qualification, which was a big help for my nerves.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself in Stoney Cove twice in the one week doing my last Ocean Diver sign off, and also practicing some skills that would probably be of use to me in Mexico – Thanks to our fab trainers for helping me get it completed in time!  BSAC were also equally as fab in turning my qualification card around in 6 days for me to take with me.

The plan was to squeeze in at least one days diving in the weeks were were there.  On my first day, I was diving with just a dive guide, Leo.  After spending some time going through kit, talking about what to expect on the boat and from the dives, we strapped all our kit to ourselves and walked the 200 yards to the beach to meet the boat.  The boat has all the cylinders and weight on board so we didn’t have anything too heavy to carry.

img_9651Our first dive was on a reef called Moc-Che which would see us diving between 7 and 15m on a slow current.  All kitted up, and sat on the side of the boat, it was time to backwards roll in and off we went!  The view on descent was amazing, the visibility was immense and warm water was lush, although the current made me a little wobbly to begin with.  I soon forgot about that as there was just so much to see along the reef; coral formations, fish, moray eels, and more.  Within the first few minutes we saw a massive Spotted Eagle ray which taught me a fabulous lesson; if you swim at it wanting to get a closer look, it invariably swims off!  Still, it was a amazing to see and set the tone for the whole dive.  The reef was amazing, with lots of little inlets where even more life gathered including lion fish, parrot fish, trumpet fish, sponges, crabs and so much more.  Towards the end of the dive there was an arch to swim through where tons of porkfish and grouper had collected. Forty eight minutes went by so quickly!

Max depth 16m
Total dive time 48mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 29degrees (nope not kidding!)
Surface interval 56mins

Back on the boat, sea sickness totally got me at that point, which wasn’t pleasant (no one warned me about this!)  I spent the surface interval staring at the land and sipping water, but I was feeling better so onto the next dive.

img_9647Second dive was along the Cerebros reef, where we would be diving between 6 to 12m.  Again, the reef life was amazing, with some huge Angelfish, spotted Moray and loads of lobsters, crabs and shrimp.  During the dive, Leo had said we would swim away from the reef, across the sand to find a sunken statue that was placed there to bless the waters and reefs along this section of coastline.  This is where we crossed paths with a Barracuda which thankfully didn’t seem to mind us being there.  We swam around the amazing shell statue a couple of times, and then headed back to the reef and to finish the dive.

Max depth 13m
Total dive time 45mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 29degrees (still!)

img_9677A couple of days later I was back with Blue Life, this time to do a deeper first dive, on the Tortugas reef (Tortugas being mexican for ‘Turtle’!). There were two other pairs on the dive boat with us that day, as Tortugas reef offers intermediate ~20m diving as well as deeper sections up to ~40m.  Lots of sea grass and massive barrel sponges lined the reef at the 20m area, with some huge Angel fish, Yellowtail Jack and Tarpon swimming around them.  However, it was the hawksbill turtles that were the star of the show in this dive! We didn’t see loads of them, which surprised Sarah (todays guide), but they were stunning.  In fact, I was so taken back after seeing the first one, I drifted over a large coral/sponge formation and came pretty much face to face with a 3m green moray eel who had decided to exit its hidey hole just at that point. Back on the boat, again feeling sea sick (why had no one warned me about this!?) but we spent the surface interval at the shore, so we all got off and cooled down in the water which helped.

Max depth 24m
Total dive time 40mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 30degrees (I’m now sweating underwater)
Surface interval 1hr 14mins

freeswimming_giant_green_moray_eelSecond dive today was on Sabalos reef, a shallow reef between 7 and 12m with amazing coral formations and some fabulous colourful Snapper, Triggerfish and Doctorfish.  By this point I was really starting to get the hang of the slow drift on the current and found I could steer myself a lot better to see things hidden in the corals and the reef walls.  I was also able to spend more time with my camera pointing at things rather than tying to use it as some sort of balance aid.

Max depth 14m
Total dive time 44mins
Safety Stop – 6m for 3 mins
Water temp 30degrees (I honestly don’t have my shower this hot)

By this point in our holiday, Anna was pretty bored of hearing me go on and on about diving, and was keen to get out to see some sea life as well, so we both went on a snorkelling trip to Akumal beach.  Akumal beach is famed for its green turtles, which we spent an hour snorkelling with, just a 20m swim from the shore.  Although there were a fair few other people there, it was still a magical experience.  After the beach our trip also took us deep into the Mexican jungle, to a Cenote; a fresh water hole in the ground.  We got to jump in and swim around the stalactites and stalagmites in the cold, but amazingly fresh water. After spending the day in the 40 degree sun, the water was just what we needed!  I think it was this evening that Anna had her epiphany and decided she was going to become a diver as well.

Oh, and the wedding was also amazing; on the beach in the evening sun, frozen cocktails, sunset.  We would definitely return to this part of Mexico again, as there is so much to do, and so many dive sites to explore – Hopefully next time we will both be diving!14500338_10157483094305257_9073863225373179790_o


January 2016 – Trip Report – Mauritius

Phil Bradley and his partner Dawn travelled to Mauritius in January of this year, here is his trip report.  SPOILER ALERT – it will make you yearn for the Indian Ocean!


My partner Dawn and I booked a holiday and headed for some sun on the beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Our expectations were high as our only other visit to the Indian Ocean (the Maldives) was fantastic.

We had booked into a small boutique hotel in Pereybere, on the northwest side of the island, with the most beautiful beaches on the island. We settled into our room with a courtesy bottle of champagne on the balcony overlooking the ocean.

Mauritius dive trip jan 16 philThe following day we went in search of a dive school. We found a professional looking school almost opposite our hotel ( The school was indeed very professionally  run (and owned) by a friendly and very experienced PADI course director Barlen.  Joined by his wife Fi, who ran the shop and administration side of the business, Berty the dive instructor and Madlen the dive guide and boat driver.


Our first dive was a reef dive ……….. the water was warm and clear but compared to the Maldives it was disappointing, the reef was small and the fish life was both small and scarce. Over the following days we dived every other day, getting in two dives before a nice lunch overlooking the ocean.

mauritiusphil4 mauritiusphil2

Once our expectations had been recalibrated, we thoroughly enjoyed the diving, the reefs were colourful and we found some excellent subjects for our camera lenses.


Surprisingly there are not many wrecks around the area, but we did dive on one that was a 20 minute boat ride away.

On the reefs we found many beautiful coloured leaf fish, morays. On one particular dive site we regularly found turtles resting amongst the coral beds and we were able to spend considerable time observing them and taking copious photographs.


mauritiusphil5Over the course of the holiday we did 14 dives which we thoroughly enjoyed as well as spending many hours touring the beautiful island of Mauritius.  Whilst we are in some of these beautiful places we privileged to visit it is nice to take in some of the local culture. At the time we were visiting the locals came to the end of their fasting period and had a festival to celebrate, which we visited in the adjacent village.

The Mauritian people of a mixture of cultures, Indian, French and….. but are exceptionally friendly and very welcoming of the English, due to our colonial history.



Not only is Mauritius beautiful below the water but also on top, it had many areas of beautiful mountains and forest.