Welcome to the HSAC blog! Here you will find trip reports, news and anything we share.
The Brighton trip weekend sadly began with a blow out on Saturday, but
the ever-desperate-to-dive Will suggested we have a splash in the
quarry before heading to Brighton in the evening.
Anne, Ellie, Jun-Ho, Will, and I took to the waters at St Andrews Lake
in Kent, while Olivia provided excellent shore cover and HSAC’s most
high fashion moment since Pauline went to Tesco’s on a beer run in a
full wetsuit back in May.
We enjoyed the bathtub warmth of the cloudy shallows (19-21 degrees!),
but had better vis (3-4m) at depths where temps were 12 degrees
chillier, and caught sight of a transit van, yacht, gnome garden, and
In Brighton, we met with remaining divers Brian, Garry, Mick, Andy,
and Brad (and joyfully reunited with Anna!) at our digs for the night,
which were undoubtedly more geared towards the stag/hen crowd than the
responsible, early-rising diver (5 J Bombs for £5, anyone?). We
ventured out to a nearby pub and enjoyed a nice meal and quiet pint
before retiring to our beds.
After a cool and restful night, we were up bright and early Sunday
morning for ropes off at 7:30 AM. Our first dive was on the SS City of
Brisbane – an impressive wreck torpedoed in 1918, 137m long at a
maximum depth of 20m at slack, standing approximately 6m off the sea
floor. There was lots of sea life observed in the incredible wreckage:
shy lobsters, angry crabs, wandering blennies, and menacing eels.
After a quick fill up at Newhaven port, we set out to Kings West Ledge
for a drift dive. Poor vis and a great deal of sand meant some lucky
divers got the opportunity to successfully rehearse separation
procedures, while other pairs had a relaxing 13m drift through a
Sadly, Ellie couldn’t dive due to problems equalising, and Brian’s
cold kept him from a second dive; a blown boot meant soaking-wet Will
couldn’t join us for the drift. Although not everything went to plan,
we thoroughly enjoyed the dives we did and had a wonderful weekend in
the sun. Thanks to Will for managing an excellent trip and to all for
making it a success!
Return to the Scene of the Crime – by Jane
I completed my first sea dives in the Farne Islands with the club back in 2017 and was excited to return to where it all began. Were the fish and chips at the Craster Arms still bordering on inedibly huge? Could we still see Saturn’s rings on the late, bright skies? And, most importantly, could we generate enough ‘Seal Appeal’?
Farnes 2019 did not disappoint. Anne needed to appoint several Deputy Cod Consumers after she couldn’t manage on her own, and the formerly sketchy Beadnell Towers was transformed into a stunning gastropub. Evenings were replete with sky- and sea-gazing: Dylan and Chris brought telescopes for viewings of Saturn, Jupiter, and the Andromeda galaxy; room 2 was transformed into Cinema 2, showing big screen dive films, courtesy of Jun-Ho’s projector.
My favourite dive was on the seal-saturated, last of the trip with Elaine. We were following Jun-Ho and Fee quite closely, and the seals behaved ridiculously – I’d never seen so many bubbles from laughing divers. And it was a real delight surfacing to the sounds of Farnes first-timers excitedly chatting about their encounters.
We never quite got around to figuring out whether it was possible to float a baby on an SMB or to clothe a diver entirely in the contents of the RNLI gift shop (if, say, one forgot to pack any clothes…) but there’s always next year!
Birdies’ paradise – by Olivia
Seals were the basking, dipping and dozing stars of the show, but I also really enjoyed the island views and wildlife especially when we dived and surfaced so close to nesting sites on the middle day of the trip. Chris and I had a fun and calm dive around these and when surfacing at water’s height there was something humbling and amusing about being overlooked by thousands of yakking seabirds from their island cliff – as well as the curious bird watchers! The colours of the flora and the form of the seals amidst the kelp on other dives was marvelous and I definitely count these Farne Island sites among the favourite shallow dives I have done.
Seals – by Jun-Ho
Seeing a few seals in Pembrokeshire back in May (including the two vigorously pointed out to me by Will ✌️✌️) had whetted my appetite for more pinniped action, and my first trip to the Farnes did not disappoint. One particular favourite moment was on the last dive of the trip. Fee and I spent much of the dive creeping slowly through the kelp sneaking up on seals. It seemed that every time we rounded a corner there was another either dozing on the sand or darting off having heard our bubbles. One particularly sleepy specimen paused from its ear-scratching as we approached and regarded us lazily with one eye, until it eventually decided it didn’t want to play. Whereupon it darted out and promptly became wedged in the small gully ahead of us. There was a moment when it looked around, seemingly to check that no one else had seen it before it turned and with a few flicks, disappeared.
Close encounter – by Robert
Throughout the trip the seals became more inquisitive, at first effortlessly gliding by and then approaching out of the line of site for closer inspection. My first close encounter was a nudge from behind which I thought was another diver, but when looking around I was surprised to a seal staring back with an ‘all innocent’ expression and then darting off. I noticed adolescent seals played with other diver’s fins, reminiscent of dogs playing with toys, play biting and even sniffing fins. Finally, as we about to ascend for the last dive my buddy pointed behind me and I turned around to see a young seal nipping on my fin, after having enough play it then zoomed off. This was all played out against a background of impressive canyon like walls covered in white soft corals, swirling kelp and abundant crustaceans.
Drysuit fun – by Elaine
Descending into kelp was memorable as it was never my intention to sink into the unknown! My buoyancy had to kick in then!
Fine tuning my buoyancy in my dry suit was amazing… learning to slow down and also hover were major achievements for me.
The abundance of colour and life in less than 15 metres down was awesome, and the seals were beautiful to watch on land and underwater. They were by far the highlight of my trip.
Gun Rock – by Anne
We visited Gun Rock twice as dive sites were limited by a combination of winds, current and spring tides. However Lee always manages to drop us in sheltered water and so diving it from north to south on the first day and then south to north on the second felt as if we were visiting two completely different sites, (probably because Fee and I on the first day and Robert and I on the 3rd day spent so long time poking amongst the boulders, nooks and crannies looking for critters that we never got the full distance anyway).
What better way to start the dive season than to swim mid water on a wall completely festooned with fluffy cream dead men’s finger’s and yellow staghorn sponges beautifully back lit from the sun. Little spiny squat lobsters were lurking in the cracks with piercing blue eyes, red multi legged cannibal, sun starfish (I counted 13 legs) and eel like red and black striped butterfish.
Huge boulders sit on the sea bed at 14 metres, each one a macro sea garden topped with rich ochre kelp and dark red seaweeds being munched by tiny white and yellow tipped nudibranchs. Lobsters generally were seen lurking under rocks but Robert and I saw one magnificent specimen wandering about (lucky Garry wasn’t on the trip).
No seals at this location and although there was plenty of seal action for some on other dives I was disappointed to only see them darting about in the distance. However just as we were deploying the DSMB on the very last dive of the trip our luck changed and Robert had a personal encounter with a seal nibbling away at his fins. During the dive interval we could see many seals lounging on the rocks, guillimots diving into the sea and puffins busily flying to and fro to their nests to feed their young with their beaks full of silver sand eels. The Farne Islands are a must for anyone who wants a close encounter with the UK’s rich variety of marine life and all in Ocean Diver depths!
A sea of colours beneath the waves – by Fee
Dead men’s fingers, spiky lace, sea orange, goosebump and boring sponge – a pallet of yellows, oranges and whites interspersed with sea urchins dotted around and kelp dancing in the far distance swaying with the swell. Peacefully exploring the nooks and crannies for the community that live amongst these colourful structures.
Big Harcar and seals – by Shira
My special diving moment out at Farnes Island was most definitely Big Harcar. It was my first ever Seal encounter underwater and one I enjoyed tremendously.
It was fun diving above large kelps that swayed to and fro and searching for more Seals that seemed to have hidden rest places that ends up crowded with curious divers. And so they swam away, leaving just their scent.
Other beauties found under the Farnes sea included a decoration of deadman fingers, sea urchins and happy sponges spread quite widely. Making it quite a breathtaking phenomenal picturesque view.
And hidden behind the cracks were a number of swimming crabs some resting while others looked like they were dancing to Staying Alive.
We did see the odd Octopus hiding away but what was fascinating to me was the empty patterned cracked egg shells that added to the jewels of Big Harcar! Truly mesmerising!
By Elaine and Shira
Two excellent dives involving velvet crabs, a Prostheceraeus Vittatus (a candy-striped flatworm to you and me), Tompot Blenny, Cuttlefish, Balan and Cuckoo Wrasse. Swanage has certainly changed since we were there in May 2018 with swanky cafes along the pier serving amazing food.
HSAC almost had another blown out weekend due to weather. What started out as a planned 2 days of diving with 8 people, ended up a one day of diving with 5 people (sometimes plans just doesn’t pan out, but that’s life). Saturday was a total blow-out (not even the pier was fit for diving), but Sunday looked a lot more promising.
We saw the positives with “Do all you want Saturday” and “Diving Sunday”.
Three of us still went down to Swanage on the Friday evening anyway and the two of us arrived early Saturday evening, had a lovely meal at Castaways followed by a couple of pints at the Black Swan. We stayed at the Railway Cottage, which isn’t far from the pier.
Sunday turned out to be a beautifully warm, sunny and calm day, a bit murky underwater, but we managed to see some lovely sights under the pier in the morning and on the boat in the afternoon, via Swanage Divers with Pete the Skipper out to the wreck Clan McVey.
Our first dive was the Swanage Pier. Dylan, Robert and Shira were the first to go in. The water temp was 15°C with a depth of 2-3m.
There was an abundance of beauty with nudibranch, seaweeds, wooden or metal planks with sea life surrounding it, a very peaceful dive that stretches a far distance and has many hidden sea life in secret hide outs or cracks.
Elaine and Richard joined straight after with lovely Virginia keeping watch as shore cover. It was a good 40 minutes dive for us all, though there were swells that made you move about a bit.
Our second dive was the Clan McVey, a wreck 19m deep, which is all broken apart, but you do get to see the pieces of wreck on the seabed with amazing sea life surrounding them such as dead man’s fingers and other sea plants, spider crabs.
Shira’s favourite was a large cuttlefish that caught her eye. Just tentacles to start off with, and as she approached it revealed to be a camouflaged cuttlefish. Moving closer and Mr Cuttlefish did a reverse and continued reversing!
The visibility was not that great going down, and there was a lot of plankton. The
water temp was 14°C and colder than under the pier. Yet it was a good dive to be able to witness the world beneath.
The skipper from Divers Down as always was friendly as ever and gave us warm hot chocolate after our dive, which was an added bonus.
I believe we all did have an incredible time.
We had 2 great dives despite Saturday’s blow out and the murky viz.
A big thank you goes out to:
- The wonderful Virginia (Dylan’s wife, and previous HSAC diver) who looked after our car keys on the pier and provided a trolley for our kit after the boat dive. A true gem!
- Dylan for renting the Railway Cottage
- Chris for loaning his car out to Richard
- Richard for driving Chris’ car……there and back from Swanage!
- Elaine for driving Chris’ car to Richard’s – she only drives manual and
his is automatic!
Written by Elizabeth Elliott.
It seems the phrase ‘third time lucky’ stands for the Pembrokeshire trip. On Thursday evening 12 people travelled to dive the area around Milford Haven from the hard boat Eve Ann.
The trip was filled – many firsts and lasts. Pauline’s last dive to qualify as an Ocean Diver (congratulations!), Jun-Ho and Jane’s last Dive Leader lecture (thanks to Jack for fitting it in over some beers), my last Dive Leader dives signed off, and hopefully not last time time we’ll have such glorious weather in Pembrokeshire!
Firsts included Pauline’s first qualified dive and also the probably the first time anyone has seen an octopus on so early in their diving career (this was swiftly rectified by her following dive on the HMS Muddy-Bottom)! For Vikki, Jack and myself, it was our first trip with HSAC and we look forward to many more brilliant trips.
The first day of diving on Friday consisted of two wall dives at High Point and Low Point which had some nice squishies and was a good opportunity for everyone to get back into the swing of diving at the start of the season.
The dives on the second day were at Stack Rocks (which look like a camel but actually had countless dogfish) and Skomer Island. Skomer Island had entertainment both above- and under-water with ever-adorable seals and flocks of puffins.
The third day was dedicated to wrecks, to the excitement of all the rust-heads. The Dakotian was a WWII transport ship carrying mines which ironically hit a mine and the Behar was a WWII cable laying ship. They were both very large and interesting wrecks with unique features and were a nice contrast to the scenic dives to finish the trip on.
The beautiful sunny weather and calm seas all weekend topped off a wonderful trip. Many thanks from everyone to Will for his brilliant organisation of it all!
Report written by Jane
For my part, the initial outlook was not good: pouring rain, freezing cold, two failed alarm clocks (both mine), and two relatively unimpressed instructors. The only thing that saved me from being abandoned was that I had the O2 kit safely tucked away in my flat…
But the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly in Wraysbury, and Sunday’s Practical Rescue Management course was a resounding success. Attended by Fee, Andy, Dylan, Shira, Jun-Ho, and me; instructed by Anne and Liz – the highlight of the lectures was an excellent demo of the potential hazards of downwash during a helicopter rescue, using a toy Vietnamese aircraft carrier, a hairdryer, and a lot of hand-torn confetti.
Our discussions on reports from actual rescue situations initially focused on identifying the seemingly-minor omissions and mistakes that became contributors to the more serious incident, and then on to determining the actions we would take as the rescue manager in that situation. Putting our theory to use in the practical scenarios, we rescued one heavy-drinking, trans-fat-loving, exercise-shy skipper with a heart condition; two fish-feeding CO poisoners; one by-the-book-but-thoroughly-uncoordinated diver with a head injury; an obstructively-frantic diver and his unconscious wife; one incongruously-hungry hypothermic; two of the shiftiest-ever potential DCI sufferers, and so many more!
Shira celebrated her birthday with two cakes. Happy Birthday, Shira!
Thanks to Fee and Shira for the cake, and big thanks to Anne and Liz for teaching.
Drawna Bay by Fee
Full of life and colourful seaweeds – at only 10m depth at high tide, the bay is perfect for an hour long exploration. Loved the wrasse diving in and out of clouds of pastel coloured cotton balls, Mermaid’s Tresses towering heights trying to reach the sky, golden kelp swaying in the swell sheltering crabs, starfish, prawns, urchins, and a reported sighting of a cuttlefish. Large yellow and green wrasse patrolled their territory, followed by smaller wrasse in their shadow saying hello to the frequent jellyfish.
Drawna Bay night by Anna
I undertook my first ever night dive, an experience I can truly say was out of this world. We waited for dusk to set in and as the darkness took hold we descended into the waters. We were greeted by the eerie darkness, a forest of swaying kelp luminated only by torchlight and a couple of free swimming baby conger eels. At one point we switched off our torches to play with the phosphorescence in the water. Then as we swam to the shallows we saw shoals of feeding fish darting across our light beam. Magical, ghostly, mesmerising.
Memorable aspects by Peter.
It was my first opportunity to provide shore cover on a sea dive (Friday night dive). The big crab spotted on the Carndu dive (which Anne didn’t seem that interested in! She’s maybe seen bigger). The jewel anemones on the Vase dive together with the privilege of buddying Anne on her 500th dive. My second dive on a large wreck (Volnay with Brad). Last but not least, Anne & co’s excellent cooking.
The Mohegan by Shira
This was the dive I enjoyed the most, because I love the history behind Wrecks especially those that have sank for a reason and not man made sinking like those in Wraysbury or Stoney Cove for the sake of training. To know that this Wreck sank in 1898 and took 106 lives, as much as it is sorrowful that people died, what you find from the Wreck itself is a vast amount of sea life making it their habitation, and in the hidden cracks you would find lobsters, cray fishes or even crabs, making it their home. The array of beautiful colourful sea plants, anemone, sea cucumbers, dead man fingers, sponges, wrasse and many other splendours certainly made this dive my favourite.
Video from various dives at Porthkerris. Thanks to Jun-Ho for the brilliant creature shots and Fee for editing this video.
British bbq haiku by Andy
The heavens open
Umbrellas to the rescue
It’s barbecue time
Helford River by Anne
As a Porthkerris addict, every dive has reasons to shine out, but there is something special about the Helford river which reveals its secrets subtly. Dropping down with Benji to 10m we were entertained by the antics of tiny hermit crabs and sea spiders as we drifted gently along the sandy riverbed which was punctuated with clusters of long, elegant whips and curly ribbons of kelp signposting the current. My head constantly swivelling through 360 degrees in the hope of providing at least a few of the much raved about attractions, a large plaice was spotted and filmed, strange black and white bodied giant whelks (?) investigated and finally the prize revealed: a beautiful thornback ray. Yes! Evidence secured with the GoPro we reluctantly made our ascent – until the next time…
Porthkerris Krypton Factor by Mick.
I’m going for the first dive. After a mammoth cross country drive what better than to overcome the wonderful obstacle course of our first shore dive. Abseiling into the briny was a fun challenge and a worthwhile shake down dive. I also loved the post dive cross country hike to the delightful Five Pilchards with its fab mural in the gents and the slightly sozzled hike back. Then wonder of wonders, thanks to Dylan, to be able to see the amazing rings of Saturn and Andromeda and the Milky Way in the crystal clear night sky.
We missed the Perseids due to the weather and my car blew up homeward bound but who cares, the dives were all fun and thanks all for a great time.
From the 9th to the 13th of July 2018, ten of us went to Normandy. We started bright and early from Brighton Marina on the boat Channel Diver with skippers Steve and Caroline. Due to easterly winds the dive site had to be relocated closer to Dieppe, but we still got to dive incredible wrecks from first and second world war that were full of fish, crabs, lobsters and blennies.
We were impressed by the amount of life that we came across at 25 – 33 meters depth. For some of us, newly qualified Sports Divers, these dives were also great opportunity for depth progression.
Some of the highlights
Just so many blennies
Most wrecks were covered with these little friendly looking fellows.
Free swimming Conger eels and curious bib
Thanks to Jun-Ho for making this awesome video.
The Yakatan – 33m
This is the wreck of a small French Destroyer that sank December 3rd 1916 due to a collision with a British steamship, north of Dieppe.
Today the wreck rests on her Port side, most of her plating has eroded. Large piles of munitions lay scattered in the wreckage alongside her guns, two large prop shafts bend their way along the length of the wreckage and it was teaming with Bib and other marine life.
Free walking lobster on the train transport wreck HMS Daffodil – 25m
A large landing ship that was used for locomotive transports. HMS Daffodil was lost off Dieppe on March 17th 1945 after striking a mine.
Darkness and spider crabs – 27m
We dived an unknown war wreck. As we were descending it became darker and darker, on the wreck it was almost like a night dive and it was eerie meeting hundreds of spider crabs which may have come together to moult their exoskeleton.
Watching the French celebrate
The town of Dieppe is pleasant with a high street and a beach. We were in town for the semi final of the World Cup and watched the French celebrate their semi final victory for hours.
Unfortunately our trip to beautiful Pembrokeshire was blown out this weekend. However, this did not stop our divers – six went to Stoney Cove on Friday and a group of three ventured to Chepstow by public transport for the weekend.
With training dives normally performed at Stoney Cove, the camera normally has to sit out and wait in the car. Diving leisurely meant it could come on a jaunt and we thought we would share a little bit what it’s like to dive at Stoney Cove.
‘Stoney’, a former granite quarry, has been a recreational diving and water sports site since the 1960s. Lots of interesting bits have been sunk here and if your navigational skills are up to scratch you can find the Stanegarth, the largest inland ship wreck in the UK, the Gresham, a wooden boat from c1570, the shell of a helicopter, an aircraft cockpit, busses, cars, yachts, a submarine model, and the Loch Ness monster.
The Gresham – This 16th-century ship was discovered in 2003 in the Thames channel. To help preserve it, it was relocated to Stoney Cove. At only 6m depth it’s a great to dive with lots of light and some crayfish.
The Nautilus – a model of a submarine, next to the arches under the pub at 6m.
The Cockpit – Full of growth and opportunity to swim through – at 7m.
Perch, Nessie and mussels – The deeper dives at 20m can be a bit lifeless but around 6m you can stumble upon rather tame perch and crayfish. There are also a few Pike in the quarry, but they seemed a bit photo shy.
Map of Stoney Cove
Swanage was a successful dive trip with eleven of us exploring the pier, the Fleur de Lys – a wooden fishing crabber that sank in 2000 – and the Valentine tanks which sank in 1943 in the attempt to float across to Normandy and now home to large lobsters and several conger eels.
Lots of life and relatively good visibility – collectively we saw crabs, lobsters, blennies, sea scorpion, thornback ray, conger eels, shrimp, cuttlefish and more.
Well done Elaine and Chris for completing their first sea dives and Anna, Jane, Andy and Fee for completing their rescue training as part of their Sports Diver qualification dragging each other up the beach.
Thanks to Richard and Jun-Ho for dive managing and Chris for organising transport and accommodation.
Unfortunately, Friday’s dive was rained of but provided plenty of opportunity to explore Ilfracombe and its surrounding along the coastal path with Lundy in the far distance.
On Saturday, after a choppy 23 mile ride we dived in Bristol Channel around the Knoll Pins and Gannett’s Bay, meeting plenty of its inhabitants – lobsters, dogfish, wrasse, ferns, craps and of course its friendly grey seals who tugged on fins, mouthed and nipped neoprene and played slaps with Liz.
Sunday with calmer weather let us dive on the Atlantic side revealing the weather beaten side of Lundy with cracks and wrinkles along its cliff edge. We dived by Battery Point and the Devil’s Slide with dancing kelb through swells and current.
On the way back to Ilfracombe we made friends with a pod of dolphins riding along the front of the boat – whistling and surfacing – a wonderful end to our three day trip.