As the winter months were finally over it was time to dust off all the dive gear cobwebs and get back in the water. Although the start of the dive season is no surprise to anyone it is incredible how many divers don’t prepare their kit for the forthcoming season... well, erm... perhaps I should say its incredible how I don’t prepare MY kit for the forthcoming season!
A quick check of my dive kit the day before discovered two latex wrist seals that were harder than steel and titanium combined and 2 leaky regs. Hmmm, I thought... this could make my first dive with Calshot Sub-Aqua Club a bit tricky to say the least!
After an easy drive to the top secret boat storage location and (by my standards anyway) relatively faff free boat preparations, Helen, Ralph, Steve and me set off to Poole Harbour to dive the Valentine Tanks. “Why are they called the Valentine Tanks?” and even more confusingly – “why are tanks in 15m of seawater in the first place?” are questions I just can’t answer, but they are tanks and diveable so that’s fine by me.
As it turned out, warming the wrist seals in my hand seemed to miraculously fix my drysuit problem and a couple of turns of an Allen Key seemed to fix the regs, so I was looking good for diving. All we needed to do was go to our pre-programmed GPS marks, find the marker buoy on the mill-pond flat surface, the wrecks on the sounder thingy and away we go – easy! Well theory always goes better than practice and – as it turned out – the marker buoy was not doing the best job at marking (being submerged just below the surface) and our X didn’t seem to mark the EXACT spot to throw in our shot. I presumed the tanks had either driven somewhere else or the Eyjafjallajökull Icelandic volcano was not only interfering with air travel but also our GPS satellites!
Eventually the wrecks were found and it was me and Steve to be first in. Diving with a pony cylinder just in case one of my regs decided to leak again created a bit of kitting up faff with hoses, but this was quickly sorted, and we were in the water and descending the line soon afterwards.
Landing on the turret of the first tank, there was lots of life to see including a semi-curious large wrasse, a few large lobsters, blennies and many shrimp. Following the line to the other tank we saw many hermit crabs and one of the snail-like things that owns their shell in the first place. As you can probably guess, I am not a bio/zoologist (or whoever knows about marine life), but I did recognise the dogfish!
The second tank is split in two with the turret lying alongside the main chassis. Looking around it was clear the second tank, although not intact was just as busy with life as the first – including a baby conger eel and another (or maybe the same) semi-curious large wrasse. Later after Helen and Ralph's dive, we found out we either missed or were unlucky not to see a large, mysterious, reddish-pink fish with large lips.
In spite of all the fabulous weather we were having on the surface the water was still a bit on the cold side, so we decided to ascend a little sooner than we would have otherwise.
My preparation, as it turned out, didn’t just apply to old kit but also the nice new shiny stuff you buy at a winter dive show, blissfully thinking that this dive torch and that new flash dive computer will prevent all leaky drysuits and cylinder O-rings!
I took out my new DSMB and reel and prepared it for the ascent, untangling myself from the various bits of string I had tied to it and my new torch. Any time lost untangling myself would surely be made up for by the super efficient deployment mechanism that would crack open a CO2 canister at a simple pull of a lever. I reached for the lever - one pull... two pulls... three pulls... nothing! The reason for this malfunction was later discovered to be an empty canister – something that I had missed in my pre-season kit checks. Fortunately this did not cause any severe problems, and we ascended safely to the surface.
After a period of losing the marker buoy again Helen and Ralph were in the water and came out with similar reports embellished with sightings of that pink fish. All that was left was a nice boat drive (well in my opinion anyway – I was driving) back to the slipway. All in all a very pleasant and relaxing first dive of the season – 2010 starts here!