Two of my best friends, diving buddies and founders of Dive U.K. Danny and Sam invited me to go diving with them in February to explore some UK dive sites. I've done plenty of UK diving but I'm always excited to explore new dive sites that I've never been before and Dive U.K. are doing some reconnaissance for an online encyclopedia of UK inland dive sites to raise awareness of places to visit.
The adventure started with the usual last minute teething issues; the van we were supposed to drive down in decided to break down the day before hand so we had to hire a van and due to the time of year NDAC closed for the first half of the week which threw our schedule upside down but it all worked out well in the end.
We'd decided to visit NDAC near Chepstow and Vobster Quay near Bath, spending a day at each and staying at a couple local hotels overnight. Both of these dive sites have wonderful facilities and well laid out dive sites with plenty of attractions to look at. I love diving February time as the algae tends to drop down to the bottom and disappear, this combined with the colder temperatures that put off many divers makes the visibility in the water incredible. Now I wouldn't say that I'm antisocial but I do prefer it when I don't see any other divers in the water; I like feeling as if my buddy and I are the only ones in the water.
We woke up early and had breakfast before driving from Chepstowe to Bath to dive in Vobster. Conditions were stunning; sunny and clear but with a chill in the air. Visibility was a good 10-15m and water temperature was about 6°C and there was only a handful of other divers on site.
Crystal clear water beckoned us in and we spent a good 45 minutes swimming around a few of the wrecks and cruising through sections before looking around the crushing works. The water clarity and clear weather lead to some amazing spectacles where light was cascading down through the wrecks and buildings which lead to some beautiful video that Danny filmed.
I tried out my new Apeks Lifeline Spool with my trusty dSMB and it worked a treat, even with thicker gloves. I did manage to drop it later and it unrolled most of the line but didn't tangle and was very civilized to respin. Air fills and lunch were made pleasurable with some background music played over the PA system at Vobster.
We had another early start; having to drive from Bath to Chepstowe but the diving was well worth the drive. It was fairly quite at NDAC but there was a good range of recreational, technical and commercial divers there getting kitted up. We managed to have the left side of the pontoon all to ourselves to get ready and kitted up before dive one. We made our entry and descended to the Wessex before heading through the BAE 146 and other attractions. We circled back round to our entry point where we watched a trainee commercial diver practicing his underwater welding on our safety stop.
I ascended first and immediately noticed a lot of talk over the PA system and somebody rushing with a stretcher which is never a good thing. I quickly de-kitted and checked to see if they needed any help but there were plenty of other professional divers already helping the victim so I stayed out of the way helping my friends de-kit and informed them of the situation. Sam's a nurse so she was keen to help but the victim was already being carried up to the car park where an air ambulance soon landed. Few details were released about the incident and we didn't want to pry but the victim was whisked away quickly and smoothly for assessment and treatment.
We decided to continue on with our second dive after a healthy mega burger from the restaurant to refuel ourselves. We decided to do an anti-clockwise circuit of the wrecks and visit the gnome garden to leave an addition to the gang. We practiced deploying dSMBs on the training platforms before our safety stop and ascent.
All in all; even with the backwards schedule, broken down van and the presence of an air ambulance it was a fantastic trip with great memories and amazing diving. Many people turn their nose up at British diving, especially in the winter time, but many of my best dives have been in British waters in a drysuit. If you're cold on a dive then you're not wearing the proper exposure protection.
I can highly recommend both Vobster Quay and NDAC as top class dive sites that can be visited all year round. Friendly staff and well kept facilities make the whole experience fun and it is always nice to know that in the unlikely event of an incident the staff are well trained and ready to act.