Tuesday, 9 July 2013

DIVERS DOWN SWANAGE

A little later than I had hoped but as usual, when diving with an operator I feel as though I should write a few words, especially if they’re good and more importantly if they’re not.  Luckily for me (and them) this falls into the former.
 
Being the romantic I am I decided to stay in the UK and go diving on my (our) first wedding anniversary.  Henrietta and I looked at Plymouth, Weymouth and Falmouth which are our usual haunts but in the end decided we wanted to try somewhere new.  Swanage Pier and Kyarra have always been on my to do list so we booked a day’s diving with Divers Down.
 
Divers Down is conveniently located on Swanage Pier and is ‘apparently’ Britain’s oldest dive school; established in 1958.  The centre has small shop, equipment hire, air/nitrox and a diving school.  It’s also conveniently adjacent to the boat moorings and steps making it easily assessable to boat and pier divers.  
 
We both arrived fairly late on the Friday night and arrived at our accommodation; Clare House; a five star bed and breakfast located just off the high street.  After a few beers Henrietta headed off to bed but unfortunately for me I had reports to write having been examining on a BSAC Practical Instructors Exam (PIE) earlier that day.
 
It was an early breakfast as ropes off was at 0900.  We arrived at the pier and paid £8.00 for parking plus another £2.50 for diving.  Please note that you will be charged for entry, even if strolling (prices here).  We managed to find a parking space but only just.  Even at this hour it was very busy.  We quickly made our way to the shop, booked in and loaded our kit onto Skua.  Divers Down have 3 boats; Swanage Diver, Skua and Spike; all licenced for 12 divers.  We were on Skua.  Skua has a divers lift, a wet area, head (toilets), plenty of kitting up benches and very importantly hot chocolate for the divers.
 
The first dive was to be the Kyarra.  The Kyarra is a 4383 ton, twin-screw passenger and cargo liner, 415ft long with a beam of 52ft, launched in 1903.  She lies 1½ miles from Swanage Pier, at a depth of 30m, rising to 18m in some places.  She is also known as "the ship that was made of brass" owing to the large numbers of brass fittings used in her construction.  The skipper told us it would be very rough heading out and that if we didn’t want to go we wouldn’t be charged.  The four of us decided that we’d brave it so we headed out.  It was possible the choppiest conditions I had ever been in and without my sea legs I was struggling.  Luckily the transit was short and we arrived very quickly.  We kitted up as soon as we could before jumping in.  Underwater it couldn’t have been different.  Clear, calm and great visibility.  The wreck itself is a decent size and I can see why it’s very popular; I need to dive this wreck again.  Unfortunately we were limited to bottom time and ascended after 25 minutes.  Once all aboard we headed back in; luckily the wind was behind us and it was a smoother journey.
 
Once back we grabbed our hot chocolate and placed our cylinders in for a fill.  The system couldn’t be simpler; drop your cylinder off, pay for a fill and get a tag, tag goes on cylinder, collect when finished. 
 
We loaded up for the second dive which was to be on the Fleur De Lys.  The Fleur De Lys is a 64' fishing trawler that sunk around 4 years ago while being towed to Poole.  She is now fairly broken up but at 13m makes a good easy shallow dive, with plenty of fish life.  This time the boat was full, probably because the wreck was inside the bay and sheltered from the wind.  Following a brief from the skipper we kitted up first and then headed out.  This wreck, like the Kyarra was shotted so within no time we were heading down.  The wreck itself is very small so after around 10 minutes we sent up our DSMB and decided to drift off.  There isn’t much on the sea bed so we headed up after around 20 minutes.  The same procedure was followed after this dive but we decided to bow out from a third boat dive and opted for a pier dive.  
 
Underneath the pier it’s teeming with marine life; Eels, Edible and Spider Crabs, Blennys, Cuttlefish plus an array of other fish can be seen.  It is also an ideal training site for beginner divers with a flat sandy bottom.
 
Divers Down Swanage are a great dive centre which I could recommend to anyone; from letting people bow out from dives if the conditions weren’t ideal, lending out spare kit if required and giving lots of local advice.  I will definitely be back.
 
In addition to the diving there is a lot to do in the area.  We completed the weekend with a visit to Corfe Castle and Old Harry Rocks.
 
The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.
 
Safe diving!
 
Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI and SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: tim@rectotec.co.uk l