By Anna P.
I’ve been asked to write up my first sea dives. As I’m quite a new diver, I want to give other new divers an idea of what diving with the club is like. My experience of my first times in the sea and what you might expect.
I joined SISAC in January 2020 after many years of wanting to learn to dive. Due to covid and the lockdowns, its taken much longer than usual to complete my training. So, I was very excited about my first trip away with the club, and my first sea dives in June 2021. We spent a few days with Discovery Divers in Plymouth and then travelled on to Porthkerris Divers in Cornwall. I then did a trip in August to the Farnes.
The majority of my diving had been training in Stoney Cove. So my first sea divers were an equal mix of anxiety and excitement. Although they didn’t all quite go to plan! I couldn’t have asked for better people to dive with and our skippers were really accommodating.
Diving in Plymouth
The first sea dive.
There were eight of us from the club in Plymouth, and I was diving my first sea dive with Anna. We dived Hand Deeps.
I was very excited to finally get in the water. But as soon as the boat stopped, I started to suffer badly from sea sickness. I hadn’t taken my seasickness tablets, hoping I’d be ok, but this definitely wasn’t the case! Anna was brilliant and we had lots of fun diving and exploring. Anna pointing out lots of sea life, including a swimming conger eel. Being in the sea was great, and a totally new experience to the inland dives I’d done. There was so much to see and explore.
But back on board I was too ill to dive the second dive, which was so disappointing. I felt really deflated as I’d built up the trip for so long and wanted it to go perfectly. By the end of the trip my expectations of a perfect trip were adjusted accordingly. The evening was spent at the pub where we shared stories of our days diving. Everyone was very supportive of my situation and encouraged me to get back out there for my second day.
The second day!
The next morning I was pretty anxious about getting back on the boat. I’d dosed up on sea sickness tablets but was worried I’d be too ill again. Concerned that that would be the end of my diving. Thankfully the tablets worked and I had a much better day.
Danny, our skipper, was great and took us to some more sheltered spots. I was diving with Leigh and Anna and I really enjoyed both dives. We had a good root around the sea bed, saw lots of sea life including a spotted ray. I started to get a feel for what diving was all about. We said our goodbyes to Danny and Plymouth and drove down to meet the rest of our divers in Cornwall. The weather was stunning, the cove beautiful and the atmosphere really chilled out. A curry and beer on the beach was the perfect ending to the day.
First experience of Cornwall
On Saturday we split into two groups to accommodate covid numbers on the boat. Our group went first and I was diving with Alex. We dived the Volnay which is a wreck around 20m. We saw lots of life and another swimming conger eel.
With each dive I was getting a bit more used to my kit and relaxing into the dives. However the second dive didn’t quite go to plan.
We were diving down a shot, which was a first for me in the sea and I got caught on the trailing line. I had no idea why I felt so buoyant and couldn’t descend. I managed to haul myself down to 12 meters, pulling the buoys under thinking I had dropped some weights. I signalled to Alex something was up and we ascended back up the shot.
The skipper pointed out the issue. I was out of breath from the effort to drag myself down so we abandoned the dive. I felt really bad for Alex and annoyed I’d not gone back under. But it didn’t feel right on the surface. After a lot of apologies from me, and stories from other club members of when this happened to them. I realised that this is all part of diving. There will be times when you can’t do a dive or things don’t go to plan, and that’s ok.
A challenging second day
Next morning we were back on the boat and back down the shot. I took extra care to stay away from the trailing line and managed to descend without incident this time!
The visibility was pretty poor and there was a strong current. We had to keep close to the wall but as we navigated about a rock, we managed to lose it and ended up swimming into the murk. So we called it a day as the chance of getting separated was high and there was nothing to see. It was a real shame to miss a dive, but there was no point being underwater.
With one dive left I was determined to make it a good one. We dived the Monahan, which was a cruiser that sank in a storm. It was fun exploring the wreck and all the sea life lurking under bits of metal. We had a really nice dive , and I felt like the bad luck of the last two dives was behind me. I ended the trip on a high.
Back on land, we had one last night together at the pub. Catching up on stories and enjoying the cove with the last bit of sunshine before our long drive home the next morning. It felt like we’d really stepped off from everything and I had really got to know so many people from the club. Especially those who I’d not had chance to really interact with before.
In August I had my second trip booked with the club to the Farnes Islands. These are a group of Islands off the Northumberland coast and are well known for their colonies of seals. The dream dive here is an interaction with the seals, but I was advised not to get my hopes up. After the ups and downs of my last trip I took this on board.
Seals and Puffins
I still had some anxiety about diving in the sea. I had completed my Sports Diver qualification since the last trip, but I still felt very inexperienced. But it was so much easier than the first time as I knew what to expect. And it was brilliant.
I dived with Gareth all weekend and we were lucky to have a wonderful encounter with seals on our very first dive. We dived the Hopper and as soon as we descended the seals were swimming around us, intrigued by our presence and keen to swim up and see what we were doing.
They tend to swim up behind you and have a nibble on your fins and you often only notice one there when your buddy lets you know one is behind you. They would shoot up past you and it was amazing to see them in their natural environment.
The visibility was pretty good and we found one of the gullies the seals rested in and swam through. One young seal seemed to be following us around while the older seals were having a nap on the sea bed. It was incredible to see them and we all agreed if we didn’t see anything for the rest of the trip this dive alone would be enough.
Our second dive was at the Pinnacle wasn’t quite as exciting, but still really good. We swam along the wall exploring as we went along. We found loads of sea life and intact puffin eggs that had rolled into the water.
More Seals and a Wreck
The second day we did another seal dive at the Hopper in the morning but there weren’t as many swimming about. It was still exciting to think they were close and could pop up at any moment. We exploried the gully again and this time stayed still in one place to enjoy the few seals there. Being slow and calm allowed us to get quite close without disturbing them.
We ended the weekends diving with a dive through a beautiful gully, full of kelp that led to a small wreck called Loch Levan. It felt very otherworldly and there was so much sea life to enjoy and for Gareth to photograph.
I felt much more confident at the end of the weekend and excited about planning my next trip away. Despite my suit leaking quite badly, being very wet and cold on the boat in between dives and the long journey up to the Farnes it was worth all the effort to be back in the sea. Being underwater is very therapeutic. Its so quiet and calming and you are really just focusing on whats around you and looking out for anything interesting. All your worries from home disappear as soon you hit the water and you just focus on the dive and enjoy your time underwater.
New Friends and tall stories
One thing that you can’t really put a price on when diving with a club is the support you get as a new diver. I’ve had so much encouragement from the instructors and club members leading up to both my trips away. They have offered their time to give practical and theory lessons and get me qualified, taken me diving, given me lots of advice and loaned and given me kit to help me get started. It’s a slower process than an intensive course, but I think that’s good when trying to learn a new sport like this, as everything really become second nature.
The other great thing about being part of a club are the people. The trips away build a bond and at the end of each days diving you have lots of stories to share. When I joined we initially spent a lot of time on zoom due to covid, but we made up for it with pool sessions, days out diving, trips away and catching up at the pub afterwards. I’m very lucky to have such a great group at SISAC and this has really given me the confidence to keep diving when I’ve had challenging times.
If you’re thinking about diving, then definitely do it. It is hard work, there are lots of challenges and some setbacks. You’ll make mistakes but it will all be worth it. The feeling of being underwater and seeing a whole new world is incredible.