Vobster Quay Dive Trip 2/3/2013

Vobster Quay

Waking at 5.30am was a struggle on Saturday morning for our road trip to Vobster Quay but the excitement of finally getting to dive in the closest inland dive centre to Cornwall was building in the air, and cold air it was at that as we loaded the car in 1C. Sitting in the back of the car with Ralph in the passenger seat and Kurt Driving I was able to sit back and relax as we chatted about things like you do on a road trip. The conversation changed to left, no right at the next junction as we got closer to Vobster Quay. The way there is a little strange, winding through the quaint Somerset villages, passing Glastonbury Tor and the satnav app finally getting us to our destination. It was a great feeling and only just past 9am, leaving a whole day ahead of us to get at least 2 dives in. Personally I can’t wait for the day someone makes an app that gets one of these smartphones to teleport you to your destination.

 Upon Arrival At Vobster Quay

After we turned the sharp left onto the dirt road that enters Vobster Quay we arrived at a small wooden hut with a young man inside, we had a form to fill out; name, address, emergency contact and diving level and after being given a key ring with our number on we were allowed to drive down to the car park. On the left we saw what looked like a submersible, then we rounded the corner and saw the lake in its glory and the purpose built 2 story building of the dive centre with a fairly large car park behind.

As we were fairly early there was plenty of room in the car park, it was that or the fact it was lightly snowing and 1C. We had a wander around checking out the dive map and shop, where Ralph and Kurt bought the Lavacore Thermal Short Sleeved Shirt which was the second best buy of the day as far as I was concerned, the copious amounts of tea at 80p a cup beat everything else hands down (except the dive of course).

The first Dive in Vobster Quay

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We had decided to enter the slipway to tease ourselves into the cold water of Vobster Quay’s lake instead of brain freeze from jumping straight in, it was a wise choice as the water was colder than we had expected. Entering the water this way we had to go round to the right of the picture above where it was just deep enough to don our fins. Discussing our dive earlier over a tea we had opted for going to the buoy (number 14) for the tunnel and keeping ourselves about 3m apart as we went through to experience what it was like. It was here before we descended I took what could have been the last photo with my camera as I had not tested the case any deeper than 5m so far and that was without the camera.

 

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We descended and came down at the entrance to the tunnel the vis was amazing at least 8-10m, I was at the rear and could clearly see Kurt ahead of me as I was exploring with my torch in the dark. The tunnel reminded me of the old air raid bunkers where I had grown up and keeping myself in the centre line was a lot easier than I had anticipated after hearing tales from cave divers. As I frog kicked my way through I thought to myself that a course in cave diving is definitely for me at some point in the future when I have at least a couple of hundred dives behind me.

First Underwater Photograph in Vobster Quay

After what seemed like seconds we were out of the tunnel and found piles of concrete posts and rubble below us covered in silt and this was where I took my first ever (I proudly lost my virginity) photo underwater with my camera.

My proud moment taking my first ever photo underwater. f13 1/160 ISO500 and a lot to learn.

 

After taking a few more photos I decided I would concentrate on the dive as it was extremely cold, well my hands were as my gloves have holes in them and I couldn’t operate the buttons properly on the housing, while I have been in the sea when it was 7C before I wasn’t wearing these gloves at the time. Even after 10 minutes in the water my hands were really starting to hurt so we pushed on and followed the trench up away from the tunnel heading toward what we thought would be the car at 24/25m. We seemed to have lost our bearings and after another 20 minutes of exploring around us finding nothing but silt floor as we followed the wall we started to surface. With about 85bar air left I was relieved my hands would soon be wrapped around a nice cup of tea. We made our safety stop at 5m for a good 5 minutes as Kurt was playing with his GoPro giving me a chance to get my breathing right back down to the rate I normally have in the sea and then came up to find we had gone to the far side of the centre of the lake and 50bar left.

I was gutted to be honest as I didn’t go back in for another dive after it took a while for my hands to warm and stop hurting and it was 2 big lessons learnt.

After something to eat and a change of clothes I helped Kurt and Ralph get their kit on and get back into the water for a second dive just over an hour later, they decided to go straight to the Crushing Works (buoy 12) and then have a look around the plane. Meanwhile I was chatting to other divers and warming my hands. When they came out about 40 minutes later I helped them with their tanks and kit after another tea and we chatted about the awesome time they had in looking around the things I missed.

Ralph and Kurt then went to pay and we left for the drive home, it was an awesome day and can’t wait to go again, this time with the lessons learnt a lot more care over certain aspects of the dive.

Final thoughts on Vobster Quay

It is an extremely impressive site, the staff were all friendly and really helpful, the cost wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and owe Ralph a few dives to say Thanks for covering my bill. The amenities at the site are more than enough, a heated changing room and hot shower, separate toilets, air and Nitrox fills, the shop is one of the best stocked shops I have seen. It is a site I would recommend to everyone to experience but would have to say make sure you have good gloves and a hood, lake diving in cold water is totally different to sea diving when it is cold. Vobster Quay rates in the top 3 of my dive sites so far and am really looking forward to later in the year to visit it again.

Seasearch to better understand the marine environment

Seasearch

As a diver I enjoy the marine environment a lot and while some dives may be focused on practicing skills it seemed a waste to just go diving and not record anything about what I had seen. It is always a steep learning curve with the marine environment because there are so many factors to take into account, from pollution causing changes in the smallest of species to the destruction one ship can cause if it slips anchor as well as the many different species and geological formations. Seasearch is a way for all divers to help keep an eye on the marine life and habitat which we are privileged to explore each time we get in the water and to learn more about what they see.

Seasearch History and Objectives

During the 1980’s it was recognised that recreational divers were a great resource for data collection on the marine environment by Dr. Bob Earll and Dr. Roger Mitchell and since then Seasearch has been developed so that it isn’t just specific areas monitored but with the training through one of the many centres around the UK run by the Marine Conservation Society (and others) to create a year by year map that shows the overall condition of species, species migration and if we are having any effect on their habitat and numbers.

The objectives of Seasearch are simple which is part of the reason as an Environmental Scientist I decided to become involved in the project. They are:

  • To encourage the participation of volunteer recreational divers in marine conservation through gathering data, particularly for areas where little data exists or where there is a conservation need,
  • To provide training in recording skills to enable volunteer recreational divers to participate in Seasearch,
  • To make quality assured Seasearch data available to partner organisations and the general public,
  • To raise public awareness of the diversity of marine life and habitats in Britain and Ireland through the dissemination of information gathered and the identification of issues arising from it.

(From Seasearch aims and objectives)

Seasearch Training

There are two levels to the Seasearch program, Observer and Surveyor, the first level of Observer is more important than it sounds with the experience and skill-set it gives to understand the marine environment when diving and has to be taken first to give you the chance to learn more about the recording techniques, the second level of Surveyor is a little more in-depth and at the moment for me sounds more like another degree.

As I am in Cornwall I will be taking part in the next course which is to be held on April 6th and 7th and the cost is the same as a good quality mask, £40 covers 2 days, one in the classroom to learn about the observer forms and some basic species identification and geological environment and the second day is a dive to put it all in practice. One of the conditions is that you have insurance but it is not as bad as it sounds, as I am only diving in the UK at present I will be purchasing the Divemaster public liability cover which is only £20, if I was diving abroad then I would go for DAN insurance to insure myself against any accidents as well as to cover me for Seasearch.

Seasearch Contacts

Seasearch has a national contact that can put you in touch with your area which is based in Herefordshire, the national co-ordinator is Chris Wood 0776142096 or you can email him at chris@seasearch.org.uk

Living in Cornwall my first port of call was a young lady called Cat Wilding and she can be contacted on 01872 273939 at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust or by email at catherine.wilding@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk

 

The data I collect will be added to the Seasearch map that is open to all to view and use and I will also be using it to update the dive site information here on divingjunkie.com as we explore new places and record them for your information.

Scubafest 2013 in Cornwall UK

Scubafest 2013

It is almost that time of year when Scubafest 2013 is upon us here in Cornwall, it will be hosted at Pentewan Sands Holiday Park with dive sites around Cornwall for all levels. There will be live music and entertainment during the day and evening at the holiday park so contact them now on 01726 843485 or 01539 729048 at Bluestone Events Ltd to book your place. The weekend starts on Friday 3rd May through to the 6th and all the dive companies around Cornwall are taking part with some of their favourite dive spots during the day and night.

They unfortunately had to cancel it last year but this year it will be different because we have to reach as many divers (and non-divers, dive widows, dive widowers) now to get them to come along and see what Cornwall has to offer. This year the many dive sites include (links are to videos) Pentewan Beach, Newquay Headland, Mevagissey and more exciting places they have in store for us. So if you are an absolute beginner that wants to try a dive or an aged expert that has never been diving in Cornwall before get in touch with them and book your place now.

Scubafest 2013 Entertainment

Evening of Friday 3rd Headlining act is Midriff a Cornish group from St Austell with some of their own music as well as their unique versions of covers to start the weekend and party the night away.

The fancy dress theme for the Saturday is Star Wars and there will be many Jedi spreading the good will of the force.

More updates to follow.

Scubafest 2013 dive sites and boat charters

A variety of dive sites will be visited over the weekend, the ones from the videos above and more, the dive boats coming to the weekend are:

MV Fintan

MV Fintan – To book a place call Chris on  07775 853 295 (for more info on spaces click here)

MV Woodpecker – Fowey

MV Woodpecker – Running from Fowey – To book a place call Richard Taffs on 07854 738 185 (For more info on spaces click here)

RHIB Logan – Falmouth

RHIB Logan – Running from Falmouth – To book a place call Charles Hood on  01736 719 231 (for more info on spaces click here)

Atlantic Scuba – Falmouth

Atlantic Scuba – Falmouth – To book a place call Mark Milburn on 07866 510103 (For more info on spaces click here)

Scubafest 2013 Splash-in underwater photography competition

Running on Saturday 4th May. Entry is free and open to all.

You can register between 6pm and 10pm on the Friday evening in the Pentewan Sands Holiday Park clubhouse.

Good luck with your happy snapping.