So, Bay Divers will be celebrating it's 14th year this year. Initially we focussed purely on try dives, the open water course, progression courses up to Divemaster and building the team around us. It wasn't long until we had a small following and this, over the years has grown significantly. A few, have been with us since the early days & have become lifelong friends whilst others unfortunately, have come and gone, that's the way of the world & the story of any club I guess.
Back then, we run open water courses on our doorstep in bays like Limeslade, Oxwich & Langland along the Gower. Unfortunately the Gower is hugely exposed to the prevailing weather conditions from the Atlantic so it can be hit & miss, great for surfing on the non dive days! The Gower can offer some stunning diving, on one occasion we measured 14 metres visibility in Langland, in an October, but the conditions have to be spot on & it's easy to get caught out if you're unfamiliar. We have the second highest tidal range in the world, on a spring tide there is a 13 metre difference between high and low water in some places!
I'd personally gained experience of diving sites such as NDAC Chepstow and sites in Pembrokeshire over the many years prior to our formation in April 2009. It wasn't long until we were starting to use Pembrokeshire over the Gower to provide training courses as some sites there face northerly & even if there's prevailing conditions from the South West we'd be guaranteed a dive, perfect if we needed to plan in advance. NDAC offered guaranteed diving and was an absolutely awesome site in the early years, only divers would frequent with a make shift shelter and a burger van, great times! Although we've always preferred in taking our students in the sea, NDAC offered depth for certain courses but we'd only use it for our beginners if we were 'blown out', we do live in the UK after all.
I've racked up hundreds of dives at each of these sites over the last 14 years & some are so familiar to me that I don't need to look at my compass to navigate my way around. Great for guiding the travelling diver or a group of students on their open water course. Yes, you do see quite a lot of life diving the Gower, many various species of fish, wrasse, pollock, bass, blennies etc, sometimes we'd get the odd seal, cuttlefish or barrel jellyfish accompany us.
Pembrokeshire though, is on another level, some of the sites we dive sit just on the outside of the conservation area of the Skomer Nature Reserve, some sit inside, where fishing is banned. An abundance of life on every level which never gets tiring and you never know what you're going to see. Some memorable experiences include being accompanied the entire dive by a handful of playful seals, catching a sleeping octopus mid-water during a night dive and of course a spot of wreck diving, diving the wreck of the 'Lucy' one of my favourites, laying in 37-42 metres of water depending on tidal conditions but always a slack water timed entry, the current can run like a train if you don't plan it right & many have been caught short over the years.
Wreck diving is my passion, I dived my first proper shipwreck back in 1997 when I was a young military diver on a Ship's diving team visiting Israel whilst heading further afield. One of our team had met an ex Israeli military diver, who invited us to dive the wreck of a WW2 Italian submarine he'd found some weeks previously. It was my first ever dive using recreational kit of single cylinder, BCD & all these different coloured hoses all over the place. I was more familiar with two inverted cylinders, no redundancy, full face mask and no guages, another story.
Discovering this submarine was mind blowing, it had been hit behind the conning tower by a British gun battery stationed in Haifa, Israel during WW2 and sunk with all hands. Our guide was shocked that none of us had ever dived this configuration before, splashing in from a RIB several miles offshore into 35-40m of water. I was hooked and wanted more, it was that year that I came into PADI under their 'experienced diver programme' doing a crossover course with an ex military Instructor who understood our capabilities. Having some civilian certification card certainly helped those of us who wished to rent dive equipment and explore the many sites, especially when I was in Australia for several months later the same year able to explore more shipwrecks with this gradually more familiar dive equipment complete with a dial that monitored your air - amazing!
Over the next decade, whenever I was in a foreign country, I'd see if I could dive somewhere, sometimes we were diving there for work anyway but I always made an effort racking up diving experience in more than 30 different countries, in and out of work.
Regarding wrecks, it became evident to me that the deeper they were, the more intact they were, the marauding hordes of the 80s perhaps hadn't been down that far and if they had, had little time to cut out portholes and raid numerous brass parts! This drove me into becoming a technical diver, qualifying in Malta and exploring amazing wrecks such as HMS Stubborn, another submarine & the wreck of the liner 'Polynesian'.
I felt so passionate that I, after becoming a recreational diving instructor, felt that I needed to teach these skills to others, so the trimix journey and that of using rebreathers was born.
So, I hope you've enjoyed reading this and it's given me an insight into writing 'Blogs', something I'm keen to do, stay tuned, I will be digging out some old pictures from the early years of our dive school & club and posting, in a chronological order some of the dives & experiences we've had over the last 14 years. Once up to date, it would be a good thing to blog regularly and keep it updated. There are many experiences yet to be had & a coin I phrased is a big Bay Divers 'DIVE ON'.