The annual decent to Dortset was held over the weekend of the 1st/2nd July as always.
The group was a little larger this year with 22 students and staff making the journey down to Dorset for a few dives and a lot of fun.
After the challenges of lauching the boat last year, it was decided to make another large purchase to support our aims. This was in the shape of a new boat trailer. A few days before going away, Will, Nick and Stuart (Wills Dad), took the boat to a local boat club to set up the trailer and boat, and get the kit ready for the weekend. It was no small feat, with position changes, inflations, deflations, repositioning and tweaking going on all day till it was just right and ready for towing.
The trailer, whilst adding an additional transport requirement, has meant that we can quickly get the boat into the water ready for a dive, all set up in advance. Rather than our previous battles of waiting around for a few hours while everything was sorted out. It proved to be an invaluable addition to the kit list.
We met at the Pool earlier than normal (7am) ready to set off to the coast. After a quick boat safety briefing to save time at the other end, we all piled onto the minibus and headed off.
Our first stop on route was at Avon Heath Cafe just off the A31. Our last visit was unsuccessful with new owners making a total hash of our visit, resulting in a trip to MacDonalds… LUCKILY, this year the cafe was under even Newer Ownership, a lovely lady called Tracey, who we had spoken to in advance, and placed early orders ready for our arrival… The food this time was amazing and the welcome equally impressive.
After a good breakfast, we continued on to the coast, arriving earlier than we ever have before at Kimmeridge Bay, perfect timing. Whilst the kids got changed, the boat was launched and all was ready for the off.
Sadly due to poor weather the week before, the bay had been particularly badly stirred up. So whilst relatively calm for a windy day, the water was very cloudy resulting in almost no vis. That said, our intrepid explorers made their way across the bay, doing their best to explore the rocks and seaweed for life. The water was so cloudy sadly the boat handler missed a hidden rock, resulting in a slight dink to the prop (well a big dink lol), but luckily we had a spare on hand which was changed later that evening. I spose its better than losing a wheel like we did before lol.
The bay is large and sweeping, so it was no small feat to snorkel across the wide expanse. The boat kept a watching eye, darting off every now and then with a few students to experience boat handling. However, after time the cooler water got the better of all but the hariest of divers and pretty soon, only a few instructors were left exploring.
After a debrief, dry off and a few snacks, we headed to Lulworth YHA Hostel for our evening activities.
Lulworth has been my home from home for many years. In fact this year was my 35th year visiting there (if you discount covid). Welcomed by manager Jason and his team, we settled in to the bunk rooms, and got showered and changed for an excellent dinner.
After dinner, the staff lead the students for a walk over the ranges, down to Lulworth Cove for the annual rock stacking competition run by Will.
A quick stop at the pub for a coke and a bag of crisps and it was back to the hostel for a well earned rest.
Breakfast the next morning was a substancial mix of cereal, fry up and toast.
As always, we made sure that the whole hotel was scrubbed, dusted and tidied in full militaristic style before leaving (makes us very popular with Jason and the YHA), and then headed off to the sea for some more diving.
Our traditional site of Swanage Pier was again our next destination. Luckily this year, we discovered an excellent public slipway, where we were able to launch the boat. Weve never been able to launch here before, so it was great to make full use of the boat over the whole weekend. It also came in handy for quick returns between the old and new piers as well as a safety overwatch as the water here is very busy with other dive boats and lots of divers.
A dive under the Pier is always fantastic. Even though it was still a little cloudy, the life under the pier was no disappointment. Lots of fish, and many anemones were discovered and followed around. Amazingly this year no crabs, but maybe the bad weather sent them hiding…
As always, it was great fun making the scuba divers jump as we fin past them holding out breath. It was also good to see Ruislip Snorkel Club diving he pier too, so snorkelling was very well represented on the pier that weekend which was great.
As the water chilled off, people moved to using the boat, and experienced some boat driving, while others attempted to rescue Nick using the throw bag doing some rescue drills from the lower pier. By the end of the day all were very worn out.
After a breif walk around the town for some ice cream and souveniers, it was back on the minibus to head home after a great weekend.
The students had all worked amazingly hard for a challenging weekend. So we were all very proud of their achievments. A great few days, now for the extended clean up that comes with it after lol…