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UK scuba training - my experience so far

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Vitesse2l, Aug 17, 2019.

  1. Vitesse2l

    Vitesse2l Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Devon UK
    Hi all,

    Thought I'd post a little about how it's done this side of the pond.

    I've always been fascinated by shipwrecks and for this I blame Cousteau, Calypso and Mary Rose. Living near the sea (South West UK) I've always been aware of it's influence and diving was a natural progression although I always thought dodgy sinuses would be a problem. Turns out they weren't.

    My wife had already got certified before I first tried scuba with a DD session in Cyprus.The instructor was great (some folks just have a knack for what they're doing) and in a shallow 6m dive I got to experience warm water and great viz as well as seeing turtles. Obviously I booked another dive. The next instructor didn't give a monkeys. I nearly went OOG (less than 10 bar) and he didn't keep much eye on what I was doing with my comprehensive DD training. On returning to the dive centre he said he'd 'lost' some weights at the dive site and went off to find them so no discussion on what happened. Black mark, I'm afraid.

    At this point I'd had a pretty good scare but decided I wanted to dive some more so enrolled with my wife's BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) branch. The training is run voluntarily by club instructors to a published syllabus and is broadly similar to many organisation's entry level courses but does include rescue skills and nitrox, albeit limited to 20M. I found the skills pretty easy - mask clearing, reg recovery etc but that's just me. The first sea dive was off a local beach with good (5m+) vis and plentiful life. We spent time watching cuttlefish and I must say that 7m seemed a long way down. I won't pretend my buoyancy and trim were any good at this point.

    The next dives were from the club's RIB at Plymouth's breakwater fort, a defensive structure from which every inhabitant had thrown their rubbish into the sea. We happened to roll in over an old undersea habitat (Glaucus) and used the fort's submerged granite wall as reference for our ascent from 15m. With the great weather we had last year it wasn't long before I'd got the training done and qualified as an Ocean Diver. I took every opportunity to dive with the club and logged around 25 dives before the weather broke and diving came to a stop. Most memorable was night diving on the Louis Shied, a shallow WW2 wreck.

    This year I enrolled on the BSAC Sports Diver course, which expands on the Ocean Diver grade to include gas planning, decompression, a 35m depth limit , compass navigation, use of SMB, more rescue and first aid as well as continual mentoring from senior club members. Sports is a real step up into proper UK diving and opens up many options for dive sites. The course is a great confidence booster and teaches the skills needed for self-reliance so it wasn't long before I started collecting the extra gear for deeper diving and most of my boat dives are now in the 30m range, although I still regularly shore dive in 5 - 10m and it's in the shallower dives that I find my buoyancy and trim really improves. I've also been leading buddy dives, something that I find rewarding but quite demanding. So far I've always returned to the correct beach!

    Along with achieving the Sports grade I've been refining my equipment choices to the point that I'm happy with what I've got (Apeks regs, Buddy BCD, 3l slung pony, shot belt, semi dry suit, line cutters, computer, compass, etc) and I'm not anticipating any new shiny at the moment.

    Next step is to dive and dive some more. Before I start any more training I want experience. Every dive gives something more to learn and I'm finding the task loading reducing. Recently I dived the SS Maine, a WW1 wreck off Salcombe. My buddy made a fast head down descent on the shot while I needed more time with equalising. Around 10m I'd lost sight of him and by 15 his bubbles were gone too. I chose to continue my slow descent and turned on my torch. I followed the line to the sea floor and found my buddy sat on the stern of the wreck at 25m. After the dive he apologised and said he'd seen my torch and knew I was coming. The wreck itself was spectacular and we explored until our ndl at around 17 minutes. I was pleased with how I handled myself in a new situation. I had options and an independant air supply and felt I was within my personal comfort zone. It might be a case of not knowing what I don't know, though!

    I'm at the dangerous point of approaching my 50th dive. It's all been in limited vis and cool UK waters but I feel my training has been thorough and well organised, which is down to the people involved rather than the organisation. I've made some great friends and got to see stuff that is beyond the ordinary. I particularly like being in a situation that is obviously risky but knowing my limits and applying them. There's no museum barriers at 30m and it's a wonderful freedom to experience.

    Scubaboard is a great resource - thanks to all who contribute. I've learned some stuff here.

    TL:DR - I learned to dive in the UK.
  2. FinnMom

    FinnMom Divemaster Staff Member

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Finland
    Thanks for sharing. I was trained by a club too, and am now a club instructor. We are very lucky to live where there are dive clubs as it makes finding buddies, mentors, boats, tank fills and even a whole new social circle hugely easier. Hope you get to enjoy some club trips to foreign locations too.
  3. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    Fond memories of diving round the breakwater and freezing my nuts off sleeping in the old dormatory at Fort Bovisand.
  4. Vitesse2l

    Vitesse2l Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Devon UK
    Thanks Finnmom,

    Finland is one of those placed in keen to visit. You have those well preserved wooden wrecks and it sounds like your club scene works well too. Not all BSAC clubs offer training but where I am there's about 100 members so always something going on.
    FinnMom likes this.
  5. Vitesse2l

    Vitesse2l Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Devon UK
    Hi Graeme,

    We did some rescue training at Bovi in March. Reassuringly cold still!
    Graeme Fraser likes this.
  6. Efka76

    Efka76 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
    Nice story! I just recently joined local BSAC club in Edinburgh. Currently waiting for my new drysuit to arrive. Then will be doing crossover to BSAC Sports diver.
    FinnMom likes this.
  7. Edward3c

    Edward3c Instructor, Scuba

    Remember you can use the monthly Regional training sessions I run in Loch Fyne in addition to your club’s training.
    chillyinCanada, FinnMom and Efka76 like this.
  8. Princess Chris

    Princess Chris Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Wellington, New Zealand
    Good ol' blighty is the best place to learn, prepares you for the worst conditions and makes you appreciate the ocean. All the divers you meet are great too as they are committed, they know the conditions are less than favourable but they go anyway for the love of it. Hearing people whinge about the water being cold when it's 25 degrees, the viz being crap when it's 10m or that they didnt see any sharks/turtles makes me want to kick them in the face.
  9. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
    No such thing as being cold, only wearing the incorrect exposure protection :D

    p.s. I wear a drysuit when we reach 23C locally
  10. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dubai UAE
    That did make me chuckle..
    I'f I dived in the UK I'd be guzzling my air by whinging underwater about being cold

    To be fair, I've had Brit divers whine because the air temp is (a mere) 36 and the sea 30.

    Heaven knows what they'd think in the summer when the temps are 45C+ and the sea temp can still be 36C at 40m...:wink:

    My niece is BSAC SD trained, on SW Coast. Solid little diver, but when she visited had no experience with free descents or ascents (always used shot lines), and no experience with current.
    BlueTrin likes this.

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