Learning to Dive with Excalibur

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Having recently just qualified as an ocean diver with Excalibur- the York based BSAC club, I would just like to share my thoughts of my recent first sea dives at St Abbs, and why I have taken up this hobby which is fast becoming an obsession!

I have always had an interest in marine life, particularly ocean coral systems. I have kept a tropical marine coral fish tank for the past several years so know a little about the delicate balance of how the ocean corals delicate eco systems work.

I have always sourced the stock for my marine tank from ‘home grown’ hobbyists so not to be part of the problem of people taking fish and coral from reef systems.

Its worrying times for our ocean coral systems with some experts stating that it could be as little as forty years for the destruction of these declining eco systems.

Anyways I’m blabbing a bit now about a subject in which I admit only have an amateurs perspective on.

Last year I happened to bump into Pat & Gordon, they were on duty promoting the Excalibur club at the Dragon Boat race in York last summer.  This was the start of my journey into the world of UK diving. I picked BSAC over PADI as I liked the idea of the community spirit, everyone chipping in with no one making a fast buck out of the hobby.

Its hard to find community spirit these days with a society that’s hell bent on either making money or who don't have enough time in their lives to help others learn the sport, without making money from it.

Pat and Gordon's  passion and enthusiasm inspired me to start the training, I have to say I have loved every part of my training and learning development and soon found out that it wasn't just Pat and Gordon that had the passion and enthusiasm but that it was all of the members of the club. Even past members of the club meet up for a social chat and catch up at the club house.

I did however also take the learning schedule seriously and didn't want rush through any of the training. My motto, ‘slowly slowly catch a monkey!’

I know how dangerous UK waters can be, as I have been a keen surfer for years which has given me an appreciation on how beautiful but dangerous our UK waters are.

It gave me an understanding of rips and how quickly the weather and tidal systems can quickly change a safe environment into a deadly one. I have also in my youth had some experience of being on sailing yachts, which was a while ago now.

It can be difficult to fit into established clubs with their members having so much experience and long established friendships, however all the members were friendly, I did during my training find myself thinking:

Am I going to able to complete my training?

Will I be able to afford all the equipment needed?

Am I going to get on with the other members?

Am I going to be able to commit the time that’s needed?

Can I remember to say fins rather than flippers!

Maybe its just me, being a little nervous, apprehensive or just cautious but I do think that prospective newbies wanting to dive in the UK should consider before you do commit.

But if you are serious about wanting to scuba dive, the rewards are massive, for me its been a boyhood dream come true. It doesn't take a massive level of fitness but it does require a level of confidence and skills which are developed through time spent diving with people you can trust.

I bought my equipment second hand as my training progressed. .Most of my kit was bought through club members and some off the internet, I then had it checked over by professionals, this saved a heap of money, I must have saved at least half of what it would have cost new. I also built the kit up over the space of months rather than buying it all at the same time, and at the prices I was buying at, I knew that I could sell it on if I decided that scuba wasn't for me.

Having had several open water dives under my belt, I felt confident to the two dives that Kirsteen had planned at St Abbs!

I got to St Abbs just in time...I only had ten minutes or so to get kitted up. No mobile signal at St Abbs resulted in me being a little late. My club members were at hand to help out with my kit check.

I felt excited, nervous and apprehensive on the boat as the skipper Paul neared us to my first sea dive. Kirsteen, Roy, Ann and Craig were at hand to steady the nerves and check my kit over before I made the leap of faith!

A quick check at the surface with my buddy Kirsteen, then a slow steady decent into the unknown, my nerves vanished quickly as the sight of all the marine life was to say the least awesome.

The sea bed was awash with various forms of starfish and the soft columns of white soft coral and dead man’s fingers was an unexpected sight. I saw various types of fish including a large wrasse as well as small blenny type fish in the crevasses of the rock.

This was much better than staring at a fish tank!

I came away from that first dive, beaming with joy! During the wait for the next dive I stuffed myself from the leftovers from the BBQ that had taken place the night before.

The second dive was just as enjoyable as the first, with less nerves but more apprehension on what I was going to see. I was hoping to see a conger or wolf fish, however it wasn't to be on these first two dives. I did see some large edible crabs, a large shoal of fish and a lobster awaiting its fate in a lobster pot.

It has been a long but enjoyable road that has finally led me to being able to dive with confidence at St Abbs.

I would just like to thank all the members of the club for their help support and enthusiasm, and if you’re thinking of joining a diving club with a strong sense of community spirit and friendship, then join ours!

Would I go again? too right I would, whens the next trip!?   Click here for more photos


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