Carla enjoying some warm water diving

The Best Decision I Ever Made…Becoming a Scuba Blue PADI Divemaster

I am not going to lie, when Midge talked to me about training to become a PADI Divemaster for Scuba Blue I had my doubts, mostly due to my limited confidence in my abilities as a diver and what I perceived as my lack of patience when dealing with others. I think I decided to start the course because there was a group of us who dived regularly together all agreeing to undertake the training.

 

Brian, one of Scuba Blue’s instructors, delivered all of our PADI Divemaster training; he was hugely knowledgeable, supportive and patient. The Scuba Blue approach to delivering the course was great fun, we would all gather around the kitchen table at Brian’s and go through the theory, it was great to have the support of everyone else and there were many laughs. Big shout out to Janet (Mrs Brian) for providing excellent cake each time! (Note: Mrs B says you were all a nightmare to cater for with highly specialised cake preferences .. how can anyone not like lemon drizzle cake???)

 

Not long after starting my course, my confidence took a huge knock when I had a bad dive at Swanage. I am the sort who is really hard on themselves and I remember getting back on to the boat and demanding a course refund! We still had another dive to go that day so I put ‘my big girl pants on’ and got back in and had a fantastic drift dive with no issues. Nevertheless, I  still had doubts about my ability to be a good divemaster and not let Scuba Blue down.

 

Shortly after this adventure/disaster, it was time for one of my PADI Divemaster assessments in the pool. As part of the course, I have to demonstrate one of the skills that a diver on their open water course needs to be able to complete. I was working with Midge on this occasion and he had briefed me beforehand on what skill he would like me to demonstrate, so I was all prepared. Unfortunately, Midge’s regulators malfunctioned and he was not able to effectively demonstrate the skills to the students so as the DM it fell on me to work through the skills with the students. This is the best thing that could have happened to me, I had not prepared for this but I had to come across as confident and professional to the students. They all paid close attention to me and successfully completed all of the skills. I was hooked from that moment on!

 

One student in particular, who I was lucky enough to work with closely throughout their open water course, only helped me further to realise that deciding to become a DM was the best decision I ever made. If I didn’t have a mortgage to pay, I would love to do this all the time! The student struggled at first with mastering one of the skills needed to qualify as an open water diver, I got the opportunity to work with them one-on-one and give them the confidence and a couple of tips to help them nail the skill. I think it helped that I had struggled with some of my learning so I understood how they felt.

 

That is one of the things I love about being part of Scuba Blue, they never rush you or make you feel silly, they do all they can to support you through any difficultly.

 

If anyone were thinking of undertaking a PADI Divemaster course, I would highly recommend doing it with Scuba Blue. We got to work with real students, had fantastic support from the rest of the team, who are highly professional but most importantly love to dive. I completed the course within 8 months, building up constant experience in this period. The Scuba Blue family has a passion for diving and teaching diving well and this passion is infectious.

 

Scuba Blue totally believes in their ethos of ‘start diving, keep diving’ and this is clear throughout everything they do and I will make sure I help support this in my time as a Scuba Blue Divemaster!  Scuba Blue is not all about how many courses you can do; Scuba Blue is about going diving, supporting each other, socialising and having fun.

THe beautiful shores of the islands surrounding Truk lagoon

Bucket List Diving – Truk Lagoon

Tony Reed is a passionate and highly experienced diver. We are so fortunate to have Tony associated with Scuba Blue; many of the photographs on the site are Tony’s and he is always willing to come along and help record the varied events and activities that go on at Scuba Blue.   Check out his brilliant website at https://cheapandcheerful.blog/ to see what brilliant photographs can be taken underwater using quite basic equipment.  Here Tony writes about a real bucket list dive destination – Truk Lagoon.

 

A poignant reminder of the people who once crewed these ships

Chuuk lagoon, also known as Truk lagoon’ is on many diver’s bucket list, and rightfully so. The lagoon is home to a vast number of wrecks that were sunk in 1914 from Operation Hailstone. Hailstone was an operation that lasted 2 days and saw the destruction of the Japanese fleet by the US in retaliation from the attacks on Pearl harbour.

 

Chuuk Lagoon is one of a small group of islands which form the federated states of Micronesia. Located in the Pacific the distance from the UK makes it a task to get there!  My trip there was broken up into 2 days. From Gatwick to Istanbul – Japan where I stayed overnight, then from Japan to Guam and then on to Chuuk.

 

I travelled as light as I could and with different baggage allowances throughout the journey it worked out quite well with a quick swap over of a couple of items in Japan. I flew Turkish airlines from UK to Japan with a 40-kilo allowance. From Japan to Chuuk I flew United Airlines with a 23-kilo allowance but the hand luggage was only restricted to size not weight. So the Olympus TG4 was perfect to take with me! I also took a couple of GoPros for footage and wide shots! Along with a small but powerful video light I had what I needed. This is the setup I now use for my photography!

 

I arrived at midnight and got shown to my room where I quickly found my bed. I woke in the morning to a view that took my breath away..it was paradise..clear turquoise sea, blue sky, green grass and palm trees. I was excited about the day ahead. I made my way to the restaurant for breakfast walking through the lush green trees. There were lots to choose from on the menu which was nice. I also noticed all the information needed for new arrivals on the reverse of the menu so I had everything I needed.

 

Inside the wreck

After breakfast I got my dive kit sorted and headed over to the dive centre. The set up was really good with a guide and skipper allocated too a small group of divers. For most of the week, I was on the boat with 3 other divers Dean, Sue and Paul.

 

The boat journey to the dive sites is usually no longer than 25 minutes so it’s not long before you are descending down the buoy line. The first wreck was the Fujikawa maru which is a favourite to start with. The viz was pretty good and it wasn’t long before the dark shape below resembled the bow of a wreck. The excitement from the start of the holiday only got more intense as we explored the magnificent wrecks one by one. Trying to take in all the different artefacts that remain on each wreck is a challenge so having a couple of cameras helped a lot with that! Between the 2 dives in the morning, we made our way to Etton island for a surface interval where the locals climbed the trees and cut down coconuts for us all to drink from! it was a lovely way to spend the interval.

 

unexploded ammunition

Etton island was a landing strip which resembled the shape of an aircraft carrier which confused the Americans as they kept bombing the island and reporting back stating it still had not sunk! There are a number of aircraft scattered around the end of the island. The betty bomber, the Emily seaplane, a Zero fighter and some wings of fighters. The betty bomber and Emily seaplane were great dives with quite a bit of life on them. The Zero fighter is in 6 meters of water so was a good surface interval snorkel.

 

Over the 8 days diving, I managed to do 18 different wrecks, some were done twice as a new group came through. A wreck playground for the metal fans but also plenty of life around the wrecks! Sharks, hundreds of fish shoals and a fair bit of macro! A great combination for the photographer. On the last day after diving, the guide took us to another island for a farewell BBQ! It was an amazing end to a fantastic 8 days diving! On the tiniest island miles from anywhere else sipping beer, eating good food sitting in a hammock watching the clouds go by! Perfect!

HSE presentation

PADI Diver Safety UK Event

Scuba Blue take Diver Safety very seriously. Whether it is a course, training session or dive trip, we plan carefully to make sure the activity is successful, safe and, of course, fun. When the opportunity arose to take part in a Diver Safety UK event at PADI’s European headquarters, based inRNLI Presentation Bristol, we jumped at the opportunity. Brian Scowcroft, Scuba Blue Staff Instructor, represented the team.  Inevitably his first report back concerned the quality of lunch provided, but once over that hurdle we got down to discussing the course content.

 

PADI must be congratulated on bringing together key speakers from all the main organisations involved in making sure diving in the UK is as safe as possible. The event was presented by Mark Spiers, PADI EMEA Vice President for training, sales and field services and showcased industry influencers from:

 

  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
  • Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA)
  • Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
  • Divers Alert Network (DAN)
  • Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)
  • British Diving Safety Group (BDSG)
  • Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC)

Guest speakers shared the latest best practice and techniques to improve diver and boating safety and were available to chat with through the day.

 

RNLI Presentation and video

One highlight was the opportunity to apply for Instructor status for a new speciality, the PADI/RNLI Sea Survivor Diver.  This looks like it will be a great addition to the range of specialities Scuba Blue offer.  Essentially this course covers the skills, experience and knowledge a relatively new diver needs in order to be a confident and safe diver in the sort of diving we find in the waters around the UK. It includes dive planning and preparation, safety kit to carry or which we find on dive boats, diving in low visibility, gas management, SMB use and more. AS well as knowledge development the student takes part in two open water dives where they can apply and develop their new knowledge.  An initial thought is that it would be a fabulous course to offer less experienced divers who might be a bit nervous about actually going out diving in the UK.

 

As well as the brilliant presentations Brian came back with free stickers, a poster, badge and a keyring….. a Happy Bunny!.

Jonathan obviously enjoys rebreather diving

Trying out the VMS RedBare Rebreather

Andy with instructor, Tim ClementsScuba Blue concentrates on training recreational divers but that’s not to say that we don’t also take an interest in more technical diving and equipment.  Tim Clements of Vobster Quay Dive Centre provided a day introducing Scuba Blue Divemasters, Andy Braithwaite and Jonathan Madeley to Rebreather Diving.  An arm of the Vobster operation both manufactures and offers training on the VMS RedBare Closed Circuit (CCR) Rebreather.

 

Both Andy and I are used to the early morning start for a trip to Vobster Quay, but this morning was different; today we were going back to being the students. The night before we had both packed all our kit and had exchanged suitably excited messages about meeting up in the morning. We had been looking forward to this since a brief conversation with Tim at the Dive Show last year. While I was waiting for Andy I was thinking how lucky we are to live where we do, we have fantastic sea dives that can fill anyone’s needs, wrecks off the south coast, blue sharks out of Plymouth, seals at Lundy but also facilities like Vobster Quay all on our doorstep.

 

Learning about the unitWe arrived at Vobster nice and early and after getting the obligatory cup of tea, we met Tim, went upstairs to learn about the RedBare rebreather, have a general look at rebreather technology and some of the unique features on the RedBare. It was an interesting couple of hours and Tim spent time not only explaining the technology but also the reasoning behind it and how things had moved on in the last few years. Although there is no denying that there is a lot of “science” in rebreathers the morning passed quickly, both Andy and I came out of it with a much better understanding and we had a few laughs along the way.

 

Now it was the bit we had both been waiting for, our chance to dive with the RedBare rebreather. Tim spent some time adjusting the harness to try and place the counterlung on the rebreather in the correct position, as getting this wrong can lead to it Andy adopting the "Cool, Tough Diver" pose.needing an increased effort to either breath out or in. Once he was happy with the position, we were ready to go. The plan was to start in the enclosed water area to check that we had the correct weight and to practice some drills, mainly switching from the rebreather to the open circuit stage cylinder that we were carrying. The issue with switching is that you cannot just remove the rebreather mouthpiece as unlike a normal regulator it is not sealed so it will flood the whole system and will turn the sofnolime that is used to remove the carbon dioxide into oven cleaner, which is not a good thing. Therefore, before you remove the mouthpiece you need to turn the switch on the front so that it is closed and sealed. Once we had run through this drill and were happy that we could switch from the rebreather to the stage cylinder and back again, we were ready to go and explore.

 

Both Andy and I have done many dives at Vobster so we knew the planned route. What I was not ready for was the silence. The biggest change for me was buoyancy; the way a rebreather works means thatTim is very helpful! breathing in or out does not change your buoyancy. (Tim had already warned us to go around the escort rather than just take a deep breath and rise over it as we normally would. I think his exact words were we would just run into the door!) The exhaled gas is not expelled as bubbles but is held in a counterlung (bladder) and then “cleaned” and reused. This meant that if you were swimming at a set depth then once your buoyancy was right it would stay perfect until you changed depth. Whilst this is great when you are not changing depth, it does cause an issue when you start to reduce your depth. As the gas in the counterlung will start to expand as the pressure on it reduces. This causes your buoyancy to become positiveWhat time is it? and means that there is no spare volume for your exhaled breath. To counteract this you breathe out through your nose thus removing gas from the system. In reality, this sounded much more complicated than it was in practice and both Andy and I soon got the hang of balancing the amount of gas in the system. I suppose the big question now is do I want one. Well that is easy. Yes!!! However, the current diving I do does not warrant that investment. Now if Vobster brought out a cheaper version that was aimed more at a recreational diver to a max of 40m with upgrade options then I think I may be tempted

 

If you want to take part in a similar experience then you can check out the details of the Vobster Rebreather Training. You can also chat with Jonathan and Andy at a Tuesday Scuba Blue pool session or via the Scuba Blue Club Members Facebook Group.  Find out about the club here

The Scuba Blue team at PADI HQ

PADI Affiliate Travel Workshop

Midge and Brian today represented Scuba Blue at a PADI Affiliate Travel workshop at PADI’s European headquarters, located conveniently for us, in Bristol.  The workshop introduced to us the new PADI Travel arm of the PADI world. This is a really exciting venture as it is now one of the world’s biggest dive travel agencies. They offer trips, resorts and liveaboard adventures across the globe and with the sort of prices that can’t be beaten.  Watch out for further news from us as we become a PADI Travel affiliate. Will will then be able to offer you an easy way to get everything from advice to actually booking your next dive adventure.

Our new Divemasters

New Scuba Blue Divemasters

Andy. A new PADI DivemasterAbsolutely delighted to say that today the first 3 homegrown Scuba Blue Dive Masters were created !!!!

Huge congratulations to Andy BluffieldCarla Cook and Jonathan Madeley who, after 8 and a half months of hard work and huge commitment, have become the first Scuba Blue produced PADI Professionals.

Massive thanks to Brian Scowcroft who has run an amazing Dive Master course, the attention to detail from Brian has been second to none and the catering at his regular DMT meetings and the fun and laughter has become a thing of legend. It has not only been fun but without these guys and the other Scuba Blue TDMs we would not have been anywhere near where we are today, you are all amazing !!.

Thanks also to all the fabulous students we have been able to let all our TDMs loose on …….it adds so much to the course when the practical parts of the course can be completed using real life students rather than simulating situations.

Can’t wait to bring you news of the rest of our terrific TDMs qualifying in the very near future!!! 😀😀😀😀😀

Scuba Blue Dives Babbacombe

Carla CookEnjoy finding out about a Scuba Blue dive trip as reported by our very own Divemaster, Carla Cook.

 

Saturday 12 January saw the first of Scuba Blue’s 2019 dive adventures. Fourteen brave divers took to the chilly waters of Babbacombe in Devon for a great early morning dive. It was so good to see Scuba Blue’s ethos of ‘start diving, keep diving’ in full swing with five newly qualified open water divers joining experienced divers for their first sea dive.

 

Babbacombe is a fantastic location for old and new divers.  Just one hour from our home base in Somerset, it is always teeming with life.  With a car park right next to the shore and an easy entrance and exit to the sea, makes it a great place to introduce new Babbacombe Beachdivers to their first experience. Also for those of us experienced divers who may have overindulged at Christmas, it is a nice way to ease us back in for another fun-filled year of diving.

 

I have been diving for over three years and have been part of Scuba Blue from the beginning. Last year I started training to be a divemaster so I could share my love of diving with others. I honestly do not think I would have enjoyed the experience as much if I had not done it with Scuba Blue. The team are so knowledgeable, welcoming and passionate; I have made friends for life.

 

Scuba Blue Divers at Babbacombe I got to support some of the new divers through their open water courses, so to be able to be part of their first fun dives was extremely rewarding. They were so excited to be able to spot their first crabs, lobsters and other sea life, having animated discussions with us afterwards, helping to identify what they had spotted during the dive. I would highly recommend Great British Marine Animals by Paul Naylor to help with this!

 

I have to mention Scuba Blue’s very own Mr Bluffield, who is, unfortunately, gaining the unwanted reputation of losing his dive equipment! Thankfully, the dive community are so amazing that within a few hours a fellow diver had found his camera.

 

It would not be a proper dive day without a trip to a local pub for some food, here we are at Route 16 (other pubs are available).Lunch at Route 16 in Babbacombe

 

I cannot wait for Scuba Blue’s next dive adventure, but in the meantime, every Tuesday evening you will find us at a pool in Taunton, ready to welcome the next generation of divers. If you have ever thought you would like to have a go at diving, why not join us? For only £30, you can take part in a try dive and meet the Scuba Blue team. To find out more call 07966 429239 and check out our website at www.scubablue.co.uk and for advice on diving at Babbacombe have a look at this blog article 

 

Scuba Blue loves to help people start diving, but more importantly, we want to keep you diving!

Andy and Tony

A tale of a dive day: a winter trip to Cornwall.

Here is a blog written by Scuba Blue’s first homegrown Divemaster (and soon to be Instructor), Andy Bluffield.

 

Well just as I thought the 2018 diving season was over I got a call from Scuba Blue’s ace photographer and videographer Tony Reed asking if I was up for a dive out of Falmouth with Atlantic Scuba. Well of course I was, I couldn’t think of a better way to help work off the Christmas mince pies and finish off the year in style.

 

A 5:30 am alarm call lead to a bleary-eyed meeting with Tony for our lift share down to Cornwall.  After a quick Costa coffee, we made good time on the quiet post-Christmas roads and arrived in good time for a pre-10:00 am ropes off fry up in the Mylor Cafe (so much for working off the mince pies!).

 

Atlantic Scuba

We met up with skipper, Mark Milburn, owner of Atlantic Scuba on the jetty.  He was wearing shorts (brrrrr), a smile and carrying a jerry can of two stroke.  Mark’s knowledge of the local area is outstanding; there are few who can match his intimate knowledge of Cornish diving.  Nothing was too much trouble when it came to making sure we had a great day – a freshly filled cylinder awaited Tony, who had been diving the previous day and been unable to get a fill beforehand (there are those who say he spends more time below water than above it!).

 

After a smooth trip out to the Manacles reef, Mark shot the wreck directly over the boilers enabling us to drop straight onto the SS Mohegan.  This ship sank in tragic circumstances in 1898 with the loss of 106 passengers and crew after making a navigational error which drove her onto the Manacles. As we descended onto the wreck, three huge boilers came into view. Visibility was over 5 metres and surface conditions screamed: “jump in, the waters lovely”. Swimming above the boilers you could see breaks in the skin and also notice that the middle boiler is, in fact, two smaller boilers back-to-back. These were covered in the life typically found on a UK dive. Most of the wreck is well broken up and cross sections are covered with an abundance of pink sea fans which hold out their arms perpendicular to the current to catch their current-borne food.

 

Maerl bedsIt was then back to Falmouth for a cylinder swap. Mark runs a rib which, although very comfortable, means that space is at a premium. After a quick turnaround, albeit with plenty of time for a hot chocolate, we were back on our way out to dive the Maerl beds.

 

This was my first experience of these beds and “Wow, just Wow”. Tony had told me to expect a floor of red twiglets that just went on and on and filled with life.  His description was spot on. Mearl is a term for a seabed densely covered by several species of red, hard skeletoned, seaweed, It is rock hard and, like most red seaweeds, needs lots of light to thrive so tend to be found in well lit, shallow waters. The beds at Falmouth are huge and the conditions are perfect due to a tidal flow that removes fine sediment but isn’t strong enough to break up the brittle maerl branches. Within these beds, layers of dead maerl build up with a thin layer of pink, living maerl on the top.  Mark explained how Mearl beds are such an important habitat for many different types of marine life that live amongst it and told us how it can be of importance to sustainable fisheries, providing nursery grounds for commercial species of fish and shellfish. It’s clear to see how the beds could be easily damaged and have declined substantially in some areas. Pressures on maerl beds include scallop dredging, bottom trawling, aquaculture and pollution. They are very slow to develop and are unlikely to return if removed or lost. The site is one of the largest maerl beds in south-west Britain and it was a privilege to dive them.

 

Crab closeup

Despite being an experienced UK diver I know there are always new places to go, wrecks to explore, and underwater environments which are globally rare to investigate.  This was a great day but not untypical of what we lucky UK divers get to explore. If you are inspired to go on a similar trip, advance your training or even learn how to dive, get in touch with Scuba Blue. We love meeting other divers, training people to become divers and helping them to keep diving.  Check out our dive club.

 

Check out more of Tony Reed’s pictures at Cheap and Cheerful Photography and Videography and Mark Milburn’s dive centre in Falmouth, Atlantic Scuba.

Exciting news from Scuba Blue for 2019

Exciting news from Scuba Blue for 2019. Having spent 8 very happy and successful months working with Fathom Diving, Scuba Blue has acquired its own brand new premises.

 

Inside the new Scuba Blue base.We will be operating from West Monkton on the outskirts of Taunton. As far as Scuba Blue members and customers are concerned nothing changes except the location;  we have our own compressor, so air is available, a retail arm and of course our training and dive trips will continue to go from strength to strength!!

 

Work has already started to make the new base a proper Scuba Blue home and we can’t wait to invite you over for our housewarming in the new year.

 

We would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to Kelvin Richards andNew home view two his amazing Fathom team for the incredible support they have given us in our first 8 months. Through this support, we have been able to build an amazing community of divers and a solid business that is now looking to move to the next level.

 

More news on the big move very soon but in the meantime stay in touch as usual through Facebook, email or we are always available to chat on 07966 429239. Have a fantastic Christmas and we look forward to diving with you in 2019.

Midge thanking Paul Naylor

An Evening with Paul Naylor

What a fabulous evening last night !!

 

Paul Naylor, author of “Great British Marine Animals”, now in its expanded 3rd Edition, visited Scuba Blue to give a presentation on “Sex and Violence in the Underwater World”!  A subject guaranteed to grab the attention of any audience.

 

Great British Marine AnimalsThe lecture room at Scuba Blue HQ (kindly provided by Fathom Diving) was full for Paul’s talk and it was great to meet people from the dive community across the area. Paul spoke and showed video and photographs for over an hour but afterwards, no one could believe how quickly the time had passed.  We would have happily listened to Paul’s tales for much longer. Rather than skim over all the animals we divers see regularly on our UK dive trips Paul chose to focus on a handful of creatures which we then got to know so much better.  Who knew that the cute Tompot Blenny could be such a devious little critter! As Midge put it when thanking Paul:

 

“A huge thank you to author Paul Naylor for an absolutely riveting presentation on the fascinating creatures that inhabit our coastline. The time went SO quickly and I’m sure next time we dive we will all observe creatures with renewed respect and wonder after hearing the amazing facts Paul amusingly delivered !!”

Paul Naylor's audienceAfterwards, Paul stayed to chat and answer questions as well as selling copies of his book – autographed of course.  His book was so popular that he sold every copy he had brought with him.  I am confident that Midge will be inviting Paul back to Scuba Blue soon.

 

Paul Naylor Picture

The image of the plumose anemone and edible crab is an indication of the quality of images which feature on every page of Great British Marine Animals. To find out more about Paul check out his website at http://www.marinephoto.co.uk If you are a UK diver Paul’s book should be on your bookshelf, or even better, in a waterproof bag with your dive kit so you can find out more about what you have just seen as soon as you leave the water.  Also, have a look at Benny The Blenny who is a rarity among marine creatures – he is a regular blogger!

 

For more information about Scuba Blue, sign up for our occasional newsletters and find out about our club just go to https://www.scubablue.co.uk and follow us on Facebook