Babbacombe Beach from the air

Babbacombe Beach

cuttlefish at Babbacombe

The next in our series on great local diving looks at diving the wonderful Babbacombe Beach.  This is where many new PADI Open Water Divers go for their first independent dive trips. These divers are likely to keep visiting for many years to come as there is so much to see at any time of the year.

 

Put the postcode TQ1 3LX in your satnav to get to the site.  Your journey ends on a steep, narrow lane but the Cary Arms is on this road – If the beer delivery lorries can get down here – so can you! The car park at the bottom is right next to the beach but it isn’t massive. This isn’t a problem most of the time but on summer weekends you should get here early.

 

No dive day is complete unless some catering options are built in.  The beach cafe is open somewhat Seals can be seen at Babbacombeintermittently but is usually serving at weekends in the season. The Cary Arms is a great pub and restaurant just by the beach and at the top of the hill, Babbacombe has plenty of decent cafes and restaurants to choose from.

 

Have a look at the Beach Webcam. It sits on top of the cafe and gives a good view of beach conditions. Babbacombe is a sheltered site but easterly winds will spoil the diving here.  Maybe think about Chesil Cove when the wind direction is from the east.

 

Tompot BlennyDiving at Babbacombe is pretty straightforward but watch your footing getting in and out of the water. Keep away from the jetty if people are fishing there.  Boats use the bay so use a marker buoy from the start or have one ready to send up if you hear boat traffic.

 

There are plenty of ways to dive from the beach. To get a good overview try swimming out towards the jetty (watch out for people fishing though) on a North Easterly bearing. The gradually sloping, rock and weed covered bed will drop off quickly by a metre or so onto a siltier bottom.

 

NudibranchIn this area, there is likely to be plenty of lost fishing gear so watch out for tangling. I like to take a bag and a cutting instrument and remove some of this. Lost fishing gear can continue to catch and entangle marine life for years.

 

Swim along this drop-off, looking out for marine life as you go.  You are swimming across the bay now. Look out for “Mushroom Rock” which is a well-named feature where much marine life including cuttlefish, anemones, tiny nudibranchs and the like are to be found. Make sure to spend plenty of time around the rockier area on the western side of the shore. Shoals of small pollock are to be found, cuttlefish in season, crabs, Lobster at Babbacombelobsters…and much more. Finish by heading back across the bay towards the east before turning in to finish in the middle of the beach – 10 brownie points for being opposite the steps up to the carpark.

 

On other dives, you could head straight out to mushroom rock on a N bearing from the ramp. You could go further west to find a seagrass bed and look for pipefish, maybe even an elusive seahorse.  At very high tide you can get in on the other side of the jetty, or just swim around the jetty if it is safe to do so.  There is always plenty to explore at Babbacombe and it seems to change every time you visit.

 

For air fills why not call in at Scuba Blue, just 15 minutes off the M5 at Dunkeswell.A view of Babbacombe Bay

 

All the pictures on this page were taken at Babbacombe by the wonderful local underwater photographer, Tony Reed.  Check out more of his work at his blog http://cheapandcheerful.blog and look out for his photography workshops with Scuba Blue.

 

If you found this article interesting check out other blog articles from the Scuba Blue Dive Centre 

Brixham Cuttlefish

Brixham Breakwater Beach

Brixham dive kit This is the first of a series on local beach diving sites around the south coast, mostly in Devon and Dorset.  We are so lucky to have such an array of great diving on our doorstep with many sites shallow enough and easy enough for buddy pairs making their first independent dives in open water. We at Scuba Blue may have many years of diving under our belts but Breakwater Beach is a go-to any time we just fancy a dip in the sea.

 

To get to the car park by the beach just stick TQ5 9AF into your satnav.  That is the postcode of the wonderful Breakwater Bistro – I am a great believer in the rule that all good dive trips should have excellent dining opportunities built in.  The Bistro allows damp divers into the covered area at the front and serves great breakfasts and lunches to sustain the diver (remember – Dive Calories Don’t Count). Sadly parking here isn’t cheap away from the winter months so make sure you have the right app on your phone or bring plenty of coins.

 

I like to do most shore dives at high tide just to avoid the faff of trudging over exposed beaches crabbut Brixham is dive-able at most states of the tide. Avoid diving if strong winds are from N, NE or E.  There is little current unless you are well out from the shore. The beach faces North so navigation is pretty straightforward.

 

Suggestions for dives include:

 

1. Dive along the breakwater wall.  You must only do this if there are no fishermen/women around…for obvious reasons.  Look out for big crabs and lobsters in the cracks between boulders.  Please don’t take any, leave them so others can share the delight when they see them too. Anyway, you need to apply for a license to take species including crabs, lobsters and scallops here. Don’t risk large fines.

 

fish at Brixham2. Just head out North, bimble around a bit and head back South. You are likely to pass through a range of habitats including lovely seagrass beds where cuttlefish lay their eggs in season, pipefish hide away and young fish live, seeking protection from larger predators.

 

3. After heading North from the beach turn East and head around the coastline. Again you will have a number of different habitats available to you depending on the depths you choose. I’ve even seen conger eel in the rocks around there.

 

The go-to guy for information about diving at Brixham is Baz Drysdale. He can do air fills (call 01803 850444/07527463968) but ask around, he’s probably diving off the beach.  He also posts most days on the Facebook Page “UK Viz Reports”.

 

You can also pick up a boat dive from the breakwater. Warwick Saunders runs a rib out of there and will take small groups out to a whole range of local sites. He is very good and will match the site with the interests and training level of the divers. Call him on 07771 888545.

 

On my last trip, in May 2018, we were fortunate enough to witness the undersea world awakening from winter. We had mating cuttlefish in the sea grass beds, pipefish and hundreds of sea hares, also intent on reproduction. Tiny, but colourful, nudibranchs wandered slowly on nearly every boulder or rock. A few big wrasse, who had overwintered here, raced around while much smaller fry shoaled in the sea grass, hoping there was protection in numbers.  We were there trying out some new gear for Scuba Blue and our team included Tony Reed who, besides being a top bloke and ace diver, is a great photographer. All the pictures on this page are his.  Go over to check out his website at http://cheapandcheerful.blog and look out for his photography workshops with Scuba Blue.

PADI Open Water abroad

Improve your underwater trim

Important factors in feeling relaxed underwater are good buoyancy and trim.

We will discuss buoyancy in another blog article but until you have nailed your buoyancy you won’t find it easy to improve your trim.   For the purpose of this article, we will assume you have enough weight..and no more.

 

So what is “Trim”?  Trim is just the word divers use to describe their body posture and position underwater. and it’s just as important underwater as it is when walking around.  Many divers think of it as having a flat, horizontal posture in the water and this is indeed how we want to be for much of the time. On other occasions, we might need to be able to adopt other positions in the water and when we can control our trim we can comfortably orientate ourselves in whatever direction is best at the time.

wreck diving

 

In the picture here we see a diver with a good flat trim, feet slightly raised for optimal forward propulsion from the fins and not risking stirring up any silt or sand. He is also using good buoyancy control to hold his position in the water. This is actually a snap of Midge, owner of Scuba Blue (he owes me a pint now). So how is this posture achieved?

 

First, you need to know how you swim now.  The best method is to get someone to film you while you dive and honestly analyse your posture and trim afterwards. You could also just get a more experienced diver, who does have good trim themselves, to watch you and give you feedback; perhaps you could ask your local friendly dive centre if an instructor or divemaster could do a dive with you – maybe could ask for this to be a focus in a PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course. Finally, you could try and do it for yourself and visualise what you must look like for yourself and consider what the difference is with the ideal posture or trim. Whatever method you use please be honest with yourself and please accept the critique of others…we often delude ourselves that we are dive gods when the reality is somewhat less glorious!

 

Weight distribution. You should have the correct amount of weight but is it correctly distributed? Typically we put weight in a belt or in pockets on our BCD – close to the waist; we then have air in our jacket which is nearer the chest. Not surprisingly this can lead to us adopting a head up posture. which will lead to greater diver resistance in the water, we have to swim harder and thus we consume more air.  Take a kilo, no more than two kilos, out with you on a dive and find a nice flat area, maybe a shallow platform at Vobster. Now hold the weight against your tummy then slowly move it forwards until it is extended out in front of you.  Observe what happens.  Try the exercise a couple more times. If you feel that having weight further up your body helps with adopting a good flat trim then when you get out it’s time for a bit of kit fiddling. Take some weight, a couple of kilos will be enough for now,  out of your weight belt or BCD pockets and find a way to fix them higher up your gear; many BCDs have a couple of small pockets on the back for just this purpose. Spookily, they are called “Trim Pockets”. You can buy trim pockets and thread them on the cam band of your BCD or wing. Failing those then hard weights will have slots for threading them on a weight belt and you can thread them onto your BCD cam band but that might interfere with tightening the cam band on your cylinder. You will have to see for your self.  If you only need to move a little bit of weight forward you could try just moving the camband a bit lower down the cylinder putting the cylinder a bit higher.  People who dive wings often say that they help with maintaining good trim and one reason is that they usually have stainless steel back plate weighing in at 2-3kg. This moves weight forward and lets you take a couple of kilos of the weightbelt too.

 

Trim Check time.  Right, did that fix it?  On your next dive get yourself neutrally buoyant. That means you can hang in the water when holding about half a lungful of air; breathe in and you rise slightly and on exhaling, you sink gently. Now get yourself flat in the water, clasp your hands (to stop you flailing about with them) in front of you, gently bend the legs behind you as you would if swimming. Now try to hang motionless for a minute or so. It’s likely there is a bit of fine-tuning to do. You may twist or tip sideways a bit, this may be due to your posture or maybe you have a piece of kit on one side, a pony cylinder, a heavy torch or a reel maybe. You could try shifting them so they are nearer your centre of gravity or move a bit of weight to the other side of your belt to compensate.

Finally don’t underestimate the power of visualisation; visualise what you look like now in the water, imagine what you want to look like – now move your limbs so they are where they should be. It may feel a bit weird but stick at it and it’ll become the natural posture for you.

 

Ankle weights…the devil’s invention.  OK, there will be divers who really do need ankle weights but I’ve never actually instructed on any buoyancy workshop or Peak Performance Buoyancy course where they were needed. I am certain they are overused.  We are taught to fear getting floaty feet and inverting when wearing a drysuit. Not an unreasonable concern but there is a risk that we are getting floaty feet when actually they aren’t. I actually need to shake my feet early in a dive to get a bit of air in my boots to get my trim right. Again, the secret is to get yourself watched or filmed with, and without, ankle weights and I’m fairly sure many divers would be better off without them.

 

It can take a number of dives before you feel properly trimmed so don’t be impatient. It will come and then you will be scything through the water, with barely a flick of your fin and with air consumption that will be the envy of us lesser mortals.