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Meet Our Club: Severnside Sub-Aqua Club

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Want to join a dive club? In this new series, we take a look at grassroots diving and find out what’s happening on the club scene in the UK and around the world…


What is the name of your club?

Severnside Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364)

Where is your club based?

We are based in central Bristol in the South West of England.

Club affiliations (i.e. BSAC, PADI, SAA, etc.)

We are a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364). However, we have members with qualifications from various training agencies including commercial divers and PADI-qualified instructors. All of our training offered is in accordance with the BSAC Diver Training Programme but any qualified divers are more than welcome do dive with us within the limits of their existing qualifications.

Where and when do you meet?

We have our own dedicated clubhouse and boat store in the heart of Bristol’s historic docklands which is always open to members and guests from around 8 pm to 10 pm every Monday (except Bank Holidays). We also meet earlier for meetings or training and have exclusive use of a nearby private heated swimming pool for training and skills practice every Monday night from 7.30 pm to 9 pm.

In between our weekly meetings we also have mid-week and weekend training sessions as well as a packed schedule of social events including walking and hiking trips, local food and drink festivals, theatre and music gig nights, cultural events, and regular ‘Friday Night Shout’ social occasions at one or more local pubs.

How do you respond to the challenge of recruiting new members?

We are one of the largest and most active dive clubs in the South West currently with around 140 members. We are able to offer a full range of BSAC training courses from absolute beginner to advanced diver and even instructor training support and we make extensive use of social media and online tools for promotion and marketing using promotional materials provided by the BSAC.

One of our favourite ways to reach potential new members has been to donate a free ‘try dive experience’ voucher to local charities for fundraising raffles and prize draws. It costs us nothing since we have the kit and our pool available and it helps to raise vital funds for worthy local causes. At the same time, our volunteer instructors love to introduce new people to the fantastic sport of diving and we make sure that they always leave with a DVD and a free magazine with details about our training courses on offer.

Otherwise, many of our new members are introduced to us by word-of-mouth for friends, family, or colleagues. It also helps that we have such great facilities and a full and active year-round diving programme which makes us attractive to already qualified-divers.

What facilities and resources does the club use/have?

Each week we have exclusive use of a heated indoor swimming pool and our dedicated clubhouse has its own classroom, a large meeting room, and a fully-equipped workshop as well as a shower room, a disabled access toilet, and kitchen facilities. We have free wi-fi access for members, two training PCs with fixed digital projectors, a portable projector, a sound system, and a full library of resources, research and training materials, annual tide times, admiralty charts, and diving tables.

The clubhouse is also used to store our two Tornado and Humber RIBs which are kept on towable trailers available for any suitably-qualified members to use for diving and training. These have been fully-equipped with echo-sounders, marine GPS, and fixed radios and have been extensively modified for diving with externally-mounted stores for emergency equipment, racking for cylinders, and chandlery boxes full of shot weights, buoy lines and signal-pills, etc.

Our diving equipment includes ten complete sets of SCUBA kit available for trainee and members’ use with BCs in a range of sizes as well as cylinders from 5 ltrs up to 10 ltrs. We also have three emergency O2 kits as well as various first aid kits and a range of resusci anne manikins which we also use to run regular first aid and rescue/incident response training courses.

Lastly, we have our own breathing air compressors and gas blending plant including a large nitrox bank and full trimix blending facilities. This means that we are able to offer ‘premixed’ nitrox of less than 40% O2 for members to safely fill non-O2 cleaned cylinders for recreational diving.

What sort of diving do you do, and where?

We dive all around the UK from our two club RIBs and members’ own boats, as well as shore dives and charter boat bookings. Most frequently we dive along the South coast in Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall. However, we will venture as far out as the Skomer marine reserve in West Wales, Lundy Island and the Isles of Scilly. In the last few years we have even traveled to Lymington and the Isle of Wight, Ireland, the Farne Islands, and the Isle of Skye and Loch Duich in Scotland.

We are also lucky to have three great inland diving sites within easy driving distance at Vobster Quay in Somerset, Cromhall Quarry in South Gloucestershire, and the National Diving and Activity Centre in Monmouthshire.

Do you organise any club trips abroad, and if so, where?

We have several club trips abroad every year normally, including at least one week-long liveaboard trip (usually to the Red Sea).  In the last few years our club members have also been to Indonesia, the Philippines, Truk Lagoon, Tobago, France, Spain and the Canary Islands, as well as land-based trips to Egypt and Jordan. Already for 2018 we have trips booked to the Maldives and the Southern Red Sea. We even have an annual ski trip which for the last few years has been to various resorts around the French Alps!

Does your club have any special interests such as conservation, special projects, etc?

We are very keen on supporting conservation and encouraging a culture of sustainable behaviours amongst our members. We have recently put in place an Environmental and Sustainability Policy providing that we will appoint an Environmental and Sustainability Champion each year who will be responsible for ensuring that we work towards minimising the environmental impact of any of our activities. Car sharing is arranged wherever possible and we have bike storage and shower facilities at our club to encourage our members to cycle to our training and meetings.

We have also worked closely with the UK charity the Marine Conservation Society to raise money and awareness in support of their various environmental campaigns. We have recently run a ‘Marine Life Appreciation’ skill development course as well as a ‘SeaSearch UK’ observer course with members volunteering undertake marine life and habitat surveys. Our members are also involved in regular litter picking campaigns including the annual #GreatBritishBeachClean and monthly ‘Clean Up Bristol Harbour’ events.

Another of our major interests over the last few years has been our ‘Adopt-a-Wreck’ project. Under the scheme organised by the Nautical Archaeology Society, we have unofficially ‘adopted’ the wreck of the SS Bayginato two miles off the Dorset coast in Lyme Bay. As part of the project we have organised a ‘Wreck Appreciation’ skill development course as well as a series of survey dives on the wreck site and a programme of research into the history of the wreck, her crew, and the story behind her loss to enemy action during WWI on 18 March 1918.

Does your club have any claims to fame or any particularly interesting stories… or members?

Our ‘Adopt-a-Wreck’ project has attracted a lot of press interest during the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Great War.  After winning the BSAC’s inaugural ‘Wreck Award’, some of our members were invited onto the big red sofa to talk about the project on BBC’s six o’clock news. This gave the club the opportunity to promote SCUBA diving as well as to talk about the rich heritage of the UK’s maritime history just under the surface of the water along our coastlines. This was recognised by the Sports + Recreation Alliance who awarded the club the award for ‘Most Innovative Project’ presented by HRH Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex! Most recently, we were awarded the Nautical Archaeology Society’s ‘Adopted Wreck Project Award’, presented to TV archaeologist Dr Phil Harding, and commended for our efforts to promote the sport by the BSAC’s Heinke Trophy awards panel.

What are the club’s plans for the future?

This year we will be reaching the culmination of our ‘Adopt-a-Wreck’ project by marking the centenary of the sinking of the SS Baygitano. We are planning to commemorate the sacrifice and dedication of all those merchant navy seaman who served in the Great War by laying a reef on the wreck site diving a memorial dive on Sunday 18 March 2018.

A number of our members have also recently completed the BSAC’s ‘Diving for All’ instructor course to learn how to adapt their training procedures to help and support people with disabilities. We are planning to integrate as many of the skills and teaching techniques taught on that course into our own diver training programme to ensure that we are as welcoming and accessible as we can be to potential new members.

Finally, we are hoping to develop our outreach programme offering discounted ‘try dive’ evenings to local scouts and other other community and youth groups. That way we know that there will always be ‘plenty more divers in the sea!’

Where can people find out more about your club?

The best way to find out more about the club would be to come and see us at the Cambria Yard, Avon Crescent, Bristol, England BS1 6XQ on a Monday night (except Bank Holidays) between 9 and 10 pm!  But, if readers want to find out a bit more in advance, then they can also contact us by email, look us up online, or visit our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Finally… if you could sum up your club in just one sentence, what would it be?

Fun, family-friendly, welcoming, and flying the A-flag for the British Sub-Aqua Club!

News

Celebrating UK Diving with Dr. Alex Tattersall: Gallery 2

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Alex has been enjoying diving locally during the pandemic and we will be sharing some of his incredible images taken on the south coast of England over the coming days. Here is what he has to say:

I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to live on the South Coast at this moment in time and with overseas trips being put on hold, I’ve been able to look to my own backyard to find sanctity and sanity, a brief escape from the madness of the world. In spite of my good fortune to live so close to some choice UK shore diving, it is still a very different diving experience from that of a luxury liveaboard, and it takes some careful planning and a lot more physical effort and dedication. Without local guide/spotters, you are on your own to find interesting subjects and photogenic situations, and at first sight, this seems impossible in the dark brown silt and sand. However, patience, sensitivity to the environment, and cumulative experience do bring their rewards.

I live in Bournemouth, some 45 minutes from my most visited dive site this year, Swanage Pier. A group of photo friends and I started diving as lockdown was lifted and have continued throughout the season and are still diving now when conditions allow. The beauty of this has been the opportunity to watch the site’s flora, fauna and even topographical features change in response to weather conditions and seasonal variation. We‘ve watched nudibranch species arrive, proliferate, lay eggs and then disappear. We’ve witnessed sea hares arrive in their masses, mate in huge groups and then vanish overnight. We’ve seen wrasse nesting, blennies laying and guarding eggs, anemone shrimp grow from teeny-tiny to almost filling their host snake locks anemone, jellyfish come and go in waves, and (shh) even the magical spiny seahorse pairing, brooding and giving birth in front of our eyes. As the nights draw in and the water cools (and for however long the South West continues to elude more serious lockdown), we are looking forward to more winter and night diving to briefly follow the lives of colder water and more nocturnally active species (although motivating ourselves in colder, damper conditions will be a challenge!).

Knowing that overseas diving is largely on hold (plus the marked slowdown in my day to day workload) has allowed me the time to take a new perspective on local UK diving. I have been able to approach each dive with a much greater level of mindfulness coming from a drop in urgency to make each dive as productive as possible. Returning day after day to the same few sites, revisiting the same critters, having more numerous windows into the lives of the animals has all afforded me with a much deeper level of intimacy with the local seas, for which I hope I will be ever grateful. 2020’s post lockdown sites for me were Swanage Pier, Kimmeridge Bay, the Weymouth/Portland region and I managed to sneak out for a three day break to Lundy Island.

I am also in the fortunate position of having access to new and exciting underwater photo products (what would an article from me be without a few commercial plugs?). Visiting the same sites, I could return with different lens and lighting combinations with ideas as to how to tackle the same subjects from very different photographic perspectives. Much of the shore diving on these sites, as you can see from the photos in this article, lends itself mainly to close up and macro/supermacro photography with windows of excellent visibility (and tangible excitement) when I was able to unleash the Nauticam Wide Angle Conversion Port on the critters. We have also recently received the Nauticam EMWL-1 (Extended Macro to Wide Lens) which is a long probe lens attached to the front of the flat macro port offering wide-angle perspectives of macro subjects. I had the pleasure of test driving the new Retra Pro flashes (with its ability to sync to shutter speeds far higher than the usual 1/250 as you can see in the jellyfish and sunburst shot) and the Backscatter miniflash (the easiest and most versatile snoot light option we have used), to understand first-hand how both are opening up new and exciting possibilities for underwater photography.

I’ll sit back now and let you enjoy the images. My final thought having revisited the image selection for this article is that I’d have never expected to have been able to repeat dive these same sites and to find such diversity and beauty in our local marine flora and fauna. If there is any upside for me to the current difficult situation, it could be that I would never have made to time to discover this had international dive travel still been an easy option.

Alex is the UK distributor for Nauticam and many more underwater photography manufacturers. You can see more of his beautiful images and buy some of the kit he used to take them by visiting his website here.

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Dive Training Blogs

8 ways to always stay connected to diving

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By Edward Kelleher

It happens to many divers (myself included): We get certified, go all-in on the sport of diving, then fall out of diving.  After my initial certification, I did a handful of dives and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, the shop I certified with closed down, I had no other dive buddies, and life caught up to me. It happens to all of us. I get it. Luckily, I’m here to give you surefire ways of getting (and staying) back into diving!

  1. Take a refresher/inactive diver class with your local dive center. This will introduce you to the local shop and staff. If you’ve been out of diving for 6 months to a year or so, take a refresher. Make sure your skills are still strong before going for a dive. Safety first.
  2. Take a class. Any class. Putting yourself back into “student mode” can spark more interest and focus rather than just going for a regular dive. If you haven’t been diving in a number of years, it may be time to retake the open water class.
  3. Look at some new gear. This doesn’t mean you’re upgrading all of your equipment, but it’s smart to stay on top of current gear trends and see what’s new or different. With many classes now requiring dive computer usage, it may be time to purchase one.
  4. Join a social media club page. There are TONS of groups on social media for scuba, both local to your area and international. Join a couple! Bounce some ideas between group members. See who’s going diving. Trying to get a dive in? Put it out to the group!
  5. Join your local dive club! Much like social media club pages, your local dive club may have its own group page! Meet the locals, coordinate dives, and keep an eye out for meetings and social events! A good dive club brings divers of all skill sets and backgrounds together in a fun and inviting atmosphere. The best thing you can do as an active diver is surround yourself with other active divers. You may not want to go on every dive, but you will definitely get more opportunities to jump in the water.
  6. Try the local dive scene. You’d probably be surprised to learn what sort of diving your local area has. Many divers don’t know until they actually start trying to dive local. I never would have heard about Dutch Springs if I wasn’t a diver. Additionally, the diving conditions you’re picturing may not always be the reality. In the northeast, offshore conditions are MUCH better than many would think for NJ/NY area. Trust me.
  7. Take a trip! Whether through your local dive center or on your own, travel! If necessary, you could take your refresher course on your trip as well.
  8. Get a friend or family member into the sport. There’s nothing better than enjoying a dive with a good friend or family member. Sure, you’re recruiting your own dive buddy, but you’ll have someone close to you to share the experiences with!

Life is too short to get certified and not dive again. Get active with your local dive scene and get in the water. Your new dive buddies are waiting!


To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

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£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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