Peak Performance Buoyancy, Underwater Navigation & Search and Recovery at Andark Lake
The day started off with getting all required diving equipment to the lake and setting up. Then it was onto all the essential paperwork – and knowledge reviews of course – where anything not completely understood was clarified by awesome instructor Bryn. Then onto the dive briefing: the first two dives we would be doing were explained in detail so that we understood what the objective was (the primary objective always being of course to finish the dive safely!). Peak Performance Buoyancy consisted of getting a good trim, and practising to hover/simulating safety stops which are super important if going deeper; we also had to challenge to swim through a hoop, and then finished the dive with an exploration of the lake. After surfacing we went straight into the navigation dive – using compasses! We had practiced out of the water with these but the visibility conditions in the lake that day added to make it extra challenging, however it was good fun and very satisfying to find our way back to the platform from which we started. Finally, after a surface interval, we went onto Search & Recovery. During the surface interval we made sure to practise tying bow lines and how to operate a lift bag. I was apprehensive of tying the bowline underwater with my 5mm gloves however was pleasantly surprised when I found I could do it (but very glad I did all that practice on the surface).
Deep Dive & Wreck Dive @ Vobster Quay (+3rd extra dive once qualified!)
Day 2 of the AOW commenced with a very early start (thankfully we had packed up the van the day before), to travel to Vobster Quay in Somerset! After an essential Mcdonald’s breakfast stop, we arrived ready and excited to tackle both Deep and Wreck dive. Especially exciting (if not slightly nerve-racking) was the idea of finally getting to dive considerably deeper than the 8m I had only been so far. After signing in, unpacking the van and kitting up, we were ready to go (after the incredibly important pre-dive and buddy safety checks of course)! Hoping for better visibility than the day before, we did our giant stride in and surface swam to our descent line, which would bring us onto the hull of the Jacquin II boat wreck at about 16m. I was prepared to be cold, but hitting the thermocline at about 12m was definitely still a shock! With the water temperature at about 8 degrees at our bottom depth (22m), it was the coldest dive I had ever experienced, and being susceptible to the cold, one I would definitely want to repeat in a dry suit once certified. After a surface interval (warming up again!), we re-entered to do our wreck dive on an aircraft which was split into three parts at about 12m, where we identified any potential hazards. Finally, after briefly surfacing, I decided I was up for another dive (also aware I needed to get my dive count up to start the divemaster course), and as I was now qualified I could take my underwater camera to get some pictures! This last dive was a good opportunity to relax and take in the surroundings whilst getting to see a bit more of Vobster Quay (such as the Crushing Works from when it was a functional quarry), and overall a great way to round off the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole AOW experience, helped especially by the amazing facilities we got to use – both at Andark & Vobster – and also the incredible instructors (Bryn and Graeme) who explained everything clearly and made the whole process extra interesting, safe, and of course fun!