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Emma's Birthday and Diving in Portland - August 2003

GingerCherry
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It all started many weeks ago when I booked some charter dives for Tom, Queenie and me through the Aquasport Hotel. We booked on the Aeolian Sky, Lulworth Banks and the HMS Bitten/Hazard. Gordy and Emma decided that they would like to join us on the Aeolian Sky, but wouldn't dive on the Sunday because it was Emma's birthday on the Saturday. They were going to go back to Bath on the Saturday night, but, in the end, quite a few of the guys camped with us to celebrate her birthday in Weymouth. Nick, Max, Rich Bloomfield and Chris (Rich's missus) were going to be diving around Portland on the Sunday, so I said to Max that we ought to meet up for a cuppa.

Friday the 15th
As usual, Queenie picked me up on his way from Cambridge to Weymouth. We packed all my dive kit (only just dried from the previous weekend) into the car and off we went (not before one of my neighbours said she wanted to pop round one evening - unfortunately it wasn't the one with the Hooters uniform. Jon Hayhurst had asked if we could give him a lift. I had said that this wouldn't be a problem, but, looking at the stuff that we had in the car, it didn't look as if we could've fitted him in (good job he decided to stay in Oxford really).

The journey down has fairly uneventful (except for me almost giving some old woman a heart attack by using my horn when she dithered into our lane and almost changing from 5th gear to reverse on the motorway). I don't remember how much totty we spotted on the journey down there (we're going to have to keep a record of important things like this). We stopped off at Alf's Chip Shop for our dinner and then headed to the campsite. Unfortunately, Bagwell Farm was full, so we had to risk staying at another campsite. Quite a few of the others were there already - Ruth and Molly were at the campsite, but were in the bar. They stayed in the bar until Queenie, Tom, Gordy and I had put the tents up, so that Molly had somewhere to sleep - she's got brilliant timing.

Gordy had gone for a recky and found that we were only 5 minutes' walk away from Bagwell Farm (by road, we were at least 15 minutes away). Because it was getting late, we decided to go to the "Bar in a Barn" bar on the campsite that we were staying at. What a dump - it didn't even have any nice lager, it had karaoke as entertainment and far far far too much pokiness. Anyway, Emma was still on her way from Exeter, having had to wait to pick her mates up at the train station (what a lovely way to spend her birthday). Fortunately, she did make it to the bar in time for last orders. It was good to see everybody again, and fun meeting some new people. I wasn't impressed at chucking out time, when the barmaid came around with plastic glasses to pour our drink into. I'd rather down it - which I did. Ruth said that she'd booked me up to sing "Blue Suede Shoes" for Karaoke - fortunately I didn't hear my name called.

Saturday the 16th
Our first dive wasn't until 13:30, so there was no need to set an alarm (although it didn't stop Queenie's going off anyway). This is definitely the way forward - it gave us enough time to get a full English on the go (eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding and beans). It took us a long time to get it all cooked (Gordy's kettle boiled much quicker), but it was definitely worth the wait.

We headed down to Portland and found out that it was too choppy to head towards "The Sky", so we went off to dive the M2 instead. It just wasn't the same without Hamish and his G.P.O. dive bag. I kept things normal by gimmering around with my gloves for ages. Queenie and I had dived the M2 quite a few times, but Tom and Emma were M2 virgins. Tom, Queenie and I dived as a three and loved the dive. Even though Tom's and Queenie's torches both failed within the first 5 minutes. As usual, there was plenty off wildlife and the wreck was still amazing as ever. We didn't make it back to the shot (although I'm convinced that we were close), so Tom and I set off the delayed SMB and up we went. We hadn't gone that far into deco, but still did a little stop at 6m. Back on the boat, we had to wait for the solo diver to return. It was worth the wait - as the lift started lifting him into the boat, the swell knocked him off balance. He stood on one leg for a couple of seconds before toppling back into the sea. It was very difficult not to laugh.

The journey back was something else. Gordy turned a funny shade of green at some points during the journey and the boat was rocking at some very strange angles. It's no wonder that Nick and Max had decided not to dive on the Saturday.

We got back to Portland Harbour at about 16:25 - our next boat was due to leave at 16:30, so we had to change from Top Gun to Maverick and get our cylinders filled rather quickly. We managed it quite well. The weather had worsened, so the skipper decided that we should dive the Landing Craft and the Bombarden Unit. I was so happy - I knew we'd have fun. Gordy didn't want to pay to dive the Landing Craft, so got a refund.

It's not really the best dive to do as a three-some, but we managed it. Even more amazing - I was kitted up before Tom and Queenie. The visibility was terrible. Tom and Queenie had no idea where there were going for most of the dive, so just followed me into the blackness for most of it. Queenie and I tried quite a few swim-throughs; I think we only managed to get Tom to go through one. Back to the Landing Craft and back to the shot - Tom was quite impressed with my navigation. Just as we were leaving Portland to head back to the campsite via the Chinese TakeAway, Tom got a call to say that there was plenty of food at the BBQ. Straight back to the campsite it was.

We had time for a quick shower before the BBQ was ready. Top marks to Rachel and Stefan for looking after the food - we owe you one. After a few tinnies and a quick chat with Doctor American Steve (who called me halfway through the BBQ), we went to see whether we could get to Bagwell Farm. Gordy was right - it was only about 5 minutes' walk. We got a table outside (so that we didn't upset too many people) and had a giggle - Chinese Whispers kept us all entertained for a while. Stefan managed to upset the Landlady twice and we were only there for about an hour. We're going to have to go to the Bar in the Barn when he's around - we don't want to get barred from Bagwell.

Anyway, off we went back to the campsite and all went to sleep for a good night's sleep (even Molly, who was actually warm that night).

Sunday the 17th
Our only dive of the day didn't leave until 14:00, so we had even more gimmering time. Tom, Queenie and I woke up at about 8:30 and headed over to Bagwell for breakfast. We got a bit of jip from the landlady, but told her that we'd left the riff-raff at the other campsite. She seemed happier after that. The sun was beginning to shine as we walked back to the campsite - some of the others had actually surfaced by this point. Emma had to take the girls back to Exeter, but Gordy was tempted to join us diving the HMS Bitten. I had a quick look on the internet and found a description of the wreck. He didn't take much persuasion, and called up the diving centre to book a place.

It was another long journey out to the wreck (it was about 5 minutes further than the M2), but the sea was a little bit less choppy than yesterday. Kitting up wasn't too bad, because there were only 7 of us on board. The dive was excellent. The shot was near a big bit of wreckage that we swam around. Very nice, but my old man eyes couldn't see the rest of the wreck. Fortunately, Gordy could see it and he stopped me from swimming off into plain sand.

We swam through a very tight swim-through (Gordy was very good at not kicking up the silt for me, but obviously did scare a lot of the fish away). Gordy tried to find another swim-through for me to go through first, but we didn't find one. Just as we were getting towards the end of the dive, we saw a conga-eel. Just before we went to put up the SMB, we saw Tom and Queenie putting one up, so we swam over. It turned out not to be Tom and Queenie, but two other blokes who were on the boat. We swam away from them and put up our own.

As we decompressed at about 6m, we drifted towards the two other guvnas. Either they were trying underwater acrobatics, or they had no buoyancy control. Whichever it was, we wanted nothing to do with it and swam away from them. We ended up needing about 18 minutes of stops, but the dive was well worth it. Another bouncy journey back to Portland, but Gordy didn't look green this time.

We then headed back home (via the chippy, of course). The A35 was single-carriageway, so we didn't see any totty. The A31 was totty-tastic. The M27 and M3 weren't that good, until we were about to come off the M3 into Ascot.

Thanks everybody for a brilliant weekend.

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Created on: 17 Aug 2003. Modified on: 17 Aug 2003.
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