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Rich and Chris's Trip to Plymouth (May 2008)

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Friday 16th May

I was getting jip about this trip even before I arrived, and it wasn't even my trip! Rich and Chris had asked to be on the 2nd and 4th waves, but when I'd spoken to Danny about the Discovery Divers website, he thought that I'd asked for the 1st and 3rd waves. I knew I hadn't asked for this for two reasons. Firstly, Rich and Chris were organising this trip. If I wanted something different, I would have asked them to ask Danny. Secondly, why would I want to get up even earlier?

Having worked late yesterday, I decided that I deserved to leave early today. I can't remember what time I left, but I wasn't impressed to find out that the hire car wasn't ready for me. Not only that, but it wasn't FastTrackBoy's fault! Anyway, I only had to wait five or ten minutes, so it wasn't too bad. Having bought an emergency scotch egg from the newsagent's shop, I knew we were going to go diving. Amazingly, I'd managed to pack my bag, and all my dive kit, last night, so all I had to do was drive home, load up the car, and drive to Rodney's house. There was some confusion about who was taking what cylinders for Rodney, but I spoke to Rodney, and sorted it out. When I was ready to leave, I called Rodney again. He didn't answer, and the gimmer doesn't have voicemail.

I drove to Reading listening to Cheggers' (sic) Choice, parked outside Rodney's house, and rang the doorbell. He answered the door, looked confused, and said, "What are you doing here?". "I rang you about half-an-hour ago to tell you I was leaving.", I replied. "Oh", he said, "I didn't hear. I haven't packed yet!". Gimmeration! Anyway, he offered me tea, and then started packing. When we'd packed most of his stuff in the motor, I went to put milk into my tea, only to find that it smelled off. Fortunately, there was some fresher milk in the other fridge (the fridge was underneath the freezer - who's ever seen one like that before?). As I was having a quick slurp, one of Rodney's housemates shouted down, and said the front door's open. I apologised, and said we were loading. "Is that your car outside, getting a parking ticket?". I dashed outside (fortunately, remembering to leave my tea behind!), and started arguing with the traffic warden. Fortunately, he saw sense, and didn't issue a ticket. The woman with Rodney's housemate looked a bit old for him, but I soon discovered that she's his mother!

Anyway, we eventually got all Rodney's kit packed (including some batteries for Suunto dive computers), and set off to drive to Plymouth (via a postbox). The traffic on the M4 and M5 wasn't too bad, so, unlike last weekend, TomTom didn't take us via the Clifton Suspension Bridge. While we were driving, my phone rang twice, both times from a number I didn't know. We ignored it, but whoever was calling did leave a message the second time - I hoped it was totty! As tradition dictates, we stopped off at Columpton, where I picked up the voicemail message. It was from Dave, asking me to call him "as soon as". I called him, and he told me that the black boat was broken, and that it was an electrical fault, so it couldn't easily be fixed, and needed a new board. Anyway, he said they will do 5 waves on Blue Raider, and the first wave was going to the JEL at 08:00. I asked him when we were going, and he said 10 o'clock. This was good - I thought we might be on the first wave, and I knew I'd get the blame for this, if this happened!

The queue at MacDonald's wasn't too long, so we bought some food there. There was some top totty at the front of one of the two queues, but she was wearing a wedding ring. Despite there being two people serving, and only one person in each queue, it took ages before we were served. Still, we got served eventually, and continued our journey to Brixton (with Rodney sleeping off his jet-lag some of the way). All the tents were already pitched, so I parked near them, and we walked to the pub. The others were just finishing their food when we arrived, and I remember Gordy being amazed that I'd arrived when it was still light! Rodney wasn't drinking (as I mentioned a few years ago - what a waste of somebody without a driving license), and was feeling tired, so had a soft drink, and then went back to the tent. I had some catching up to do, and started on the Senorita Beater. I told the others about the change of plan, and immediately got jip for asking to be on wave 1!

Two things about the evening in the pub spring to mind:

Back at the campsite, we used a half-empty 12-litre cylinder to fill our air beds. Unfortunately, we weren't quietest campers around, but I still don't think that we were louder than Rodney's snoring!

Saturday 17th May

Having not had his twin-set since last October, Dindin was looking forward to being reunited with it. He reckoned that he had lots of kit gimmering to do, so we needed to arrive at Bovie at 07:00. Since we weren't actually leaving until 10:00, this seemed a bit excessive, and, before we left the pub last night, I suggested that in three hours he could probably take all his dive kit apart, service it, and put it back together. He agreed, so we set the alarms for 06:30, and expected to get to Bovie at 08:00. I'd spoken to Danny during the week, and asked him to empty the trimix out of our cylinders, and fill them with air.

Fortunately, I'd reminded Dindin on Thursday that he'd agreed to buy breakfast, so we had bacon, eggs, and some large baps to feed us. Unfortunately, Dindin never packs enough tea bags for normal people, let alone enough tea bags for people who drink as much tea as we do. Fortunately, Rob had brought lots with him, so we weren't going to run out. Deciding that I could wait until we got to Bovie to have a dump, we set off. It didn't take too long to get there - Rich and Chris got there before us, now that they know the best way to get there.

Rodney kindly showed me how much space I had in front of the car before I drove into the harbour, and we went to get tea. Dave was out on the boat, and Danny was sorting things out in the shop. Seeing our twin-sets draining outside the shop, I realised that I might be holding up proceedings later on. When I told Dindin about the problems with the boat last night, he was very excited, because it gave him something to fix. As well as all his dive kit gimmering, and tea drinking, Rich and he started playing around with the faulty part on the boat. While he was doing this, I went to the toilet, but found that the gate was closed. I walked back to the shop, and found Nick walking towards me. He said that we should use room A, so off we went, only to discover that there was no toilet paper. I got some from Danny's mate Nick, and went for an overdue dump!

I had been expecting to dive something round about 20m, so was pleased when Chris suggested diving the Elk. At 30m, it was a bloody good job that we were diving on air, and not trimix. I thought I'd give diving with stage cylinders a miss, and also wanted to avoid doing too much decompression, so we weren't going to have too long on the Elk before we had to swim off to the reef. It didn't take us long to get there on Blue Raider, and I managed to kit up in a reasonable time as well. There was a bit of space on the boat, because Gordy didn't want to dive the first dive, and Emma's foot was still giving her jip. Talking about Gordy, the first thing he said when we were having breakfast was, "I don't want to be on your tab. You drink too much tea."

There was a bit of current running, so it was difficult to stay on the shotline. In fact, I never actually made it to the shotline in the first place; I just kept Dindin in sight, and saw that he had hold of the shotline. About half-way down, Dindin let go of the shotline, and continued to descend. At the bottom, we swam around for a bit (me navigating first of all, and then Dindin taking over), and eventually found the wreck. The shot was securely inside the wreck. Dindin suggested moving it outside the wreck, but I remembered Dave giving Rodney an SMB to tie to it, so I thought we should leave Rodney to it. I shouted "Rodney" a few times, but Dindin didn't understand (and taking my reg out of my mouth to shout "Rodney" didn't help either). I tried to work out how to signal "Rodney", but decided that "yellow car three wheels" wouldn't work!

Having given up trying to explain to Dindin that we should leave the shot for Rodney to sort out, I swam off. We found quite a few swim-throughs, and didn't get stuck in any of them. I then found a square hole in the floor, with a bar across the middle of it. I pointed it out to Dindin, and suggested we swim through it. Losing his sense of adventure (I would have got straight into the hole), Dindin shone his torch inside before deciding to enter. He then ascended quite a long way, so that he could easily get his fins into the hole. I was tempted to tuck my knees in tight, and slide through the hole before him, but decided not to. It took him a while to squeeze through, but he managed it. I then tucked my knees up towards my chest, and easily got through the hole. At least it was easy until I realised that I had each leg either side of the bar in the middle! What a fool!

When we'd clocked up a bit of decompression, we swam off towards the reef. At least we would have swum off towards the reef if I'd navigated. Unfortunately, Dindin kept swimming parallel with the reef, instead of towards it. I kept correcting him, but he kept on turning to swim parallel to it again. With about ten minutes' worth of decompression to do, I said we should go up. I'd forgotten that he'd have to do deep-stops, so we actually ended up doing about 15 minutes' worth of decompression - not bad for "not much decompression"!

Back on dry land, we carried our twin-sets to the top of the steps, and left them by the wall. Twin-sets are very heavy, but at least we don't have to get them filled between dives. I got to the shop fairly quickly, and ordered two burgers, one portion of chips, and four teas. After eating them, I was busting for a jimmy, but Gordy had told me that room A was only for girls, and that I should use room L. I walked to the end of the row, only to find that room K was at the end, so I walked all the way back again, and then went round the bank, and found room L. Unlike the ladies' room, there was soap in the washbasin.

I needed a bit of time to myself, so went for a walk up the road to see if the ice-cream shop was open. It wasn't, but I did get a lovely view of the coastline. Back at the shop, I sat down inside to drink me tea on my own. Once I'd finished my tea, I went to put my tea mug down, and Claire said, "Billy. Come over here. I've got something to show you.". Obviously I couldn't let a comment like that go without an innuendo! She told me about all the different technical diving courses that she's running at Bovie (although, being pregnant, she isn't actually diving). There were some tempting ones, but I think we'll leave them until next year. She won't be pregnant then, so will be diving as well.

Rich and Chris noticed that I wasn't feeling myself, and were very concerned that I didn't seem to be drinking enough tea. I went back inside to order more tea, at which point, Gordy said, "And a cup for me". So much for not wanting to be on my tab! Granted, I could have put it on his tab, but I'm not that much of a tight-wad. While we had been diving, Danny had gone to buy a spare part for the boat. Rich and Dindin had found out that it was only a potentiometer that was faulty, but couldn't find anywhere that would supply one today, so Danny had gone to buy the whole part for a few hundred pounds.

Feeling a bit tired, I went for a quick kip in the car. Fortunately Emma was around this weekend, so Gordy could annoy her, and not annoy me while I'm trying to sleep. Unfortunately, Dindin and Danny fixed the boat just as I got to sleep, so I had to get into my suit.

Claire came out with us this afternoon, so I had to make sure that I got kitted up quickly. This was partly because she's totty, but mostly because I didn't want her to regret asking me on her technical diving courses. Nobody could believe that I was the first one ready (except for Rob who'd seen me start kitting up when we left Bovie). We were diving the JEL, and I was surprised to find a fairly strong current at the bottom. I saw some dive kit in the distance, but found out that it was kelp when I picked it up. I then saw some more dive kit, but, expecting it to be kelp, I didn't bother looking at it. Dindin, on the other hand, decided to have a look, and found out that it was a pouch with shot weights in it. He opened the pouch, looked at the manufacturer's name, decided that this was acceptable, and attached it to his wing. I offered to take one of the shot weights for him, but he didn't trust me.

The current was still quite strong, so, instead of tucking inside the wreck, I decided to go with the flow, and see whether we could find any more dive kit. We didn't see any more dive kit, and surfaced after about 20 minutes. We hadn't had a very long dive, but at least we got to chat to totty on the boat while we were waiting for the others to finish their dives.

Back on dry land, we carried our cylinders over to be filled. I borrowed a screwdriver from Danny, and started taking the backplate off my cylinder. Dindin looked at me, and said, "Why?". I then realised that last year's rules that only "naked" cylinders would be filled was no longer a rule, so we put the backplate back on. After a quick cuppa, we loaded the rest of our dive kit into the car, and drove to Mountbatten for a shower (it was a good job that I packed two towels, because Olly hadn't packed one). As we were driving towards Mountbatten, I pointed out to Rodney where the local pubs are that we would be visiting next weekend, and he complained that they were too far away. I then remembered that we could get the boat into the town centre. Excellent!

As we got closer, we saw a sign for In Deep (the new name for Deep Blue), but the arrow was pointing the wrong way. We parked next to Olly and Dindin, and walked down the stairs towards Mountbatten. I quickly headed back to the car to check I'd locked it, leaving the boys to continue walking (although they seemed to be going towards the wrong doors). I had locked the car, but the boys must have got lost, because they were nowhere to be seen in the showers. They'd actually gone to pay money to get the door code, and Dindin had gone back to find me. Anyway, we quickly showered. While we were showering, a bloke came into the shower, and showered in his dry-suit. I didn't realise at the time, but when he'd finished showering, he used a clothes hook to get himself out of his dry-suit. This reminded me of a time that I was showering there on my own, and somebody came in wearing a wetsuit, and I said, "Would you like a hand out of that?". I thought it was a perfectly natural thing to say, but the bloke looked quite scared! The boys were waiting outside at In Deep's new location when I'd finished gimmering. It wasn't until afterwards that they told me that Lauren was looking gorgeous!

Back at the campsite, there was time for a quick cuppa before we headed into town for a curry to celebrate Rich's birthday. It took a while to figure out who was driving, and who they should take. I didn't pay too much attention, but Emma wanted to make sure that each car had somebody in it who knew where to go. This seemed like a good plan, and I drove in with Olly (so that we could discuss the pros and cons of the iPhone). I made the mistake of following signs to Barbican, instead of using my gut-instinct (they looked like normal direction signs, but the arrows were white with a black outline, instead of being solid black). As we waited at traffic-lights, we saw Gordy and Emma drive past, with their bike on the back of their car [Update - it can't have been them - they left their bike in Nick and Max's car]. We found a parking space where Chris had parked last year. While we were parking, Gordy drove past, and complained that we hadn't waited for them. Oooops! I thought that the reason for making sure that one person in each car knew where they were going was so that we didn't all have to go in convoy. It turns out that I was the only person who knew where to go!

Olly and I walked towards the Navy Inn, and Dindin called to find out where we were going. I told him the same pub that we'd watched the start of the rugby in last year, and we carried on walking. We saw the others walking towards us (they'd got there first, because they paid to park in a car park), and they said that it looked a bit pikey (which Gordy took great delight in saying very loudly). I suggested that we go to the bar with bubbling water tubes in that Scary, Dindin, and I went into a few years ago. Dindin agreed, so off we went. We couldn't find the bar, so went into another one. I ordered a pint of Grolsh, before hearing Gordy rightfully complaining that there was no bitter. Unfortunately, she'd already started pouring my drink, so it was too late to go to another pub. I'm very sorry for walking in and ordering a drink before checking that everybody was happy, but I felt that we were just going to walk around for ages being indecisive otherwise.

It was a pretty poor choice of venue, but we had a quick drink, and then walked to the Himalayan Spice. Yet again, I seemed to be the only person who knew where to go, despite this being at least the 4th time we'd been there! Before we got there, I saw a yellow sign with a capital H, and two numbers "inside" the H. I was sure that the numbers were the distance to the nearest fire hydrant, but wasn't sure. I asked Nick, and he said something different. I told him what I thought, and he agreed that it sounded more likely. We went off in search of a fire hydrant, but gave up when we realised that some of the others were waiting outside the curry house. [Update - The Highway Code Website doesn't have any information about these signs]

I sat down next to Rodders, and opposite Rob and Nic. I asked them about the yellow signs, but they didn't know either. Nic then asked what the blue signs on motorways with numbers on meant. I didn't know what she meant, but said I'd have a look on the way back. [Update - They're called Driver Location Signs]. I can't remember much more about the meal, but I do remember Rodney not knowing the PIN for his Harley Davidson credit card. The woman tried to get the machine to let him sign the voucher, but it wouldn't let her. "But it worked OK in America", he said! He'll never make it as a Master Criminal Master Mind. How is he supposed to buy his underground lair when he doesn't know the PIN for his interest-free credit card?

Back at the campsite, we called it a night. We didn't wake everybody up blowing up air-beds, and hopefully Rodney wouldn't snore so loudly tonight!

Sunday 18th May

Rodney didn't snore too loudly last night, that honour was reserved for me! The plan for today was to do two dives on the Edistone, and then have an early finish. Dindin and I were going to dive using stages, but only use them for safety and practice, not actually use them for accelerated decompression. Dindin went to collect the stages, but he only found his two stages, he didn't find my stage. Dave said that Lauren from In Deep only dropped off the two stages. Hopefully mine would still be at In Deep, but Dindin kindly lent me one of his stages, so we could still do what we planned. I mentioned Deep Blue moving, but Max said that it was only Richie that had moved, but the shop was still in the old location. "You're right that the shop is now called InDeep, but it's not in its old location, it's moved", I said. "No it's not", Max replied, "Why would the shop move just because Richie left". I left Nick to try to explain to Max that the shop could move location, but she wasn't having it!

Anyway, we all got on the boat, and we headed out to the Edistone. Emma came along for the ride, but still wasn't diving. The beauty of diving the Edistone is that it's possible to choose a depth between 5m and 50m, so each buddy pair can do a different depth. Unfortunately, it was really choppy, which made kitting up a bit difficult, and not very pleasant. Amazingly, I had very little problems at all kitting up. Is this the start of a new era? Not only that, but I've eventually managed to do up my own neck-seal (after owning a dry-suit for about 5 years, it's about time too!). Anyway, I was up for 40m, but Dindin changed it to 35m once Rodney, Rob, and Gordy had been dropped off at 35m. We did a free ascent down to 35m, and I then swam off in search of 40m. Sensibly, Dindin wasn't having any of it, and swam off shallower. I'm not normally a big fan of scenic dives, but I loved this dive. I spent the whole time thinking how fortunate we are to be able to share our dives with all those lovely underwater creatures. As we swam shallower, I felt a tugging on my fin. I hoped it was a seal, but it was Dindin, reminding me that the VR3s wanted us to do a deep stop. I hadn't been paying that much attention to my computers, so hadn't realised. It's a good job he was paying attention! We continued our dive, and got back into the boat. It was hard work getting back in the boat with the waves knocking the boat all over the place, but we managed it eventually. Not only were the large waves making it difficult to get back in the boat, but they were also making it impossible to see Nick and Max's DSMB. We eventually spotted them, and picked them up. Danny then headed towards the coast, for some shelter.

We had a nice break for lunch, although I wasn't very comfortable with having to stand on a narrow ledge to have a pee. How I managed to avoid peeing all over my drysuit, and also avoid falling into the water, I don't know. I was pleased to find out that I'd had a completely dry dive. This was the first completely dry dive that I'd had since buying the dry-suit a year ago! I'd worn my leak-finding clothes on yesterday afternoon's dive, and found that the only leak was a slight leak in the auto-dump. Dindin suggested leaving it, rather than trying to fix it, and this seemed to have worked. During the break, I mentioned my thoughts about being privileged to share the underwater environment with all the lovely creatures, and everybody looked a bit shocked how profound I'd been!

After our break, we went to dive the JEL. Having found dive kit on yesterday's dive, I was up for searching for dive kit again today. Instead of swimming just off the Scylla, I suggested swimming from the JEL to the Scylla. Emma didn't think that my old-man finning technique would manage it, so I bet her 50p that we would manage it. Danny told Rich and Chris that they had a maximum dive-time of 45 minutes, but only gave us 40 minutes. We got down the shot quickly, and, as soon as we got to the bottom, we started swimming towards the Scylla. I let Dindin navigate this time, hoping he would make up for yesterday's dive on the Elk. Half-way through the dive, I remembered the proper finning technique that Scary taught me in Egypt, and suddenly found it easier to keep up with Dindin. I got confused between the 40 minutes and 45 minutes, so decided that our maximum dive time would be the larger of the two. My Suunto was showing about 10 minutes' worth of decompression to do. Fortunately, I'd clipped my stage on at the last minute, so could do accelerated decompression using my VR3. Every time I stopped to look ahead, all I could see was blackness. Was this just blackness, or was it the Syclla? Anyway, after 40 minutes, my VR3 was showing a TTS of 5 minutes, so we surfaced. When we got to the surface, we were only a few metres away from the buoy on the Scylla. I couldn't believe how close we got. Emma was so impressed that she decided that she'd let me off the 50p.

Back on dry land, we went to get our cylinders filled, and to buy some lunch. Unfortunately, Dindin and I were a bit slow on the food front, and Max had ordered a Diver Burger, which used the last of the eggs. Also, there were no chips. Gimmeration! Never mind, we just had to drink more tea. Dindin picked up the broken boat part to take it home to fix it, but found out that Danny had put the screws somewhere else. Oh well, I'm sure that wouldn't stop him fixing it. We paid our bills (Rodney paid mine to try to offset some of the money that he owes me from last weekend), and then left. Rodney and I went to Mountbatten to find out what had happened to my cylinder, and Olly and Dindin went to the campsite to take the tents down. We were taking the twin-sets back for Olly and Dindin because we had space, and Rodney wanted to stop in Bath to collect another 12-litre cylinder.

We parked in the car park, and walked down to In Deep (taking Scary's stage, so that Rodney could get it O2-cleaned). The boys weren't wrong - Lauren was looking particularly sexy, with a fairly see-through top, and a lovely spotted bra! Anyway, I asked her about my stage, and she said, "Is it a steel 7-litre with green mesh?". "Yes", I replied. "Oh good. We found it a few weeks ago, and had no idea who it belonged to". I was so pleased that I wasn't going to have to get a police report to give to my insurance company that I just said, "That's brilliant. I love you". I paid for my fill, and then Rodney left his cylinder behind to be O2-cleaned. Excellent, we'd have an excuse to come along and perve at Lauren next weekend! Rodney wanted some clips that In Deep didn't have, so we went to Sound Diving instead. As Rodney pointed out the jailbait totty from a few years ago will be legal now!

As we got onto the M5 on the way home, we saw the signs that Nic had mentioned last night. There were three lines to the sign - the top one said M5, the second one had the letter B, and the third one had a number. As we saw more of the signs, the number decreased. Presumably the B means what carriageway we were on, and the number is the distance from the start of the motorway.

It was a nice sunny day as we drove back to Bath, but I was feeling tired, so we pulled into Collumpton for a kip, to make sure that I didn't fall asleep while driving. I was concerned that the lack of swapping drivers on the way down, coupled with our marathon swim, might lead to a bend. It's very risky this diving malarkey! We got back to Bath, dropped of the twin-sets, gave Dindin jip for having a tea-cosy, and then left (without a 12-litre cylinder for Rodney). Sam wasn't there when we arrived, but she did arrive just as we were leaving. It's a pity we didn't see her for longer, but never mind!

As we got back onto the M4 at J18, the funny little motorway sign had a letter M (despite all the other ones on the M4 having a letter B). I wondered whether the M indicated what junction we were on, but M isn't the 18th letter in the alphabet, so it couldn't be. I dropped Rodney off in Reading (with no parking wardens to be seen), and then continued my journey home. Back at home, I unloaded the car, and then watched both of this week's episodes of Waking the Dead. [Update - the J, K, L, and M letters on the sign indicate which slipway the sign in on.]

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