THIS YEAR HAS BEEN A FINE YEAR of diving for the club, with a number of highlights that I’d like to remind all of you about in a few moments’ time, but before I begin the Diving Officer’s Report, I’d like to welcome Big Dave back to the club.
It really hasn’t been the same around here without you, Dave. We all know what a bad
time you’ve had this year, and I’m sure I speak for everyone present when I say that we wish you the speediest recovery in the world, and… just a moment, please.
Sorry about that, Dave, but the Equipment Officer has just asked me to ask you if you wouldn’t mind popping along to the club and helping to get the outboard back on the transom of the RIB. No rush, obviously. When you’re out of the wheelchair will be soon enough!
Anyway, where was I
Ah, yes, the DO’s Report.
Let’s start with training. Much of last winter was spent training new club-members in the pool. Arthur, as the first Nationally Qualified Training Officer we’ve ever had, has done an exceptional job in trying circumstances.
It isn’t easy teaching diving skills in just 2ft of water, but we all know that the swimming-pool was double-booked, and the lads in the Canoe Club were pretty definite that they couldn’t manage in the Mums & Babies Area.
Arthur just had to improvise, and the quality of our new members this year has demonstrated just how successful he’s been. I’ll never understand how he managed to make the ditch-and-retrieve exercise and breath-hold swim so successful.
With hindsight, however, Arthur and I have agreed that next year we should look at using the Big Pool. Accordingly, Arthur has spoken to the leisure centre manager to explain how important it is that we get the pool instead of the canoeists.
The end result of this, I’m proud to say, is that we have agreed use of the Big Pool starting from 1 April. As Jim has pointed out, this is when the canoeists start training outdoors, but I’m confident that the point has been made, and
that there’ll be no further problems.
For the future, we’ve also decided that we need to retain more members after they’ve qualified, and we’re working on a plan to achieve this.
I do feel that people are taking advantage of the excellent training we offer, and then not putting anything back in.
In fact, we haven’t had a single new trainee renew for next year, let alone get properly involved with the club, which is a real shame for those of us still here, as the Treasurer will undoubtedly explain when he tells you about next year’s fees.
This also seems a good time to say that I feel the club would be all the better if members didn’t whinge about small things like cost of membership, and put their efforts into helping us make the club a better place to be a diver.

ANYWAY, ON TO THE DIVING PROGRAMME. This year has seen a number of real landmarks for the club.
Firstly, one or two of our diehard members carried on diving throughout last winter and
so, for the first time ever, we’ve held Club Dives every month of the year, a tremendous achievement.
It has to be said that we only managed February and March because Lawrence and Kylie decided on a midnight dive in the Golf Club lake, but it’s a proud record nevertheless.
A big well-done to them for staying in for the requisite 15 minutes for it to register as a proper dive, despite the cold.
There was, I’ll admit, a moment when it seemed unlikely to be registered as a Club Dive, as the plan hadn’t been approved in advance by myself. But in the circumstances, I decided to waive the formality, as I was happy to explain when I paid their bail.
I’m equally happy to announce that the Golf Club has decided not to take legal action, so the whole affair has been very positive.
Our first sea-dive of the season was the club weekend to Borage Pier. I’d like to remind everyone present that the club boat did not break down once, throughout the entire weekend.
I know the gainsayers will point out that Borage Pier is, in fact, a shore dive, but we nevertheless provided continuous boat cover for the safety and comfort of our divers.
I was certainly safe and comfortable sat in the boat on the trailer in the car park.
With the season opener successfully completed, we were able to offer all suitably qualified divers regular opportunities to do some more advanced diving.
While I’m aware that the first such weekend didn’t go entirely to plan, I’m confident that we learned from our mistakes, and I’m happy to announce to the membership at large that we have invested in a new set of tide tables.
The old ones have served the club well in the past, and I’m certain that the 45p spent will be amply repaid by the quality of diving we’re able to offer in coming years.
I only hope we get the 14-year working life that the old tables delivered.
One happy outcome of all this, of course, was the relationship we developed with HM Coastguard. Brian felt that the quality of tea and biscuits they served was well worth the several thousand pounds they charged him for the helicopter flight, and he has happily attended several of their school demonstrations, as well as appearing on the TV’s Emergency Rescue programme, where I’m proud to announce that he won the “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” award for the year.

A FAR MORE IMPORTANT LANDMARK from the weekend, of course, was that we found the wreck of the Carpel Tunnel, first try. Many thanks, to Brian again, coincidentally, for letting us use his GPS unit. I bet you wish you’d remembered the EPIRB as well, eh, Brian, when the third day at sea dawned!
Buoyed up by the confidence gained from our success, we continued to run dives, adding another two weekends to our already crowded schedule.
At one time it looked as if we’d need to run a RIB shuttle to the Carpel Tunnel, we had so many divers wanting to come out with us. I can’t remember another year in our history when we’ve had five divers turning up for club dives quite as regularly as we have this year.
Of course, the biggest news was that at the July Committee Meeting we decided to allow technical diving and rebreathers on club dives.
We haven’t had a rebreather in the club yet, though I’m told Lewis was in B&Q just the other day pricing up parts, and that he’s relatively confident that good-quality cat litter will do the same job as Sofnowotsit. But we have had our first trimix open-circuit divers qualify, and start to build their experience.
I’m sure that as soon as he’s recovered, Big Dave will be back in the water, though I understand that he’s currently looking for a set of less-aggressive decompression tables.
I’m also told that his kit was bought secondhand from an American diver, and that the depth gauge was calibrated in feet, not metres, which didn’t help.
Never mind, eh, Dave, and we’ll be glad to see you back on the boat as soon as you can make it.
The clear highlight of the rest of the year was the club holiday to the Red Sea. The booking was superbly handled, the flight excellent, and the boat simply out of this world. I’m sure all of us who went would book on a similar trip next year without hesitation, if only the tour operator would return our emails.
The only contact I’ve had since we returned was a solicitor’s letter. They haven’t even told us whether the dive guides are out of therapy yet.
I don’t understand the fuss. It wasn’t as if Rodney was a young man, and heart attacks happen. It was no-one’s fault, and it would have made no sense at all coming straight back to port after just two days, when there was a perfectly serviceable chest freezer on the top deck. It was even empty, after we had drunk the beer.
Still, even here there’s a bright side. I can now say without fear of contradiction that the hotel in which we spent our first night abroad was, in fact, considerably better than an Egyptian prison, even though we originally thought otherwise.

OF COURSE, after that trip it was all a bit of an anti-climax back home, and when we got out into the Channel to do some more wreck-diving, the vis was nowhere near the sparkling 2-3m we’d enjoyed earlier in the season – perhaps the reason why our late-season dives on the Carpel Tunnel were a bit sparsely attended.
The only other point to mention is that several members have requested a bit more diversity in the club dive plan for next year.
While I’m quite happy with the diving we do, I recognise that others may have different interests, and would therefore like to make some changes to our programme.
Having considered this carefully, I’m very happy to announce that next year will be pretty much the same as this year, diving-wise, and the members who don’t like it are welcome to leave.
Which only leaves me to thank all our current members for their continued support and encouragement, and suggest that Big Dave goes to the bar, as the wheelchair should get him some sympathy and we can get the beers in faster.
Don’t forget the nuts, Dave.