Last out, first in
Divernet
Some divers like to take a break from UK diving during winter. Others have proud traditions of discomfort to maintain, as Mike Ward reports

JUST EXPLAIN TO ME AGAIN exactly why were doing this
Im not complaining, its just that I got out of bed at five this morning and I was a bit late getting into bed last night and, well, Ive gone a bit fuzzy in the thinking department. Its cold and dark, and my bed seems infinitely more attractive than the passenger seat of your motor.
Ah, yes, I forgot. We are the legendary Outs and Ins. Last out of the water each year, and first in, the year after.
We have a proud record to uphold. Every single year since nineteen-eighty-something-or-other, weve dragged ourselves out of our warm beds and headed for somewhere interesting for our last dive of the Old Year.
Only thing is, do you honestly think its worth it
When we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed baby divers it might have been, but lets be honest, its a long time since either of us could claim that, right
In the old days, it was a big adventure. There were only a few of us in the club then, but diving stopped between November and March. Only a handful of members would even consider a dive in midwinter, but there was always the pair of us.
Never mind if it was raining, sleeting or snowing, we were in the water. Two dives, wed do, without fail, on a day between Christmas and New Year. I never decided if the rest of them thought we were well hard or just plain deranged.

Always rubbish
The thing is, though, it just doesnt seem as important as it did. We never see anything, and the dives are always rubbish. Usually theyre fairly short, as well. Too cold. We stopped bringing a second cylinder years ago. Most of the dives we could probably make on a pony.
No, not the one in Coniston Water, we really needed our air for that one. I sometimes think about that dive, usually around four in the morning when I wake up convinced Im going to die.
We followed the roadway along the edge of the lake to the flooded area. I said we could get through, you said we couldnt, but it was my car, so we tried. I was right, we got through, but found out that the bottoms of the doors werent watertight.
hspace=5 When I think of the Lake District, I see it as a sunny paradise full of tourists and day-trippers and walkers, but not 29 December, 1994. It was ghostly quiet and deserted. The only people in the water were us two and the body from the A14 murder, but we didnt know about that for a long time.
The surface of the lake had a sort of a mist coiling over it, and it was raining. Weve made more elegant entries, I know that. Those rocks might have been oiled. My new first stage set me back a bit when I got round to having it repaired.
A local diver had given me a description of the site, and we set off on his bearings to dive a nice rock face. Either we were diving the wrong place, or he was smoking something when he wrote the instructions. Good to excellent diving, hed written. Pillock. It was crap. And cold, dark, crap at that.
My logbook records us as being under water for 23 minutes, and that I was bored for 22 of them. The other minute was taken up with being thankful that we were coming back up.
We had a short surface interval, because we couldnt be bothered to unkit, and went back in. We planned to swim out from the shoreline for 50-60m, take a compass bearing on our exit point, drop to the bottom and swim back on the bearing. Then out, and into the nearest caff for a cup of tea and a warm.
If only wed known how it would end.
At 6m it was getting dark, and at 20m somebody turned off the lights. By 30m we couldnt tell which way was up, and at 40m we stopped caring. Nobody told us that the bottom of Coniston slopes so steeply. There we were, freezing cold, far too deep, narked out of our tiny minds and still going down.
The bottom turned out to be thick, easily stirred-up sediment, so we added zero viz to the challenges posed by the dive. I couldnt even see my compass, let alone marshal enough active brain cells to follow the needle.
There was nothing to look at and no reason to be there, and we were uncomfortable and scared. Well, if we hadnt been so narked, wed have been scared.
We came up the slope holding hands. It took a long time, as I recall, though my logbook insists we were only under water for 16 minutes. Not much of a dive, but at least we got in and out. The pie and chips in the caff were great, mind.
Oh, yes, we learned some lessons from that one, didnt we So many, that we went back to the Lakes the year after.
You remember, Hodge Close was open then. The older divers in the club always referred to it in respectful tones, usually in the same sentence as some dreadful accident or horrible fatality. Words like ominous and forbidding always came up. One even called it portentous, but to be fair I dont think he knew what it meant.
None of them told us about the tunnel that runs from the car park, though. Five feet high, cut through the rock with no attempt to smooth the roof or the bottom, and thigh-deep in water. Good job Im vertically challenged, and an even better job that Ive got a thick skull.
The tunnel opened onto a ledge with a 4m drop to negotiate using a rickety ladder. In full kit, mind; drysuit, half the lead output of a Scottish mine, BC, bottle, the lot. Ive never complained about a dive ladder since.
Finally we got to the water, a green oval pool with small floats of scum dotted about the surface. Above us soared a perfect ring of rock, 65m high. If it had been white, it would have been like looking out of a toilet bowl.
We leapt into the water, and immediately found a Cavalier SRi that had seen better times. Beneath it was a small mound of elderly motors. Old cars must rush to the edge of the quarry and hurl themselves into the water in some bizarre automotive suicide pact. Either that, or the local hooligans nick cars and dump them over the edge.
At 20m we saw the opening to the famous cave system, and the notice beside it. There were probably a lot of words, but killed is the only one I remember. It was written in big letters. It was such an effective warning notice that there was already a substantial queue. The people who write these things have never grasped the fact that divers really, really dont like to be told they cant do things.
The cave turned out to be a tunnel with a rope along the wall, and we made our way along it, holding hands and enjoying the slowly fading light until it was too dark to see where we were going. If only wed brought a torch, but planning doesnt sit well with being a rufty-tufty Out and In.
Remember the second dive We went along the tunnel just above the waterline til we got to that hole in the rock. Couldnt see a blasted thing by then, but some other divers had told us to climb through, and we would find a short drop into a deep pool.
We pulled on our hoods and masks and leapt into pitch black. Thats when we started questioning the sense of believing other divers. It was only after the euphoria of finding that they had told us the truth wore off that we started to wonder how we were going to get out.
There we were at the bottom, praying for our eyes to adjust to the darkness before our air ran out. We could see nothing. There was nothing to see, but our imaginations still ran riot. Finally we saw a glimmer of light, and we were saved.
Where are we now Airport car park Marvellous. Id forgotten where we were diving this year.
Thats the thing about being an Out and In whos survived the worst of the British winter. Now weve done some growing up, we can be out of the country and into some warm water abroad, and not have to feel were letting anyone down.

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