I must start by saying that I have always been somewhat of a fair-weather diver. I have been qualified for many years and have been extremely fortunate to have dived some incredible locations around the world. However (and perhaps because I have been so spoiled) I have been a little wet (no pun intended) when it comes to UK diving with a handful of dives in Cornwall being all I have to show for nearly 13 years of diving.
It's not that I am against the idea of diving in the UK. In fact I have long thought how much I would like to dive sites such as the wrecks of Scapa Flow or St. Abbs; by all accounts there are some truly spectacular sites that I have long been missing out on. It's more that, for whatever reason (time, weather... you name it), I have always found an excuse not to get involved and have satisfied myself instead with the odd couple of weeks each year here and there in the tropics.
So it was with a mixture of excitement and slight trepidation that last weekend I finally decided to complete my dry suit diving course in Somerset in the UK. In a quarry.
A great friend of mine who is also a diver was visiting from Japan and we decided this would be a good opportunity to get out there and do something that we had often discussed during our university years. So, bright and early on Sunday morning we hopped in the car and drove to Vobster Quay Inland Diving Centre in the exotic destination of Somerset.
Vobster Quay is an old quarry that is now an impressively kitted out dive location, well set up for dive training. After a bacon butty and cup of tea, our dive instructor ran us through the briefing, we pulled on our dry suit for the first time (believe me, it is very difficult to look cool in a dry suit - just look at the photo!) and jumped in the water to practice some skills.
After a few minutes, and having satisfactorily completed the skills (despite a few minor teething problems that saw me inflating myself until I looked a little like the Michelin Man) it was time to swim out into the open water for our first taste of dry suit diving. And it wasn't half bad.
Admittedly neither of us saw a single fish but we did see an old Ford Escort, an airplane, a snail and, bizarrely a giant plastic wizard. Odd but interesting. And yes it was cold; at depth it got as low as 4 degrees which was a little painful on the hands which were not covered by the dry suit. But for me, half the joy of diving is simply being in the water, experiencing something utterly different to my everyday life, and this certainly fitted the bill.
I don't think I will ever become as passionate about UK diving as I am about diving in more exotic parts of the world (I wouldn't fun dive in a quarry put it that way!) but I am open to being convinced and now that I am qualified to dive with a dry suit, I am equipped and fully intend to get out there to see what the waters around this country have to offer.
Next stop the Outer Hebrides in August. I'll let you know how I get on.