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On Tuesday, I took the day off work to go diving. It was the first time I'd been in open water since Jan 1st, and it was the same place - Wraysbury lake. Just for once, it didn't rain, so the car park was dry instead of the usual sea of mud.
The main reason I'd gone along was a friend from my old university club, Catherine, had decided to change from her stab jacket to a wing, and wanted someone to go diving with her. And since I have the same wing (Buddy Tekwing) and needed to use up some holiday, I was the logical choice of buddy.
But I also had a few things I wanted to try out - since my last dive, I had changed a few things on my kit, and I wanted to see how well they worked before I spent a week up in Scotland. So I had left at home my old Idea3 fins and my 8kg V-weight, and instead took my 3kg D-weights and black rubber Jetfins. And, last but not least, a mini Otter box that I was hoping would allow me to take my car keys diving so I could leave the car safely locked.
So, in the bright sunshine I put on my Weezle extreme, donned drysuit, squashed out all the air and jumped in the water. It was HOT! The water, tho, was still COLD - 6ºC in fact.
Refreshed a little, I returned to the car and got kitted up. The downside of back-mounted weights are you don't get to put your kit on before adding lead. But the plus side of my new, modular D-weight system meant that I only had 3kg instead of 8, so I can't complain too much.
Then I helped Catherine into her wing. Almost immediately, she realised one of the flaws in her placement of weight pockets, as they slid straight off the waist strap. A brief re-thread later, and they were held on rather more securely, and I helped her into it again.
Trotted down to the waterside, spat in masks, hoods on, fins on, buddy check time. Good old BAR: I had to make the point that my 'octopus' is the reg I breathe off normally; decided not to bother mentioning that breathing off the right post whilst watching the gauge on the left doesn't prove anything; and watched the raised eyebrows when I showed only one release on the entire harness.
Then it was waddle backwards time to get into the water. Get as far in as possible and then fall backwards into the water seems to work best. We descended, sat at the bottom at about 1m, then Cath signalled that she wanted to go back up. Her mask was flooding.
She cleared all her hair out of the seal again, and we tried again. It still leaked a bit, but it was bearable. We continued with the dive.
We had no plan at all, it was purely a 'wander around and get used to the kit' dive. I was happy so see that, even after leaving 5kg off, I still had no trouble with buoyancy. Even so, I felt slightly foot-heavy, so may have to try and find a way of moving my weight even FURTHER up my back.
One of the other things I'd wanted to try was the effectiveness of the frog-kick. Playing about in the pool is all very well, but Wraysbury is a great place to find out if a particular stroke will stir up the silt.
I was impressed - frog-kicking in Jetfins just a few centimetres above the bottom stirred up no silt at all, and I was able to keep up just fine with my silt-stirring, scissor-kicking buddy. In fact, I had to make myself slow down on a number of occasions to allow her to keep up!
Swimming away from shore, we came across... a Thorpe Park Ranger! A rabbit, I believe, somewhat bleached but still recognisable. Next to it, there was also a dive cylinder - no valve in, and with a reject sticker firmly attached. Rusted to hell, it had obviously been there a while.
Somewhat worryingly, we came across another cylinder with the valve in place. I didn't have the nerve to make sure it was open and empty - it was too rusty to do more than avoid. We found quite a few cylinders down there, it must be the Secret Burial Ground.
Anyway, continuing along, we came to a small drop-off. Since neither of us had full cylinders, we decided to avoid going deeper, and swam along the edge instead. Luckily enough, it seems that this edge has been designated a drop-zone for wreckage. We came to the office - a filing cabinet, desk, and computer sitting on the bottom. The first time I went to Wraysbury, all those years ago, the computer was still pristine, but the monitor has been knocked off now. Oh well.. it's still in better shape than the cockpit at Stoney.
Further along, and we found the sunken boats, and platforms, and taxi, and so on. At this point, my buddy signalled that she was cold, and that it was about time to end the dive. I took us back to the last platform, and we ascended up the shotline on it.
The best thing about Jetfins over my last fins has to be surface swimming - it used to be a real chore doing any distance over the surface, it's a lot easier in Jets. The Idea3s always seemed to want to spend more time above the water than below it. I put the Jet performance down to their being shorter and heavier, therefore ensuring they stay permanently under the surface.
We got back to the jetty, and to my annoyed surprise, some bugger had half-inched the ladder! Nothing for it but the old beached whale impersonation: Fin upwards, lever yourself up with your arms, flop forwards and lay face down. Then crawl away from the edge and hope you can get back upright.
Managed it, just about, but it was touch and go.
On returning to the car and de-kitting, I decided it was lunch time. Went over to the hatch and ordered a sausage sarnie. Whilst waiting for it to cook, I looked around the car park at the other group of divers present. One in particular caught my eye: Almost my height, balding, grey moustache, a DUI drysuit, and most notable of all, a bright yellow Weezle.
Hmmm, I thought. Nah, surely not, what would he be doing here? And on OC no less? But still, I couldn't convince myself either way.
Until he came up to order his own lunch. Upon mentioning that he'd need an invoice for all his food, so he could get Diver to pay for it, I was finally sure enough of myself to say, "Ah, you ARE John Bantin!"
Turns out he'd cancelled his trip to Sudan due to some scare story or other in the news, and come to Wraysbury instead to get some photos for Diver.
I couldn't resist saying I doubted he'd find anyone willing to pose in a bikini for this one ;)
Eventually, I decided it was only fair to mention I posted on Handbagnet occasionally, to which his response was "Good grief, you're one of the six regulars are you?"
Amazingly enough, he recognised my name. Probably just to get his own back on me for the bikini comment, he asked me what a 'cyber-diver' was doing actually getting wet. Can't imagine what he meant by that...
Anyway, getting ready for our second dive involved a bit of faffing with gear. Which was convenient, as JB was after some photos of divers kitting up for his article, and I know he took at least one shot of us.
Cath had noticed one of the things I'd hated about the original Tekwing harness: The webbing slides far too freely between the triglides, so the shoulder and waist straps are too interchangeable.
One of the benefits about having changed gradually over from typical stab-jacketed BSAC diver to a Hog rig is a surplus of spare parts. For instance, my original harness had the Buddy triglides that are smooth three-bar sliders. I'd later switched to a new harness with weight-belt retainer triglides from my LDS, which had little 'teeth' on them. Later still, I got hold of some of UE's steel ones. Therefore at the bottom of my dive bag is a large collection of various types of triglide, so we opted to try the toothed ones in place of the smooths. Didn't help much, the main problem seemed to be the weight pockets on the waist strap putting too much strain on the harness.
Cath made the comment that she'd try putting another camband on the cylinder with the pockets threaded to it. I pointed out that she could put them on the camband she already had, so we tried that. Hallelujah, problem solved! And of course, it also countered the face-forward tipping of the wing which she'd had a slight issue with.
The other problem, of course, had been the leaky mask. Again, typical Hog mentality of "If you need one, take two" came to our aid, and I loaned her my spare mask to see if it was any better.
Just then, JB came past one last time, in his car, with the engine running. "Hey, I thought you posted on Yorkshire Divers' website. What are you doing this far south?" Doesn't he realise this place has international membership?

Time to return to the water. Kitted up, went to the lakeside, turned around to walk backwards, sod it, I'd left the car door open.
Removed fins, trudged back to car, closed door, trudged back again. Fins back on, into the blissfully cool water.
This time, we actually had a plan: Swim to the buoy marking the bus, down on the bus, North to the cargo container, and then East along the ridge we'd followed before.
Fine, except we couldn't work out which of two buoys were the right one. So we went straight to the cargo buoy instead.
Down we went. Unable to resist, I pulled out my torch and frog-kicked through the container. Looked back, not the slightest amount of silt stirred up. Until Cath came through with the good old scissor-kick churning up everything, anyway ;)
Heading East, we ascended from the dizzying depths of 10m to the 7m shelf, and lo and behold, we found the UFO! Pure luck, but it'd been ages since I saw that thing.
Along we went as before. This time, tho, when we came to the second Thorpe Park Ranger figure (a bear) I did something I really shouldn't have...
You see, it was resting on a scaffolding pole, at a bit of an angle. A few pushes and pulls made me convinced that it was firmly embedded in the mud, and it never occurred to me that it would actually be airtight.
So when I put my reg inside and purged it, I was convinced that all that would happen would be a stream of bubbles out of the head.
It never occurred to me that a one-second purge would put enough air into the stupid thing that it would break free of the mud and head for the surface, but that's exactly what it did! Not a single bubble came out of it.
Carrying on, we came to the last platform. I was expecting one more, but we came to an uphill slope, and couldn't see any more platforms, so opted for a line-less ascent.
Back to the jetty again, and yet another beached whale exit. We hit one slight snag: Cath couldn't stand up! Too much finning in cold water had taken its toll. Dumped her weights and pulled up as hard as I could, and she eventually made it to an upright position.
Amazingly, we couldn't see the Ranger. He must have dumped his air when he surfaced and re-sunk.
So, two dives around 30mins long, max depth of about 8-10m. We skipped safety stops, but I did insist on a slow ascent both times (2-3 mins to get from 6 to surface). I'll never put any faith in computer-calculated ascent rates tho. The number of times we went from too slow to even register as ascending to "200% beep beep beep alarm" was unreal. Especially when both profile downloads show a beautifully linear ascent.
Not the most exciting dives ever, but a nice day off. Dry sunny weather, all kit working fine, 5kg of weight ditched, and another convert for the wing side. Not only that, but she felt so foot-heavy with the new set-up, she decided she might even be able to throw away the ankle weights!
Resistance is futile
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