Monday, 13 March 2017

Postcard from Dahab

It is hard to believe that almost a week has gone by, since I arrived in Dahab. It is a place of contrasts with an easy relaxed feel, that is hard to describe. I was not sure what to expect before I came out, so tried to leave my preconceptions behind in the UK; I am glad that I did. I arrived in the dark so on my taxi transfer from Sharm I really could not see much, my first impressions came the following morning.

Dahab is a small community with the main tourist area concentrated along the sea front. Crammed with restaurants, hotels, dive shops and shops. To get to the sea there are places of public access; or if you prefer a little more comfort, you set yourself up on a sun bed in one of the cafes/restaurants. This way you can be waited on between dips in the ocean, very civilised, in addition you get to observe the dive classes and Freediving sessions taking place.

Forget long sandy beaches, the sand is under the water after a short rocky beach. The restaurants and cafes are so close to the sea that twice this week in a big tide they were closed whilst the sea washes in. Owners and staff move the seats and cushions out on to the walk way, whilst the children play in the waves coming over. Everyone smiles - it does not happen that often and in the words of one owner "it only for an hour, it is the sea. What can you do?"

The view along the sea front
It is early in the season. Walking the front most the restaurants are quiet and uncrowded. I have been advised that in a couple of months time that area will be heaving. The shop owners try to get you in to look at their wares but are not over pushy - it is a game and I never feel uncomfortable. My second long walk this morning and having failed previously to get me to enter and have tea, I received two proposals of marriage and a friendship bracelet. Only managed to get a quarter of way along the front! I pointed out I could already be married to one shop owner who replied "just come back when he is gone".

In the other areas of the town there is a often a stark contrast between developed and developing. At certain times of the day goats roam the roads and eat anything in their path. I have not seen a camel in Dahab, they have been replaced by the pickup trucks that act as taxis, and quad bikes for exploring the mountains. If you want a camel experience most of the tours offer you a choice of journey by taxi or camel. That means they must be here somewhere.  What I have seen is divers - Recreational. Technical and Free.

Dog Boy the camel meets Tech Diver
The Blue Hole is a short taxi ride up the road. We have had two days training there so far. The first was quiet and the second was very crowded. In a similar fashion to Dahab the Blue Hole is lined with a run of beach front restaurants. You set up in one for the day and then the water is just a short walk across the road. Outside most have tiled ledges for equipment and I saw them covered with rebreathers and Freediving buoys. The water is 21 degrees, blue and inviting. Snorkel tours are popular with people exploring the reef around the Hole so entry and exit points - on a busy day,  are an exercise in navigating around snorkellers removing fins, the hanging stage tanks, divers surfacing and Freedivers with long fins and buoys. Here I have seen camels, young boys ride them up and down and introduce you to them in the hope you might want a ride on their camel.

The diving at Lighthouse in Dahab is great. A shallow ledge drops away so you can, depending on tide, get up to 50 Metres. The sandy section along the beach attracts shoals of fish and the swim out to set up your line is accompanied with views of the fish feeding on the bottom. A great alternative to a swimming pool - the water is warm and blue and rather than swim over tiles you can swim over a fish. Whilst I am here I will snorkel the reef and let you know what I find when I go exploring properly.

My first impressions of Dahab, a warm inviting place filled with friendly people. It offers some amazing diving opportunities for all levels and type of diver. If I have found one drawback so far - it is very dusty; but then again no one minds if you have dirty feet.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

My Day Freediving with Lotta Eriksson

Some of you may be aware that I have been discovering a passion for Freediving. This started with me wanting to improve my snorkelling experiences and take advantage of being in the water without SCUBA. I found with a snorkel you could sneak up on the shyest marine life and there was less chance of scaring it away so you could observe it whilst it observed you.  I took my SSI Level 1 Freediver Course nearly two years ago and have not looked back since - as my experience and passion have grown we have looked to be able to introduce Freediving at Mulberry Divers. 

On 21st June, Linda and I were able to complete our Basic Freediving Instructor Course and had the great experience of having a day with Lotta Eriksson, SSI International Training Director, who has been working on a great new Freediving range of courses with SSI. Even better we got her to ourselves – an amazing way to benefit from a wealth of experience. 

The day started with a look at the new SSI course structure for Freediving development, they have introduced a number of specialities to support the core programs. I have already begun work on my Tables speciality and there are several overs I cannot wait to do – Dynamic and Monofin to name a couple. Of course Monofin goes with the secret inner desire to see what it would be like to be a Mermaid!!

A class discussion evolved around correct breathing techniques and the importance to Freedivers followed by a Dry Static session. Lotta was great with ways to help me with my urge to breathe which likes to arrive early and state its presence. 

We then moved to working in water for about four hours, concentrating on the skills. 
- Relaxation techniques for Static work and how to help loosen off that one stubborn muscle area we all tend to have. 
- Perfecting how to set weights for neutral buoyancy when doing dynamic and for surface before duck ducking. There is a dramatic difference between the two. 
- Common problems that can occur with fining techniques and how to solve them and then time spent perfecting the duck dive – this is critical to the success of your Freedive so really worth getting right – truly amazing how easy it is to reach depth when everything works right. 
The final portion of our skills workshop concentrated on the rescue skills you may need to deal with black out and loss of motor control. 

Buzzing from a great pool session we returned to the class room to have an in-depth look at equalisation techniques, the skills videos included in the course materials and take the exam. I completed the day with filling out my log book and taking part in a group picture. It is a day that has only increased my enthusiasm for a sport I love and am looking forward to introducing you to the world of Freediving.  

Thank you Lotta for the wise words, fun and helping me prepare for the next step....teaching others. 

Want to know more about Freediving and learning to Freedive?  Then don’t miss out click here and book your space today.

Anya Frampton

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Answer is Pink!

DDRC Professional Dive Boat Skipper Day - Monday 1st February

To Plymouth through the wind and rain to attend this DDRC organised event early this week. Despite the GPS managing to find me a winding single track road with mud scrapes as passing places in the middle of Plymouth, I emerged into the middle of Plymouth Science Park exactly where required!

Three lectures in the morning were followed by three interactive sessions and a tour of the facility in the afternoon. The presentation on the new Sikorsky S-92 Helicopter now operated by most of the SAR teams was illuminating (Lee-On-Solent has a Augusta AW-189 at present) - the quantity and variety of sensors /search equipment carried is immense. The Q&A session highlighted widespread condemnation of black SMBs (not sure who thought they would be a good idea) and that the InfraRed system can now detect you whether or not you remove your hood.  We also learnt that the winch speed is 350 feet/minute - almost a zip wire!

The RNLI session was given by Sean Marshall, 2nd Coxswain Plymouth Lifeboat who is also a Dive Boat skipper for Plymouth University. Over lunch, I was glad to be able to share details of the equipment evening we'd had with Selsey Lifeboat with Sean and give him the teaching outline so he could adapt and use for Plymouth.

The morning finished with a presentation by a Diver who had experienced an Immersive Pulmonary Oedema (IPO) - essentially, always feeling breathless underwater but fine on the surface. The medical presentation afterwards highlighted the difficulties of diagnosing this condition and how much there is still to learn about the body and it's reaction to being underwater - there was a lively Q&A session although please don't ask me to repeat some of the explanations.

Quick bit of networking over lunch (one way to diet - minimal food) and then into the afternoon sessions........Basic Life Support / O2 admin and AEDs; as always, useful practice and skills refresher.  Tim finished with a suggestion that we look at an interactive LifeSaving video from the UK Resuscitation Council - this has three realistic scenarios and involves you in decision making and actions as each progresses; we'll be referencing this on the React Right courses we run in future.

Then a session on non-DCI issues - symptoms and treatment before the final session on DCI recognition - a succession of real-life based case studies gave us the opportunity to discuss how we would react in a particular scenario and the options / advantages and disadvantages......we learnt how useful photographs are in the case of skin bends (which are unlikely to look the same by the time you reach a Chamber).  The afternoon concluded with a tour of the facility and we emerged just in time for the rush-hour home!

A very useful was very helpful to have discussions around the case studies (put someone on Oxygen or not for instance) and certainly clarified my thinking in several areas and the Mulberry Diver procedures will be updated to reflect these aspects.

And the Answer is Pink?

The SAR Winchman was asked what was the best colour for SMB visibility.........based on his experience of actual rescues, he said Pink! Anya is busy sourcing some from China now :-)

Link back to Mulberry Divers website

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Our new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)

Earlier this month, the Second Tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) was announced and it included two in the Selsey area -  Utopia and Offshore Overfalls. There are copious amounts of documentation available at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) including  Fact Sheets and Maps for each MCZ. 

Utopia is a small MCZ located 20km East of the Isle of Wight; it is just East of the Nab Tower and surrounded by Dredging areas with the Nab Tower Spoil Ground to the South. Unfortunately there are errors with at least one of the positions given in the Designation Map  however it looks like there are several wrecks in the MCZ although none are on our diving list at present. This is an MCZ that have been designated mainly to protect the geology rather than the marine fauna and flora; the Utopia reef consists of an area of bedrock and large boulders that host rich communities of sponges and anthozoans. Anthozoans are a group of soft animals with feathery tentacles, which includes soft corals, sea-fans, cup corals and anemones. The reef is surrounded by sediment made up mostly of gravel and sand. The animals that live in Utopia MCZ are mainly large, slow growing species such as branching sponges which has hard, crinkly ‘petals’ that provide hiding places for small fish, crabs and prawns. There is a 2014 Seasearch report on a dive executed to support the designation proposal and the original Balanced Seas report has more detail.

OffShore Overfalls is a much bigger MCZ located roughly 18km east of the southern part of the Isle of Wight. The site covers an area of 594 km2. The Basil wreck lies just inside the NW boundary whilst UB1195 is just outside the Western edge. 

This site protects areas of sandy seabed, which support species of flat fish and sand eels camouflaged on the surface of the sand, with worms and bivalves (with their pair, hinged shells) living within it.
The MCZ also includes the second largest area of seabed mixed sediments in the region. As mixed sediments are so varied, they can support a wide range of animals, both on and in the sediment. Animals found here include worms, bivalves, starfish and urchins, anemones, sea firs and sea mats.
In the north west corner of the site is an area called the ‘Overfalls’ which has been highlighted as an area of high scientific value due to the unusual area of mixed sediments, sands and gravels that form sandwaves. These are important for a range of fish species such as bass, turbot and brill, cod, rays (specifically blonde rays), tope, brown crab and sandeels.
The site also protects the geological English Channel Outburst feature which was formed at the end of the last glaciation by the collapse of either ice sheets or glaciers. 

We're quite likely to dive the Northern perimeter of this MCZ either specifically for the wrecks or possibly to view the Overfalls which are considered unique in the UK.

At present, no management approaches / plans have been defined for these MCZs and hence the only assumption that can be made is that it will be 'business as usual' for now. One consequence of this lack of forward thinking is that it is not clear how measurement / assessment will take place (who, what, when) and in some cases, what is the initial baseline. (Concerns about the level and quality of evidence have been a perpetual theme to the extent that the whole programme was delayed prior to the initial designations to address this area). We have encountered instances in the past where divers have been identified as causing damage to geological features (without specific proof) without the full force of an Ebb tide or a Storm being considered.

It is noticeable, reading some of the supporting documentation, that Diving is rarely mentioned as a sport using these areas - this is probably a reflection of the fact that both Angling / Recreational Fishing and Yachting have well organised focal groups that represent their activities in these forums over a long term and consistent basis - whilst BSAC is the National Governing Body it clearly does not have the same funding or capability of the other Stakeholders around the table. (In the case of Balanced Seas in particular we encountered severe difficulty in trying to provide input). 

The last Tranche of MCZs will be announced in 2018 after formal consultation in 2017; it is possible that Selsey Bill and the Hounds will be included - it was on the original recommendation list from the Balanced Seas project. We will publicise the Consultation when Defra announce it. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

New Location for Our Blog

We've decided to integrate the Blog into the Mulberry Divers can now be found at The switch will happen over the next few days - the most recent blogs have been copied over and new posts will in future only appear in the new location.
Please let us know whether you find the Blog useful or have any other comments.


Saturday, 9 April 2011

9th April - Lumpsuckers galore - Starfish under Lifeboat Station

Blue sky but somewhat too much wind from the East - so we moved to Hillfield Rd (fortuitously this was the first day the car park re-opened after the beach shingle recharge that has been conducted over the winter)and ran three dives in Bracklesham Bay - much calmer water on this side as the day progressed. Whilst the first cuttlefish has yet to be seen under the Lifeboat Station, two divers did find three Starfish (two Common, third not determined); we haven't seen Starfish here before so wonder if they have migrated in.

The first dive on Hound Reef produced a profusion of Lumpsuckers - for at least one diver, they went from not having seen one before to finding five or six. Plenty of other marine life.........Lobsters in particular. Second dive was the Landing Craft - good 4-5m visibility with some drift.  For the third dive, back to Hound Reef - notable here were reports of large Wrasse in some numbers.

The Selsey Lifeboat 150th Anniversary T-shirts are selling well - all money goes to the Selsey RNLI; we have most sizes in stock at £12.50

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Sunday 27th March - Visibility again, plenty of Nudibranchs and both Lifeboats launch

Some calmer weather and visibility has returned :-)

Reports from the Far Mulberry of 8m visibility this weekend - at least one report of the Lumpsucker returning and sitting at the shot line block again.

For Steve, this weekend was a case of diving the two moorings prior to Phoenix starting the 2011 programme next weekend (weather permitting). The beach mooring vanished in the last major storm (and also created a small cliff face of gravel) - however it was soon found yesterday and re-buoyed. The large squat lobster that lives under the block was not too amused - apart from that not much moving marine life to be seen. Vis was a good 4-5m with clear water. Today, I dived the main mooring - again not much moving marine life but some excellent dahlia anemones - with no weed at the moment, these anemones really stand out and make good photo subjects in macro mode. The wind had changed direction slightly so some slop onto the beach and small waves - visibility not good adjacent to beach but OK out level with the mooring.

Linda has dived the Lifeboat both days this weekend with the Open Water course - vis has been good and she's seen quite a few Nudibranchs (most of the reports to date have been white nudibranchs but Linda found a purple flabellina) - highlight was probabaly being alongside the boathouse today as the All Weather Lifeboat launched down the ramp (Selsey Lifeboat web site) shortly after the Inshore.

Looking ahead................we're hoping that the storm forecast for mid-week won't disturb the vis for next weekend which officially opens the season for us.

This year is Selsey RNLI's 150th Anniversary - we have some special T-shirts (all proceeds to RNLI) and we're encouraging everyone to donate; if you are feeling active the Sponsored Walk is in early May. Details of the special events planned for June are on the Selsey RNLI web site.