I hope the 2016 dive season has been good to you.
The UK diving scene quietens down at this time of year. There is a final flourish though, all in a good cause, scuba diving Santa’s!
On the 13 December 2015 Vobster Quay’s event was officially recognised as a world record when 188 Santa suited divers plunged into the chilly Somerset waters.
Some years a number of inland sites run these events. This year(after a trawl of the web) it seems that the original, biggest and record breaking Vobster Santa’s is the only official one taking place. Will the record be broken again this year? I will be there with my Clifton BSAC club in(hopefully) large numbers, come and say hello!
This year’s event is on Sunday 18th December so I thought it would be good to remind people about the event and encourage them to attend. Apart from breaking their own world record a great deal of cash is raised for two very worthy charities, namely the RNLI and the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance. If you really don’t fancy attending then consider making a donation or getting some raffle tickets. As divers we are in the debt of these charities who work ceaselessly to cover our backs for when the chips are down.
On to the practicalities, first of all remember an inland dive site in December is not the coldest it will get, a small consolation but never the less worth bearing in mind. Surface temperature at the beginning of December has been recorded at 9.5°C it will drop another degree or two in January & February. It will be a shortish dive and of course you will be warm in your O’Three. Your hands may not be, the cold metal of regulator & cylinder seem to suck heat out of your fingers.
How do you deal with this? Do the bulk of your prep in the warmth at home so all is ready to go when you get to the site. Have some dry warm gloves to wear before the dive and when moving your kit about. Make sure your equipment is up to the job, can your regulator cope with close to freezing conditions? Free flowing frozen regs are no fun.
If you are likely suffer with cold hands on the dive make sure you have good thermal protection, thick neoprene gloves or mitts, alternatively use a dry glove system.
You need to pick up a Santa suit, available widely at this time of year. The dive centre may have some for sale but may be worth checking with them first if you are leaving it to the last minute. Remember to get a large size to fit over your drysuit!
Once you have it on you will need to make sure direct feed and exhaust valves are accessible, cut holes in the santa suit if necessary. Try not to get the beard wrapped around the mouthpiece of your reg or under your mask!
Finally and most importantly remember safety first, lots of divers will be jumping in together, try not to feel pressured to get in before you are ready, make sure you check your kit correctly, do a buddy check and make sure you can reach all the important controls when kitted up with a santa suit on. It is great fun to be part of one of these events and the proceeds really are in a good cause, but don’t put your own safety at risk.
After the dive enjoy the complimentary mince pies & mulled cider! Since Santa suits are so cheap there is a tendency to just discard them, think again, it is wasteful, recycle and reuse at next years event.
I am clocking off for 2016, so I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year with lots of great & safe diving in 2017.