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Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Through HWSAC (your local BSAC club), you can enjoy the full range of club and training activities - including specialist skill development courses - as well as weekend dive trips, diving holidays and social activities.

Dive Tales

 

HWSAC trip to Bandol, South of France
Fri 15th May to Sun 24th May 2009
 
 
“Merde, it can’t be 5.00 am already. I knew we shouldn’t have gone to The White Horse pub after we packed the car last night”. So began the day for Len and Rita, James and Eunice.  Out of the door by 6.00 am were the instructions, and, after tea and toast they were. Well OK, 6.10 am but no dive trip starts without an element of faff.
 
Drive to ferry terminal follows, Eunice and James catching up on zzzzzz’s in the back, Len driving, with Rita trying to stay awake in a show of solidarity. No matter Len can sleep on the ferry………… except there’s a school trip on board, teachers on one deck, pupils on another. 
 
Later, Rita: “I feel happy from the top of my head to the tips of my toes”. Not a good sign, bound to be tears before bedtime or end of the week at the latest. And there were, mais c’est la vie. (Note the effortless transition from English to French …..).
 
Set the SatNav, heading for Beaune, wondering how long before Alan ‘I Always Use The Car’s Cruise Control’ Davis shows up. Although he’s had a later start, going on Eurostar, it’s not long before he’s flying past, with Deborah and Claire, grinning and waving. 
 
Overnight stop at Hotel Alesia in Beaune, nice meal plus wine in a bistro. James is fretting now, has released a new version of software but has no means of dealing with the few glitches. Alan (I A U T C C C), returning after an extra drink with Deborah, Len and Rita, to the rescue with his Notebook. James to bed at 1.30 am.
 
SatNav now set to Bandol but Rita still consulting map to make sure, and phrase book, to refresh O’Level French (failed) in order to read road signs etc. Pink notebook is at the ready to keep note of all those costs. “The toll’s HOW much”.
 
Finally arrival at Le Beausset, and on to La Daby, to be greeted by Alan, Deborah and Claire. The four cottages, hidden amongst the trees, have been allocated previously: Les Lavandes, central meeting position and near the pool - Alan and Deborah; La Chenes, up the hill a little – Len, Rita and Claire; Les Lauriers, to the left of the site – James, Eunice, Clive, Stuart; La Tour, a lovely old circular tower complete with small balcony, just right for romantic escapades – Paul and Sue. And did they? Well, there are some questions its best not to ask.
 
The advance party head off to the local supermarket to stock up on food and wine. White? Red? Rose? Ok, difficult decision, we’ll get lots of each.
 
But where are the rest of our merry men (and woman)………………….?
 
If we had to drive a car in France we wanted the steering wheel to be on the correct side.   Thus on Saturday four intrepid aviators, Paul, Sue, Stu, and Clive left Gatwick for Marseilles airport.   Typically the car-rental area was situated a sticky twenty minute hike from the arrivals terminal but once aboard our 4x4 we took out the instructions we'd been given for Bandol and tried to follow them.
 
Two hours later we were about 20 km the wrong side of Marseilles and we still don't know the name of the town we were in.   Thanks to Clive's unerring ability to find a viable restaurant anywhere in the universe we had an excellent lunch overlooking the harbour before setting off in search of a map.
 
We eventually made it to Le Beausset site a couple of hours after everybody else having stretched a  40 km journey to about 120 km.
 
 
 
Sun 17 May 2009
 
Our first day’s diving. Up bright and early, have breakfast and set off for the quay. Alan assures us we will have no trouble parking near the dive boat to unload our gear. Big notices say: ‘British cars in the South of France’ or words to that affect. 
 
They must have known we were coming, but no. It’s a chance for all the locals to display their French registered, British cars. We tried to be allowed to park there too but Len’s Nissan X-Trail didn’t cut the mustard because ‘it’s a Japanese car’ according to a rather delicious French man.
 
Stuart was in seventh heaven and spent most of the lunch hour drooling, over cars mainly but possibly women too, or perhaps it was just ‘slack mouth’ syndrome. It comes to us all eventually we’re told.
 
Typical comments. ‘Oooh, I used to have one of those.’ ‘Oh, I’d love one of those’. ‘I always wanted one of those when I was younger, but not now’. Again, most of those comments were about cars.
 
Knowing that we Brits appreciate live entertainment, they even had a live band singing songs of the sixties ……………in English. How thoughtful the French are.
 
Lunch – every day head back to the quay and usually straight to the nearest toilets. Food at local cafes or fast-food stalls, sitting in the sunshine quietly off-gassing.  Make whatever you like of the last statement.
 
The two non-divers, Deborah and Sue, took advantage of Alan’s rash offer to fund a decent bottle of wine when they took a long, leisurely lunch at a restaurant on a nearby island.  Well, it would have been rude to refuse!
 
 
Ile Rousse: depth 20m pre lunch
 
Shake-down dive, getting acclimatised. Met Eric, the skipper/divemaster on the hardboat. 
 
He showed us the boat, which had no heads. At this point various people charged off to use the facilities in Eric’s ‘almost ready to open’ dive shop. On our return Eric explained the safety regulations, and gave us the dive brief. All very interesting in Eric’s idiosyncratic English aided by a few drawings and/or photos. Have to say, his drawings of fish were a wonder to behold. Now we know where the shape of atom bombs originated. 
 
We kitted up and transferred to the RIB ‘Barracuda’, along with a few students/trainee instructors. This was to be the normal course of events with only the mix of students differing from day to day.
 
Sea life: sand gobies, Angler fish, violet sea urchins, sea slugs, peacocks tail brown algae, dahlia anemones (?).
 
Les Magnons: depth 15m – 20m after lunch
 
Claire sat this one out, feeling seasick and had mislaid her dive computer.
 
Sea life: yellow triplefins, Moray eel, sand gobies, shoals of picarel, red star fish
 
Mon 18 May 2009
 
Roche aux Axinelles: depth approx 35m – 40m pre lunch
 
Disaster of the day. Kitted up on the RIB under the watchful eye of Mario, a strapping Corsican, after Eric (the skipper/dive master), and a student called Crystal had entered the water. 
 
Plan: Enter the water to keep cool, wait on the surface until Eric returned, descend, meet up with Eric who would guide us past a small wreck to a rock beyond.
 
Actual: All got very hot kitting up, revered Training Officer lost mask (with prescription lenses) doing Backward Roll entry and ordered buddy to find it! Much faffing on surface waiting for Eric. Stuart, (spelt Stuart, like the kings, not Stewart – now there’s a man that knows his place in society), saw Eric’s bubbles and descended, Clive and Alan discussed whether to follow their buddy and did so after a few minutes. Eric then ascended and told us all to carry on without him. 
 
All descend shot line, most exit stage right to look for small boat, Len and Rita exit stage left at 36.4m to look for mask. 
 
Rita knocks own mouthpiece from her mouth – slo/mo sequence then ensues. Mouthpiece floating in water, Rita wondering what the h-ll it is doing there, puts it in her mouth, wonders why mouth is full of water, small BSAC voice in head says ‘Press the purge button, press the purge button’, she does but hyperventilates and decides that the surface is a better place to be. 
 
Vis not particularly good, couldn’t see mask or wreck so Rita slowly ascends the shot with Len.
 
On the plus side, Eunice and James reach the wreck. Eunice – “It was really pretty, best dive I’ve had”. Rita – “Grrgh”.
 
Alan is convinced there is a new species out there: ‘Think I briefly saw a Lensmask -- a deep-water, bottom dweller!’
 
 
Les Basses Moulinieres: depth 25m after lunch
 
Faff factor: Divers having made an extra effort to be ready on time for once, we headed off out of the marina but Eric remembered he hasn’t put more oil in the engine. Back we go, fill up then start again. 
 
Someone makes the observation that in England a round of drinks would be necessary as recompense. Mario, Corsican instructor, thinks that’s a great idea. On land, Eric and Mario rush away, returning laden with bottles of wine, Pastis, smoked sausage and various other items of food. Alan thinks this is a wonderful idea.
 
 
Oh, by the way, large jelly fish and a large Moray eel seen during the dive.
 
Tue 19 May 2009
 
At leisure – as they say in the holiday brochures.
 
Len, Rita, James, Eunice and Claire, aka the ‘young crowd’, (OK, that’s stretching the truth a little), head off to see the troglodyte dwellings near Villecroze. Known as the Grottes Troglodytes, the caves were converted into dwellings in the 16th century by local lords. 
 
The Famous Five explored the surrounding gardens, admired the waterfall but unfortunately the caves were fermé (closed!). Eunice and Len, ever known for being nosey, carried on climbing up the winding path but ended in someone’s garden and turned back. So, off to lunch at a small café ‘Cercle de l’Avenir’ in the square at Villecroze.
 
 
Sufficiently fed and watered (wined) they continued to Chateau Mentone for a little dégustation.
 
Alan and Deborah took time to explore elsewhere.
 
Wed 20 May 2009
 
Sibilia, a former HWSAC club member, arrives at mid-day ready to join us for the rest of our dives. She draws the short straw and is allocated sleeping accommodation with Len, Rita and Claire.
 
Now that she’s living in France again we don’t often see her so it was great that she was diving with us. Also handy to have a second interpretation of the dive brief.
 
Sec d’Alon : depth 20m - 25m pre lunch
 
Sea life: Large scorpionfish.
 
 
Sec des Guenauds : depth 20m after lunch
 
Faff factor: Clive thought he’d dropped his weight pouch overboard. Mario dropped over the side to look for it. Within seconds, Clive found the weight pouch, in the correct pocket but put in backwards. We left him to explain that to Mario.
 
Paul and Claire spotted an octopus and pointed it out to Len and Rita.
 
Paul - “I decided the stroke its head which it seemed to enjoy. Suddenly an 18 inch long arm grabbed my wrist and started to pull me towards it. Feisty little bugger gave me the shock of my life!”
 
 
Thu 21 May 2009
 
Original planned dive: aircraft at 37m but another large dive boat already there. The wreck was small, the divers many, so as with all well planned expeditions there were hasty discussions on what to do instead. Decision: Le Rosier.
 
Le Rosier: depth 30m – 36m pre lunch
Claire was unable to add more weight to descend so she and Stuart (royal name) aborted their dive. Mario pointed out two large groupers at 35/36m, hiding under a ledge.
 
Le Point de Fauconniere et Les Grottes : depth approx 15m after lunch
 
Surface swim to a large, very dark and murky cave.   Nearby a narrow swim through one way, followed by a slightly wider one back again. Rita and Len last off the RIB, no-one else in sight. Vis in cave very murky so Rita, valuing her life again, refused to explore. However in the resulting fin around she saw a large scorpionfish hiding on a rock – result.
 
 
Fri 22 May 2009
 
At leisure, again. Some decide to chill, others to shop. Eunice persuades James, against his better judgement, that they should buy a pottery toad for their garden.
 
 
Ah, those were the days my friend……….. And the evenings? Mainly spent catching the rays, (sun not Manta), by the pool or drinking / chatting / drinking / eating / drinking at the large table outside Deborah and Alan’s place.
 
 
Deborah worked tirelessly as the ‘Hostess with the Mostest’ ably aided by Alan, who presided over the BBQ in a manly way. James collected wood for the fire but had to be told that biggest wasn’t always best. Clive made himself popular by paying for Tarts. Rumour has it that he’s a dab hand with tarts. Odd though, we never did have Boeuf Bourguignonne. I wonder why?
 
Occasionally some went out for a meal, others bought in Pizzas. A Pizzeria in Bandol was staffed by a couple of very handsome, sorry slip of the tongue, helpful young men. Eunice, Rita and Claire can testify to this.
 
And the nights – spent peacefully in our beds. Well except for the night Claire woke Len and Rita in the early hours. 
 
There was someone outside. Movements on the gravel outside could be heard. Scary, considering the isolated position in the woods. Len, ever the hero, donned shorts and went outside to be confronted by ……… a toad, sitting under an olive tree.
 
Sat 23 May 2009
 
Homeward bound. Paul, Sue, Clive and Stuart aka ‘The Flyers’ are up early to reach the airport in time. Who knows how long it will take to get there? Are they going via Toulon or Toulouse? Or neither?
 
We found the airport first time and lunched in the UK - carry on with your story Rita. . .
 
The others breakfast on whatever food is left then set off, via the recycling bins at the local supermarket. Ever efficient Deborah has pre-booked an overnight stay at an hotel in Vitry-le-Francois, near Reims, for herself, Alan and Claire.
 
It falls to Rita, part way through the journey, to contact the same hotel by mobile phone to book ‘deux chambres pour quatre personnes’. The receptionist speaks no English but the booking is made ‘pour ce soir seulement’. Unfortunately she doesn’t understand the name but was told they were ‘les amis d’Alan Davis’. Luckily on arrival there is an English speaking person, phew.
 
After a short rest, all seven go in search of a local restaurant.  Restaurant found, table booked for a little later, search continues for a local bar. Sitting at an outside table, it was necessary to partake of a glass of champagne or two.  Well, it was almost the end of the holiday.
 
Much merriment later, at the restaurant, as a couple were being escorted from the premises. Much gesticulation and brandishing of fists. No, it wasn’t any of us.  It seemed they were complaining about the food but only after they’d eaten it.
 
The food was delicious, even Alan’s Steak Tartare apparently. The wine even more so. Being sophisticated souls, Alan, Deborah and Rita head back to the bar for a couple of brandies. Len, less sophisticated, opts for a couple of beers.
 
James, Eunice and Claire decide to head back to the hotel but are waylaid by the sight of a funfair.
 
Sun 24 May 2009
 
The hotel doesn’t serve breakfast until 8.00 am and the intrepid ferry-travellers need to be on the road by then. The ‘Eurostar’ lot can have a lie-in. “We’ll stop somewhere en route” says Len. After many miles and with the others on the point of starvation, he finally pulls into a service station.  Oh well, Pain au Raison will fill a hole. Luckily, chicken curry is available on the ferry.
 
 
 
Quotes of the Week
 
Clive – “Eunice, do you want to get knocked up on the ping pong table”.
Clive - “Pity, it wouldn’t go all the way in”.
Claire – “I like Stuart, he’s cute, I’d like to cuddle him”.
Claire – “I found a spider in my bed last night”.
          Response, from Eunice – “She’s pulled”.
Alan – “Item for next month’s agenda – alcohol and nibbles to be provided at end of all club rib dives in future”.
Len, in response to Claire’s question – “An OBE is like getting two Brownie Badges”.
Rita, at dégustation (that’s wine-tasting!) – “I don’t spit, I swallow”.
James, at vineyard – “Smells good, tastes good, no fluctuations”.
James – “He’s anal, like me”.
Deborah, to Alan – “You can get your little nugget out now”. 
(Nugget/Nougat, who can say?)
James – “I’d like a little poof”. Or perhaps it was ‘puff’. Or pouffe.
Alan, talking about a previous visit to France – “A friend and I had thrush. Deborah wasn’t there”.
Paul – “I’ve had a sparrow”. 
Sibilia, a Corsican – “The trouble with France is that it’s full of the French”.
Clive, whilst busily putting much food and wine under his belt – “I wanted to put some miles under my belt, that’s why I came here”.
On conversation turning to urination habits on long car journeys, Deborah to Alan – “You can never manage to go the whole way, ……but you do manage without peeing down the front of the car now”.
Claire, to Deborah – “You put it between your legs and ride it”.
 
Typical Marine Life
 
Banded bream, damsel fish, shoals of barracuda, cardinal fish, groupers, moray eels, sea potatoes, sea cucumbers, rock sea urchins, violet sea urchins, black sea urchins, spiny starfish, scorpion fish, octopus, tricolour doris, peacock worm, small tube worm, deer horn coral, dahlia anemones, yellow sea fans, neptune grass, peacocks tail (algae),
 
 
We'd like to thank Deborah and Alan for all the work they put into organising this trip.   The accommodation suited our group perfectly and the diving setup worked really well
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