Kirsty Andrews joins the hardy divers of Torbay BSAC for their traditional New Year’s Day harbour dive.

I’m writing this column as I attempt to warm up after my first dive of the year, on the first day of the year. Comparatively old news for the March edition of SCUBA magazine, but this is the first SCUBA mag of 2023, and as it hits your doorsteps in mid-February, the waters will be cooler still. I wonder how many of you will have followed me into salty waters so far this year? My salutations to you if you have! 

Mostly I’m filled with excitement at the prospect of what a dive might hold, but sometimes even I go in with managed expectations. Today was certainly one of those: I had spent much of the previous weeks coughing and spluttering, as is becoming an annoyingly seasonal tradition for me. I thought I was fit to dive again but had given myself a stern talking to about taking it easy. Also, the weather had been inclement for much of those past weeks, and as I waited at the dive site for other hardy divers to arrive, I was greeted by not one but two hailstorms, in between rain showers. There’s something about the first day of the year, though, isn’t there, that makes you want to ‘start as you mean to go on’, and make the effort to get out there and overcome the appeal of the duvet, even if conditions are less than perfect? The day’s dive target was a modest but intriguing one. Those lovely folk at Torbay BSAC welcomed me again - usually I only descend on them for their annual photography event in the summer but this time I had been enticed along for the rare privilege of being allowed to dive in Torbay harbour. It was a site I’d never tried before, but an annual tradition for them. Permission to conduct this dive is granted by the Harbourmaster to the club by application only on this one morning of the year, when the usual boat traffic is not present. Even then, surface marker buoys are essential from the outset and vigilant shore cover equally so.

January 1st.. other BSAC clubs run their ‘winter warmer’ trips a little later in the year!

Luckily there were plenty of suitable candidates to keep an eager eye on the intrepid divers; it was a lovely sociable occasion with as many ‘dive supporters’ as divers. The conveniently located cafe providing coffee and bacon sandwiches may have had something to do with this. It was a lovely occasion to catch up with club members after a seasonal hiatus, compare holiday stories and perhaps, a chance to make plans for the rest of the year.

Torbay BSAC and Kirsty Andrews

I’m not sure I’d describe the dive itself as a classic. Miraculously, the clouds cleared for the dive window, and although plentiful white horses gambolled past outside the harbour, within it the water was calm and there was at least a metre of visibility to allow me to keep track of my buddies, just about. The harbour wall provided shelter for sea squirts and in cracks, gobies crabs and blennies; under the boardwalks were forests of featherstars. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and called time after about half an hour. I spent longer over my Americano afterwards! Nevertheless, it was nice to think of dive buddies across the UK and further afield, taking their first underwater strides of 2023 at the same time. I know that other BSAC clubs run their ‘winter warmer’ trips a little later in the year, but the ethos is similar. Here’s to getting together for another year of diving fun.

Article ‘Pinch, Punch... ‘ by Kirsty Andrews first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 133 March 2023.

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