SCUBA Magazine columnist Yo-Han Cha is desperate to go diving, but will the famously fickle South Coast winter play ball?

“I don’t care what the conditions are like! I’m going diving tomorrow!” I wasn’t going to put off by poor visibility or the cold or the rain. Or anything else Mother Nature could throw at me. Storms Babet, Ciaran and Debi had cancelled any diving plans for the better part of two months and I was desperate to get wet. Desperate. 

So, despite locals saying that the conditions in Swanage were awful, I packed my car and set my alarm for a godforsaken time in the morning. After a two-and-a-half-hour drive, I arrived at Swanage Pier to be greeted by a swelly brown sea. Despite all of my bluster, common sense kicked in and I went for coffee and breakfast in the pier café instead. I was frustrated but I knew these weren’t diveable conditions. 

What made this autumn worse were my friends in Scotland languishing in what social media portrayed as near perfect diving conditions - blue skies and flat calm seas. Their photos left me feeling very happy for them. Full of envy and jealousy, but so, so happy for them. 

There are usually other sites available, plan B or C or D. But this autumn, the South Coast of England has proven a washout, thanks to a series of named storms blowing everything out. Here was me believing that the weather down south was better than up north! Ultimately, despite making pointless drives to the coast, there was nothing I could do but to wait for Mother Nature to provide a wee window of opportunity. I briefly flirted with the idea of a trip to Scotland but the lack of annual leave and earlier promises to spend quality time with my other half meant that none of those ideas came to any fruition.

this autumn, the South Coast of England has proven a washout

So I waited… and tried to be patient. Most of my club thought I was mad, as apparently the dive season ends in October and doesn’t start again until Easter. This apparently, is the time to drop our kit off for servicing and enjoy the weekends by being cosy and warm. I’ve never heard of such nonsense in my life! [See Editor’s Welcome, January 2024].

So, when Ryan Stalker of Isle of Purbeck Sub Aqua Club messaged me to say that the conditions had finally improved and invited me to go for a Friday night dive with him and his wife Sandra, I jumped at the chance and was on the road to Portland within minutes of my working day ending. It was a two-hour drive for a two-metre pootle off Sandsfoot Beach, but it felt great. At a toasty 12°C, the sea was warmer than the air, and I was more than happy spending my dive taking photos of prawns and gobies to my heart’s content. 

Encouraged by this heartening, albeit brief, glimpse of underwater England, the following weekend I again drove down to Swanage to go for a day’s diving. Apparently, we should have been there ‘yesterday’. It had been just fine ‘yesterday’, we were told, but overnight rain had turned Swanage once again into brown gravy. And what do we do when life gives us gravy? Well in my case, it meant another day in a café and a round of bacon and egg sandwiches while I cursed my luck. 

All the same, I’m not giving up on winter diving – Mother Nature surely has to give another opportunity. She has to, right?

Article ‘Consolation cafe’ by Yo-Han Cha first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 141 March 2024.

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