Vobster demo day
Kid in a candy store as BARE SB, Atomic ST1 and more take to the water
Vobster Quay in Somerset is one of the UK’s finest inland water sites, and a perfect spot to try new toys.
This flooded former stone quarry was once used by defence contractors to test sonar and specialist underwater equipment. We continue this tradition, albeit for leisure purposes.
At least 90 minutes are spent oohing and ahhing over the shiny things
It’s a sunny Friday in June when I navigate the discreet and unassuming country lane that winds down into the basin car park to meet Simon from Typhoon International/Sherwood and Justin of BARE, Atomic Aquatics and Zeagle. I’ve dived with these guys before and they’re always brilliant fun.
They also happen to have brought along a heart murmur-inducing array of the best scuba kit or me to play with.
Ironically, the more kit we have at our disposal, the less inclined we seem to be to get into it. At least 90 minutes are spent oohing and ahhing over the shiny things, to the soundtrack of the usual banter of a typical dive trip. At least ten minutes are spent kicking a football with the on-site dog. Why is there always a dog?
No matter. Simon is preparing to dive the D-Day wrecks of Normandy in a week and consequently is testing a twin set-up with a slung cylinder. I’m keen to try the new BARE SB drysuit, Atomic ST1 regulator and Cobalt 2 dive computer. Justin is preoccupied with a GoPro HERO3 and lighting tray. A fourth diver called Fi is on her own and tags along. She expresses a love of diving in potholes and abandoned wells of all things. Today, she looks relieved and just happy to be getting in the water.
We carefully enter the water and swim down to about 20 metres, where a tunnel drops gently down by a further five or so. To my right, stone walls soar upwards, with the brilliant sunlight of the warm summer’s day piercing through the 10-metre clear waters. The glow of the Colbalt’s screen is dazzling, particularly as we enter the tunnel. A line runs along the roof, so one by one we pull ourselves through.
On our second dive – when we’re joined by Graham – the group head eastwards down the quarry and find a small underwater building – now without a roof. One by one we swim through a series of breaks in the walls until we’re inside. Perhaps this was used as part of the military testing. Or maybe the water level is much higher now that it once was. We drop down and head out again.
The ST1 is a superb breathe, and just to convince myself I switch mid-way to my backup Z2 – a regulator I’ve been using for several years and know well. The ST1 feels sharper and delivers gas much smoother, no question. It also feels lighter in my gob has a swivel next to the exhaust for comfort.
As for the SB drysuit and thermals, they feel nothing short of amazing. I’m toasty warm, even in the 9 degrees near the bottom of the quarry. We come across a sunken motorboat, prodding and poking around it. Selfies are taken.
Gradually we work our way back to the entry point, my suit exhaust now fully open and bubbles calmly burping their way out. There are a few Perch around, and supposedly some American crayfish, although I see no sign of them today. With friends, shiny new toys and work a distant memory, there are no negatives to my trip to Vobster, and everything to smile about.
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