A gathering of students, instructors & divers all looking for some blue water diving and sunshine met at Heathrow airport on the evening of July 15th at the start of their trip to Malta.
Some frantic moments were spent finding a jiffy bag and mailbox when it was discovered that Clive was still in possession of the swimming pool keys of the school where he had been teaching that afternoon.
After several sets of still soggy kit had been passed to various members of the group for inclusion in their luggage, all of the baggage was finally checked in with the airline with excess charges avoided.
The flight was uneventful & we all arrived at Malta's Luqa airport a little after midnight to be met by a driver with a minibus a couple of sizes too small for twelve divers & their kit!
However, after a couple of introductions formalities had been observed & everybody piled in, sitting on each others laps as necessary. It proved an excellent way of breaking the ice & a couple of engagements were expected following the journey to the hotel!
The following day was as expected, hot & sunny. We spent the morning organising the hired jeeps & visiting Maltaqua, our dive centre, to arrange for tanks, weights and the all important dive permits.
By this time everybody was ready to hit the water & our first dives were made at Marfa Point, a popular training site at the northern tip of the island. This suited our purposes as we had father and son, Paul and Mark Atkinson wanting to make their Open Water qualifying dives and the rest of the party needing to perform checkout dives to sort out weighting etc. The dives all went well and everybody enjoyed themselves.
The party split into two groups from that point with Dave North and his band of experienced divers taking their twinsets in search of some more adventurous sites while the students and instructors continued working through the course dives over the following few days.
Paul completed his qualifying dives without incident but unfortunately Mark was plagued by problems and was unable to complete all of the dives but will, I am sure, get there soon!
Things started to become a little tricky around this time as the Maltese authorities had refused to accept Paul's daughter Gail's BSAC qualification, owing to a signature being ommitted from her logbook. This left us with Mark doing twelve metre Discover Scuba Dives, Paul now qualified to eighteen metres and Gail also only being allowed to dive with an instructor. Peter and Sandra Flack, the new Hans & Lotte Haas, were also restricted to diving with an instructor as the Maltese do not permit independent diving with anything less than Advanced Open Water. They had come on the trip with the intention of doing the five Advanced Open Water qualifying dives, so we now had a logistical problem of organising suitable dives for the different levels of ability of the divers. I am indebted to Vernon Vas, our associate Course Director who joined us on the trip and without whose help the diving would have had to have been severely curtailed. Between us we managed to provide a range of dives suited to all of the divers and allowed Peter Flack to complete his Advanced Open Water qualification, his wife Sandra finished the week with one dive still to complete but her permanent grin still firmly in place!
Memorable moments of the week included Gail suffering a jellyfish sting while surface swimming between dives. She put a brave face on it, while the rest of us put all manner of traditional solutions on it! Fortunately, it did not stop her providing us with all of the photos used in this report.
Probably the best day of the week was the day spent visiting Gozo for the famous Blue Hole and Inland Sea dives. The first of which was kept entertaining by Paul providing an unusual display of buoyancy control!
It was decided that the return ferry trip to Malta arrived at Marfa Point at a perfect time to allow the group to experience their first night dive. Hans and Lotte Flack were volunteered to lead it as the navigation exercise of their advanced open water night dive and somehow or other we found or way back to the shores of Malta! They did however put the rest of us to shame later with an excellent sighting of a pair of seahorses.
Finally, the time inevitably came when we had to pack our bags & return home. Most of brought fond memories of good times & good friends - Paul brought a nasty little virus so his diving was finished a day earlier but congratulations are due to him and Peter for completing their qualifications. Further congratulations go to Sandra and Mark for the dives that they did manage. They all add to experience!
Finally, I would like to restate my thanks to Vernon for all of his assistance throughout what turned out to be a very enjoyable week.