by: Stephen Phillips
As a Regional Manager for SDI/TDI/ERDI in Malta I recently was approached to join Ballyholme Divers Club near my hometown by one of my students who felt my TDI training and some of my experience would benefit the Club. After various visits and chats with the Chairman and some of the members, it seemed joining would be the right decision. Especially when I was asked if I would participate to in an Under Water Marathon taking place on 17th June 2017 to raise money for some well-deserved charities in Northern Ireland. The dive club has a unique water attraction called the Grid.
The grid or underwater trail was initially a brainchild of Graham Gannon a decade ago, albeit it was only a bit of clothesline straight out from the club across the bay. It was eventually wrecked by the weather and anchors of the cruisers and racing marks laid in the bay. In April/May 2016 it was decided to properly install a roped network and set up Ballyholme Club’s own dive site right on the club’s doorstep. Charts of Ballyholme Bay were checked and the aim was to get to the closest area of depth from the club jetty without making it too far for the shore. With an informed and agreed upon zoned off area for the yachts for mooring and race marks.
So with a little money for rope and anything they could use as sinkers and pegs for the seabed, work began. Little by little over the summer months an underwater trail was created. There is a surprising amount of diversity in the fauna and sea life within the 100m from the shore and the underwater view was stunning.
On many dives, during the changing season’s plenty of fish, edible crabs, scorpion fish, octopus, and micro creatures can be seen which divers never knew existed. This area can also be used as a sheltered water training area and a safe night dive location right on the club’s doorstep. On reflection, when the club members actually sat down and thought about the potential the grid offered to for regional diver events and training the members realized what had been created something good for diving and to promote the sport. Divers never imagined that diving in less than 8m – 6m could be so interesting. Certainly diving for a purpose or to complete a task underwater made it enjoyable. The viz at times in the summer months was 10m +. The bay is quite sheltered and only really exposed to northerly winds and swells when it can get quite mucky. However, within a few days, the viz improves and because there is a rope to follow it feels safer.
The trail as the image above shows consists of two triangle rope grids. At the outer mark, there is also a cage 4m x 3m sitting about 2.5m high just off the grid for future development. The plan would be to encourage kelp and sea life to grow on the metalwork and installed rope looms to make a miniature swim through. There are areas installed for training with heavy industrial pumps, valve sets and anchors for SMB drills and shot retrievals. There are also plans for a submerged habitat, basically a mock wet bell for growing plants under the sea.
This year on the 17th June 2017 Ballyholme Dive team are using the grid to undertake an underwater marathon to raise money for three worthwhile charities:
Cancer fund for children
Air ambulance NI
The object is for registered participants to complete a mile swim on the grid as a buddy pair. Each buddy pair would then have completed two miles between them underwater at a max depth of 8m. The plan is to have each buddy pair at intervals of approximately 15-20mins dive the mile until the total distance swum would be 26.6miles, a bit more than the normal 26.2 miles. This being underwater requires proper planning and logistics of air requirements and fitness levels. At this present time, there have been a number of practice runs completed by many of the divers taking part and a demo day to work out some of the kinks in planning. Demo day number two took place on May 20th to finalize the main event plan for the 17th June.
If anyone wishes to register please visit: http://ballyholme.com/underwater-marathon/ and click on the event photo. I would encourage everyone to donate to the charities as we divers will probably know someone close to us, who has had, or will need their help.