Scuba Dive West - 2 tech divers and an open water diver

Located in the beautiful countryside of Connemara in Galway, West Ireland; Scuba Dive West is one of the country’s leading PADI dive schools and scuba dive centre. It is an extremely well run operation and has excellent facilities, offering both shore and boat diving.

As a result it seemed an excellent idea that Wifebuddy and I graced them with our presence. So, we planned the trip and tripped the plan… or something like that.

This trip report gives an idea of what to expect from a day’s diving with Scuba Dive West.

As usual I left all the planning to Kerri; I tend not to interfere with these things as it removes the possibility of associated blame if things go tits up. The plan was simple; drive the 5 hours down to Galway on the Friday morning, dive all day Saturday and head home Sunday morning. So that’s what we did.

The only spanner in the works was that I was coming down with a cold, possibly even man-flu. As a result I had formed a dependent relationship with Sudafed, Vicks Sinex and Airwaves chewing gum. I appreciate this is very bad practice, but the trip had been booked for ages and we were both really looking forward to a weekend away; not to mention the diving and accommodation had already been paid for.

Subsequently I got away with it as my cold didn’t really develop, but I really can’t condone my actions; especially as I have suffered a reverse block before and should know better. I are bad diver.

Kerri drove the 214 miles across Ireland while I slept. In my defence I has just come off night shift that morning, and needed to save my strength to fight off the man flu. As we pulled up at The Bards Den I was feeling quite good. Kerri looked tired; no stamina that woman.

We did the checking in thing and were led to our accommodation. The staff were very friendly and explained what was what at the inn, and gave us a brief rundown on the local pubs, restaurants, shops etc.

I was especially curious about the pub across the road which hosted ‘Live Irish music with reggae.’ I must have made ‘a face’ as the girl quickly explained it was ‘quite good the way the guy did it.’ The mind boggled.

Dutifully we were shown around our room, which included its own bathroom; a bargain at €25 pps including full use of kitchen facilities and breakfast stuff provided. 

I’m not totally sure, perhaps it was the tiredness but I became a little concerned about leaving all our kit in the car overnight unattended. Kerri didn’t seem to want to sleep in the car, so I figured it best to bring the more expensive items into the room, and ‘hide’ them. So, with the regs in the wardrobe, lights under the bed, and my paranoia settling we headed across the road to the pub for Guinness and dinner.

You can’t go to Galway and not drink Guinness – that would be rude! 

Four pints, a burger, and some smoked salmon later we called it a night and got some sleep in preparation for the diving ahead. 

Up early, we had some cereal in the communal kitchen area and got lost on the way to Scuba Dive West. This was quite impressive as it was clearly signposted from the hostel right to the entrance of the dive centre. Insult to injury - I was driving for the first time all weekend. 

Finally we pulled up in the car park area, introduced ourselves to Cillian and confirmed our boat dive. (Boat dives are at 10am and 2pm every day except Tuesday) We opted for a boat dive in the morning and planned to spend the afternoon diving from the shore. (Boat dives are €35 / shore dives €8)

The inflatable ship appeared and 13 divers clambered aboard. As usual, we were ready much too early, got our kit aboard and subsequently ended up holding the rhib while the other divers arrived.

A primary objective of the trip was to continue Kerri’s rehabilitation back to boat diving. As she stood waist deep in the swell, holding the ropes of the balloon, I could see she was less than impressed and the objective was failing. The usual faff followed of attempting to get 13 divers in the same place to do the same thing; this reaffirmed why I don’t dive with a club.

Why can’t divers be on time? Seriously? 

Once on board Kerri settled and skipper Colin powered the boat to the dive site. The trip was a little bouncy, but as I have limited experience on a rhib I have no idea if it was rough or not. Kerri didn’t vomit, I felt ok, so all was well with the world. 

Inishbarna Reef was the planned dive and skipper Colin gave a detailed brief. I was at the stern and almost missed it, but Kerri got a good grasp of what was what. The group was broken in two as the boat was a little busy; this was well managed as it gave all the divers more room to kit up, reducing any possible stress.

Kerri and I were in the second group so we kept out of the way allowing the other divers as much room as possible. As the first group plummeted off the boat, Kerri and I buddied up and donned our twin 7’s. 

Cillian and Colin, the only SDW staff on the boat, were brilliant; helping both Kerri and I get into our kit, making us feel like we were the only divers on board. Our long hoses, can lights and lack of snorkel caused no confusion; clearly demonstrating their experience with divers of all configurations. 

Our lack of rhib experience was praying on our minds, but quickly dissipated once we secured our waist straps.

As Wifebuddy and I conducted our buddy check i glanced around the boat and was a little dismayed at the lack of other similar displays. Buddy checks are paramount when it comes to diving and there is never a valid reason not to perform one. I don’t want to dwell on it, but so many diving accidents could have been prevented with even the simplest of buddy checks, it’s my pet hate in diving. 

Anyway, moving swiftly along… 

Kerri rolled off the inflatable, signaled ok, and I followed. We descended 20m, did a quick ‘sanity check’ and proceeded on the dive.

It was an excellent reef dive. The visibility was around 15m and the life was superb. I found a big lobster to photograph, really badly, and a conger eel hiding in a rock formation. I couldn’t get a picture of the conger, so I settled for shooting Kerri instead. The giant clams were good fun too, even though they wrecked the vis - bloody clams and their shit buoyancy.

50 mins later Kerri fired up her smb and we surfaced a couple of meters from the ship; nice piece of navigation by me. Once at the inflatable Cillian was there once again to help us out of our kit and kindly pull it onto the deck for us.

Do rhibs have a deck? Maybe it’s more of a floor. Either way that’s where my kit ended up.

The boat dive was a success and we sped back to the shore for lunch.

We left our twinsets at the air fill station (which also provided nitrox), headed for the changing rooms and then had lunch. The dive centre provides a good sized kitchen for divers to use; including kettle, cooker, microwave and plenty of crockery to suffice any meal. You must bring your own food to cook, although there is a coffee machine.

Over tasty microwave burgers, Kerri and I planned our afternoon shore dive; which involved playing with our new deco bottles in practice for an upcoming tech dive.

At that moment we got to meet Marko.

Marko was a very keen diver, explained in great detail how he needed a buddy for the afternoon, and asked if he could join us. This didn’t really work for me as I wanted to practice gas switches, ascents and basic stage handling. I figured this would bore any other diver aside from Kerri.

But no, Marko explained he could do skills with us, as he had just completed his PADI open water. It all made a bit more sense now.

I recall how amazingly disappointed I was when I began diving and couldn’t get a dive. Neither Kerri nor I wanted to be the reason Makro didn’t get his 5th dive, so we agreed to take him with us for a maximum dive time of 30 mins and keep it shallow. Marko was ecstatic, and his enthusiasm was infectious and I have to admit I was looking forward to the experience.

We were chatting to some other divers outside who suggested taking him straight to 40m, tell him to hold his breath and then inflate his BCD, but that would have been rude. Bad other divers.

40 mins later Kerri, Marko and I were at the shore conducting our buddy checks. I’m sure it was quite a sight; two divers dressed in all black dry suits sporting backplates, twinsets, and stage bottles, coupled with a newly qualified PADI open water diver in yellow fins, blue wet suit and BCD.

I think we maxed out at 7.6m and, as planned, enjoyed a 32 minute dive. Marko was really cool to dive with; he never left my side, communication was good and stayed off the bottom most of the time. He was a credit to his instructor, who I met briefly before the dive. Marko's instructor was also a nice fellow and gave us the  courtesy of confirming we didn’t mind taking his former student on a dive. I thought it was a nice gesture.

The most amusing thing was that I led the dive. This was the height of irony as I had absolutely no clue where I was going and couldn’t really find anything of interest. As a result, I may have finned about a little more enthusiastically than required, giving poor Marko a cramp and leaving Kerri a little out of breath.

Overall if was a fun experience and I hope Marko enjoyed himself with his two tech diving buddies.

So, with our guiding done for the day, Kerri and I watched Marko stroll up the slipway as we got down to work. We mucked about with the stages for about 40 minutes switching regs, holding fake stops, and practicing ascents. Kerri began to feel the cold shortly after so we thumbed the dive and headed back to shore.

I packed up the ludicrous amount of kit we brought while Kerri paid the bill. We headed back to the hostel for a shower and I treated us to a magnificent dinner in The Bards Den pub that evening. I can honestly say it’s one of the best steaks I’ve had in years.

The days diving caught up with us; we could barely manage a single pint of Guinness each, so strolled back to the hostel and gratefully slumped into bed.

10 hours later we were back on the road as we journeyed home. It was a splendid weekend away.

Lesson learned

  • Get lots of sleep before dive trips so Wifebuddy isn’t bored driving to the dive site. 
  • Don’t dive with a cold, a reverse block is a real risk and rather unpleasant – (see this post
  • Bring local currency – we didn’t even have enough euros for a cup of coffee. 
  • Be early for the boat, it makes everyone’s life easier. 
  • Keep kit tidy and compact when diving off a rhib; I was a little upset to watch divers inadvertently tramp on my light cord. 
  • Always do a buddy check. 
  • Bring a hat – rhibs are windy. 
  • Don’t fin too quickly – Marko will get a cramp. 
  • Carry tea bags at all times – we didn’t get a brew all day. 
  • Don’t eat so much you can’t drink Guinness. That would be rude.


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Safe diving buddy.