Off the Hook

Hook SacThis weekend Hook SAC extended an invitation to the CFT executive to host its monthly meeting and I jumped at the chance to attend. My own club had paid a visit last year, but the birth of my son in the middle of the dive season put paid to several dive trips. Limerick divers returned with great photos of shore diving around the lighthouse and I had these images in my mind as I packed for the trip.

Having no idea of how impressive the Hook clubhouse was going to be, I was blown away when I first arrived on site. A purpose built facility on literally a green field site, there was obviously a lot of thought and effort gone into the project. There is an open plan kitchen with view of the coast for planning dives, and a few recliners for hanging around for a chat post dive or to watch a bit of sport on telly. His and Her changing rooms, secure garage for gear and enough room to store two ribs with tractor for launch. Outside there is an area to wash and dry everything, gear, boats and all. Filling tanks between dives is a doddle on their bank system, with room for members to store bottles as well. Upstairs holds a formal meeting room with an area they use to store the club archives and memorabilia. The clubhouse is decorated with plaques to honour its past committees and an impressive shrine to the lost diver Billy O’Connor, whose name is often on the lips of current members. I’m sure he would be proud of the legacy that remains.

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Saturday morning we met down at the clubhouse before our first dive. No shore diving possible this weekend it looked to be wreck diving for us. Having little experience myself with deep shot line dives, I was delighted to be paired with Dave Furlong for the first dive on The Girl Arlene. Arlene was a trawler that sunk in 1989 after collision and lies broken up on her starboard side. The debris is scattered and full of poor cod, lobsters and congers. The Hook divers may be onto something taming congers to behave like dolphins. An octopus resides there as well. Dave gave me a first rate tour of the site directing me around showing off its inhabitants. Back to the clubhouse for both boats, a bit of grub to refuel and plan the afternoon.

Winds were not bad in the afternoon, but the conditions were challenging enough to cause a few divers to retreat to comfort of cafe and hot cuppas or wine and fireplace. Just the one big boat loaded with divers we headed out against the waves to see if we could get around the head. The backup plan proved to be a good choice as we turned back for The Girl again and cruised between the waves with the wind at our backs. Without a dry cox it was lucky we had such a competent coxswain in Noel Furlong, he kept the boat pointed in the wind saving a few of us from feeding the fish.

Sunday morning we were up early to bright sky, a full boat heading to the wreck of the SS Lismore. An Irish cargo steamer laying in 38m, she capsized in 1924 on a heading for Liverpool with a cargo of cattle. This dive brought out the real talent, with 30% nitrox, twin sets, rebreathers, and 7ltr side-mounts the norm. It’s no wonder I suppose since my air dive was limited to about 7 minutes of bottom time. Ray Furlong was our guide this time, and we were last to head down the shot. I knew from Martin Kiely viz wasn’t ideal and when we hit the bottom the 2 knot run meant we weren’t travelling too far. Ray expertly reeled off the shot and took us on a tour of the boilers. The current proved too much and I made like a lighthouse for Ray and Louise, relaxing stretched out two hands on the shot.

That was my last dive for the weekend, but I didn’t head off right away. The company of divers back at club house was too good not to hang out and chat. A very experienced and welcoming group, I know another visit is on the cards.