To Think That This Time Last Year, Our Dive Centre Only Existed In Our Heads!
At the start of February 2017, James and I began ripping out the innards of office space and workshops that were the original building. Over those next 4 months, a whole new upper level was built and a bespoke diving centre was created. It was the hardest graft we'd ever done. The guys that helped us along the way were absolute legends and without them spurring us on, I think we'd have just melted into little balls of exhaustion. Months of 7 day weeks with crazy long hours (plus part time work to pay the bills) was a massive challenge. But what we've created is awesome.
Now We're 6 Months Old...
We opened our doors on the 10th June 2017 and it's been fantastic to watch it grow in popularity ever since. We're eternally grateful to everyone who's supported us and of course everyone who decided to take the plunge with us! Without you, our little idea would have never taken off.
We've introduced so many people to the world of diving through Try Dives. It's been a pleasure to qualify our first Fifth Point students and listen to their stories as they jet of all around the world to use their new skills. With lots of students in the process of completing their courses, and more signed up for 2018, we can't wait to get the new year started!
We were extremely lucky with the weather in the summer. We enjoyed so many awesome dives with growing numbers joining us on our Shore Tuesday evening dives at St Mary's, Browns Bay and Beadnell. Even as the winter came in, we still made it into the sea right up until November with our Sunday Splash dives taking us up to The Farnes, Eyemouth and St Abbs. The weather only pushed us inland a couple of times where we got the chance to explore Cawfields Quarry along Hadrians Wall.
A huge amount of time was spent in our training tank. Even when we didn't have students, we couldn't help but go for a dive. We even rehabilitated an inflatable dolphin for BDMLR. The training tank really was a stroke of luck. A chance finding on Gumtree by a friend meant that we built our own confined water right in the dive centre. When we carried out market research, extensive feedback revealed that the lack of flexibility in training sessions was a barrier to a lot of divers. We jumped at the chance to convert and extend an old ROV testing chamber which we squeezed through the roller shutter door and filled up with water for 15 hours! It means that we're never restricted by swimming pool slots, and our divers can get wet whenever it suits!
Our Environmental Antics...
We conducted our first beach clean way before the dive centre was up and running. Since September 2016 our volunteers have removed over 900kg of debris from underwater and on beaches. We adopted Cambois beach as part of the Marine Conservation Society's Beach Watch Initiative, and you'll find us down there at least once a month removing litter and carrying out surveys. Now that dive dog Haldane has joined the family, we're down on the beach even more than usual. We're conducting #2minutebeachcleans or making sure we've got our #5thingsclear nearly every day and Hal is even learning how to pick up plastic bottles!
One of our photos of cotton bud sticks collected on Blyth Beach was featured in the supporting material for Blue Planet II, and our volunteers have had a number of mentions in the press.
More Improvements To Come...
As I'm writing this, James is in the tank, shot blasting away the original coating and rust that started to poke through. I'm waiting for the shout to go and start bailing the shot out of the upstairs window with a rope and bucket. The tank will be repainted next week and will be back to it's former glory. This is just the first of the improvements we'll be making throughout the year. We'll also be looking at keeping the water temperature more constant with insualtion and solar heating.
We've invested in signage to boost our road side presence - there'll be no chance you can miss us when driving past now! And there's also flags going up to improve the look of the building. By next winter, we'll have a wood burning stove installed for a post dive warm up cuppa.
We're slowly increasing our equipment servicing provisions. James is a fully qualified ASSET technician, but the cost of equipment has been a bit restricitve in what servicing he can provide. As soon as we can, we'll be buying more gear allowing us to visually service tanks and eventually providing hydrostatic testing too.
Bring On 2018...
We think that next year is going to be huge for The Fifth Point, and we hope we live up to your expectations! With more courses available and more dives organised than ever before, there's a fair chance we'll grow gills.
We'll be stepping up our environmental efforts with big events planned including the Great British Spring Clean, The Great Nurdle Hunt and The Big Spring Beach Clean which are already in the diary. From January, we'll be running courses from Project AWARE including the awesome Dive Against Debris specialty. We'll soon announce our Adopt A Dive Site choice where we'll pledge to conduct a Dive Against Debris at least once a month.
Join us on our adventure next year, it's going to be a big one!