Throughout most of my twenties, I managed to be banned, removed unwillingly or refused entry from far too many bars, clubs and restaurants. It’s not something I mention with any pride as it most often meant humiliation and led to me spending weekends trying to find places where doormen didn’t recognise me, with or without my stick on beard. I can even say, with much regret, that I was once asked to leave Germany. That happened the day I arrived and before I had even left the airport. A misunderstanding shall we say. Fortunately, having since been back into Germany a few times with no questions asked or problems, I think the authorities have agreed with me it was just a simple, silly little misunderstanding. However it has taken over 20 years for the town of Weymouth to see our little misunderstanding with any leniency, as one summers afternoon in the early 1990’s, this picturesque seaside town told me to leave and never to come back.
My visit to Weymouth was to enjoy my passion at the time, scuba diving. It was back then a rather ideal spot for wreck dives with a number of interesting old boats ending up on the sea bed at various depths, it was also a good place for novices to run through some open water training as there were many sandy spots between 10 and 15 metres deep. For me though, having done the wrecks to death and helped countless students achieve neutral bouyancy, I was there that day to enjoy a few drift dives with my buddy. A drift dive is where you basically drop down to just above the sea floor and let the current push you along, you’re a passenger on nature’s very own sightseeing bus, just enjoying the ride and enjoying the landscape. Now the waters off the UK do not give you the visual experience of somewhere like the Bahamas or Thailand. It lacks the colourful and exotic wildlife, lacks the crystal clear visibility and a dry-suit is pretty much mandatory. But that aside, it’s still great fun. There’s lobsters and crab, cuttlefish in the kelp, big grey, green and brown fish and curious seals who like to race alongside you showing off their aquatic talents. Another bonus for me is that there are less people about. Drift dives need a current whereas if you’re diving a wreck or practising your buddy breathing, a current is what you do not want. So most dives are scheduled around the tidal window. You enter the water as the tide is slowing, enjoy you sunken boat and aim to be back as the tide begins picking up again. I remember many dives where the small window meant the dive site could look like a supermarket car park with dive boats battling for space over the wreck. On a few occasions I even managed to ascend the wrong anchor line and climb into some other clubs boat. But as we’d all come from the same launch site, I would generally end up close to where I started and got to chat with some other divers on the trip back. So with all the boats ashore when the current is running, a drift dives gives you a bit of solitude.
Because you are underwater and moving along, your support boat has to follow you so you don’t run into any trouble and it can see where you are when it’s time to pick you up. It follows you by the use of a surface marker bouy which you have tethered to your kit. The bouy itself is generally in the ‘diver down’ colours so other watercraft know to give you a bit of room. I do have one of these but managed to misplace it the day before. Not wanting to miss out on things I called a mate to see if he had one. He didn’t, but he did have an inflatable sex doll, Debbie I think was her name, he’d got her from his stag night a few months back and she was still in his garage along with the ‘L’ plate stuck to her chest. That’d do I thought, after all, the support boat would always be close so all should be okay. I inflated the doll on the drive down using my air cylinder to check whether Deb was seaworthy. Arriving in Weymouth she needed a top up, so a few more blasts from the cylinder and her perky little breasts were back to their full glory.
We’d planned our dive to run along the cliff line. The current would be fairly quick and I knew the seals would get curious and soon come out to play. Buddy checks all done, we slipped into the water and began our descent.
I love this part of the dive, looking up, watching my bubbles and looking into the blue nothingness of the ocean. Well, green nothingness in the UK mostly. We hit our depth and within minutes seals were dancing and weaving between us. It was a great experience, one where time vanishes and the moment absorbs you. Maybe 20 minutes we had been down when the line to the surface began being pulled hard. I guessed the support boat were calling us, urgently it seemed as I was being quite literally dragged to the surface. Looking up I could see the boat, but next to it was another boat, a much, much bigger one.
We surfaced, our little inflatable dwarfed by the menacing hulk that was the Coastguard rescue boat. I unclipped myself and climbed aboard, no they yanked me aboard. I guessed their mood was one of anger and annoyance. But them being the ‘officials’ and me not wanting to start anything, I let them shove me about and lead me below to a room where the captain was waiting. A man of few words it seemed. “Sit there and shut the f#%* up!” was the first thing he said followed by “You two w@#*&>s are going to get a well deserved kicking for this and I hope they make you pay the costs for this silly joke of yours.”
It turned out that someone walking their dog on the cliff had spotted our Debbie floating and, her being out to sea bobbing about all pink and fleshy coloured, it looked to them like it could be a person. Worried that it was a dead body, they called the police who called the Coastguard who quite rightly launched an urgent rescue and recovery mission. They were really not pleased to find that the panic was all over a blow up sex doll and were even less pleased that it was being used as a surface marker bouy for two brain-dead halfwit divers who should have had at least a slim idea that Debbie could, from a distance, like from the cliff tops, look like a real person. Back on dry land we were met by the police and their flashing blue lights, a crowd of curious onlookers wondering what was going on, an official from the town hall and a journalist who was relieved there was no dead body after all and over the moon that he now had the scoop of the summer for the local newspaper.
We were fined for wasting the rescue services time, Debbie was confiscated and we were banned from the town, the police, in their car with blue flashing lights, followed us to the town edge to make sure we drove off into the distance, glad, no doubt, to see the back of us. In 2011 I wrote to them asking if the ban was still being enforced as I wanted to build some sandcastles on the beach with my son. They never replied. I have since built some great sandcastles on the beaches in southern Spain instead. Any thoughts I had of returning to Weymouth have gone as the Spanish coast provides far more interesting dive experiences, the sand is more ‘sandy’ and the weather needs no mention. My son and I, away from the eyes of his mother of course, once built a ‘sand-woman’ in homage to Debbie complete with open mouth, embracing arms and spread legs. We did hide her modesty with some shells though as I didn’t want to be drawn into a educational lesson type moment with my son and the thought of the beach police fining and banning us from the town would see me on the family naughty step for eternity.