Throughout the winter period many divers are forced to change their normal diving routines choosing alternative locations. Whilst inland quarries are convenient for training they soon loose their appeal as the sea's enchanting chorus beckons ever louder. The choices available for those living on the east coast are to travel down to the south coast or go north to Scotland where the waters may be a little colder in winter but where the underwater visibility remains clear. From Whitby either option offers the same advantages with very little differences in the travel distances to really separate them. I enjoyed many trips made to the west coast of Scotland and the bountiful wrecks along Oban and the Sound of Mull. The north east coast of Scotland may not have all that the west coast has to offer but it does represent shorter travel times and some good shore dives.
It is quite likely that divers browsing through my website will have dived "Cornwall" as it has long been a mecca for divers, some may even know of a dive centre located a short distance from the infamous Manacles" called Dive Action. I recall Gary well as he essentially cut his teeth on running a dive centre here in Whitby, see his sign from the shop (right). Many of the services he offers today originated here (although mixed gas diving was in its infancy then) I do however, notice that the hyperbaric chamber he had here does not feature on his current website? He always had significant amount of commercial diving equipment during my time with him he had no frequent commercial contracts to speak of. I used to dive with Dive Action as Whitby has so many unique wrecks at all depths and was soon accepted as a regular so much so that when the conditions were right mid week dives soon became part of my routine.
Gary was a semi professional drummer and there were times when he was away on cruise liners on one such occasion his usual instructor was away in Malta and I was asked to run the shop for a couple of weeks. The two weeks went well for both of us running into a number of years. I was soon actively involved in cylinder testing and regulator servicing whilst finding time to fit this around conducting try dives, running complete diver training courses, remedial training and selected skill development courses. Gary was a very knowledgeable mentor and when his enthusiasm was peaked you couldn't ask for a better instructor. The arrangement also worked equally well for Gary as he felt comfortable leaving me with the responsibility of running his business and the benefits of maintaining the shop services. Throughout my time at the shop I serviced regulators and tested cylinders belonging to many of the local dive clubs and those in the surrounding area. The visiting representatives from the equipment suppliers made a welcome break as did the occasional hyperbaric chamber dives, I'm sure the clubs who experienced them enjoyed them as much as I did?
I was happy behind the wheel of the inflatable's or the hard boat and if Gary was present I was able to get into the water myself for a dive. I was not selective about who I dived with as long as they were qualified and did not object to my presence, it allowed me a diverse range of buddies.
Unfortunately the diving season here is limited to a short season, something that is not really helpful to the finances of a dive centre business, whereas southern based centres have a beneficial all year dive season. The regulator servicing was mostly the domain of the winter period when diving activities were scaled down, but this was seldom enough to maintain a viable profit making business. A dive shop in Thornaby in Cleveland which was cutting back its services had sold its compressor to a new southern based dive centre (Porthkerris Divers) and had asked Gary to go down with it to install it. With very little happening in Whitby we were able to make a number of trips down to Cornwall to help set up not only the compressor but also the dive school. During one visit we ventured into the water, unfortunately it was not long after a spell of poor weather and the dive was hardly encouraging, something Gary and I often joked about. He was approached about joining with the centre but to begin with he was able to dispel any move south, the new centre owner Mike Anselmi even made it through to Whitby for PADI to BSAC cross over training so that he could begin the first steps in instructing in his newly formed school.
We had a very poor summer and the onset of winter eventually convinced Gary to give the idea of a joint partnership more serious consideration. Lured by the prospect of a lucrative partnership with Porthkerris Dive Centre, Gary eventually decided to leave Whitby around 1996. Having ran the dive centre here and all its facilities whilst Gary was otherwise engaged my services were of great assistance to him, in fact during his relocation to Cornwall, I frequently travelled down to help him, however once I had served my purpose I heard less from Gary, his contact ceasing altogether shortly afterwards.
Gary's move to Cornwall and the joint partnership was not a happily enduring one and he chose to leave, setting up a new dive centre business as sole owner again. If my memory serves me right, Gary first took up residence in a holiday park for a time where the facilities were basic at best, they did however serve him adequately at the time or at least until he was able to find a more suitable base for his business, which I believe is now located in St. Keverne. I also know that since going to back to running his own business that Gary has consumed many people like me, people who joined with him to share the experience and the achievement, sadly not many if any last very long, though I really enjoyed my time despite it sometimes being one sided.
It is difficult to say with certainty how long his current centre has been established but there is no denying that his first endeavours were made here in Whitby! If I were to put a figure on his 'southern based' endeavours I would say that in one guise or another he has been in Cornwall for nearly two decades. There is no denying that his joint venture with Porthkerris Dive Centre was a really good move for him.
Despite his shortcomings Gary is a very experienced diver and knowledgeable instructor who is in a better position to capitalise on his skills in Cornwall with his business than here in Whitby were he began.
© Colin Brittain 1999 - 2013