or, How to plan a dive trip (or die trying)
This page is an attempt to collate all the wisdom earned from years of planning weekends away. In UCCSAC, you’ll always have the benefit of a bunch of experienced members who are almost always willing to give their time and the benefit of their experience; when in doubt, ask for help.
You don’t have to follow any of this advice, and it is worth exactly what you paid for it.
- Some rules of thumb
- Two months in advance
- One month in advance
- Two weeks in advance
- One week in advance
- During the weekend
Some rules of thumb (back to top)
We have a handful of locations that we visit every year; the Facebook group is a good place to look for suggestions if you want to pick a reliable location. One thing to bear in mind is that UCCSAC’s membership skews strongly towards inexperienced divers (fewer than 20 dives logged). If you are organising a weekend that’s open to all club members, you need to make sure that wherever we’re going has suitably shallow dive sites. West Cork and Kerry are good for this, which is one reason that we take a lot of trips to that neck of the woods.
Here are a few on-line resources to whet your appetite:
- DUSAC’s amazingly detailed guide to Irish dive sites
- TempoWeb’s list of dive sites in Ireland
- NUIG SAC’s trip reports
Doesn’t matter, for the most part. The usual “diving season” lasts (depending on who you ask) from March to October, but we’ve had successful dive weekends in every calendar month. January and February can be dicey for weather, with winter storms; May is tricky, because people are either sitting exams or cramming in the studying they didn’t do during the rest of the year. Otherwise, have at it. If it matters to you, the water is usually at its coldest in February and March.
Ultimately, you will almost certainly find people willing to go diving with you as long as you are willing to organise it.
How many people?
This is up to you. How much of a logistical headache are you willing to put up with?
Most trip complements fall into the 8 – 16 range. With fewer than eight, you’ll struggle to get things done during the weekend. More than sixteen and you’re going to have difficulty finding accommodation, lifts, boat space, and cylinders.
Twelve people is probably the perfect number for a weekend away. This is two full boatloads of divers, enough people to help out with all the jobs that need doing, and a large enough gang for some memorable craic.
Two months in advance (back to top)
This really means “at least two months before”. It does no harm to give as much notice as you can, although people’s plans (and availability) do change as the date grows nearer.
Book the UCC jeep
No jeep means no boat, which severely constrains our diving; not everywhere has worthwhile shore diving. Contact the P.E. Office (phone and email details are available on their contact page) and they’ll explain how to book the jeep. Do this as soon as possible; the jeep is a limited resource and in perpetually high demand.
If you have your own 4WD with a towbar, there’s nothing to stop you from using that instead, but while driving the jeep people are insured under UCC’s policy. Nothing less than a 4WD will cut the mustard. It’s not just towing the boat to and from the dive site; we also have to bring it up and down the slipways.
Choose a location
Having the power to choose where you’ll be diving is your reward for the pain of handling the logistics. If you’ve enjoyed the diving somewhere in the past and would like to return, you probably won’t hear any complaints; if you’d like to blaze a trail and dive somewhere new, then go for it (although this might not be the best idea for your first time organising a weekend).
For anything more than an hour’s drive from Cork, people will need somewhere to stay. We traditionally stay both Friday and Saturday night (and Sunday night on bank holiday weekends). In the places we visit regularly we have places we usually stay — big dining rooms and and water heaters are a must — so feel free to ask for advice.
If you’re scouting yourself, TripAdvisor isn’t a bad resource. In general, look for, in descending order of preference:
- self-catering holiday homes; then
- hostels (not great; we have to behave ourselves); then
- B&B’s (nice, but expensive for students).
Most of the places we usually stay work out at €20 per person per night, which would mean around €320 for a house that sleeps eight for a two-night stay. This figure has crept up in places over the last few years, which is OK, but make sure you have a ball-park figure you can give to people when you start publicising the weekend.
At this point, you need to phone up (don’t simply send an email to someone and wait for a response) to make sure there are vacancies and find out if they need a deposit to secure the booking. If no deposit is needed, go ahead and put our name down. If they need a deposit, you’ll need to collect money from divers beforehand and pay by cheque or credit card from the P.E. Office. Do not let yourself be left personally out of pocket (this is paramount); do not let the club pay for people to dive.
Let people know
Some people will commit straight away. If you’re flooded, you can get people to put in a deposit (of at least 50% of the cost of their accommodation) at the P.E. Office.
Give people a rough price for the weekend. Here’s the kind of thing we usually include:
- You should already know how much the accommodation will cost per person per night (as above).
- Add roughly €15/person/day for food.
- Add an extra €10 – €15 for the cost of towing the boat from Cork to the dive site and back.
- Dives are currently working out at about €15 apiece (for fuel and tank fills).
People will then be able to decide how much diving their own budgets will stand.
How we get the word out to people is changing. At the moment, the Facebook group is the best resource, but not everybody is on Facebook. (Honestly!) If you have an account on the website, making a new post will send the message out via Twitter and to the Facebook page. Somebody on the committee will know how to bounce the message to the (closed) mailing lists that we maintain for trainees and new members. One day all of this will be simpler.
You need to know the following:
- Phone number
- Whether they need a lift; if not, whether they can give lifts to others
- Any special dietary concerns (within reason; we try to accommodate people but we are absolutely not a nut-free environment)
Start getting organised
You are going to fail if you don’t keep on top of the organisation. At the very least, you’re going to be responsible for making sure that everyone who’s on the weekend has (a) a place to stay and (b) a way to get there. If there are uncertified trainees coming, you need to make sure that there are instructors who can dive with them. If the boat is coming, you’ll need certified coxswains (at least 2) to drive it.
Setting up a spreadsheet is extremely helpful; here’s an old example, with names removed to protect the guilty:
If you don’t already know the list of UCCSAC coxswains off by heart, you might need to add a field.
One month in advance (back to top)
About four weeks before you’re planning to go, you need to start making your plans concrete.
If you haven’t already got a house (or two) full of committed divers, get onto email, etc., to remind everyone. People are busy and tend to forget. Give them a deadline of a week in which to respond in order to motivate them… but be aware that you will get stragglers over the next few weeks as the date gets closer; do your best to accommodate them.
Make sure that the place you thought you booked is still booked in your name. Give the owner/agent a ring to make sure. Seriously. If you need to pay for the accommodation in advance, you almost certainly need to do so within the next week, which segues into…
You are probably going to have to pay for the accommodation fairly soon, especially if this is high season. It’s not unreasonable to ask for a non-refundable deposit of 100% of the accommodation cost. The general rule in dive clubs, dive centres, and dive boats everywhere in the world is: if you book, you pay, or it’s your responsibility to find someone to fill your space. It’s up to you if you want to be more generous than this, but have a firm plan of what you’re going to do when people suddenly pull out.
Two weeks in advance (back to top)
At this point, you have a list of people who are coming. Start delegating. Anybody who’s been on a couple of trips away should be at least competent to take on one of the following jobs. Hound them to do it.
By definition, everybody travelling down is either driving themselves, or being driven by someone else. We tend to travel to places that are exceptionally poorly served by public transport; absolutely do not rely on people to be able to get buses to wherever you’re travelling.
The spreadsheet that you put together two weeks ago is going to help you here.
Do the food shopping
Traditionally, we don’t cook an evening meal on the Friday, since people arrive down at varying times. We cook dinner on Saturday (and Sunday, if it’s a bank holiday weekend), and do sandwiches for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Don’t forget the vegetarians. If you haven’t done this before, delegate the job to someone who has and then shadow them. Here are some guidelines:
- Sandwiches: 2 per person per day. Ham, cheese, lettuce. An astonishingly large number of people don’t like tomatoes.
- Dinners: protein and carbs. Pasta dishes, rice, and curries all go down well. Privilege quantity over quality: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine,” as somebody once said.
Your budget should be roughly €10 per person per day. Make sure to collect receipts for the shopping; you will need to be reimbursed.
Write a jobs list
Here is a (probably incomplete list) of what needs to be done over the weekend.
- Clean-up (each morning): 2 or more people
- Sandwiches (each morning): 2 or more people
- Launching the boat (each morning): 3 people, including 1 insured driver and 1 coxswain
- Refuelling the boat (each afternoon): 1 or more people, including someone with a car
- Filling tanks (each afternoon): 2 or more people, including 1 insured driver
- Retrieving the boat (each evening): 3 people, including 1 insured driver and 1 coxswain
- Cooking dinner (each evening): 2 or more people
- Clean-up (each evening): 2 or more people
Do not assign jobs to instructors, if you can possibly avoid it. They will be doing enough work diving with trainees, and they probably simply won’t do what you tell them. That’s old people for you.
If you don’t assign jobs to people, the jobs will still get done, just by the usual core of people, who will ultimately get burnt out and disillusioned and write heavily sarcastic guides to dive planning. Or, even worse, you’ll end up filling the gaps yourself.
Assign Dive Officers of the Day
If you’re organising the rest of the weekend, you should try to save yourself the stress of organising the days’ diving. Nominate a Leading Diver or instructor to check tides and weather and assemble a dive plan and emergency action plan. If you are intent on doing this yourself, then take a look at the Dive Planning chapter of the Club Diver handout and DUSAC’s guide to planning dives, then either (a) strongly reconsider or (b) best of luck.
One week in advance (back to top)
Cover any missing parts of the above. You probably left out one of the steps; fix it now. You should definitely have made sure that everybody has a way of getting to their destination and back, and that they will have somewhere to stay. This is your last chance to organise things without a gun to your head, so take it.
During the weekend (back to top)
Good luck; we’re all counting on you.
Pack the jeep
The weekend starts with packing the jeep with gear. You can do this on the Thursday or the Friday night; most prefer doing it on the Thursday. Everybody who’s coming must attend or go to the trouble of coming up with a plausible excuse; if people don’t show, don’t put them on the dive plan.
You will need to bring full tanks. You (or your delegate) should arrive early to start the compressor; this will save time.
Pack full suits. Match undersuits with tops, and make sure that there is a suit to fit everyone who is going. If people have to swap suits during the day, that’s something you can work around; if somebody needs an XL and there’s nothing in the jeep to fit them, then they’re sunk.
Bring weights. We rarely have enough to go round; we have never had too many.
Everything except for suits, lifejackets, weights, and tanks should go into the large blue boxes. Regulators and BCDs are robust but easily damaged in transit.
If you have not already collected money from everybody, do it on the Saturday night. Feel free to nominate somebody else to do this.
There will be unforeseen expenses; people who have been with the club for a while already understand this, and people who are new will learn. Bits of the boat break; petrol tanks spring a leak; we run short of O-rings. Collect receipts and do a whip-round.
Expect to be on point for anything that doesn’t go according to plan during the weekend. Keep your sense of humour and lean on other people for help to get things done. Delegate or die. Try to have fun. Do not, for example, put together a dive plan for the UC-42 and forget to include yourself.
The weekend finishes with unpacking the jeep and washing and hanging up the gear when we return to Cork. Again, people who dived over the weekend need to be there; give them a time to meet at the cages. If they don’t show, shame them publicly; this is deeply anti-social behaviour.