Dad's old suit still fits the bill

19:40, Oct 18 2012
Paul Watson
Cray catch: Paul Watson holding a couple of large crays he caught in the mid-1950s in the Tory Channel.

I had an interesting chat with my father this week about an old photo I have of him in an odd-looking wetsuit.

I asked him what it was and he informed me it was actually a dry suit.

He got talking about the suit and that brought back other memories.

It turns out he was quite the adventurer, something which has never really changed now that I think about it. He told me stories of his diving adventures with friends Allan Perano and Ian Kenny, when they used to dive for profit after their normal work day.

All sorts of dives and the more he told me the more I realised no-one could possibly it do now with all the regulations, and in truth probably just as well.

He recalled times when they had to plant gelignite around the base of old wharf piles, then blow them out. They purchased the explosives from town with just a signature.


Other times when he had been lowered down head-first into pile-casing cylinders to hook up clam buckets that had come undone while removing mud for the piles to be poured into. I can barely imagine what that must have felt like - certainly it would take some intestinal fortitude.

Other times they would dive down to bulldozers and tractors that had fallen off barges so they could be recovered. They also were called frequently to recover tools and other gear that had been dropped into the water while workmen were constructing the wharves in Picton harbour.

If that wasn't enough, he told me about the gear they were diving in. His first wetsuit was his father's woollen long johns and for some reason he said they were cold in winter.

He also told me that they had some of the first scuba gear in Marlborough, some of it was even gear he made.

He remembers making up breathing systems, including regulators and compressors, that they used when cutting off piles under water with handsaws while wearing gumboots with lead around their ankles to keep them on the bottom.

Once the piles had been cut through, the offcut popped to the surface, which gives you some idea of the weight they must have needed to stay down themselves.

I can hear some of you murmuring in disbelief and, if that's the case, you may just need to pop in and have a coffee with Dad one day to hear the stories for yourself. He still has his old dive journals, which I better read myself.

This was all told in a pretty short time and really needs delving into further, as stories like these sure open your mind up to what some people have achieved in their lifetimes, much of it only remembered by themselves, but this doesn't lessen the things they did by any amount, in fact it is quite inspiring.

He recalled how the three men had all worked together at Cuddons and the photo is of him on a Cuddons fishing trip up Tory Channel where he also had a dive.

I have found this all very interesting.

A few weeks back I had been telling of my new modern wetsuit that was the latest technology - yada yada yada - and here is my own father pioneering scuba diving with his friends, in dry suits no less.

Funny how we think we are evolving when, really, there is not much new under the sun, just differences.

What I also found interesting is that, thinking about it, I only know my father from my childhood until now, and have little knowledge of what he did before I was born.

Everyone is in a similar situation to me, even my own children. What it does mean is that we have even more interesting things to learn about our parents, and the previous generations, if we are willing to ask them.

We might find that they have some very good advice from their own experiences that we didn't know they had, that might even mean they sometimes knew what they were talking about as we were growing up, and they were trying to teach us.

But we knew that all along, which is why we were all such good children.

On reflection I can see now that many of the things I do and have done are in part because of the same spirit that Dad has, which through association has rubbed off on me.

Thanks Dad.


The Marlborough Express