Diving - The adventure continues!
COVID19 restrictions meant we couldn't realistically dive until the end of March 2021.
On the very first day that Wraysbury was allowed to open (Monday 29th March), we returned there along with a lot of other divers keen to be back in the water.
I dived with Chris Howells, who had joined our club from Richmond as we dive more than they do!
He dives with a rebreather and so we did a bit of a run through of his equipment and set off from the pier away from the shop.
We bimbled around for 40 minutes, visiting a lot of the 'attractions' and then came out, happy just to be diving again.
A second dive towards the south end of the lake was less enjoyable as the visibility was terrible and we got separated at one point, but we did find the 737 cockpit section on this dive, so not a total waste.
As with many others there (Geoff, Dawn and Julian came along, too, although Ria and Rohit had to abandon their plans after a test revealed they had had COVID, so needed to undertake a medical before diving) we were just glad to be back in the water and were pleased to find out equipment in working order and our diving skills not totally eroded!
Over Easter, I'd taken the opportunity, whilst visiting my Mum in Dorset, to run down to check our RHIB in Portland. The expensive cover we had bought the previous season had proved a good investment as the boat was dry and in good condition, so I jumped started the engine and ran it for a bit after pumping up the tubes.
A week later, a small group of us went back and took the boat the relatively short distance out to the Binnendyk wreck.
Julian and I dived together and had a good dive.
At first sight the wreck seemed a little gloomy, but after a few minutes our eyes adjusted and we found a lot of the wreck, including the boilers and a large expanse of deck.
There were the usual sightings of many truck tyres and also a section of heavy, but quite small, iron plates (possibly tank tracks?).
There was plenty of life around, 3 Congers, a couple of Lobsters and lots of Bib and large Wrasses (plus the usual smaller ones).
The 3-4M vis was not stunning as water was 'snotty' already, but enough to find our way around in.
Diving to a decent depth felt fine after a reasonably long lay off from ocean diving, but RHIB diving in general, especially in chillier water, felt tiring today (everyone agreed).
My weighting felt a bit strange on this dive - I felt a bit overweighted (at 9KG) on bottom, but at the very end of safety stop, I felt a little underweighted. Although I was sure that would resolve itself, I thought I may go back to 8KG for next ocean dives.
Those dives were a couple of weeks later on the RHIB again, doing a dive at Balaclava Bay and then the Blackhawk Bow, out beyond Durdle Dor.
First was a bit of a bimble in Balaclava Bay as Rohit, Ria and Darren were diving for the first time in the sea this season.
Darren and I dropped in by one of the buoys around the 'dive park' (of which we saw nothing), but found ourselves right on top of the Dredger Wreck which I'd neve seen so much of if I had seen it before (I did a dive on it once, but there was only a small upright section visible).
We explored that for a few minutes and then went along the wall a little way, where we saw a number of good sized Ballen Wrasse, lots of spider crabs (some a good size) and other fish, including a small Bib Nursery.
We tried swimming away from the wall to find the 'park', but all we saw out there was sand and crabs, so we turned back and ended back at the Dredger.
Vis was nice 7-8M I reckon, but the water was still quite nippy and I was glad of my dry gloves.
After lunch and a regas at Castletown, I drove out to the Blackhawk Bow, seeing 30Kts on the Sat Nav Guidance speedo, which I'd never seen before.
Mostly reasonably calm, just a little chop and a couple of big wakes, especially one that I hit hard coming out of the harbour by the Countess of Erne.
Dawn, Ria, Julian and Rohit went in first and reported great viz on the wreck, which Darren and I found when we descended.
It wasn't quite as good as Dawn and I had once seen, but you could make out a large area and the wreckage around it.
We swam around for a while, spotting large Ballen Wrasse and other fish, including a Conger well hidden in some wreckage.
I then spotted an anchor chain running out and, assuming there was an anchor at the end set off down it. It went a long way, looping back on itself and there was no anchor at the end!
I started back, leading Darren, thinking we'd recross the chain, but we didn't, so we just swam across the stoney ridges and sand for a while, before Darren launched his DSMB and we surfaced after 35 minutes
The next weekend was windy, but Dawn, Julian and I did a couple of dives in Wraysbury, mainly for Dawn to practice with her Twinset.
The vis was variable, but good in places, but the most noticeable thing was how little life we saw.
I saw one live and one dead Crayfish and we did see a large Pike amongst the 'Boat Graveyard', but there were no Perch or Carp around and none of the usual regiments of Crayfish.
Swanage Weekend, 22nd & 23rd May
Our first venture out onto a hardboat was set for the 22nd and 23rd May.
As the weekend drew near it was clear that the weather wasn't going to be good, with low pressures dominating and high winds making diving looking unlikely.
For a variety of reasons our numbers on the saturday reduced from 7 to just 4, but another couple joined us on the boat.
This weekend was planned as an opportunity for people to get back on hardboats or less experienced divers to gain experience of them, but in the end it was Geoff, Dawn, Julian and I on the boat, all with plenty of hardboat experience and having dived recently.
Still the conditions limited our opportunities to go far, so a dive on the Valentine Tanks and a drift over the Peverill Ledges seemed a good way to spend a day.
The dive on the Tanks was pretty good - With only 6 of us on the boat, we were not at all congested around the two wrecks.
Dawn and I dropped down the shot and then swam to the first tank which was the one with the turret in place.
We knew we were close when a huge shoal of Bib appeared ahead, they surround both tanks.
We soon spotted a large lobster in the front of the tank hull and a number of Congers, a couple of large ones, hidden under and in the hull.
There were also a couple of large Ballen Wrasse on this wreck.
We then returned along marker rope to shotline and on, far further, to the second tank, again meeting a Bib Shoal as we arrived. Again, there were some Congers hidden in the wreck.
After checking out the separated and upturned turret, we swam back to the shot, where we saw Julian and Geoff ascending, but we had air left so returned to the 1st tank for another quick look around (a large Conger stuck his head out of the rear of the tank to take a look at us), before returning and ascending the shot.
Even holding the shot we moved up and down between 4.5 and 6.5 metres on our safety stop and it was considerably choppier when we surfaced than when we'd entered.
It had been a good dive, though, with enough vis to enjoy the tanks, few divers and loads of life.
Happy divers - Me, Julian, Geoff and Dawn on Vyper
We returned to Swanage and had our 12l cylinders refilled at Diver's Down and then were back for our second dive on Peverill Ledges.
We all jumped in together with our DSMBs inflated.
I had planned to inflate mine on the seabed, but it turned out well that I didn't as after descending a few metres, the real jammed. There seemed no obvious cause, but we spent some time unravelling the line before it suddenly cleared and posed no further problem.
The dive itself was disappointing as the bad weather of the previous few days had stirred up the seabed, making it dark and murky throughout.
Luckily we both had torches with us and used those to provide a little illumination, spotting a few fish and a crab in the limited range we had, but neither of us minded coming up after 30 minutes of diving what I described as 'a night dive in Pea Soup'.
Ironically, the short trip back was in glorious sunshine and the evening was equally lovely, Julian, Dawn and I having dinner in a pub, but Geoff went home.
Between the clouds, Swanage looked lovely.
The following day was back to high winds and rain, so there would have been no chance of diving, which was a shame as we had planned to dive a new wreck to us, the Clan Mavey, and visit the Kyarra.
However, reports were that the vis on the Kyarra was poor, so we probably didn't miss much.