Diving - The adventure continues!
2022 Diving - Further UK diving
Swanage - April
After a few dives at inland site, the time came for our first sea dives.
I usually arrange a weekend in Swanage in the summer and in the last couple of years I've tried to arrange another for people looking for less challenging diving than we usually do in the summer.
Accommodation was a big issue (mostly around cost) over the couple of years of COVID-Mania, so I decided this year to arrange an easier first dive of the season day and a more challenging day at the end of the season, providing more variety, but also removing the need for expensive hotels or B&Bs.
April 9th was the date set for the easier day and I was pleased to get 8 club divers along, including 2 (Nigel and Ashley) who had never dived from a hardboat before.
The dives we chose were the Valentine Tanks and, after some discussion, the Fleur De Lys.
The tanks (there are 2) were amphibious prototypes that sank in trials in WW2 and are always a good dive as they're still recognisable as tanks and also have a good variety of life on them.
The Fleur on the other hand is not a popular dive amongst the club, Julian disaparingly referring to it as the 'Wheelie Bin' as it has seemed to be a tiny piece of wreckage on previous visits.
The day was bright and sunny, but quite cold when we arrived, with a 9:05 (revised to 9:15) ropes off time, but everyone seemed enthusiastic and looking forward to a dive in the sea.
As usual, I booked with Swanage Boat Charters who we've had good experiences with in the past.
The pier staff mentioned that, due to ongoing work, the boat would be leaving from the Divers Down jetty instead of the normal one, so I wandered down to take a look and spoke to Bryan, who explained that we were diving with his colleague Andy on Mary Jo.
The boat was full (12 divers) for the Valentine Tanks dive and we had a gentle and relaxing run out, as the current was still running on the wreck.
When we arrived it had dropped to slack water and some of the divers were quickly into the water.
Some video from our dives on the Valentine Tanks
I think Dawn, my buddy for the day, and I were next pair in, but we encountered divers from the other SBC boat, Viper, on their safety stops, so it took a little while for the two of us to reach the bottom. It was important not to risk coming off the line as it was soon clear than the visibility wasn't going to be good.
Vis was 2-3 metres, but OK on this dive, where the site is marked with ropes and 2 specific tanks.
There were lots of congers hiding in and under the tanks, some big Wrasse and the biggest Lobster I think I've ever seen in the back of the tank without the turret.
I was a bit of a mess on this dive, though. On reaching the bottom my DSMB was hanging loose from the reel and the bungy to hold it on wrapped around the rear dump valve on my BCD. Dawn managed to sort that out and then I had problems getting my torch refitted to the lanyard.
Although I felt OK when I was diving, all that messing about obviously used my air up quickly and I only had 40Bar back on the surface.
After the dive, we returned to the pier, unloaded our equipment and most of us got an air fill at Divers Down, ready for the Fleur dive later on.
Some of us wandered into town and had a snack lunch outside Greggs! John and Ashley went off to find Nicole's favourite Chocolate shop and returned with bags of overly rich goodies!
We returned to the pier, collected our filled cylinders and got ourselves ready.
Ropes off for the Fleur De Lys was at 1:30(ish, as Andy said) and it was just the 8 of us, plus one solo diver.
After my rather out-of-sorts first dive, I was keen to have a better one this time and Dawn and I were quickly off the boat and down the shot, this being around 13M (tanks were 15M to the seabed).
Being first there, the visibility was somewhat better than it had been on the Tanks where at least one boatload of divers had stirred up the bottom a little by the time we arrived.
It soon became clear that there is more to the Fleur De Lys wreck than I'd seen before!
I'd never seen so much of the wreck, including the bow, stern and propeller and what looked like a section of deck planking.
There wasn't a lot of life to be seen, but it was still a reasonably interesting dive.
After a couple of circuits of the small wreck, we swam onto the barge, but there wasn't much life on that either, so Dawn and I swam back to the Fleur De Lys, did another circuit of it and then resurfaced on the shot.
This had been a far more satisfactory dive from my own point of view and I felt far better about my performance on it.
After dekitting and packing the cars, we decided to stop in the Halfway Inn, between Corfe Castle and Wareham, but once we'd sat down a number of us stayed and ate dinner as well, getting home about 7:30PM.
It had been a long, but enjoyable, day (I was up at 5:15AM) and everyone said they'd enjoyed it, although there were some requests for the water temperature to be turned up for our next dive, it had been a chilly 9C!
Portland Harbour - April
A week earlier than the Swanage trip, fellow club member Darren and I had towed the RHIB down to Ferrybridge.
Aside from a miscue that led us into a tiny road in Wyke Regis, that required us to unhook the trailer and manually reverse around a corner, we had no problem getting it there, but on arrival I couldn't get the new radio to pickup any signals.
The week after Swanage, Paul, Dawn, Julian and I drove down to Portland hoping for a dive or two, but also aiming to sort the radio out (and do a few other prepatory jobs on the boat).
After some setup options were tried, we took the radio out and it became clear that the antenna was the issue.
We'd fitted a new one, and it worked holding the bare wire against the radio, but once fitted to the plug there was no signal.
After some time, we managed to get a good connection and the radio was working.
The other jobs were completed too, so we set out with the aim of locating and diving the Enecuri inside the Harbour Wall.
As a club, we have dived it a few times, but no-one had really bothered to remember where it was and the large boulders making up the wall make it hard to spot on the scanner.
Lovely Easter weather for diving
This time I had checked in my copy of Dive Dorset and we had a location on the wall to try. The location was described as 'where the wall drops down there is a red 83 marked on the wall'.
After a while, we found the definite drop in the wall, but there was no longer any sign of a red number, but we decided to give it a go.
Paul and I dropped in and descended the shot. At the bottom, my first fear was that we'd got nothing but boulders, but looking out, away from the wall, there was the unmistakable sight of wreckage a few metres away.
With an Easterly wind, vis was pretty good, around 4-5 metres, and we had no problem navigating the wreck.
First of all, we found ourselves at the bow and explored that, looking into the front and then going around the outside. The bow was still remarkably intact, with railings still there, for a ship that sank in 1900!
After that we started to swim aft.
I didn't spot any boilers or engine, perhaps they were salvaged, but we passed a fair amount of wreckage with some impressively sized Wrasse and hundreds of Blennies living around it.
Eventually, something large loomed ahead of us and we reached an impressively intact stern section.
Rising 4-5M from the seabed, the rudder and propeller were still in place and the rear deck was also intact with hatches still in place.
It was an rewarding dive and we circled it a couple of times in a 40 minute dive.
EDIT : The presence of the prop and rudder made me wonder and it seems that this isn't the Spaniard/Enecuri at all, but the Cragside - We'd made the same mistake before! So, we still need to find the exact location of the Enecuri, but do have a good location for the excellent Cragside wreck.
Visibilty in the sheltered harbour was great too!
Back on the RHIB, Dawn and Julian dropped in, while Paul and I ate our lunch and motored along to take a look at the 'hidden harbour' complex.
The Harbourmaster's boat was sitting in there, so we couldn't drive in for a close look.
After picking Dawn and Julian up, we headed back into Castletown and Paul and I refilled our cylinders.
In the morning, the Harbourmaster had come alongside and checked our diving permit for the harbour and we asked if he knew where the Enecuri was.
He told us it was by a 'beacon' (which it wasn't, being further north), but we figured there must be something there, so returned to check it out.
Firstly Paul and I dropped in nearby as there was a bouy on the surface, but it quickly became clear it only marked a lobster pot, so we returned to the boat and we shotted a location right by the beacon.
On the bottom, though, there was no sign of any wreck. We went south for a short while and saw nothing, so reversed direction and went north.
We passed a few collections of detritous and one looked like it may have been the wreckage of a small boat, it certainly had an engine, but nothing worth diving on.
After 30 minutes of fruitless searching we swam up the wall to 5M or so and swam gently along it on our safety stop.
By now it was 4PM and, as we'd found nothing on our dive, Dawn and Julian decided not to dive and we headed back to the boatyard.
Dawn got some boat handling time in too.
Enecuri (AKA The Spaniard, as it was a Spanish boat) Cragside had been a great dive, far better than the more often dived Countess of Erne, but the second dive had
been an unrewarding one. At least we know there's nothing to see in that section now.
Perhaps more importantly for 2022's diving, we had had a first successful day's diving on the RHIB, newly retubed and fitted with a new radio.
Many more trips will hopefully follow...