Diving - The adventure continues!
Diving with the Dolphins, early 2017
After our trip to Lanzarote in 2016, there were a couple of November dives in Vobster, where the visibility was remarkably good, before my dive gear was (except for the odd pool evening) packed away for the winter months.
2017's diving started towards the end of March with a quick bimble in Wraysbury with John and Julian, really just to get back up to speed.
Julian, Paul and Darren had arranged a weekend expedition to Newhaven with our RIB as part of their Advanced Diver training and this occured at the back end of April.
We stayed in a very nice B&B and were greeted by blue skies and flat seas when we launched. Unfortunately, as the aim is to locate and dive unknown sites, our first attempt to find the Lancer 2 wreck was a total failure.
Our GPS said we were in position, but the sonar showed nothing. We decided to drop in anyway, but, sadly, it was the sonar that proved the most accurate as a 30 minute circular search revealed nothing of interest.
Rather dejectedly we adjourned to a cafe, awaiting Darren's late arrival.
Over lunch and a cup of tea, we discussed the repeated failure to locate wrecks with our existing equipment and the suggestion that "there must be something better and more modern available at affordable prices these days" was made.
Darren then said "There is!" and went on to describe CHIRP units and we all decided to take a look in the local chandlers to see what they had to offer.
It proved to be a bit of an Aladin's cave and we had units from a couple of hundred pounds to a couple of thousand to choose from.
After some umming and ahing, we all agreed that having a RIB with no decent navigation/sonar was pointless and we settled on a mid priced unit on offer. It offered Sonar and 'Look Down' as well as GPS.
The challenge for the rest of the afternoon was to remove our old kit and fit the new one, so we set to and, whilst we weren't diving, I think we all enjoyed the exercise of stripping out the old unit and fitting the new one.
We had it fitted by 5PM so set out for a quick sea trial to make sure it worked. With the GPS showing a route (Sat Nav Style) and sonar seemingly showing a reasonable depth below us, we headed out to check some of the sites we had marked to dive that weekend.
Our first visit was the marks for the Lancer 2 and this time, the new plotter revealed a distinct rise in the seabed beneath us. We repeated the exercise on the marks for the City of Brisbane wreck, with similar success and so adjourned feeling happy with our day's work even if we'd not achieved much diving!
We had a very hot curry that evening in Newhaven, but were out looking to dive the sites with our new plotter the next morning.
Darren wasn't feeling well, whether the effects of the curry or something else, so decided not to join us on the boat (he hadn't intended to dive as I recall), so the 5 of us set out to dive on whatever was showing up at the marks for the City Of Brisbane.
Paul coxed whilst Julian and John and Cameron and I made up two buddy pairs. We easily located the site and marveled as our sonar showed the shot line as we dropped it in.
Short video from Newhaven
Dropping down the line revealed we'd done an excellent job of shotting the target and that the new plotter was already paying for itself as we were led straight onto a fairly large wreck, alive with fish and probably the biggest Lobster I have ever seen!
We kept the dive short as we intended to also visit the Clodmore on our single tanks.
Once again, we quickly located something at the expected co-ordinates using our new plotter and this time, just John, Cameron and I quickly descended to take a look and confirm it was, indeed, a wreck.
It looked a good size, the shot being under some plates alongside a boiler. We only had a little air, so the dive was restricted to just 17 minutes, but it was enough to determine it was an interesting wreck, worth a longer look on a return visit.
From the AD trainees' point of view, the weekend was a great success and from a club point of view we'd spent a good chunk of money, but got a bit of equipment that allowed us to find dive sites with much greater success; something that should encourage more to dive with us more often, so it should be an investment that will pay for itself in time.
Next up was a trip to Portland, now that our RIB was relocated.
I was responsible for planning a 2 day dive trip at a known location as part of my own, ongoing Advanced Diver training.
There is a surprising amount to arrange to get half a dozen or so people onto a RIB and onto a dive site.
We needed to dive in 'waves' as we had no dedicated Cox for the weekend, so it took an age to get people to the site, into the water and out of the water, such that after an aborted attempt to dive the 'Spaniard'/'Enecuri' up by the outer wall in zero (and I do really mean ZERO) vis and then doing a truncated dive on the ever reliable (and reasonably clear on this dive) Countess of Erne, it was lunch time and some people hadn't dived at all.
By the time they'd dived the Countess (by now the vis had deteroiated (it wasn't us, honest!) after lunch we called it day.
Cameron, the club Diving Officer joined us and proposed, with great weather forecast, that we dive the other side of Portland Bill as the vis would be good and it's not often calm enough to make it around to Bill.
I wasn't 100% convinced it was a good idea, giving the inexperience of some of the other divers, but the lure of good vis and some interesting wrecks was too tempting and we motored around in lovely conditions.
Sadly, we failed to find the James Fennel amongst the huge boulders littering the sea bed, but it was a nice enough dive, with 5M+ vis and a fair number of fish. Again, by the time two waves were done it was lunch time, but we were still pretty much on schedule.
The struggle to get cylinders up the steep and loose Chesil Beach, to the fill station and back, while we ate lunch chewed up time though and we were to be very late back.
We did, however, successfully locate the wreck of the Gertrude (I dived in the second wave at about 16;45) and again enjoyed excellent vis and plenty of fish.
The sea had got a little choppy by the time I surfaced and we had a rather bumpy ride back as far as the tip of the Bill - George, the ever patient boatyard man, didn't grumble too much about our late return, even though he missed his dinner!
We really MUST call him if we're going to be late in future!
The two days had been a bit of a struggle trying to run multiple waves, especially with less experienced divers, but everyone got 3 dives and we did have some great vis.
More importantly for me, I got the weekend signed off towards my AD qualification.
Some other club members went to Babbacombe for a weekend, but I decided to pass on it and Julian and I took an OD Trainee, Dawn, to Wraysbury to complete her training exercises and qualify as a diver.
The first dive gave us some decent vis for Wraysbury, up to 7M at times I recorded, but the second was murkier as it often is, although we saw a decent sized shoal of Tench at the 'Cave' complex and the Pike was beneath me near the end of the dive. We'd briefly seen the large Carp on the first dive.
L to R, Paul, John and Julian on the club RIB
We had a single day's diving in early June on the RIB at Portland.
John and Dave Price on the Landing Craft
The Sir Tristam sitting in Portland Harbour
With fewer divers (just 4 and someone coxing), we didn't have to worry about waves of divers and we managed two great dives. First was on the Bombardon Unit and Landing Craft (a bit murky, but a decent dive) and the second on the Dredger outside the harbour wall, which provided excellent vis and plenty of life, including Lobster, Edible and Spider Crabs and Blennie as was well as other, larger fish, including Bib.
Large Wrasse near the Dredger
Wrasse and the wreck of the Dredger
Lobster nestles in the safety of the Harbour Wall
Bib nusery in amongst the rocks on the base of the Harbour Wall
A week later, Mandy and I were off to Naples and I was hoping to dive a 2,000 year old town!