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Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Through HWSAC (your local BSAC club), you can enjoy the full range of club and training activities - including specialist skill development courses - as well as weekend dive trips, diving holidays and social activities.

Dive Tales

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been dropped onto one of the usual suspects in Portland Harbour over the years – the vast majority of times (and certainly all for the past few years) have been to cover off a range of Ocean or Sports Diver lessons, and so the focus has been on the skills and buddy, rather than the wreck itself.

This weekend, despite a spot of rain and slight breeze I dived one harbour wreck I never even knew existed and the Landing Craft / Bombardon unit without having the whole dive focused elsewhere.    I found out about the SS Cragside via a video on Youtube of all places – in 10 yrs, I never knew it was there, and am not aware of any Club trips when it had been dived so the curiosity levels were right up for something new and potentially interesting.

Dropping some test divers in on Saturday returned positive reviews, so as we dropped down the shot on Sunday morning I was curious to see what it was like.   The shot is tied into the bow section on its side about 12m down, with a drop of 3m to a silty seabed.   As with all the harbour wrecks silt is in abundance so fining action and good buoyancy control are essential to avoid the usual silt out within seconds.   We were lucky; no one else was on the site so were “blessed” with a murky 3m of viz (not bad given the surface conditions!).   The wreck is about the same length as the Countess of Erne, but is more broken up.   Starting from the bow, we slowly moved along the port side and into the wreckage investigating plenty of openings and large pieces of metal.   A range of fish were in residence (big, small, stripy and spotty) so full house on the Marine Identification bingo cards; I also saw a small black fish which is a new variation to me, plus numerous spider crabs dotted around the site.   Arriving at the stern, we worked our way around the deck level and towards the rudder and keel, to find a large prop still attached (albeit half buried in silt) and then moved along the starboard side of the hull back towards the bow.   More of the same on the return journey – crab, fish, wreckage and holes to poke into and the starboard anchor chain disappearing into the silt.   So 45mins after leaving the surface, we returned with a new site in the log book, a new fish for the bingo card and hopefully a new and interesting alternative location for training/ poor weather.

The second dive was on the Landing Craft.   The simple plan was to get along the “big skip” and across to the Bombardon unit for a root around.   As before, a good layer of silt across everything meant a bit of care was necessary, but also we had quite a light 3m viz.   As we left the bow, I started to wonder if this was the same wreck that I had dived so many times before – it seemed much bigger, there was a structure at the back I didn’t really remember, but the open engine hatch and line off the stern were still there so it must have been the same one.   Well, we weren’t after the Landing Craft so we pushed across to the Bombardon unit and for the first time I actually started to see the structure and detail, rather than just a large lump of metal covered in silt.   A trip along the full length and back over the top again revealed fish, holes, crabs and the possibility of some light penetration.   Maybe it was more light, maybe the lack of silt in the water or maybe it was just focusing on the wreck rather than some other task – but whilst clearing my safety stop after 45mins I found myself starting to think about coming back with some additional bits of kit (pony and wreck line) to have a rummage in some of the “dark bits”.

We are all often dismissive of the harbour wrecks as being a bit plain or “done it hundreds of time”, but this weekend made me wonder whether actually all that is needed to make them interesting (or challenging) again is to set yourself an objective for the dive.   Something as simple as “not disturbing any silt” or “finding another fish for the bingo card” gives a purpose for the dive.   Or focusing on finding the detail on a wreck – when viz is poor, all sorts of interesting things pop out of the “bigger picture”.

Maybe I am late to the party on this one, but I am sure there are others out there that could turn a potentially mundane/ repetitive stop gap dive into something much more fulfilling with a little goal setting in advance.

Oh, and if anyone knows what that black fish was feel free to let me know (not that I’ll remember)….
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