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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

Our ‘Wreckfest’ experiment, born out of an idea Gareth and Liam had last year, has proved a great success and more than delivered what it ‘said on the tin’. Over the 9 day trip we had 23 divers completing 148 dives on 16 sites (including 12 wrecks and I pier!) using 4 different hard boats out of Brighton, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Teignmouth. We were lucky – more than lucky – weather wise, with no dives blown out and the week ending with flat calm seas and glorious temperatures.

So here’s my take on the highlights of a great week:

Brighton (29th & 30th June)
Saturday was a beautiful day – and Seabreeze 3, a fast, twin hulled boat with a cruising speed of 18knots, acres of deck space and a rear transom lift,  proved a cracker. Skipper Terry set his stall out from the outset, threatening dire consequences for breaking his rules but then proving a joy to dive with once he’d got the measure of us as a group. We had a great dive on the Pentrych, a cargo ship sunk in 1918 by the UB40 ( which also sank the Salsette). A 20m dive with 6-8m viz, lots of life  and an interesting superstructure got us off to a great start. Mixed credits for the second dive though – those of us built like whippets picked up on a light drift, found 1-2m walls, crabs, flatties and a huge ray – whilst others settled for silt and sand!

Brighton on a Saturday night! Just the place for clean living guys and gals from the backwaters of Bucks more used to lights out at 10.00pm (on dive trips at least!). Shock, horror, en route back to Paskins Town House, our B&B, Alan insists on dragging us into the Camelford Arms – which the Gay Guide to Brighton proudly describes as the No1 ‘bear bar’ in the city. Having already eaten it’s a bit of a lame excuse that ‘the food looks great in here’! 

Sunday kicked off with clear blue skies – only for the fog to descend even before we had set off.  With a full complement of 12 divers we still headed out to dive the City of Waterford, a 1334ton steamship sunk in 1949 and in current tides lying in c30m. Just one problem –only 1m viz -but nevertheless one to do again on a good day. Wind and wave conditions forced us back under the pier for our second dive but sea conditions through the rest of the week would prove benign. 

Southsea/Hayling Island ( 1st & 2nd July)

After driving across to Southsea and meeting up with Joe we had a cracking meal Sunday night at Rosie’s Vineyard and by the morning the winds had backed off. Along with those fresh down from home we went out on Wight Diver – another cracking boat with the speed, space and rear transom lift to suit us senior citizens!

Monday’s wreck, The Camswan ( a cargo ship sunk in a collision in 1917) only had 3m viz but with the superstructure rising 4m, big boilers, the prop, and good life on the hull,  made it an interesting dive. Tuesday, with just 7 of us on the boat, we dived the Highland Brigade and then The Luis both of which were torpedoed in 1918. Despite the salvage operations they still have cargo items like ceramic insulators and lead shot lying around. I’ve never seen so many congers on a single wreck along with plentiful crabs of all types and a few lobsters.  

We’d scheduled Wednesday as a rest day between Portsmouth and our next stop, Plymouth. As luck would have it the forecast for Wednesday was lousy and if we had scheduled diving in Weymouth it would have been cancelled. So after a night spent at a very nice pub in Wareham and the nearby Indian, the A Team ( Alan, Dan, Stuart, Joe and myself) split up to sort out kit, nitrox fills, go fossil hunting in Charmouth/Lyme Regis ( or in Stuart’s case practice his serve and volleying techniques!).

Plymouth (Thursday 4th &  Friday 5th July)

As we reassembled on the Wednesday night the weather forecast for the rest of the trip looked stunning. With Paul, Niamh and Mike joining us , 8 proved the ideal number for the CeeKing based at Queen Anne’s Battery. Spoilt somewhat by the boats out of Brighton and Southsea, the CeeKing is smaller and slower, but skipper Richard King is delightful and knows the local waters like the back of his hand. 

Thursday morning we dived The Scylla – no other boats on station, 6-8m viz and after 7 years as an artificial reef it is covered in dead men’s fingers and anemones with some stunning swim throughs . In the afternoon we dived The Coronation, sunk in 1691, following the marked trail of cannons and anchors laid out by the NAS on this protected site

We tapped in to Alan and Mike’s local knowledge of pubs and restaurants to wrap up a super day. 
The Scylla was worth a second dive – so Friday we went out to do it again. Good call by Alan as conditions were near perfect- only boat on station, millpond conditions, and 8-10m viz inside the wreck! For the second dive we moved on to the James Egan Layne – more broken up now than I remember it but lots of fish life, crabs, congers and imposing steelwork arches towering 6m+.

Teignmouth ( Saturday 6th &  Sunday 7th July)

A short drive back to Teignmouth Beautiful setting and charming in parts – but rammed with holidaymakers getting lobster pink and alcohol fuelled!  Glad we’re diving from a hardboat and not the shore!

Boosted to 12 divers with Dave Findlater, Dave Hall, Liam, Angela and James – 5 of which on twinsets – it made for a packed boat on Seaquest -Teign Divers hardboat. With flat calm seas, clear skies and the lightest breeze, diving conditions were near perfect as we made the short run out to the Bretagne, a 70m long cargo vessel sunk in 1918 and sitting upright in c30m. Lots of fish life, congers, crabs and with prolific growth on the hull made this a super dive even with 3-5m viz. Back to the harbour for lunch at low water meant rope winching the cylinders up for refills before going out to dive the Galicia in the afternoon. Despite good topside conditions viz was diabolical – 1 foot at best !!!. Sensible option was to abhort, so reports of the abundant life, cement drums and fabric bundles remains untested

No shortage of harbour side pubs in Teignmouth but we hit the jackpot on Saturday night  with The Owl & the Pussycat restaurant.

Perfect conditions again on Sunday to dive the Lord Stewart, another merchant steamship torpedoed in 1918 by the UB104 and now still reasonably intact sitting upright in 36m. A cracking dive with 6-7m viz, loads of fish life, crabs, blennies – spoilt only by the numerous broken fishing lines and hooks snagged on the superstructure. The deepest dive of the trip and but for the deco it was a shame it had to end. After lunch back at the harbour we wrapped up the trip with a gentle bimble at Black Head – a lovely cove.

My thanks to everyone who participated and especially to the week-long stalwarts Alan, Stuart, Dan and Joe whose cars and kit definitely ‘stood out’ as the week progressed! We’ve got to know a few new skippers, their boats and earned a few plaudits for our Club.

Clive Bennett

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