Weymouth, June 2003

I arranged the trip on Our W. The plan was to do the Rotorua on the Saturday, which lies in about 60m and the Buccaneer (46m) on the Sunday. The rate of dropouts for the trip was pretty bad and there were only 7 of us on the Saturday. The Rotorua was an 11,130 gross tons liner which was torpedoed on the 22nd March 1917 by UC-17. It's a long way out from Weymouth, about 26 miles and is only do-able if you can go out there with the tide, which luckily we could

It was a late start and we left the quay at 11am. We arrived early at the site and waited about an hour until the tide started to slacken at just after 3.30pm. It was a lovely day, with clear blue skies, bright sunshine and a sea state of slight. Putting the kit on, it started to get quite warm inside my drysuit, so I was pleased to get into the water, which was still only 14C.

I went down in a three with Brod and Rich. We got to the wreck at about 50m. I stopped to sort out my buoyancy after the descent and Rich helpfully landed on top of me whilst I was doing this. I didn't see them, but apparently there was what looked like human remains near the bottom of the shot, including a leg bone.

The wreck itself is enormous, but seems to be quite twisted. The viz was around 5m, with lots of bits in the water, so it wasn't easy to make out what bits of the wreck were what. There did seem to be some boilers and an engine room in one section rising up to about 50m. There was a lot of life on the wreck with some pouting, brightly coloured cuckoo wrasse and spider crabs. The wreck itself is covered in anemones and dead man's fingers.

It was hard to tell what direction we went in as we bimbled along. At one point I found what looked like a bowl, or perhaps a wash basin, made of brass. I pulled it out of the silt, noticed it was fairly corroded and put it back where I found it. My maximum depth was just over 56m and at these depths, you don't get long, so at 22 minutes, I put up my DSMB and started my ascent. There seemed to be a wall of silt moving in the water which affected the visibility on the way up. At around 10m, there were several jellyfish which were a bright blue colour. It gave me something to look at and helped pass the time on the stops. I finally broke the surface after 64 minutes. It had been a reasonable dive, but nothing really special.

We got back into Weymouth after 8pm, but the Old Harbour Dive Centre had stayed open for us and I got an air top on my trimix, giving me a mix of 19/23 which was ideal for the following day. The next morning, it was an earlier start as the boat left just after 8am. The wind had picked up and it was a bit choppy on the way out.

We were diving the wreck of the Buccaneer. It was an armed tug that sank on the 26th August, 1946. At the time, it was towing an artillery target for gunnery practice for the new destroyer HMS St James. Proving that military incompetence has a long and honourable tradition, they managed to hit the Buccaneer itself with a shell and sank it. Fortunately, no-one was hurt.

The wreck isn't very big and it lies in the direction of the tide, which makes it harder to shot. Woody expressed the wish that it would be really nice if someone could turn it round. Admittedly, he didn't use those exact words. After an awful lot of bad language, the grapple caught into the wreck and it was time to descend. Brod went in first, I followed and Rich jumped in and lost his mask.

I followed Brod down the shot to the wreck, which is lying on its port side. The viz was around the 8m mark and there were plenty of places to swim-through including a section under the stern past the prop shaft. There was the gun on deck and lots of winches and rope as you would expect on a tug. There were a lot of fish hanging around including some really big pouting.

The relatively small size of the wreck meant that I got around the whole thing comfortably during my 27 minutes bottom time. I bagged up and ascended using just my 50% stage for deco. I also had a 3l of 80% for bailout, which was enough to get me out of the water should I have a problem with the 50%. I passed the stops by looking at more jellyfish and untangling my line from the shot at about 9m.

My total runtime was just over an hour and I had a maximum depth of just under 45m, which I'd hit when swimming down by the stern section. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable dive and I look forward to doing it again sometime in the future.

The wind had picked up as had the waves, so I was gladder than usual that Our W is fitted with a lift. The trip back was a bit on the lumpy side especially going around Portland Bill. Still it had been a good weekend. We dived the two wrecks we'd planned and it was incident free.