I'd booked Friday off work and managed to pick up a space on Divetime. It's a large Cat and there were only 8 of us on board, so there was plenty of room. Sea conditions were nice and flat, partcularly considering the time of year. The first dive was on the M2, which was a Royal Navy submarine that sank in 1925 with the loss of all hands.
We went in first and the shot was a couple of metres off the wreck, but there was no problem finding it as the viz was 3m. It was reasonably light down there. You could read you gauges without a light even if you don't have the benefit of using an OSTC 2n computer like me. It was the second time I've dived it this year, and I've done it quite a few times over the years. The hanger and the conning tower are always interesting. I also saw a big conger eel in a hole and saw a nudibranch on the hull. I'm not sure exactly which species, but it was definitely from the Coryphella genus.
|Portland Bill and a flat sea|
2nd dive was the old favourite, the James Fennel. It's situated just south of Chesil Cove on the west of Portland Bill. It's fairly non-tidal, so you can dive it at most states of the tide. It isn't very big, but there's some scattered wreckage and I noticed there's a prop on it for the first time. I'd never seen that before despite having done the dive numerous times. After investigating all the wreckage, we sent the blob up and then did a drift dive in amongst the boulders. There were plenty of wrasse and the rocks themselves are covered in dead man's fingers.
Waking up on Saturday, it was obvious that the wind had picked up a bit, but it was still perfectly diveable. I'd booked RW Two for the weekend and we were doing the wreck that's on the charts as the Hartburn. However, the Hartburn had a triple expansion engine and I've been reliably informed that this wreck has a compound engine. I can't actually tell one steam engine from another. The currently theory is that the wreck is the Netley Abbey, but until someone finds something on her that confirms it, we can't be sure.
Going down the line, it was obvious that my chances of finding the bell were even lower than usual. At 20m, the lights went out and even with a torch, it was 2m viz at best. It's hard to get much of a feel for the outline of the wreck in those sort of conditions. It was a bit disappointing after the previous day, but conditions often vary between east and west of Portland Bill. Sometimes one side is better, sometimes the other. I got a maximum depth of 38m but the seabed is quite uneven in that area, so some of the wreck is as shallow as 30m.
For the second dive, some of the guys got in and did a drift over the bow section of the Black Hawk. I decided to sit it out as it wasn't half cold. The wind had picked up and it started to rain.
Sunday and the weather was much the same, so this time we went back to west of the Bill in search of better viz. We were doing the St Dunstan, which was a bucket dredger. On the bottom and it was more like Friday's diving. There was ambient light and the viz was about 3m. I always enjoy doing this wreck and this time was no exception. There's an area around the boilers where you can swim through. It's not really an overhead environment, but it was full of a school of bib. The place where you used to be able to get in seems to have collapsed. The wreck seems to have broken up a bit since my previous visit. One plus side of this is that you can now see more of the chains of buckets that were used for dredging. The seabed is 30m.
The second dive was the traditional hunt for scallops. I didn't get that many but it was enough for dinner, so it rounded off a good weekend. You can't complain about getting proper, offshore dives in during the month of April. I'll be booking the trip again next year.