Malta June 2022 – Trip Report

So, the Major put out the word that he was going to Malta and everyone was welcome. Having not been abroad for a couple of years due to the dreaded Covid we jumped at the chance…. and so did a quite a few others.

Sean flew out first on the Thursday with Dara and the little guy, Shea, mixing diving with a family holiday. His weather reports were great and also no problems at the airport….. even better.

The rest of us set off early Friday in a two different groups. Kelly, who had no sleep after finishing work late, drove Me, Kate and Dave up in his truck, parking at the drop and go service by T3. Really impressed and will use again.  A short bus rice to T1 and all good…. and that’s where it went to crap.

You will have to excuse my rants about Manchester Airport. It is without doubt, the worst airport I have ever had the misfortune to use and if there was any other option, I would go elsewhere. We’ve been to lots of airports in lots of countries over the years, from very small to very big, but non compare to the utter disorganisation and contempt that is shown to customers there.…. and that was before covid!

Easyjet advised arrival two and a half hours early, we were just short of three…. at 3.05am for a 5:55am flight. We got out the lift at the departure hall and had to join the sizeable carpark queue. No problem, we’ve got three hours and it was moving. An hour later we got inside and joined the bag drop queue, which was tolerable until the last 20 meters where it just became a scrum and a fight to get to the self-service bag drop machines and then out again to join another queue to drop the bags off. Another forty minutes gone and security still to go, was starting to get a bit twitchy now.

We then realised we were at the back of another massive queue just to get into the security hall. That did not move for ages then moved quickly until we were near the door…. and stopped….. typical. We did meet most of the others whilst passing along the ‘snake’, the Major, Gary, Sue, Jeff and Peter had arrived fifteen mins before us and that seemed to have bought them quite a lead.

Anyway, we finally got into the security hall to join another queue…. a very slow queue as there was only three open lanes out of about twenty….and only an hour to go. Very twitchy now. Nearly half an hour later they started pulling people out the queue who were going to miss flights, which thankfully included us. We were taken to another fast track channel only to be stopped by a moronic Asian girl with three carrier bags of liquid cosmetics arguing about taking them through….. duh.

Once we got her out the way it was the usual fight with the scanners, everything out of the bags and pockets into about ten different trays, trying to hold your pants up whist being scanned by hand even though you’ve just gone through a huge, very expensive looking, scanner. Then having a bag rejected because of a forgotten electrical item! Fortunately, another passenger had insisted on the manager coming over to get things moving and we persuaded him to push our bag through too.

So, we got through with about fifteen minutes left to take off, only to hear last call for us as the gate was closing…… wonderful…… we had to leg it through duty free and down to the Easyjet hall… to find our flight was right at the very end…. smashing…. I think we only made it as they didn’t want to delay the flight taking our suitcases off. We got our seats….. last ones on board.

Joke of an airport….. and end of rant.

After a thankfully normal flight we landed in Malta to thirty degrees and blue skies. After breezing through security and having retrieved our bags we were met outside by Steve (The General) and Howard from the Divewise team who had come to pick us up….. as well as Alan, the owner and another customer Steve who had both been on our flight as well.

Following a half hour drive we arrived at the Divewise center on the Westin Dragonara Complex in St Julian’s. The center is very well set up and managed by Alan’s better half, Viv, as well as a great team of very friendly and very competent staff, all I believe are instructors.

The first job, as usual with most centers, was to get a tote box and sort our dive gear out, fill out medical forms, make up weight belts and generally get ready for a shakedown dive. There we a few reprobates on our crew who had indulged on the way out so they were made to wait until the next morning for their shakedown dives.

There was a bit of a panic for me and Jeff when we were told that because of some of the answers on our medical forms we needed a medical sign off! Oh no! I had visions of sitting on the beach all week! But fortunately, this just involved walking five mins to a local chemist for a consult with a doctor. We did have to wait twenty mins as he was out on a call, but once back it was a five-minute check-up and thankfully everything ok for us both. Twenty well spent euros and we had our medical certificates. If only you could get that service in the UK!  

Back at the center, we kitted up and after a short walk over to the beach we got in with our guide Nadine. She ran us through a few mask clearing / reg recovery drills and then it was off out of the enclosed shallow area and into the deeper water. It was a bit choppy so not easy getting across and out of the entrance but fine after taht. The house reef is a nice dive but the water was a bit cooler than expected so we were glad of our lava core tops under our wetsuits. After a very pleasant forty-minute dive it was back to the center to wash the kit and put it all away, ready for tomorrow.

We were all staying at different hotels so most of the others only had a short walk but of us were fifteen mins walk away at the Cavalieri Art Hotel so the General very kindly gave us a lift over with the suitcases. After a very smooth check-in and getting a really nice room with a balcony and sea view we unpacked and went for a quick swim in the hotel pool and the last of the afternoon sun.

That evening, after a bit of a wander round, we strolled over to meet up with the rest of the crew at Long Rooms, an Irish Bar in the middle of St Julian’s. Despite seeming to be in the middle of all the action it was a nice pub and served food, so we stayed there to eat. The food was fantastic and very cheap, so everyone was happy! I had a Maltese platter which I hadn’t realised was a sharing platter when I ordered, it was huge, but I did my best. After being up at 1am we were flagging so headed back to the hotel early, don’t think we saw much after nine o’clock…

The next day was very relaxed for those of us who had done a shakedown. We didn’t have to be there until 11am, so we had a leisurely breakfast with Dave and Kelly at the hotel before setting off. Have to say the breakfast buffet at the hotel was fantastic, pretty much everything you could want including freshly cooked omelets…. took some restraint that week as wetsuits don’t stretch that much!

The walk to the dive center was a bit up and down but wasn’t a problem, although did get a little sapping as the week went on as the temperature got up well into the mid-thirties after Tuesday.

When we arrived the errant crew had completed their shakedown dives so it was just a matter of testing the mixtures in the cylinders and loading up. everyone was diving on Nitrox for the week so the lead instructor for each day insisted of everyone testing their own gas and filling in log sheets. Nice to see this, gives you some reassurance of a well-run center. After loading the cylinders and dive boxes on to the two trucks it was off for the fifty-minute dive to Cirkewwa at the top of the island.   

Side mount Sean in Cirkewwa dive carpark

There is parking at Cirkewwa which seems to be set aside for dive companies use, and as usual there were plenty there. Not sure how true it is but there are apparently 60+ dive companies on the islands. Anyway, we parked up, got kitted up and then climbed in via the steps and pool called Suzie’s pool, halfway down the prom. Quite slippy on the last few steps and on the entry which gave the Major had a few problems with his bionic hip, but we got there in the end.

The target was the P29 Patrol boat, a 52m former patrol boat for the Malta Armed Forces. She was made safe for divers and the environment then intentionally scuttled in August 2007 as a dive site. She lies upright on a sandy bed, 37m at the bow. Unfortunately, she is also 150m offshore which is a bit of a swim. 

Me and Kate had been Ocean Divers when we last came to Malta and hadn’t been allowed out to the P29 so we were really looking forward to this dive….. and it didn’t disappoint. Lisa and Alan (the Boss) were leading so we had to be on best behavior. We swam out at about 10-15m to conserve air but alsoto keep below the many jelly fish that were hanging around about 5m. So glad we had gloves and hoods on!

The vis was amazing, 30m+ and seeing the boat appear as we got closer was stunning. We landed on the deck and set off to swim round the superstructure. Needless to say, everyone scattered in different directions giving Alan and Lisa kittens trying to keep track of us all. With the swim and me only having 200 bar at the start we only really got time to swim around the upper deck once and then again 10m further up by the bridge before we had to turn round and start the swim back. I think about six of us headed back with Lisa with the rest, on twins and re-breathers, spending more time and coming back with Alan.

P29 Appearing out of the blue

The swim back at 10m is a bit boring and disorientating at times. More than once during the week, because of the lack of reference I felt like I was sinking when actually rising. Really had to concentrate on the dive computer to maintain the right depth. Closer to shore we hit the reef which surrounds Cirkewwa, and it gets more interesting. Lots of sea grass and clouds of Damsel fish make for a really pretty last five minutes swim and then safety stop in a partially enclosed area with about 7m depth. Then it was out via the same staircase and time to pack up the truck. Really enjoyed the dive, but as always, it wasn’t long enough. Was surprised looking back at video later how many fish there were, I was so blown away with a wreck that actually looked like a boat that I hadn’t really taken them in.

Before setting off we grabbed some lunch from the amazing snack van in the car park. Run by a really nice that did some amazing food. Wraps were fantastic and he will heat them on a hotplate for you. After that, we set off back to wash the kit and head back to the hotel for the last hour of sun and a swim by the pool.

The hotel has a buoyed off area in the sea next to the pool area, so I thought I’d go and do a bit of open water swimming. I’d remembered by googles for once so jumped in and started swimming up and down. Unfortunately, I’d total forgotten about the jelly fish and after about ten minutes kicked right into one. I’ve had a few stings before but nothing like this, it was like being electrocuted. Managed to get back to the side and run it under hot water but nothing really helped and it ended up in big red welts. They took days to go down then came back after a week or so and itched for days. This seems to be a feature as a few others got stung and had similar effects. I’ve still got scars from it now so will be sticking to the hotel pool or wearing a wetsuit if I ever go back in there again.

One of the many varieties of Maltese Jellyfish

By joint consent it was back to the long room for tea again that night. Chicken Caesar salad this time after recommendation from the night before and it was probably the best I’ve ever had. We were still tired so headed off early again, just dropping in at the ice cream shop on the way back….. just has to be done. Very nice it was too.

The next day was a full day with an 8:30 start at the dive center. The usual routine of testing the gas and packing the gear onto the trucks, then away for nine. Today we had the South African, Marinus, or Zafa as he was known driving our truck with Kevin the Swiss the lead instructor for the day driving the other. We were back to Cirkewwa again but for two dives this time.

The first was the tugboat Rozi, the smaller of the two wrecks there. She is still 35m long, complete, recognizable and sitting upright in about 34m to the sand. She was a working boat from the UK originally but like the P29 was scuttled as a diving attraction in 1992.

We went in off the dock by the carpark lighthouse this time, which is easier, but has a drop ranging from about six to ten feet depending on which part you jump from. This is a fair way kit on……. takes a long time from stepping off to hitting the water.

It was another 150m swim out, but was more prepared for it this time, took more time and arrived with a lot more air. Also, there is more of a swim over the reef on the way which was a bit more interesting.

The wreck again appeared in the distance, a complete boat sitting upright, even looked like a tug boat…. But even with the extra air there was only really time for a slow swim round the deck then another round the bridge before turning to head back in. Did notice the fish a lot more this time, hundreds of them, mainly damsel fish but some bigger stuff too.

Tug Boat Rozi Upper Deck

Once back at the reef we took a lot more time swimming over it and even had time for one of the swim through vertical tubes in the reef before heading back along to Susie’s pool to get out.

Back on the shore it was straight over to the food van for another tasty hot wrap and a cup of tea before switching tanks and getting ready to head back out to the P29 again. It was a smaller group for the P29 as most of the group decided to take a tour of the reef and arches instead.

With getting more into the swing of the swim out was it a better position again when we got there. Instead of dropping straight to the deck we headed forward at about 15m and dropped down on the bow. The front gun is still in place and a great spot to investigate. Taking our time and coming up slowly and taking a good look round the bridge and radio masts before joining up with the rest for the swim back.     

Kelly and Kate on the swim back

Another great day of diving. The vis was just as good as yesterday. Not sure exactly how far but could almost see the bow of the P29 from the stern and she’s over 50m long!

After getting back, washing kit and heading back to the hotel it was straight out to the pool for an hour again. Needed to cool down as it was way into the 30’s again. Dave and Kelly went for a snorkel in the sea pool but even wearing a mask and keeping a good watch out Kelly got stung on the arm by a jellyfish. Glad I stuck to the hotel pool.

That evening was a change of location. We arranged to meet at the Avenue, a sprawling restaurant that takes up a whole block, with five or six different rooms all decorated in different styles. I had the chicken kebabs which I can very much recommend.  We again only had a couple of drinks there then headed back via the ice cream shop.  Absolutely knackered with the heat and diving even though we were on nitrox. Some of the others headed back to the Long Room for a few more before turning in. 

Next day was a change of site and another half eight start. Today we were heading out to the other side of the island, to Wied Iz-Zurrieq, a small village located just next to the famous Blue Grotto caves. The target being the wreck of the Um El-Faroud. This is a 110m long oil tanker that was badly damaged in an explosion whilst in Valletta’s Grand Harbour. She was too badly damaged to be repaired so was made safe and scuttled as a diver attraction. She sits upright in 38m, complete but split in two towards the bow and has opportunities for exploring inside.

Kevin was driving us this time and Alan brought the other half of the group.  Fortunately, we managed to get parked right at the end of the road fairly close to the entry point as the hill is exceptionally steep and the main carpark is a good 500m further up!

The Quay at Wied Iz-Zurrieq

We had to carry all the kit down the hill and steps for about 30m to a quay next to where all the tourist boats tie up. Hard going even in just the morning heat. After kitting up and being warned by Alan that we couldn’t go inside the wreck… spoil sport….. we took a stride entry then went straight down to 10m. This was needed as the tourist boats are constantly passing and don’t really watch out for divers….

The wreck is again 150m offshore so yet another swim. This one is completely in the blue so really quite disorientating. Good job Alan was leading the way to give a point of reference. The wreck is amazing when it appears. A huge ship and we arrived, pretty much over the stern. We started by heading straight down to the prop and rudder as they were still attached. Massive, and impressive to swim round….but not for long at that depth. We came up and swam along the main companion way and out onto the main part of the deck. It’s a huge ship so could only just make out the broken section in the distance but been told there was not much up there, so we just came up the superstructure to the upper companion way on the other far side.

The Prop on the Um El-Faroud

Had a bit of a panic here as I lost Kate. I had thought we were going over the top and she though we were going straight on and whilst I was looking through a porthole she went. Had a search round but couldn’t see her so made my way up to the meeting point on the top of the superstructure. Nearly everyone else had gathered and Alan was swimming round constantly counting everyone and trying to keep track of us.  He the shot off to chase Peter who had missed the bit of the brief about not going inside! Anyway, Kate appears a few minutes later and with Perter chased out the inside we set off back to the wall.

A long swim again and following a safety stop under the dock, popped back up with 50bar left. Perfect. Climbing out on the sea wall ladders was a bit of an effort as was lugging the empty cylinders back up the steps and road to swap over and carry back down. The only thing for it was to head to the café further up the road for a wrap and the most amazing iced café ice cream drink.

The second dive was back to the El-Faroud again. This time Alan said that if we all behaved and did what he told us he would take us for a tour through the superstructure and down to the engine room. The only instruction was to keep following the diver in front and not to head up the funnel when we turned from the engine room to the way out.

All went well, we followed each other in through a number of rooms then down a quite tight staircases and corridors to the engine room. Really was pretty cool. Did get myself caught on a bit of something sticking out the floor at one point which slowed me down for a few seconds till I managed to free it. Anyway, not sure who but led the way but caught up just in time to see a The Major, Peter and Kate heading up the funnel…. great. Couldn’t catch their attention and was about to follow when Alan appeared and pointed the way out…. in a way that didn’t suggest a discussion. I followed the rest out and up to the top of the superstructure to the meeting point and we were joined a few minutes later by Alan and the other three who had come out the top of the funnel….. cool really.

Um El-Faroud Engine Room

Following another swim back and safety top under the dock, poped up but only with 40bar this time….. not so perfect. Anyway, then there was just getting out and lugging all the kit back to the trucks and loading up for the trip back…… after another iced café ice cream thing of course.

After washing and packing gear away were informed it was and early start next morning as we were going to Gozo…. Needed to be ready to roll at eight.

Given the good food the night before most of us agreed to go back to the Avenue again. Gary had taken a day off to go sightseeing with Sue but joined up with us again. Dave and Kelly went off for a meal together at a Greek taverna. Sean, Dara and Shea had started earlier to make sure the little one was ready for bed on time and so were in a different room.

We were in the very formal wood paneled room sat at a huge dining table. All very impressive. Again, the food was great, I had a chicken Caesar salad, I think.  Probably distracted with Gary’s immense Calzone! Never seen anything like it and although he did his very best it defeated him in the end.

The hard cases headed off to the Long Room for a nightcap but we headed back knowing there was an early start the next day….. and we needed an ice cream.

We were first down for breakfast at seven next morning for another really nice but quick breakfast before heading down to the diver center. We were there for half seven, had the cylinders tested and packed along with all the other gear bang on time. Off we went, heading for Cirkewwa again, but this time to grab the ferry. Mark was driving us, a customer really, but a regular visitor and also a dive instructor, following Ben in the front truck. We were lucky enough to drive right onto the ferry and after parking up, escaped the heat to the passenger compartment. The trip only takes about half an hour including docking at each end.

After a coffee we got back into the trucks and thankfully were out fairly quickly. It was so hot in the car deck. Anyway, five minutes into fifteen minute drive down to the site there was a minor disaster when Ben clipped a curb on a tight corner and the tyre exploded. No one hurt but the tyre and the wheel were done for. Everyone jumped out and set to trying to find the tools, jack and the spare wheel. This turned out to be under the van and the bolts were pretty seized. After a lot of effort Sean managed to get them moving but they then both eventually snapped off. Ah well, At least we had the wheel. Ten mins later we had the wheel changed and everything loaded up again and were off down the really narrow roads to Xatt l-Ahmar to dive on two of three wrecks that have been scuttled to create artificial reefs for divers.

There is a car park there but nothing else and it’s fair walk with all the kit down twenty meters of steps and across about a 100 meters of rock to reach the water entry point…. And in the mid-thirties. Gary and Perter did a great job of getting their kit and The Majors down there. Don’t think his bionic hip would have managed that.

Car Park and Entry at Xatt l-Ahmar

The first wreck was to be the MV Karwela, a 50m long ex passenger ferry scuttled in 2006. She is intact and sitting on sand at 41m at the stern. It’s been stripped right out allowing divers to swim the full length on different decks. Big holes are cut in the sides for easy exits and there is a really nice staircase towards one end.

Once kitted up, entry was down some awkward ladders which wasn’t easy, then it was just down and yet another swim out at 10m. The swim out wasn’t quite as far this time but not really any reef to break up the blue. With the bottom being around 40m we stuck to swimming round the middle and upper decks. Not as many fish on this one but really nice swimming along looking out all the windows.  The staircase was nice but didn’t fully appreciate it because of the direction we came at it. Would spend a bit more time there next time.

Inside the Karwela

After a bit more swimming around, and all too quickly it was time to head back. Could probably have stayed a little bit longer but we were starting to run into decco and didn’t have that much gas left so headed back, better safe than out of gas. After a safety stop by the ladders it was an awkward climb out and then time to lug cylinders back up to the trucks and fresh ones back down.

Side mount Sean posing over the bridge of the Cominoland

After a good break and some sandwiches we had brought from the boat we kitted up again to head out to the MV Cominoland. A 35m long former cruise ship also sunk in 2006. She sits upright on sand with a max depth of 41m. Again, she has been stripped out completely to allow divers to swim along two of her decks.

This time we persuaded Ben to let us swim out on the surface to save gas before going down. Although it didn’t look far and there wasn’t much of a current it took a fair amount of time. Probably explaining most guides reluctance to surface swim to the wrecks.

Down the chain to the Cominoland

Made a change going down the chain from the marker buoy and seeing the wreck appear from above. We swam the length of the middle deck and met Ben at the stern who pointed out some Nudibranch’s. Way to small for me to see but apparently very nice. After a swim along the top deck decco was again close so we headed back up to 10m and swam back in. A really nice wreck, not a lot of life but very scenic.

After the safety stop, climbing out and lugging the kit back to the trucks was glad of a rest whist we headed back to the ferry. Again, only a short wait and we were on and having a well-earned coffee in the onboard café…. Oh and getting a Gozo fridge magnet from the gift shop of course.

After the drive back and the washdown we joined the rest for a post dive drink at a bar outside the Majors hotel, the Vivaldi, before heading back to our hotel. Really were starting to feel the pace now. We met at the Long room again and decided to stay there for food, we had a table outside and were too tired to move really. Forced myself to eat another Maltese platter then we left everyone else to have more drinks whilst we headed to the ice-cream shop and the hotel.

The next day was another early start as we were going out on a boat for a change. Also, it was the Majors birthday….75! Viv had organised a cake so we embarrassed him a bit, well as much as you can, then left him to put his kit together. He and Gary were diving on twins this day as a warmup to get ready for a deep dive they had planned with Alan for the Friday. Sean wasn’t with us today as he was flying back the next day and was spending the day with the family.

Happy Birthday Major

Once the cylinders were analysed and everything was loaded up we set off for the twenty-minute drive to the quay at Qawra. Alan was leading the overall group with Ben and Joe driving the trucks. The surprise was that the boat was a large traditional fishing boat converted for diving and party trips. Very nice. We got everything we needed aboard and set off, starting to kit up on the way.

Kitting up on the way out

We were diving the Imperial Eagle, a 45m long ex ferry and cargo ship which lies about a mile off the quay on a sandy bed at a max depth of 45m with the main deck at 32m. She is another purpose sunk wreck, scuttled in 1999 as an artificial reef and as part of a marine conservation area. Also, off the bow of the ship is a large reef which has a large Statue of Christ a short swim into it.    

Alan must have begun to trust us as Me, Kate, Dave, Kelly and Peter were left to our own devices whist he, Ben and Joe took Alan and Gary in along with Jeff and a couple of other customers doing technical courses.

There is a special buoy marking the wreck, and we were supposed to follow this down and head off on a baring from the block at the bottom to find the wreck. However, as we started going down we could see the wreck from about 15m down the chain! Absolutely amazing. We headed for the stern and swam along the full length of the deck which has been opened up to a long swim through. Really nice with plenty of fish along the way.

Arriving on the Imperial Eagle

 Once on the bow we headed off to find the statue. Bit nerve racking heading off into the blue at depth but it only took about five minute to spot it and swim over. At about four or five metres tall it’s quite impressive so we spent a while posing for photos before turning back for the wreck. As we got there, we only really had enough time for a quick look at the bridge before heading off to the chain to begin our assent. Fantastic heading up and seeing all the twin set and unit divers still swimming round…. only a bit jealous.

Kristu tal-Bahhara (Christ of the Sailors) and Peter

Back onboard we had just about sorted our kit out by the time the others started popping up. Took a bit to get the Major out as the ladder climb up to the boat was hard work but they managed it and we headed back to shore and then center.

Recovering the Major

For the afternoon it was just the five of us again, the rest taking time off after the morning dive. This time Alan was taking us off to the walls of Valletta to dive on a wreck that had been sunk during the war. HMS Maori was a British destroyer that took a direct hit to the engine room whilst moored there in 1942. She was eventually allowed to sink just of Fort St Elmo in about 15m of water. She has taken quite a battering over the years and there is now only a few recognisable bits left.

We had been warned to only bring essentials as the dive trucks were targets for the local lowlife so nothing should be left on show and there was no boot. After parking up at the side of the road entry was just climbing down a couple of steps and into the water. Nice, no big swim.

It was a very relaxed swim over the reef and at no more than 15m for the whole dive. Very nice after all the deeper stuff. The vis was a bit murky at only 10 to 15 meters…. wow, soon forget UK diving! There wasn’t really much of a boat to see, mostly chunks of plate with a few larger sections still visible.  What looked like a gun at one point and part of the bridge you could swim through. But there was loads of life, lots of fish and quite a few octopus but they couldn’t be tempted out. Was really hoping to see one of the sea horses found there but no such luck. Alan did manage to drag us out after just short of an hour and took us on a scenic dive back taking in most of sights around the outskirts of Valletta. Very nice afternoon.

Alan waiting for us outside a small entry point on the HMS Maori

Once back we stopped for a quick one in the bar outside the Vivaldi again before heading back to get ready for the evening. Gary and worked with Viv to organise a well-known Indian called the Emperor of India, mainly for the Majors birthday and partly for us to say thanks to Viv and Alan for looking after us all week. The meal was really good, plenty of different curries and bread on offer. Sean, Dara and Shea had joined us for their last night and the little guy was good as gold. The Major got another cake, this time with a sparkler. Everyone was happy…. and we were very happy after an ice-cream on the way back.  

More Birthday Celebrations

So, the last day had come. The famous five were in a group together with the lovely Lisa driving and keeping us under control. We headed back to Cirkewwa for yet another go at the P29 and for a reef swim round the harbour later.

This time the P29 was absolutely covered in fish, big, little and shoals. No idea what most of them were but looked amazing. Lisa guided us down through the deck this time, along a couple of corridors and through a couple of rooms, really good. We then followed her through some of the superstructure and back out nearer the bridge. When we all re-grouped around the mast it was like an aquarium, so many fish. Superb diving.

P29 Looking Down on the Fish from the Bridge

After the obligatory wrap from the snack van it was back out for the last dive. Up and down the Cirkewwa reefs. There had been some very noticeable thermoclines during the week but once you pushed through you didn’t really notice the cold. Probably as most of the dives involved a good swim to warm up first. But we all noticed it on this last dive. Probably a mixture of fatigue catching up mixed with the leisurely pace. Lots to see on the reefs, plenty of fish, jellyfish and the odd octopus hiding in holes and lots of nice sea grass. Lisa took us through a couple of swim throughs and then onto the large arch. A great spot to swim round for photo opportunities. After this it was back along to Susie’s pool for a safety stop and to warm up.

That was the diving done. Just back to wash up all the kit and put it out to dry ready to be packed up later. We wandered up to the bar to meet up with the others, back and buzzing from diving the HMS Stubborn. A pretty much intact WW2 British submarine lying a couple of miles of Quwra on a sandy bottom and at 56m. Not a bad effort for a 75 year old…… with plenty of help from Gary I suspect.

The Major at 56m on HMS Stubborn

Anyway, the last evening wasn’t as messy as it could have been after starting with two bottles of bubbly in the Major and Peters room. But we then we did follow it with a very civilized meal at the Avenue, in yet another room. The Calzone defeated Gary for a second time, and I had the chicken kebabs again…. very nice too. After a last drink at the Long Room, we called it quits and headed back via the ice-cream shop…. Good job it was the last night, the staff new us now!

Next morning the general picked us up from the hotel after breakfast and we played Jenga with all the dive gear trying to fit it back into the suitcases. Once done we said our goodbyes to the team and The General and Howard drove us back to the airport. After no more than fifteen minutes to drop the bags and then ten minutes through security (are you listening Manchester Airport!) we were ready for the flight home, after a bit of real duty free.

All in all, think everyone agreed, this was a really great trip. Really good diving, great dive centre and staff and best of all great company. Thanks to the Major for getting it all started and to everyone else for making it such an enjoyable trip. Roll on the next one…….

The crew, The Major, Gary and Sue Horsman, Peter Bever, Jeff Jones, Sean, Dara and Shea Cafferkey, Dave Barlow, Kelly Baird, Kate Mills and myself, Chris Mills.

Some of the crew after the bubbly!

If you’ve made it this far well done for putting up with my ramblings and hope its given you an insight into diving in Malta with Divewise.

Isle of Man – April 2023

Following on from this year’s successful trip to the Isle of Man diving out of Port St. Mary, I have reserved the corresponding weekend for next year (2023). The concept of the trip will be as was intended for the one this year whereby we take a group of our new relatively inexperienced divers and team them up with some of our more experienced divers and introduce them to a weekend of UK hard boat diving. So with this is mind, it wont be on a first come, first served basis but rather two lists which as allways will be on whoever puts their names down first.

Minimum number of dives post qualification will be six (quarry or sea)

Twelve divers maximum!

The cost of the trip is £255 per person which is for three days diving and three nights accommodation on a room only basis. Air and Nitrox fills will be extra. Air fills this year were £5.50 for a 15ltr cylinder.

A non-refundable deposit of £75 secures your place. If for whatever reason you have to cancel then the onus will be on you to arrange a replacement diver but I will assist on this as hopefully there will be a list of reserves.

Deposits will be refunded providing a replacement can be found.

You will have to book your own ferry crossing but will be shown how to do this if required. The ferry cost will be approx. £55 (2022 prices) return for a foot passenger. We will be met by Michelle and Steve on arrival in Douglass and transported to Port St. Mary. They will make the return journey after completion of diving on Monday 1st May.

If interested, please enter your name on the trip form posted on the club notice board. For any further details please contact Terry directly.

UPDATE: this trip is now full. Contact Terry for reserve positions.

Farne Islands – July 2022

Diving

The plan is to take both club boats and 12 divers to the Farne islands for a weekend or morning wreck diving and afternoon shallow scenic dives at Knivestone with the possibility of seals on board. The wrecks we will be focusing on are the Somali and Abessinia.

Wreck diving level: Sports Diver minimum
Scenic Diving level: Ocean Diver and above

Accommodation: 3 Nights

Arrival: Friday 8th July. Noon onwards
Depart: Monday 11th July.

Bluebell Farm Studio Bunkhouse, Belford, NE70 7QE.

Sleeps 12, £62.50 per person
(Please note, this price is the same for each person regardless of whether leaving on Sunday or Monday)

Air fills available locallally (TBC

Boat Levy

All divers will be required to pay £15.00 per day boat levy. This is to cover ongoing use and equipment coasts for wear and tear of the club boats.

If this sounds like your cup of tea please enter your name on the interest form on the club notice board. For more info you can contact Sean Cafferkey.

Fishguard – May 2022 – Trip Report

Fishguard : Platinum Jubilee Bank Holidays and weekend

Having planned ahead, examined the tidal options for possible locations, booked the campsite for the Queens Platinum Jubilee bank holiday and weekend well in advance (it was always going to be busy), organised crews for a club boat and the Majors, of course the worst threatens. The weather forecast is worsening with respect to wind. But we’re gassed up, ready and excited to explore three or four wrecks from Fishguard, South Wales.

The weather forecast was not looking too promising

The original plan included a new mark and two named charted marks, with a requirement for Dive Leader and above qualifications. The marks changed over time, as we replaced the known marks with a new one and a different, unnamed, one giving us expected depths of 32, 42, and 52m to the seabed. As planning progressed it became apparent that the shallowest mark had been known about and dived previously, but it was still new to us.

The new mark had only been in the public domain for a few years; at 42m the plan was to probably do that one twice. The deepest mark was last described in 1971 (prior to the latest survey in 2021) and was the furthest offshore; there were no hints of any diving activity – having looked at a survey image, it looked great and there was a named wreck mark, some miles away, which had no survey trace, ie it wasn’t where they thought it might be but it was the right size for this mark.

Travel down on Wednesday, with an early start to ensure that the boat could get past the swimming pool and gym cars! With four days diving everyone was traveling in their own vehicles and mostly with all their cylinders, with a mix of a rebreather, twinsets and 15’s, plus stages.

Terry’s base camp with dive cylinders prepped and ready

Our little spy (Garry Bolland, who went down a week early for a holiday) had been passing on titbits of info and the camp site was sounding great. A few miles away from the slipway, up narrow country lanes and the campsite driveway, we had to leave the boats near the site entrance.

A good-looking boat enhancing the campsite entrance

The launching options had to be investigated when we got there – was the RNLI slipway private or not? A phone call had stated it wasn’t their slipway, although signage and personnel on site stated otherwise! It seemed to be out of bounds, so we were stuck with the Goodwick slip, which at least was practically brand new and double width although it dried at low tide. Car parking was excellent and cheap, with reserved spaces for vehicles and trailer too, although some spaces were being replaced with EV charging points.

Day 1 – 14 miles NE to the site of the SS Sutton (possibly). After a delayed start, the launchings went well, and we tootled off on a great sunny day with fine sea airs! Unfortunately, the lack of boat diving presented some rustiness amongst the crew – the shot was deployed without the buoy! Still, two boats, two shots so the club shot was deployed. Unfortunately, that rustiness struck again, and the boat drifted down onto the shot whilst the divers were getting kitted up, wrapped the line and needed some attention. As time was very pressing, we descended the shot only to find that it was no longer on the seabed. So, it was sent up with a lifting bag, and other divers descending keenly dropped off into a free water descent. Neither group found the wreck! The shot line was re-rigged and deployed to let the second wave have a go, which were successful in finding a wreck albeit in poor viz of less than 2m.

Scallops were seen although none were taken. Dolphins had been spotted too, from the boat. After some time taken with lunch and soup, the return to the harbour and slipway found it drying. So a wait ensued before the retrieval of both boats, utilising muscle power to push the trailers out as far as possible, and a (newly acquired) very long line to retrieve them.

Strumble Head lighthouse from the campsite

Day 2 – a quick bimble around towards Strumble Head with a bit of breeze. Here, for the first time, we had difficulties with the slack dive time. Having found the mark (with some adjustments required to get a good echo sounder picture on the club boat) and deployed the shot you can imagine that we were not particularly delighted to see that the pressure on the buoy was increasing and indeed the buoy was getting lower in the water. So even as the first wave was preparing, we had to abort the dive, with a great team effort to recover the shot and line intact.

Evening meals were split between the pub option and a BBQ. Pub options were sometimes tricky, with no availability for walk in service. The BBQ was very pleasant using the sites’ equipment, although difficult to believe it was so late in the year, a chill breeze was blowing.

BBQ besides Garry’s mansion

Day 3 – although the weather had been kinder to us than forecast, it blew up overnight and even plan B (from Milford Haven) was cancelled. However, the wind started to drop after lunch and Day 4 was on.

Day 4 – Back towards Strumble Head, two and a half hours earlier than the model showed. The mark was found and shotted, with a minor adjustment to place it bang on. Whilst preparing for as the first wave it was noticed that the current still seemed to be increasing. Terry and Garry went in first and place a strobe on the shot line, before exploring the stern section of the wreck, with its boiler, engine and propeller clearly visible in at least 6m viz. I dropped in with Dave Stead and found the bow and its Admiralty anchor on the seabed. Aware of the increasing current, I made this a short dive, with minimal decompression, surfaced up the shot line and the second wave of Steve Mac and Steve Baxter were dropped in. Everyone enjoyed the dive, with total times of 60 minutes each.

The campsite, basic and slightly exposed

Thanks to the team who signed up for an adventurous dive trip to new marks over four days. We wouldn’t normally take quite so many dive cylinders with us, but with a bit of lending and borrowing it worked out well (except we never used it all!).

Team – Ray Cramer, Alan Jones, Gary Horstman, Dave Stead, Steve McElroy, Terry Maloney, Garry Bolland, Dave Smith, and last but not least Steve Baxter.

Ray Cramer, Trip Organiser

Isle of Man – May 2022 – Trip Report

Isle of Man trip with Discover Diving, Port St. Mary
Friday 29th April to Monday 2nd May 2022

Some members of the group preparing for their dive at the Sugarloaf Caves site.
Pictured from left to right are Steve Cowley (skipper), Terry Maloney, Garry Bolland, Chris Mills, Kate Mills (kneeling), Tony Smith, Dave Barlow, Kelly Baird and Andreea Gamulea.
Not pictured are Shaun Williams, Hannah Williams, Katie Condron and Paul ‘Bez’ Berry.

So finally, the planned trip that was scheduled for May Bank Holiday 2020 with Discover Diving got underway. Only two years later than planned due to all the restrictions put into place due to the outbreak of Covid when it appeared that the whole world was put on hold. The idea behind this trip when it was first conceived was to take a group of newly qualified divers along with some more experienced members and give them an introduction to a weekend hard boat diving.

The leaving of Liverpool. Sounds like the title of a song

One change to our plans was that there was no early sailing on the day of departure so we had to catch the 7.30pm ferry from Liverpool to Douglas which meant that we would arrive in Douglas at 10.15pm.
When we arrived in Douglas, Steve and Michelle from Discover Diving were waiting for us to transport us to our base for the weekend in Port St Mary. Our accommodation was on the top floor of their house cum dive shop cum bunkhouse. I’m sure the stairs are getting steeper or is it me and the rest of us for that matter just getting older lol?
We had a little bit of form filling to do but nothing too complicated. We added our medical forms to the pile of completed forms and that was basically us for the night. I think that we all had one drink before retiring to our respective rooms which had already been allocated. Six gents in the large bedroom and four ladies in the smaller bedroom with one lucky couple getting their own double room. I don’t think many of us even remember putting their heads on their pillows that first night! Thankfully it wasn’t too early a start the next day.

Saturday morning dawned. The weather wasn’t as bad as we had feared it would be when we had checked the forecast before leaving Liverpool. Steve had said it would be fine and therefore it was time to get ready to go diving. A good few of us were up early especially our intrepid breakfast cookie Tony Smith who was aided during the weekend by Chris and Kate Mills. Tony does a fair bacon and sausage sandwich. After a leisurely breakfast, we all headed down to the shop. Now a word of warning to everyone. Be sure that you take everything you need when you go downstairs. You have been warned!
Once we were all assembled by the minibus, we were shown the ropes by Michelle. Each diver was given a number from one to twelve at the start of the weekend. The twelve pairs of cylinders were also one to twelve so we all knew which cylinders were ours. A nice easy system to follow. There were also twelve bags of weights numbered the same way.

Paul and Katie chilling prior to or first dive in Bay Fine.

We loaded all the dive kit onto the new (for us) minibus that Steve and Michelle now own. Five divers were also loaded onto the bus and it headed off for the harbour where all the kit was unloaded so that the minibus could return to the shop to have all the cylinders loaded on board as well as the remaining divers.
Once at the harbour, all the necessary kit plus one cylinder per diver was then loaded onto the boat. We would be returning to harbour after the first dive to change our cylinders. When we were all aboard, Michelle gave us a thorough boat briefing. Once this had been completed, we were left in the capable hands of our skipper Steve and his able assistant Kathryn for the day.

The first dive of the day was to be in Bay Fine. This is a scenic dive which included a wall. This dive was an easy meander along a wall which we kept on our right hand side but occasionally swimming away from it to head through gullies created by large rocks and boulders. There were plenty of Wrasse to be seen, the two dominant species being Cuckoo and Ballan, also Coalfish and Pollack plus myriads of juveniles of different species as well as various Starfish, Urchins, Lobsters and crabs. My buddy Hannah and I came across other buddy pairs during the dive and eventually bumped into her dad Shaun with Garry at the end of the dive. After forty minutes, both pairs decided to finish their dives and Garry and I deployed our DSMB’s and we all started our ascents. A three minute safety stop was completed before surfacing. When we were back on board, Kathryn served us tea, coffee and cake. What more could we ask for?

So our first dive was over and we headed back for harbour so that we could unload our used cylinders and pick the full ones up for the second dive.

The second dive of the day was to be a site named Garden Rock. The name came about as it’s a huge rock about the size of a bungalow, sitting on a sandy sea bed. There was a slight run which some of the less experienced divers weren’t too comfortable with but most of them still managed thirty five minutes or so. Once the dive was over, we headed back for the harbour. Steve informed everyone that kit such as suits, BC’s, wings etcetera could be left on board overnight and for us just to take what was necessary back to the flat.
It was a very relaxed atmosphere that night. The beers and bottles of vino were opened and everyone congregated in the dining area for drinks (in moderation of course!) to chat about their day. Both the highlights and the lowlights were discussed as is usual. My lowlight was the fact that I had somehow managed to trap the cable from my thermo valve in my zip. I didn’t spot it so ended up doing the first dive getting gradually wetter and wetter and colder and colder. It was the first time that I had dived without my heated vest so hadn’t realised that this could happen. Serious schoolboy error that won’t ever be repeated! Until the next time lol! I still managed a forty five minute dive though.
As for dinner that evening, some of us went to the Fish & Chip shop and some stayed in to enjoy a sumptuous cheese and chorizo sausage platter supplied by Shaun.

The cheese and sausage was supposed to be a pre dinner snack but by the time we had demolished it, some of us were too full to consider going out for any more food!
We did however still have room for a drink or two so a bunch of us headed down the road to the local pub The Albert a couple. All in moderation as ever!
So after a couple of drinks, most of us ambled back to our accommodation and bed. I’ll bet that quite a few of us don’t recall our heads hitting our pillows that night!

Sunday morning dawned and the weather was looking a little bit grim. The sea state wasn’t looking ideal and the rain was quite heavy.

Thankfully, we were scheduled to start an hour later than we did on Saturday so breakfast was a very leisurely affair. As promised, Tony who was ably assisted each day by either Chris or Kate supplied sausage and bacon butties for those who wanted them. Plus tea and coffee of course.
We met Michelle and Steve down at the shop for 9.00am where we were given the dive details for the day. The schedule was to be a dive by the Calf of Man in the morning and then a dive on the wreck of the Citrine in the afternoon. But instead of loading the boat at Port St Mary, Steve would run around to Port Erin pick us up there. The same format as the previous day was put into action and all the cylinders and various items of equipment were loaded onto the minibus. Then it was off to Port Erin with about two thirds of the divers. The rest would follow on the second shuttle run along with the cylinders and kit.

Port Erin headland

The sea was considerably calmer here thankfully so we were all looking forward to our first dive without getting tossed about in the boat on the way to the dive site. There was a fair bit riding on this dive as prior to coming over to the island, Garry had given a ZOOM presentation on what the trip would be like. In his presentation, he had given a promise that we would see seals on this dive. After a lot of banter between Garry and Kate about the possibility of seeing seals, a small wager was set. As it turned out, Kate had never seen a seal while underwater before. So if no seals appeared then Garry would buy a round of drinks for the group. If the seals did make an appearance, then the group members would all buy him a drink. I’m sure that he appeared to be very nervous the closer we got to entering the water!
The dive site was a boulder wall sloping down to about seventeen metres or so. The best plan on this dive in my experience is to pick you depth for the first half to three quarters of the dive then shallow up to about six meters or so and swim along above the kelp. The seals seem to like this depth plus they must feel a lot safer as they can hide in amongst the kelp if they feel threatened. We varied our depth between twelve and seventeen metres or so. One seal did join Tony and I but it didn’t stay long. It made me wonder at that point just how the others were getting on. Besides the seal, we did see lots of lobsters, various crabs and the usual fish suspects such as Coalfish and Pollack as well as Gobies, Blennies etcetera.
Once back on board, all the talk was obviously about seal encounters. Who saw what? How many did you see? How long did they spend with you? And so on and so forth. Kate put Garry out of his misery by telling him that she and Chris saw quite a few seals. Another box ticked. And all celebrated with a nice brew and more lovely cake served up by our deck hand Squid.

Kate finally gets her wish to see a seal…… and a real one as well!

We now headed back to Port Erin so that we could change our cylinders ready for our second dive. We had lunch while Endeavour was tied up. The weather had improved quite a lot from when we first set out in the morning. In fact, the sun had come out and a party atmosphere was developing shore side with music being played and lots happening on the beach.
Our second dive of the day was to be on the wreck or more to the point what is left of the SS Citrine. She was originally a small cargo ship built in 1921. She ran aground in thick fog in March 1931. There were I believe only two survivors out of the crew of ten. The survivors scaled the cliff face after swimming to shore. No mean feat even on a clear day!

Terry, Tony and Gary on the Citrine

There is no shot line on the wreck. After dropping into the water, it’s a case of swimming down the kelp covered slope onto the wreck site. Tony, Garry and I reached the wreck at the stern. We had a look around here before slowly making our way forward. There are a good few prominent features to be see, the biggest being the single boiler. The engine is still in place also. There are also winches, chains and the spare propeller located at the bow. We didn’t see the spare propeller on our first visit to the bow but with plenty of gas and time to spare, we revisited it and found it quite easily. We all agree at this point to end the dive so all sent DSMB’s up making our three minute safety stop before surfacing. We were the last ones to surface after a fifty minute dive but the others were only just ahead of us.

We now steamed back to Port St Mary as the weather had improved even more and the sea had flattened out quite a lot. Once berthed, the usual cylinder unloading took place and we headed back to our accommodation and a nice hot shower. Oh and a pre shower beer lol.

Enjoying a couple of drinks in the Albert Hotel

That evening saw some of the group heading for the local Italian restaurant which is just up the road from the dive centre and others electing to get a meal from the Chinese takeaway which is even closer to the dive centre. After we had all dined, we met back at the accommodation and agreed to going for a couple of drinks down at the Albert Hotel.

We only had a couple because we were all aware that we had an early start the following morning which was to be our final days diving prior to heading back home. We met Steve, Michelle and Kathryn in the Albert and spent a pleasant evening chatting about guess what? Yes, diving! Why wouldn’t we?

Monday morning was an early start as we were aiming to catch the 3.30pm ferry back to Liverpool. We already knew the plan for the day as we had discussed it in the pub the night before. The first dive was to be in Castletown Bay with the second dive being the Sugarloaf Caves. The weather conditions for Monday were as expected. Nothing short of perfect! The sea was flat calm with no wind.
Casteltown Bay was only a short run form Port St Mary. Once on site, Steve cut the engines and gave the divers a briefing. We were told that we would be dropping in on kelp but to head east and by doing so, we would make our way to the buoy in the middle of the bay. We descended on to kelp then followed our compass bearings and found the gulley’s that we were briefed about which led us into deeper water. The kelp eventually thinned out as we went deeper and the visibility was a good eight to ten meters.
There was the usual compliment of fish and inverts to be seen. I tried my best to find Nudibranch’s but failed miserably. As Garry and I finned along, a singular seal joined us and checked us out. It didn’t stay around for long though and didn’t return so obviously we weren’t interesting enough! The highlights of the dive for me were the two Octopuses we spotted. Garry thought it might have been the same one but I was convinced that one was much bigger than the other. The first one squirted a lot of ink in order to confuse us whereas the second on just swam along and we followed it for quite some time. Poor Garry must have been well miffed as he elected not to take his camera in on this dive. Isn’t that always the case! We were starting to feel a little chilled on the dive and Garry indicated that he would prefer to end the dive to which I agreed. Once again, DSMB’s were deployed and we started our return.

Dave doing a Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and following the yellow brick road in Castletown Bay

The usual safety stop was completed before surfacing. It turned out that we were the last pair up. We secured our kit and enjoyed a nice cuppa and yes you’ve guessed cake as we headed back to Port St Mary so that we could change our cylinders and sort our kit out for our last dive of the weekend which was to be Sugarloaf Caves.

Once we had all changed our cylinders, Steve pointed Endeavour in the direction of the dive site and off we went. It actually isn’t too far from Port St Mary. The caves aren’t actually full caves except the first on which only has an entrance so it’s a case of swimming into it and turning back once you can go no further. The main one is more of a fissure in the rock but it certainly gives you the feel that it is a cave. If you look up though, you can see the surface. By the time we had reached the dive site, we had all had about one and a half hours surface interval or more so kitted up so that it would save any rushing later when we had to head back to Douglas to catch the ferry. We entered the water as a group and once we had descended, made our way towards the rock face and the first of the caves. There isn’t a lot of room at the far end of the first cave so everyone took things nice and slowly and allowed the pair in front of them sufficient time to reach the furthest point at the back and turn around before making their way into the dark. Once we had all taken a look around this cave, we made our way along the cliff face with it on our right hand side to look for the entrance to the main ‘cave’.

From memory, the opening was awkward to find due to the amount of kelp growth. We made one mistake before getting back on track and finding the opening which we couldn’t fail to find this time. There was nowhere near the amount of kelp growth around the entrance when compared to the last time we had dived it which had been four or five years previous to this trip. Everyone was aware that they should take their time swimming through here as this was the main part of the dive. They all seemed to be enjoying it!

Dave and Kelly exiting the main cave

There are not masses of life in the cave due to the reduced light levels but there is the odd anemone where some light hits the wall plus odd crabs and fish. There are a good few Gobies or Blennies if you care to look for them. Most of these are at the three entrance/exit points. Once we had exited the cave, we meandered our way through the large boulders that had some kelp growth on them but it couldn’t be described as a forest! We just followed the easiest way through. We were all hoping that the Guillemots etc would be in a feeding mood and think that our bubbles might have been prey fish. Sadly the birds weren’t in a feeding mood that particular day. We all completed approximately forty five minutes before each pair delayed one of their DSMB’s and started their ascent.
So the final dive of the weekend was over and done with and the boat headed back for Port St Mary where the minibus was waiting with our dive bags on board. Once moored up, all kit and cylinders were unloaded and the packing commenced. Thankfully it was a nice day so that made the task much easier. When all the cylinders and dive bags had been loaded onto the bus, we headed back to the shop and accommodation to get a quick shower, change and a bite to eat if you wanted it. We stripped our beds and tidied the flat up as best as we possibly could. The rubbish and recyclable items were taken downstairs before we all headed into the shop to settle our outstanding bills.
Michelle drove us into Douglas with the help of one of her friends who took three or four of our group in their car.
We arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time so all that was left was to say our good byes and express our thanks for a great weekend and that hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before some or all of us were coming back again.
Check in was empty thankfully so we went through the process which included sending all our heavy dive bags up the conveyor only to find that the bags wouldn’t fit through the opening at the top of the conveyor. Well by the time this was rectified, there was what can only be described as a fair sized queue behind us! I’m sure other passengers were cursing us. Eventually we boarded Manannan though and were treated to a perfect crossing. The sea was like glass for most of the way back to Liverpool. I took the time to finish off the dive logs on the way back so that I could get them to the Diving Officer as soon as possible.
As we collected our bags, we all bade each other goodbye as there was no point hanging around because we were all heading off in different directions anyway.
So the long awaited weekend was over. As the organiser, I just hoped that everyone enjoyed it and had lots of fun and laughs along the way.
A really big thank you to Steve and Michelle @ Discover Diving for all their hard work in trying to ensure that we had a great trip. Also thanks to Kathryn and Squid for looking after us while we were on the boat. And a special thank you from me to Ethan for washing and drying my soaking wet under suit and base layers. And a final thank you from me the organiser to the group as you all helped to make it a really enjoyable trip!

Terry Maloney a.k.a Zippy (trip organiser).

Anglesey – April 2021 – Trip Report

Our chairman, along with Anthony Fitzpatrick kindly suggested and booked the campsite for the diving weekend with electric hook ups to make for more of a glamping than camping experience with some having very impressive blown up, beds. The main purpose of the trip was to give new trainees their first taste of sea diving off a boat and a shake down post covid for more experienced divers who wanted to refresh their skills.


The campsite at Pencraig was a great camp site with a café, shop, toilet, and shower block as well as the electric and water hook up for each spot. It was always going to be a busy weekend with a big boxing match and a derby also to be included in the itinerary of the diving weekend.


The weather forecast was good but some concerns about wind meant the Assistant Diving Officer had to check the sea each morning to confirm whether diving could go ahead. We’ were gassed up, ready and excited to explore a couple of wrecks called the SS Missouri and the Hermine.


The dives were relatively shallow at 12 to 13 metres and there was no guarantee as to what the visibility would be like.


Most Campers arrived on the Friday and once tents, campervans and caravans were all safely in place the group split into two, those who fancied a curry at the local curry house and those that wanted a pub lunch. A drink or two was had to wash down the food but then it was back to the campsite to get a good night’s sleep for the first of two planned dives on Saturday.


Everyone was up early and loaded the ribs with their cylinders, rebreathers and twinsets and although it was very windy at the campsite the sea was reported to be calm in the bay and the dive was given the go ahead. Both ribs were launched from the slipway, and we headed out.


The new trainees at that stage were still studying their Ocean Diver qualification and it was the first time they had been on a rib and out to sea. Nerves and excitement were high in equal measure and each trainee was paired up with a very experienced Diver as their buddy and assistance was given kitting up on the boat.

The Divers all waiting for the boats to be launched for a days diving. Looks like Phil had rolled in the sand in his dive suit here!


Our skilled boat captains got us safely over the wreck and the trainees went in with their buddies first so they didn’t have to sit getting nervous for too long. Helpfully the wreck had 3 visible markers which meant the divers could navigate down one of the three shot lines to ensure they landed directly onto the wreck. Once all trainees were safely heading down to the wreck it was then the turn of the more experienced divers to refresh their skills and hopefully enjoy getting back into the water.

The Chairman & Diving Officer getting completely overshadowed by the lovely Faye whilst trainee Alex looks on


The visibility at 12 to 13 meters wasn’t the best but you could still make out wildlife, parts of the wreck and have an enjoyable dive. Once all divers were safely back on the boat, we headed back to shore for a lunch break and to chat about the morning’s dive before heading back out again for the afternoon dive which was to dive the wreck Hermine.


The trip out was a lot longer on the rib and brought the boats close to rocky areas, so we had to rely on the boat captains experience to keep everyone safely away from the rocks and have a good dive.
There was no shot line, on this wreck and it proved that a diver or two may not have been correctly weighted and the odd bit of lead had to be found to assist them. The visibility was not as good as it had been that morning, but all divers managed to get into the water for varying lengths of time.


Some enjoyed the dive; some felt the visibility wasn’t the best, but everyone still had fun. That was day one of diving done and it was back to the campsite for a little rest before a trip to the local pub to watch the big Tyson Fury fight.


Sunday saw us getting an extra hour to get ready before heading to the shore to launch the boats. As it was Derby Day it was decided we would only do one dive today and we all decided we wanted to dive the SS Missouri again from different shot lines to see other parts of the wreck.


The visibility was like the day before and those that dived all reported having a great time. A buddy pair reported seeing an octopus and got a great picture of a Nudibranch Facelina Auriculata as seen in the picture below.

After safely returning to shore and back to the campsite some had to leave for work the next day and those that stayed watched the derby in the local pub. With the majority of divers being reds the blue supporters left quickly after the first goal was scored. After a succesful result for the reds we headed back to the campsite for a few drinks and a reflection around the camp fire of the weekend and how much we had enjoyed it, we had an ealy night ready to pack and head home the next day.

A couple of members, Eddie Dorrian and Graeme Cooper also came along for the weekend to do a few shore dives, with Peter Beaver joining them on the Sunday and Graeme’s report of the diving is detailed below:

Diving on the Saturday, we chose Porth Dafarch. This was largely because we managed to get parking down on the slipway, which made for good shore access, with no need to carry weights and cylinders up and down the hill. We were also able to kit uo on the steps, directly by the beach.

The sea was a bit choppy because of a strong wind, and the waves stirring up the sand made the visability bad. We went out along the rocks on the east end of the bay then simply went across the bay (east to west), heading back in along the rocks. Max depth 5 metres, but a dive’s a dive.

We got a second dive in, which was better. The wind had dropped and the visability had improved. We pretty much repeated the first route, but went further out and deeper, exploring the rocky shoreline at the west end of the bay.

On the Sunday, Peter joined us, but after breakfast Eddie had to head home. Peter and I stayed with Port Dafarch for diving. We headed out long the bay’s east side, before heading further out along the west side rocks. Still not deep, (6 or 7 Metres), but far enough out to be among some nice tall kelp, with rocky gullies around the headland.

So a few good relaxed shore dives, plus the chance to catch up with other club members. Can’t claim that the dives were spectacular, but for me this type off accessible shore dive was useful for getting back into the sea after the winter and refreshing my diving skills.

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Its safe to say that going away on club dives gives everyone a chance to get to know each other better, new and old members.  Some members even just came for the weekend away and to enjoy the sights and didn’t dive. The feedback from the trainees who attended was that they had an amazing weekend not only diving, but getting out on the boat and getting to spend time laughing and joking with other more experienced divers and members and they picked up hints and tips that will be invaluable to their diving skills going forward. If you are new to diving and haven’t yet experienced a dive weekend away I would strongly encourage you to go for it, you wont regret it.

Trip members : David Edwards, Robbie Edwards, Martin Campbell, John Dunne, Sean Cafferkey, Ian Bennett, Dave Barlow, Kelly Baird, Faye-Louise Northam, Steve Baxter, Andy Parsons,  Sue Kids, Pete Cheesewright, Alex Naylor, Mark Williams, Graeme Cooper, Eddie Dorrian,  Peter Beaver, Phil Coggins, Angela Coggins.

Report prepared by Angela Coggins, Trainee Ocean Diver at the time of the trip, now qualified Ocean Diver and working towards her Sports Diver qualification.

Holyhead August 2022

Ray Cramer is planning a trip to Holyhead in August this year for technically qualified divers only.

This trip is to dive on a specific new mark which Ray has found. Reported length 24m, width 12m, height 10m. No magnetic data due to it not being deemed a wreck until post processing. Remnants of a keel and single boiler.

The site lies in a strong tidal flow. There are only five suitable weekends in 2022 with two diveable days for two waves of 60 minutes maximum dive times. Three are very early season, there is the planned weekend and a further weekend in September which could be used if the planned weekend is postponed.

The plan is to use Holyhead slipway. A weekend could be made of this, weather permitting. A suitable campsite could be Cae Ffynnon Caravan and Camping site, Rhosgoch, Amlwch.

Dates: August 20th and August 21st

Diving will be using the Majors boat and one of the club boats.

This dive is suitable for technically qualified divers only.

Anyone interested should contact Ray directly or put their name down on the interest sheet on the club noticeboard.

Malta June 2022

The Major is running a trip to Malta this year commencing Saturday 18th June and returning Saturday 25th June. The diving will be with Alan and Viv Whitehead who run Divewise in St Julian’s Bay.

As with previous years, anyone interested will need to book their own flights and accommodation. Rough costs for diving will be supplied closer to the time.

Anyone interested in the trip should contact Alan direct or put their names down on the interest form on the club noticeboard.

Fishguard June 2022

Ray Cramer is planning a four day dive trip to Fishguard for the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.

The plan is to use the Fishguard slipway with a primary objective to dive on a newly surveyed/discovered unknown mark so flexibility of diving other marks may be required.

Dates: Thursday 2nd June to Sunday 5th June. Traveling down the day before.

Accommodation: Hillfort camping who have reserved a field for trip use.

Diving will be using the Majors boat and one of the club boats.

This trip is suitable for Dive Leaders and above only.

Anyone interested should contact Ray direct of add their names to the interest form on the club noticeboard.

Name Depth Length Height
Unknown 39m 45m 4.5m
Baron Carnegie 43.5m 110m 7.5m
Moyallon 49m 83m 13m

Holyhead April 2022

Ray Cramer is organising a trip to Holyhead on 9th & 10th of April this year. This is for Dive Leaders and above to investigate a mark lying at approx 38m.

Reported with length 24m, width 6m and height 3.4m, slight magnetic anomaly, upright, bows partially buried/collapsed to ESE. Boiler midships high point.

The site lies in a strong tidal flow and there is only one weekend in 2022 which allows two diveable days for two waves of 60 minutes maximum dive times.

The plan is to use Holyhead slipway. A weekend could be made of this, weather permitting with suitable small campsite being Cae Ffynnon Caravan and Camping site, Rhosgoch, Amlwch.

Dates: April 9th 2022 and April 10th 2022.

Will be using Alan’s boat and one of the club boats.

Anyone interested should contact Ray or put their name on the interest form on the club noticeboard.

PLEASE NOTE: This trip had to be abandoned due to the weather.

Mersey Swim 2021

Branch 5 helped out last Sunday by providing three safety boats for this years Across the Mersey Swim. Both Club Boats, including the new 6.5m Humber, joined Club Chairman Alan Jones’s boat and several other volunteer boats to provide safety and support for the event.

In the end all that was required was to watch as all 160 open water swimmers made the crossing without incident.

Starting at the Cockle Hole on the Liverpool side the swimmers headed off at the start of slack water aiming upriver towards the Cammell Laird shipyard on the Wirral side. Over the hour it takes most of the competitors to complete the course the changing current brings the swimmers in to the slipway at Birkenhead priory.

This year, the conditions were really good and many of the swimmers reached Cammell Lairds on the far side before the tide turned and had to swim down the Wirral side to the Priory. In the end all made it safely in. A great result for the organiser’s and all the amazing swimmers who took part.

Plymouth August 2021 Trip Report

So August Bank Holiday came around again and that meant that a group of twelve divers from the branch were going to make their way down to Plymouth for three days diving with In Deep in the capable hands of our skipper James Balouza and decky Sam.

The weather forecast was looking good for the weekend which was a bonus.

We all assembled at our accommodation which was the Boringdon Arms as usual. We received our usual warm welcome from the owners Greg and Sue and their ‘go to’ assistant Jordan. It’s a great base and nothing is too much trouble for the Borry team.

We were dining at the Boringdon on the Friday night so there was no real need to go rushing about and a nice convivial atmosphere ensued.

Some of us did go for a walk though as I needed to speak with Claire, the manageress of the Royal Oak. So not to be rude, we did partake of a beer or two while we were there.

We then ambled back to the Boringdon for showers and a change before our meal.

After all the travelling, just about everyone retired fairly early so as to be nice and fresh for Saturday morning.

After a great breakfast, we all made our way to the Mountbatten Centre for an 8am meet up with our skipper. I had already chatted with James about what dives we would be doing as there was a very important football match kicking off at 5.30pm and quite a few of us wanted to be back in time to catch it. That sounds easier than it was as I wasn’t aware of any of the local pubs on our side of bay that were showing live football. But weeks earlier, Claire from the Royal Oak helped us out and booked tables for us in the Three Crowns over on the Barbican. But more of that later as there was a days diving ahead of us before that.

So ‘ropes off’ was at 9am and we headed off in the direction of Whitsand bay and our first dive which was to be the Rosehill. The Rosehill was a 2700 ton armed merchant ship that was torpedoed by U40 in September 1917. She lies about two miles out from Portwrinkle.

As usual, James shotted the wreck on the boilers as he usually does. Our group made their way down the shot line into what can only be described as poor viz for Plymouth. Three to four metres at best I reckoned. Garry and I had already decided to take our strobes and clipped them to the line so as to aid everyone’s return. We made our way to the stern as the last time we dived the wreck, some of us missed the stern gun. Well we made sure that we didn’t miss it this time despite the bad viz! The ambient light levels were good though so that made the dive more enjoyable. We also took in the propellor and rudder that now lies flat on the sand. From here, we made our way back towards the boilers. If you look closely, you can still see lots of engine parts amongst all the wreckage. Swimming past the boilers, we started to make our way towards what used to be the bow. This entails a lot of swimming over lots of sections of plate. There are plenty of Pink Sea Fans growing here and myriads of fish. Mainly Bib. But the most awesome sighting was three or four large Bass actively hunting their prey. It’s not something divers see that often. The Bass appeared to be actually using the light from our torches to hunt by. They were swimming within a metre of us and when we directed our torches at them, they were just like glistening bars of silver.

We weren’t far short of the bows and the two large anchors but decided to turn back as our deco had kicked in by now and the requirements were starting to build up. The Bass followed us all the way back.

We reached the shot line and started our ascent. Garry and I collected our strobes on the way up. We all (Garry, Steve, Kat & I) left the bottom with about ten minutes deco to do. We all completed our schedule before finishing our ascent.

Despite the conditions, we all agreed that it was a very enjoyable dive.

James pointed Seeker in the general direction of our second dive once we were all aboard which was to be the James Eagan Layne but only chugged along slowly so that we could get sufficient surface interval completed. This went well as Sam served up tea, coffee and hot sausage rolls which were very welcome indeed.

Surface interval over, we all kitted up and prepared to dive the James Eagan Layne, a liberty ship of 7000 tons that was torpedoed in March 1945 by U1195. She stayed afloat for about eight hours before finally sinking in Whitsand Bay.

This wreck has the reputation of being the most dived wreck in the UK. Well it’s showing it’s age a bit but despite that, you can understand why it has the reputation it has. It’s a truly stunning wreck! We dropped down the shot line to the bows and then through the superstructure into the forward hold. From here, you can swim the entire length of what is left of the wreck. Her stern broke off a few years ago in a storm.

The visibility was not much better than on the Rosehill but the fact that we were inside it made the dive so much better as there was plenty of ambient light flooding through all the openings in the sides.

We covered the entire length of the wreck from stem to stern. Unlike our last dive on it, we didn’t spend too much time at the stern and therefore had enough gas and time to go all the way back to the bow. We exited the bow and made our way back up the permanent shot line.

Personally, it was one of the best dives I’ve had on it!

So the first days diving was done and dusted and we made our way back to the Mountbatten landing stage in plenty of time to get back to the Borry, have a shower and a quick pint before heading over to the Barbican and the Three Crowns for the Liverpool v Chelsea game. Well thanks to Claire at the Royal Oak, we had a great location to watch the game and get dinner. I’ve got to mention the Surf & Turf that most people had. It came out on what looked like sharing platters. Needless to say, there were no complaints! The beer wasn’t bad either!

After drinking up, we made our way back to pick the water taxi up. Garry and I couldn’t catch the first one as it was full so we let Steve and Kat head back first. We only had twenty or thirty minutes to wait but that time flew by as we were treated to a comical show by some clown in a small boat with an oversized engine on it. He was messing about making the boat point up at about 45 degrees when he gunned the engine a bit. What he failed to remember was to keep the engine reviving when making a sharp turn. Well he paid the price! He rolled it over and the crowds watching were treated to the sight of a boat slowly sinking into the dock. Another boat came to his rescue and even though his had sunk, they managed to grab a trailing rope and tow it back to a little beach not far away.

Eventually everyone met up at the Boringdon and we all recounted tales of what we had seen during our first days diving and discussed the next days dives. All over a couple of shandy’s of course!

Sundays dives were to be the wrecks of the Persier and the Maine. So two potentially good dives to look forward to.

We woke to yet more settled weather with the sun shining and a reasonably blue sky. What more could we ask for?

Ropes off was a little later but we were all aboard quite handy so James pointed Seeker in the direction of Bigbury Bay and the first of the days dives, the Persier. This wreck is a WW2 casualty after taking a torpedo on her port side in February 1945. Everyone was hoping for better viz than we had on Saturday. James shotted the wreck in his usual efficient manner and as we were all kitting up fifteen minutes beforehand, most of us were ready to go. Marc and Adey were the first two down the line and then the remaining pairs followed. Again, Garry and I attached our strobes to the shot line to try and make the return easier for us. The viz was no better than the previous day but still sufficient at about four to five metres to not spoil the dive.

We covered the entire wreck. The highlight being the stern with the rudder post standing proud and the steering gear still in place. We eventually made our way back to the shot line and saw the benefits of using our strobes as the line would have been a lot harder to find without them! Everyone was more than happy with the first dive of the day but everyone’s favourite was still to come!

Once the shot was retrieved, we made our way towards Salcombe and the wreck of the Maine. On the way, we had tea and hot sausage rolls served up by Sam for our lunch. They were really very tasty!

The Maine is a WW1 casualty after having taken a torpedo on her port side  just like the Persier in March 1917. It’s such an iconic wreck! Once inside it, the ambient light coming through all the open space makes it a brilliant dive. Especially in good viz!

James put the shot in at the stern. We made our way down the line, clipping our strobes on as we went. We dropped below the upper deck level and swam into the wreck. We slowly made our way though it, passing though holds, skirting round the boilers. It’s an awesome dive! And on the return, we stopped at the now famous ladder that which has been the subject of many a photograph. Once back at the stern, we dropped towards the sea bed where sections of the steering mechanism can still be seen. Looking up from here, our strobes could be seen flashing away indicating where the shot line was. We all made our ascent and had about ten minutes deco to complete before surfacing. Once all the divers were back on board, we made our way for the Mountbatten centre. You could tell from the buzz on board that everyone had had an excellent couple of days and were really happy. And we had a Bar-B-Q to look forward to that evening at the Royal Oak.

Once we were all showered and changed, we strolled down to the Oak in glorious sunshine. We couldn’t have wished for better weather!

Our tables were booked for 7pm but we deliberately arrived a little earlier so we could enjoy the atmosphere and one or two lemonades of course.

Well I can honestly say that the food did not disappoint. The chef did himself proud with some lovely dishes ranging from steak, sword fish through to burgers. We all had a lovely meal. The only downside was that the pub had been drunk dry! I’m not suggesting in any way that members of Branch 5 were responsible for this lol.

Well with no beer left in the barrels, we made our way back to the Boringdon for a last drink or two. Everyone was in good spirits after a great days diving followed by a lovely barby.

As is usual, we discussed the days dives and the dives still to come.

We had agreed to a scenic dive at Hilsea Point to start and follow it up with a dive on the Oregon.

Ropes off on the Monday was at 10am but as everyone was aboard early yet again, we cast off and headed for Hilsea Point. It was a bit choppy on the way out but not really too uncomfortable. It was mainly just spray so everyone edged that little bit closer to the wheelhouse. Once we had reached our destination though, conditions had eased and it was a comfortable process of kitting up. James dropped the shot bang in the gully which was to be the start of our dive. His instructions were to head North once we were in the gully and then turn right after exiting it and swim around the pinnacle. Adey & Marc were the first, followed by my group, Andy & Kerry then Ray & James.

We dropped down the line which ran over the edge of the gully and there below us on a clear bed of sand was the shot. We all checked our direction and headed North as instructed. The gully was a brilliant start to the dive. It was about 25mtrs deep at the start of the dive and three or four metres wide but eventually narrowed down to about one metre wide as it shallowed up to about 12mtrs. The sidemount divers actually reported having to swim side on in order to get through! We turned right as instructed and keeping the wall on our right hand side, followed the amazing rocky contours. This was turning out to be an excellent dive, made so much more enjoyable as we had the best viz of the weekend. There was plenty of life to be seen. Definitely some of the biggest Urchins we have ever seen! Lots of different species of fish especially Sand Eels in their thousands. Crayfish were abundant on parts of the dive although my group actually only saw one. We did see some Dogfish (Cat Shark?) as well. One in particular being about 1.25mtrs long we reckon.

I spotted this one just as the current was starting to pick up so now we went on a nice little drift dive. What a great way to end a very enjoyable dive. We sent our DSMB’s up and made a nice slow ascent up to 5mtrs where we completed any decompression requirements as well as a safety stop.

Back on the boat, everyone was enthusing about the dive. One regular actually asked me ‘why the hell haven’t we dived that before?’ I couldn’t give them an answer except to say that we would have to do it again at some point. It was an excellent dive!

Thankfully the sea had flattened a fair bit so it was tea and pasties all round during our surface interval. And did they go down well? Especially for the ones who went back for a second sitting lol. Mentioning no names of course Garry.

We now made our way to the site of our final dive of the weekend. It was to be on the wreck of the Oregon. This is an old wreck. She went down in a storm in 1890. James dropped the shot in on the stern as he explained that there was a large net at the bow which divers might not like to venture too close to. We followed the same format as for all the other dives with four of us going in together. Dropping down the line, Garry and I clipped our strobes into place once again. The wreck was teeming with life. Large shoals of juvenile fish plus a healthy population of Congers and Lobsters. The wreck is well broken up as you would expect for a ship that had been underwater for over one hundred and thirty years! But this just added to the dive in our opinions. We slowly followed the contours of the wreck, eventually arriving at the bow and the large net that had been caught up at the bow and looked more like a mast from distance as it stood vertical due to the many floats that were still attached to it. After having a good look around here, we agreed to make our way back to the shot line. Everywhere we looked, there were Congers and Lobsters to be seen. The wreck was alive! The viz on this wreck was certainly the best that we had had experienced on any of the wrecks this weekend and after a while, we could see our two strobes flashing away in the distance. We made our way over to the line, agreed to ascend and recovered our strobes on the way back up. We had all gone into deco on this dive as it was our second of the day and also the deepest (just) of the weekend. We completed all of our required stops before surfacing.

With everyone back on board, Seeker headed back to the Mountbatten Centre. We all stripped our kit down on the way so that we could unload the boat quickly as some of our group were heading for home immediately after we docked.

The remaining eight though were staying over for the extra night and going out for a meal and a few beers after getting scrubbed up.

We said our good byes to Andy, Kerry, Steve & James and headed back for our digs. The sun was shining so we all sat out front at the Boringdon and had a couple of drinks before heading off for our meal. And why not!

Our restaurant for our last night was Lackys Balti House. I’ve got to extend a big thanks to the owners as usually they are closed on a Monday night but agreed to open up especially for us when I called to book a few weeks earlier. It’s not a licensed restaurant which we knew so all took our own beer and wine with us. Lackys did us proud. The food was delicious and we all had a fantastic evening discussing the weekend, the diving, the football, the weather and just about everything else. We all agreed that it had been a brilliant trip. Possibly the best we’ve had in my opinion.

After leaving the restaurant, we all strolled back to the Boringdon for a few more drinks before heading for bed. We had lots of laughs and maybe a few drinks too many but everyone was sensible as we knew that we had a long drive ahead of us the following morning.

We all ate a good breakfast the next morning before saying our good byes to Greg and Sue and of course to each other.

All that was left was to make our way home after a brilliant weekend. Roll on next year.

A big thanks must go to all the following people for making the trip go so well.

The gang at In Deep and particularly James and Sam.

Also the staff of The Boringdon Arms. Greg, Sue and Jordan.

Claire from The Royal Oak.

Our team for the weekend. Garry Bolland, Michele Woodward, Adey McGuigan, Marc Holroyd, Ray Cramer, Steve McElroy, Nigel Thomas, Alan Jones, James Brandon, Andy Rath, Kerry Place.

Thanks everyone.

Terry Maloney (trip organiser).

Scapa Flow August 2021 Trip Report

After having our original trip to Scapa Flow cancelled the day before we left in 2020 and deciding not to go on the re-organised trip we weren’t expecting to be on this one. But when Alan got in touch to say a few had dropped out we decided to take the places…. and by the end of it were very glad we did.

We set off 8 o’clock Friday morning and with a couple of stops along the way arrived at Thurso Premier Inn eleven long, long hours later….. so just time for dinner and bed. Then up for breakfast at seven followed by a short drive to Scrabster to meet the others on the early Ferry.

After a pleasant hour and a half on the Northlink Ferry, passing the impressive Old Man of Hoy along the way, we arrived at Stromness for 10am. Bob Anderson and his crew, Teresa, Zoe and Godfrey were ready for us, so just the small matter of loading all the kit into bags to be lowered down to the deck by the boats crane then handballing all the non-diving gear down into the passenger berths.

Bob’s boat, Clasina, is big compared to other boats running dive trips in the area and very well equipped. The six cabins in the passenger area each had two large bunks and just enough room to move around. We were lucky enough to have space under the lower bunk to store bags etc which was a big help. On deck, there is a large undercover area for kitting up / hanging suits, a large open area with benches and storage bins for each person’s gear and two toilet shower rooms. To one side of the desk is and opening gateway with a short drop to get into the water with a lift alongside to get out. The main bridge area has a further toilet shower room, two tables with enough room for everyone to sit down together and a full size range for cooking and keeping warm after diving in the lovely Scottish Summer.

As this was our first trip to Orkney, after a quick walk around Stromness to get our bearings and a coffee we went off for a look round the Ring of Brodgar, a large Neolithic stone circle a few miles outside Stromness. By the time we got back the rest of the group had arrived on the later ferry and got their gear stowed away.  After Covid not everywhere in Orkney had opened again and there was a local festival on that day but fortunately Martin had pre booked tables at the Ferry Hotel for the first two evening meals. The food was great but it had been a long couple of days so we headed off to bed after a few drinks, only to be woken a few hours later by the industrial firework display being set off a few hundred yards away closely followed by the local pipers getting stuck in.

Next day was supposed to be a seven o’clock start but the first Northlink ferry of the day gets warmed up at five thirty and only being about a hundred yards away was pretty difficult to sleep through. Anyway, after breakfast onboard we got underway and had our first briefing from Bob. This and all the other briefings he gave were excellent. He laid out all the history of the sites, what to look out for, the best routes for us first timers and lots of other detail for the more experienced. All this mixed in with his unique sense of humour made for a great start to each dive. Bob had laid out a plan of dives for the first few days with the end of the week left open for us to decide where we wanted to go.

The first dive was the SMS Dresden, a fairly intact light cruiser lying in 25m at the prow dropping to 38m at the stern. We got kitted up and in we went. Down the shot to a davit midship. Bob had suggested following a route forward from this past the bridge and armoured control tower, mast and on to the forward capstans. We headed off in this direction but with this being our first time mixed with the sheer scale of the ship and the fact my leg was filling with water, would be lying if I really identified much. We did reach the bow and came back up this and followed the hull hoping to find our way back to the shot again but no luck. So sent up an smb and came back up. The boat was waiting, and the lift was amazing. Back onboard there were plenty of moans about the vis but we thought it was pretty good…. must have been at least 5m.

After bailing out my suit I found a hole in the boot but there was not much I could do about that. Hung everything up to dry and Zoe kindly put my under suit in the dryer over lunch. We tied up at Lyness, the old naval base, for lunch. Unfortunately, the museum there was closed for renovations but there was still a fair bit of history to look at. Whilst we were having lunch the crew took details of what gas was wanted for the next dive and started filling the bottles. Lunch was home made soup and fresh baked bread. Really good. Zoe’s cooking over the week will be responsible for hours of exercise over the next few months to try to loose some of the weight gained!

After lunch we headed out again and had another briefing. The afternoon dive was the SMS Karlsruhe, another light cruiser lying on her starboard side in 25m. The shot this time came down just behind where the bridge used to be. This wreck is more of a jumble and can’t remember seeing the control tower but did find one of the huge 5.9 inch guns and forward from that the capstan with the anchor chains still wrapped around. We really couldn’t make anything else out so headed up the hull again to try and find the shot before my leg filled up again. No sign of the shot so back up with a bag again.

After the dive it was back to Stromness. My undersuit had been in the dryer again and once back in port I took my suit up to the Red Shed for an overnight repair, along with the Major to get a zip looked at and Gail to get a spare suit fixed. Andy had brought his bike so set off for a bike ride.

The evening meal that night was back at the Ferry. Again, really good, with most of us having the lamb after seeing it the night before. For us it was another early night.

After managing to get back to sleep for a bit after the five thirty ferry alarm was up for seven to find all the suits had been returned already. The majors zip hadn’t been done but only because they couldn’t get in touch to check if he wanted it replaced. Absolutely fantastic service, wish we had something like that at home.

After breakfast another brief, this dive was going to be the SMS Coln. Another light cruiser and sister ship to SMS Dresden. She was a bit deeper at 36m. This time Martin and Andy offered to lead the way to make sure we saw the main bits of Bob’s suggested tourist route and thanks to them we did. The bridge and mast followed by the armoured control tower. Very distinctive when you know what your looking at. Skylights and deck hatches and on to the capstans and huge anchor chains still wrapped around and disappearing into the wreck. We left Martin and Andy here and set off up the bow and headed back towards the shot. Another miss followed by a close call with a sticky reel but we eventually got back up top.

Back to Lyness for another amazing Zoe lunch then an hour or two free time. Some of us went up to the Naval cemetery and others up to the abandoned Naval headquarters at the top of the hill.

The afternoon dive was the F2 and YC21 barge, not far from Lyness. The F2 was a WW2 Germain escort boat that sank in a storm in 1946 and YC21 a salvage barge that went down in another storm in 1968 whist working on the F2. Both were in about 16m but there was going to be some run…. We got onto the F2 ok but have to say it just looked like a scrap yard. We swam round the wreckage field for about 20 minutes until we found the rope that is still connected to the YC21. It was a hard swim over following the rope with the current running across and by the time we got the barge and swam round out the current we had both had enough and came up the shot on the barge bow. It’s a shame as everyone else seemed to agree the best bits were the salvaged items still in the barge!

After the diving it was back to Stromness, this time for dinner onboard. Zoe had made us an cracking curry, complete with naan bread, poppadums’ and all the trimmings.  After a few drinks onboard we went for a walk past the end of town to the headland that some of the others had recommended. It was well worth it with superb views out over the channel the ferry uses and across the bay.

Tuesday morning the weather was very overcast but nearly managed to sleep through the ferry starting up. Out of port for eight again and off to the SMS Brummer this time. A mine laying light cruiser lining on her side in about 36m. I took a wrong turn from the shot but we managed to get back on track. It was noticeably darker on this wreck and the vis wasn’t as good as the other wrecks so not as easy to pick things out. But we did see the anchor chain and control tower with one of the big guns underneath as well as the famous brass bridge railings. Also, Andy happened to be passing at one point and showed us the search light iris blades which we would probably have missed. This time we found the shot and made our way back up.

After lunch we headed off to Pan Hope on the east side of Flotta to dive on the U-Boat UB116. Kate decided to take the afternoon off, so I went in with Ray. As the boat was blown up for salvage there was not much recognisable, but the vis was amazing, at least 10m. We did see ballast tanks and off the end of the wreck following a line for twenty odd meters was a large and recognisable part of the conning tower. There was plenty of life around the wreck and was sorry when it was time to go up.    

That evening we tied up in Burray on the top end of Ronaldsay. Andy went off for another bike ride whilst we chilled out for an hour or two then headed up to the only place to eat in town…. The Sands Bar. This was by far the best meal we had off the boat. The fish was fantastic but everyone else seemed to enjoy theirs as well. Best of all, a good nights sleep as there was no ferry in the morning.

Next day was cold and windy, but fortunately not the forecast storm force winds. After getting under way earlier than usual the morning briefing was all about our first battleship. The SMS Kronprinz. We really wanted to see the 12 inch guns but as the ship had turned turtle and was lying upside down this meant getting to the bottom at 38m and going under the overhanging deck. We were the last down the shot and when we got to the bottom had to queue up to follow a second rope the last 10m down to the sea bed. Unfortunately, by the time we got down there it was pitch black and churned up so you couldn’t see a thing……. there was no way we were swimming under the deck into that so came back up and swam round towards the bow. The boat is so big and quite damaged due to the salvage works so we couldn’t be sure what we were seeing apart from a line of portholes. We eventually came up the side and swam along the keel enjoying the wildlife before setting of a smb and heading up.

We had lunch whilst traveling up to Burra Sound as we were diving on the blockship Tabarka in the afternoon and needed to be ready for slack water.  This is a steamship that was sunk to block the sound and lies in 15m of water. After arriving we had our briefing then got kitted up ready to go in. Unfortunately, we hadn’t been listening properly and had to sit around in our kit for fifteen minutes waiting for the tide. After about twenty we were told to stand down. Bob had forgotten to add the hour for BST!            

After our unexpected hours break we got ready and lined up like lemmings on the deck….. under instruction to get in and down as fast as we could as there was still a bit of a run on.  And there certainly was! Once we did get down it was like being in a wind tunnel. Everyone was on the floor dragging themselves towards to lee of the ship using the kelp…. apart from Steve who was sitting on the wreck enjoying the chaos. After making the mistake of trying to get round the prow then over the top we eventually found a way inside through a hole in the side. Inside it was pretty impressive, lots of life and great vis with light coming in from lots of gaps in the sides. We did try to get out to the stern through the wreck but the current just made it too hard work and on the last attempt had to catch Gail flying past the other way…. After a good look round we decided to go up whist the water was still fairly slack as didn’t fancy it in a proper run.

With everyone back onboard we headed back to Stromness arriving by about three to leave us enough time to a bit of sight-seeing. We dropped Steve and Gail off at the ring of Brodger then headed round to the far side of the islands to see the Italian Chapel. Two nissen huts, part of the Italian prisoner of war camp, that were transformed into an amazing chapel by the prisoners, some of whom stayed on after the war to finish it. Relatives still come over from Italy to maintain it even now. After this we went for a walk around the main town, Kirkwall but arrived just before five and pretty much everything closes at five so headed back to the boat for another Zoe dinner and a few more pounds.

Ian had suggested the walk up the hill behind town so gave it a go to walk off some of the food and actually met Ian on the way back down. It’s a steep walk but up top are fantastic views of Stromness and the surrounding area as well as right out into the flow.   

Thursday was a later start as Bob had to wait for a fuel tanker so we didn’t leave Stromness until about nine. We had our briefing and headed off to the SMS Coln again but stopped on our way at the SMS Margraff, the deepest of the battleships at 45m, to drop Martin and Andy in. Martin had planned long dive to take in all the guns. Not sure Andy was as keen but he went along….

On the SMS Coln we were getting the hang of things at last, we stuck to the original route Bob had given us first time and managed to pick out everything along the way. The vis was a bit dark but still good so we enjoyed it. Swam around the bridge area and saw the mast then on to the armoured control tower. We missed the gun mounts but found the skylights and deck hatches and finally the capstans and anchor chains. We swam up the side this time and could clearly see where the deck was peeling away from the hull and through the gaps to the inside of the ship. We eventually came back to the shot and were able to go up this for once.

After collecting everyone and going back for Martin and Andy we headed off to a dump site just off Lyness. Alan, Ray and Gary hadn’t dived that morning and wanted to spend some time hunting for treasure. Nothing can be taken from any of the warships in the area but they were allowed to root around for objet d’art on the ‘Bottle Site’ so off they went. They did come back with a brass flange, a glass dish and what looked like a bit of shell casing but nothing I’d want on the sideboard at home. 

After lunch we set off for Burra Sound again for a dive on another block ship, the SS Gobernador Bories. A whaler and cargo ship purchased by the British Navy and sunk in about 17m as a block ship.

Wasn’t so keen after the fight with the current the day before but was assured it would be better this time…….so, after the briefing we all kitted up and lined up on the deck again. As with the last one it was all in together and straight down. This time it was slack water and good vis as well. The ship is quite broken up but covered in all sorts of marine life.  Really pleasant dive, we missed the prop and rudder but towards the end we came across the engine block. A huge thing open at the sides showing the con rods and pistons. It looked like it was starting to run after this, so we set off a bag and game up.

After collecting everyone we set off for Longhope, a tiny place on the island of South Walls. Aside from a small ferry terminal, a lifeboat station and a few houses the only thing there is a pub. The Royal Hotel. An interesting place….. When we got in there, they had a roaring fire going that we ended up sitting next to and one of the locals was trying to breath fire with his whisky. We were feeling the pace and after another bucket of coal was thrown on the fire we made our escape. Andy wasn’t so lucky… the owner took a shine to him and started giving him free whisky…..so he stayed late with Martin, Tom, Steve and Ray.

Friday morning was an early start again. Andy looked a bit worse for ware but was still up for a dive. Ray had ear problems so missed out on the last couple of dives. The last day was going to be SMS Dresden first followed by SMS Karlsruhe, a repeat of the first days diving. This was great as we had missed a lot on the first dives.

We came down almost on top of the armoured control tower and saw one of the 5.9 inch guns. Tried shining lights into the tower slits but couldn’t make out anything inside. Forward we found the capstan shafts where the deck had collapsed.  We followed the deck up to the top of the hull and carried on thinking we might get to the stern but we got to the end of our diving air first and came up on a bag. Really gave an impression of how big the ships were.

After lunch, we went down to the SMS Karlsruhe again. It made more sense this time but is still very broken up. The breach of the 5.9 inch gun and its barrel were certainly the highlights as well as the two capstan and anchor chain. We found the shot again and came up.

The it was time to head back to Stromness and pack up. Steve, Gail, Martin and Andy were getting the five o’clock ferry and driving back overnight. We were originally getting the 11am Saturday ferry but as everyone else was getting the early 6.30 ferry we changed our booking as well. We would have been awake anyway……

With Bob and the cranes help we got everything but the overnight essentials onto the quay and packed up the cars. We then all went off around Stromness for a few bits of holiday tat including an obligatory Scapa Flow sweatshirt from the dive shop and a fridge magnet. Other tat was available…….

After saying goodbye to those on the early ferry the rest of us got ready and headed back to the Ferry Hotel for another meal. Lamb for almost everyone….. it was very good.

Following another early night we were up at five to get ready for the early ferry and half six. After breakfast onboard and docking in Scrabster at eight there was just the small matter of the eleven hour drive back…..

Even with the long drives we both thoroughly enjoyed the week. Bob and his crew were great and looked after us well as did everyone else on the trip. Couldn’t has asked for a nicer group of people to spend the week diving with.

Finally, a big thanks for Alan for organising the trip. I know its was hard with all the cancellations, breakdowns and Covid but it was well worth it. Looking forward to the next one…….

Alan, Ray, Ian, Gary (A lot taller in real life), Tom, Andy, Kate, Steve, Chris, Gail and Martin

Thanks to everyone who has shared photos that have been used in this post

Plymouth June 2021 Trip Report

This trip was originally planned by Ray Cramer to be a weekend of technical diving with In Deep based in Plymouth.

Unfortunately due to the effects of COVID keeping many divers out of the water and some of us feeling that we might not be ready for deeper dives, it was felt that it might be better to run the trip as a recreational one instead. Most if not all of the original group thought this to be a good solution.

So on Friday 11th of June, we set off for Plymouth and our accomodation which was to be the Boringdon Arms in Turnchapel. This is where we ate on the Friday night as well.

We unfortunately lost two of the original group at a very late stage but filled one place with a reserve. So we had eight divers in the group and thanks to In Deep, managed to fill the boat to its capacity of ten. 

We met up with our skipper James once we were there and changed our plan which was to dive the Maine on Sunday and dive it on Saturday instead. We made the Persier our second dive for the Saturday. We also agreed to Sundays plan which was to be the Rosehill followed by the James Eagan Lane.

Saturday morning arrived and we could not have asked for better surface conditions! The sun was shining and the sea was flat. 

We headed out to the site of the Maine which is just off Salcombe. She was a 3600 ton cargo ship that was torpedoed in March 1917.

Once the shot had been placed on the wreck, the pairs of divers entered the water, anticipating a good dive. Unfortunately the viz wasn’t as good as reported 10mtrs plus on the previous day but was still a milky six to seven metres. When compared to our usual Mersey Bay visibility, there were no complaints.

The second planned dive of the day was to be on the wreck of the Persier.

She was another cargo ship, larger than the Maine at just over 5000 tons. She was struck by the last of three torpedoes that a U boat had fired. She eventually sank in Bigbury Bay. She was identified by divers who brought her bell up which was inscribed with her original name of War Buffalo.

Once again, James dropped the shot on it perfectly and the divers entered the water. This time the visibility was what everyone had been hoping for and was considered to be somewhere between 10mtrs and 12mtrs. One of the highlights on this dive was an Angler Fish at least one metre long that most of the divers managed to see. All the divers returned to our boat Seeker and we’re buzzing about their dive.

We returned to Mountbatten happy with the day. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and evening so we sat out and enjoyed a nice relaxing drink and discussed the days proceedings. Once again, we dined in the Boringdon Arms. A tired but happy group of divers.

Sunday morning dawned and the anticipated adverse weather hadn’t really materialised. We were expected it to be blowing in the region of Force 4 which could have made it slightly uncomfortable but the weather Gods chose to smile on us at it was only Force 1 to Force 2 maximum. The temperature was also up a couple of degrees and there was hardly a cloud to be seen in the sky. We couldn’t have wished for better conditions!

So Seeker headed out to the wreck site of the Rosehill which is just a couple of miles out from Portwrinkle. She was a general cargo ship of just over 2700 tons. At the time of her sinking by a torpedo from U40 she was working as a collier for the Admiralty.

The shot was placed on the wreck at the boilers. These being the tallest part of the wreck. We descended the line to find fairly good visibility from about 5mtrs. The best part of this wreck is generally thought to be the stern section as the prop and rudder are still there along with the stern gun. Most of the group headed this way first and if you keep your eyes open, you can see lots of different engine parts littered about as well as the prop shaft that you can use as a guide. After looking around this part of the wreck, we made our way forwards as it’s possible to reach the bow where the anchors can still be found. It’s then possible to make it back to the boilers and of course the shot line and ascend with limited decompression requirements for all divers whether on OC or CCR.

Once every diver was back on board Seeker, we made a leisurely track to our final dive of the weekend which was to be on probably the most famous wreck in the area, the James Eagan Layne which was a US Liberty ship of 7176 tons that was torpedoed by U399 and sank in Whitsand Bay in March 1945. 

The shot line is on the bow and that’s where divers can enter the wreck. It’s possible to then swim through the complete wreck from bow to stern. There is still so much to see on this wreck as she was laden with 4500 tone of US Engineers equipment. Most of the divers spent a lot of time in the area of the collapsed stern section so deployed their DSMB’s as they wouldn’t be able to return to the shot within the designated one hour time slot. There were a number of small John Dory here as well as an Angler Fish.

It was now time to stow all our kit as the diving for the weekend had come to an end. We had had perfect topside conditions and good viz below the surface. What more could we have asked for.

Once back at In Deep, bills were settled, kit packed into the cars and good byes made to everyone with promises to be back. Which we will be in August.

Some of the group then headed for home while the remainder returned to the Boringdon Arms where we enjoyed a few beers before freshening up and heading to the local Indian restaurant for our final meal of the weekend. We all agreed that it was a wonderful meal. We then finished our evening with a few drinks in the Royal Oak before heading back to the Borry.

So another weekend was over and done. We had a fantastic group which consisted of Andy Rath, Kerry Place, Alan ‘Major’ Jones, Gary Horstman, Steve McElroy, Michele ‘Kat’ Woodward, Jenny Liversage, Garry Bolland and me, Terry Maloney. You were a brilliant group guys. Thank you all. It was just a shame that Martin Campbell and Ray Cramer were unable to make the trip!

Looking forward to returning to Plymouth and In Deep. A big thanks to James Balouza our skipper and the crew as well as the staff at the Boringdon Arms for looking after us. Thanks one and all.

Photographs courtesy of Jenny Liversage, Garry Bolland and In Deep.

Terry Maloney

Anglesey June 2021

So, Dave Edwards decided we needed a trip to get the new year going, so, he sent out the message we were going to Anglesey, camping, and diving 5th and 6th June. Think the trip was full within 20 minutes, and more than full by that evening. Unfortunately, Dave forgot to check he could book the days off so whilst we spent Saturday in the water, he spent it delivering to Holyhead and the surrounding areas!

Also, unfortunately, most of the camp sites were nearly full. Some of us got into Tyn Rhos and Stu Matthews saved the day with a bit of wild camping behind the site club for the rest. Mr Barlow, now being social class above the rest of us common campers found a site for his caravan as far away from us as possible whist still being on the island. But I suppose he couldn’t hear the snoring from there….

Anyway, back to diving, Saturday morning it was 8 o’clock on the front at Trearddur Bay to launch the two boats. Fortunately, the Hoff was there to organise the groups and get the boats in the water before the warden appeared to charge us for launching. With there being too many for the boats it was split into waves with some staying on the beach and going second.

After a tip from Chester SAC that they had been surveying the Missouri, had set a shot on the boiler, had laid a line across the whole length and that the vis was great…. that was where we headed. There were a nervous few minutes while we got the boats going but we needn’t of worried, the sorry excuse for an equipment officer had finally got the Viking fixed! Started first time.

It wasn’t the greatest of days to be in a rib, there was as fair breeze, and it was choppy but fortunately its only ten minutes round to the site and we all more or less went in together. Wow, the vis was stunning. You could almost see the whole wreck form the surface. We swam round the boilers and followed the guide rope to the bow and round then back. We have dived there a couple of times before but not seen anything more than a few bits of steel, but this was amazing. You could really see it had been a ship! Could have stayed down there all day but we had to get back for the other wave.

Once we got back and swapped the kit round I went back out to help the second wave dive and the others got some lunch. The second wave also came up with big grins…. and comments like, it’s the best vis in fifteen years and I didn’t realise there was so much to the wreck.

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So, after a quick lunch wave one set off again but this time to Rhoscolyn Beacons for an afternoon dip. Again, it was very choppy and after ten minutes of spine massage we got into their shelter. We again more or less went in together and spent a great half hour poking round the reefs and gullies. The vis wasn’t quite as good as the morning but still excellent. Plenty for sea life to observe and try to film with my new and very cheap underwater camera. Should have saved the effort and the money as the cheap bit of Chinese junk leaked in 10m despite being rated to 30. You really get what you pay for!

Back on the beach, the second wave had called it a day and gone so while the others got one of the boats out, myself and John took Steve Mc back to the Missouri for a second dive. The sea was really lumpy now and after he went in it was a long half hour bobbing round and trying to keep the boat into the waves, but good practice towards the cox assessment. Anyway, well worth it to see the smile of Steve’s face when he came up!       

Returning to shore it was the usual rush to get the other boat out and get the cylinders off to get fills. Big thanks to Dave B and Stu for taking the cylinders and to Anglesey Divers for staying open late to fill them all!   

After a long day, everyone went their own ways, Dave and Kelly back to Beaumaris, me and Kate to Enoch’s Chip Shop in Valley for Calamari and chips whilst the others went to the pub. No surprises there! After a beer back at camp with Ian and the Hoff we turned in to wait for stories the next day. After all….‘Big’ Dave had finally arrived for his trip.

Day two, the weather was amazing, the wind had gone and the sun was out. After sausage batches from the camp stove it was back to the front at Trearddur Bay for nearly 8 o’clock. We weren’t disappointed with the stories either! Someone carried on drinking back at someone else’s caravan and couldn’t find their way out of the caravan park….. ended up finding their way back and had to sleep in the spare room! No names but everyone knows who they are………

The waves swapped round for day two, so after the boats were launched, off they went whilst we enjoyed the sun on the beach. When the first boat came back we headed off to the point by Lee Caravan Park to dive on the wreck of the Hermione. We have dived here before and seen nothing but again today the vis was fantastic. Could see most of the wreck and swam in and out of the rocks  to see what was left of the prow and lots of sea life. Its not a big wreck so after a couple of circuits we swam offshore a bit in the gullies until we ran into Dave and Kelly coming the other way. Literally. So, we came up together then once we were all aboard, headed back.

After a coffee, a sandwich and a bit of a wait the boats were back but there was only four of us to go back out. Fortunately, Steve very kindly agreed to go straight back out so we headed back to the Missouri. After all, it’s close and the vis was too good to miss.

Another great dive. This time, following Steve’s advice, we swam a circuit around the outside of the wreck. The vis was so good you couldn’t miss the boilers from anywhere and we got to see lots we had missed the day before……. including a monster spider crab that could also see us!

 We got back onboard, headed back and landed the boat. By the time we had packed the car  everyone was on their way home. We headed back to the campsite, washed what we could then set off to Beaumaris to get some tea with the posh people. No chippie tonight, its was calamari and chips in the Midland Tapas and Wine Bar with Dave and Kelly. Very nice, but a strange place and odd service. After a rush back across the island to make the 11pm gate curfew at camp Tyn Rhos it was the end of another day.

Won’t bore you with the packing the tent up the next day, driving back then washing all the kit at home and drying the tent before putting it away. (Yes Mr Edwards, you dry tents before you put them away…….)

Anyways, what a great weekend and some fantastic diving. Big thanks to Dave for starting it all off, a bigger one to the Hoff for organising the diving and also a huge thanks to Steve Mc who must have coxed every wave he didn’t dive.

Roll on the next adventure.

Thanks to Kelly and Lou for some of the pictures…….

Anglesey Late September 2020

After a miserable year for diving trips, with so many being cancelled or postponed, but Tony Fitz finally managed to pull together a last minute weekend to Anglesey at the end of September.

The weather forecast didn’t look great on the run up to the trip and the first evening was less than ideal for setting up the tents at Pencraig Campsite in Valley. The wind was howling and there were plenty of showers, but we eventually managed to get everything setup in time to get down to the local pubs for a couple of beers and a nice hot pub meal.

The following day, after a very cold night, the weather had improved no end so everyone set off down to Trearddur Bay to get the boats launched. Unfortunately there were more problems with the Tornado and we couldn’t get it to start. So, undeterred, we split into groups and took it in turns to take the short run round to Porth Dafarch to dive the SS Missouri. The vis wasn’t brilliant but it was great to be back in the sea.

After a couple of waves it was back to the beach to swap cylinders and get a spot of lunch. In the afternoon we again went out in waves to dive on the SV Hermine just off Ravens Point. Most had good dives but unfortunately we missed the wreck and got caught in the current so had quite a drift dive.

So, after this it was back to get the boats out and head back to camp. There was not chance of getting tables at the local pubs Saturday evening so we just got a few beers in and sat around the team tents with a takeaway.

Next day the weather had improved even more, it was really very nice. We tried to get the Viking going with a jump start from the van but without success. So, we set off again with just the one boat. The bay was full of boats, looked like lots of clubs were taking the opportunity to get in before the lockdown got any worse.

This time the dives were on the reefs around Rhoscolyn Beacons. The vis hadn’t improved very much but was still a pleasant dive. With no rush to be anywhere and a lovely sunny day, everyone that wanted to got two dives in.

All that remained was to get the boat out then head back to camp and pack away. Tony, Ian, Chris and Dave were going to stay another night and do a bit of astronomy given the clear skies and lack of light pollution. The rest of us packed away and said our goodbyes.

All in all, a great weekend and some good dives.

Plymouth 2020 Trip Report

So Summer Bank Holiday was looming on the horizon and initially, it looked as though what is fast turning into Merseyside SAC’s annual trip down to Plymouth diving with In Deep was in jeopardy due to the ongoing Corona virus issues. But thankfully, restrictions started to lift and although we had to reduce our numbers from the planned twelve divers, ten of our members traveled down for what was hoped to be a good extended weekends diving. We were all staying at The Boringdon Arms on Turnchapel which is fairly convenient for the dive centre which is based at The Mountbatten Centre. 


That evening, to avoid any hassle, we all dined at The Boringdon and afterwards, over a couple of beers, we discussed the forthcoming weekend. Especially the weather forecast!
This was because prior to leaving, we checked the forecast and were concerned to see that the projection was that it was going to take a turn for the worse. Thankfully though despite the forecast being for Northerly Force 4 winds we were able to use the shelter of the headland and still head out to sea. We had to juggle the planned dives around to enable this but using the experience of our skipper James Balouza we were going diving so who cared?

So Saturday 29th dawned and the conditions looked brilliant. Bright sunshine and flat seas with hardly a hint of the forecast Northerlies.
Seeker had been mostly loaded with our kit the day before so the atmosphere was distinctly leisurely putting the final bits and pieces on board. Ropes off was at 9.30am and we headed out past the breakwater fort for the site of the S.S.Persier, a Belgian steamship of 5800 tons that was a World War 2 casualty torpedoed in 1945.
James put the shot in close to the three boilers. Our buddy pair headed for the stern first. We passed the remains of the twisted engine and prop shaft. We followed this until eventually reaching the stern where you can see a gun mount before moving further aft to find the steering quadrant, rudder shaft and rudder. This is a really nice section of the wreck. Heading back past the boilers, there is lots of steel plate everywhere which again is home for the many Congers on this wreck. The shoals of Bib were well in evidence around the boilers etc but the real highlight on this dive, fish wise, was a Monkfish of about one metre long that Nathan and Stuart Matthews found. I know at least three of the Buddy pairs saw it at close quarters! It was an excellent find!

We continued on to the bow, explored around this area before heading back for the shot line. A point to mention here is that my buddy Garry was trying his new strobe out on these dives. We had seen these Nautilus strobes for the first time just a few weeks earlier on a club trip to Eyemouth and were very impressed with them so purchased one each. He clipped the strobe on to the shot line a couple of metres above the wreck and it made finding you way back so much easier. So once back at the shot line, we started our ascent towards our deco stop. A great one hour dive!
We surfaced to nice calm conditions and as James set a leisurely pace towards our second intended site, those that need to change cylinders etc did so.

Our intended second dive was the wreck of the S.S.Oregon which sank off Thurlestone Beach in 1890. She was a three masted barque of 810 tons that has now become a really pleasant dive. We descended the shot line in thirty metres of water in decent visibility considering how the storms of the preceding week had battered this section of coast. She is not a huge wreck so can be covered completely in on dive. You can see the remains of her masts, anchor and hawse pipes with winch gear behind at the bow and her steering gear and rudder post and rudder at the stern. All well worth looking for! There’s plenty of flat plates now as she has collapsed to the sea bed but these have become home for lots of Conger Eels and Lobsters. There’s plenty of fish congregating around the wreck also. There are also plenty of Pink Sea fans on the wreck. We covered the entire wreck in the planned time before ascending the shot line to complete our decompression requirements which were built into our planned one hour ‘surface to surface’ time.
Two really enjoyable dives to start the weekend off!

With a very successful day and two good dives under our belts, everyone was in good spirits as we headed back for the jetty at the Mountbatten Centre. After we had all freshened up, we assembled in the rear garden of the Boringdon for some liquid refreshment before making out way to Lackys Balti House. We all enjoyed some really nice dishes apart from poor Nathan who apparently finds a Korma a bit too hot to handle lol!

Sunday 30th was every bit as good as the previous day with regards to the weather. In fact it was better! Beautiful blue skies, a warm gentle breeze and a flat calm sea. What more could we ask for? Ropes off was to be at 9.30am once more and our intended dives were to be the S.S.Rosehill and the S.S.James Eagan Layne.
The Rosehill was one dive that I particularly wanted to do. It didn’t disappoint! She was a collier of approximately 2780 tons and torpedoed in September 1917 by U40 a couple of miles out from Portwrinkle.
The dive has reputation for poor viz which was apparently due to her being in the dumping ground for dredgers. I discussed this with James prior to travelling down and he assured me that this was no longer the case. His information was spot on!
He shotted the wreck just stern side of the boilers. We descended the line into really good viz. Garry tied his strobe on to the line again then we set off for the bow where one anchor can be easily found along with plenty of chain and bollards.
Returning back to and beyond the boilers you can still see the triple expansion engine and the prop shaft behind it. Loosely following the prop shaft brings us to the stern area where before reaching the propellor and rudder you can find the 12 pounder gun pointing skywards. One blade of the iron prop stands vertical and the rudder lies flat on the sea bed. There’s lots to take in here. The stern is definitely the better part of the dive. We then made our way back to the boilers but swam past them and back to the bow to have one last look around the remaining anchor complete withs its chain in the hawse pipe. Its big and I personally appreciated the workmanship that went into making it! So after this, we made our way back to the shot line with the strobe flashing away on it which made it an easy job to find. We completed our decompression obligations before surfacing into a beautiful sunny day.
As the previous day, James the skipper set course for our second dive site but just plodded along at a few knots. It was one of those type of days. It couldn’t get any better we thought. 
But it did. In the distance, James spotted lots of birds (mainly gulls and Gannets) obviously feeding on what was likely to be a bait ball of silverfish. As we got closer, we could see Dolphins herding the fish into a tighter ball and driving them to the surface before rushing in to feed. It was an absolute feeding frenzy with more and more birds and Dolphins arriving all the time. Things just went crazy! I don’t think that I would be exaggerating if I said that there were at least thirty or more Dolphins in the melee! This went on for ages and James held station at a reasonable distance so we could watch. Quite a few Dolphins came very close to the boat. It was an awesome spectacle!


After watching for quite some time, we motored on to the site of the James Eagan Layne. Quite a few Dolphins had obviously had enough to eat and broke away from the frenzy and swam along with the boat instead.
The JEL as she is commonly know is probably one of the most famous UK wrecks! She was a World War 2 US Liberty ship of just over 7000 tons. She was torpedoed in March 1945 but didn’t sink. She was towed into Whitsand Bay but unfortunately sank there and was duly written off.
The wreck is permanently shotted at the bow. Once on the bow, you drop inside the wreck and make your way at a leisurely pace through all the hold areas towards the stern. You can see both sides of the wreck once inside her even in relatively poor visibility which was the case on this dive. I prefer to swim down one side of the wreck and return up the other. This is basically what our group of two buddy pairs did. Ten minutes into the dive I spotted an AP Valves Buddy SMBCI and reel lying in the wreckage. I thought to myself that this would be our groups chance to do a good turn for a fellow diver as last year, one of our group lost his on the Maine. A kind diver from Cornwall found it later that day and returned it to its rightful owner. Well imagine my disbelief when after picking it up I saw the initials of that very same person on this reel! I clipped it on to a ‘D’ ring then glanced over to my buddy. Sure enough, no reel and SMBCI on his ‘D’ ring! We continued on our dive with a slight port to starboard current pushing us towards the superstructure all the time but it was anything that we couldn’t handle!
We turned back once we had reached the broken stern and made our way to the bow. As there was still a current flowing each pair deployed a DSMB and we floated along in the gentle current before surfacing to find Seeker standing by ready to pick us up.
Another excellent days diving in fantastic weather and also the fantastic experience of being able to watch Dolphins in a feeding frenzy during our surface interval. 
We headed back for the Mountbatten pontoon and on to our digs to get ready for a meal over in Plymouth. We caught the last water taxi over then headed to the bars and eateries for much needed sustenance. All was going well until it was time to eat. We inadvertently went to the wrong restaurant. We should have gone to Harbourside Fish & Chips but went to The Harbour Seafood Restaurant & Takeaway. Suffice to say, it’s a mistake that we won’t make again but hopefully will go back and visit Harbourside Fish & Chips when we next visit.

We woke the next morning to very good weather yet again. Our intended dives for the day were HMS Scylla and Le Poulmic. HMS Scylla is a decommissioned Leander class frigate that was deliberately sunk in Whitsand Bay in March 2004. James shotted the wreck just on the bridge area so we only had to drop a short distance to the wreck. We entered the water with the buoys just bobbing away and showing no sign of any flow. It was a different story on the wreck though with a stiff flow crossing the wreck from port to starboard. We therefore concentrated the bulk of our dive on the port side but did occasionally venture across the wreck from time to time. At on point, I had a juvenile Conger of about 60cm long swimming alongside me as I made my way down a companionway. Our group of three divers (Garry, Stuart & I) covered the entire wreck before deciding to end the dive a little early as we had had enough of fighting the current. We ascended the shot line and within just a few metres, the flow disappeared. We surfaced in flat calm conditions.
We now made our way to our final dive site which was to be the wreck of Le Poulmic. She was a French personnel carrier which the Royal Navy seized after the collapse of the French forces. She was put to work around the Plymouth area as a minesweeper. Unfortunately she hit a mine in October 1940 and sank.
In truth, there isn’t much left of the wreck at all and James did well to shot it. We dropped down the shot line in possibly the best viz that we had experienced all weekend. Our group took a look around at what wreckage there was before heading off to find another piece of the wreck about 60 mtrs or so away. We duly found this before moving on in a very gentle flow and turned the dive into a reef dive now. There was bits of pottery everywhere. I wonder just where it had all come from? We crossed gullies, gently glided down them as well until they eventually petered out into pure sand. This is where we encountered a stunning Spotted Ray.

It was just gently gliding over the sand. Maybe looking for food. Garry and Stuart filmed it for some time before we turned back towards the rocks. There were lots and lots of Sand Eels around this area. We had now reached our agreed dive time so I deployed my DSMB and we all ascended together. It doesn’t sound an inspiring dive but believe me, it was really very enjoyable and one we would gladly do again!

And so it was back to the Mountbatten pontoon where all kit had to be offloaded as we were travelling home the next day.


With all the kit sorted and stowed, gas bills settled, we said our good byes to James and the rest of the In Deep gang. It was back to The Boringdon Arms now for a relax and a few beers before heading out to our final eatery of the weekend. This was The Clovelly Bay which is only about fifty metres away and therefore not too far to stagger back lol. The food here is absolutely excellent and no matter what you order, you will not be disappointed. Due to the Corona virus issues, the menu is currently smaller but every bit as good.
We eventually ambled back to The Boringdon for a few more beers before all calling it a day.

The next morning, we had a our fourth great breakfast of the weekend before setting off on our journey back home.
One hilarious moment on the drive back was when Garry opened his packed lunch of Tuna Mayo on Brown sandwiches to find that some prankster who shall remain nameless, had exchanged them for Strawberry Jam on White. 🤣🤣

Thanks to everyone at In Deep for yet again making our trip memorable and making it all run smoothly. Thanks to everyone in the dive team helping to make this the best trip that we have ever had to Plymouth.


The team were as follows. Stuart & Nathan Matthews, Andy Rath & Kerry Place, Alan ‘the Major’ Jones & Nigel Thomas, Ray ‘the Barron’ Cramer & Mark Holroyd, Garry Bolland & Terry Maloney.

Terry Maloney

Eyemouth 2020 Trip Report

Back in October 2019, one of our members, Jeff Jones advertised a couple of weekend trips to Eyemouth for 2020 with Jim and Iain Easingwood of Marine Quest. The list for the ‘mixed gas’ boat was soon full for both trips with a good mix of experienced mixed gas divers and a few relative newbies.

Well we all know what happened in March 2020 due to the Corona virus issues and the knock on effect it had! The first planned weekend was cancelled due to lockdown and closed borders. It was touch and go for the second trip but thankfully we were given the green light. The only problem was that one of the two boats had an engine failure just a few days prior to the trip starting so unfortunately, half of the group couldn’t travel.

So the remaining group all set off for Eyemouth on Friday 7th August for two planned dives.

The original plan was to dive U12 on Saturday and SS Exmouth on Sunday but the weather changed that! So Saturdays dive was to be on the SS Exmouth which was an American cargo ship of approximately five thousand tons. She was sunk by mines on July 31st 1944.

It was an unhurried start to the day due to the tide times and we eventually cast off at 10.30 hours. The conditions couldn’t have been better! Almost flat calm, sunny skies and an air temperature of about 28C or more. What more could our group have asked for? We motored about forty miles out to the wreck location. We had seals checking us out for most of the trip but better was yet to come. We think that we had around five Minke Whales joining us at various stages of our journey out. They were even right on top of the wreck site!

We kitted up slowly but eventually the skipper Iain gave us the nod that we were just about ready. Iain and Alan had already dropped a shot on the wreck and dropped the deco trapeze in as well. This would be a first for Garry, Ray and I.

All eight divers entered the water. Martin, Dave and Steve, followed by Steven and Ben then the three of us were the last group in. We dropped down the shot line, clipping our tags on to the bungee loop on the way. Then just a few metres above the wreck, we all clipped a strobe onto the shot line.

It was dark at 50 metres but clear and once our torches were switched on, it made for a nice comfortable dive. We set off for the stern with a planned thirty minute bottom time. There was plenty to see as we made our way around the wreck such as plates, WC sink etc etc. We were heading for the stern gun area but didn’t quite make it that far as we turned and went past the bridge towards the broken bow section. We were to see everything in one dive lol! It was here that I came face to face with a large seal. It did a super quick about turn when it eyeballed me! All too soon though our planned bottom time approached so we headed back for the shot line, leaving the bottom exactly on thirty minutes. We unclipped our strobes on the way up (note to self, buy a better strobe!) and then our tags as we reached them. The group all eventually came together at the six metre trapeze where will all completed our deco in comfort, as the last man up, Martin, had uncllipped the trapeze and we just went with the tide.

Once back on deck, we started chatting about what we had all seen and I mentioned the seal. Alan said that two Minke Whales had been swimming around us but none of us had seen them. It was only when Dave and Martin came back aboard that they confirmed it as they saw them swimming around at about twenty four metres or so. Some experience!

After a good few hours to get back to harbour, we prepped our kit for Sunday’s dive which was now to be on HMT Fortuna out of St. Abbs Head. She was an armed trawler of approximately two hundred and sixty tons that saw service both in WW1 and WW2. She was sunk by enemy aircraft fire.

We had an early breakfast on Sunday as ‘ropes off’ was 09.30. The trip out was a bit lumpy to say the least! Due to various reasons, there were only six diving today.

Dave & Steve led the way with Steven & Ben following with Garry and I the last pair in. It was the same regime as the previous day, clipping tags and strobes on then on to the wreck. Again the water was dark but once our torches were turned on, it was evident that the water was relatively clear so the viz was more than acceptable. We actually managed two very comfortable circuits of the wreck and saw lots of interesting features. One of which might be the ships clock.

All too soon, our planned thirty minute bottom time was up and we started our ascent. Ours were the last two strobes on the shot line so I realised then that it was down to us to release the trapeze after collecting our tags. My immediate though was ‘I’d better not screw this up lol’!
Garry and I collected our tags and I released the lazy shot and trapeze. All very simple really thanks to Jim and Ian’s set up. We made our way up, eventually stopping at six metres to complete our decompression obligations before surfacing to a slightly flatter sea.
All safely back on board so headed back for Eyemouth harbour.

It turned out to be an excellent weekend with a great group of divers. Thanks to Jeff Jones for setting the trip up and Martin Campbell, Dave ‘Lucky’ Smith, Steve McElroy, Steven Baxter, Ben Ward, Garry Bolland, and Ray Cramer for being such a brilliant group and last but not least, a big thank you to Iain and Jim Easingwood of Marine Quest for two great days diving.

Terry Maloney

Ilfracombe 2019 Trip Report

Towards the end of 2018, Mark Williams suggested that we could make a trip to Lundy on the North Devon coast. He didn’t need to go looking for volunteers and in next to no time, the trip was full. The hotel and boat were all booked and all we had to do then was wait for the weekend to come around at the end of September 2019. Everything was good to go until the Weather God decided not to play games. Well by the Wednesday before the trip, the weather forecast was looking that bad that the skipper cancelled it. Most of us knew fairly well that this was likely to happen so alternative plans were quickly made by some of the gang and a few of us decided to go to Devon anyway. Six divers went up to St. Abbs where unfortunately the Weather God decided not to play games for the entire weekend although they did manage to get one days diving in and four of us, Chris & Kate Mills and Terry & Margaret Maloney stuck to the original plan of going to Devon.

The drive down could have been better! It poured down with rain for most of the way.

We arrived in Ilfracombe just before 5pm and although it was a bit blowy, at least it had stopped raining. After booking in to our rooms at the The Royal Britannia Hotel, it was time to explore some of the town. First stop was the harbour where the Damian Hirst bronze ‘Verity’ can be seen. A stunning work of art! She is looked over by the St. Nicholas Chapel that sits atop Lantern Hill which is a prominent point overlooking the harbour entrance. After a walk around this part of Ilfracombe it was decided that it was about time for a sit down and a small pre dinner tipple. We found a nice little wine bar overlooking the harbour which became our regular port of call each day.

There are quite a few pubs around the harbour area so not wanting to go too far afield, we elected to go to The Prince of Wales which is a stones throw from the hotel and dog friendly as Terry & Margaret had Bailey with them. We had a few drinks and a curry here and spent a pleasant couple of hours together just chatting and enjoying the evening.

Day two saw us rising early and having a ‘full English’ at the hotel before setting out to explore the surrounding area. Some of us checked out ‘The Tunnels’ which were hand cut through the hillside in order to gain access to the sea and what were to become Ilfracombs bathing beaches. We visited various places around the countryside but I think the jewel in the crown was Lynton & Lynmouth. It’s a really beautiful town at the bottom of a gorge where the East and West Lyn Rivers meet. It’s a very picturesque area and certainly not one to be rushed around! It even has a funicular cliff railway which is powered by the weight of water and gravity. We all arrived back in Ilfracombe at approximately the same time so decided that the best plan would be to take in another part of the town and do a little bit of shopping. We wandered around Capstone Hill and Wildersmouth beach and the surrounding area before somehow finding ourselves back at the harbour and outside the ‘Open Up’ wine bar. Well divers are not ones to miss an opportunity to socialise so we called in here again for a few pre dinner drinks again. The weather that evening was as predicted, absolutely awful so it was decided unanimously to remain in our hotel and have a meal there. The chef specialises in Asian food and we all enjoyed a very pleasant meal and a couple of drinks while discussing what we had all done during the day and where we had visited.

Day three started with yet another ‘full English’ before setting out to explore again. Chris and Kate checked more of the town out and at one point, actually walked up Capstone Hill in a howling wind. Good effort guys. Terry and Margaret went further afield to Clovelly and Bideford. They didn’t get all the way down to Clovelly unfortunately as the road actually resembled a river!

We met up again at about 4pm and made our way to our favourite wine bar. We’ve got to keep the local economy buoyant after all!

I telephoned the skipper that afternoon just to introduce ourselves and see if he had anything planned for the Monday as the weather forecast wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately he had no plans for the Monday and said that the swell around Lundy would be too much for diving. Oh well.

That evening we went to another local pub, the Ship & Pilot which was even closer to the hotel than the Prince of Wales. You can literally fall out of the hotel and straight into the Ship lol. The atmosphere in here was excellent! There was skittles practice going on to one side of the bar and lots of socialising on the other. The hospitality here was amazing and we were made to feel extremely welcome. We had our dinner here and I think that we all agreed that it was the best that we had eaten over the weekend. Will definitely call back here on the next trip! Oh and the beer isn’t bad here either ha ha.

The final morning dawned and the weather had again took a turn for the worse so Terry & Margaret decided to head for home while Chris & Kate headed further South into Cornwall. We said our goodbyes and went our different ways.

Well despite the fact that there was no diving, we all agreed that we had a fantastic weekend. It was a typical (mini) BSAC club trip spent with existing and new likeminded friends, enjoying each other’s company. Obviously it would have been even better if we had of managed to get into the water but that’s diving as we say! Hopefully better luck next time.

Terry Maloney

El Gouna 2019 Trip Report

‘Red Sea diving, here we come!’       

23rd August 2019 – at last….the long anticipated day had arrived!  Branch 5 – the MerseyDivers – were on their way, flying into Hurghada, Egypt, from three different UK airports, on the same day!

Our party consisted of 23 divers (Sports Divers and above) and 17 assorted friends and family! The trip had been planned well in advance, and had been well thought out, with an all-inclusive hotel, Three Corners Rihanna Inn, El Gouna, just North of Hurghada, as our base. This enabled our non-divers to enjoy the pools, the lagoon, the waterslides, the tuktuk journeys to ‘downtown’, the ferry to local islands, snorkelling, and several local excursions.

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‘All-inclusive’ also meant that when we returned from a day’s diving , dining and a ‘little beverage’ could be in any combination of numbers… from couples, to a couple of nights when the entire group met and ate together….true celebrations!

On arrival, airport pickups and hotel check-in all ran relatively smoothly, although several of the singles in our group were a little surprised to be sharing a double bed with their room buddy! The hotel managed to sort that out the next day, though to be fair the twin beds were almost as cosy as the double!

The format for each day was simple. Emperor Divers sent minibuses to pick us up, after an early breakfast, and these would take us down to the waterfront, where the ’Pegasus’ and her trusty crew would be waiting for us. We stored all our gear in named crates under the benches, and left it there each evening.

On Day One Tobi, one of the dive leaders, got us all together on the top deck for a briefing. We were to dive 2 reef dives that day, so he used a whiteboard diagram to show us the dive plan for the first dive, the depths, the timings and what we could expect to see…..and what would be a possible bonus! Then Question Time. We were put into 3 groups, and given a buddy for the day. We met Tiger, and Mahmoud, our 2 other dive guides, and the dive plan board stayed on the wall all day, so we all knew the names of where we were going and  who our buddies were, and didn’t have to ask the staff a million times!

As soon as everyone was aboard, we would set out – calm seas, glorious sunshine, great company, two decks to wander around on, sit and chat, and generally relax. Our fabulous crew made sure there was always hot water for tea and coffee, and cold water / soft drinks in the fridge.

We were all excited for our first dive, on Carless Reef. The first group kitted up, closely followed by the rest of us, and we entered the water a group at a time. Wow! For those of us who had never experienced Red Sea Diving before, it was awesome. Getting on for 35/40m visibility, we swam in a fabulous aquarium! Stonefish, a crocodile fish, blue spotted rays, HUGE moray eels peering out from the rocks, the tiniest purple Orchid Dotty Backs, shoals of wrasse, barracuda……

Eventually we reluctantly climbed the ladder back into the boat, with the crew lifting cylinders off our backs ,helping us de-kit, and our cook going round the boat offering us warm, freshly baked cakes!

Second dive was more of the same…..!

In between dives our cook managed to serve up a fantastic lunch buffet – salads, pasta, one or two meat dishes, and local Egyptian dishes…..all from a kitchen about the size  of an old red telephone box!

Then it was time for another relax as we headed back for an hour or two back to El Gouna, and a celebratory cold beer….or two!

Day Two was more of the same, except that our dives were both Wreck dives. First was on the Carnatic, which ran aground on the Abu Nuhas reef. SS Carnatic is adorned with over a hundred years of coral growth – amazing colours and variety. She lies on her port side and is in 2 quite distinctive parts, the bow and the stern. The deck is now rotted away leaving a series of main supporting beams of the 3 decks- the ribs of the ship. These are covered in a profusion of colour and life, where the square portholes are covered with marine life, from soft corals to tiny pipefish and nudibranchs.

The highest point of the wreck is the stern at 17m, with the rudder and prop at 28m The bow itself still bears the graceful lines of a once proud and elegant ship, Her masts lie on the seabed away from the wreck alongside recognisable parts of engine, gears, and boilers – a magnificent sight.

She had been carrying a cargo of cotton, port, copper ingots and 40,000 Pounds Sterling in gold coins. Unfortunately we found none of it!

The second wreck was the Giannis D. which sank in 1983 after hitting the same reef. As the sea was quite choppy, this was a 15 minute RHIB journey to the wreck site, for us.

Giannis D. is is lying on the bottom in roughly three separate sections. My group dropped onto the stern of the wreck, lying at 24 meters and at about a 45-degree angle. The ship’s bent propeller lies partially buried in the sand on the bottom. Penetration into the superstructure , which quite a few of us were keen to do, involved entering the pilothouse, which has been stripped of all of its equipment, and then heading along and down the companionway into the engine room, which hasn’t been salvaged.

Because of the angle of the ship it can become a bit disorientating -the engine room is filled with catwalks and handrails, all at odd angles, with the diesel engine lying to one side. Here we were very taken by a huge spotted pufferfish in the depths, who took no notice of us at all!

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We followed various dark passageways, with the occasional glimpse of brilliant blue out of a porthole, eventually exiting near the middle section of the ship. Then we finned along to the bow which lies completely on its port side, past winches, bollards and various ‘shippy’ things (I’m so technical!), and saw the masts stretching out parallel to the seabed –fascinating. Back along the length of the ship, seeing some of the original cargo still on the deck – wood! – and gradually ascending to our safety stop, along the ship’s mast which rises to about 4m from the surface.  On the dive we were lucky enough to see numerous varieties of aquatic life such as glassfish, scorpionfish, wrasse, napoleon, crocodile fish, grouper and lionfish and blue-spotted stingrays along the bottom. Wonderful!

Day Three gave us more reef dives. It was like being in an aquarium –all sorts of angelfish, parrotfish, pufferfish , morays, shoals of tiny fish, cornet fish, and others too numerous to mention.

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Our lovely dive guides offered us a third dive, stopping on the way back at Gota el Dier. For those of us who decided to dive it was an experience of a lifetime……  about 40 minutes into the dive, a huge grey shape shot through the group. It circled and returned, this time with a friend – DOLPHINS. For the next few minutes they circled us, raced to the water surface and back and brought more of the pod to check us out…a real honour! After passing us at an arm’s length away, the 7 dolphins eventually glided away into the distance leaving us absolutely buzzing!

And so the week continued – more spectacular reef diving in varying locations, and 2 more ‘Third Dives’  where we spent more time with dolphins – absolutely unbelievable!!

Before we knew it, the week was drawing to a close – with a final hotel day, to relax and chill before our evening flights home. Friendships had grown stronger, birthdays been celebrated, diving skills progressed, new food sampled, copious amounts of alcohol consumed, challenges met/ dealt with /overcome, and truly awesome dives accomplished.  Red Sea Diving had lived up to its reputation – we’ll be back!

Many thanks to Emperor Divers, El Gouna,  for a great week.

Purple Jan (Ryan)

[For anyone reading this and searching for gossip and ‘scandal’,- about who jumped in for their dive with items of kit missing (weightbelts? dive computers?) or who stayed up the latest each night, or drank the most beer?, you’re out of luck –‘’ what goes on in Egypt, stays in Egypt’’!!!]