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 SSMissouri. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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!
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.
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’’!!!]
It was the Friday before August Bank Holiday 2019 and ten members of the branch made their way South for a long weekend of diving around Plymouth with In Deep Dive Centre.
The group were staying at The Borringdon Arms in Turnchapel which is only a short distance from the Mount Batten Centre which is where the boats leave from. Once again, we were on Seeker which was ably skippered by James Balouza and assisted by Conan (if you ever meet him, you will know why he’s called Conan!)
Saturday morning dawned with bright sunshine and a mild breeze. After a hearty breakfast of our choice, we all prepared our kit on Seeker ready for the first days diving. The weather was holding good and everyone was looking forward to getting into the water. Our two dives were to be in Whitsand Bay on HMS Scylla and the James Eagan Layne. The viz was an acceptable five or six metres. More than adequate to enable the divers to make their way around and through the wrecks. I personally love diving the JEL as it’s got genuine history and can be quite atmospheric at times.
Saturday night was spent in a number of the local hostelries sampling their food and an odd beer. Everyone stated that they had thoroughly enjoyed the first days diving and were looking forward to more of the same the next day.
Sunday dawned and the weather was even better than the previous day despite the cloudy start. There was still a pleasant breeze blowing which we all needed as it developed into a fairly hot, sunny day. Seeker set out for the Bolt Head area so that we could dive the SS Maine. This was a brilliant dive. Viz was excellent at about six to ten metres and the light levels were that good at thirty metres that there was no need for a torch! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the dive. We even had Congers and a Thornback Ray swimming around the wreck. The surface interval was completed while we made our way to Bigbury Bay to dive the SS Persier. Sitting at a similar depth to the Maine, it turned into another great dive with similar viz and light levels. The group couldn’t decide on which dive had the better viz. once again, there was plenty of life on the wreck including a number of Crayfish which are making a welcome return to the area. No torch required again!
Sunday evening saw us dining at the yacht club and we all had a really pleasant meal which was washed down with the odd beverage.
Monday, and it was our final day of diving. Generally the last day is ‘request day’ and the group can decide where they want to dive or rely on the skipper. Most wanted to dive on HMT Elk which was a smallish minesweeper that was unfortunately sunk by an acoustic mine. She sits at just over thirty metres and although on the small side is still a nice little dive that you can cover a couple of times quite comfortably. Our second dive was a group request to do a reef dive that we had been told about. With a maximum depth of about twenty three metres or so it was to prove a really pleasant dive and a good end to a perfect weekends diving. Amongst all the various critters we saw, there were Crayfish, Lobster, Feather Stars, Feather Duster Worms and the highlight of the dive (well for me) Barrel Jellyfish that were as big as dustbins. Awesome! That evening, we dined in The Clovelly Bay Inn which is only a stones throw from The Borringdon Arms so not too far to stagger back home.
So Tuesday came around all too soon and it was time to make our way back home. After a ‘full English’, we said our goodbyes to our hosts (till next year) and headed back up North.
Thanks to Karl Steadman, Garry Bolland, Stewart, Nathan & Joss Matthews, Kerry Place, Andy Rath, Andy Baigent and Aden McGuigan for a truly brilliant weekend.
An opportunity to dive one of the very best wrecks in UK waters. At 30-35 metres, this experimental Submarine had a sea plane and waterproof plane housing on its forward deck. Sadly somebody forgot to seal one of the doors, and 26 lives were lost.
Diving will be with Skindeep Diving Charters in Portland on a hard boat with a tail lift. Accommodation will be a bunkhouse near the dive centre.
A group of new Branch 5 sports divers went off to Stoney Cove in Leicestershire last weekend for two days of progression diving under the expert guidance of Alan Jones.
With the help of Martin Campbell, John Dunne and Robbie Edwards all five were put through their paces. The water was cold and although the visibility wasn’t too bad down to about 25m it was pretty poor at the bottom. But everyone coped and by the end of the weekend all had been signed off to 35m.
Accommodation on Saturday evening was at the Mill on the Soar. An excellent inn less than a mile from the quarry with great rooms with breakfast at a very reasonable price. Everyone enjoyed an extended evening meal, a few well earned drinks and a lot of laughs.
Really enjoyable weekend was had by all even if the water was only 6 degrees. Certainly showed who had the best undersuits !
Date: 23rd to 30th August 2019 Organiser: Tony Fitz
Leaving from Manchester Airport on 23rd August and flying to Hurghada on the Red Sea. Staying at the The Three Corners Rihana Inn, El Gouna.
Six days diving has been organised with Emperor divers, including one day on the Thistlegorm. Two dives a day including air and weights with an option to pay for a third dive each day. Nitrox available for an extra charge.
All the diving places have now been filled. Contact Tony Fitz for more details.
Nautical Archaeology Society Archaeological Field School 7th – 17th June 2019
The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) and Bangor University are currently collaborating on a project to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and the shipping losses which occurred around the Welsh coast.
The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and, as part of the project, the Nautical Archaeology Society will be running a FREE field school at Abercastle in Pembrokeshire from 7th – 17th June 2019. The field school will be based around the wreck of the SS Leysian. If members of your dive club are interested in participating in the field school and bringing along your club boat to dive the site over the course of the field school, please contact us for a booking form at: MADUdiving@gmail.com
The field school will be based and run from Garn Isaf in Abercastle where there will be FREE air fills. For the duration of the field school, camping will also be FREE at a 15-pitch camping site. However, pre-booking is required. To check availability and to reserve a pitch, please contact: Ian Cundy on: 01684 574774
For anyone who doesn’t want to camp, there are also B&B facilities on site, but these are not free and would need to be booked and paid for directly, see: https://www.garnisaf.com
FREE training will be provided during both weekends of the field school for people who have not previously attended a NAS recording and surveying course, and FREE additional specialist courses will also be run during the field school upon demand and should weather condition preclude diving activities.
The Leysian was a 4,703 ton steamship taken into service as a prize of war by the British – 400ft x 52ft x 27ft (121.92m x 15.85m x 8.23m). She ran straight into the cliffs in poor visibility on 20th February 1917. The site today is suitable for all diving abilities lying in 8-16m of water, close to the cliffs and only around 600m from the beach and slipway. The site is in the shelter of Abercastle bay, protected from all but winds from the NW through to E, and diving is possible at most states of the tide.
* There will be a £10 per head / night deposit required when booking the camp site which will be refunded following the field school (providing you turn up for the period booked).
There is a branch participation list on the notice board. Contact John Rice for more Details.
Date: 24th to 26th May 2019 Organiser: Tony Fitz Dive Manager: Rob Edwards
As part of his Advanced Diver qualification, Rob is managing two days of wreck diving out of Amlwch, North Anglesey, in May 2019.
There will be three nights camping at Mountview Caravan and Camping park, starting Friday 24th May. Three boats will be going and so there should be space for 16 divers. All grades of diver will be catered for.
The entry list is up on the club notice board. £25 deposit required before 24th April.
Contact Tony Fitz or Rob Edwards for more details.