Plymouth June 2021

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

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