Finally, we where able to complete our first dive trip,Diving Plymouth over the May Bank holiday weekend. The Diving Plymouth trip was the first trip of 2021, the Dive Swanage trip in April having been cancelled due to the ongoing issues related to Covid. The forecast for Monday was not good, and would result in the Monday diving being cancelled.
This Diving Plymouth trip, was for Sports Divers. With a number of more interesting sites planned in the 30m depth range. Because everyone had put the work in since diving had resumed at the beginning of April, we where able to hit the ground (water) running (swimming). Straight on to some of the deeper sites.
A large number of us choose to go a day early, allowing us to dive the Friday, arriving at various times Thursday evening. On the Friday morning we where greeted with flat seas, no wind, and sunshine.
The first dive of the weekend was the SS Persier. A casualty late in the second world war (February 1945), she was sunk by torpedo. At 125m long in 32m she was a good swim. Danny put the shot in next to the boilers.
Luke and I where the first pair in, with the task of securing the shot. Having secured the shot, Luke set off at a leisurely pace in the direction of the bow. Huge sections of the hull sit on the seabed with Fan corals covering them. At the bow we could see the winches, and anchor chain. After a good look around, we started back to the boilers. Swimming between them we set off to find what remains of the stern section. Finding the steering gear, rudder, and prop shaft (minus the propellor).
We then started to follow the prop shaft back in the direction of the engines and boiler. Running out of time, after 35 minutes, we sent up our DSMB’s. We had a deep stop at 15m to complete before starting our ascent to the 6m and 3m stops.
I managed to tie my line around the strobes whilst switching gases on my computer at 9m, delaying my ascent. The ‘early season’ lack of diving being very apparent! Having untangled myself, I joined Luke on the stops. The complete dive having been 55 minutes, surface to surface.
I can’t comment much on the days second dive. Just before entering the water, I had a ‘cell alarm’, so opted to sit out the dive, and Luke dived in a three.
Friday nights dinner was mince and jacket potatoes. Prepared in advance by ‘the Charters’. Sally turned on the oven to start the potatoes and tripped the generator. The limits of the temporary generator at Bovisand becoming apparent. You could have the heating and oven on, OR, the compressor, but not both! Nick was getting hungry, eventually, baked potatoes done and the mince reheated, we sat down to an excellent dinner.
The whole Diving Plymouth team where present Saturday morning. Robin having arrived early Friday evening, and Katherine having had a difficult drive arriving very late on the Friday.
The S.S. Maine is another famous dive out of Plymouth. A first World War Casualty, having been sunk by Torpedo on the 23 March 1917. At 114m long a slightly smaller wreck than the Persier.
Today i was diving with Leigh-Ann. The Maine sits higher off the seabed. Allowing us to plan to ascend slightly throughout the dive, to extend the dive and minimise the decompression obligation.
The shot was again near the boilers. We swam across the deck dropping into the holds and swimming through sections of the wreck.
Again we saw numerous Spider Crabs, Lobster and edible crabs. and shoals of Bib (Pouting) obscuring the wreck at various times. Not only did we have sea fans and dead mens fingers, but also jewel anemones and Actinothoe sphyrodeta (daisy’s anenomes ).
The derricks and winch equipment easily identifiable. At some point we managed to do a 180 degree turn, finally returning to the boilers. Leaving the bottom at 38 minutes we made a slow ascent to 3m, completing the stops and finally surfacing after 50 minutes.
At the special request of Joe, the afternoon dive was Hilsea point. A series of Gullies with a bit of a tide running over the top. The original Plan was to enter the water, hide from the tide in a gully before drifting onto the next gully. After 30 minutes, deploy a DSMB so the boat could monitor our progress.
Leigh-Ann and I almost separated in the tide at the start of the dive. Dropping into the first Gully, we started hunting for ‘critters’. Leigh spotted an Angler Fish, which I swam over the top of. I stopped to take some pictures whilst Leigh hunted for something else to attract my attention.
Moving on from the Angler Fish, Leigh led the way along the Gully, at this point it became apparent that she had a severe leak on her left cylinder. I shut down the left post, and we started an ascent, skipping the normal safety stop, for the safety of the surface. This resulted in a somewhat shorter dive of 18 minutes than originally planned.
Joe had a plan for Saturday night, a barbecue. Keeping with the high protein diet, we had a mix of burgers, sausages, cooked on the barbecue. With a little home made coleslaw, made with a diving knife and a butter knife. We had an excellent view of the Sunset as we ate.
Sunday we went West out of Plymouth to the Rosehill, another first world war casualty (23 September 1917), having been Torpedoed by UB40.
This had the interesting feature of the stern gun still being present. Today I was diving with Rob Howard. We where again first in, with the task of ensuring the shot was properly hooked in. A task Rob took to with relish. Having secured the shot, we started off to the Stern, finding the rudder, propellor, and stern gun.
We then returned to the boilers before moving off in the general direction of the bow. looping around and swimming back to wards the boilers.
This was another great dive, yet again, excellent visibility. With big Shoals of Bib across the complete wreck. After 33 minutes, Rob released a DSMB and we made our way to the 6 and 3 meter stops. Finally surfacing after 43 minutes.
James Egan Lane
By popular demand, we finished off the weekend with a dive on the James Egan Lane.
The Bow has deteriorated, the shot is now located in the midsection by the boilers.
Rob and I made our way through the wreck eventually arriving at the bow. Having heard rumours of the bow collapsing, we where interested to see if the rumours where true. The whole focsle section, has been swept off the deck and is now hanging from the bow above the seabed. It is a huge piece of the upper bow, it will inevitably drop to the seabed and some point in the near future – just don’t be underneath it when it does.
The effects of the winter where evident, with sections of the deck having collapsed into the wreck in various places. However, it is still a stunningly atmospheric and pretty dive.
We managed 53 minutes before Rob’s lack of gas finally forced us to the surface (and the fact that he was cold). The total dive time being 58 minutes. Arriving at the surface, it was apparent the weather was changing, things where a little lumpier than when we had entered.
An excellent weekend of diving. Nice to be able to dive some of the 30m wrecks and spend time exploring them.
My thanks to Joe for the excellent trip organisation and dive planning. A great example to all those currently working on their dive leader qualification.