6 divers (well, 5 on Saturday… Alex was forced to go to a rugby match) headed down to West Bay, Dorset for some charter boat diving. Our trip was organised by Mike Pilkington (ex-UBUC DO), who owns a very nice flat just round the corner from the docks (about a minute walk away).
Our trip consisted of two days diving, with two dives each day. We did a wreck each day, and a scallop dive each day.
This is a bucket dredger, sunk in 1917 (http://www.divernet.com/Wrecks/wreck_tours/159438/wreck_tour_40_the_st_dunstan.html).
The vis was pretty bad (the wreck sits down at around 30m), but we managed to toddle around quite nicely. There were lots of very big fish (some around 1m in length). We saw the prop shaft and part of the lift mechanism, which consisted of loads of very big cogs.
Mike, Neil and Rebecca were diving in a three, and did some really good swim throughs in and out of the wreck.
Unfortunately my computer works on a different one to Tom’s, so I ended up having less no-deco time than he had. We weren’t near the shot, and by the time we had deployed the DSMB, my computer had decided I was in a deco dive so we ended up having to do a 3 minute stop at 13m. Thankfully we had larger cylinders and plenty of air, but it’s a lesson learnt.
We finished Saturday with a scallop dive off a reef that Tom and I managed to swim straight over without realising.. I’m not sure I’d class it as a reef! Having last been on a scallop trip 4 years ago, and Tom having not done one before, we weren’t very sure that we’d manage to get much. However, we ended up finding quite a lot – just look for the tell-tale hollows in the sand and you’ll find a scallop resting in the middle! Just make sure they’re at least your palm size.
There were also a few dogfish and edible crabs hanging about on the ‘reef’.
Unfortunately Neil and Mike (Rebecca sat this one out) managed to lose each other at practically the beginning of their dive and so didn’t manage to collect many. So we had just ours to eat, which meant (after removing the shell and the rest of the not so nice insides), pan frying with some chorizo, smoked garlic and a nice helping of oil. Mmmmmm!
We started Sunday off with another scallop dive on another reef. Thankfully Mike, Neil and Rebecca managed to not lose each other this time, and so came up with quite a lot.
An interesting technique is to send up a DSMB and hook your net bag to the reel at the bottom – it’ll just float along and you can then pop scallops into the bag when you find them, freeing up your hands. Unfortunately when I did this, my reel jammed so I had to let go of my DSMB (we fished it out later). Tom used the technique quite effectively though, and together we had a reasonable haul.
This is an armed collier sunk in 1918 (http://www.divernet.com/Wrecks/wreck_tours/159490/wreck_tour_93_the_baygitano.html). After diving it, I can definitely say that it’s one of my favourite UK dive sites.
Thankfully the vis was a lot better than at the St Dunstan. We descended straight down onto the boilers (yey for side scan sonar!) and immediately were surrounded by what I’d describe as more of a ‘cloud’ of fish – there were so many! Alex (who had only brought one cylinder so just did the one dive) dive with Tom and myself, while Neil, Mike and Rebecca went as another three.
We tootled round the boilers, and along some of the deck. I found a rather large conger eel hiding between some of the plate, and spent some time watching it. There was a small swim through that Alex and Tom went through, and then immediately bumped into a humongous lobster. Maybe a metre long, it was huge!
We carried on along the wreck, swimming into huge shoals of fish, playing with crabs (Tom needs to work on his crab picking up technique), and spent some time admiring the winch mechanism that still stands tall next to the boilers.