We all had high expectations for this trip as we had previously dived with In Deep and nothing short of stormy weather could dampen our spirits.
Despite and early start the journey down was mostly uneventful. We were greeted by some familiar faces at the dive centre and introduced to some new ones.
This year we were diving with Skipper James, from Seeker, and boy can it shift. We were no sooner loaded up than it was ropes off then we were haring out to our first dive site, Hand Deeps, a series of 5 pinnacles ranging from 20 to 50 metre depth at some points. With stunning visibility we explored the walls and gullies and were treated to a carpet of jewel anemones, cup orals and sea fans along with the dead man fingers, dog fish, crayfish and crabs.
Back on Seeker Hugo (crew) helped us with fins and reels etc then supplied us with hot drinks and hot pasties, with brown sauce of course! while James took us to The Eddystone. James put a shot line on the south west of the reef due to the prevailing winds and a shift in current. The reef around the lighthouse is usually one of the best dive sites, due to the strong currents clearing the waters, and is full of marine life. There was evidence of Nudibranch eggs but no critters to be seen so we amused ourselves watching the antics of Wrasse feeding on an Urchin and spotting some tiny star fish.
Another hot drink and biscuit awaited us on Seeker as we returned to base then all thoughts turn to having a quick drink, food and an early night at the Borringdon Arms. Sadly the chef was away again (something we said)? however the pub was happy for us to arrange a takeaway while we enjoyed some chat and looking at the days photo’s before we retired.
After a hearty breakfast we went to the dive centre to find that the sea was still a little choppy but that the conditions were continuing to improve. James took us to the Rosehill, a 300 foot long wreck, torpedoed in September 1917 by U 40. The wreck lies at a depth around 30 metres and James skilfully shot the wreck at the side of the two boilers. The Rosehill is mostly flattened but the boilers are home to some big Conger.
Pollack, cod, bass and wrasse were seen over the wreck and the plates were covered in some large pink fan corals as well as the usual tom pot blennies and cup corals.
The stern section still holds the small artillery gun, steering gear, rudder and the propeller can still be seen.
Conan was our crew that day and he helped us with hot drinks and pasties again while we were preparing for our second dive to visit an old favourite, the James Eagan Layne (JEL), a liberty ship, torpedoed by U 1195 in 1945 whilst on convoy duty carrying war supplies. Some evidence of supplies are still present in the holds, carrying railway wheels and huge cooking pots. The wreck is covered in marine life ranging from spider crabs to plumose anemone.
After the dive we were all telling tales of what was seen and some of the group spoke of a cuttlefish hunting and others saw a free swimming conger. Never disappointed on this wreck. Conan provided us with hot drinks and biscuits again while we returned to shore.
The sun was shining and warm as we returned to the hotel and it was mentioned that a pint and return darts match may be in order…….so a few pints and another take-away later the killer match began. All good fun.
Sunday morning we dived the Elk, a small fishing trawler built in Hull and fished from Grimsby until she was requisitioned in the 1st World War and was used as a mine layer. She was mined in 1940 and now lies in 32 metre upright on the sea bed. As she is a small vessel it is easy to dive from bow to stern and to pick out identifiable gear such as the winch and landing gear. James told us on the briefing that there is a huge conger on the wreck so to keep our eyes peeled.
Conan was at the ready to assist us on Seeker and to supply us with goodies as we made our way to the JEL for our second dive. This time the resident conger came out to play and gave one or two of our buddies a bit of a fright (ask them the tale)! and a cuttlefish was seen sleeping on the sea bed.
From the outside of the wreck looking in the scene is like looking in a giant aquarium and if you are inside looking out it all looks quite surreal and moody. The supporting posts are carpeted in anemones.
All too soon our dive time elapsed and we were heading back to shore, yup with another hot drink to hand.
As we had been diving early mornings we had plenty of time to get a ferry to the Barbican area and enjoyed a bit of street life in the sun. As we ventured to the Hoe we spotted a mermaid in the water (sorry no pics) but she appeared to be entertaining the kids on shore and quite a few brave souls were swimming in the lido… without a dry suit on Mark! After coffee and fresh doughnuts we returned to Mountbatten to look forward to a great meal at the Clovelly Bay Inn….yumeeeee is all I can say.
Monday dawned bight and sunny with very little wind, James had promised us a smoother journey to the Persier, AJ was the crew and we all sat about chatting as we headed out to sea. James predictions were correct and after an excellent briefing we kitted up and hit the water. His skills at getting the shot line on target are spot on every time and we descended exactly at the side of the 3 boilers. The visibility was good and immediately we were greeted with huge shoals of pollack and pouting and the ever inquisitive wrasse. Christine saw a crayfish in the wreck and lots of conger were seen by all.
After a explore around the boilers we followed the prop shaft but sadly never made it to the stern where the rudder was still in place….never mind, always another time? The Persier was originally built in 1919 in Newcastle and named the War Buffalo, she was almost lost after Dunkirk performing convoy duty. After being re-kitted she was sadly torpedoed by U 1017 while performing further convoy duty off the Eddystone reef in 1945.
AJ was ready to help us on board Seeker and supply drinks and snacks again, James told us our last dive would be at a new site for In Deep called The Wall, which lies east of the Mewstone. James gave us a good briefing and told us what we might see,( but sadly no Ray’s for us that day). The Wall is predominately rock based cracks and gullies on a sandy bottom, supporting a variety of marine life from lobster to cuttlefish and urchins to tube worms, while the sea bed was clouded with shoals of sand eels. It is amazing what can be seen under the British waters and a first for me was when Christine spotted some unusual tubes growing up from a large rock, anybody have any idea what they are please let us know.
Rather like the Alien they contain some kind of life form but maybe it’s because I might have a little too much imagination either that or I’m really narked?
A great finish to a superb weekend, thanks to all the crew at In Deep that have helped along the way and kept us supplied with food and drinks. Thanks to James for his expert knowledge in diving and skippering the boat also for his exceptional choice of music on the trips out to sea, one heck of a party boat there.
Thanks to Christine for organising the trip, being my dive buddy along with Val. The other dive teams were Geoff and John H and Mark with guest diver Johnny D, never a dull moment and we look forward to returning with In Deep next year and maybe some other Aquanauts’?
Thanks for reading.