Wind, waves and water: Portland expedition, June 2008

Farnes Island trip report: the boys in blue, May 2006
02/09/2006
Porthkerris beach
Not the Bamse expedition (or ‘what else can go wrong?’), March 2008
21/09/2008

Dates: June 2008,
Author: Stephen

I picked up Piotr (aka Peter/Pete) from the club hut on Thursday evening for our drive down to Weymouth. He had to endure a conference call which, with the amount of acronyms and domain specific terms i was surprised to see him still awake 1/2 hour later.We arrived at the camp-site after suffering the interesting road furniture and humps most of which we could have avoided if i’d looked at the map rather than relying on the GPS. East Fleet farm has added a new area higher up the hill with electronic coded gates, fancy toilets and showers – very nice. Got to the bar at 9:05 to be told that they stopped serving at 9pm, so off to Weymouth for food we went. Found that the speed humps on the road into the camp site are exactly the right hight to cause maximum scraping on the underside of my car!

Day 1

Planned: Aeolian Sky (30m) and Black Hawk (stern) (15m)

Actual: Grove Point (22m) and Sea Vixen (8m)

The forecast was f4 westerly. We expected choppy, but with 4 experienced divers on the boat, we should be OK. Chris was driving and we headed out of Portland to the Aeolian Sky, 12 miles to the east. At first, the going was ok and Chris made good progress. A couple of miles out, Chris to turned the boat around to see what the passage back was going to be like – It was going to be ugly! At this point, we decided to head back to the shelter of Portland to do a drift on Grove point, which would be a good start to the weekend.

Using the zen method of finding a good dive site, we put in a shot about 2 miles south of the harbour. Sam wanted to ‘drift’ and accidentally visit the HMS Hood. Unfortunately, Sam and Chris surfaced 1/2 mile short. I was second in with Piotr. Down the shot and we were drifting at a pleasantly fast pace. I quickly discovered what a hands-on diver Piotr is. After spending 6 months instructing in the Red Sea and not seeing any sharks, he was in for a treat with number of Dog Fish we saw over the weekend. He picked up the first one which did not run away. Instead of trying to get escape, it twisted around Piotr’s hand and squeezed. We waited for minute or so for it to release, but the dogfish was in for the full wrestle. It would only release after being pushed off. We came across a number of scallops and so i brought out my bag. We found a reasonably sized crab which joined the scallops. Next on Piotr’s hit list was a series of spider crabs. He looked perplexed when i did not offer the bag to put it in. Next time, we’ll have to try and cook one up – not something i’ve tried before. After pointing at what i thought was a scallop, the double disappointment was that 1) it was not a scallop and 2) it was a nudibranch which disappeared into the silt!

We went back to Castletown to get fills. Talking to the skipper and mate for Scimitar, they kindly gave us accurate GPS position of the Sea Vixen. Off we went and both the position already in the GPS or the one from Scimitar did not show anything on the echo sounder. We decided to ‘see what was there’. Chris and Sam went down to see what they could find. Chris was pleased with the critters he found in the silt, but no sign of the aeroplane. A little more determined, we were planning our search pattern. Down the shotline we went and Piotr tied his real on.

Heading west, i thought the bubbles in my compass were not a good omen we laid our line out. About 20m from the shot i spotted something to my left. Wow, we’d found it. The Sea Vixen is an old aluminium aeroplane, with the wings removed, so it’s like a large cigar tube – about 2m high at the tallest point and about 2m wide by 6m long – so not a large target to spot on the echo. Lots of Blennies and Bib hiding in the nooks.

Back at the campsite, we prepared out scallop and crap appetiser. Piotr looked on with some disgust as i prepared the scallops and said he had a better way – so we split the batch in half to see how they came out. Piotr’s method is to par-boil them which opens them up and means you get a nice round scallop and row, compared to the 2 pieces (20/80%) of scallop when opening them live. Chris cooked them with some garlic and butter and i have to say, apart from the nicer presentation, they tasted the same.After the appetiser (~8 scallops and some pate each) we were all quite full! After the previous experience in the bar, we went to fine a ‘local pub’. After a while we came to a country house which advertised food – non-guests welcome. It was a bit posh, but Sam in her traccie bottoms and me in my slop trousers fitted in remarkably well.

Day 2

Planned: Aeolian Sky (30m) and Black hawk (stern) (15m)

Actual: British Inventor (22m) and Balaclava Bay (15m)

Eddie and Tim joined us today and we just managed to fit their combined 8 cylinders into the boat when Eddie introduced us to his newest toy – an underwater video camera and housing. This was it’s first outing, so just the housing containing a piece of tissue to check it’s integrity today. As with Friday, when we got out of the harbour, it was going to be a tough trip out and back, so we decided on the easier option of the British Inventor, only 2 miles east of the harbour. After zig-zagging over the site, the mark in the GPS was good and our shot was just on the edge of the wreck. Eddie & Tim, and me and Piotr were first in. Not far from the shotline, Piotr spotted a large conger in a barrel. My uncle has previously mentioned how tasty congar is, but i didn’t think Piotr sacrificing an arm was worth it. We moved the shot to near by, but by the time Chris and Sam came down, it had gone. There was good viz, lots of fish. At the end of the dive, we came off the wrech to drift a little and came across something that looked like a large shell – about 10″ dia and 18-24″ long lying on the sea bed – left it there.

It was 2pm so we could only do something close by for the second dive so decided to go back to Balaclava Bay. I was BH’ing and Zorro, er, Tim as ABH, so we could do this in one dive of 2 pairs. Just as we were about to put Chris and Sam into the water, a MAYDAY came across the radio. Tango had an unconscious diver on board and still had divers in the water. Sam and Chris slumped into the boat with their kit still on, while we raced over to see if we could offer any assistance. We picked up a couple of their divers and a number of DSMB’s and scallops while Tango was running a course and having their casualty air-lifted. Afterwards, we followed Tango into the lee of the breakwater and transferred divers and kit back to Tango and headed back to the slip. Being on the periphery of an diving incident is still a harrowing experience – especially when there is such distress and emotion on the boat with the casualty.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/dorset/7479875.stm

We were pretty melancholy and reflective after the excitement of the rescue, so after sorting out kit, we got back to the campsite and ate their mighty burgers.

Day 3

Planned: Bennendijk (30m) and something else

Dived: Grove point (23.5m) and Countess of Erne (10m)

Unfortunately, we had a catastrophic electrical failure on the boat. Yesterday, the GPS would not load the charts, but would work in a ‘you are here’, ‘this is where you want to go’ mode. Today, it would not turn on. This would make finding a wreck location quite tricky. Along with this, the echo sounder stopped working, so we could not see the depth or the wreck profile. This limited our choices to site that either i) did not need a shot/accurate location or ii) already shotted. So back to Grove point for a drift. Chris asked for 22.5 and i asked Eddie for 23.2m, as Eddie was BH’ing (without an echo sounder) – as you see from the depth above, he did verry well – karma returned. Diving with Chris, i did a little more scalloping, as Piotr was busy photographing the sharks. Piotr saw 6 and Sam 4 dogfish on the one dive – a personal record for Piotr. The viz was worse than it had been so was glad when Chris kept pointing his light at me so i could find him in the gloom.

The second dive on the Countess was a little exciting on the surface, as we still had our f4 westerly wind. I BH’d with Sam as my able buddy. While the divers were kitting up, we tied on to the shot line, but this caused the boat to pitch quite a lot. The divers didn’t mind so we stayed rocking. Divers rolled off the side and pulled themselves along the boat to the shotline. Between the wreck and the breakwater, Piotr and Eddie were watching 3 spider crabs rolling around, until they dissappeared into the silt they had sturred up. At the end of the dive, the plan was for the divers to swim away from the breakwater. However, in reality, the divers were constantly washed back to the wall. Both pairs came up the shotline – and we picked them up, a pair at a time, towing them out away from the wall.

The trip back was tough – driving through walls of water. After a weekend of salt and sun cream, my eyes were ready for a break from their ordeal. After washing the kit and boat down and topping up fluids, we all departed in our separate directions for the long journey home.

Photos

Some great stills from Eddie’s and Piotr’s camera

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2003145&l=b2a44&id=1297651815

High points

  • Eddie’s quote: “Were above average divers”, followed by enough faffing to allow the rest of us to meet his criteria
  • Steve: “Piotr, what’s a gimp in Polish”, Piotr: “What’s a gimp…”
  • Showers at East Fleet farm
  • Helpful attitude of Scimitar diving: http://www.scimitardiving.co.uk/

Low points

  • The post rescue distress of the divers on Tango
  • Those damn road humps at East Fleet farm.

Lessons

  • Make sure your flexible with your plans
  • Watch the weather – no matter how optimistic you are, sometimes you get a bum card
  • Make sure the tractor driver keeps the nose of the trailer low when recovering so the boat sits on the trailer correctly.

Thanks to Piotr ‘sharkie’ Lukasik, Captain Chris Pirie, Soaked Sam Griffiths, Eddie ‘what, more kit’ Foo and Tim ‘zorro’ Miles for the great weekend.

Comments are closed.