Introduction

Wight Spirit Diving Charters, operating from the western Solent port of Lymington, offers some of the best south coast diving.  We provide dive sites to suit all tastes, from scenic drift dives to many wrecks, whether shallow, intermediate or deep, and from warships to tramp steamers, motor ships to sailing ships, and pretty much everything in between.  The shallowest wreck is in 5 metres, and the deepest is in 95 metres, with a huge selection of seldom dived wrecks in the 30 to 50 metres range.  See the ‘Wrecks’ page for full details – and don’t forget to buy your copy of South Coast Shipwrecks off East Dorset & Wight 1870-1979. If you’re living or staying on the Isle of Wight – I pick up and drop off at Yarmouth at no extra charge.

Isle of Wight diving is popular, and frequently visited sites include the steamer Spyros in 31 metres, the ocean-going tug Witte Zee in 33 metres, and the armed steam trawler Warwick Deeping in 36 metres, all largely intact wrecks, to mention just three.  If you want something shallower, the schooner Fenna lies in 23 metres, the stern section of the Serrana is in 18-20 metres and the Betsy Anna is in 27 metres.  Particularly good wrecks in the 40 metre range include the steamers Tweed, Iduna, Clarinda, all in 40 metres maximum, or the Daylesford in 46 metres. Venturing further offshore to mid Channel, where underwater visibility has exceeded 30 metres on occasions, we’ll take you to wrecks such as the motor vessel Guernsey Coast, upright and intact, standing 13 metres in 62 metres, or the German light cruiser Nurnberg, a very substantial wreck standing 12 metres in 62 metres.  Or visit the 19th century wreck of the clipper ship Smyrna, between 53 and 57 metres, a particular favourite of mine.  Then there’s numerous other wrecks seldom visited and well worth diving.  Popular second dives on wrecks include the steamer War Knight in 13 metres and the steamer Joannis Millas in 6-8 metres, both diveable out of the tide.  If you like scenic reef and drift dives, Christchurch Ledge is a good choice, abounding in life, or Brook and Atherfield Ledges and rocks, ledges and reefs at Rocken End, the locations for numerous wrecks from the days of sail.  Indeed, this part of the Isle of Wight coast was once known as the Receiver General for wrecks of the Isle of Wight.  Drifting at the foot of Tennyson Down provides rocks, gullies, pinnacles and overhangs, and to add to the mystery there’s a chance you’ll drift across the remains of Whitehead torpedoes from the torpedo testing which took place here.

Underwater visibility is variable just as it is elsewhere, but from May to October during settled weather and good tides, inshore visibility of 5 to 8 metres is usual.  Offshore, 10 to 20 metres can be expected, though of course sometimes the visibilty is better than this, and sometimes not quite as good.  Although the plankton bloom arrives in late May, it is seldom as bad as further west.

Our season runs from April through to about mid January, though from late October onwards we need to go offshore for clearer water, taking advantage of the days when tides and weather are most favourable.  That’s also true for April except on exceptionally good neap tides – and typically this means diving wrecks in 40 metres, with limited options for second dives close inshore due to visibility. The inshore water clears in the first week of May, when so-called black water arrives from the west – called black because overnight the water colour changes from green to having a black appearance because it is so clear.

You’ll find plenty of parking very close to the pontoons where you’re picked up, and you’ll be greeted with tea and coffee on arrival.  A general and safety briefing is given after you’ve boarded and assembled your gear, before departure to the dive site.  For sheer variety of dive sites and some spectacular scenery of the west and southern Isle of Wight coasts,  Wight Spirit Diving Charters offers something for everyone in what is probably the least dived part of the English Channel.

Feel free to contact me for a chat or more information – landline/home: 02380 270 390 (ansaphone – if I’m not there, leave a message and I’ll call you back).  Mobile:  07833 610623 or e-mail wightspirit@btinternet.com

News, reports and forthcoming diving, 2019

Diving 2019

The season got off to an unfriendly start in April – easterly winds blew out every dive!  However, May has seen the weather improve and we’re off!

We started the season with Seasearch on Sunday 5 May, diving in shallow water in Freshwater Bay. Plankton extended from the surface to the seabed which reduced visibility. We followed this with a drift dive across Christchurch Ledge, where the water was clearer and there was more light penetrating. We lost Saturday 4 and Monday 6 May to strong winds, but had a great dive on the Myrtlegrove on Sunday 12 May, with ambient light on the wreck and 5-6 metres vis. The top 6 metres has a lot of plankton but below that the water is clear. Water temperature is around 11°. On Friday 17th May, a Seasearch booking found us diving Utopia Reef to the east of the Isle of Wight, where there is a profusion of life – sponges, weeds etc. We followed this dive with a drift past Culver Cliff, where visibility was better at about 2 metres. Not great, but it is early season, and we were close inshore…

On Saturday 18 May we steamed to the south-east to dive the WW2 wreck of the steamer Terlings. A lovely flat calm day, no wind, and vis of 5-6 metres in ambient light. There’s still plankton in the upper 6 metres but the dive was done without the need for torches. Next day, Sunday 19 May, the weather being calm, we ventured south to mid Channel to dive the clipper ship Smyrna. Although there is still some plankton in the upper few metres, it wasn’t much and vis on the wreck, in ambient light, was around 10 metres.

On Saturday 25 May we had an early start – away from the pontoon at 0710 – to dive the steamer Lapwing, in water at 0910.  Vis was excellent – at least 10 metres in ambient light, no torch required. Plankton is dispersing and much improved from previous weeks. As a bonus, crawfish were seen on the wreck including one mature adult. Never seen them so far east and north before, so this may be a good sign they’ve recovered from overfishing in the 1970’s/80’s. We decided to blow out on Sunday 26 May, W to SW 4-5 increasing 6 is not for us! On Monday 27 May, despite a somewhat poor weather forecast (W4 increasing 5/6) we ventured out, anticipating we’d be on our way back before the wind picked up, and we were right!  Vis on the WW1 wreck of the Hazelwood was an excellent 15 metres in ambient light, the plankton is dispersing, and there are plenty of jellyfish in the upper 6 metres. The tide was such a good neap there was about 1 1/2 hours of diveable water. All in all, a brilliant dive.

There are spaces available to dive a 40 metre wreck on Sunday 2 June. Meet 0800 to leave 0830. Likely dive sites:  Myrtlegrove, Sargasso, Clarinda, Eleanor or similar, to be decided on the day. Names to me please.

Diving in the Solent on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May, we had great vis (for there), of around 5 metres. We also looked at another wreck site, probably the steam barge Ceres, but despite brilliant neaps the tide was too much to dive off slack.  On Saturday 1 June in calm seas and sunny skies, we dived the WW2 wreck of HMS Swordfish in 40 metres. Vis was about half what it was on Monday, but it was still a good 7 metres in ambient light, so another good dive. There’s more bits in the water south of St Catherine’s but not enough to spoil a dive. Water temperature is now around 14°. Despite advertising spaces, only 3 wanted to dive on Sunday 2 June, making the trip unviable. A blessing in disguise as the wind was quite strong…

An unseasonal storm put in an appearance and destroyed the diving planned from Chichester on the historic wreck of HMS Hazardous for Friday 7, Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June. However, things improved and we steamed well to the south-west on Monday 10 June to dive the WWII French liner Meknes in 60 metres. Vis was an easy 10-15 metres in ambient light despite the gloomy weather topside

There are spaces to dive the historic wreck of the steamer Faith in 36 metres on Monday 1 July. Anyone interested please contact Jane on jmaddocks25@gmail.com.

On Tuesday 11 June, with Seasearch divers aboard, we steamed off St Catherine’s to explore undived areas. On the sounder, in St Catherine’s Deep, 71 metres showed and in no time it had risen to 20 metres, which is where the shot was placed. Very interesting seabed here, very rough ground, some plateaus and caves undercut through the blue slipper with harder rock overlying. Despite recent gales vis was a very acceptable 5 metres even though topside was grey and cloudy. Following this dive we moved closer to the Needles, conducting a drift dive across Brook Ledges in about 12 metres, over very interesting ground with gullies and ledges, loaded with life. In the sun and despite an increasing south-easterly breeze, vis was an easy 6 metres.