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.

With the dreary, dismal June weather continuing, we were blown out on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 June.

Lovely warm, sunny day, cloudless skies, on Saturday 22 June. Dived the wreck of the Spyros in 30/32 metres. Vis was an easy 5 metres in ambient light – pretty good considering we’ve had a run of spring tides and many days of breezy conditions. Water temperature is now up to 15 °.  Loads of life on the wreck including some big pout and some massive congers. A very good dive.  We’ve blown out Sunday 23 June due to the forecast of strong easterly winds.

Tuesday 25 June. Following a period of heavy rain, we had a dull day but the sun emerged in the afternoon, with not a breath of wind. We dived the Bouldnor site and had good vis of around 3 metres, preparing the site in readiness to raise some important artefacts associated with human occupation of the site 8500 years ago – before the Egyptian pyramids were built!

On Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 June, we continued to dive the site at Bouldnor Cliff. Conditions topside were uncomfortable with a strong north-easterly breeze, but the vis has held up quite well and all tasks underwater were completed, including the uncovering of a wooden platform, still showing marks where it was shaped by flint tools. Friday 28 June, when we were due to go mid-Channel, was blown out by strong easterly winds.

On Saturday 29 June, with the wind dying and the sun shining brightly, we headed to the south-west in mid Channel to dive the steamer Snowdrop in 58 metres. She was posted as missing in 1886 and now makes a lovely dive, the engine and boiler being particularly photogenic. Masses of large pollack circled the wreck. Another juvenile crawfish was also spotted. Oh yes, and vis was at least 12 metres in ambient light. Next day, Sunday 30 June, we dived closer inshore on the WW1 wreck of the Eleanor in 38 metres. Vis was very good at 8-10 metres and with the water warming up quite nicely to around 15°. Despite slightly overcast skies, torches were not necessary. On Monday 1 July we headed south-east to dive the recently scheduled wreck of the early screw steamship Faith as a national monument. Vis was not expected to be great due to the location of the wreck, but it was in fact very good at 6-8 metres in ambient light. Wind forecast wasn’t great at W-NW 4-5, but the dive was successfully completed though we had a bumpy ride back. We finished the day with a second dive on the WW1 steamer War Knight in 12 metres, where once again vis was quite good at 3-4 metres.

Forthcoming dive spaces:  There are spaces available as follows:  Friday 12 July. To dive an unidentified wooden schooner, emerging from the seabed in the Solent, and now a protected wreck, you’ll be able to dive under the authority of the licensee, who can give basic archaeological advice. Depth 20 metres, second dive included.  Contact Mark on mark@nauticalarchaeologysociety.org

Spaces for max. 40 metres wrecks dives: Saturday 3 August and Saturday 31 August. Likely sites:  WW1 steamers Azemmour, Brestois, or 1885 wreck of the Clarinda.  Contact Tony on fatboydiving@aol.com

Dive reports: We had a great day’s diving on Saturday 6 July, diving the Dallas City in 60 metres. Vis was a good 10-12 metres in ambient light, with water temperature around 15/16°. Very glad to have AIS on board, as I was able to make contact with a number of big ships heading our way – all very kindly altered course to keep clear of us.  Next day, Sunday 7 July, we again headed to mid Channel to dive the WW1 steamer Bishopston in 58 metres. We had similar vis of around 10 metres in ambient light and once again a crawfish was spotted, showing how far east they are spreading. This is really good news, as I’ve never known them to be in this part of the channel before now. Let them grow and breed before we take any! On Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th July, operating from Itchenor, West Sussex, we had 2 good days diving on the protected wreck site of HMS Hazardous, wrecked in 1706. Vis was around 2-3 metres, and we investigated a recently discovered part of the wreck, away from the main wreck, where a further 8 or 9 big cannons have been found. Next day, Wednesday 10 July, operating from Southsea marina, I had members of Seasearch on board, diving for information regarding marine conversation zones. We selected a point east of St Catherine’s in about 35 metres, where the ground was quite interesting, showing exposed bedrock, reefs and associated wildlife – all very useful in filling in gaps in knowledge. On Friday 12 July we were diving with a Nautical Archaeology Society organised dive, on the protected wreck site of an unidentified schooner in Thorness Bay in 20 metres. Vis of 2-3 metres (very good for here) was had, and a diver trail successfully tested. Following this we tried to dive on some wooden wreckage in Colwell Bay, but an awkward breeze and too many anchored gin palaces made the dive untenable, so we continued to Alum Bay and dived the remains of HMS Pomone, wrecked in 1811.

Dive/vis reports:  On Saturday 13 July, still with the NAS and the licensee for the protected wreck site at the Needles (HMS Assurance, HMS Pomone) we dived the site at the foot of Goose Rock. Vis was quite good at 4 metres. The site is constantly swept clean by the strength of the tides and wave surges, but the dive was completed and cannons, anchors and other items examined. We also checked part of the bow section from HMS Pomone which ended up further to he east in Alum Bay, where copper keel pins, iron knees, planking and lead scuppers were examined.

On Sunday 14 July we steamed to the south-east to dive the WWII wreck of the submarine HMS Swordfish in 40 metres. Vis was again quite good at 5-6 metres. Following this we did a drift dive across the offshore reefs of Brook Ledge – very scenic, with lots of life. An unpleasant south-easterly breeze made conditions somewhat uncomfortable but all in all, a very good day. On Monday 15 July was again steamed quite some distance to the south-east to dive an unidentified anomaly in about 45 metres. A nice bell surfaced, heavily encrusted, which might reveal the name of the wreck, which had a small compound engine and single boiler. It’s probably the wreck of a small coaster, steam drifter or something similar, machinery aft, with some lost trawl gear draped over the boiler. Vis of around 5 metres and water temperature of 16° made this another great dive, and worth the long steam into an unpleasant easterly swell. On Tuesday 16 July we again steamed to the south-east of the Needles in glorious weather with light winds, diving an inverted steel vessel in 37 metres, complete with twin propellers and bronze portholes with bronze deadlights. Vis was about 5 or 6 metres in ambient light. Yesterday’s wreck is probably that of the small steamer Flaxmoss, lost in 1887. That’s based on its location, the configuration of the machinery and where its positioned, and general size and layout. Unfortunately the bell, though of very good quality, has no name engraved on it. On Wednesday 17 July, taking advantage of good weather, once more we headed south-east to investigate another seabed anomaly. This turned out to be an old steam locomotive, its wheels upright on the seabed, with the boiler, made of brass tubes and brass endplates, fallen over.  A nameplate came up bearing the date 1864 – quite what the ship carrying it was is a mystery but probably it was a barge under tow – we have no idea and I can’t find any record of a steam train being lost off the Isle of Wight. Something else for me to research further!  Vis was not bad at around 5 metres in ambient light, but the water was a bit milky as the spring tide reaches its peak.

Thursday 18th, Friday 19th and Saturday 20th July were blown out by strong winds.

Dive/vis reports: After 3 days of strong winds we managed to get out on Sunday 21 July, intending to dive the WW1 steamer Londonier in 40 metres. The western Solent was quite choppy as far as the Needles, but as we turned towards St Catherine’s conditions improved, though it was sloppy and lumpy with a swell, left over from the previous 3 days. As we were on the back end of a spring tide, vis wasn’t expected to be great, but it was still a good 3-5 metres in ambient light, though the dive was better with a good torch. Another juvenile crawfish was seen on the wreck – they really are making a major comeback. Water temperature is now up around 17°.

Dive/vis reports: On Thursday 25 and Friday 26 July we were with the Maritime Archaeology Trust diving the Bouldnor site in the western Solent. A sweltering hot, humid, bright sunny day, with water temperature around 20/21° and vis of around 3-4 ,metres, divers couldn’t wait to get in the water!  Numerous samples of worked timbers were recovered for conservation and later reconstruction.  In addition, a fairly large sediment sample was removed from directly beneath the timbers, which, when analysed, is expected to reveal all sorts of information such as wheat and wolf DNA and possibly some previously unknown DNA.  On Saturday 27 July with the forecast less than ideal with a westerly swell and force 4 wind, we ventured 37 miles south of the Needles to dive the wreck of the large barque Eugene Schneider in 65 metres. Vis was a good 12-15 metres in ambient light, torches being unnecessary.  After the dive the long steam back began, with the wind picking up and an uncomfortable swell on the beam. By the time we returned everyone was well and truly knackered!  With stronger wind forecast for Sunday afternoon, when we would have again been mid Channel, we decided on a day off.

Dive/vis reports:  On Saturday 3 August, with a big tide of 7 metres on Dover, we headed to the wreck of the Braedale in 35 metres. With an overcast sky, big tides and an uncomfortable swell from the south-east, everyone nevertheless got in the water and completed the dive safely. Vis wasn’t great at about 2 or 3 metres, and it was a better dive with a torch, but the temperature is around 19°. We then sought sheltered water in Alum Bay and dived the bow section of the 1811 wreck of HMS Pomone. Once again, vis was poor at about one metre or so but with these big tides, it’s to be expected.  Sunday 4 August was not booked.

Dive/vis reports:  With the jet stream throwing a major tantrum, with low pressure system after low pressure system sweeping across us, with plenty of strong wind, there’s been no diving, and none in the immediate future. Signs are it might settle towards the end of the month but for now, we’re tied up in port.