Diving reports 2020

Hurray!  We’re back in the water at last.  We were allowed to resume diving from 4 July, but that weekend was plagued with gale force winds, and the week following had strong wind warnings every day, so no diving was possible.  However, all changed from Saturday 11 July. On that day members of SeaSearch were on board. We dived close inshore under the cliffs by Tennyson Down in very scenic gullies and ridges, looking for various forms of life.  Following that, we investigated what was presumed to have been a chalk ridge some 500 metres long off Hanover Point at Brook, but it turned out to be different geology. A piece of fossilised wood containing iron pyrites was found. Vis was quite good considering the weather the previous week, with about 3 metres under Tennyson, and similar conditions off Brook. On Sunday 12 July we carried out our first wreck dive of the season, on the WW1 wreck of the French steamer Azemmour in 38 metres. Vis was quite good at 6 metres in ambient light, though there is still some suspended plankton in the water column. The wreck was alive with crabs, while conditions topside were flat calm and sunny. On the way back we pinged another wreck which is one we’ll investigate soon.

On Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 July, I had marine archaeologists on board, surveying Bouldnor Cliff, a prehistoric site of human habitation. Vis was very good for close inshore in the Solent, varying from 3 to 5 metres.  On Wednesday 15 to Friday 17th July, I ran out of Southsea Marina to dive wrecks east of the Isle of Wight. We dived the wreck thought to be the Flaxmoss in 45 metres – though having had a second look at it, it may be too small to be the 1886 wreck. Nothing was found to identify the wreck.  Vis was about 8 metres in ambient light. The next day we dived the French steamer Leon in 30 metres – armed with both a bow and a stern gun. Being closer inshore the vis was still a very acceptable 6 metres.  On the last day we investigated an unidentified anomaly, which turned out to be something which might be historically important.  It was four ‘Anti Aircraft Torpedo Close Protection Pontoons’ all lying in a straight line in 43 metres, pretty much undamaged, complete with vertical winch gear and steel anti-torpedo nets. These pontoons were only in use between 1939 and about 1942 and previously thought to have been confined to Scapa Flow, so it was a real surprise to find them off the Isle of Wight. No record of their loss has been located.  On Saturday 18 July we had an early start to dive the WW1 wreck of the tanker Oriflamme. At the Needles we were delighted to have a pod of about 20 dolphins all around the boat.  On the wreck, vis was a bit disappointing at 5 metres – we’d anticipated that it would be better on HW slack following a good neap tide – but that’s St Catherine’s for you!  The next day, Sunday 19 July, we again dived off St Catherine’s, this time on the WW1 steamer Redesmere. This was a good dive though the vis was similar, and with the water up around 15°, a good day out.

Planned trips for Friday 24 to Sunday 26 July have been blown out, and Monday 27 July and Tuesday 28 July – ditto.  Finally, we managed to get out on Wednesday 29 July. Picking up at Yarmouth, we had intended to dive the Asborg off St Catherine’s Point, but in view of the recent big springs and 5 or 6 days of strong winds, decided the vis would have taken a knock, so we headed west instead to dive the wreck of the steamer Betsy Anna. A warm, sunny day with a slight breeze, but some swell left over from the previous unsettled weather, everyone got in the water. Vis was around 4 metres, about what was expected given the circumstances, but at least the water is warm!  We followed this on the way back with a very quick drift up the Solent from about Hatherwood Point. Described as an exhilarating drift in 2-3 metres vis over a varied seabed comprising sand, rock, depressions and peaks, lots of life was spotted but divers moving too fast to collect anything.  Next day, Thursday 30 July, members of SeaSearch were on board. We dived first on the underwater cliff face at Bouldnor. There are differing sediment levels here, comprising, clay, sandstone, peat beds etc, and the divers wanted to see what life forms were living on each level. With vis expected to be on the low side, on LW water slack, it was around 2 metres and quite enough for the purposes of the dive.  This was followed by diving a mark on the flood tide just off Tennyson Down, where vis had improved to 4-5 metres.

The weekend of Saturday 1 August and Sunday 2 August looked iffy regarding weather – but Saturday looked the better day, so we ventured off St Catherine’s Point to dive the WW1 wreck of the Norwegian steamer Cuba in 42 metres.  Although everyone had a good dive, we passed through the good vis to well, less good vis!  Dark and 2-3 metres vis, not the best, but at least we’re in the water wreck diving. Sunday was still looking iffy but we reckoned we could get the dive in before the wind came up. Leaving the pontoon in calm conditions, we saw a few dolphin off the Needles before we reached the wreck of the steamer Daylesford in 46 metres. The weather began as overcast and as the divers entered the water the wind began to pick up. However, the dive was another good one – ambient light on the wreck and slightly better vis at 4-5 metres.  Sloppy ride home in a SW 4-5. On Monday 3 August we were inshore south-west of the Needles, investigating an unknown site. This turned out to be some sort of large steel pipe, 75cms diameter, with all sorts of fittings attached, and an anchor and chain. Congers, a shoal of large pout, crabs and lobsters were there, but whatever the wreckage is, it wasn’t what we were looking for. Despite this, vis was 4-5 metres in ambient light, the water is warm and the bonus was we had a pod of a dozen dolphins off Totland Bay.  We then had a look at another mark thought to have been wreckage, but this turned out to be rocky outcrops. On Tuesday 4 August we dived the WW1 steam drifter New Dawn in 33 metres, 3 miles off the Needles. Nice dive, upright boiler and engine, and lots of shellfish. Vis was OK at about 4 metres in ambient light.

We had a cracking weekend over Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 August.  The inshore waters weather forecast was completely wrong – they were saying NE3-5 but for both days there was a total absence of wind, so we had flat, hot, sultry, sticky weather. On Saturday we dived the WW1 steamer South Western. Vis was disappointingly poor at about 2 metres, and pitch black below 25 metres, but this is quite a safe wreck in low vis and at least the water is warm at 18°.  On Sunday we headed south to dive the Clarinda, another favourite, and as the spring tide reduces towards neaps, we had a corresponding improvement in vis, which was around 3-4 metres in ambient light. As a bonus, we came across of pod of 5 or 6 dolphins on the Bridge Reef at the Needles.

From Tuesday 11 August to Friday 14 August, marine archaeologists have been surveying and excavating a trench on Bouldnor Cliff at a depth of 9 metres.  This was a site of human occupation some 8500 years ago. Vis improved dramatically as a really small neap tide has progressed, giving long periods of slack water and also long periods when divers could work through the tide. Water temperature close inshore in the western Solent is a balmy 22°.  This isn’t surprising as we’ve had days of hot, steamy, sultry weather, with an oily, flat calm sea.

Dive/vis reports:  On Saturday 15 August we ventured offshore – the first time this year – to dive a wreck thought to be the Luxor, lost in 1918 when she was brand new.  Steaming down the Solent we were in overcast skies and thick fog, which didn’t bode well.  We remained in the fog until 20 miles south of the Needles, when the fog lifted and we were left with cloudy skies.  The sea was flat calm and everyone had a great dive in 56 metres – with vis of at least 10-12 metres in ambient light.  Next day, Sunday 16 August, we were inshore, diving first on the War Knight in Watcombe Bay. We had cloudy skies and heavy rain but the sea was flat. It’s unusual to have good vis on this wreck as it’s very close inshore, but the neap tide had given us 3-4 metres vis. This was followed by the main dive on slack water in the Needles Channel, on the stern section of the steamer Serrana lost in 1918. Despite being on low water, vis was a very acceptable 4-5 metres. Finally, on Monday 17 August, a small group ventured out on a flat sea to dive the Admiralty steam drifter New Dawn in 33 metres.  The only complaint – too many fish to see the wreck!  Vis was quite good at 5 metres but with overcast skies this was to be expected. We finished the day with a second dive on the War Knight, just as the wind picked up and began to increase.  So far, August has been a good month, but the weather looks set to break down…

Dive/vis reports:  Sure enough, nasty low pressure systems bringing strong wind and rain, coupled with monster big spring tides, wiped out the weekend of Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 August. 

Dive/vis reports:  Poor weather continues – bit of a shock after the first 2 weeks of brilliant weather.  Friday 28 August cancelled de to strong winds, as was Saturday 29 August. Sunday 30 August has been rescheduled – SeaSearch were due to survey the shallow, inshore waters of the Solent and Needles, but the gales of last week have adversely affected vis, and it’s no good if you can’t see anything!  We’re doing this dive later in September.

Dive/vis reports:  We ventured out on BH Monday 31 August. Light winds and calm seas made our trip out to the wreck of the Dallas City quite pleasant, though it was a cloudy day. Vis was excellent, estimated at 10-12 metres at 60 metres, though divers reported seeing torchlight on the wreck while descending from 40 metres. If only the had shone for us – which it was on the way back!  A good result was that we recovered a lost shot from 2019.

Dive/vis reports:  Lots going on and no time to keep the posts updated – but here’s what we’ve been doing. On Friday 4 September we dived off St Catherine’s to investigate an unknown/unidentified target in two pieces. Some dived the stern section and some the bow section. Nothing was found to identify the vessel, and vis was quite poor – not surprising given that the day before wind speed reached 82 mph at the Needles and that has really stirred things up.  Next day, Saturday 5 September, we’d intended to return to St Catherine’s to dive a WW1 steamer, but in view of the vis situation we decided to dive the wreck of the Hazelwood west of the Point. Vis was improving but still not great, but as the tide eases back from springs it’ll improve. On Sunday 6 September we dived the WW1 steamer Eleanor in 38 metres. Vis has improved to 3-4 metres in ambient light.  On Monday 7 September with a different team, this time of marine archaeologists, we were engaged in surveying and using an unmanned vessel, programmed to survey remotely. Conditions weren’t ideal but much data was gathered. Next day, Tuesday 8 September was spent with the magnetometer searching a specific area. Lots of targets were located, and we commenced diving on them on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 September. Most of what we found was modern rubbish – old iron pipes, mooring blocks etc, but right at the end of the day ship’s timbers and associated debris was found, some disappearing under the sand. Vis was very good at 5-6 metres but we were quite shallow anyway and many of our targets have been dived.  There’s a lot more to do…

Dive/vis reports:  On Saturday 12 September we ventured offshore to mid-Channel. The forecast wasn’t great, but it was such a good neap that we suffered the swell and waves, knowing that the vis would be great – and it was. diving the steamer El Kahira in 60 metres, horizontal vis was a good 12 metres, while a diver reported that when he was at 40 metres, he could see divers below on the wreck. Next day, Sunday 13 September, we headed south-west again, to dive the wreck of the Derna. An angling boat on site prevented that – the skipper suggesting that when divers have been on a wreck it ruins the fishing!  Nonsense, of course, but as he was there first we headed to the wreck of the Dagmar, just over a mile away. Sunshine, flat sea and no wind – ideal. Vis wasn’t as good at 6 metres, but being closer inshore it was what we expected. Water temperature is still around 18°.  Not many dives left for this short season, but we’ll keep going when tides and weather permit. On Tuesday 15 September we had an early start – away from the pontoon at 0645 – to dive the wreck we call the Train Set – 2 steam locomotives with tenders – off the back of the Isle of Wight.  Considering the very good neap tide we’ve just had, vis was somewhat disappointing but certainly good enough for photography. Two of the marine archaeologists snapped over 2500 digital images for photogrammetry purposes, which will fill in the gaps from our last visit to the site. Loads of conger on site, poking out of every hole and crevice, as well as lots of juvenile lobsters.

Dive spaces:  We are about to have a run of huge spring tides, from the 17th to the 21st September, which will bring poor vis and short periods of slack water.  It’s not worth diving…and in any case, the forecast is for fresh to strong east or north-east winds, which is about as unfriendly as you can get!

Dive/vis reports:  Not much to tell – strong to gale force winds wiped out diving on Friday 25, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September.  Even though the winds was offshore for that period, vis had taken a severe hit so it was not worth going if you can’t see!  Not much left now this season.

Dive/vis reports: All dives for October were blown out, but we had 2 very good days on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 November, diving with marine archaeologists in the Solent.  With a very good neap tide and no wind, vis was a very acceptable 2-3 metres, though with the sun low in the sky, good torches were needed. An adze, 8500 years old, was recovered intact, along with numerous flint shards which shows the area we were diving, now in 10 metres of water, was inhabited by our distant ancestors.

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.

Dive/vis reports:  Hooray!  The poor August weather has given way to warm, sunny and settled weather. On Friday 23 August, divers were in Totland Bay, taking samples of seagrass to extract seeds for growing on in the laboratory, with a view to replanting areas where the seagrass has been degraded.  Vis was about 2-3 metres.  On Saturday 24 August, we ventured to the south west to dive the wreck of the el Kahira in 60 metres.  Bright and sunny, with just a slight easterly swell, vis was a good 10-12 metres in ambient light. Next day, Sunday 25 August, the breeze died right away and we steamed south, intending to dive a mid-Channel WW1 steamer. Having steamed over 30 miles, out of nowhere, thick fog descended, so bad that at times visibility was as low as 50 yards, Deciding that we’d rather not be on the French side of the Channel, and further from help if we needed it, we headed north hoping to clear the fog, but it was everywhere. Nevertheless, we dived the 1888 wreck of the Saxmundham in 60 metres, though everyone had to come up the shot, and when they were together, they bagged off and drifted while decompressing. Sod’s Law – as soon as they cleared the shot, the fog dispersed and we were in bright sunshine again.  Vis was 15 metres, and the offshore water temperature underwater is 17°. On BH Monday 26 August, again in bright sunshine, no wind and a flat, oily sea, we set off intending to dive another mid-Channel wreck. We weren’t long past the Needles when the fog returned, which thickened as we steamed south-west.  Again deciding we’d rather be closer to home in the event of a problem, we diverted to a closer wreck, and arriving there 20 minutes before slack, found an angling boat anchored up, fishing for congers, so we had to drop that wreck too. We had one option left – and steamed to the north to the wreck of the Snowdrop in 58 metres. Vis was again a good 15 metres, with lots of crabs, lobsters and crawfish on the wreck, as well as big pollack. We were still in the fog so it was up the shot again, though this time, when they drifted clear, the fog came down thicker, though all were recovered safely. Just as were leaving the wreck another angling boat came on scene to fish it, but as were clear of it by then, there was no problem.  This highlights the problems of diving to the south-west at weekends when there’s a fishing competition on!

Dive/vis reports:  On Wednesday 28 August with marine archaeologists we returned to the site of the steam locomotive – and discovered there are two, not one.  Over 2000 images were taken with a view to producing photogrammetry. Vis was quite poor, and unexpected, as we’d just come off a good neap. Such are the vagaries of the Isle of Wight!  Despite the vis – around 2 metres – we’re hopeful a decent model can be produced from the images taken.  Saturday 31 August was blown out, and Sunday 1 September was unbooked – hardly surprising as it was a huge spring tide.  Wednesday 4 September to Friday 6 September was blown out and things only got worse!  Steaming to mid Channel on Saturday 7 September, I had a bank of the boat’s batteries fail. Not wishing to rely on the one remaining bank in case that failed too, and being on the French side of the Channel, we aborted and headed home.  Sunday was aborted due to the battery problem. Monday was spent fitting a new bank of batteries and we were back up and running again on Tuesday 10 September, when we dived the Baron Garioch in 38 metres. It was a late tide – in the water at 3pm, but there was just enough ambient light in vis of around 4 metres.

Dive/vis reports:  A very good weekend on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September.  With fine weather, sunny skies and warm temperatures, we dived the wreck of the Spyros in 30 metres and had a good 4 metres vis.  This was followed by a second dive on the wreck of the War Might in 12 metres, where the vis has held up really well, giving 3-4 metres – very good for a wreck so close inshore.  Next day we dived the wreck of the Borgny in 30 metres, in a flat sea and bright sunshine. Loads of life on this wreck, with crabs, lobsters, conger etc.  Similar vis to the previous day.  We ended the weekend doing a drift dive across the south-eastern tip of Christchurch Ledge, where again, there’s loads of life, especially big ballan wrasse, starfish and barrel jellyfish.  Water temperature is still well up – in the shallow water it’s around 19°.





NEWLY PUBLISHED BOOK AVAILABLE NOW! Supplement to South Coast Shipwrecks off East Dorset & Wight 1870 – 1979

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