This year's trip was 4 days long, so we got to avoid the traffic on the Friday night before the Bank Holiday. We were booked on Our W, skippered by that colourful character Woody. Friday morning, the sun was out and the sea was glassy. And the day before a Bank Holiday too!
Our first dive was the Aeolian Sky, a relatively recent shipwreck which went down in the 1970s. I was diving with Alasdair. The wreck lies in about 30m of water, and we were diving it at low water slack. It's such a large wreck that you can see a standing wave over it when the current is running. Descending down the shotline, the viz was a reasonable 6m, though the water was a bit bitty. The wreck is huge with large parts you can swim into. We started near the bows and headed towards the stern. The remains of landrover chassises were lying under a mast with the rubber tyres sticking out on either side. At the back of the wreck we could see the accommodation block and even the section of the hull with the name written on it.
At this point Alasdair found a hole to swim into and there was a collection of pipes inside. A corridor headed off enticingly into the wreck, but the current had started to run, so we made our way outside again. We drifted along a short way back towards the bows before deciding to bag up. Our bottom time was 29 minutes and I managed to get just over 30m at one point, though we were shallower than that for most of the dive.
The second dive was a drift on Lulworth Banks. I'm so low on dives this year that I actually bothered to get in. Alasdair didn't, so I dived with Digs. It was uneventful and bit murky with the viz around the 4m mark. There were a few wrasse on the bottom, including Ballan and cuckoo wrasse. We managed to find a few scallops, but the only real excitement was when the SMB line got wrapped around a mooring. Fortunately it was recovered later. My maximum depth was 19m and the dive time was 43 minutes.
After breakfast on Saturday morning we arrived at the boat once more in the sunshine. For the first dive of the day we had decided to do the Sidon, which is a British sub which sank twice. The first time was in Portland harbour when a torpedo blew up. The second time it was sunk as an Asdic target. I hadn't done it before. Arriving at the bottom of the shot, we freed it and then set off along the port side. The viz was about 5m and we swam along the side, which was fairly featureless except for the occasional hole. We then ducked under the body of the sub and swam through the gap where the propshaft was onto the starboard side.
We reached the bows and swam a little off the wreck so that we could look back at them and see the whole wreck in front of us. Then we swam up towards the top of the wreck. This was more interesting as there were various holes in the top. The most interesting part was the conning tower, so we did a lap around it and decided we'd seen everything, so it was time to come up. As we'd got shallower throughout the dive, we managed to get a maximum depth of 33.5m but with our 30% nitrox mixes we still had a couple of minutes of no-deco time when we left the wreck at 28 minutes. A leisurely ascent saw us on the surface 10 minutes later.
The second dive was on the James Fennel, which is close to the cliffs on the west of Portland Bill. There isn't a lot of wreckage, though the boiler is still there. We swam right around it before drifting off in the small current. There were lots of poor cod and rock cooks swimming around the large boulders. I saw a cuttlefish and Al managed to spot a small, spiny lobster. It was not bad for a second dive. Our dive time was 38 minutes and I had a maximum depth of 18.4m. The viz was good and in the range of 6-8m.
Sunday morning arrived, and the weather was still good, if slightly windier. We set off around the Bill once more to the Pomeranian. Al and I were the second pair down and we descended to the deck. The viz seemed pretty good at around the 6m mark. There was a hatch in front of us, so we went down into it. There were a couple of tight squeezes plus a small swim-through, so we decided to go through that. When we re-emerged onto the wreck, the viz seemed to have taken a dive. The wreck was covered in quite fine silt and it didn't take very much to stir it up.
We set us towards the stern end spotting various of pieces of junk along the way and there was another hole, which we went into, but it didn't really lead anywhere. There were some really large pollock on the wreck as well as the usual shoals of bib. The wreckage was covered in dead man's fingers and there were also some sea fans. My maximum depth was 35m and we had a total dive time of 48 minutes.
One of the dive pairs managed to get separated on ascent and there was an anxious few moments as we counted the DSMBs on the surface. Things were not helped by the fact that Alasdair, who claims to know a thing or two about physics and maths, counted 6 divers on the boat, 4 DSMBs in the water and concluded that one of our group of 10 was missing. I would say who the culprit was, but apparently his wife reads the trip reports.
Our second dive took as back to the cliffs on the west of the Bill. There was some debate about whether the previous day's dive had been the Gertrude or the James Fennel. I don't know if anyone knows for sure. This time we did the wreck closest to shore. The most noticeable feature is a long propshaft which is almost, but not quite big enough to swim along. The fish life was prolific and used to plenty of divers. There were the usual collection of wrasse, including some large Ballan specimens, some crabs and I found a pipe fish. My maximum depth was 14.2m, though I could have gone deeper if I'd wanted, and my dive time was 39 minutes. The viz was again a reasonable 6ish metres.
On the Monday we headed around the Bill once more to the wreck of the St Dunstan. It was a long way. It's much nearer Lyme Regis than Weymouth, so I wouldn't imagine that many skippers would be prepared to go that far. The ship was a bucket dredger and once at the bottom of the shotline, it was obvious that we'd left the best until last. There were loads of places to swim into, including one quite long corridor along the decks and you can get in around the boilers. Much of the dredging equipment was still on the wreck including lots of winches, cogs and ropes. On the stern there are apparently two steel props, though I only saw one of them. The maximum depth was only 28m, so we managed a nice long dive time of 55 minutes on her.
By now it was getting quite late in the day, so no-one was remotely interested in a second dive. We steamed back towards Weymouth having had an enjoyable 4 days diving.