Excitement mounted during the week reaching a peak on our Thursday travel day. Some were so excited they left at 6.30 am, mind you, it might have been an eagerness to arrive and imbibe.
The more sane of the party left after rush hour and, in Matt & Kate’s case, indulged in the new ultra-sustainable Westmoreland Services at Gloucester – very intriguing architecture with a wave-form green roof and with the same high quality as our oft used stopping off point on our northern trips.
The early starters were to be found in the beach site pub after a long walk (10 minutes) on Chesil Beach.
The long walk on Chesil Beach
We shared our bunk house with two young slim girls… much slavering went on by our younger males… seemingly they were taking part in a sailing regatta which also served as Olympic trials (fit… and fit!)
We had some late arrivals, but a considerable degree of restraint on the part of the early arrivals meant that food was still available. Better still, a late start of 11.45…yes 11.45am! meant a night of quaffing and feasting went on late into the night.
This is what happens when you quaff and feast late into the night.
Day 1 Friday
We opted for the B & B option on this trip and a comprehensive breakfast awaited us at the very civilised time of 9.00am and all indulged, not realising that a fair swell was running out to sea.
A bright sky fooled those of us with glass stomachs not to indulge in stoogies, so some suffering was evident on the trip out to the Aeolian Sky. Even the skipper felt queasy!
Viz was great on the Aeolian Sky with an intact stern and bow but a much collapsed mid-section. The rudder was a fine sight and the big anchor is still ‘parked’ on the bow. It is a big wreck and needs more than one visit to explore fully.
We ascended to a calmer sea, and thus calmer stomachs, and we steamed back to Portland and a calm surface interval wait with cold sausage butties rescued from our large breakfast.
The afternoon’s dive was a gentle steam to the breakwater where the Countess d’Erne awaited. No, she wasn’t a member of the local aristocracy, rather a large barge, although originally she was a paddle-wheel ferry. We were warned that visibility would be minimal and so it proved. We were also warned not to head south as it was easy to drift into the main channel through the breakwater where ferries came and went. Syd & Will were keen to try this as they are veterans of diving in the paths of ferries, but we successfully deterred them.
It was a dive where detail mattered as it was impossible to see the bigger picture. There was plenty of life with nudibranchs, blennies and other small regulars. Several of the party spotted exotic looking bright yellow bodied and black headed fish which mystified us all. In-depth research – a quick look on the internet – showed them to be black headed blennies. They would not have looked out of place in the Red Sea or the Maldives.
The evening saw the group split to pursue different gastronomic persuasions , take-away pizza, curry or a trip into Weymouth to sample the early evening life.
Day 2 Saturday
It was a breezy but bright early start with the sea a bit bumpy, but precautionary stoogies did the trick.
The Elena R was a large freighter torpedoed by a U-boat off Portland Bill. She is well broken up but proved to be tompot blenny city, they were everywhere. With large congers and lobster and big schools of bib, pollack, and other cod (they all look the same to me!) the wreck was critter heaven. Oddly, the whole wreck appears to rest on a huge dune of mussel shells. Great viz and bright conditions made for a memorable dive.
We steamed back to the marina where the boat and the divers were refreshed, on the one hand with diesel , and on the other with proper coffee. Rescued sausages and bacon formed breakfast
- 2, and then off to Lulworth Banks for a drift.
The drift was relaxed but constant and we had to be agile to grasp the many scallops which littered the sea bed. We saw dogfish (or is it cat-sharks?) and large plaice but none of last year’s rays. Some well filled bags of scallops were lugged back on board except for Steve and Richard’s. A lurking wave threw Mr Ward off balance and he dropped the bag. Suggestions that he should re-descend to retrieve them were met with the Wardy scowl, especially as he had, it transpired, broken his ribs in the process!
We were back in the marina by 1.00-ish so the imbibers imbibed, the sleepers slept and others sampled ice cream and cream teas in Weymouth.
A sumptuous meal, apart from the obvious packet soup, was provided at the bunk house by our hostess and we all retired early, full and satisfied.
A full and satisfied Matt sleep reading.
Day 3 Sunday
Another early start saw calmer conditions and a benign sea state – hurrah!- no stoogies needed, and we all, except Sandra, set off for the Pin wreck.
An odd name, but its real name is unknown. It is called the Pin wreck because the double skin hull is/was held together by long copper pins. A small vessel, and its timber hull rotted away, but it was home to at least four good sized congers, the ubiquitous tompot blennies as well as the same mix of cod family (which all still looked the same to me).
A nice relaxing no.2 breakfast with a good view of Lulworth Castle was interrupted by two intrepid swimmers from another dive boat. They swam over to have a chat with Len and Maggie with whom they had dived before. Apparently one was a cross channel swimmer. We pointed her in the right direction and high tailed it out of there towards the Black Hawk.
The Black Hawk is a well broken up Liberty ship lying in 16 m. The viz was great again and plenty of life abounded including those schools of look-alike cod thingies. With a current picking up, most drifted off with their blobbies up to be picked up and whisked back to the marina.
It was departing sailor traffic jam but we all managed to manoeuvre around them and sped up the M5 and home. Kate & Matt stopped at the new services at Gloucester just to compare them to the southbound ones. All still good you’ll be glad to hear.