Portland October 2016

All week and the forecast is looking good. We’ve seen this before though only to have hopes dashed at the final hurdle. So, we set off, full of expectation and hope, but a much depleted team due to late drop outs (for good reasons).

Our accommodations at ‘The Bunker’ are ready for us as we arrive at various times during the late afternoon and evening. Owen, a late replacement, takes the biscuit though arriving at 4.30 am, after needing a nap en route. So we have a bright (expression only) and early start with breakfast at 6.45, ready for an 8.00 ropes off for a 9.30 slack window.

Our first dive, the M2. Perfect conditions; a slight chop, overcast but bright and clear. Descending down the shot (placed perfectly on the conning tower) we could see the shape emerging before us. Good visibility at about 8m meant we got a really good appreciation of the wreck and all the life in and around it. Conger, Bib, Tompots, Pollack, Crabs. A real treat with the hangar safely accessible for those who wanted to share it with the free swimming conger.

As always with Portland the second dive is a drift. An opportunity to go scalloping and critter searching on Lulworth Banks. Visibility was limited so keeping your buddy was a challenge, not possible to hang around and wait ! Lots of crabs, small wrasse, gobies and some nice corals. There were patches of king and queen scallops, so a good haul by some.

Jill had observed the funfair (difficult to miss since it was next door) and so persuaded / bullied various members of the team onto the waltzers. Being organised, we had booked the ‘Cove’ for dinner and a very pleasant meal was had by all.

A slightly later ropes off and a more civilised breakfast time made for an easier start and the flat calm sea helped ! St Dunstan, a bucket dredger, our first dive of the day. Great visibility of 10m mean for an excellent dive. Lots of open areas, the operating machinery clearly visible, hundreds of fish around (as previous day) plus lobster and huge shrimp. A really good dive for both metal heads and veg divers. Off the side of Portland headland at Black Nor Point for the drift. Quite gentle so opportunity for an explore – more hidden life except the ubiquitous wrasse and occasional cuttlefish. Some saw the remains of the James Fennel.

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Since we were starting early it made for an early finish so we continued the custom of a drink in the ‘Boat that Rocks’ (Marina Bar) before going too far. Except that Jill went a little too far with ‘play’ pushing Huw into the hedge.  Huw not realising that this was ‘play’, was a little more forceful in his response and we all heard the loud scream and turned to see two feet sticking out of the hedge. Only pride dented though.

We were meant to take slow cookers but only one arrived. So we ended up cooking in the late afternoon. An excellent chilli following the starter of diver caught scallops was enjoyed by all. Thanks to Frankie, Ray and Matt.

Our last day came around too soon. A slightly more adventurous sea journey to get into the lea of Portland for our second sub, HMS Sidon. The visibility was not great (we had been spoilt) at maybe 4m but it was enough to see where you wanted to go. Fantastic fin shape on the stern and the usual profusion of life.

We decided to repeat Black Nor Point to search for more cuttlefish and wreckage. We got both ! A great end to a very enjoyable long weekend.

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