Tag Archives: Portland

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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Lost in France – not in our case

The much looked forward to Normandy wrecks tour is postponed until 2016.

Our intrepid group set off knowing there were some weather problems brewing along the south coast but nevertheless full of hope and anticipation. However, once we arrived the full scope of the problem was outlined. No diving off France for the full week and maybe not able to get back on the Friday.

We took the offer of a days UK diving on Sunday with a return home on Monday. After a blowy early Sunday morning the sun came out and we had pretty much perfect surface weather. The vis below wasn’t that great. Dredging again ?

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We explored two new dive sites to us despite diving this area for many years.

The Alex Van Opstal. 26-28m. Most explored the bow section only because of the vis. Still standing proud of the sea bed but well damaged (1939). Lots of fish life. Bib, pollack and lots of blennies and gobies.

The Bennerdijk. 26m. Well broken wreck with scattered remains. Given the visibility, there was a little luck needed to find even the massive boilers. The fish life was incredible. Biggest Tompots I have ever seen. There were also lots of big Congers and very large and crusty lobsters. Karl and I had our first encounter with a huge barrel jellyfish. Dustbin size and incredibly beautiful with yellow and purple colouration. Certainly a dive to do again.

Back to Portland for our excellent dinner on board.

We awoke Monday to the start of the wind and rain. We could actually see what was coming then.

Many thanks to Al and Freda on the Salutay for being so fair with us.

We’ll be back !

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weymouth or is it Portland now ? June 2015

Arrival day

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.

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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.

 

 

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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

  1. 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.

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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.

 

MC

 

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Diving off Portland – June 2014

Just returned from our excellent excursion to Portland to dive with Skindeep Diving Weymouth. Len, our admirable skipper, gave us the best dive sites we could ask for given the relatively poor underwater visibility. Maggie gave us cups of team, support and encouragement.

We stayed in the ‘Bunker’. A ten minute walk from the Marina and just across the road from Chesil Beach and convenient hostelries.

The weather was glorious. Shorts were the standard dress code (not just for Steve).DSCF3250 DSCF3251 DSCF3253

Over three days we managed four lumps of metal – The M2, James Fennell, St Dunstan and Black Hawk (bow) and 3 drifts. The viz on the M2 and St Dunstan was disappointing at about a metre driven by the recent poor weather and a lot of plankton (good news for the fishes !).  The shallower drifts all had better viz at up to 5m. The first started with the scattered wreckage of the James Fennell and merged into a nice sedate drift. The drift to Portland head was a little more exciting especially for those going shallow. There was plenty of life to glimpse on the way.

The dive of the weekend was undoubtedly the Black Hawk. Scattered wreckage creating wonderful shapes emerging from the sand and gravel ridges. Teeming with life. All kinds of beautiful Wrasse including male cuckoos, large Tompots and Bib of all shapes and sizes (including huge), Pollack and sightings of parts of Congers. Lots of crabs of varying persuasions -including spiders and huge edibles. Some very pretty irridescent lobster. This must a be a truly awesome wreck in better visibility.

Our Barbi on Chesil Beach was undoubtedly the catering success of the weekend. Watching the sunset into the distant coastline.

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Thank you to Emma, Steve and Paul for the additional photos

 

 

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