Big Waves and Big Fish in Challaborough

As the waves crashed over the sides of the rapidly filling RIB it was clear we were running out of time. Weighed down by the water and pushed ashore by the breaking waves we risked smashing the prop on the rocks. Between sets we managed to turn the boat bows into the surf and Dave sped out alone. Getting up onto a plane was the only way to empty the boat. As we watched him through the breakers I was reminded of the previous evening watching the surfers skilfully negotiating the same kind of waves we had just pushed Britvic through. Welcome to Challaborough.

This was the first of three days diving, and the conditions proved to be the most testing of the trip. Each morning we launched the RIB (with the help of Tai-Dives tractor) and after the days diving landed it. Practice makes perfect and our launch and recovery skills improved over the weekend.

Dive one was the Persier, a Belgian steamer torpedoed in 1945. The visibility was better than I expected (5m +) and as usual this wreck was alive with schools of Bib and Pollock. These fish will approach if unobserved, only to scatter at the rattle of exhaust bubbles. Lobsters hiding under steel plates were spared a fatal encounter with Mr Tresidder due to a lack of cooking facilities. We had all dived in a single wave thanks to Jo who was acting, selflessly, as coxswain for the weekend. The swell during the surface interval brought on the familiar nausea of seasickness, and lunch seemed like a bad idea. A visit to Hope Cove pasty shop soon changed my mind.

The second dive of the day was a shallow drift south of Burgh Island. Gren seemed to be using his wing more than usual and it turns out that it was inflating itself. Apparently this is a “Special feature” of Halcyon wings! On landing the RIB we discovered that the keys for the trailer and the wheel lock were missing, lost in the chaos of the mornings launch. Dave’s can-do attitude and engineering brutality (with thanks to his Dad for the angle grinder, and Tai-Dive for the drill) put paid to both locks and we could continue to use the trailer.

Next days diving started on the Maine, a cargo ship torpedoed in 1917. This is a great wreck, and relatively intact for its age. As we swam through the bulkheads we saw a couple of spare anchors and a corroded box of shells. The chalk that was carried as cargo still covers the floor of the holds.

The second dive of the day was at Bolt tail (not a wreck, a site near Bolt Head). This was notable for an encounter with a huge (between 4-5ft) Greater Spotted Dogfish (aka. Nursehound). Being inquisitive divers we invaded the inert fishes personal space. As it swam away the body language was an elegant riposte to our intrusion. After the days dives we paid a visit to Salcombe to try the legendary ice cream and buy kit for the new RIB.

Sundays first dive was the Oregon, a three masted steel hulled sailing barque that sank in a storm in 1890. Part of the wreck is festooned with monofilament nets which sadly continues to trap local wildlife. Anglers of another kind distracted Gren and Sarah on this dive, they returned to the RIB full of stories about a huge Anglerfish. Bearing an unnerving resemblance to a demon these animals are hard to spot due to their cryptic markings. They lie in wait and ambush passing fish.

The last dive was a drift through the rocky gullies south of Burgh Island. We came across some discarded Lobster pots that had trapped a couple of Wrasse. Ian enthusiastically knifed open the side of the pot, opening the door seemed like an easier option.

We paid a second visit to The Royal Oak that evening. It is one of only two pubs in the area so it’s wise to book in advance. The standard of food is good, plentiful and in expensive, so well worth a visit.

The weekend went well and we had been lucky with the weather, apparently it had rained or been grey all weekend back home. RIB diving is more challenging and requires more planning than booking a hardboat, but the advantage is that you feel more involved, it’s more of an adventure. We’ve gone to the trouble of gaining a new RIB the fun bit is using them.