Newhaven: Familiar but fantastic!

It was with a growing familiarity that we drove into Newhaven last weekend as we seem to have spent most of the preceding couple of months there. We now build in time for a cup of coffee and a fried egg sandwich in the excellent Captain’s Table cafe and it was there that we met up with Chris Chappell who’d had the same idea. We had a very late start – meeting at 12.00 because of some technical tide thingy. While this meant we had a lie-in, it meant that it was a challenge to get into Simpson Marine’s car park.

Saturday’s group were Chris Hunka (DM), Chris Chappell, Dave Tresidder, Mark Cockram, Gren, Jo (our intrepid Cox for the day) and me. Jo can still fit into her drysuit but only by wearing the thinnest under-layers known to man. Unless Jo Jo Maman Bebe do stretch maternity panels for drysuits I suspect her days as a cox may be numbered for a while.

It was flat calm and there was a brilliant blue sky as we headed out of the marina. We were making for the Vasco. One of the features of this year’s trips has been gathering new numbers for wrecks and Dave was keen to pinpoint this wreck more specifically. For those who’ve never done this it involves locating the area that you believe the wreck to be in and making slow passes over it to see what appears on the echo sounder. If you find the wreck you hope to see a very clear signal on the display but it seems to me that the skill lies in distinguishing between a shoal of fish, a wreck or the trace of the RIB as it goes over the site.

There was some debate about whether the wreck had been accurately located and given the viz was reported to be fantastic it was decided to bet on the T.R. Thompson instead which was in the same area and to leave the Vasco for another day. A little bit more digging has confirmed that the site of the wreck probably was found so the club will be going back at some point to dive on it.

The T.R.Thomson didn’t disappoint. The viz was the best that I’ve seen it this year. Chris Hunka said he’s dived the wreck on a number of occasions and normally just bumped from one piece of rust to another. This time he was able to see that there were two boilers and an engine! The second dive was a drift a drift near Seaford cliffs. I didn’t manage to do this dive as my BC strap came undone as I got in (note to self: Do not try to add a D ring where there isn’t one!) however I saw enough of the lousy viz before surfacing not to regret sitting on the RIB sorting out my strap with the aid of Jo (who had to miss another Diver Cox tea break) while Gren jumped in with the two Chris’s. The authorities are dredging right outside the harbour entrance which may have contributed to this.

Gren and I stayed in Newhaven on Saturday night following a tip from Dave who is compiling a comprehensive list of B&Bs in the area. Initial feedback was that it was basic but perfectly adequate. Later having walked through the front entrance on the way back from a meal at the Hope Inn Gren had flashbacks to a now notorious trip to Newhaven several years ago in the same hotel where the sheets were stained with blood and the other guests were like something out of a George Romero film. Funnily enough I had one of the best nights sleep I’ve ever had but I don’t think Gren slept a wink! We’ll have to continue our hunt for the perfect Newhaven B&B.

Despite staying in Newhaven, Chris Chappell who’d gone home for the night, still made it to the marina on Sunday before we did for the far earlier start. We had lost Dave, Jo and Mark but had gained John Fowles, John Parrish and Mariusz. Without a dedicated cox we had to dive in waves. Chris and Gren also had to shot the wreck of the Pentrych –  a new dive site for the club – without the assistance of Dave “Obi-Wan” Tresidder. Again the weather was fantastic, sunny and warm, as we drove the 13 miles out to the Pentrych.

The smiles on Chris and Gren’s faces as we approached the co-ordinates they’d been given to find another RIB parked on top of it was something to behold, especially when the free-divers on it bobbed up to tell them that they were shotting it exactly midships. Chris and John F, and Mariusz and John P dived in the first wave. It was fair to say that this wreck is something special. It sits in 20 metres of water and so is a wreck for everyone. It was light, had anti-aircraft guns on it, lots of life and you get time to explore it. They came back saying it was the best dive they’d done all year and that they’d seen massive congers in the boilers, mutant crabs and lobsters etc. In fact it was difficult to get them to shut up so that we could actually get in the water. Read John Fowles’ article about the Pentrych to see why this dive was such an attraction.

By the time we got in Chris decided the up the ante by dropping Gren and I off a challenging swim away against the current away from the buoy. We’d been warned that the current had picked up but luckily it’s a big wreck and there were enough bits of structure for you to claw your way round although I didn’t see the conger as I was flung past the boilers at speed.

The second dive was South West Rocks. Chris sat this one out so we were able to dive in one wave. I think we may have overshot the rocks because we saw a few small boulders followed by a vast expanse of sand with micro life such as hermit crabs, starfish and one solitary Plaice but not much more which was disappointing as the viz was excellent. The others went in the opposite direction but had a similar experience. Mariusz did impress us though with his SMB deployment; having just bought a reel he put it up and no-one can ever remember him having been taught to use it!

All in all this was a great weekend: ideal weather, good company and fantastic diving. It’s weekends like this which really make all the effort of locating and struggling into your kit when it’s baking hot worthwhile. Thanks are due to Chris C, Chris H, Dave and Gren for sorting out and running the trip and making it such fun.

In the words of Chris Hunka who got to drive the new RIB for the first time ‘not a bad weekend for Newhaven’. Roll on next weekend!