May Bank Holiday in Portland

The May Bank Holiday approached and with it the annual club trip, chasing away the balmy sunny weather we’d enjoyed recently with the more traditional Bank Holiday rain. This year we’d switched to the start of May and from Plymouth to Weymouth (hard boat) & Portland (RIB diving).  As my first club trip I was looking forward to some exciting diving and a chance to sample Portland’s busy social life! This turned out to consist of the excellent Cove pub, which we enjoyed on Friday night. And Saturday night. And Sunday night as well!

Saturday morning dawned – grey and cold. Powered by one of The Bunker’s excellent breakfasts, six of us (Chris Hunka, Rob, Tom, Dorothea, Lisa and I) headed off to Portland harbour to launch the club RIB, Sea King, starting with a dive on the Countess of Erne. With three relatively new divers on the boat and the first sea dive of 2010 for many, Day 1 was a bit like Carry on Diving – fins that kept making bids for freedom (successfully in my case), a new dry-suit that refused to fit with the inflation hose, a dropped (and recovered) torch and a diver kitting up while still wearing a life jacket. All very patiently borne by the RIB’s more experienced divers.

Located  in Portland Harbour, the Countess of Erne, a paddle steamer at 14m, was my first ever wreck dive and is a great site, very atmospheric and we had fairly good visibility. The second dive was preceded by a bracing RIB journey through a hail-storm – UK diving at its best! We then did the Torpedo testing site in Portland harbour, a great place for crab spotting with some real giants lurking in the depths as well as all types of random junk!

Another small group of club members was diving through local dive shop, Fathom and Blues, identified by the mysterious code-name “The Ian 3” (aka “Posh” Dave, John Webb and Marc Stubbs). They dived the M2 then the Countess relatively successfully, although were also hit by the Day 1 curse in the form of a pesky dry suit zip that worked it’s way open, leaving a very damp Dave to abort his first dive. Saturday was rounded off by a BBQ at Margaret’s, where the club members diving off the hard boat were staying. A spectacular haul of scallops was the highlight (many thanks to Brian, Len, Chris(s) Knight and Drewett and anyone else involved in donating these) before the rain sent us scuttling inside / to the pub.

Day 2 saw us head out again to the Countess, for another really enjoyable dive (so good it was worth doing twice). It was pretty busy underwater, we encountered two other groups of 5-6 divers in the 30 minute dive, but conditions were fairly calm and visibility was good. Exceptionally cold weather and the threat of strong winds blowing up in the afternoon meant that was the only dive of the day, so we retired until Monday.

On Day 3 I sat out due to feeling a little “under the weather”, but by all accounts the RIB divers had an excellent day on (and under) the water, diving The Spaniard and then the Bombardon Landing Craft at 17m. Lots of DSMB deployment was practiced before the end of the day! The other group on the F&B RIB (Dave, John and Marc) had a very different experience – the plan was for a relaxing drift dive on the Aerials. However, a stronger than anticipated current ended up with them travelling about three miles in 20 minutes, losing two reels and one SMB along the way! Luckily all three emerged unscathed. Then it was time to pack up and return home, tired, slightly damp but having enjoyed a really great weekend and some excellent diving.

Leanne Collinson