A great couple of late season dives

We had the luxury of a late start this weekend and an empty boat as we had only 4 divers heading out of Newhaven. Calm waters meant we were out on the Lancer II in good time for slack water. Rachel shot the wreck and (as we later found out) nailed it, dropping it squarely on the engine gearbox.

Dave and Jacqui were the first pair in. I was quite surprised by the charm of Jacqui’s antique fins. Plastic, it seemed, had only just been invented so they were the default brownish-yellow in colour. A few years after their creation, humans would discover that you can dye plastic and fins would never look the same again. When they came up, Dave had managed to bag a flattie, only just big enough to be worth heating a pan for. They also brought with them tales of awesome visibility and lobsters.

Rachel and I got kitted up and jumped in. We dived down the shot line and about 8m from the bottom saw the shot itself. The vis was a surprising 6m+ and there were lobsters, lots of blennies, and a few medium sized congers. We looked in all the nooks and crannies of the gear block. There was a conger tail that I felt obliged to pull (because I had seen its sharp end in another hole and knew it couldn’t bite me). We swam towards the stern, past the boilers. The wreck flattened out into fine sand with a few bits still protruding. I found a small flattie here that I tried to catch. It got away. We moved back toward where we’d started and swam further, past the engine, around the outside of the wreck on the starboard side. The bow stands a good 5m proud of the seabed and there are some holes that you can peer inside.  It is quite an atmospheric wreck with vis like it is. Rachel lent me her net bag because I saw a large plaice. It was too big to be fooled into swimming inside the bag but you have to try.

We swam around the front of the ship and back down the port side. We hit the deepest part of the dive here at 27m in the scour. We came up onto the deck. Rachel waited here while I swam into the forecastle. Inside there was some netting and ropes hanging from the ceiling. The nets are pretty old and clogged with mussels, so of little risk to marine life or divers. There was a hatch in the floor so I went down a level. The lower room had what looked like a small toilet bowl but, with my knowledge of boats, could be something else entirely. At the back, there was a box containing a lobster. Not brave enough to stick my hand in. I swam though a hole on the starboard side of the room to get into the first hold and then up though a hatch to rejoin Rachel. This all sounds a bit claustrophobic but the rooms have lots of openings and are quite light.

We headed back to the gearbox where Rachel sent up the DSMB. We had a bit of deco, 5 minutes but surfaced safely. When the RIB came to pick us up, I went to remove my weight-belt only to find it missing. I had done the entire dive without a weight-belt. Massive failure! I obviously felt a bit light during the dive but, to be honest, thought it was because I had porked up a bit recently. Lucky not to get bent and only the weight of compressed gas on my back that saved me. Had we spent any longer on the dive, and breathed any more air, I would have popped to the surface too early. We had done buddy checks but mine had been a bit cursory – Lesson learnt, won’t happen again.

Jacqui and Rachel were feeling a little chilly so we immediately sped back to Newhaven. We sheltered from the wind under the cliffs. There was a blip on the sonar where some lobster pots had been left. Jacqui and Rachel didn’t fancy a second dive, and were still chilly, so Dave and I did a speedy 15min recon dive. Turned out good – Some ledges, 8m deep, with fish and crabs and other small stuff. Vis was still good here so we marked it for future use. Sitting between Newhaven and Peacehaven, we have named the new site Ledgehaven.