Although many club members dive all year round, the first main club sea dive of the year (except for training) was out of Swanage at the beginning of April. This two-dive shakedown took place on one of those wonderful Dorset Sunny days, despite the -4oC “frosted car windows start” from London. Thankfully ropes off wasn’t until 11:30 so for Hywel my driver for the day and I it was a tranquil 07:30 start.
Nick and Amanda chartered Vyper boat from Swanage Boat Charters skippered by owner Bryan for 12 members to dive from. This is a great boat, lots of comments on how nice it was to have space in the centre of the boat to move around in as kit and seating was around the sides of the boat, rather than set up in a centre configuration that you find yourself dancing around each other to get back to your side of the boat.
Unfortunately a few members had to drop out last minute due to the dreaded C-19 and usual excuses from CCR divers that their box was not functioning correctly – JOKE! 😉 (still better safe than sorry!)
SS Betsy Anna
This was also the first dive of the season for Bryan and Swanage Boat Charters on the SS Betsy Anna, so no one knew what the conditions were going to be, but with such lovely sunshine clear day and a storm that passed on Thursday out the way (we were diving Sunday), vis should be great right!
We will get to that, but first a bit of background on SS Betsy Anna. Taken from Swanage Divers Colour Coded Depth Interactive Wreck Map.
The Betsy Anna was a 880 tonne steel steamer, built on the banks of the river Tyne in 1892. She struck Prawle Point, Devon in October 1926, but we re-floated and was being towed to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, for major repairs. Unfortunately on her way she started taking on water and sank in her current position some 5 miles East of Swanage. She is lying upright in 24m of water, making it a great wreck for Advanced Ocean Diver and above.
You can read more about the Betsy Anna and what can be seen using the interactive map link above and the video below posted by Dory Video on YouTube.
However, what we were able to see (or not) was, we think, just the main boiler and possibly the donkey boiler which we same round a number of times following the other pairs of divers and their lights. If it weren’t for Bryan’s expert shotting of the wreck we wouldn’t even have seen that!
Half way down the shot with my buddy getting darker and darker and vis was getting less and less I did think maybe should bin the dive, but we kept going, managed to stick together the whole time (vis was hand in front of face if torch was on kind of dive)….good practice in very low vis conditions is all I could keep thinking.
Needless to say on the surface some 30 minutes later in glorious sunshine, safely back on the boat, we were relieved with Bryan passing us a cup of hot chocolate while others came back to the boat. It was then a 20 minute journey back into harbour to refill tanks (those that needed it) and get ready for our next dive – the Fleur De Lys.
Fleur De Lys
Our next dive was in Swanage harbour, thankfully more protected from the storm that had come through the previous week and therefore Vis was slightly better on this dive.
The Fleur de Lys was a French Trawler built in Brittany in 1969, then bought by a local British fisherman in 1989, but sadly sunk on her way back to Brigham after a fishing trip to Alderney on Sunday 16th April 2000. The four crew were having problems with steam leaking out of the of the hot water system. At 15:12 there was an explosion that damaged the hull that caused the boat to begin sinking some 18 miles southwest of Portland Bill in Dorset.
The four crew members found themselves gradually submerging in cold water after their life raft failed to inflate. A mayday was sent out and nearby ships and coastguard helicopter were able to save them. Unsuccessful attempts were made to try and float Fleur whilst she was being towed to Poole and so in the end she was abandoned in Swanage Bay.
She is in 14m of water, not a lot of her is left now as she was mainly a wooden trawler, but you can do a circuit of what is left to see of her engine and other metal structural features. There is also a line that has been laid between the Fleur and a large barge that was sunk nearby that you can follow and then complete a circuit around and inside that barge to before coming back to the the Fleur an either ascend using the shot line (if you can find it again) or come up on your own DSMB.
This time the vis was probably a good 2-3m at times, and being shallow and lots of lovely sunshine above, meant torches weren’t needed and it was easier to keep together, if at times it did get a bit silty going between the barge and the Fleur.
The Fleur is a lovely simple dive and we call came up happy to have seen something that day as well as for being together enjoying each others company.
It was then back to the pier (that was under repair, which made it really easy to park and less people to manoeuvre around), fish and chips for those who wanted to stay longer and then off home in glorious sunshine.
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