RIB Trip to West Bay

With the dive crew assembled, campsite booked and trip briefing completed at the clubhouse, the stage was set for a sunny sortie to West Bay.

Tuesday—Travel day came around, accompanied by a much-needed break in the heat wave. Hornet was towed from the boat yard by Andy Dale and Jon Arthur down to Britt Valley campsite as thunderstorms rolled through the country. Further north Mark and I were diverting to retrieve his flooded phone left out at his job site, saved by the case fortunately. Having arrived late at camp there was time only for a sausage roll and a couple of beers before we got our heads down in anticipation of launching dive boat Hornet the next morning.

Wednesday—A slightly slow start to the morning saw us meeting Sally at the harbour to launch the boat and assemble our dive kit. Before ropes off we took a quick pit stop to watch some mackerel fishing and grab breakfast. Tempting as a fresh fried mackerel bap was, we opted to stick with lighter options. Once out at sea we set about learning how to use the new chartplotter to find wreck Heroine, but due to her rather flat profile on the seabed we were unable to pick up a plot on the sonar side-scan. More practice required, we set course for the more readily visible SS Baygitano (colloquially known as the Baggy)—a 1905 tramper that would later be re-purposed as an armed merchant navy vessel during WW1 before her demise at the hands of a U-boat torpedo in 1918.

Mark & Sally harvested a few scallops and caught a crab, however lacking means to cook crab back at camp this was donated to a very thankful family enjoying some fishing back at the harbour. After a quick scallop starter by the tents, we headed into town to sample the delights of the local ’Spoons.

Thursday—Having travelled down on Wednesday, we welcomed Chris Bradbury onto the boat and ropes were off to dive the M2 submarine. The new sonar tech clearly had a steep learning curve and unfortunately the team was unable to land the shot onto the M2, causing us to miss slack tide—a necessity for this wreck as there is no protection from the current. Dive abandoned, the crew set off to dive the Pollack Rocks. En-route we found the wreck of the Dunston Dredger and took the opportunity to learn more about the sonar functionality.

Andy & Jon went in first, with Sally & Chris heading in soon after. Unfortunately Chris’ dive was to be short lived due to a leaky drysuit—a swift recovery was in order for an increasingly damp diver. Once aboard the cause was rooted—a dry-zip two inches still open—wardrobe malfunction! A lesson for all to always check if your drysuit is sealed before taking the plunge. Meanwhile, the rest of us enjoyed a scenic gentle drift dive across the Pollack Rocks.

Friday—The team set course for the Baggy again, with Chris at the helm of Hornet we arrived in good time to discover fishing boats had beaten us to it. Undeterred, we set to decoding the GPS/sonar plot and the shot was dropped. Mark & I dived first, initially heading away from the wreck before backtracking. 10 minutes in we found the bow of the ship, surrounded by shoals of fish, plenty of conger eels and the odd crab & lobster too. Finning our way down towards the stern we encountered the boilers, quite an impressive sight at several metres diameter.

Back on the boat, Sally & Andy’s DSMB and lift bags were spotted. Upon helping with re-entry Sally’s elusive weight-belt clasp was located when disaster struck—a miscommunication led to an early release and the belt was sent on a one-way trip to the seabed. A quick scramble to mark the location on the GPS gave some hope for a recovery mission, and once back aboard Hornet the ever-resourceful Sally set to work organising a replacement strategy as fallback to save Saturday.

We headed into Lyme Regis for lunch to lift our spirits with chips and crab baguettes, whereupon a search & recovery plan was formed for the second dive of the day. However, despite the dive team’s best efforts the belt was not found. Subsequently Sally has set a reward: one bottle of rum for anyone who recovers it on a future trip!

Back at camp the BBQ was lit and a production line assembled to defunk the huge haul of scallops. We welcomed the arrival of Alastair and Angie too. Plenty of food was going round and with no chilling facilities, many of the scallops were discarded at the end of the evening—a real shame. Some of the divers clearly had eyes bigger than their stomachs that day—food for thought…

Saturday—With the winds forecast to pick up in the afternoon and fresh divers keen to get in the water, the boat was readied and the team set off in good time to find the Dunston Dredger. Launched in 1894 this 6-cylinder steamboat was re-purposed into a minesweeper during WW1, and in 1917 she was sunk by a minestrike.

Aided by Angie’s excellent coxing, Alastair made slick work dropping the shot line and soon the first divers were descending. Sat in approximately 30 metres of water, this wreck features some impressive sights, notably the large gear wheels and dredging buckets. There are also openings large enough to swim through for the more adventurously-inclined. Bottom-time was limited as most were diving on air, and those on nitrox were at the mercy of their air-breathing buddies no-deco-limits. All agreed it was a great dive, certainly worth visiting again with nitrox fills to maximise the fun.

With the wind and waves picking up the team decided to abandon the second dive, opting instead to head back to camp for a pint. With spirits high, Alastair and Andy set about preparing for the evening’s al fresco dining (an excellent chicken tikka curry and mixed grill BBQ) whilst the remainder went scrambling to the top of the steepest cliff to be rewarded with some amazing views over West Bay and out to sea.

Sunday—The dive team awoke to an overcast sky and rain showers on the last morning. Undeterred, soggy tents were packed away and camp departed. Down at the harbour, Hornet was being prepared for her last day on the waves. Fully fuelled and loaded with dive gear, we set course for the Baggy—an opportunity for Alistair and Angie to dive this fantastic wreck and opportunity for the rest to explore further. In fact the dive was so good that Angie devised a cunning plan—why not dive it again! Thus the trip was rounded off with two great dives featuring a few zen moments for happy divers surrounded by swarming shoals.

Coxing duties were delegated to me for the last blast back to port, with tuition on hand from Jon we were soon whizzing through the waves and hastily back at harbour. Angie took over to practice bringing in the boat; Hornet was hustled onto the trailer, de-kitted and hosed down ready for return to the boat yard.

Just enough time for fish & chips and a quick trip debrief before we all headed home. A big thank-you to Andy for organising the trip and his hard work in accommodating everyone—it was much appreciated!

Leave a reply