Buoying the Bretagne (May 2003)

by Tim.

27th May, 2003: 
I’m delighted to inform you the job is done! The Bretagne is now buoyed.

Not being able to make the Plymouth weekend I took Stewart up on his offer of a bank holiday Sunday evening dive on the Bretagne. As it happened we set sail at 3:30pm – hardly evening. We got there with time to spare so set off on foot to locate the Teignmouth museum. We found it fairly easily but unfortunately it was shut so we couldn’t ask them if they were interested in our display material. We returned to Teign Diving and discussed our plans for buoying the wreck and if time, laying part of the guided trail. The lads at Teign Diving were very enthusiastic and exceptionally helpful. They soon loaded our barrel/buoy, chain, shackles, rope, us and our kit onto the hardboat and off we set.

The sea conditions were much better than we had dared to hope for. The divers who had done the Perrone in the morning said the vis was exceptional at around 8-10 meters. Similar to what our buddies in Plymouth were reporting. It was gratifying to see a couple of the divers on board had followed the web site instructions and had printed off and laminated the guide card.

As the author of the web site material Stewart was a minor celebrity and all were listening to him with fascination as he related many yarns of Bretagne history and dives of yesteryear. My Bretagne T-shirt was much admired too, a shame I didn’t have some with me as I could have shifted half a dozen or so without trying.

The boat hand (Mark) had borrowed some kit so he could dive and send my delayed up from the bow so Stewart and I could follow it down to be assured of hitting the right spot with a minimum of delay. Dragging a barrel as an SMB would be no mean feat, so it was important to go straight down on it as quickly as possible. The vis for the Bretagne was probably the best I have ever seen it, about 8m I’d say.

Once down on the wreck Stewart attached a length of chain looped around a substantial piece of ironwork at the bow while I held onto the buoy line. Once the shackle had been well tightened by Stewart’s spanner we threaded the rope though another shackle at the end of this chain and proceeded to haul in the slack. This took some doing but having got it to a reasonably taught state we let out 4m or so to account for the rise of the tide. This having been done we cut off the spare and tied off the end. It had all gone like clockwork.

As Bob Abbot and Dave Winter had between them prepared laminated guided trail marker cards I had taken them with me, just in case we had enough time left to deploy one or two. Our strategy was to deploy them in reverse order as we felt if people set off on an incomplete trail they would get miffed when it ended prematurely.

The last marker (No 9) was to be attached to the heads. I handed Stewart the card and a number of tie wraps and our first (the last) card was soon in position. I handed him the next one, number 6. Number 6? What happened to 7 & 8? Ooops! I had dropped them. There they were down in the lantern locker. Fortunately because the vis was so good I was able to see them clearly and it was an easy job to retrieve them. Off we set to deploy the next, and the next, and the next.

In what was a whistle stop tour of the Bretagne we managed to deploy all 9 cards, our final one being attached to our new shot line on the bow which we then ascended. After a 3 minute safety stop at 6m we ascended to see our new buoy proudly bobbing in the waves.

As a thank you gesture to Teign Diving Stewart gave them one of our Bretagne posters. They were delighted and are going to have it framed and put on display in their shop.

Since this article was submitted the Buoy has mysteriously detached itself from the Bretagne. The buoy is currently in the custody of Teign Divers and awaits reattachment. To find out more about our Bretagne 2003 celebrations and the wreck trail contact us or check back here soon.

Copyright © 2008 Bristol Aerospace Sub-Aqua Club

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