by Harry Ryalls.
For the past 5 years we have been going to Lyme Regis the weekend that either my birthday falls on or the one following. For the past 5 years, the only diving that we have been able to do is the type you do in a local hostelry. For the past 5 years we have had nothing but RAIN, RAIN, Rain and high winds, but we have gone non the less.
These past years have seen some good BBQs on the Saturday night, even though it has been pouring with rain. We use to erect large plastic sheet to keep us dry, then a few of us purchased some gazebos to upgrade our efforts at comfort, and these have served us well in the past. So it was with some trepidation that this annual trip was again organised. As normal the weather forecast was good, going on great, but we had learnt that things can change very quickly but the word was put around and the familiar names appeared on the expedition list.
Our normal site was booked for those attending and as the weekend drew closer, a watchful eye was kept on the weather. The Thursday before, Richard Lunn collected the boat and dutifully towed it to the campsite. The Friday arrived and the rest of the expedition force set out with hopes of a productive weekend. Caravans and tents were erected and the skies were watched for those tell-tale signs the weather was again to best us. The Saturday morning was greeted to clear, sunny skies and the hope that this year would see us visiting the wreck of the Baygitano for the first time in ages.
Everyone gathered their kit together and headed of toward the Cob and the launch site. The boat launch fees were paid and the boat launch close to high tide. Pairings were announced and the Avon set out to find and buoy the wreck site. I was using my new GPS handheld with the marks from Dive Dorset for this wreck and others on the boat were keeping a eye out for their transit marks to a-line to tell us that we had arrived. The first problem started when the GPS gave the indication that we had arrived, I even knew that this was wrong from my own landmarks, so this was ignored and we relied on our fall back marks. Three of us agreed that we had finally arrived, but the echo sounder shown nothing but flat bottom. As we started to search for the wreck, a rib arrives on site, but they had the same problem, no wreck where it should have been – the wreck must have moved. To help in our location a blob was deployed and we attempted to locate the wreck for about 40 mins without any luck, (our marks must be well off we told ourselves.)
At about this time we noticed a Hard Boat leaving the Cob and heading our way, This had a good speed to it and within a few minutes it was nearing our position. Much to my amazement this boat did not slow down, but ploughed straight through where we had our blob and towards us. The skipper shouted to us and asked if we had any divers down, as he wanted to deploy his own shot. We replied ‘No- luckily with the speed that you approached’ but he took no notice of this. As this was going on the other rib had found the wreck and re-deployed their blob nearly in the position that the Hard Boat wished to set theirs. When both had their blobs in the water and were preparing to dive, we ran across the area and located the best signal on the echo sounder before deploying ours. We did this because we wished to revisit this site on the Sunday as well and we did not want to have to relocate the wreck. Our second boat had now joined us and we soon commence to kitting up, our first pair were soon dropped on the shot and went down our line. Their first task once at the bottom of the shot was to tie it to the wreck. Soon we had all our divers in the water with some left to supply surface cover on both boats, we knew that things must be good as the dive time grew longer and longer. Our first pair did not resurface for close to 50 minutes with beaming smile all over the faces and once back on board they were soon telling us how good it was. Finally I was able to have my turn, Julie (the wife) and myself soon found ourselves on the shot and ready to descend, I noticed that the current was slowly picking up so we used the shot line and pulled ourselves down to the wreck. What greeted us was excellent conditions on the bottom, the current, that we had experienced at the surface was nearly non-existent here and the sunshine was penetrating through the depths to light the wreck in a way that I had never seen before. As it turned out this was a bonus as, when I turned my torch on – which had worked at the surface – nothing happened, so the sunshine lit up the wreck for us to explore.
As we did our slow planned tour of the wreck, we saw a variety of life living in and around that had made this their home. Edible Crabs that were hiding in holes in the plates drew themselves up so as to make removal nearly impossible (if we had wanted to take them). A large Lobster was spotted under one plate and after its initial challenged, it retreated back under where you could not reach. Shoals of Pollock of various sizes cruised the peripherals of the wreck and Wrasse followed in our fin strokes hoping for some tip bits to be disturbed. Soon our bottom time was approaching zero and we made our way back to the shot and our slow accent back to the surface. Once back on board, we were interrogated to what we had seen and informed of the things that we had missed or questioned as to where we had seen what. One thing we had missed was the sight of the resident Conger, that has made its home in one of the boilers, but we had countered with the only sight of the Lobster. Once back on shore, everyone agreed that this had been an enjoyable dive.
Our second dive on the day was decided to be a further trip out to the West Tennents and the reef that stretches along this site. The sea-state had deteriorated slightly from this morning and the boat trip took longer than planned, but once at the site we drop a pair of divers from each boat and followed their SMBs as they slowly drifted with the current. As the dive progressed it was noticed that one pair was going in a different direction, so their boats followed the SMB. After 30 minutes, my pair of divers surfaced beside their SMB and as I started to recover them, I heard sounds behind me. Turning and looking revealed the other pair of divers, who having discovered that their SMB had become detached from the reel had made a slow accent back to the surface. As I was busy recovering my divers and unable to get to these divers, I had to take the time to signal the other boat that was a fair distance away now. They quick return to my location and I pointed out their divers, who they recovered without future mishap. When my divers were back on board and we had swapped boat Coxs, I was able to dive with my buddy. We drop to the bottom using the SMB line as a shot line, my buddy slightly ahead of me on the descent.
When we arrived at the seabed we checked that all was ok, then started our drift dive. The scenery before us was not very colourful as everything had a coating of slit, but occasionally we came across a burst of colour in this sea of blandness, but at least there was the aquatic life around to enhance this drift dive. If we could have stopped and hung in the water a different landscape may have open before us, but as it was we were at the mercy of the currents and could only deviate slightly across it. Occasionally we saw different species of crabs standing in the open, Edible Crabs seemed to know that we could not stop, so made little or no effort to hide. All to soon it was time to ascend back to the other world above and leave this one behind. Other than the trip back to shore this brought the first days dive to a close and we had tonight Bar-B-Que to look forward to. When we arrived back at shore, all those that had not taken part in the second dive had prepared all the facilities for the nights festivities. The coals were at the right temperature and the beer was cold, so after a well-deserved shower it was time to start to cook. Most of the others had by this time already cooked their dinner, so even before I started I was being offered a variety of tasty delicacies to sustain me until I had cooked my own fare. I have developed this skill of cooking on B-B-Q with one hand, so that I can use the other to hold a very important piece of equipment ? the beer bottle ? and I was also kept supplied with a steady stream of these as well. As I stated in the first few line of this report, we had experienced a different weather climate in the years past, but the sky stayed clear and the evening slowly continued with everyone staying the distance. As darkness slowly enclosed around us, our numbers slowly dwindled, some went to the toilet and did not return, other quietly left when no-one was looking, but the few left kept the tradition of good fun going until they to had to call it a night.
The Sunday morning dawned with a clouded sky and the wind blowing on to shore. Everyone was soon up and we again headed toward the beach. The pairing were made, the boats launched and we were soon on our way to the wreck site. As we approached the area, our surface blob marking the wreck was quickly located and we were soon dropping our divers on to it. Although the surface conditions were not a good as yesterday, the conditions on the bottom were better. This time I had taken a different touch and I checked it was working as soon as I entered the water, then double-checked as soon as we reached the bottom. Due to dive numbers, I was diving as a threesome, with Stewart Butterfield and Laura Winter. Stewart is one of the old club members, and has dived this wreck as well as other many times, so he took the lead and conducted us on a tour of the wreck. When we reached the boilers I took a little time to have a good look inside trying to locate the Conger Eel that I knew resided in one. After a few moments, a movement caught me eye and I found myself being surveyed with a large eye, I had located his lair. My buddies had by now moved on, but I was able to draw their attention by flashing my touch in their direction and they returned to look at my discovery. This was my only contribution to an enjoyable dive lead by Stewart, he had found the spare propeller and tried to explain by sign language what it was. I was nearly in stitches with some of his signs, but eventually understood what it was, Laura on the other hand had to wait until we surfaced to be told. Once again our dive time had evaporated and it was back to the shot for the ascent. At 6 meters we did our safety stop and I noticed that the current was getting stronger, once we had reached the surface the wave were now getting bigger and it would soon be time to call of the rest of the diving of they continued this trend. Our last pair of divers were soon in the water and their first job was to un-tie the shot-line from the wreck, we intended to recover this once they had finished their dive and return up it, but other divers were also using this as an aid. We informed them that it was going to be un-tied and not to pull on it, but just follow it down. But one pair of divers ignored this advice and as soon as they left the surface, the marker buoy started to bob in the waves as the shot was pulled up from the seabed and it started to drift away from the site. We left it for some time to allow these divers to reach bottom before recovering it and when our divers returned to the surface, after deploying their delayed SMB, we explained why it was not there when they returned.
The afternoon was given over to training, and we used the shelter of Lyme Bay to conduct, what turned out to be relatively short training dives. This was due to the state of the tide and the need to recover the boat before it dropped to low.
Once the boats were recovered, they were made ready for the return trip to Bristol and our group slowly left for home.
We return to the campsite and packed away all our belonging, hitched the caravan up and I had a shower to wash away the sweat and salt of the days activities. We said our goodbyes to Brian and Denise Harrington who were staying for an extra night, to the site owner who is always amazed at BBQ nights, then following our friends Cyril and Lorraine, we wound our way home as well. Lets hope the weather next year will be as kind as this.
Webmasters note: I could find no named author for this article but from the general form I would credit it to Harry Big H Ryalls. Does anybody agree/disagree? June 2008