I didn’t know whether or not I’d be diving last weekend but being hopeful, I got my dry suit out to wax the zip, only to find that the neck seal had a neat little hole in it. The latex had started to perish few months ago and had finally given up the ghost. Dave K thoughtfully offered to lend me his suit over the weekend in case I did go diving – It’s got those fancy dry-gloves (the BLUE ones!) so I was really hoping to get to try them out.
Don’t want a soggy neck
On Saturday night I found out that a space on the boats had opened up with CSAC. They were planning to dive the SS Calcium, a 1918 coastal cargo ship. Built in Greenock, the Calcium was 60m long and weighed in at 613 gross tonnes.
It’s sinking (on 30/12/1940) was the result hitting a magnetic mine – allegedly, the ships degaussing coils (used to mask the ships magnetic field) weren’t turned on during the Calcium’s final voyage. More info can be found on wrecksite.eu.
The divers all met up at the club boathouse at 09:30 on Sunday morning and prepared the boats. 09:30 is a lie-in compared to most dive days so I welcomed the extra hours in bed! Most of the divers would be searching the wreck as part of a Sea
Search dive, in which they’d be recording the wildlife they’d find for scientific and conservation purposes. I was just happy to be getting out on the boats and into the water.
Getting the boats sorted
Ready to go
It was an easy drive to Prestatyn, with the usual stop for fuel and coffee, and when we got there we met with Wendy, who would be instructing the sea search divers. The boats were prepped and kit was loaded. Everyone changed into their dry suits and the tractors, with boat trailers attached, were skilfully manoeuvred onto the beach. The water was looking incredibly dirty but the wind was calm and the sea state was great (maybe a 2-3 on the Beaufort scale but I’m guessing, really).
Once launched we took the boats out towards the wreck site. It was awesome having both boats effortlessly glide along at 20knts, neck and neck for most of the journey. After a bit of searching we picked up the wreck on the sonar and prepared to enter the water, while waiting for slack.
Mart showing of his RNLI hat
On the water
The first pairs of divers went in off the other boat and after fixing a free-flow, they descended. Two more pairs entered shortly after and within it was clear that the poor visibility was causing confusion. One of the pairs had surfaced following a 2nd free-flow, while another two had seeming swapped buddies. I think the shortest dive was recorded as 4mins, which consisted of a journey down the shot line, a quick look around (while holding onto the shot line) and then the journey back to the surface. I’m not sure if a 3 minute safety stop was part of the 4 minute dive time the computers gave but that’s beside the point.
After recovering the right divers to the right boats, it was me and Dave P’s turn to get into the water. The reports from the other divers weren’t good. We’d heard everything from 1m visibility to ‘you can’t see your own hands’ so understandably, we weren’t ecstatic to be heading in, but weren’t dissuaded either. Wendy took us up wind and we rolled off into the murky sea.
Following Dave down the shot line
Dark and dirty
Once we’d reached the bottom, where the water was even dirtier, we tried to get our bearings and make sure we weren’t going to lose each other.
One minute I could see Dave’s torch but if he moved a foot or two further away it would suddenly disappear. The view was limited to the tiny fuzzy area that was close enough to illuminate, so patching together what we saw to make a mental image of the wreck was almost impossible, at least for me. We were careful to avoid any holes in the wreck that we might accidentally swim through, especially the swim through at the bow of the wreck, which is almost completely upside down.
A representation of what could be seen
Ascending up the shot line
With not much to see, and getting tired of feeling our way around the wreck, me and Dave miraculously came across the shot line. Rather than risk losing it again we decided to ascend – we had 30 minutes on the wreck so not too shabby considering the visibility, but we weren’t going to see anything else if we’d hung around for longer. Once all the divers were recovered we got the boats near enough to toss some chocolate digestives and left-over Halloween treats between each vessel.
After getting the boats picked up and washing them off, the Sea Search divers discussed what they’d identified before heading back to the clubhouse. As me and Nigel were driving home (thinking we were the first to leave) we spotted a buoy in the middle of the road. Believing we’d won a free buoy we looped around to pick it up, only to find that it was one of ours. It goes without saying that Steve (who was towing the boat) was about to get a good winding up from me and Nigel. I can still picture the look of relief on his face when we produced the missing buoy from the back of my car.