There has been a great deal of club activity since the Sea Palling dives of late August through to the Mull dives last week. Just to remind divers that there is also the Farne Island dive coming soon, and several planned dives to North Norfolk and Swanage if the weather holds.
RIB diving from Sea Palling August 2023
After the initiation of Ocean Diver qualifying dips into Stoney Cove in spring, my first UK boat dive was a comparatively balmy and an all-round fantastic experience. On Sunday morning Clive, Joe, Dave, Ian, Luke and I bounced our way for about an hour across the sea to explore the Conway
(www.norfolkwreckresearch.co.uk). Also known as the Walkure (Val-ker-e), this sunk in 1911 en route from Hamburg to Brazil. There was a surprising amount to see: the wreck is covered in marine life and still has some of its cargo preserved.
With great care, Joe retrieved two bottles of something reminiscent of pub-crawl vomit, which slowly leaked next to me in the RIB for the entire return trip. Turns out that the 110-year-old fruit spirit bitter doesn’t mature well and its original medicinal purpose is questionable. Joe, meanwhile, has two lovely (empty) white glass bottles for his admirable collection and is henceforth sponsored by www.peachridgeglass.com .
I’m ignorant when it comes to identifying what swims beneath, but wiser folks have helped to compile this list: velvet swimming crabs, spotted goby (scooting about in the sand), common blenny, bib (stripy fish), wrasse (speckled fish), Sunstar, brittle star, plumose anemone (white and orange fluffy things). There were also two lobsters on the wreck.
On Monday, Clive, Glenn, Joe, Eric, Dave, and Vivek went out again, this time to see the Fulgens, a 2512-ton Collier that was torpedoed during the First World War. Again, a successful and enjoyable trip with great weather and viz.
Things I’ll take away from this experience: 1) I love UK diving and you can see an amazing amount of marine life off the Norfolk coast; 2) torches work best if you remove the battery protector before you’re at 20m; 3) kitting up on a trampoline is probably easier than on a small boat. It felt like I’d done 500 sit-ups the next day: a combination of zero core fitness and getting myself into the RIB (just kidding, of course I was hauled unceremoniously up by others or I’d still be bobbing about); 4) diving is so much about who’s there with you: I really appreciated the time, expertise and patience of my fellow iDivers, and a big thank you to everyone, particularly Clive as organiser and Joe for towing the boat.
I arrived at the car park in Sea Palling at 08:30 and met up with the other members. The weather wasn’t as bad as expected and after a little spitting the rain stayed away. I loaded my gear into the rib ready to launch at 11:00 am. I was buddied up with Ian for our dive on the Conway, it took about an hour to get out to the dive site. It was a little rough on the way out and got plenty of spray from the waves. Once we arrived the grapple was dropped and on the second attempt, they managed to secure it on the wreck, and we held fast.
It was time to get our gear on and do our checks. This was a little more challenging than on land due to the confined space and roll of the waves. My gear got a little tangled in the rack and my reg was snagged but with help from Dave, I got it all on and carried out the buddy checks with Ian. All seemed to be in order! I did my first back roll out of the boat and as I surfaced, I felt my bottle drop and dangle into the back of my legs! I called out to the boat that my bottle dropped and swam back to the side of the boat. Dave tried to adjust the bottle, but it had slipped too far and the only option was to remove my BCD and climb back into the boat.
The strap on the bottle must have been undone when it got tangled removing it from the rack. Oops, these things do happen! Getting the gear back on in the rocking boat made me feel a little queasy. I knew as soon as I got back off the boat and into the water, I’d feel fine.
I got back in and swam to the front of the boat to meet up with Ian and prepared to descend down the line onto the wreck. Visibility wasn’t great on the descent, only 2-3m, but it cleared a little once we approached the Conway.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the abundance of marine life, white anemones were covering everything and there was an impressive sized Lobster not far from the descent line.
There were large disc-shaped objects in big stacks that I was later informed were China clay that was being transported when the vessel ran aground.It was at this point that I remembered I had my camera with me so I began to take a few snaps, unfortunately, my camera skills aren’t up to much!
Once we began exploring the vessel the visibility improved to about 4m. The sand had filled the hold and was covering the deck. There were lots of fish, pouting, whiting, and fish I had never seen before. They were black and silver vertical striped wrasse-like fish. There were also crabs settled into the nooks and crannies.
We made our way around the outside of the vessel where the sand dropped away to a fair depth that was way past our visibility, we were between 18m to 20m at this point in the dive so didn’t go any deeper and just followed along the side spotting fish through the holes in the steel that has been underwater for well over 100 years. It was an amazing experience to swim around such a beautiful wreck and the time flew by, before I knew it we were back at the grappling hook and making our way back up the line to our decompression stop and then to the surface. Joe and Clive helped us out of the water and back into the boat then not long after that Imogen and Dave appeared next to the boat while Joe and Clive were preparing to start their dive to retrieve the grapple. We helped Dave and Imogen with their gear and to get out of the water and Joe and Clive began their dive.
It wasn’t long until the lift bag appeared with the grapple attached, I pulled it in and Dave started to circle the dive site until the SMB was spotted and we picked up Joe and Clive ready for the bumpy hour back to the recovery point at Sea Palling.
Once back in the car park the kettle was put on for a long-awaited brew.
My first club dive and first UK wreck dive completed. A brilliant experience and hopefully the first of many more.
Scotland trip – iDivers mulling over their experiences.
Alan Beaumont: “I’d like to thank Ian Cross for organising a great week’s diving in the Sound of Mull. Good dives, great company, good dive boat and skipper, several scallops, plenty of pollock, seals, dolphins, porpoises, white-tailed eagles. The weather was generally good, but we did have some strong winds and heavy rain. A great week. If you haven’t dived Mull, then I can recommend it.”
Dave Grimson: “Just back from a week’s diving in Mull Scotland. Had a great week with wrecks, wall dives, plenty of life on and off the wrecks, and the Scallop diving was great (Joe had to fill his bag). I want to thank Ian Cross for organising the trip – 11 people went and only 7 were divers. Mull is a long way but well worth the trip – Once again thanks Ian”.
Melanie Smuk: This was my first time diving with the club, and it was brilliant. A huge thank you to Ian Cross whose organisation made it great and everyone on the trip who made it such a great holiday. Took some great dolphin pictures on a trip to Fingal’s cave.
Mull is a great dive destination, and I would highly recommend it. Looking forward to future club adventures now 🙂