Portland 2005, 2006, 2007....
After getting the AOWD and Nitrox certs in the Maldives it was time to start diving in the UK Brrrrrrrr!
Looked for a dive centre that had nitrox, hired tanks and weights out, had a mix of sites and looked professional for our first foray into UK diving. We wanted to dive with somewhere where people would know I was missing if things went tits-up!
We went with the breakwater dive centre (www.divedorest.com and www.book4dives.co.uk) as the electric diver lifts on the harcboats were and added bonus after ticking all the other boxes above.
Made several returns in 2006, the fact is there are so many dive sites in the area you've got a lot of choice.
And still going back in 2007 with even more new sites available.
From the car park in Castletown you've got a cafe, air station and dive shop all within 100 metres
Other charter boats I have used have included:-
Skippered by Ivan this is the oddest rib I've ever been on, it thinks it's a hardboat. A rib, with cabin/wheelhouse and electric diver recovery lift, tea and coffee making facilities and a HUGE amount of deck space. Very nice rib indeed.
Portland Dive Charters
Based at Portland Oceanering, Julian can be contacted by using the link above or via his mobile on the charter boat section of Divernet.
This is classic Rib diving and Stormforce is a fairly large rib and quite fast. Operates usually as a shuttle service out to various sites.
If your looking for a boat as a buddy team or for a club trip you can find lots more here.
Dive Sites -
Countess - Dredger - Landing Craft and Bombardon Unit - The Unknown Coaster - Black Hawk - Chesil Cove - Durdle Door - Balaclava Bay - Boot Bank Reef - Breakwater Drift - Lulworth Banks - Cannonball Run - Aeolian Sky - M2 Submarine
My first ever UK dive! The Countess is located within the Portland breakwater. At 14m maximum she a shallow and intact wreck. The Dive Dorset website states -
"This passenger liner Paddle steamer was later converted to a coal hulk but in 1935 broke loose from her moorings and sank against the breakwater. She was built in the early 1880s and the conversion took place 1889. She is approximately 240' long and with a 29' beam she lies upright on the bottom."
Be warned, this wreck is very silty. Having dived her twice I can say that you need to aim early for this one. A day of divers kicking up the silt and you'll find a dive later in the day like diving in pea soup if it's been busy.
Interesting new visitor! In 2007 there are a lot of Black Faced Blennies on her. A Mediterranean species that obviously thinks Monte Carlo harbour is not as good as Portland harbour!
This is one of may favourite shallow divers. The Dive Dorset website states -
"The Dredger lies right outside of Portland Harbour within the sheltered bay of Balaclava (in front of the large winch). This is believed to be a sand dredger and it makes an excellent shallow dive and training site in almost all weather and sea conditions. The wreckage is pretty much broken up."
It's a very clean wreck so not the problems of silt as with the Countess, there is a lot more sea life and I've seen some monster lobsters there and of course is up against the breakwater which is an interesting dive in itself with lobsters, blennys and other marine life all over it.
The Dredger - May 2006
First warm up dive on the dredger. Water temp was 12 degrees and vis was less than 5m. It had been raining for days so I'm guessing that's why the vis was so bad.
Got lost, buddy separation, everything that could go wrong did. Oh well, suppose that's the reason for warm up dives and did get to test out the new strobe!
Landing Craft and Bombardon Unit.
Although separate wrecks they are connected with a guide rope and you can do them both in a single dive. The depth is about 16m and watch the silt as with any wreck inside the breakwater. The landing craft is an errie dive, dropping inside where the soldiers would be stood waiting to hit the beach. The bow door is up and the wreck is intact. The Dive Dorset website entries for the two craft are as follows:-
"This small landing craft lies beside the Breakwater wall and close to the Bombardon unit. It is an interesting, but silty, dive and offers an underwater platform for training activities."
"This is a WWII experimental wave breaking unit apparently made for the D-Day landings sitting off the Landing Craft and can be done as part of a Landing Craft dive. The Bombardon Unit is a star shaped barges with lots of hatches."
The Unknown Coaster
Although broken up the Unknown Coaster is an interesting wreck. There is some info in this wreck at http://www.mdd-uk.com/projects/ucoaster/ with a map of the wreck-
"The Unknown Coaster is located 70m north of the Spaniard against the inner Breakwater in a depth of 11m. It is lying in three parts: The bow is pointing up to the surface, the midship lies on its starboard side and is badly broken up, whilst the stern is in quite good condition by comparison. As the name suggests, this wreck is currently unidentified, although it is believed to originate from Newcastle."
As you can see by the plan the wreck is on its side and opened up so it allows you to 'get inside' without actually going inside.
The depth was 16.2 on my computer and I went to the bottom.
A good diver for anyone interested in wildlife. Plenty of fish, crustations and plant life on this very broken up wreck. The Dive Dorset website states -
"Torpedoed by a German sub in December 1944, towed into Worbarrow and beached. Declared a total loss in April 1945. The wreck was blown by explosives to clear the way for the Winfrith pipeline. It is badly broken up with large pieces of machinery present and lying in a rock shingle sea bed. There are large chains on her."
I got a maximum depth of 16.7m and a good 8m+ visibilty.
Dived the beach with just my buddy. Found cuttlefish, crabs, lobsters and a variety of fish in the kelp. Our maximum depth of 13m but you can go deeper if you go further out.
BE WARNED! Getting out is a nightmare if there is a swell. When we went in it was calm, by the time we surfaced a swell had appeared. Whilst it was no more than a metre it was extremely diffciult to get out. The cobbles that make up the beach are extremely light weight and no help in hauling yourself out.
I recommend surface support with a throwing rope here unless you are sure it's a very calm day!
Durdle Door - 2005
A nice drift dive with some large rocky outcroppings. Take your time on this dive and stop off at the rocks to have a look around. I saw cuttlefish and crabs with the odd blenny and anemone. Most divers on the boat didn't see a lot but they did cover twice the ground as we did. Take you time on this one, stop off now and then and you'll see a lot more.
Durdle Door - 2006
This time we were dropped almost at the base of the cliff. There was a lot more fallen stone on the bottom and a lot more life. We saw Ballen and Cuckoo Wrasse and a lot of lobster and crabs.
Depth - 14.3m
Temp - 16 degrees mid July.
A nice slow drift dive with some rocky outcroppings. Take your time on this dive as you need to spend time looking around the rocks. The first dive had few fish but there were crabs (spider and velvet swimmer), scollops and a big Dover Sole.
Depth - 11.2m. 12.8m
Temp - 16 degrees in early July. 18 degrees in late August.
Boot Bank Reef
Apparently this reef is shaped like a boot. It was a fast drift dive, one of go with the flow or hold onto a rock. The start of the dive was disappointing with us just flying over a sandy bottom with the odd small rock or dogfish laying on the bottom. Vis was low which might have been due to the current. It varied from 2m up to 3m ish.
Towards the end of the dive the bottom became rocky and life was everywhere. Suddenly there were a lot of fish, crabs, plant life.... just as we had to start our ascent!
Depth - 23.8m
Temp - 17 degrees in mid July.
Wow, what a dive. Just goes to show that you never know what a dive site will be like until you jump in. This 'drift' (done it twice with hardly and current) is on the outside of the breakwater for Portland harbour. We were dropped on a mussle bed and swan towards a whale bridge which they think used to be for the mulberry floating harbours. It is still pretty much intact but the pontoon now serves as home for a large variety of crabs.
Then onto the rocks of the breakwater which are full of life. Cuttlefish, Bib, lobster, cuckoo wrasse, crabs the list goes on and on. A great little dive!
Depth - 19.8m. 18.9m
Temperature - 17 degrees late August. 18 degrees late August
A drift diver over a mainly sandy bottom with little to see. Saw some Cuckoo Wrasse and crabs, and a lot of sand.
*Update* This dive is obviously very dependent on where you are dropped. Subsequent dives have show a nice rocky reef system with sandy patches good for scallops and a lot of life including wrasse, crabs and lobsters. A good dive if your dropped in the correct position, a drift over a sandy bottom if your not!
Depth - 18 to 22.0m
Temperature - 18 Degrees late August, 17 degrees early August.
Another drift over a sandy bottom. Had a lot of these this year. Not my thing with only the occasional rock and the odd Ballan wrasse and crab.
Depth - 26.2m
Temperature - 18 degrees late August
It's big! Wow is it big! In our 40min dive we only explored a small percentage of the wreck near the bow. The Dive Dorset booking site (book4dives) states "A fine modern and recent wreck lying off St Albans Head. She's a Greek registered bulk freighter of 14,000 tons and lies on a limestone sea bed on her Port side. She stands about 13 metres throughout with her bows to the South and stern to the North."
Didn't take my camera on this dive but it was full of life. Hell of a lot of fish in the area, which also means plenty of fishing line so watch out.
There is a wreck tour on Divernet here.
Depth - 30.5m
Temperature - 13 degrees in May
This sub sank in the 30's and was an interesting variant. Typically British, it was a submarine aircraft carrier. The sub housed a small two man sea plane launched via a catapult. They would surface, launch the sea plane and submerge. It was lost on manoeuvres were they believe the crew were trying to beat their time record for surface-launch-submerge and opened the door a second too early and flooded the sub.
There is always a current flowing over the wreck, we dived it at 'slack' but there was still a decent current. It's also deep, the deck is around 30m, the sea bed at 35m and the top of the coning tower is around 27m. On a 30% nitrox mix we got about 30mins no deco time.
The fish life is prolific! I have never seen so much life and everything is super-sized. The edible crabs are huge, the fish massive and the congers, they are gargantuan! We saw about 5 congers and they were massive! All the fish around were of good size and much more plentyful than we've seen on other dives in the area.
There is a wreck tour on Divernet here.
Depth - 33.7m
Temperature - 17 degrees in late August
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