1 December 2017 – Portland

Report by Charlie Taylor 

A day’s diving in the sea in December, when I should be out shopping for Christmas presents or putting up the decorations??!! Well, it was all Mark’s idea and I did wonder if he’d been getting too close to all that printer’s ink.


            So six of us set off to drive to Portland, Dorset, long before the early bird had considered going for that proverbial worm. Mark, Julian, Paul, Steve, Jenny JC and I were anticipating ropes off at 10.15 a.m. on Skindeeper, but, alas, one engine was refusing to fire. By the time Dan ‘the Man’ had fitted another battery, it was agreed that our first dive would be within the harbour on the good ol’ Countess of Erne. The northerly wind was increasing and we were already an hour behind schedule.

            The Countess was originally a paddle steamer, but was converted to a coal hulk back in 1889. She was used as a barge to ferry coal out to battleships moored within the harbour. In 1935 she was blown from her moorings and sank close to the breakwater wall, sitting upright on a silty seabed. The empty holds provide very easy access. Visibility was 4-5 metres and the water was a balmy 10 degrees. As for sea life – the usual culprits, lobsters, a John Dory and even a triggerfish was spotted by Steve. Hot drinks back on board Skindeeper were more than welcome.

            A blustery voyage followed as we headed for the shelter of Worbarrow Bay for our second dive on the bow section of the Black Hawk. This US Liberty ship was torpedoed by a German sub in December, 1944, and was later blown apart by explosives to clear the way for the Winfrith pipeline. The bow lies in pieces on a rock shingle sea bed, with machinery and large chains still present.

            Unfortunately, Julian had to abort his dive early due to a problem with his drysuit zip, as did Steve, whose mask seal ruptured on the descent. The remaining divers scoured the sea bed avidly, seeking out congers and a very youthful thornback ray, disguising itself so well we almost missed it. By now it was approaching 3.00 p.m., but the sun was shining and an air of contentment soon settled on our merry band.

            Mark, Jenny and I stayed the night at the Aqua Hotel, which we can recommend for future use; before that we enjoyed a good meal at the cosy Cove Inn. Next door to the Aqua is the newly opened Castletown D-Day Centre, which offers an “immersive visitor experience”, telling the story of embarkation from this busy wartime dockyard in 1944. See photos.

            Huge thanks go to Mark for organising the whole trip.

Posted in Dive Diary 2017
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