Endeavour – Dive Testing Complete
After the disappointment of the steering failure the previous weekend it was very satisfactory to get Endeavour in use again. Thanks have to go to Steven Litchfield who went down to the coast in the week to fit the new steering cable and give us confidence in organising a small party to go down at the weekend. So what was she like?
The first thing anyone who remembers our previous boat Gemini would notice is the size and space. At 10.5m Endeavour is only a metre or so longer than our old Mitchell Mk1 dive platform, but the wheelhouse is so much further forward that there is probably twice as much deck space. Onto this we’ve fitted a deck-level toilet and a solid dive bench which will take four divers. An additional bench designed to accommodate another eight was not ready in time before Endeavour was moved to the coast but will be fitted soon.
Club members will no doubt (as I have started to here) compare Endeavour with Gemini for years. But really there is no comparison. Our new hard boat is in another league. She sits on top of the water (not a displacement hull), and planes at speed. Top speed so far achieved is 27 knots (compared to Gemini’s 8), which should be fast enough for anything we want to do. The final comparison has to be the method of entry and exit: Endeavour has a cut-out in the gunnel which means it is just a short drop to the water, and a ladder with only a couple of rungs to climb in order to get back in. People who had difficulty climbing over Gemini’s high gunnels should find this much easier. And there the comparisons really must end – it is time to move onwards and upwards.
The engine was serviced by the manufacturers prior to Endeavour hitting the water, so you would expect it to be in good condition and I could not argue with you. Quiet, clean and smooth – it’s hard to believe there’s 320 bhp under that engine hatch! The electrics were completely overhauled and seemed to function perfectly. We even had the radar working. We have a transducer to fit and then we will have scanning abilities on each side of the boat (John or Chris – correct me if I am wrong please!). We seem to have two GPS units on different scales. At this point it is probably becoming clear that I am not an expert on these things, but those who know seem to be very excited about the equipment fitted and what it will bring to our diving.
People will have their own feelings about stern drives, but Endeavour’s means she is incredibly manouvreable at high and low speed. On this testing weekend we found that picking up divers was generally fairly easy although not being a displacement hull you had to be aware of how the wind would spin the boat around and compensate for it. In an ideal world we would have some bow thrusters, but in the meantime we’ll have to make do with skilled skippers. In fairness the wind was at the limit of what we would normally dive in, and we would probably have cancelled a normal dive weekend. As it was we found plenty of shelter from south-westerly winds on the eastern side of Portland and it was only when we tried to dive away from there that we had to contend with the gusts, and only at slow speed. Even then we did not encounter any problems recovering divers. But it is something for skippers to be aware of.
We found the ladder very easy to fit, deploy, climb and recover. The ladder pivots so that it can be semi-recovered while divers are in the water and deployed in seconds. The pivot point would benefit from being an inch or two higher (this would make it easier to get fins onto the deck) and is something we will adjust soon. We recovered the ladder with the use of a boat hook and a rope and found this worked very well. The gate slides in and out very easily. On a full boat of divers we would like to have somewhere to stow the ladder, whereas on this weekend we were able to leave it on the deck.
So, the least exciting bit was the diving itself! We managed to complete 3 dives each on the first day, around Balaclava Bay and in Portland Harbour. With travel time from our mooring a mere 20 minutes or so we had a late start at 10 o’clock. But with the long summer day we were able to finish our last dive at 8 pm and still get back to the marina in the light. Sunday was supposed to be the better day wind-wise but it didn’t turn out that way. Endeavour could handle crossing a lumpy Bay towards Lullworth quite comfortably, but it didn’t look good for diving and the land wasn’t offering the cover we had hoped for. So we ended up back in the harbour again.
All in all this was a good weekend to test the boat’s diving credentials. We had the time to practise with and get used to how Endeavour handles. We tried out the ladder in snorkel gear. Confident, we went for some dives. They should be the first of many.