Alex van Opstal survey, 3rd and 4th December 2011

Alex van Opstal Survey Divewierd pressure vessel

I’m planning (weather-permitting) to run a survey dive on the Alex on the weekend of the 3rd & 4th December. Plan is to use the ‘new’ RIB out of Casteltown to shuttle to the dive site.

Dive plan (provisional):

Saturday 3rd

Dive 1
  • 0830hrs launch RIB and begin loading kit.
  • 0915 hrs all aboard , ropes off.
  • 0945hrs – arrive at Alex and deploy shot
  • 1010hrs divers in – start of slack – tide running SW 0.4 knots
  • 1100hrs divers up – second wave in
  • 1150hrs all divers recovered, pull shot and return to casteltown
  • 1230hrs lunch at castletown, air fills etc
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Weymouth March 2011

A Beautiful Spring Weekend

You could not have asked for better conditions: neap tides, sunshine, no wind and a perfectly flat Weymouth Bay – truely like glass. 

Our plan was to have two dives on our project wreck – the Alex van Opstal – one on each day. To do this we had to leave the marina at an un-weekendly (think I’ve just invented a new word there…) 7.30am. Despite all predictions we actually left 5 minutes early and made good progress in the perfect conditions. 

It was all going so well

With a little early morning fog adding to the atmosphere we were starting sense this would be a good weekend. But with a sudden CRUNCH! that all looked a bit premature. We’d hit something. With lightning reactions the skipper shut off the engine, and we sent a diver in to investigate what had got tangled on the propellor.

So the first official dive of the 2011-12 calendar (from the dinner dance in late March onwards) was in 1m of water cutting a plastic mail sack from our boat’s propellor. Auspicious indeed.

The Alex van Opstal

Problem solved we made it to the Alex on slack. We shotted the wreck and two divers started off the weekend’s diving proper. It was looking so good, until we realised they hadn’t moved off the shotline after being down about 5 minutes. Surfacing shortly afterwards they informed us that they couldn’t even see their own fins at the bottom, and despite being on the wreck had decided there wasn’t really any point in diving.

So, the mood slightly more sombre we enacted Plan B…

Lobster Alley and the Black Hawk

Not as exciting as the Alex, but with 4-5m vis we weren’t complaining. After months of being confined to inland dive sites after the weather ruled out trips it was just nice to be back in the sea. There were fish, crabs, lobsters, a slight current and all the random bits of this and that which make the sea so much fun to dive in! Plus it is around 3 degrees C warmer than the quarries, making it a lot more comfortable.

Day Two: Round the Bill

Having realised that Weymouth Bay was pea soup (possibly to do with run-off from all the Olympics construction?) we ventured West and round Portland Bill. When we headed for the wreck of the James Fennel and saw all the charter boats there we knew we must have got it about right.

James Fennel

On dive one, Steve L and I actually found the notoriously difficult-to-locate James Fennel, and were able to pinpoint it for the others to have their second dive on. I’d say this was more by luck than judgement, certainly on my part, but I think Lichy knew what he was doing once we’d started to find bits of wreckage and led me on a tour of the highlights! It really was a fantastic dive – 10m+ vis, calm water and loads of life. Despite locating the stern, prop shaft, boiler and plenty of scattered wreck, we also saw lobsters, pipefishes, conger eels, a stonefish, wrasse and so much more.

SS Gertrude

On our second dive Lichy and I tried to find the SS Gertrude, hidden amongst the bus-size boulders littering the seabed. We weren’t so lucky this time, although having located the anchor I suspect we simply needed to turn towards land rather than out to sea and we would have found it. Never mind – still a pleasant drift dive amongst the boulders, and a nice end to a cracking weekend.

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