It was a clear evening as I arrived in Dover on Friday. There was no cloud and I could see France glistening across the water and the Waxing Gibbous moon was illuminating the white cliffs. Ropes off was a relaxing 11.00am, so I was happy to have a couple of pints before bed.
Saturday morning came and as I looked out of the bedroom window across the harbour, not a cloud in the sky. Again France could be seen across the rippling water. It was looking like a good day.
My buddy for today was Tom Bryer and we met in the car park around 10.00am. I had not assembled my kit, so Tom took it upon himself to get two parking permits while I set up. Maverick was already at the visitors pontoon and hence we were on board in plenty of time.
Diving with Mutiny Diving, our target site today was the advertised HMS Flirt [+1916], a Palmer Class WWI British Destroyer as lost during the night in the first Battle of the Dover Strait on 26th October 1916. We had no real dive objective other than a recce for future visits, a little videography and if found, a little treasure. For me, this was my fourth dive on HMS Flirt, the previous three not going so well for one reason or another, my hope was fourth time lucky. Today was Tom’s first dive on Flirt.
With a 28% back gas and 50% deco gas, our outline plan was to start the ascent with 20 minutes TTS, around 16 minutes of accelerated deco. We planned that we should have around half an hour on the wreck.
My bet with Tom was that we would have cracking visibility or I would pay for his dive and during transit, it was agreed 6 metres. Things were not looking good for me en-route as the murky waters seemed more akin to a milky Earl Grey! Though as we crossed the shipping lanes, the water seemed to clear and by the time we arrived at the dive site, skipper Chris was punting a dark 10 metres. The shot was deployed and it was a slow kit up as we waited for slack.
As we were in the shipping lanes, it is important to ascend the shot as any drifting DSMBs will cause havoc to shipping and a nightmare for any skipper. Chris thus briefed a shot ascent and on doing so, reminded divers that they may hear shipping traffic throughout the dive. In agreement with Tom, I would thus line out. Our expectations were of a dark but clear dive akin to our Varne dive earlier in the year. As we hit the bottom, I could see the shot was tied pretty much where it was located the last dive with Andy.
Following the two divers ahead of us, we lined out into the gentle current and within a few minutes found the propeller. I didn’t have my torch switched on as I was reeling out, but there was fantastic ambient light at 39m with a good 6-8m visibility. Having signed to Tom if he would take a photo of me on the prop, we reeled back to the shot. It’s interesting to see all the backscatter from this shot from Tom’s light, but outside of any illumination, the water looked clear.
This was the same area that Andy and I dived last month in a more aggressive current, so Tom and I now swam with the current along the port side of the ship, Tom shining his torch into every nook and cranny to hand me a shell. Thinking it was just the lead bit as there was no brass, I popped it into my pocket. TTS was around 15 minutes now and I could feel the current had now changed direction. Signalling to turn around, I reeled in and back to the shot. TTS now 19 minutes.
This is where the fun started as we must have been narked! Gesticulating hand signals between ourselves, was that an ascent to 9m and hold for six minutes or an ascent to 6m and hold for nine minutes? Hold on, maybe ascend to 69m? Huh? Maybe deco is 96 minutes? All I knew was that I had a 20 minute TTS and stop at 9m for two minutes and that Tom will probably want a deep stop somewhere.
The pair of us made a relaxed ascent, switching to 50% at 21m and with a 2 minute stop at 9m it was then 18 minutes at 6m to hang with the whirring of passing shipping.
As we surfaced, there, right there was a mahoosive container ship. Both Tom and I were rather aghast as to the close proximity. Back on board Maverick, Chris explained that as common protocol, he had in communication with the container ship and she altered course to a safe distance. But she still looked big and close!
There were a lot of happy divers. Some with a little treasure and me with Tom’s lead in my pocket. “Here you are Chris, is this OK?” I asked. “No” he said and promptly chuckled it back in the water. “That’s the explosive bit!”
Tom and I knew we were obviously not allowed to bring any munitions up from the wreck, but we thought this was simply the lead end of a “bullet”. Obviously not! We live and learn!
- Dive Time: 53m40s
- Max Depth: 38.6m
- Ave Depth 23.61m
- Back Gas: Manifold 24L Twinset @ 28%
- Back Gas In: 198 bar
- Back Gas Out: 102 bar
- Deco Gas: Ali 7L Stage @ 50%
- Deco Gas In: 200 bar
- Deco Gas Out: 105 bar
- Water Temp: 15degC
- Visibility: 6-8m