Thursday 1st September
With the Saturday and Sunday dives booked, Chris had previously suggested a Friday dive too, to an aeroplane prop or Divers Choice. My buddies for the weekend were David and Andy, all three of us diving OC twins and 50% as deco gas. David has a thing for U-Boats. We arrived at the Premier Inn separately and having a beer or three, hit the sack at chucking out time. Being told to take our beers back to our rooms, an ideal opportunity to for one member to rob a funky Madri beer glass.
Friday 2nd September
Friday’s ropes off was a relaxing 11.45am on the flooding dirty tide. Visibility was not forecast to be great due to the recent easterly winds, which were still blowing. I had already spoken with Chris and asked if we could dive the Henry Moon again, as I enjoyed it last time which was deemed a good choice. However as David has a fascination with U-Boats, we amended the plan to UB-78.
We arrived at the marina car park with enough time to assemble our kit. One thing that has recently changed is the car park payment mechanism. No longer have we to get a permit from the marina office, but pay by the RingGo App. This is confusing as notices around the car park state that the car park is open to the public between 1st November and 31st March. As we are in September, I popped over to the marina office to find that there’s a hidden Ringo car park code for commercial use of the car park, available all year round and for our use. That number is 43708 and titled “Union Street Car Park (Commercial Only), Dover” and prices at £7.50 for 10 hours and £12.00 for 24 hours plus a 20p “Convenience Fee”.
Tom had finished fishing and with only four divers on Renegade, he joined us as crew. The forth diver was another David on his JJ CCR. It was my, David and Andy’s job to tie in. Two waisters on this one as the shot was to stay in for another dive later in the weekend. The shot laid directly over the hull and deck gun to the seabed that lay a few metres below in the dark bit; and where we were told, “the monsters live”. As Andy ate his banana sandwiches from the safety of the submarine’s decking, David and I tangled with the monsters, managing to tie in and send the grapple to the surface. Note to self and a novice error. When using a double ender to clip off your canister torch, use the right D-Ring as the left will tangle one’s long hose, making it obsolete to extend and inflate the lift bag. However and finally, job done and we could do our dive. Our objective was to try and find the deck gun shell cases. Albeit very dark with no ambient light, a cracking dive to the coning tower, aft and deck gun. Being a very springy weekend, our run time would be shorter, but we enjoyed a good 44 minutes on 32% back gas, no deco to 28m and 20degC.
Back at the marina, we hoofed our cylinders into Chris’s van for him to fill overnight for tomorrow and we headed back to the Premier Inn. The plan was that we would meet in Cullins Yard around 19.00pm for a couple of hours. With a few hours to kill, the three of us agreed to meet a little earlier this evening, the proposal was not to frequent the Premier Inn bar as it was shitty last night, but pop across to the Travelodge where we also regularly stay for a pint of the best Guinness in Dover.
Over at the Travelodge, we were welcomed with open arms and smiles. Having stayed at the Travelodge a number of times in the past, the receptionist and bar staff recognised our faces and with a “Your usual sir?”, bar staff were already pouring a three pints of Guinness.
My round and returning from the bar, David and Andy were chatting about the dive earlier in the day, Andy not sure of the lay of the U-Boat. Problem was, Andy couldn’t navigate the submarine. So David made a diorama from an iPhone and crisp packet. A little photogrammetry later and voila! Conning tower and deck gun in full regalia. LOL!
Off to Cullins where we had dinner and to see Tom again, where I had a long discussion about Navionics. I did see him use it to shot UB-78 earlier that day and I wanted to try and learn a little more. Having downloaded the app on the Honeydew Mull and Whisky Week, I’m in the process of trying to map some wreck sites around the coast for my log book. I am not sure whether Renegade as the same equipment as Maverick, but as Tom was using Navionics to shot UB-78, he showed me how to do it with the different layers he uses.
Saturday 3rd September
Saturday’s target was UB-55. Time and tide wait for no man and we arrived at the marina car park early doors. So early, it was still dark when we left the hotel. This morning Gerry was driving and Chris was diving. Tao was joining us for the weekend, so five divers in total and my buddy for today is Chris.
Arriving on site, Chris and Gerry were bickering about how to shot the submarine. Re-enacting Tom’s advice from last night and seeing I had my iPhone out and Navionics open, Gerry grabbed it and in just two tries, they shot the submarine. “Fuck sake!” Chris joked “Everyone’s got a fucking phone these days!”
Down we went and the grapple was laying a few metres away from the hull. No monsters this time. Chris took the waister to the submarine to tie in, while I bimbled around the coning tower to see the light and glass that mesmerised me that very first time I dived her. Then Chris signalled a problem, he has lost one fin. Somewhere below on the seabed, I descended once more to search for his fin. Voila! After a quick scour around, there is was. Back up to Chris, fin attached and waisters tied, we meandered to the bow.
This is the bit that was hit by the mine. A crumpled mess and debris field, that opens up into the sub. No real penetration, but you can stick your head in for a nose and backfin out again. Glistening in the torchlight were some (what looked like) pieces of white crockery. I didn’t take them as I was more interested is taking some GoPro footage. We then went with the current to the stern, looking at the torpedo loading hatch. That’s when Chris found a hand wheel; just laying there. We bundled it back to the shot and tied it secure, where I can retrieve when we return on Sunday.
By this time NDL was fast expiring as a double dip to 34m and 12 minutes of fin finding and tying in, left a short dive, we ascended the shot with a run time of 36 minutes at 19degC, ambient light at depth with a good 3 to 4 metres visibility on this ebbing clean tide.
Back to the marina and to the workshop for air top ups after a sarnie for us from the BP garage. Chris explained that he needed my help on Sunday for surface interval gas fills. So my job was to learn how the compressor and banks work. Back to the marina car park to reassemble kit and be ready for dive two, UB-109. Chris not diving this afternoon as he was driving, but we were joined by Ed on his Inspiration CCR.
As we set off on our afternoon dive to SM UB-109, I soon realised from my logs that I had never dived this U-Boat before. That said, I did vaguely recall an archaeology report that stated she was in two parts and that some artefacts and/or infrastructure had been retrieved. You can read the Wessex Archaeology Report here. Therefore, this would be an interesting dive.
As we got closer to the site, the water was not clearing as much as I thought. I remember a dive to the Mindora last year with the water looking the same miserable self at these inshore sites. I didn’t dive the Mindora that day due to a flooding drysuit and remember diver recollections that the visibility conditions were atrocious. With that in mind and with my “Can’t be arsed” hat on, in a tease of prima donna demeanour, announced I was calling the dive.
When taking off my drysuit, there was a hole in the back of the suit. Around the lumber vertebrae, a ‘Y’ shaped rip of just over 1cm. Seems I snagged it while getting on board after the UB-55 dive that morning. Someone up there was looking out for me that afternoon. Shit visibility or otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen anything as I would have been soaked as soon as I got in the water. Whatever God or Deity was looking down on me that afternoon, thank you!
As we came back to port, I had pretty much threw the towel in for tomorrow’s dives, though everyone was trying to think of ideas to resolve the problem. As good as it is, we were just not sure that a tube of Black Witch and a swatch of neoprene would do the trick.
Back at the workshop and with my job of gas fills for Sunday, I asked Chris if I could fill Andy’s, David’s and my cylinders tonight. Having seen the system in operation that lunchtime, I wanted to make sure I could use Chris’s system by filling the cylinders myself.
We were in luck as I had been able to bring the club’s gas booster. Chris had around 130 bar of O2 in his J, Tunde had around 80 bar in his 3L of O2, Andy and David had around 110 bar of EAN26 and I had 200 bar of EAN26. Tunde was the easiest as we simply boosted his 80 bar to 180 bar, added 23 bar of O2 to Andy and David’s cylinders to top up with air. Dropping mine to 190 bar, we could add to 208 bar with O2 and top up with air to equate us three with an EAN32 mix. Bingo! And while me, David, Andy and Tunde made gas alchemy, Chris dished out some beers and fixed my drysuit!
With another early start in the morning, we four divers opted for an early dinner at Aspendos Turkish Restaurant and straight to bed. With the flooding clean tide in the morning and ebbing dirty tide in the afternoon, our logic was to dive there nearer UB-78 in the morning and the more distant UB-55 in the afternoon. That should give us a much better chance of better visibility on both dives. With Chris having to work, our skipper for the day was Rob and Mick of Castle View Guest House.
Sunday 4th September
The same four divers for this morning and with comical remarks from skipper Rob as to whether our waisters would have held for five tide changes, we arrived at UB-78 with time to spare. And yes, the shot had held! Boy, the visibility looked good. Rob got us in the water and it was a good pull down the shot to the submarine. It was as if slack had not arrived, though in the lee of the submarine, it was not that bad. It was a good 4-5 metre visibility in a delicious 20degC water temperature. My plan was to take a few video snippets, whereupon afterwards, David wanted us to meet at the deck gun for a selfie. I swam into the current along the port side to the bow, dropping to the seabed to visit the net cutter that Tom had said on Friday, which lay a few metres off on the sand. Inside was a lurking conga. Turning and heading back, I ascended the broken bow to what was now the decking below me and what I assumed was ballast tanks. With the slight current behind me, it was a relaxing drift along the decking to the deck gun and coning tower that came into view from the ‘fog’.
Seeing Andy and David below me, I dropped to the sandy bottom again to see Andy wafting the sand where above, the shell cases were supposed to be located. Ascending, the three of us met at the deck gun for David’s selfie and with a meander for a few more minutes, NDL was creeping up again and I felt (what I thought) was the current picking up again.
With a short fill on gas, we headed up the shot to end the dive with smiling faces. Dive time was a good 47 minute duration to 27m maximum depth.
Back to the marina and we hoofed our cylinders to the car and off to the workshop. Chris gave me the key from yesterday and although the plan was an air top up, we figured we could easily blend an EAN32 mix, allowing a slightly longer bottom time on UB-55 that afternoon. With a cylinder of O2 in the back of the car and the booster, we added said O2 and topped up with air. What I learned from my course last year was that there was a theoretical calculation and a real calculation. The reality that every gas room will have its own nuances for which a blender needs to adjust. With this in mind and as UB-55 was a little deeper, we would be happier with a weaker mix if we could top up with a little more air. Et voila! David’s mix was a perfect 32% and 210 bar, while Andy’s and mine was nearer 31% and again, 210 bar. Happy days.
Caroline would join us this afternoon. She had been stalking us on social media the day before and said she would pop down for the afternoon. Both the skies and water was bluer than this morning and the waves had subsided. Pretty much perfect conditions and as we arrived at site, the visibility on this flooding dirty tide was spanking! Five divers for this one, Tunde would do his own thing, Andy and David would do their thing and I would do my thing with Caroline.
The objective was that the Three Amigos would dive first with Caroline and I following in the rear. David had spotted a little treasure from yesterday and the plan was he and Andy would go and find it again and bring it back to the shot. By that time, Caroline and I would be there waiting. Caroline was on air and with our EAN31 and EAN32, she was first to exit having not wanting to go into deco. On that topic and although we had our stages, with these springy tides, we decided not to use them, instead decompressing on back gas.
Anyway, by the time I found my thing, David not finding his thing and Caroline rubbing the coning tower light and heading for the surface, I looked around and no-one else was there. With no buddies, my question was should I surface or carry on? Run time was around 15 minutes, depth was around 31 metres and it was a good 6m visibility in ambient light. There was no current.
With tactile touch of all valves in a quasi shutdown drill, exchange of regulators and double check that I had my DSMB, I went forward to the crumpled bow section that Chris and I visited yesterday. With no-one else around me, I did not want to venture inside, not even a shoulder. Run time was around 18 minutes and I hit my maximum depth of 37m. I then swam towards the stern along the port side, amazed at the visibility and intactness of the vessel. Run time 19 minutes and now 1 minute of deco, with 140 bar back gas. Continuing aft, I could then feel the current turn and with run time at 23 minutes an a deco obligation of 3 minutes, it was time to head home. Back at the shot, run time 26 minutes, deco 5 minutes, back gas 122 bar and depth of 32m. Time to hoof it to 21m, at which time another minute had incremented to a deco obligation of 6 minutes at a run time of 28 minutes. This again reinforces the importance of not staying at depth too long once deco has started to increment. This importance having become a nemesis on two recent dives where buddies were not able to deploy their DSMBs quick enough.
What an absolute cracking dive. I know I should not have dived alone, but my risk assessment was positive and I was happy with my surroundings. Run time for this dive was 38 minutes total in 19degC of water and an easy 6m visibility.