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Swanage - Valentine Tanks, October 2016

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by NickPicks, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. NickPicks

    NickPicks Active Member

    Jun 7, 2010
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    So, my first dive for 9 months, and my first trip report here.

    It all started abouit a month ago at our club night. I'd checked when I was free from family and DIY ties, and could make any of the weekends between mid Sep and mid Oct. So I asked if anyone had a trip organised I could join. This met with the answer of "Well, you could organise one yourself!" A couple of people said they'd be up for joinng me.

    So, I wanted to dive the Valentine Tanks. We had planned to dive them in October 2015, but with the wind blowing a F6, we ended up at Stoney Cove. Someone who was canoeing at Swanage posted a photo, which showed the water the colour of horlicks, and gnarly waves too. They said that the only boat which they saw go out was the lifeboat!

    So, I looked at the tides, and Swanage Boat Charter's website, and emailed them to ask if a dive was available on the Tanks. It was, provided they met the minimum of 6 divers. With a ropes off time of 10:55, ideal for us as it doesn't mean leaving Hemel Hempstead at stupidly early o'clock.

    So I book 4 of us, then another 2 join, then one drops out, then another 2 drop out, then are replaced. I'm beginning to think that boat booking numbers are working in a similar way to Bistromathics (Read the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy if you haven't already)

    I begin watching weather forecasts - XC weather, windguru, wavefinder, metcheck. 2 weeks in advance are a bit unreliable, but as the date approaches, they're all forecasting a F1 gusting F2. Can this hold? Weather "Oms" go out to hope.

    Sunday morning arrives, the boat has 6 booked from our club, plus 4 from somewhere else. I pick up my buddy at 06:30 (not exactly a lie in, but better than 4am!). That should put us in Swanage at about 9:30, according to Google maps. Probably not getting a space on the pier then.

    A completely traffic free trip down the M3 and A31 sees us arrive at Swanage at 09:15. Even better - there's loads of spaces on the pier! And the sun is shining, gentle breeze and calm sea.

    So, after a cup of tea and a leisurely kit up, onto the boat. I've been on Mary Jo a few times before, and always found them great. Today was the same as usual. A 30 minute ride out past Old Harry Rocks sees us onto the shot line dot on Slack Water. We're the last pair in and drop down the shot to find the first tank looming up towards us. Half the other divers have zipped off straight to the second tank, so there's only another couple of pairs with us.

    We spent about 15 minutes on the first tank. It's sitting upright on the flat seabed, so it's a bit of a Mecca for sea life. There's a crab tucked away in one of the wheel / axle holes, a lobster underneath the tank, I saw the head of a conger lurking in oe of the holes - I don't know how long it was, but from the size of its eye, it looked big. Quite a lot of fish (I'm told they're bib and pollack) swimming around, a couple of tompot blennies, and a large wrasse. Tehre was also quite a lot of rope on the wreck, but all quite large and easy enough to see and avoid.

    Visibility was a reasonable 2-3 metres. Some of the divers taking photos weren't exactly being careful with their fins, or their perception of where the other divers were.

    After the first tank, it's "choose which rope leads to the other tank" time. We looked at both ropes, and chose the older looking one, which was also the one the other pair in front of us had taken (my reasoning was that if it was the wrong one, we'd meet them coming back.)

    So, we followed Silty McSplitFins along the rope, eventually finding the upturned turret of tank 2. I think when the Royal Navy heard that divers ad found this tank, and it had live shells on it, they made it safe by exploding the shells. This is why the turret is upterned a few metres away from the tank.

    By now, there's a bit of a current, which I found a bit tricky in places, and sufferred a couple of momentary losses of fabulousness - mainly on the upstream side where the current was pushing me up and over the wreck. More fish, a massive crab, and the conger on this one was even bigger.

    After a few minutes, all the other pairs swam back to the shot line, so we had the wreck to ourselves. At dive time of 40 minutes, we decided to save swimming back and go up under a dsmb, which the skipper had said was fine, so had an uneventful dsmb launch, 3 minutes safety stop, and popped up about 100m away from the boat. We gently bobbed about in the sun while he recovered the other divers from the shot, then picked us up. The first time I dived off of Mary Jo (back in 2011), they had a side lift, which you had to climb on like a bike. They now have a rear diver lift, which is much easier.

    A cup of hot chocolate on the way back to the pier was much appreciated.

    My buddy was then instructing a trainee on their first ever open water dive, so I joined them under the pier, which was fun, although it involved sorting out slipping weight belts, adding weight etc. My main task was navigating to keep us under the pier, as we couldn't see as far as the next set of legs. I just kept making sure we were swimming directly south, then checking the cross beams were going above us rather then to the side.

    So, all in all, the first trip I've organised had great weather, great diving, and a parking space!

    Afterwards, we popped over the road to the Seagull cafe for a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich, but they'd run out of bacon, and they'd run out of sausages, so I had to have a burger instead. They said the reason they were running out of everything was that they're closing and moving along the road because the site is being developed.

    I've just found the planning application for the redevelopment. It looks very nice, but are they going to want divers in damp drysuits in their nice shiny new place?
    Wibble and jps like this.
  2. NickPicks

    NickPicks Active Member

    Jun 7, 2010
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    Oh, and if you'd like to see the tanks as a 3D model, follow this links on this other forum posting. The vis is better than it was in real life.
  3. jb2cool

    jb2cool Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2008
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    What Seagull café (Or Doberman cafe as we call it) is moving!
  4. hawk

    hawk Doing It Rong
    UKD Supporter

    Mar 29, 2012
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    Sounds like you had a great day - which is what diving is all about :)
  5. Wibble

    Wibble Fish don't talk
    UKD Supporter

    Apr 7, 2014
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    Nice writeup for a lunchtime read.

    Sounds like you had the same photographer on your trim as I had on mine!
  6. snowman

    snowman Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
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    Mmmm - I can't imagine Seagull will want to turn away so much low-season and early hours custom by refusing divers - I guess in a wet drysuit, you'll be restricted to a chair outside.

    This is a dive I always mean to do in tandem with a deeper one out of Swanage, but I've never got around to it - Good write up.

    Probably one for next season now though...


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