We all set off from Poole harbour on Saturday morning. The sun shone, the crossing was smooth and we arrived at our hotel mid-afternoon which allowed us to prepare our kit ready for loading onto our dive boat Magic, a 10 minute walk from The Ommaroo Hotel. The hotel was a large old building which overlooked the Lido and outdoor sea water swimming pool. The bay was stunning with pale golden sand and rocky outcrops. At low water Jersey’s size increased by one fifth.
Our hotel rooms were en-suite, spotlessly clean and all had very comfortable beds. The food was seriously good. Even ECSAC couldn’t make a dent in the endless supply of freshly baked croissant, sausages, bacon, cooked meats, cheese, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, toast, marmalade and yoghurt. Our complimentary evening meal on Sunday had every type of shellfish, plus seabass, salmon a full carvery and a variety of salads and freshly cooked vegetables and potatoes.
We ate out every night, alfresco when possible, at local bistros and restaurants.
The diving was always tide dependant. A 12m tidal range meant hitting slack water for the deeper wreck dives or coming inshore and tucking out of the current in order to complete a gentle scenic drift dive was imperative. The viz was 10/12m in shore and between 15/18m off shore.
The swell plus wind over tide meant Sunday’s and Monday’s entries and exits were quite a challenge as the boat rolled. The rest of the week was flat calm and very sunny.
Our first dive was The Kromwijk, a Dutch barge which was attacked and sunk in 1942. She lies upside down with the stern section intact. The twin boilers are clearly visible. The engine pistons, plates bow and deck railings lie on the sea bed. The wreck is now home to large shoals of Pouting, Spider Crab, Conger Eel, Nudibrancs and Double Spiral Worms.
We came in shore to St Brelades Bay East for our second dive which consisted of a gentle drift over a boulder field interspersed with cobbles, pebbles, gravel and coarse sand. We saw Cuttlefish, Cat Shark, Spider Crab, Edible Crab, Lobster, Tompot Blennies, Reticulated Dragonets, Sand Gobies, Ballan and Female Cuckoo Wrasse, shoals of Sand Smelt, Daisy and Snakelocks Anemones.
We had to return to St Brelades to dive the western side of the bay as the swell and current forced us to seek shelter. Will Green, as a newly qualified Ocean Diver completed his first hard boat dive in style and then followed this with a further 5 dives over the following four days. It was a real pleasure to watch him learn new skills and grow in confidence.
With flat calm and sunshine we headed out to dive The Schokland, a Dutch supply and troop ship which sits upright on a shell and granite coarse sand seabed. The viz was such that the whole ship could be seen as we descended. Shoals of Pouting swirled around the shot. There were huge Spider Crab, Conger Eel, Tompot Blennies, Edible Crab, and Lobster on, in and under every surface. A dive worth repeating.
The afternoon dive a drift which again was stacked with life from Cuttlefish to Sea Hares and Sponge Crabs.
We headed out to The Manquiers to dive The M343 a Mine Sweeper which was sunk in 1944.The mine sweeping equipment was easily identified as the viz was 15/18m. Conger, Shoals of Pouting and Pollack, Lobster, Edible and Spider Crab were seen. The best find was a large Crawfish at the stern.
The afternoon drift was at Corbiere— sponges were on every boulder and rock surface, , plus we spotted a Blonde Ray, Cuttlefish, Cat Shark, Spider Crab and Pink Sea Fans.
We dived an Armed trawler which although broken had the boiler, plates, anchor, mast and all the winching gear in good condition.Huge shoals of Pouting were evident along with the usual Spider Crab, Lobster Tompot Blennies and Spiral Worms. Jewel anemones sparkled in our torch light.
The afternoons dive was a drift.
The last day of diving saw us heading out to The Polka on The Manquiers, a paddle steamer which sank in 1850. The boiler was immense. Again the viz meant we could see conger under the plates, the ribs were home to sea squirts and jewel anemones. Spider Crab were on all surface
Thanks to Tim Porter, Jon, Bernie & Will Greene, Clive Byrne, Wilf & Catherine Wooldridge for a fabulous week in a memorable location.
Also thanks to Kevin McIlwee from Jersey Sea Search for his help and hospitality plus the generous gift of signed copies of his guide book for all ECSAC divers.