The plan was to dive the City of Waterford, lines off at 10 am, bearing 184 degrees from Brighton Marina and eight nautical miles away. The City of Waterford lies in 35 metres following a collision with a Greek cargo vessel in dense fog in 1949. It’s a great wreck, ship like and a very impressive sight sitting on the sand looking up at the bow with her anchors in place.
We actually cast off at a more leisurely time of 10:20 am as John the clubs diving officer had been delayed by sleep and a late night of revelry. Our skipper Scully was in charge of steerage and instrumentation and the bearing of 184 proved tricky as the horse shaped cloud on the horizon kept moving. It soon became apparent that he did not actually know what the buttons did and began muttering something about not liking the compass on the GPS but preferring the rolling road screen – the mutters got louder and finally Larry taking temporary charge of instrumentation switched to the rolling road – it was a complicated task involving hitting the enter key twice.
Scully resumed steerage – he could now see that we had travelled beyond the hard shoulder of the rolling road and almost beyond the verge, edge of the world stuff – eyes flickered and he quickly made a decision to bank right and execute a Williamson turn to get us back on track. The horse shaped cloud had been lulling us towards Eastbourne and a less experienced team could have been in deep trouble almost to the point of having to pen an article for the back page of ‘Dive’
Scully clung to the centreline of the rolling road like a man possessed. The Waterford was in his sight and no one was getting in his way, well no one apart from the four fishing charters that were on the site and maybe the other two that were drifting over the wreck from the east – but no one else!
As the rib approached the site the GPS started beeping at which point our skipper began scratching his head and looking quizzical. Larry again took temporary charge of instrumentation and told Scully to follow the big black arrow on the screen – secrets codes were passed between them in a sort of serpentine tongue. The Waterford came into view on the echo sounder and a cheer went up and hats were thrown in the air. The skipper began to peacock strut around the rear of the boat like he’d found the Lost City of Atlantis.
The club generally operates like a well oiled machine – we pride ourselves in doing a job well and have little time for lesser mortals who can’t hack it! Confidence is high that the BSAC Heinke trophy will be coming our way in 2010. The one area we are however a little weak on is the shot line thing. For some reason we seemed to have adopted the practise that the last half mile to the dive site is the job of the shot line rather the rib. We may in time simply do away with the rib altogether and just lay the shot lines from the clubhouse.
The dive officer had not fully recovered – coffee and ham sandwiches had helped but mental faculties were still impaired – no change there then! His only job was to prepare the shot line and determined to not make the same rudimentary schoolboy errors others had done in the past he measured the line out – 40 metres would be good and two of his best granny knots would do the trick.
Our skipper gave us a precise position of where the shot had landed – “you could be on the bow or the stern or somewhere in the middle” were his exact words. Again secrets codes were passed between the skipper and Larry.
Larry’s build up dives had infact consisted of snorkelling for amphora off the Cypriot coast in warm water with 20 metres of visibility. The Waterford in 36 metres with 4 metres of visibility and 15 degrees offered little resistance especially as the secret scallop ground had not been plundered for the many months.
The secret scallop ground was known only to the “Guardians of the Scallops” the elders of the dive club – youngsters (anyone under then age of 55) could not be trusted with the information – it could end up on the interweb thingy or be facebooked or twittered and where would we be then. The Guardians had been involved in scallop research for many years and were at the point of publishing key scientific data in the Lancet– do they go better with a splash of lemon or a white wine sauce; does Nigella make a cardinal sin mixing scallops and chorizo; starter or main meal – these are the big questions which help make the winter months tick away on club nights.
Backwards roll off the rib and couldn’t see the shot, there was a big orange thing in the way – Our skipper was tucking into his Big soup and had no intention of moving the rib so we were forced to swim around it. Down the shot line…. down and down….. time ticked away … the seasons changed … down and down…past the first granny knot (it was holding up well)…past the man in the funny dive suit in the film “The Abyss”…. down and down … Brighton Marina can’t be far away …. finally metal appeared. A tad long on the shot line then!
It’s nice going back to a familiar wreck after a break, figuring out where you are and seeing the changes – the stern is now beginning to open up but still remains impressive. A huge shoal of dib and pollack mulled around parting as you swam through them on our way to the secret scallop grounds. Larry, Chief Guardian of the Scallops, used the old ploy of pointing in one direction and then swimming off in the opposite direction to put the diving officer off the scent. John’s mind was in any case elsewhere – images of dancing to the funky chicken and agadoo came flooding back from the night before. Coming to his senses he followed at a discrete distance soon saw Larry at work ploughing his furrow. The secret scallop grounds had been rumbled.
Back on the boat the Guardians discussed their mornings work – a dozen scallops and a beautiful brill. Scientific research would need to be extensive this weekend!