Like many of our club members I work for a living. I also have a relatively young family that compete for my time so when Dan Taylor posted a day-trip ‘cheeky shore-dive’ to the North Norfolk coast I jumped at the chance. So it was with bleary eyes that I picked up my buddy and mentor, Richard Croft, in Newark that Saturday morning and we made our way to Weybourne. It was my first dive since qualifying as an Ocean Diver so I was excited to say the least, but feeling confident that I was up to the task.
The two wreck challenge involved diving two wrecks within five miles of each other in the same day. Timings of the tides and the logistics of the dive obviously played a vital part if we were to be successful, but Dan had put together a superb 48-page dive plan which covered every aspect of the dive and most importantly, when we had to be where, and at what time.
First stop was the Rosalie, a steamship described in the brief as ‘a first world victim that can be dived from the shore at Weybourne; it was sunk by torpedo in 1914 during the First World War.’ It was only 180m from shore, and Dan and his wife Kelly had arrived earlier than the rest of us so that he could snorkel out to place a buoy that would help us find it easily enough. In fact, the walk from the car park to entry in full kit was twice the distance of the swim out, on what can only be described as ‘unhelpful’ stones. This seemed to be a matter for much muttering from the remainder of our party, Chris Lee and Brian Nevison!
Another advantage to Dan and Kelly being there early was that they got talking to some local divers who told them to aim for an earlier entry to extend the time we could be out there. So when Richard and I arrived we got kitted up without delay and were in pretty much straight away.
The swim out was trouble-free, other than the occasional girly scream from Richard as he re-discovered the leak in the leg of his drysuit. Then Richard called out (in a much deeper, more manly voice) for me to turn over and look down, and there she was! Beneath me were the bones of the ship, in remarkably clear water. The sign to descend was made but descending proved a little tricky for me because I was more buoyant in the salt water, With the help of Richard, and a easy-to-hand rock he passed to me, I was soon on the sea floor.
The ship was nose-in to the beach and, at it’s deepest end was only 9 metres, being 5-6 metres at the bow. Very quickly it became apparent this was going to be a special dive. The visibility was superb at 10m+, and the wreck was a veritable oasis of life. Richard and I spent 45 minutes bimbling around the wreck, admiring the huge anchor that extended 2-3ms towards the surface, and the even more enormous boilers. At one point we bumped into Chris and Kelly who pointed down to something excitedly. Initially I thought it was just another hole in the wreck that they might have seen something through, but spinning motions were made with fingers and I realised suddenly it was the spare steel propeller that was so large you couldn’t see it unless you came back a little.
The crabs and fish provided amusement, and Richard even tried to communicate to me the difference between male and female crabs in sign language (sorry, this is a PG article so the sign language can’t be used here)! We came across 3 very large lobster that weren’t so accommodating and, as we valued our fingers, decided not to press the issue.
Finally it was time to leave, but Dan had a plan! If we were clever we could use the currents to drift back and exit directly in front of the car park, thus saving us a 450m walk (see the plan below). While we did attempt this, some were more successful than others. Fortunately I was aware as we walked back that there was O2 in the car, should Richard get into difficulty!
A quick 10 minute drive and we were at Cley-Next-The- Sea, where the multi-talented Dan and Kelly set up and cooked a wonderful barbeque while we waited for the tides in order to dive the Vera.
A 200m walk from the car park and a 120m swim out to the wreck, The Vera was a steam powered ship lying parallel to the shore. She had been sunk after a collision in 1915 during the First World War and was in even shallower water, at about 5-6ms.
By now the weather was turning a bit more overcast and the wind was heading for the 20 knots predicted by the Met Office. We suited up and waited the last few minutes for the tides to change. I had already been told I had been thoroughly spoilt on the morning dive, with such good visibility, and I jokingly mentioned that all we needed now was a seal or a dolphin to play with. As we sat there, looking out at the buoy, what should pop up but the head of a lone, very large seal. We quickly made our way down, fins on and away we went again, feeling a slight sense of deja-vu as I finned on my back.
Unfortunately for me this is where things didn’t turn out so well. I seemed to veer off course so that by the time we were out at the buoy I was 20 metres away from the party. A combination of the winds and current meant I couldn’t seem to get over to them, and every time I turned over with the intention of finning to them the wave- action would fill my mask. Chris came over to see if I was OK but by this time I was too tired to continue. I remembered the saying Richard had drummed into me during training, ‘ Better to be on the shore wishing you were in the water than in the water wishing you were on the shore’ and decided to go back in. Another BSAC club were diving the wreck off a rib and they kindly gave me a lift back to shore.
The others, having waited on the surface for me, were now able to continue their dive, and things were much easier as soon as they descended. The visibility was almost as good as the Rosalie and the general consensus was there were more crabs and lobster, even a few prawn. Brian had buddied with Dan for this dive and, as a new member, had had two excellent dives which he was very pleased with. In addition, Chris had been diving in his brand new dive suit and, apart from having to spend some time adjusting his buoyancy in his new suit, had also had a fanastic time. For me this was my first proper wreck dive and I couldn’t have asked for better! What amazed me was the only cost was fuel to get to the site, £5 for the barbeque and £2.60 for the car park! What a great way to spend a Saturday.
Over burgers we had discussed a possible motto for our dive club and settled on ‘The Dive Club that dives’ (more snappy than ‘The dive club that dives , eats and drinks, laughs a lot at and with each other, and generally has a good time). The fact is that the planning that went into this dive had made it very easy for everyone else to turn up and dive, and the motto exists because of the actions of club members like Dan who are prepared to put in the time and effort to make it happen. The dive plan for this dive has also outlined the intended aim of being back here to dive the Amberley and the Kylemore at the end of September, off the rib. I’m looking forward to that.