Early October saw a club dive planned on the HMS Minion, but with the great British weather being as reliable as always we revised our plan and dived a club favourite, the City of Waterford. Built in 1921 in Dundee as the Skerries II she was 270 feet long and 37 feet in the beam. She was driven by three cylinder triple-expansion engine giving about 200hp. In 1946 Skerries II was bought by Dublin ship-owner Palgrave, Murphy & Coand renamed the City of Waterford. She met her demise on 14 April 1949 in thick fog by colliding with a 5500 ton Greek steamer the Marpessa, thankfully there was no loss of life.
So with bright clear skies and relatively flat sea we set out. With an hour journey time we had plenty of time for merriment, kit faffing and snacks. Myself and my buddy JP jumped in, after a quick bubble check we descended down in to the gloom. We quickly hit the starboard side of the wreck and followed the gunwale along towards the bow. Visibility here was about 1 to 2 metres with a large amount of suspended partials which would make photography almost impossible. While faffing with my camera we caught up with another group of divers. Some how in this diver soup we both managed to follow the wrong diver believing him to be our buddy!
Upon reaching the relatively intact bow I realised my mistake, but knowing I lost JP in a group of divers he would be OK, so I decided to carry on. After taking several photos of the bow and anchors I zigzagged my way across the deck and very soon got to the forward cargo hold and in to the debris field that is the amidships section. In this reduced visibility and tangled metal I very quickly gave up following a straight line and just swam around looking for things to photograph. There was a fantastic amount of fish life on this wreck, manly bib that stayed at the edge of the visibility. But there was also healthy population of conger eels, I counted at least 5. I made it though the debris and to the end of the wreck, but unfortunately it was the bow again. With my decompression time increasing I decided it was time to leave.
Back on the boat I was reintroduced to my buddy by just about everyone onboard. The second dive was a ledge in 12m sometimes called the spires or Kings West ledge. It is a one to two metre ledge in an otherwise featureless sandy seabed which is home to a wide variety of sea life. My buddy JP did not make it to the bottom as he forgot to zip his suit up so very quickly aborted the dive. He later blamed me for this as I had talked him in to doing the second dive after he started to de kit, thus breaking his routine! I descended to the sea bed and headed over to the rocky patch I could just see in the improved 4 metre visibility. Luckily for me, this led to the ledge – that was the navigation taken care of. The plan was to drift along the ledge and then launch my DSMB after 15minutes. This I stuck to while also trying to photograph tube worms, crabs and almost anything else I could find. When I launched my DSMB things became more difficult as the current was pulling me along the ledge but my SMB was pulling me away from it. After another 15 minutes I decided I had, had enough. I was getting cold now as my dry suit was leaking from the inflator or pee zip. Looking at my logbook this is the fourth time I have dived the City of Waterford, but what I remembered did not match what I saw on the dive – it’s amazing how changes in visibility and life can transform a dive site.
Another good day out with the Croydon BSAC 23.