Club Dive, 21 August: The Ashford

Unbelievably the dive was on!!! Shipping forecast read Dover/Wight 5 to 7’s occasionally decreasing to 4, visibility moderate to poor, Sea state occasionally rough.  The weather front across southern England also added drizzle to the day and the 7:45am ropes off wasn’t helping, to top it all Brighton and the M23 were engulfed in fog.  I was expected it to be cancelled when I rolled up at 7:30, but no….

The attitude onboard was of reluctance and resignation that we were going to dive, people who don’t dive in the UK and only dive in crystal clear spring water won’t know what that feels like and think its strange, but the rest of us know.  As we chugged out to the Ashford, the starboard half of Channel Diver was awash with spray from us punching through the peaks and troughs of the swell. But as we near the site the weather calmed down as did the sea state, however, a few still took this to be an opportunity to feed the fishes with a carrot mash.

Victor and I buddied up and after Victor dekitting once due to hose issues we leapt in to begin a very slow descent (I’d been thoughtful enough to bring a cold we me today).  The viz on the decent looked ok, possible 6 metres, but grew worst as we passed 30m.  The Wreck had between 3-4m on it.

The Ashford, stands approximately 6m proud of the 40m seabed and was a 1,211 ton British steamer, sunk due to a collision with a German barge in 1906.  Her hull is pretty much intact and makes a fine dive in good vis.

The Ashford

The Ashford

As we were the last ones down I pulled the shot from its resting place in the decking, placed it clear on the deck and headed towards the bows. Shoals of bib seamed to hand on the vertical side of the hull, thinking this the sea floor,  a little further back I signed Victor to cover his torch as I found a prawn out on the decking, simply shrimptastic!!!

Just beyond mid-ships the remains to a trawl net appeared, the floats and gates are still present, as are parts of the wreckage within the netting where the trawler tried to drag the net free.  The netting was still catching out life on the wreck and numerous spider crabs were caught up, I tried to free a large spider but to no avail as there was simply too much mono caught up around him and every time I cut one part of him free he’d stick another leg or two in the tangled netting and get even further caught up. Towards the end of netting, we found a large lobster (who is still there), hiding amongst the plating.  Victor’s hosing issue came back to haunt us, as he caught his hoses on a piece of wreckage, but after some initially struggling I freed him and stowed the hose in some bungee.

I’d hoped to get some scallops, but the sea bed was at 40m and although I had an MOD of 40m thought best not to risk it.  After 38 minutes at 37m, we deployed the blob (or I attempted to).  I must remember to fill the suicide bottle before I dive, I had to revert to the old exhaled air (easy to do with Poseidons).  We arrived back at the surface after some hi-jinks on the ascent but best left unsaid.

For the second dive, initially only Victor and I were up for it, but then were we one (me…).  The viz close in looked even worse than on the wreck, so we canned the dive and came back to shore for Tiffin.

Thanks to everyone on board it was another fine day out, Steve was right (as usual) about the weather, and a big thanks to Hammond Drysuits as they fixed my suit in a week and it was the first dry dive I’ve had this year.

Chris Boddington

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