Club dive – Jaffa (30/04/2016)

April is the time of year where most of the club members come out of winter hibernation.  The new dive season beckons and there is an excitement in the air. What will the season bring? Will the vis be ok this year? How did the familiar wrecks change after the winter storms? Those are the usual things going through diver’s minds. Divers are  checking the weather reports, testing new bits of kit (and hopefully servicing the old bits). It is time to go diving in The Channel again! Sadly that also means getting up very very early on Saturday but somehow people do not mind (or do they? ;-).

The wreck of Jaffa was to be our first 2016 club sea dive. The site is familiar to most club members and has been dived before. It is a wreck of a cargo and passenger steamer, sunk on the 2nd of February 1918 by a notorious German submarine UB30. It now lies 16.4 miles out of Brighton at a depth of 24-27m (tide depending). After nearly 100 years on the sea bed the wreck is mostly flaten but it stands 4m proud of it in places.

We have chosen Channel Diver skippered by the one and only Steve Johnson to take us there. Steve’s brave endeavours have earned him a nickname of “Choppy Charters” among the diving brethren. He is basically “almost a god” (although he does work on Sundays for a change).  The boat is a modern, stable catamaran capable of accommodating 12 divers with tons of kit, has a state of the art tea making facility and is equipped with the diving “lard asses” dream piece of kit also known as the “dive lift”. Jokes aside, she is a fantastic ship, with an experienced skipper and has always been the club’s favourite choice when looking for a dive boat.

After arriving at Brighton Marina we have been blessed with a lovely sunny morning with a gentle breeze and hardly any cloud in the sky. It was simply put, a perfect dive weather. The usual loading the boat chores followed but hey, small price to pay for going diving!

The ropes have been cast off at 9:30 but as the wreck is quite far out from Brighton (16.4 miles to be precise) it was going to be  a while before we were to jump in the water. With no considerable swell we had enjoyed a relaxing journey with a short stop over at under-construction Rampion Wind Farm which once completed should become an interesting dive site on its own.

For this dive I have been buddied with Jeremy, one of the veteran club members, a living legend with years of experience and a keen “scallop eye”. Jeremy is also passionate underwater videographer. He has kindly shared the video he took and subsequently edited. The end result can be enjoyed below the blog post.

Shortly after 11am we were in the water. The tide was hardly running and after a quick bubble check we dropped down the shot towards the wreck. It became apparent pretty quickly that we were in for a treat vis-wise. Although the early may bloom had started already we still had at least 8-10m visibility and plenty of light.  We have descended in the bow area which stands a good 4m proud of the sea bed. The bow itself was simply covered in a large shoal of bib. Once past it, the hull plates had been flattened on the bottom, which has provided plenty of hiding places for crabs and lobsters. Most of the crabs encountered on this dive were in-berry and of impressive size. There was also plentiful of scallops to be found by those with keen eyes. I have also spotted a few Smallspotted Catsharks stalking crabs on the shingle.  Devonshire Cup Corals can be found on the hull plates, they are small in size but there is quite a number of them on that particular site. They one of the most colorful cup coral species in the UK waters and are simply a joy to see. Strangely I’ve only came across one or two Plumose Anemones attached to the hull, although the site is not sheltered from tide flow in any way.

We have enjoyed our dive and would have probably stayed down there longer, but sadly our agreed dive time was up and we needed to start our ascent. We have both deployed our DSMBs just above the bow and made by-the-book ascent to 6m where obligatory safety stops took place. Few minutes later we have surfaced and were picked by the boat. There were already divers on the boat and their excited faces told us straight away that they also had a fantastic dive. On the way back to the marina, most of the divers went for a second dive on the Brighton Chalk Ledges. The drift there is quite enjoyable if you manage to hit the actual ledges. If you miss it, it’s starfish city all the way through though 🙂 Having decided to miss that particular dive I packed by dive kit. I had been told that the visibility was much worse than on the wreck however everyone enjoyed the second dive too.

Once more Jaffa did not disappoint us. I would recommend this dive to anyone. It is especially great as a season opener. The visibility is often good and the depth is perfect for getting your dive legs back after the winter slumber. I will definitely dive it again!

Enjoy the below video courtesy of Jeremy. Thank you very much!