Sark 2009 Back to the Past…. by
Chris Boddington (click here for photos)
Back in the dizzy days of 2005 a crew of Croydon BSAC adventurers
went off to the Channel Islands to explore a rock lost in time called
Sark 2005 gallery). This was generally a fantastic trip, where the viz was near
perfect, the group a collection of old friends and new and the booze was
both copious and cheap…Now we were back, this time 3 of the 2005 crew
were joined by other adventurers, many from outside of the Croydon BSAC
Paul and I drove down to Weymouth on the Sunday afternoon in bright
sunshine stuffing cocktail sausages and mini pasties down our necks all
the way. The trip began as the ancient tradition dictates: i.e. that any
visit to Weymouth must include beers in the Red Lion followed by a curry
in the Weymouth Tandoori.
The next morning we were awoken by the sound of church bells, which
was lucky as neither of our alarms had gone off and we had less than an
hour to make it to the ferry. Needless to say after a quick shower it
was all aboard the Condor Express for the crossing to Guernsey. Others
had driven down that morning, (the ferry departed at 7am) and were
obviously tired, whilst some of us were full of the delights of spring.
After an uneventful ferry crossing we met Steve and Caroline at the
quayside in St Peter Port and quickly loaded our gear onto our familiar
mistress Channel Diver. The crew for the eek consisted of Paul B, Dave
E, Chris V, Chris B, Dave and Margie from Croydon BSAC; Jon and Phil
from Norf of Watford somewhere; and Bob and Sandra from Kingston BSAC
(don’t say a word). Andy, a friend of Bob and Sandra’s who lives on
Guernsey, also joined us for a few days diving through the week.
Once kit was loaded and assembled we were off to our first dive, the
Dr Rudolf Warendorf .This is the small wreck of a German armed trawler,
sunk in 1944 by British aircraft lying in 34m just outside the harbour
mouth. 1 hour dive time max was given due to the arrival of another
ferry. The viz was limited to 4m in a torch beam, there was plenty of
sediment in the water, and we attributed this to the harbour mouth. It
was an interesting dive, large, upright and fairly intact. A nice little
dive to start the week with, even if the viz wasn’t all that.
Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case with week trips a few
little “issues” reared their ugly heads: Rick found that his dry-suit
inflator fell apart so enjoyed a brief but wet dive; Margie missed this
dive too with a filling falling out and she needed to visit the dentist
on Guernsey; Dave (D.O) didn’t dive as he felt unwell. Much weakness
shown: Not the best of starts to the week…Post dive we cracked open a
beer, and headed to Sark, after picking up Margie and David-not-the-D.O.
(who also missed the first dive due to work commitments).
Sark is an island without cars. Yes that’s right, without cars.
Everything is moved by tractor, except people who have to walk or ride
bicycles. On arrival at Maseline Harbour we loaded up a tractor with our
kit, jumped in and then got stopped by the police for riding in the
tractor! Luckily this was outside the pub, so we popped in for a swift
one (@ less than £2 a pint!!!). An important note for those going to
Sark, don’t expect to get food in a pub! Luckily we booked into the
Stocks hotel for dinner, so we were well fed later in the night. We were
staying in a thatched cottage, run by the Sark diving operator, Andy.
Dave (D.O) shared a room with Chris V, Phil and Jon (Phil and Jon kindly
joined the trip and now probably regret it). As the night unfolded Chris
V ended up sleeping outside the downstairs bathroom, whilst Phil ended
up sleeping in the lounge. Apparently Dave (D.O) snores and farts
The next day we were up early to dive two 30m wrecks on the Jersey
coast. We had hoped for better viz, but alas it was not too great. In
the torchlight the it reached about 5 metres, outside of this it was
black as black. Both wrecks were surprisingly intact and sitting
For the first dive we had planned to make the 27 mile run to the
M343, but sea conditions dicated that this wasn’t a good idea so we
changed to the
was a Dutch freighter which sank
after hitting a reef in 1943 while under the command of the German
forces. She now sits upright, 225 feet long and almost completely intact
on the seabed, about a mile off Portelet Bay on the south of the island
in 32m. Every inch of the wreck is covered in marine life and a huge
shoal of pouting hang like a thick silvery curtain over the open holds.
The first two holds still contain the remains of their cargo sacks of
cement and iron girders that are now home to some huge lobsters and
conger eels. The third hold is now eerily empty. It was carrying the
occupying German troops who were travelling to France on leave, most of
whom perished when the ship went down. Sifting through the silt in this
area can still reveal interesting artefacts, as well as many pieces of
broken glass bottles and china. Rumour has it that several French
"ladies of the night" were also on board and that they too perished when
the ship went down. The German authorities of the time always denied the
presence of any women on board, but divers have often found perfume
bottles, stiletto heels and other such items. On the dive the viz had a
milkiness to it, with meant that outside the central beam of torches
that fish and wreckage took on a semi ghostly hue. Descending the shot
line the ambient light vanished very soon, and the torch beams reached a
mere 2m downwards. I remained near the fore of the ship, the bow had a
raised forecastle, of which little remained.
The afternoon dive produced clearer viz, albeit again very black. The
Heron, 58m long, made a navigational error in 1961 and is
reported to have struck Flat Rock on the Paternosters Reef. It would
have been truly superb in better viz, still the holds and decking were
in great condition. I swam down companion ways alongside the holds, and
to a very strange stern which looked like it had been sliced off, but I
believe was for laying cables out of during some point in it’s life. The
marine life was very skittish, more so than the usual life out of
Margie missed these dives due to her Dry-suit zip going pop and as a
result she’s made the (frankly mental) decision to return to wetsuits.
Dave (D.O) slept all day, Chris V showed weakness as well for the second
dive, (although forgetting to do up your dry-suit zips (NOTE PLEURAL)
and blaming it on other people then realising it was yourself, is not
really weakness. Foolishness yes, weakness no).
Post dive it was back to the rock for a beer in the pub and a meal at
Tide and Time, (all the staff seemed about 15). Chris was ribbed about
zips for the rest of the week, as was Dave (D.O) for sleeping.
The Weather was blowing well and truly the next day, and any distant
ventures were put on hold, so some scenic diving planned. Weakness was
again shown by Dave (D.O), Margie and now Phil due to sea-sickness.
The shallower scenic dives provided better viz of about 6 metres with
much more ambient light. It appears if your name is Chris you should not
be allowed to do these scenic dives, as they tend to forget any
semblance of diving rules and just stick their heads, hands and video
cameras under the kelp and look for invertebrates. Dave K managed to
lose his buddies (all three of them), do the longest dive time of the
dive (1 hour 5 minutes), ascend solo on a pinnacle and not deploy his
SMB. He surfaced to see lots of relieved faces and some quiet words. He
did find some nudibranchs though.
The Tinkerers (rebreather divers) basically sat out the second dive,
such weakness!! Chris B’s drysuit wrist seal split with a good 2 inch
tear in it, but a gaffa tap repair later and he was off again. Thanks to
PB’s instant suit repairs.
Again the bubble merchants were in their element; with the Chris’s
again head down in holes looking for nudibranchs, shrimp, crabs and
lobsters. This time Chris B (me) got the stern look from PB, as he
surfaced dead on 1hr 15mins (the max dive time), SMB was deployed, but
not till 1hour 10mins. Squat lobsters and juvenile fish abound. The
video housing had some new scratches on it, but it was worth it. Back to
the rock for an early afternoon tipple and a home cooked meal, thanks to
Margie and Phil.
Thursday was to be a deeper dive, due the gaffa tape seal being
properly fixed I showed weakness and ducked out of this days diving,
choosing to fish for mullet instead. The morning dive was on another
shallow scenic, 10m, and there were but 3 people jumping in, Chris V,
David K and Jon. The afternoon dive was a deeper 50m wreck,
another German minesweeper. The viz was better down deep, and the wreck
in superb conditions. Paul and Dave E (yes the DO did dive) pulled up an
8lb crab and a rather large lobster, not to be beaten Sandra weighed in
with another large crab as did Chris V. All tasted great on the bbq.
The penultimate day was spent again on a scenic dive in shallow
waters. The dive was early afternoon, due to Steve, Caroline and Rick
returning from St. Peter Port. The dive was a nice rummage around a rock
stack, and the vis was 6m+. Again squat lobsters and juvenile fish were
in abundance. This time, something freaky happened, Chris V, Dave K and
Chris B managed to stay as a buddy 3 throughout the dive. Chris B even
took a 10lt stage bottle in on this 17m dive. Weakness was shown by
several members of the expedition, PB obviously excused as he had a
letter, but the rest had no excuse.
That night was Caroline’s birthday and we went off to celebrate at
the top rated restaurant on Sark (Little Sark actually). All went well
until we got there. The waiter manage to suggest that Phil might lose
his knee caps if he asked for an omelette, Jon ordered tuna only to be
told while they handed out the main courses that they had no tuna, Chris
B and Dave E received their mains first but no veg so sat around waiting
whilst their food when cold etc.. After some diplomacy by Margie and
Dave E the issues were patched up with either free drinks for people or
free evenings for Chris B and Dave E. It was latter explained that the
normal manager of the establishment was away and they children where
left in charge, all the staff looked like child labourers.
The final day, met with another 50m dive on the
"Tug & Two Barges", although weakness was shown
by Phil, Margie and Chris B. The dive was great and the viz much
improved. Crab sandwiches were handed out from the 8lb crabs, and
enjoyed. The afternoon and evening was spent in St Peter’s Port ending
the week as it had begun, with a curry !!!
We waved goodbye to Steve and Caroline who were already busy with the
next group who had arrived on the morning ferry. The weather was due to
pick up even more for their week…We boarded the ferry around 11pm and
finally reached home, very tired around 4am.
Cheers once again to all and to Pot Bellied Paul for organising the
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