Friday, 17 August 2012

JACK INGLE SOUTH COAST DIVING EXPEDITION

On the request of a few people, I’d thought I’ll write a trip report for a Jack Ingle mid-week expedition I’ve done out of Littlehampton.

The day started early at 0500 on Tuesday 22 June for the journey down to Littlehampton.  The journey was easy enough and the town looks a lovely place.  After the M25 traffic, I arrived at 0900 and met up with Jack and prepped my kit for the 1000 ropes off.  Andy arrived shortly after after going via the hotel and we settled in on the boat.  The weather was glorious sunshine; what more could I ask for?  Tuesdays dive was to be the Moldavia; as Jack says ‘the best wreck dive in the UK’ and after diving it, I think he has a fair point but let’s not argue on that.  The Moldavia was a 9505-ton P&O liner, which became an armed Merchant Cruiser in the 1914-18 war.  A U-Boat sank her in 1918 captained by Ober-Leutnant Lohs.  She now lies on her port side in 49 metres with her high side at 35 metres; this makes her a very exciting and enjoyable dive with generally excellent visibility. She carried eight 6 inch guns and when built fitted with over 1000 portholes.  After a 26 mile trip out (about 2hrs) the shot was dropped and trapeze lowered and we waited for slack.  Once we got the nod we all kitted up and went in.  Jack was already in, making sure we tagged out and pointed us in the direction of the bow.  The wreck is far too big to see in one dive so at the brief it was decided to concentrate on the bow.  The first thing that struck me apart from the sheer size of the wreck was the visibility.  It was crystal clear.  Seriously, I couldn’t believe it.  I’m a big fan of UK diving but this was something else.  Although I carried a distance line, it wasn’t used due to the visibility however we did attach a strobe to the shot line clipped on about 10m off the bottom.  This then made it simple to identify the line from anywhere on the wreck.

One the bottom we had a look around the shot area, noting the huge 4.7 inch gun that was intact and pointing upwards.  We descended to the bottom and swam through some of the collapsed wreckage towards the bow.  The bow is really open with a massive swim through that goes quite a way through the wreck.  At about 18 minutes, Andy and I entered the wreck.  Inside we could see light penetrating through so we continued until we got to this area.  At this point, further penetration could have been achieved but we decided to exit the wreck and return to the shot.  The light was coming from an area where plates had collapsed and with a bit of wiggling I managed to get through.  It took Andy a bit more squeezing and with a little bit of help he was free.  We exited near to the shot and at 30 minutes began out ascent.  We were the last pair to leave the bottom but only just; most divers had between 20-30 minutes bottom time.  Once we reached the trapeze transfer line, I removed our tag but decided to leave the transfer line attached for Jack to disconnect as briefed.  At the trapeze, Jack came back down to see if we were all ok before disconnecting it.  During the decompression it’s safety in numbers; 12 people around the trapeze at various levels plus the deco bottle hanging for emergencies so we were confident that if there was a problem, it could easily be resolved underwater.  Following a lot of decompression we completed the dive and surfaced at 80 minutes and waited for the boat to pick us up.  Upon the boat, we all laughed and joked and told stories about the dive before heading off on the long trip back. 

Here is probably a good time to talk about the boat.  The Voyager is one of 3 boats (to my knowledge) operating from Littlehampton.  The other 2 are Our Joy and Michelle Mary.  Having seen all 3 boats in person (the other 2 were moored up), the Voyager is definitely the largest of the 3.  There was comfortably enough room for 13 divers (OC and CC) plus kit and stages.  On the way back we ate our lunch and generally chilled out.  Each day, prior to the dive, Jack goes to Tesco and buys ample sandwiches, cake bars, biscuits, crisps, fruit, juice etc... and if there’s anything specific you want, he’ll buy it.  It’s all included in the cost.  Once we arrived safely back at Littlehampton we dropped our cylinders off with Jack for filling and retired back to the hotel; the Arun View.  The Arun View is just one of a few hotels that Jack recommends and at £25 per person per night including breakfast, it’s pretty reasonable.  The staff were friendly and the food was superb.  Everyone met up at 1930 for a group meal before we all retired to bed.  The only down side was that our (Andy and I) room was directly above the bar so we were kept awake with the music but the staff apologised the next day and the music was turned down.

0900 breakfast then off to Osbornes boatyard for another days diving.  Wednesdays dive was the Mexico.  The Mexico, or City of Mexico for her full name was a cargo liner and lies in a maximum depth of 48 metres. She is upright and large hull sections are raised 10 metres from the seabed. The wreck has an enormous amount of fish on it.  At 1100 we left the harbour and headed the 30 miles out to sea.  On setting up the kit Andy noticed that whilst trying to exit the Moldavia, he managed to put a slice through his HP hose.  Luckily Jack had a spare and this was soon sorted.  However the HP dramas didn’t end there as one of the other divers turned on his deco gas only to head a loud ‘crack’ followed by a rush of air.  Once the cylinder was turned off it became apparent that the plastic cover over the HP gauge popped off.  Beaver.... buy cheap buy twice....!  Once again, this was soon rectified and we continued our journey out to sea.  In a similar manner to the previous day, the shot and trapeze was in and we waited for slack water.  Whilst kitting up and fidgeting, Andy accidently rested his twinset on his mask smashing it in the process.  Luckily, someone had a spare on the boat and he was good to dive.  Lesson learnt!  Don’t leave your spare mask in the car.  I always have a spare in my dry suit pocket.  On the way down, Jack was again waiting however this time he was in possession of a China tray he found on the bottom.  Although good, the visibility was not as good as the previous day, however torches were still not required.  The wreck was much smaller than the Moldavia and is easy to do in one dive.  Imagine the Elk, but bigger and deeper with holds to penetrate.  On the wreck I saw the biggest lobster and crabs I’ve seen in the UK as well as lots of free swimming eels.  The bottom time today was 25 minutes and again were the last to leave the bottom.  The decompression was done without any problems but a point to note; even with 40% and 80% deco mixes, our total time was 60 minutes.  An extra 5 minutes bottom time = an extra 20 minutes total time.

Once the cylinders were in, we all headed off to the hotel for another meal.  Once again, the food was superb (and the waitresses were hot) and a pleasant evening was had.  Jack popped in to say hello but unfortunately he couldn’t stay as he had to blend all the gas for the final days diving but more on that to come.  After a few beers it was back to bed (for a much quieter night this time).

It was decided that for the last day, we would catch the early slack to avoid finishing at about 1830 and finish around 1400 instead to allow everyone to travel home.  After a 0630 breakfast, it was ropes off at 0730 and we headed out to the Duke.  The Duke, or Duke of Buccleugh to give her full name is a cargo vessel that sunk in 1898 whilst carrying glass and chinaware from Holland to India.  This is a very interesting wreck to dive with lots of different types of glass cargo to see.  The load includes small china glass candleholders, tumblers, jars, teapots, dishes, plates and oil lamps.  Once again, it was another 2.5 hours to the site and with the shot and trapeze in, we descended down.  We were brought back to earth with a bump today because the visibility is what I would expect from the UK.  It wasn’t bad by any means; we’d probably just been spoilt the last few days.  The seabed is at 60m but on advice, we decided not to head down there as there is nothing to see.  Instead we all stuck to the top of the wreck at around 52-56m to hunt for trophies.  At the bottom of the shot was the hold where all the crockery was to be found but Andy and I ignored this and headed towards the bow to look for the glass.  On the way we passed the huge funnel that had broken off and the boiler before dropping into the hold for a ‘rummage’.  5 minutes later our net bags were laden with glass bowls, glasses and candle holders and we headed back to the shot for some crockery.  As we headed back others were heading for the glass.  The glass is to be found in the hold just before the bow section breaks away.  There is plenty on the deck but if you rummage around in the mud you may be surprised at what you can find.  As we neared the shot, divers were everywhere.  Most of the crockery out in the open was broken so I left my bag with Andy and dropped down into a hold.  Inside there were stacks of plates so if gentle enough you could lift a whole stack out.  I began passing plates up and out to Andy who placed them down.  Unfortunately time was running out so I exited, grabbed a plate and started the ascent.  On the way up, Andy and I clipped our bags to the lift bag.  Once we got to the transfer line, we clipped the bag to the shot line and sent it up.  Following another 50 minutes deco we left the water on 85 minutes and de-kitted.  Upon checking our finds, Andy’s bag appeared to be missing but his clip was on there.  It transpires the bag ripped off on its way up.  Mine did the same but luckily because it was clipped on in 2 places, the second saved it.  Everyone compared their buried treasure and we headed back to land.  Once back to Littlehampton we de-kitted, loaded the cars and departed to the 4 winds.

So what was the cost of all this?  The cost was £340 per person.  This includes all gas (except helium), lunch and dives.  On top of this there’s the accommodation and fuel.  Although this may seem expensive, to hire the boat would cost over £600 compared to the £350-£450 most boats charge.  This is due to the distance travelled and fuel costs.  If you then include lunch and gas fills (twin plus 2 stages), it’s not that much more than you or I would pay if we did it by ourselves, however there’s the added knowledge of Jack plus the safety factor of drop tanks, deco trapeze and support divers so in my mind it’s worthwhile paying.  Would I do it again?  Definitely.

I’d like to thank everyone who went for a great trip and look forward to doing it again.  If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask.

The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.

Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI and SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: tim@rectotec.co.uk l