21st -23rd of June 2024

After a rough start, the trip to Portland was a real gem. A combination of
transport, health, work and personal issues saw the initial group of 8 reduced to 4,
one of whom arrived after midnight on Friday night!

The weather at the tail end of the week had seen the wind pick up on Friday
afternoon and overnight into Saturday, but the day dawned bright and calm(er).

The Hotel Aqua provided the usual excellent accommodation and breakfast, and due
to the very civilised ropes-off time, the divers even had time for a trip to Underwater
Explorers (high risk of spending LOTS of money) and the coffee shop in the marina,
as well as the obligatory stop at Greggs to grab lunch.

The usual faff-with-kit/put-kit-
on-boat/faff-some-more/go-ashore-to-use-the-proper-loo sequence was followed by
all and away we went!

The trip out to the Aeolian Sky was a little “sporting”, but fortunately, we had some
experienced divers/sailors on hand to provide guidance and support on tying the kit to the rail. Alas, the same support and guidance did little for one of our numbers, who lost his breakfast before hitting the water.

The visibility on the wreck was fabulous, somewhere between 5 and 10 metres, and it was lovely and light. Descending the shot line, the vast wreck was distinguishable from around 15m. Seabed depth was around 32 metres, with the wreck lying on her port side, with the high point of her starboard gunwale at around 21m. Sunk in 1979, the Sky was a bulk carrier with mixed cargo that included trucks, Land Rovers and allegedly £4million of Seychelles Rupees. The trucks can still be seen in one of the forward holds, but there was no sign of the bank notes!
One pair, suitably qualified and equipped with DPVs and rebreathers, spent an entire
hour on the wreck, the whole of the slack window, plus a little more, touring the vessel’s length twice, plus a detour to explore an auxiliary machinery space. The remaining team took a more conservative approach, spending their somewhat shorter bottom time investigating the holds.
The depth of the top of the wreck makes the ascent easy – divers can either choose
to shoot a DSMB from the cover of the wreck or make a free ascent to their first
stop at around 15m before deploying. The water was warm and inviting on the
ascent, as the divers drifted under their DSMBs, with lots of the little “disco
gooseberry” jellyfish to keep the diver company as they complete their safety (or
deco) stops, although the enduring swell meant that the usual perfectly executed 1
minute stops at 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 meters became more of a 5, 4, “nope, let’s just
ascend nice and slowly” profile!
Back at the surface, the sun was shining, but the sea was still a little lumpy, which
made regaining the deck more challenging than usual, but thanks to the expert
Skipper, we all made it safely back aboard.

The slow steam back to the coastline proved a little too much for some, with one
diver choosing to sit out the afternoon’s session to stare at the horizon and another
utterly immobilised by sea sickness. The remainder of the group then enjoyed a
delightful drift dive over the scallop beds of Lulworth Banks – a true British Classic,
with 5m of visibility at 21m. Scallops were duly checked for size on the boat and, upon return to the marina, kept in a mesh bag attached to the pontoon to remain fresh for the trip home.

Dinner on Saturday was an utter triumph, with the crew doing their damnedest to put
the all-you-can-eat Asian buffet at The Gurkha in Weymouth out of business. Highly
recommended for a return trip!

Sunday saw the usual suspects off to the wreck of the Pomeranian on the other side of Portland Bill.

The long steam out there was a lot calmer than the previous day, although the remaining oily swell was still there to play tricks with the stomachs of the unwary. Fortunately, better medicated, better adjusted, or a little of both, no one suffered seasickness on Sunday!

The Pomeranian proved to be another great dive, but very different from the Sky –
sitting on a seabed at 33-35m, with the top of the wreck at around 30m, this would
be a shorter bottom time. Visibility was about 3-5m, varying in different spots around
the wreck and much darker than the previous dives. Another large cargo vessel, this
one, lies on her Starboard side, having been torpedoed by a U-boat in 1918. Her hull
forward of the superstructure has partially collapsed, while the superstructure has
also collapsed to give a large debris field, leaving a somewhat L-shaped dive site.

With a slight change to the dive teams, both were pursuing similar profiles around 30-minute bottom time, dictated by running out of no-deco time or hitting the
agreed-on minimum gas for the dive. One pair chose to follow the main hull, managing a
slow out-and-back trip, spotting all manner of sea life, while the other team
concentrated their dive around the debris field of the superstructure. Both teams
surfaced smiling, together as teams, safely, and with plenty of gas in reserve, which,
as the Dive Supervisor, I am calling a win!

The final dive of the weekend was a lesser-known but very rewarding wreck; the
Gertrude. While there’s not much written about this wreck, it makes a brilliant
second dive on the west of the Bill. The wreckage is well spread out and easy to
miss due to her cargo of granite chips. It’s easy to dismiss something as a ledge in
the seabed, but if you look closer, you can see a steel hull
plate filled on top with granite chips, with a vast void beneath that hides all manner of sea life. A giant octopus was seen on previous dives, but there was
no sign on our dive. Visibility was excellent, around 8-10m, and very bright at between 10 and 18m in depth.

After a good old rummage, the surge was picking up, and it was time to leave. The
boat ride home was full of smiles, which even endured through the offloading
process, and although the drive home was long and featured some significant
holiday traffic, it was worth it.

10/10 would dive again!