Saturday morning and Derek''s eagerly awaited Dive Weekend had finally arrived!

Saturday

Getting to Hope Cove village is always very nice when the weather''s good and though the sea was a bit choppy because of the persistent SW wind, it was dry and sunny.  The sunshine was especially welcome - we''d just had the wettest, miserablest June for nearly 100 years!

A last minute alteration of the dive list saw me on a reef dive off Bolt Tail and after a wobbly ride out from the beach at Outer Hope in the ''squidgy'' Gary and Alan put in, followed shortly after by Peter and myself. We went straight down through some murky and bitty patches and sent the blob up from the bottom. Then we were off, the overwhelming current took us flying over reefy outcrops and gullies. I had set my compass and was all ready to head east (as suggested by Phil who was boathandling) but this was not going to happen and I think Peter was laughing at me when I pointed at my compass. Anyway Peter taught me to go with the flow and it was great; I was the little boy out of Raymond Briggs ''The Snowman''. 

Wildlife highlights were the large shiny blue cuckoo wrasse, and a type of branching yellow sponge I hadn''t seen before. There were sea urchins, starfish, and pink sea-fans in some of the gullies. The craggy reef edges were very pretty and had a lot on them. Amongst the knobbly edges were hollows with plants, sponges, fan-worms, sea-squirts etc, and fish that were perfect aquariums in miniature.

Down to 100bar we started our ascent and Peter reeled up (which I know now would have been easier if I''d pulled the line as he did so). We were still going with the current and holding the 6m stop was quite tricky and we yo-yoed between 5m and 7m. On surfacing I was glad to see MIR; better suited to the presently lumpy sea around Bolt Tail. Peter was a bit sea-sick, and I too felt a bit of motion-sickness and had to remind myself to look at the horizon a few times.

It was nice to be back on solid ground, but was very satisfied with a good dive and an interesting and educational experience. I would do it again right now if I could! In the afternoon Yas and I went for a nice walk along the cliff top towards Thurlstone.

Sunday

Back at Hope Cove first thing Sunday morning we were delighted to discover that the wind had dropped right off and that it was still sunny. It was an early start to make the slack water required to dive the Maine, a British cargo steamer full of horsehair, goatskins, and chalk, torpedoed by a U-Boat in 1917. A classic wreck and the favourite of many I was very excited to be diving it! I was buddied with Phil; also diving were Chris and Debbie, and Terry and Peter C. Clint boathandled.

Down the shot into the current and murk, and past the fuzzy dark bulk of the bow to the sandy bottom I soon relaxed (in fact I was far more relaxed than I thought I might be on this, my deepest dive so far and a new wreck).

The Maine was superb! Reasonably intact, upright and on an even keel; she is very interesting and has lots to explore, and beautifully encrusted. There also plenty of life on her; we saw pollack, wrasse, and found a lobster. There were lots of soft corals, various sponges, plumose anemones (very nice pink and white ones), jewel anemones etc. The vis was perhaps about 10m and it was sunny and light at deck level.

Phil''s tour took us from the shot to the portside of the bow along the seabed, to the holed section, then up over wreckage onto the main deck and over the framing girders. We took our time over the deck, and I took a few pictures. We arrived at some upstanding metalwork where we found a big fat conger resting amongst some pipes. We then swam through some structure to get to the stern and had a quick look around. The return was made along the starboard side, where I enjoyed swimming along the edge looking down over the sides. Where the crankshaft (?) was, near an intact bulkhead, we crossed back to the port side. Above the rear facing opening of the bow section we could see Chris''s and Debbie''s torches playing within as we carried on to the pointy end and over to the shot.

The ascent was smooth and steady and deco passed pleasantly in the sun watching the effervescent, and the silvery UFO-bubbles of the divers below wobble their way to the surface.

After some kit sorting, and time on the beach for a little rest and seeing the second wave launched, Peter W, Geoff H, Lucy, and Abigail, readied for a training dive from the shore. Nik and I prepared for a dive around the Shippen; and Gary and Rachel went snorkelling. Vis was very good and it was a very pleasant dive (away from the rocks and the rebounding surge). We were mainly over the intertidal zone but the scenery, with the sun over the weedy outcroppings was very nice. Shanny skipped about on the shallowest rocks, sprats shoaled, and here and there below the masses of kelp and thongweed were ballan wrasse, spiny starfish, and fan-worms. When Nik got low(er) on air - she still had enough for 2 or 3 more dives ;)! - we ascended for the short surface swim/snorkel back to the beach.

I was really ''chuffed'' with three very different, very wonderful dives. The weekend was perfect - great weather, great diving, great buddies. Thank you to Derek for organising, and boathandlers and towers, and everyone else who made it happen. Thanks Yasmin for that early start on Sunday!!