Charter
Charter boats in Weymouth Harbour.

Moving eastwards along the South Coast, most divers think of the English Channel as starting around Start Point or Portland. The big diving attraction is the sheer number of wrecks, with new ones still being found.
Bexley Sub Aqua Club, Kent, has been a holiday regular with Weymouths Skin Deep for more than 30 years, from when the late Andy Smith was skipper, with B&B accommodation run by Andys wife Margaret. The boat has been replaced a couple of times, the current catamaran being Skin Deep 3, skippered by Ian Taylor, with Margaret still providing B&B. A second catamaran, Skin Deeper, is on the way.
Bexley member Gary Nunn was on the first trip. Thirty years ago they only did weekends, and we did three per year.
When they introduced week-long holidays this changed to two weekends and one week. It usually splits as a less-experienced weekend, a deep weekend, and diving on the weeks holiday depends on experience.
Experienced club members prefer the deeper air dives on wrecks such as the P&O liner Salsette, using nitrox where it helps, but trimix is considered too limited and too advanced for their club diving.
Not surprisingly, Gary has dived all the usual wrecks in the area and has some vivid memories. The M2 was my first 100ft dive, quite an achievement before we went metric. A real thrill was to dive the Buccaneer, when it was hardly dived and much more intact. Since then I have dived it with vis good enough to see both ends and Skin Deep above us. Pretty good for a wreck at 48m.
Gary has seen diving shift: Advances in suit technology, techniques, computers, air capacity and nitrox have all changed the way we dive, but I still enjoy returning to wrecks I dived years ago, as well as diving new wrecks.
Dive boats have also changed. Skin Deep was the first to have a diver lift, a development that divers all over the UK now appreciate.
All clubs have a turnover of divers, and those on the holiday change from year to year, but what keeps Gary returning The diving is still as good as it was the first time in Weymouth. Its unusual for me to want to return to the same place twice, so the fact that I have been returning year after year for 30 years shows how much I value the set-up. Ill keep going back until Im too old for it, says Gary.
The club has also taken Skin Deep further afield, several times to the Isle of Wight, staying in caravans, and also across to Cherbourg, where members stayed in holiday chalets.
Out of Cherbourg, the troopship Leopoldville was stunning, says Gary. We could hit the upper side at 30m, then gather our thoughts before heading deeper. We dived it again a few years later, on a liveaboard trip to Normandy.
Further up the Channel, Paul Green and Stockport Underwater Diving Group have been returning to Littlehampton for 14 years. They did a couple of weekends with skipper Ivan Warren on Michelle Mary before they booked their first week-long holiday, and have been mixing weekends, midweeks and longer holidays ever since.
We began with the usual wrecks, the Northcoates, the Basil and that, then we progressed to the Moldavia and the deeper wrecks, says Paul.
On my first dive on the Moldavia the visibility was so good I just floated at the break and watched all the other divers swimming about in the distance.
With a quest for un-dived wrecks, their trips are now mostly dedicated to trimix. We head offshore for wrecks between 50 and 70m, maybe doing the Moldavia or Duke of Buccleugh as
a shakedown dive at the start of the week. A big success was identifying U86. Ivan has so many marks to explore.
A second dive on the way back from the Moldavia provided another notable find. We dived the Shirala because we had to wait for the tide before we could get back into Littlehampton, and Ivan wanted a crab for the pot.
We found 10 diamonds and eight pairs of gold earrings. Such luck comes from knowing the wreck so well that we know where to look, says Paul.
Weve always declared everything to the Receiver. Weve come to know her quite well!

  • Bexley Sub Aqua Club BSAC (www.bexleysubaqua.co.uk); Stockport Underwater Diving Group BSAC (www.stockportdiver.org); Skin Deep (www.skindeepdiving.co.uk); Michelle Mary (www.michellemary.co.uk)

  • Find
    Find a shoal of pouting swirling about, like these off Weymouth, and chances are the wreck is close by.
    Tried
    Tried and found guilty - Gary Pittaway.
    A
    A cluster of artillery shells on the wreck of the Basil off Littlehampton, Sussex.
    Paul
    Paul Webster of Stockport Underwater Diving Group aboard the Michelle Mary.