By Mark Lewis

By Mark Lewis

7th September 2021

This was a long awaited Weymouth weekend having carried forward the trip from 2020 due to Covid and again from March this year as accommodation was not available. But as the adage suggests, good things come to those who wait. It was the idea of Piers that we dive the HMS Sidon submarine but unfortunately with the date changes, he could not make it in the end.
With advertised depths of 32m and 34m for the HMS M2 and HMS Sidon respectively and although not outside of recreational depth limits, it was a convoluted buddy pairing exercise to ensure all divers were able to enjoy extended bottom times, especially as some divers were planning  accelerated decompression diving.

In the end, ten divers booked onto the trip but as the weekend approached, we had one casualty of a double booked diary commitment and two divers with various shoulder and foot ailments. These two latter divers happily attending as Boat Butlers for the weekend, making a first class experience to the excellent weather and indeed, visibility!

 

Tango of Weymouth

Tango of Weymouth
Other than myself who dived from Tango in 2018,  no-one else from the party had done so in the past. All, mesmerised by the huge size of the vessel, diving deck and wheelhouse. A purpose built Offshore 125, Tango is coded for 12 divers and can cater for them with ease with the large kitting up areas. A heated wheelhouse where divers can make themselves at home (no wet gear), a microwave, hot drink facilities and ten berth accommodation. There is a sea toilet and divers hydraulic lift.

Tango is permanently berthed alongside the popular bar and restaurant area of the Custom House Quay road and opposite the Harbour Master’s office. Loading was pretty much a breeze. Skipper Phil gave options of us to load the evening before or in the morning before ropes off. Kit can be stored overnight in the secure wheelhouse and massive storage holds. Simply park in one of the loading bays on the quay and it’s no more than 60 metres to Tango. Once loaded, simply park your car in one of the near council operated car parks. Day tripper permits are available from Phil at £7.20 a day. Simply drop your money in the honesty box, write Tango as the boat name, your registration number, then scratch off the date and your done! Easy as that.

 

Although we didn’t this time, for just £10.00 you can sleep aboard Tango rather than any of the local hotels and B&Bs. As Phil says, it’s a simple berth and you’ll need your own sleeping bag and pillow. Ideal for any diver on a budget or anyone wanting to be close to the Custom House Quay nightlife. Ablution facilities are at the Harbour Master office.
Tango of Weymouth charter charges are £560.00 a day for two dives, one a wreck and one a drift akin to all similar operators in Weymouth and Portland. With 12 divers, that’s a mere £47.00 each a day for two dives, though for us 10, £56.00 a day. Gas fills are from either the Old Harbour Dive Centre or a short trip to Portland to Underwater Explorers.
One important note is that Tango does not take bookings from individual divers and buddy pairs. It is a charter only business and should you wish to make a booking, it must be a group charter booking.

Saturday 4th September

We all arrived on the Friday evening at different times. Some divers loaded their kit the Friday and opted for a pint and pie at The Ship Inn on the quayside. Those not sipping simply arrived a little earlier this morning to load.
After the divers briefing, it was a slow transit to the site of the HMS M2 wreck. Phil made us all feel at home, insisting we use the wheelhouse as needed and offering tea and coffee as we left the berth.
All divers assembled their kit en-route as it was a good 60 minutes to the site.

Those two injured divers were Mandy and myself, demoted to Boat Butlers were beck and call of the remaining seven as they kitted up.

 

Dive buddies and teams today were Tony and Baz, Cat and Gareth with the threesome of Steve, Tom and Dave.
Seahorse Weymouth Divers

As I wasn’t diving today, back on board all divers were reporting a good 4-5m visibility and a water temperature of 17degC. Then it was time mugs of tea all round and a little tiffin as specially procured by Mandy. That afternoon’s dive was a supposed drift on the SS Gertrude [+1894] or the HMT James Fennel [+1920]? Even skipper Phil couldn’t tell you which one it was as both wrecks are around the same Blacknor Point area off Portland.

 

Back to harbour and gas fills. Baz, Tony and I went across to Portland while the rest went to Old Harbour Divers. Tony and Baz had a hole burning in their pocket and couldn’t resit a visit to Underwater Explorers. While we were waiting for gas, we three opted for lunch at the Cove House Inn at Chesil Cove.
It was rather amiss of me, but I didn’t think or consider meals on Saturday night and no restaurant reservations were made. Previous day discussions were that we’d simply enjoy some fish and chips on the seafront with perhaps a sitting at the Punch and Judy show, but as the afternoon progressed with discussions of “power naps” and tiredness, it was easy to see that the group would split this evening. While the rest enjoyed a Mexican delight at Cactus Jacks and Baz and Tony enjoying their power naps, I opted for a G&T in the hotel bar as I wasn’t sure about a hobble to the other side of town and back.

Sunday 5th September

We have good news!
My foot had got no worse from yesterday’s activities and now with cylinders filled with gas, it was an easy decision to get to the Sidon. After all, this was the primary target and dive objective of the weekend. A quick message to our WhatsApp group and we were all set, the question was will I buddy with Tony and Baz or Tom?
HMS Sidon
With Tom recently qualified in decompression diving and us both diving the Bouncing Bombs last month, it made sense that we buddy together today. The plan was akin to our Loch Striven trip, a simple agreed ascent time of gas pressure remaining or TTS, whatever came first.
The dive was down the shot to the wreck, the shot laying over the top of the of the hull, aft of the conning tower. We dropped towards the seabed at a depth of 34m and levelled out to swim to the stern. With a rich 34% Nitrox mix, we dipped over the maximal 1.4 PPO, so ascended slightly as we arrived at the stern. The rudder was clearly in place together with the propshafts, but no propellers. From here we made our way to the bow, taking the opportunity to swim along the hull at 29m, arriving at the bow for a look at the torpedo tubes. Back along the top of the submarine to find the torpedo loading hatches and the conning tower. Back towards the stern once again and turn around to the conning tower, where we planned a DSMB ascent.
Bottom time was around 45 minutes with an 11 minute TTS and 8 minute stop at six metres. We deployed our DSMB and leveled to 21m to switch to our 50% deco gas with Tom having an obligated stop at 18m. We made our way to 6m, where we stayed for the remaining (by then) 7 minutes. Once deco was clear, it was a metre by metre ascent to the surface.
  • Dive Date: 5th Sept 2021
  • Dive Time: 10.16am
  • Cylinders: 2x12L Twinset
  • Cylinders: 1x7L Stage
  • Dive Duration: 55m:50s
  • Max Depth: 33.60m
  • Ave Depth: 23.21m
  • Temp: 16degC
  • Visibility: 4-6m Hazy
We have no pictures to show, but all divers were welcomed back on board, de-finned and offered a hot tea and a delicious Cornish pasty. All courtesy of Boat Butler Mandy. A new bar has been set?
Our second dive was back to the site near Blacknor Point and the wreckage of SS Gertrude / HMT James Fennel. There was an option of a scallop drift, but as everyone forgot their goodie bags, no scallops today but a meander around the twisted metal and boulders.
View towards Chesil Cove from Blacknot Point.

All In All

All in all, everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The weather was slightly overcast in the earlier part of the morning, but clearing to a cloud free lunch. The weather gods were certainly on our side. Weymouth is a pretty and popular seaside resort and I think I for one, prefer it to the more baron landscape of Portland. Some divers see free parking at Portland a benefit and others, the long hike from car park to boat a challenge, especially if there are no trolleys. For me, Tango is ideally placed with easy loading and plenty of seaside activities. It was disappointing that we could not attend the synonymous Punch and Judy show, but next time for sure.

And On That Note

And on that note, please diary 3rd/4th September 2022 for our next outing and start booking your accommodation now. Dive sites to be agreed, but ideally I’d like to make a return to HMS Sidon on one of the days. It’s a cracking submarine!