By Mark Lewis

By Mark Lewis

12th October 2020

It’s one of the reasons why I keep a filled cylinder at home and with my diary earmarked with each neap tide, I await the text message from Mutiny Divers with their dive schedule. With all my weather and tidal apps suggesting near perfect conditions and a confirmation text from Chris as an affirmative that he has spaces, it was a planned ‘down and back in a day drive to Dover’ for a leisurely 09.00am meeting for the ‘Perrier Wreck’ and 16.30pm for HMS Brazen. That changed when I found that the Premier Inn was selling rooms at £35.00 a night and better still, the new Travelodge was selling a double room on a room only basis for £24.99 a night. It was a gradual drive down on Sunday evening to meet Chris, Nigel and Guss for a socially distanced pint.

While in the pub, discussions diverted onto Monday’s dives and with Brazen off the list, options were open as to whether we dived the Perrier Wreck or select a different site. With last orders at 10.00pm, a relatively early night with plenty of time in the morning to arrive at the marina.

Having thought I fixed the secondary regulator on my primary post that was still wet breathing the day before, symptoms materialised again. Having thought I would need to abort the dive, I was lent an XTX 40 for the dive. Bingo!

There were only three divers onboard today. Tom, another Mark and me, together with the crew of Leo, Chris and Guss the chocolate Labrador. A very pleasant and spacious deck for the morning. Not surprisingly, the target of the Perrier Wreck changed to the SS Latona [1876] as multiple discussions of ideal visibility promoted of a visit to a site not often dived. With slack forecasted for around 11.15am it was an informal ropes off around 10.15am for the half-hour transit to the site.

"On February 2nd, 1876, the British cargo ship LATONA, built in 1856 by J. S. & J. R. Wolf, on voyage from London to Genoa with general cargo and mixed goods, sank after a collision with SILISTRA, off Shakespeare Cliff, Dover."

Jan Lettens - Wrecksite.EU

With only three divers, Tom would lead, followed by Mark and then me as tail-end Charlie. Tom on his CCR, the pair of us Marks on twins. Having opted for a 32% nitrox fill (which is ideal for diving Dover, being pretty much all most inshore wrecks are within the 28m to 32m range), I’d be able to extend my NDL.

On the descent, there was still a gentle current with a good 8-metre visibility. I could easily see Tom in front of Mark.

Chris had shot the wreck perfect! Right on the stern and with a good 5 metres visibility, navigation back to the shot would be easily achieved.

Then, recalling Tom’s dive briefing earlier onboard Maverick, we would drop into the cargo holds for a little rummage. A bottle here and a bottle there, partly buried in the silt. As you can imagine, visibility dropped to zero, but with the holds being uncovered and open above, it was a simple ascent a couple of metres and let the gentle current, drift off the unsettled silt. All very relaxed.

At 32 minutes into the dive and at 26 metres, I plopped into 6-minute deco and a 9 minute TTS (Time To Surface). In essence, three minutes to ascend to 6 metres and stop for 6 minutes. To time to go and with bottles placed in my goodie bag, it was a slow ascent back up the shot to hold at 6 metres in the gentle current.

Back on board and with a hot cup of tea waiting, the three of us discussed our dives and thinking that the current was still running on the neap tide slack window. Tom had an idea that the neap window would be wide with a gentle current and offered the opportunity to dive a shallower unknown wreck on the way back to port. Unfortunately, Mark had an appointment that afternoon and I had already disassembled my borrowed second stage. So not today.

As this was a clean tide, the steps up from the pontoon were steep. The benefit of a clean tide offset with lower water in the marina and a steeper hike back to the car park. Three trips for me and saying goodbye, Chris offered me the opportunity to stay down another night and dive another unknown wreck on Tuesday. With a devil on one shoulder and an angel on another, I did have my wash bag and it would only take another night at the Travelodge.

It was just shy of two hours to drive home and all the way back, this devil and angel plagued me. My thought that I could drive down Tuesday morning, stay down Tuesday night and dive the Couvier on Wednesday. Water conditions for Tuesday and Wednesday we’re looking good too, but that angel kept reminding me of the promises I have made to my business partner hat I am a fortnight behind with his project deliverables.

A great day, relaxed and a perfect way to cull those Monday morning blues.