Winter Warmer with Scimitar

Freezing temperatures haven’t killed off diver demand

Author: Pat
15th February 2012
 

The coldest weekend of the year is the perfect time for a promotion called Winter Warmer.

Scimitar Diving based in Castletown, Portland perhaps didn’t have minus 10-degree temperatures in mind when they came up with the idea, but the Winter Warmer promotion stops for no man. Following a fortnight of sub-zero temperatures, snowfalls, freezing rain and even a frozen sea reported in Poole Harbour, there’s outwardly little appeal in diving at this time of the year.

However, dive businesses need income and divers want to go diving. The Winter Warmer show must go on.

We gear up in Castletown and board Cutlass, one of two Scimitar hard boats, both of which are running weekend schedules. And both are full to capacity, with barely space to stow our gear. The dive site is the Landing Craft and Bombardon Unit, which lie in about 17-ish metres inside the breakwater and against the harbour wall.

both dive boats are full to capacity

Our skipper offers a warning about ‘easily disturbed silt and poor vis’, and is universally acknowledged with a grunt. Last time I dived this site there were just two of us, and the water was crystal clear – well, as crystal clear as it gets in the harbour, anyway. Looking round the boat this time, it’s clear that most are treating this as a test of new dive gear. Either that or there’s a dive show going on below I didn’t know about. There are rebreathers, twinsets, a twinset with pony rig… well better safe than sorry, perhaps.

Cutlass ties-in and we drop down the shot – last as it happens. Below, the outline of the Landing Craft comes into view, and already there are large silt clouds hanging mid-water. Like the best inland sites, the deftest flick of a fin can send sediment up off the bottom. We set off clockwise around the wreck.

Like Matthew Corbett with Sooty, my buddy puts his hand under a spider crab and puppets it in my direction. The startled crab doesn’t look too pleased, so he puts it back. Continuing around the wreck, powerful torchlight illuminates white hanging baskets, made up of long, sausage-like fingers. These ‘bunches’, it transpires, are squid eggs – and many hundreds of them. The guidebook later confirms that while the eggs are very visible (several bunches alone attached to this wreck), the animals themselves are not, and are rarely seen.

Water temperature was hovering around the 6-7 degree mark, and several silt-outs prompt a return to the shotline to begin the ascent. In short shrift all are back aboard, sipping hot chocolate and tea and waiting for the CCR divers to join us.

Scimitar are a friendly bunch running a slick operation and nice boats, so if you’re hardy enough, diving in February needn’t be an unpleasant experience. Might have to speak to Trading Standards about use of the word ‘warm’ though…

 

Footnote

Thanks to Martin Rishton at BubblyDiver.com for the pics.

 
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