Martin is organising a Club Trip to Sark this year and has provisionally booked the week 14th-21st June with Andy from Sark Diving Services, this will be the fourth time we have used Andy, the last three trips were cracking with some great diving and the social side is not bad either.
To give you some idea of how the week will progress, here's what has happened before. We travel across to Guernsey via either Weymouth or Poole using the condor ferry, on arrival at St Peters Port Andy will meet us and take us on to Sark where we stay at his self contained cottage.
The atmosphere on Sark is so relaxing with no cars on the island and everyone on ‘Sark Time’ Luggage is transported down to the accommodation by tractor and we usually arrange to hire bikes for the week to get backwards and forwards to the harbour, pubs and shops.
The diving is superb with Andy prepared to travel all over the Channel Islands putting us on some terrific sites, both wrecks and scenic sites. To give you a better idea of the diving I have pasted a feature that appeared in Diver back in Aug this year
Between the scallops
Working divers in the Channel Islands spend much of their time down among the shellfish – John Liddiard boards their boats to experience the rich variety of wreck and reef diving off Guernsey and Sark
Last time I was in the Channel Islands I dived the wreck of a German minesweeper, the M343 (Wreck Tour 81, November 2005), sunk in 30m of water between Jersey and St Malo.
It’s within day-boat range of Sark, my host Andy Leaman remarks. In fact it would be just a couple of hours away in his main boat, Starfish, but Andy is based on Sark and has a closer and more exciting target in mind, the M483.
It’s another ship of the same class as the M343, but just a few miles north-east of the island.
The Kriegsmarine operated a few hundred vessels of this design, with only minor variations. Though classed as minesweepers, they were really general-purpose warships, operating as escorts, anti-submarine patrols, flak ships, raiders and anything else a small coastal warship could be used for.
In the Royal Navy they would have been classed as corvettes or frigates. Many served along the French coast and in the Channel Islands, so it is not that surprising that more than one was lost in this area.
The M343was blown in two, having been on the losing end of an action with Allied destroyers, and the M483 was sunk by air attack.
On 15 June 1943, RAF Spitfires and Whirlwinds dived at a convoy of five German ships, their bombs sinking the M483 and damaging other ships for the loss of one Spitfire and one Whirlwind. The lesser damage becomes immediately apparent as I get to the end of the shotline at 47m. The shot has dropped into a bite taken out of the port side of the hull and into the aft deck.
The rest of M483 is remarkably intact, in a much better state than M343. Within sight of the shot, the 105mm main gun is mounted close to the stern. Further forward, depth charges are lined up along either side, with pairs of mortars for launching them. At the bow, a small-calibre anti-aircraft gun points skywards. Many examples of this class of ship were originally fitted with a larger gun at the bow, subsequently replaced to beef up the anti-aircraft armament.
Having checked out the weaponry, I pay more attention to the rest of the wreck. Amidships, a mine-hunting fish is strapped to the deck beneath a fallen davit. Close by, the generator room is largely filled with fallen debris.
Back at the stern, I dip below to the seabed to check out the propellers and rudder. Just touching 51m is a depth I wouldn’t reject doing on air, though I brought a part-full pony of helium with me.
Andy keeps a bank of oxygen in his shed on Sark, mixing nitrox for himself and other local scallop divers, but it’s also useful for visiting leisure divers.
Travelling across on the Condor high-speed ferry, I had left everything but my squirt of helium empty for the journey, topping up with air and decanting oxygen when I arrived.
On the M483 this gives an equivalent air depth pretty much the same as I had enjoyed when diving the M343. Fuzz-free, with visibility grainy but good enough to see across the wreck, I get on with enjoying the dive and all that armament. My last job before ascending is to clear Andy’s favourite shot-weight. Shotting the wreck had taken a few attempts, starting with a smaller old grapnel that Andy didn’t mind losing, but it just wouldn’t catch.
For the final and successful drop, he swapped the grapnel for an enormous cylindrical block of solid lead.
It’s all I can do to lift the weight from the hole and drop it onto the sand below. The tide is now running, but the monster shot refuses to drag as I make my deeper stops on the line, before popping a delayed SMB to drift through the rest of my deco.
It’s a relief to have completed the primary target of the Sark part of my trip. Two days on Sark followed by three days on Guernsey doesn’t leave much room for rogue weather.
With slack water late in the afternoon, and the previous day being restricted by uncooperative wind and waves, it was my last chance to dive the wreck.
In fact it was a choice between using the slack to dive the M483 or the Dutch freighter Heron, sunk in 1961 between Sark and Jersey. The original plan had been to dive one each day, but with the strong wind we had stayed inshore.
Not that there is anything wrong with the sheltered inshore diving. In fact it’s exceptionally good, with big reefs and walls rising from the depths, clear visibility and currents to feed the marine life. With the island providing shelter, there is somewhere to dive pretty much whatever the weather.
Just out of the harbour we had dropped in on Grune de Nord, one of those rocks that just begs for a ship to get wrecked on it. In fact old wooden ships had done so, but there is nothing left of them but the odd scrap of pottery. More interesting are the anemone-painted walls and canyons leading down to a deeper rocky slope, inhabited by prowling pollack and curious wrasse. It’s classic crawfish country.
Although Andy dives commercially for scallops and anything else that can be dished up in local restaurants, he restrained himself from bringing back the bug he found to model for me.
By booking the week of the 14th-21st hopefully the weather will be okay, we usually run a kitty for the food and take it in turns to create gastronomic delights! Some better than others.
Total cost of the Trip works out at £420 pounds, with a deposit of £100 to secure a place. This includes accommodation, travelling and all diving including air. Several of the Club members have been on previous trips Sid, Ray and I so if you have any questions just ask I will be collecting deposits early January as Andy will be looking to book the Ferry crossings for our party.