Brighton, September 19th  
   
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.. gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks
That dove with us upon that Sunday.

What a trip; the omens were poor, almost gale force winds just the day before and one trip already cancelled. But the weather gods favoured us with azure-blue skies and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. We basked in the last of the summer sun on the ride out to the Lancer II and enjoyed the movement of the water under the Ocean Soul, a sturdy dive-boat if ever there was one. The wreck has a fascinating history and the visibility down at the bottom had to be seen to be believed. Whale sharks, pipefish, cuttlefish, nudibranchs? Easier it would be to list what we didn’t see on that dive, such was the quality of the water!

 

The Lancer II

Lancer II was an Admiralty trawler of 275 tons which was heading for Newhaven on 18 July, 1918, when she was rammed by HM Yacht Vagrant off the Brighton Light Vessel. Vagrant took Lancer in tow but she sank soon after. (From Divernet) She now lies on a sandy bottom in about 27m, 6m proud of the sea bed at her highest point. It was difficult to judge her condition; she is reported as being very broken up. However, we dived a very large section and, though the viz didn’t allow us to see the entire wreck, she certainly looked fairly well kept. The Lancer II is covered in beds of mussels and we saw a number of sea toads, spider crabs, velvet crabs and eating crabs on her. There were shoals of large bib and poor cod around her, some up to a foot in length. And, of course, tompot blennies.

The Truth

OK, let’s be honest. The water was more than a little choppy and we spent a great deal of time hanging on so that we wouldn’t be thrown from side to side and perhaps over the edge; it was a trip to turn boys into men. The atmosphere however was always good, riddled with that special cynicism that marks the hardened UK diver. “You think this is bad? Why, that’s nothing compared to that time I went out of Portland, gales it was, waves high as mountains, blah blah blah.” Well, the waves weren’t that high on this trip, but there sure were a lot of them.

Kitting up was more than usually tiring as we rolled from one side of the deck to the other. A special mention must go to Phil who bravely strapped on his twin-set as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and to Pants who, are you sitting down?, confessed that he was glad he wasn’t going down in his twin-set! Pants without his twin set? Little without Large, Ken without Barbie, unthinkable! Once we got into the water things improved, in as much as there was less wave action. However, it was pretty murky in there due to the plankton bloom and stirred-up crud the gale had left behind, and by the time we got to the wreck (at the bottom of the shot line Paul..) it was to all intents and purposes a night dive. Viz came in to a little less than a meter, and off we went.

Well, Gary went off somewhere, Dave went back up the line, Paul went out across the sandy plains and the rest followed the contours of the wreck. It was an interesting old wreck, and many thanks to beautiful, pouting Su H for hanging around while I poked my head into just about every nook, cranny and crevice I could find (sorry about that Phil, didn’t know it was you). For those of you with a map of the site, we followed the wreck to the “left”. She gradually rose from the sea bed and tapered out in 21m at what I can only conclude must have been the bows. There was only slight current and getting around her was easy. Having concluded the best dive we could under the circumstances we ascended and got back onto the Vomit Comet for the torturous journey back to Brighton.

Upon arrival we scraped what was left of our posse off the deck, packed up and headed into Brighton for some traditional fish and chips and a bit of a de-brief. The waves were minging, the viz was awful, most of us didn’t find the wreck and the trip was cut short. All in all, an excellent trip, ready to go next weekend!

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