Wave Shape
Wave Shape

September 2023: Hope Cove

Waves Shape

Seven divers from Eastleigh BSAC set off on Friday 8th September for the 160-mile trek to deepest Devon to do some recreational diving out of Hope Cove. We knew that the weather conditions for the weekend were fairly benign, and we weren’t planning to go too far so it was suitable for 7 on one boat. It did mean coming back in between dives to swap cylinders, but that was do-able because Hope Cove was between the 2 dive sites.

This expedition was planned as part of my progression to ‘Advanced Diver’, and I think my instructor chose Hope Cove because he knew of the challenges it would present!

The first challenge became evident when we reached the slip. It has a narrow entrance which is offset from the road and there is a drop on either side. To be fair, we were somewhat aware of this before we left and I tried to recruit the assistance of ‘Hope Boats’ who advertise a launch and recovery service, however for some reason they seemed reluctant to offer any help and simply gave me some advice.


The Inner Hope Slipway


Eventually, after a bit of forward and back manoeuvring, I managed to position the trailer far enough down the slip to safely detach the trailer and walk it down to the sea as it was low tide. It is only possible to launch and recover directly from the slip about 1.5 hours either side of high tide. Two brave souls took it out and moored it to a suitable buoy. The buoy did say “Private no mooring”, but as we had paid the Harbour Master £30, we decided that we were entitled to use it. Xanthe and I then had to swim back to shore.

The next challenge was to get the trailer to the campsite. It was only 1.5 miles, but this road was particularly narrow, and it was a tight fit with the trailer board attached, at one point I had to get out and physically lift the back of the trailer to the side to allow a car to pass. The campsite was great, and the owner was a lovely lady who couldn’t do enough for us. We had our own little section of the site and after pitching tents, we settled down to a bite to eat and a well-deserved beer or two.

On Saturday morning, we were up early and offloaded our kit by the slip before changing in the car park 200 yards away. Once again, a willing volunteer was found to swim out and bring the boat to the shore for us to load up. Low tide so it was a walk down the beach to the boat.

Boat loaded up, numbers for the wreck input, and everyone on board, off we set when the next ‘challenge’ became obvious. Even with the throttle fully forward, we could only get up to 8 knots. Andy was concerned that there might be a leak in the hull and with the boat in the water overnight, it may be full of water. We switched on the bilge pump, and it pumped out continuously for about 20 minutes, after which the boat responded more normally, and we got some speed up.

Then came the next issue. The new boat ladder was doing a very efficient job of transferring water from the sea into the boat, as it was in the water. We wondered if there was more weight on the right-hand side it might lift the ladder up a bit and out of the flow, so we put more people on the right, and surprise, surprise, it actually worked!

Arriving at the location I had input to the GPS, there was no wreck evident on the echo sounder. I had used a position from the Navionics App. There were 3 different positions in the App and I used the one which I thought was most probable! We drove around a bit and managed to find something on the sonar which we dropped the shot on about 50m from the original position.




The white popped up quite quickly and I jumped in with Derek. I started to look around and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The viz was amazing, at least 20m. We could see the full width of the wreck and it was teeming with fish. We swam the full length of the wreck spotting an anchor along with a lot of chain, 3 enormous boilers, the engine and a swim through where the hold was and out to the stern where the steering gear was lying on the bottom. We also spotted a number of congers, a large lobster, and as I said hundreds of fish.

When we got back on the boat, another dive boat turned up and wanted to use our shot line. We told them that we were going to pull it up after dropping in our last divers, but they were happy with that. We managed to drop our divers in first, and then they put 10 – 12 divers down our shot. Before we knew it, yet another boat turned up with more divers. Derek and I were very happy that we had had the wreck to ourselves, it must have been like Piccadilly Circus down there! Fortunately, the last boat lowered their own shot down and we managed to bring ours up before our third pair surfaced.


Karen and Xanthe on the engine of the Maine


Everyone safely back on board and kit stowed, we set off back to Hope Cove to swap tanks. It was about this time that Pete realised his second cylinder was still in Vickers van back at the campsite! I offered him mine, as I was diving on twins on the first day, but he decided that one dive a day was enough for him, and he agreed to cox the boat for the next dive. The good news was that the tide was now in, and it wasn’t such a trek with the cylinders back to the car park.

East Rutts is known as a popular diving and fishing spot, and so it proved as, when we got there, a fishing boat was sitting right on the spot where we wanted to drop the shot. We chatted to him and agreed that he would stay, and we dropped the shot right next to him.

This was a completely different dive to the first one. We descended to 13m on to a kelp forest but didn’t have to swim far to descend further into some interesting underwater terrain. Quite a lot of marine life again, and there seemed to be some nurseries as there were thousands of tiny fry in various places. At one point a protective parent got up close and personal with my mask to shoo me away. Sadly, my fish recce isn’t good enough to tell you what it was!

With Pete coxing, we managed to get all 6 divers in the water at the same time, meaning we got back to Hope Cove sooner than planned. The tide was out again, another walk up the beach with the kit, drop it off at the slip and bring the cars round. Pete and I took the boat out to the mooring, but this time we were lucky enough to blag a lift from a passing boat back to the shore. That saved us some time and effort, phew!

East Rutts. Illustration courtesy of Navionics


Cuttlefish on East Rutts, courtesy of Simon Vickers


Diving over for the day, it was back to the campsite for a shower and change and decide where to eat for the evening. In the end, we went for a simple option of the ‘Hope and Anchor’ which had a nice view over the sea. A bit pricey, but that’s what happens in a tourist town.

Al fresco dining at the Hope and Anchor


Sunset from the pub


Sunday morning saw us waking up to rain after some heavy thunderstorms during the night. It seems my little tent is not completely waterproof when I leave the ‘windows’ open! Fortunately, the rain stopped reasonable early, and we set off to the slip in the dry.

My original plan was to dive the Persier today, but after some discussion with the club diving officer last night, he suggested doing the Maine again as it had been such a good dive yesterday. We all agreed this was a good plan and off we went.

Same story as yesterday, 7 divers with kit on a flooded boat. The difference today was that we were going into a fresher breeze than yesterday, so even doing 8 – 9 kts was a little less comfortable. We got to the site in plenty of time though as slack was forecast to be 1.5 hours later today. We took some time to locate the ideal spot to drop the shot and then we waited, and waited, and waited for the white to pop up. Eventually I decided to jump in anyway (it was a neap tide after all!), and just as we were kitted up and ready to go, the white finally popped up. We got into the water fully 3hours and 20 minutes later than the previous day. I still don’t understand this!

Despite the previous night’s thunderstorm, the viz was still spectacular and everyone had a great dive. Well, everyone except Andy that is, who had a catastrophic failure of his High Pressure hose.

We got back to Hope Cove shortly before high tide which would have been ideal for getting the boat out of the water. The trailer though was still at the campsite. The very nice lady who ran the campsite had agreed that we could keep our tents up until after we had finished diving.

Derek had very kindly offered to swim out to retrieve the boat without even a wetsuit! (hero) which of course meant that the rest of us were normally attired (not in drysuits) getting the boat onto the trailer (wet shoes all round!), but at least it was still close enough to high tide to get the boat onto the trailer while still attached to the van.

All the time we were securing the boat to the trailer (on a slight uphill slope) there was water pouring out of the boat. The boat officer now has the tricky task of locating and repairing the leak. Good luck Andy!

Journey home via the pub (of course) was uneventful and I eventually got home about 11:30pm, tired but happy after a successful weekend.



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