Mutiny Diving English Channel Wreck Diving Guide

There are a few dive charters out of Dover but our regular is Mutiny Diving. Primarily we believe that most of the other charters seem to cater primarily for the local and regular divers. This is the case for Mutiny too as the boat will have some regular Mutiny customers, but anyone is welcome to dive with Mutiny, be they an individual, buddy pair, small group or full dive charter. So get on Chris’s text list to receive weekly of trips and excursions.

Diving From Dover
The English Channel viewed from the White Cliffs of Dover

Welcome Aboard Maverick

Since 2016 the vessel of choice for Mutiny is named Maverick, a MCA Area Category 2 coded vessel, allowing travel to anywhere within a 60 mile radius of any safe haven. Maverick is fitted with one of the latest side scan imaging systems from Humminbird, allowing divers the chance to see the wreck or other underwater formation in real time prior to the dive or survey. Maverick is powered by the every reliable and powerful Iveco 8316 330 hp Turbo Intercooled Diesel engine, offering up good performance to 20 knots. The single engine installation means lots of useable space on the rear deck to accommodate up to 12 divers with comfort. Exit to the water is via giant stride from the rear of the boat with diver recovery by the a electrically operated rear diver lift for easy and safe entry back aboard, whatever the sea state. Free hot drinks including tea, coffee and hot chocolate are offered pre and post dive including nibbles of biscuits and other sweet delights.

At time of writing, there is no ‘head’. However, toilet and shower facilities are freely available at Dover Marina, just ask Chris for the key code before you depart. You’re likely to be away from port between two and three hours.

Maverick In Dover Marina

Winds and Tides

There are two kind of tides that dictate visibility differences while diving out of Dover, clean or dirty. Clean tides flow south to north and dirty, north to south. Dirty tides carry the crud from the Thames estuary and demand diving west of Dover towards Folkstone. Another aspect that affects visibility is whether diving on a Spring or Neap tide. There less water movement in a neap tide which means that any water particles tend to settle. In addition, neap tides will give you a greater slack diving window.

It would appear that diving on neap tides has two prime benefits. Firstly there is up to an eight metre tidal switch at Dover, meaning a dive site at 30 metres could be 34 metres on a Spring High Tide and 26 metres on a Spring Low Tide. Hence it is a good idea to understand the depth variations on the dive day. Diving a neap tide reduces this significant variation.

Wind direction and speed also have an important role to play in the visibility. A north easterly wind on a clean tide will make for a lumpy ride (see photo below) to the dive site. Rest assured however, whether a clean, dirty, neap or spring tide, there will always be somewhere to dive at Dover and the variation is what makes Dover an ideal location.

Into The Wind And Tide
Eastward bound, into a north easterly wind and westward clean tide.

Chasing The Viz

Here’s the fun part. With what could therefore be perceived as tide and wind challenges, when you go diving with Mutiny Diving, the guys know these conditions intimately. Diver welfare is on the top of the list with skipper and crew. Poor visibility may may introduce non visible hazards into the dive or introduce diver anxiousness. That’s why you can pretty much be assured that the planned dive may change at the marina safety briefing or indeed en-route to the dive site. They call it “Chasing the viz”. In simple terms, the skipper continues to judge wind and tidal conditions right up until the slack window to ensure you get the best visibility for your dive. Don’t be disappointed then, should the intended target dive site change once, twice or thrice.

What Is Good Visibility?

My first ever dive out of Dover with Mutiny was U-Boat SM UB-78 and my second was SS Loanda. These were both ‘in shore’ sites with visibility a very dark 1 to 2 metres and in honesty, I aborted the Loanda as felt outside of my comfort zone. For my third and fourth, this was to HMS Flirt and HMS Brazen. Brazen some dark 3 to 4 metres and Flirt a stunning 10 to 15 metres. Why so brilliant visibility on Flirt? We were somewhere equidistant between England and France, just ‘this side’ of the shipping lanes on flat calm waters.

Where Will The Visibility Take Me?

One thing you are guaranteed to dive is a shipwreck. That’s what the guys do down there. There are hundreds dotted around the area, some in shallow and some deeper waters. It pretty much stands to reason therefore that in low visibility, a more flattened or rotund wreck to be the order of the day. Replace the word ‘rotund’ with ‘U-Boat’ and ‘flattened’ with ‘ferreting for treasure’ and you will soon find that whatever the visibility conditions, you’ll have a cracking dive and the variation makes for much enjoyment and the desire to return to Dover time and again.

Shipwreck Sites Off Dover
Chart of shipwreck sites off Dover and the Dover Straigts

Tools For The Job

You will have guessed by now that visibility is a key factor of diving with Mutiny Divers. One of two mandatory requirements is a torch. Not only for lighting and direction finding but more importantly signalling in poor visibility. Make sure it’s fully charged and ideally take a second as backup. The second mandated requirement is a reel. Depending on the wreck dive site, in either poorer visibility or ship lane location, the likelihood is that you will be required to ascend the shot. You will reel out from a secure point from the shot, tying off as you go and reeling back. If you have come up the PADI training ladder, you should be au fait with these concepts in your Wreck Diver and Night Diver Specialities.

Closely linked with the reel is your DSMB and again a mandatory requirement. Sometimes you maybe given the option to ascend a DSMB. Indeed, many divers prefer this option.

Ensure the reel and DSMB is of an adequate size to reach and be seen at the surface and easily deployed. And here’s the important bit. Each and every diver should carry their own DSMB and ideally two. Mutiny Divers ask that divers ascending via a DSMB should do so as an individual not a buddy pair. This is to account for the actual number of divers ascending, not buddy pairs confused as separated buddies.

Other Considerations

This brings us nicely to the topic of separated/lost diver protocol. Not a physical tool, but a mental attitude of self sufficiency. Many of the regular divers I have met at Dover have taken the SDI Solo Course. Not because they have no mates to dive with, but in case of buddy separation or planned earlier ascent of a buddy pair, they are happy to make the upward journey alone via shot or DSMB. At dive planning stage, agree with your buddy your intended ascension route as a pair, but be prepared for the possibility of separation in poorer visibility and your intended backup plan. The basics of the PADI Open Water course instructs us to ascend on our own anyhow, in case of buddy separation and part of the learned skills is use of a DSMB. Be prepared therefore to ascend on your own or as a buddy pair on your own and individual DSMB. If you have not deployed a DSMB before or are a little rusty, please get instruction or practice your skills beforehand. Be intimate with your equipment and ensure you understand user instructions and deployment. In poorer visibility, you will naturally stick close with your buddy, however on a small wreck with a number of divers, confusion can easily set in and separation occur. It has happened before and will happen again. All we are saying is and especially as a novice diver, be prepared.

Hence is it important to carry your own reel and DSMB and ideally, carry a spare smaller spool, compact DSMB and spare mask in your drysuit pocket.

Not withstanding the aforementioned topic on tidal range, most dive sites are around the 30 metre range. Unless diving less than a 15 litre cylinder, experience suggests that your bottom time is likely to be limited to your NDL rather than gas usage. Confirm the anticipated wreck site to be dived at time of booking and select an appropriate Nitrox mix. A good all rounder would be a 32% mix at a PPO2 of 1.4 dictating a MOD of 34 metres. Tell the skipper of your Nitrox mix blend as you board as this will also be a contributing factor to any eleventh hour ‘chasing the viz’ dive site selection.

More Tools

Last on the list is a small garden bedding fork and/or trowel together with a mesh ‘goodie bag‘. Place those in your other drysuit side pocket. You never know what your may uncover with a little rummaging around on a low visibility wreck, ferreting for treasure.

Don’t Forget

Remember your obligation to file your find to the Receiver of Wreck within 28 days of the find. Here is the form.

Crockery from SS Cuvier
Crockery recovered from SS Cuvier that floundered due to collision with an unknown vessel in 1990. Photo credit Muting Diving.