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PADI Internet Specialty Diver
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The Chaouen was a bulk carrier that hit the island of Planier off Marseille in 1970. At 90m long and some 1,550 tonnes it’s a big wreck and is still in good condition. We had tried to dive this wreck before with another dive centre but they seemed reluctant to go there. After a few attempts we gave up and decided to try another centre. We found Plongée Passion advertised “wreck weekends” so gave them a go. They do morning dives on wrecks at the weekends and are a very good outfit with the option to do deeper technical diving from time to time. Trimix is available and owner Patrick seems pretty clued up about things, although English is not a strong point.
Saturday morning started badly; well to be exact it started at 5.30 and to me that’s badly. From our flat in Montpellier it’s nearly two hours to Carry Le Rouet and the dive centre. The morning fog rolls off the Carmargue and makes it difficult to get any sort of sensible speed - a good thing given how many gatsos there are now along this stretch of road :(
We arrived just in time to grab a croissant and relax a little before the off. Not knowing what to expect we had our twin tens and air fills. The shop rents 15s and that would have been OK, particularly with a 32 fill. The kit is taken from the shop to the RIB in the van and the divers make the short walk once suited up. The boat is spacious and even with 14 of us there was plenty of room on the ride out. The French like to kit up in the water for some reason leaving us a nice space on the chain locker to get into the wings.
The boat anchors in between the Chaouen and the Dalton. You can dive either (or theoretically both) according to your preference. The Chaouen is a 300m swim from the anchorage point along the side of the island. You first see the wreck as you round the point. The vis was about 20m+ so quite a lot of the wreck is visible and the first impression is one of size. The wreck lays on its side the cargo hatches allowing easy penetration into the hull (see the drawing here Scubaspot - Chaouen) we had left the torches behind so that was for the next visit.
The wreck slopes away down the sandy seabed to about 33m at the stern the prop is still there and the huge hull rises off like a giant wall dive. The vessel is alive with fish; big shoals of rainbow wrasse surround the wreck together with huge numbers of bream of different sorts. We swam back over the hull and down to the deck through the fish and examined the wreckage of the superstructure. The mast is awesome - it remains intact and with the fantastic vis its possible to see the whole thing stretching out away from you from deck level. A smaller pipe sticking up held a small conger who quickly backed away into his hidey-hole away from our bubbles.

There’s just too much to see on one dive and we had taken things a bit too fast, not knowing what to expect. I would like to do around ten dives on this to really get to know the wreck. The penetration possibilities are tantalising, the big cargo holds were covered in fan corals and sponges - one of the smaller apertures nearly closed up by fan coral. I thought to myself it would be a real shame to have to exit through them if things went wrong.
There’s no tide or real current on the site so you can stay as long as you like and after 30 odd minutes we headed back towards the point where the wreck meets the rock. Air is a crap choice for the wreck and our dive was now just edging into deco. I’m not a big fan of swims - I like to know where the shot is and go back to it so despite having enough gas for more we set off back. One last look at the mangled part of the wreckage and Kelly spotted a big angler fish. It was the first time I’d seen one underwater and we watched him for a minute or two. The fish was not happy with us there and his little fishing rod remained firmly down and his survival strategy - “you ain’t seen me - right” left him stuck to the steel like a big blob of gloop.
As we headed off around the rocks of the island through the shoals of small fish we began a slow ascent up to the 4.5m stop. All rock looks the same to me and I was worried about whether we would get near the boat or not. In my haste I had also picked up Kelly’s spare mask instead of my own and it was now steaming up as it didn’t fit very well and it had leaked enough to wash the spit off. I was uncomfortable and having to flood and clear the mask now and again. I was a little underweighted too in the salt water and so I decided to stick close to the rocks to make the stop that bit safer.
I spotted a nice place to wait and we began our stop. The deco had cleared by now and we were just left with a 3 minute safety stop in a nice little rock gully. As I cleared the mask for the 200th time I saw an octopus sidewalking away just below us. He entertained us for the full 3 minutes of the stop - perfect. As we surfaced it was clear we had swum too far and we had a short surface swim back to the boat. No problem in the lack of current. Next time I would surface earlier and surface swim from the point - that would give another 6-8 minutes BT.
All in all a near perfect dive. Wonderful vis, a cracking wreck and as much BT as you can get from whatever gas you carry. The boat crew were totally relaxed about the twinsets and kitting up was easy despite being a RIB. Water temp was 13C and with our drysuits we were happy while a lot of the French were shivering :)
I had nearly given up with the area but clearly the mistake we made was using the wrong dive centre. The French are fish-prodders and like rocks for some reason - that was the afternoon dive - boring (and far more marine life on the wreck if that’s your thing) Go sightseeing in the afternoon. These guys are great and the wrecks fantastic. Plongée Passion Carry-le-Rouet Marseille give it a try - you will not be disappointed.
Chris
 
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What can I say?! You said it all and so beautifully too. Fab dive. Booking the time off for the next long weekend a.s.a.p. Cann't wait to get back to dive her again!

And then there was the visit to Fonds d'Estramar to see the entrance to Jeromes latest record. What a beauty that will be once we get inside......

See my grin from ear to ear!:teeth:
 

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Creature of the night
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14,183 Posts
Great report Chris it sounds excellent, although I have a question about the picture, où sont les poneys?

Safe diving,
Steve
 

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PADI Internet Specialty Diver
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10,679 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Club Poney pour les petites...

... où sont les poneys?
...
In ze Camargue wiz ze leetle children on ze backs giggling....



Nice but smelly...... ;)

Chris
 
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