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DIVE PORTLAND • BOAT & WRECK DIVING
In this section we look at dives available around Portland and inside Portland Marina with links to photos and information on the most popular harbour dives.
You can also find a detailed list of all inshore and offshore dive sites with their depths at the end of this page.
If you want to shore dive instead, Chesil Cove, which is only a couple of minutes away from our Centre, is listed as one of the best shore diving sites on the South Coast of Britain and is easy (and free) to access.
We have a dedicated page for visiting divers including information on parking up, entry and exits, popular underwater routes and area risk assessments in our Chesil Cove Dive Guide . We also do daily photo updates on current conditions at the Cove through Chesil Beach Watch (Click on the link to the right and LIKE us to follow the daily updates).
Click: Dive boats & shuttles
DIVE THE HARBOUR WITH PORTLAND BOATS, HARDBOAT OR RIB - THROUGHOUT THE SEASON.
Portland Harbour represents a semi-artificial deep water tidal basin enclosed by breakwaters. The tidal flow is limited to three areas through the breakwaters and at Ferrybridge where the harbour links to the Fleet. A number of "wrecks" lie both inside and immediately outside the breakwater walls - attracting hundreds of divers every year. These wrecks are accessible by (club) or (commercial) dive boats with launching possible from various points including Portland Marina and a free slipway at Castletown.
The tidal range within the Harbour is small and in the order of 1.5-2.3m. The restricted water exchange leads to elevated water temperatures which accounts for the presence of several marine species beyond the typical northern limits of their range. Tidal flow within the Harbour is generally anti-clockwise, sweeping away from the Fleet, through the Port area and through the South Ship Channel. Given the depth and limited tidal range, the predominant habitat within the Harbour is one that is truly marine. There is a small area of inter-tidal habitat, particularly on the northern and western shores. In its entirety, the Harbour is an ecosystem of very high importance including a number of nationally important habitats and species. Read more about Portland Harbour Here.
Countess of Erne 7 to 14m. This passenger liner paddle steamer was later converted to a coal hulk but in 1935 broke loose from her moorings and sank against the breakwater inside Portland Harbour. She was built in the early 1880s and the conversion took place 1889. She is approximately 240' long and with a 29' beam she lies upright on the bottom making an excellent dive for novice and experienced alike. The Countess has three holds that are open on either side, a number of attractions from a large rudder to ladders and even a toilet bowl! The Red Band Fish and Lumpsuckers that visit the Countess seasonally are occasionally even joined by seals. This is definitely one dive you could do over and over again!...For detailed information and photos of this wreck visit our COUNTESS OF ERNE Pages.
Dredger Breakwater wall down to 12m. The Dredger lies right outside of Portland Harbour within the shelter of Balaclava bay, right in front of the large winch and many anchors that can be spotted from see. This vessel was a sand dredger and makes an excellent dive both for training and as a naturalist trail beside the rocks it rests against. The wreckage itself is pretty much broken up and is in two parts but offers good swim throughs and plenty of fish, squid as well as the dozens of hermit and spider crabs. Despite its shallow depth, because it can be dived in almost any weather conditions and the lure of the wreck itself, the Dredger is even regularly visited by technical divers who use it as a platform for training. For detailed information and photographs of this wreck visit our DREDGER Pages.
Enecuri (The Spaniard) 16m. This 3000 ton Spanish steamship dragged her anchor in a Force 9 gale in December 1900 and was grounded on the rocks close to the Breakwater where she slipped and eventually sank. It is badly silted and fairly broken up but is full of marine life and swim-throughs with part of the vessel still intact, making it an excellent second dive of the day. It is also very accommodating to recreational and technical courses.
Landing Craft and Bombardon Unit 17m. Both of these wrecks lie in very close proximity and make an excellent double-wreck dive by starting off at the Landing Craft, following a line laid by local dive operatorsto the Bombardon Unit and returning back to entry point or surfacing on an SMB (please consult the skipper on what method is preferred for the dive). The small landing craft lies beside the Breakwater wall and is almost completely intact with its landing doors closed. It is an interesting dive that leads to the wheel house and exposed engine at the stern. (Beware there are line and cord in the engine section which should not be penetrated). From there you can either follow the line or the breakwater wall (keeping at your left) to the Bombardon Unit. This is a WWII experimental wave breaking unit apparently made for the D-Day landings and is a vessel made out of star shaped barges with lots of hatches. Be careful in poor visibility as it is easy to find oneself in the wreck without even knowing it! It makes a powerful dive in good visibility and is full of fish. For a great review and drawing of the Landing Craft and Bombardon Unit, don't miss the article in the January 2014 issue of Diver magazine by John Liddiard and Max Ellis. SMB and Torch Highly Recommended.
Other popular recreational dives (max 19m)
Bottlebank Drift 19m. This site is right inside of the harbour close to the Hood entrance and can offer an excitingly good drift dive but in poor visibility and weather conditions, must be done with a torch. The sea bed, heavily silted, is littered with bottles, cups and plates with other oddities. At times this area is used by local and visiting dive schools to conduct recreational deep dive training where standards require a depth deeper than 18 metres. SMB Required. Torch Recommended.
James Fennel 18m. A small Admirality trawler only 123' long that went aground on Blacknor Point in March 1920 in thick fog, slid off and sank there. The stern is complete and amidship there is an engine and boiler. This site offers some of the most enchanting sea life scenes in the area and is the spot where authors of this site first witnessed the "Dance of the Cuttlefish", an amazing scene involving a dozen cuttlefish swaying in one place replicating the colours of each other. It is a must-do for any new visitor to Portland and a dive we regularly repeat ourselves over the season. The James Fennel also can be drifted or done as part of a drift dive. SMB Required.
Chequered Fort 18m. This is on the outside of the breakwater and just around the corner from the Fort. Depending on the tide, divers can get a good drift dive in this area. On descending, follow the wall down until you reach the gravel and sandy bottom at about 18 metres. There is some sea life amid the large rocks. SMB Required. Torch Recommended.
Black Hawk (Bow) 15m. Topedoed by a German sub in December 1944, towed into Worbarrow and beached. Declared a total loss in April 1945. The wreck was blown by explosives to clear the way for the Winfrith pipeline. It is badly broken up with large pieces of machinery present and lying in a rock shingle sea bed. There are large chains on her. SMB Required. Torch Recommended.
Boat Dives from Portland and Weymouth
The dive sites listed here are in alphabetical order with depth "ranges" given for convenience only and will depend on time of tide and bottom conditions.
|A3||30-40||39m.||This British submarine was sunk as a target after colliding with the HMS Hazard.|
|Aeolian Sky||20-30||30m.||A fine modern and recent wreck lying off St Alban's Head. She's a Greek registered bulk freighter of 14,000 tons and lies on a limestone sea bed on her port side. She stands about 13 metres throughout with her bows to the South and stern to the North.|
|Aerials||20-30||25m.||This is one of Portland's most exciting and rewarding drift dives on a sea bed of black shells. Divers are advised to watch their depth as the area has a number of drop-offs.|
|Ailsa Craig||30-40||36m.||This 600 ton British steamship was sunk by a torpedo in 1918 while carrying a cargo of coal. Measuring 200' in length it was partly salvaged.|
|Alex Van Opstel||20-30||30m.||This 5965 ton Belgian passenger liner, 420' with 57' beam, sunk in September 1939 by a mine en route to Antwerp. One of the few large wrecks on the East side of the bill. Her highest point is 7 metres above the seabed.|
|Algrave||50-60||54m.||This 1274 British armed steamship measures 230' by 34' and was torbedoed and sunk by a German submarine in October 1917. 21 souls were lost on her.|
|Arfon||30-40||35m.||As an Admirality armed trawler the Arfon sank in 1917 when she hit a mine. The wreck was discovered in 1998 some 7 miles sout of Worbarrow Tout.|
|Avalanche||40-50||46m.||This 1154 iron sailing ship collided with the Forrest before sinking.|
|Baly Bay to Grove||20-30||25m.||This can be an exciting dive is planned correctly but divers should be aware that an outward tide will rapidly move them towards the eddy race after Grove point and beside Portland Bill.|
|Baly Drift||20-30||22m.||Dropping off a boat to the left of the Hood exit from Portland harbour in outgoing tide will carry divers across a seabed scattered with shells, crabs and during the summer months much exotic sea life including a variety of nudibranches.|
|Binnendijk||20-30||28m.||Dutch steamship of 6800 tons mined and sunk in 1939 just East of the adamant shoal, approximately 500' long.|
|Black Hawk (Bow)||Oct-20||15m.||Topedoed by a German sub in December 1944, towed into Worbarrow and beached. Declared a total loss in April 1945. The wreck was blown by explosives to clear the way for the Winfrith pipeline. It is badly broken up with large pieces of machinery present and lying in a rock shingle sea bed. There are large chains on her.|
|Black Hawk (Stern)||40-50||48m.||As above but the stern lies on her starboard side with the prop missing and on a gravel, shingle and sand sea bed. The top is in 36 metres of water. Sunk in December 1944.|
|Boadicea||50-60||52m.||This WWII destroyer is a war grave and was lost to German aircraft torpedo attack in June 1944 with 150 souls on board. She stands 6 metres high in some places. There are items of unexploded ammunition on her including depth charges.|
|Bombardon Unit||Oct-20||17m.||This is a WWII experimental wave breaking unit apparently made for the D-Day landings sitting off the Landing Craft and can be done as part of a Landing Craft dive. The Bombardon Unit is a star shaped barges with lots of hatches.|
|Bottlebank Drift||Oct-20||19m.||This site is right inside of the harbour close to the Hood entrance and can offer a good drift dive at certain times of tide. The sea bed, heavily silted, is littered with bottles, cups and plates with other oddities. At times this area is used to conduct training deep dives that require a depth deeper than 18 metres.|
|British Inventor||Oct-20||20m.||Mined in June 1940, all that remains is the well-scattered remains of the bow section of this Britich oil tanker of 7101 tons. The aft portion was salvaged and converted to a new ship. Has plenty of marine life and is well broken up with only the ribs and plates showing with its highest point about 2 metres off the sea bed.|
|Buccaneer||40-50||45m.||This British armed tug was sunk by accident while towing a target in August 1946 and now lies on a shingle seabed uprights and intact.|
|Chequered Fort||Oct-20||18m.||This is on the outside of the breakwater and just around the corner from the Fort. Depending on the tide, divers can get a good drift dive in this area. On descending, follow the wall down until you reach the gravel and sandy bottom at about 18 metres. There is some sea life amid the large rocks.|
|Chesil Cove||Oct-20||17m.||This area is covered in various sizes of metal objects, most of which came from ill-fated ships driven ashore by strong winds and tides many years ago. There are very few tide restrictions or currents in this area, although surf and surge may sometimes make the entry and exit points require extra care. Entry into the water should be made from the slipway towards the Cove Pub as this area is reserved mainly for divers. Going out on a bearing of 240 degrees right under slipway can be rewarding and lead to depths in excess of 17 to 18 metres. Entering at the end of the promenade and walking down the stairs to the beach, on the other hand, should take divers to a defunct old sewage pipeline which still attracts much sea life provided they take a bearing of 270 degrees. If you follow this pipe along the top until the end, it will give a maximum depth of approximately 12 metres from where you can take a compass bearing of 350 degrees for a short distance, a new compass bearing of 90 degrees which will lead divers to a large kelp bed, over rocks and back to shore. The most popular entrance and the one recommended by the local Council, however, is using the slipway, walking straight down to the shore and swimming out.|
|Countess of Erne||Oct-20||14m.||This passenger liner Paddle steamer was later converted to a coal hulk but in 1935 broke loose from her moorings and sank against the breakwater. She was built in the early 1880s and the conversion took place 1889. She is approximately 240' long and with a 29' beam she lies upright on the bottom.|
|Dredger||Oct-20||12m.||The Dredger lies right outside of Portland Harbour within the sheltered bay of Balaclava (in front of the large winch). This is believed to be a sand dredger and it makes an excellent shallow dive and training site in almost all weather and sea conditions. The wreckage is pretty much broken up.|
|Earl of Abergavenny||Oct-20||15m.||This is an East Inidiaman that struck the Shambles bank and sunk in front of Weymouth in 1805 with a large loss of life. Please be careful while diving this wreck and do not touch artefacts as it is currently a study project.|
|Elena R||20-30||27m.||This 4500 ton Greek steamship was mined in November 1939 during its voyage to Antwerp. It measures 370' to 53' and was salvaged, is broken. The seabed is made out of shifting gravel and parts of the wreck stand 7 metres high.|
|Elmcrest||50-60||60m.||A 4343 steamer she was sunk in July 1940 by a German E-boat.|
|Empress of India||40-50||45m.||This 14,100 ton battleship was used as a gunnery and torpedo target and sank as result of this, turning turtle following several hits. Partly salvaged, lies on a sand sea bed.|
|Enecuri (Spaniard)||Oct-20||13m.||This 3000 ton Spanish steamship dragged her anchor in a Force 9 gale in December 1900 and was grounded on the rocks close to the Breakwater where she slipped and eventually sank. It is badly silted and fairly broken up but is full of marine life.|
|Ethel||30-40||38m.||A well-broken steamship of about 2000 tons standing 6 metres off the sea bed.|
|Ferry Bridge||0-10||6m.||This is the areas most interesting and colourful shore dive but is tide dependent. Maximum depth is about 6 to 7 metres depending on the state of the tide. Slack water is +1/2 hours HW Portland or -4 Hours HW Portland.|
|Fisgard II||60-70||65+||This 6010 ton ship was launched in 1870 named Invincible and operated for some time as the Erebus. In September 1914 while being towed to Portland she listed and sank with the loss of 21 souls. Her highest point is at 47 metres and she is reported to be lying upside down against a high reef.|
|Franziska||50-60||55m.||The depth of this steamship varies according to sources (if you have updates please e-mail them to us). She collided with a Norwegian ship in 1889 and sank, now lying on a sand and shingle seabed.|
|Frognor||30-40||34m.||This is a 1500 ton Norwegian steamship, torpedoed in May 1918. She measures 260' by 32' and stands 7 metres in places.|
|Grane||40-50||47m.||This 1120 ton Norwegian cargo vessel was torpedoed and sunk in March 1919. She measures 230' by 30' and is fairly broken up lying North to South with its highest point 6 to 7 metres off the sea bed.|
|Grove to Baly Bay||20-30||25m.||This is a very rewarding dive with depths ranging from 16 to 25 metres maximum. The dive time is normally 1-2 hours before or 1-2 hours after HW and the dive area is from the vicinity of Grove point to Balaclava Bay. The ground varies from ledges to very rocky undulating ground. Can be very prolific sea life.|
|Himalaya||Oct-20||12m.||This 4600 ton three masted steamer was launched in 1853 and after serving in the Crimean war as a large troopship, was sold as a coal hulk. While anchored in Portland harbour she was struck in June 1940 by bombs dropped from a German aircraft and sank there.|
|HMS Hood||Oct-20||18m.||Sunk as a blockship across the South Ship Channel of Portland Harbour. This 380' battleship is upside down (turtle) and can be a very interesting dive. However, it is "tidal".|
|Illinois||60-70||70m.||This is reported to be a wreck with a deck at 58 metres sitting at 70+ metres of a sea bed and 400 ft long.|
|Inisinver||40-50||43m.||This small 127 ton ton motor stands 3 to 4 metres high in some areas and was carrying China clay when she sank after hitting an obstruction in September 1930.|
|Iolanthe||40-50||44m.||A 3081 ton steamship that was sunk in January 1918 by a German U-boat while carrying military stores, cattle fodder and military vehicles. She lies on a sand and shingle sea bed.|
|James Fennel||Oct-20||18m.||A small Admirality trawler only 123' long that went aground on Blacknor Point in March 1920 in thick fog, slid off and sank there. The stern is complete and amidship there is an engine and boiler.|
|L24||50-60||54m.||This 1080 ton British submarine measures 230' by 24' and sunk in 1924 after a collusion with the HMS Resolution.|
|Landing Craft||Oct-20||17m.||This small landing craft lies beside the Breakwater wall and close to the Bombardon unit. It is an interesting, but silty, dive and offers an underwater platform for training activities.|
|Landrail||20-30||31m.||This pre-World War MTB destroyer sank while being towed back to Portland after being used as a target for battleship practice and taking two direct hits on her guns. She now lies in two parts on a shingle sea bed. In the past this wreck was called both the HMS Hazard and the HMS Bittern.|
|LH Carl||50-60||54m.||This 1916 ton steamer torpedoed in Lyme Bay in July 1917 and stands 5 to 6 metre in places.|
|Lord Stamp||50-60||60m.||This naval trawler was mined in October 1940 and lies in 60 metres.|
|Lulworth Banks||20-30||25m.||The area's most popular drift dive which offers plenty of activities for divers at all levels, including scalloping and sea life identification.|
|M2||30-40||34m.||One of the most popular boat dives from Portland this submarine is an official War Grave. She was built in 1918 as a K-boat and in 1927 she was converted to carry a light sea plane in a hangar in front of the conning tower. It is generally accepted that she sunk after diving with the hangar doors open (as they are today). The M2 is not far west round the Bill, is about 300' and all hands were lost on her when she sunk in January 1932.|
|Martha||40-50||46m.||This 653 ton Belgian steamship sank as result of a torpedo attack in March 1918. She lies on a sand and broken shell sea bed.|
|Meknes||60-70||60+||A 6127 ton French liner which was torpedoed by a German E boat in 1940. The vessel broke into two after impact and sunk. Nearly 400 souls were lost on her. The wreck is well scattered with intact bows.|
|Merchant Royal||50-60||57m.||This is a British cargo ship of 5000 tons lying South of Portland. She stands 15 metres and is a huge wreck with her bows broken off and amid ship and stern listing Starboard.|
|Minerva||40-50||44m.||Formerly the Marie this iron wreck ship was sunk by a German submarine in May 1917. She was 518 tons and built in 1864.|
|Moidart||30-40||36m.||This 1300 ton armed merchant steamship was torpedoed by a German U boat and sank in 1918 while carrying railway lines. She stands 8 metres high in some places. She measures 240' by 32'.|
|P555||30-40||39m.||An ex American submarine sunk on purpose, upright, as a sonar target in August 1947. She sits upright on a shingle and gravel seabed.|
|Pomerianian||30-40||33m.||A British steamship of 4200 tons she was requisitioned by the government during WWI and was torpedoed and sunk on April 15, 1918 en route from London to Newfoundland with a loss of fifty lives. The wreck, carrying a general government cargo, sits upright on the bottom.|
|Pulpit Rock||20-30||25m.||Dive time for this area is 4 hours after HW and the dive window is about 45 minutes. Going far out from the area could lead to deeper grounds with depths ranging in excess of 35 metres but sticking to shore, especially in the kelp beds, divers can see plenty of sea life, crabs and lobsters.|
|Salsette||40-50||48m.||British steamship, torpedoed and sunk July 1917, fifteen miles SW of Portland Bill. Intact and lying on its side.|
|Saratoga||20-30||23m.||This is a British MFV that sank while being towed to Poole and is now pretty much broken up.|
|Scaldis||30-40||33m.||This 80' MFV was last heard of in 1974 and all crew were lost. She lies upright.|
|Shambles||20-30||25+||Especially in good sea conditions a dive on the deeper edge of the shambles can be very rewarding for divers with varying interests. Visibility in this area can sometimes be as good as 20 metres and it is a much rewarding dive for underwater hunters.|
|Sidon||30-40||34m.||This British S class submarine sank first in 1955 with the loss of 13 men and was raised and sunk again as an underwater sonar target. She lies broken but is a good dive and can be clearly made out as a submarine. There are recent attempts to salvage her and the conning tower.|
|St Dustan||20-30||27m.||This 200' bucket dredger was used as a mine sweeper and was sunk by a mine in 1917. The wreck lies turtle, twisted, and her highest point off the sea bed is about seven metres.|
|Start||30-40||36m.||This Norwegian steamer carried a cargo of coal when it was torpedoed in December 1917 and sunk. The 728 ton wreck is well broken and is believed to be well salvaged.|
|Sub. Ground||20-30||25m.||This area is marked with the large yellow buoys after the Hood entrance to the harbour and has a maximum depth of about 25 metres with a straight bottom layout. Tide flow in this area can give divers a drift of up to 2 knots.|
|Sudon||Oct-20||15m.||A Swedish steamship which sank off the Cave Hole on Portland in 1882.|
|Trito||50-60||60m.||Coastal steamship bombed in 1940 she stands about 10 metres off the sea bed.|
|UB62||50-60||50+||This German submarine was sunk in October 1917 and lies on a north to south line, with a hole in her port side and a list to starboard.|
|UB74||30-40||34m.||This German submarine sank in May 1918. She measures 182' by 19' and was subnk with depth charges dropped off the yacht Lorna. She is broken up and difficult to locate.|
|Valdes||40-50||49m.||A 2200 ton British merchant ship that was torpedoed and sunk in February 1917. 11 souls were lost on her. She measures 260' and lies on her port side standing 5 to 6 metres in places.|
|Warrior II||50-60||54m.||A requisitioned yacht sunk by German aircraft in 1940. She was 1124 tons and well blown. Stands 4 to 5 metres high in some points.|