Chesil Cove Risk Assessment
THE FOLLOWING GENERIC RISK ASSESSMENT IS FOR GUIDANCE ONLY
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN PLANNING AND CONDUCT
Chesil Cove is an incredibly safe dive site which is more or less non-tidal and can be dived day and night as detailed in our Dive Guide. But like all dives it is possible to make it an even safer experience by assessing any possible risks.
Entry and Exit over pebbles with “dropping off” steep bank at times, especially after a period of storms until the pebbles settle and flatten out. Swell and undertow can make exit particularly difficult in certain states of tide depending on how “steep” the bank is. Pebbles also create a natural slipping/tripping hazard and require care on entry and exit, including the shore walk to and from dive entry point. Entanglement hazards are primarily lost or discarded fishing lines on the surface and underwater, occasional monafilament net (or pieces of net) swept inshore and active or lost lobster pot lines dropped closer to shore. Fishing hooks lost by shore anglers as well as lead weights being cast from shore need also be taken into consideration.
Surface concerns: Always do your own field risk assessment on the day of your dive. Surface risks on Chesil Beach are not special and include the common trip hazards (walking over loose pebbles, debris, nets and fishing line washed in by the sea) and cut hazards (broken glass, discarded hooks, metal etc). Because of the way the beach slopes down on entry and up on exit especially after spring tides, these hazards require extra care. While most of the beach and shoreline is made up of pebbles which tend to be loose and slippery at times, there are also rocks on the tidal zone which at low tide could be submerged or partially uncovered. Especially where there is swell these need special attention so as to avoid stepping or slipping on them, or hitting against them during exit and entry.
Tidal concerns: Chesil Beach can be dived on any state of the tide although slack water on this side of the island is 4 hours after HW Portland. Tides run parallel to the beach here and don’t restrict divers as on wrecks. Incoming tide moves to the South East (left as you look at the sea) and outgoing vice verse. Which also means divers need to adjust their underwater navigation accordingly and compensate. Take into account that even on a direct bearing out, tidal influence will be slowly moving you off course. This also means divers can surface a long way from point of entry if not careful. It’s not uncommon to hear jokes about divers going in at “the Cove end” and coming up in front of the Cove House Inn pub down the beach. (If this ever happens, you can walk back to point of entry or do a slow surface swim). Spring Tides: During Spring Tides, twice a month, this tidal movement can be stronger than usual and require more fining power to hold course and position. High Water: High water on Spring Tides can lead to undertow as well as a stronger current although this does not restrict diving. Low Water: Low water at any state of the tidal calendar can create a steeper than usual bank to “climb up” or down on exit and entry, which should be taken into account.
Swell concerns: Strong South, Southwest and Northwest winds will come onshore while the beach (due to its high banks) is extremely well protected against East and Northeast winds even when its blowing strong. The rule of thumb is not to dive if there is a swell over 2ft as exit could be incredibly difficult if not impossible. Swell and exit up a steep pebble slope make for hard work. There can also be a strong undertow at such times which means being pulled and pushed against the beach while underwater and immediately on exit. If the beach is to be dived under such conditions (and particularly if cameras etc. are being used) someone for surface support is highly recommended. We’ve actually seen dives where a rope has been required to get the divers out of the water.
Anglers and Entanglement: Do keep in mind that Chesil Cove/Beach is a popular shore angling site and visited by tens of anglers every week. Rule of thumb is to dive out of their way if they are already “in position” and to let it be known you are “down below” for new arrivals. Divers can easily end up in areas anglers are casting (often up to 6-8 ounce lead!) so the use of a Surface Marker Buoy is highly recommended to avoid a weight-and-hook episode because no one knew there was a diver down below. (There are true accounts of divers being accidentally hooked!) If you are diving without a surface marker, the responsibility is yours only.
The amount of angling that takes place off the cove (especially summer-time hunts for bass and mackerel where feathers are used) leaves behind an amount of tackle (line, weights, hooks) underwater and sometimes on the surface too.
There are entanglement points around the old sewage pipe in front of Quiddles (where most line seems to accumulate at the base of the pipe but is therefore also clearly visible) but most others are scattered around the seabed, here and there. Wherever there is wreckage such as the remains of the Preveza, divers should watch out for mid-water fishing lines that have been lost during shore casts.
We strongly advise divers to be equipped with a proper cutting tool such as the Eezycut Trilobite that is guaranteed to work on fishing line and net, while keeping an eye out for floating lines during their swims. Other entanglement hazards include occasional monafilament net (or pieces of net) swept inshore by the sea and lobster pot lines where such pots are dropped closer to shore. Rarely there may also be fishing nets closer to shore than usual but these will be marked by surface buoys that can be spotted on entry.
Boat traffic: As above the use of a surface marker buoy is highly recommended (though generally not implemented). There is no heavy boat traffic on Chesil but for the occasional yacht or powerboat “tucking in” and anchoring for a break as well as a number of small fishing boats that operate directly off the beach (with outboard engines). Again, if they can’t see you, they won’t know you are below so letting them know by means of a surface marker buoy makes diving safer for everyone.