The Alastor, Ringhaddy (NI) - Ropes & Aliens

Ringhaddy, Killyleagh
Dive Site: Ringhaddy, Killyleagh (NI)

Dive Type: Shore Dive

Dive Attraction: “The Alastor” Shipwreck

Depth: 22m (high tide)

Experience: Novice to *Intermediate


*poor visibility


The Alastor in Ringhaddy is my definitive local dive site. As in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ - “Every diver has one, but this one is mine.” It is also one of my favourite dive sites in Ireland, maybe even my overall favourite in the whole wide world. A mighty statement perhaps, but true nonetheless; well, at least until I dive The Titanic.



History [Source: MY Alastor Project]

Like a high school student, here is my plagiarised history of the wreck, but in my own words for dramatic effect.

M.Y. Vita (The Alastor)
The ‘MY Alastor’ was first christened the ‘MY Vita’ and was built in 1926 as a pleasure yacht for ocean wide pleasure cruises stretching roughly 44m in length. In 1929 Sir John Courtown Edward Shelley-Rolls bought the Vita and renamed her ‘MY Alastor,’ the name most divers are now familiar with.

Some divers refer to her as ‘The Allister’ but this is incorrect as the source document explains in full. Take my word for it, I’m right – they’re wrong.


In 1939 she was acquired by the Ministry of War, refitted for battle where she remained in service until 1946 and was then sold to the Greek government. In March of that year The Alastor was mooring at Ringhaddy in preparation for the Greeks when a fire broke out. All hands managed to get to safety and call the fire brigade out, but due to being so far off shore no one could get to her. In true Northern Ireland fashion she burned out and sank a few days later.

After that everyone began scuba diving to go and look at her.



How to dive The Alastor

So, now you know all that is relevant about the wreck, i’ll tell you how to enjoy a day out on ‘The MY Alastor’ in true 'I Are Diver' fashion.


PARKING

Parking along the road
Parking at Ringhaddy can sometimes be a challenge. There is a little lay-by just at the shore which can fit about 5 cars, providing the owners have basic parking ability. More often than not, they are parked at right-angles-wrong-angles taking up the whole thing with merely 3 vehicles.

When this happens everyone simply parks in single file the entire way up the rather narrow country lane. This appears to be an acceptable practice providing you leave enough room at the back of each car for spreading vast amounts of scuba kit around.



ENTRY

The entry point is only about 10m away from the “car park.” There is a wall with some steps built into it which lead down to the water’s edge. The wall is often used as a kitting up bench by some divers, but personally I find it a little high and prefer using the back of the jeep and simply walking down fully kitted.

Kitting up at the wall

There are only 3 steps but they are quite high. Shorter divers, those carrying very heavy twin tanks, or lazy buggers can easily walk round avoiding the steps completely. The only hassle there is that you may have to manoeuvre over, or under, mooring lines. Wife buddy prefers walking round, I like the steps. I have to admit with twin 12’s walking back up the steps are quite a workout for ye olde quads.


GIVE A MAN ENOUGH ROPE

Once in the water, surface swim along the wall to the end. At this point descend 3m-5m, depending on the tide, and search for the big grey cable. The big grey cable is rather similar to the one that kills the big shark in Jaws 2, so don’t bite into it. Follow the cable 2m and keep an eye out for a rope that comes off it to the left. This is the rope you’re after as it runs 80m right to the wreck. 

No nonsense navigation on this dive. The only thing is, you don’t want to lose the rope.

This dive is renowned for having challenging visibility, due to an extremely high content of silt on the seabed. This is code for: ‘the viz is crap at the best of times,’ I’d say 2m on a good day. It is dark, murky, green, and if you touch the bottom it’s goodnight. Personally I wouldn’t do the dive without a dive light; in fact I wouldn’t do it without a primary and a back up. It’s not so much dangerous, but if you come off the rope you simply won’t find it again, be forced to surface and start all over, wasting gas and shortening the dive. A light is essential for buddy communication on this type of dive at any rate so just trust me and take one with you.

Crabs a plenty along the line


So with dive lights on full blast simply follow the rope to the wreck. Note the term “follow.” I am so bored of doing this dive alongside certain divers that don’t possess the ability to follow something.

I recall a dive when wife-buddy and I were following the rope in fairly limited visibility, enjoying the crabs and blenny’s along the way. We looked ahead in time to see a thunderous cloud of silt belting towards us. At 16m in the dark, and perhaps a little narked, it reminded me very much of the scene in Aliens when one of the monsters was tearing down an air shaft towards Vasquez and Gorman. So, with the Alien hurtling towards us, Kerri and I attempted to move away, allowing it to pass but still keep the rope in our vision.

This proved impossible. 

The Alien turned out to be 3 divers hauling themselves along the rope at breakneck speed; I figured an Alien was chasing them at least. Wife-buddy and I were barged out of the way and subsequently lost the line. We managed to find each other but had no other option than to surface. The dive was ruined. I can only hope a face hugger got the bastards on the way home, as that would save me from hunting them down and strangling them with said rope.


THE WRECK

If there are no Aliens follow the rope over a couple of tractor tyres holding it in place, and eventually you will bang your head on the stern of the wreck.

Welcome to "The Alastor" shipwreck.


The Alastor

The wreck is small enough to just potter around at random, but I have developed my own set pattern. When you reach the bow on the port side follow it along and you will see a walkway. It’s good fun to fin along it, just keep buoyancy in check as there is a lot of soft coral that are easily damaged. Take a peek into the doorway on your right which leads into the engine room. It’s filled with silt and I wouldn’t advise trying to get in.

Conger in the funnel

Exiting the walkway takes you into the forward section of the wreck just below the large fully intact funnel. There used to be 2 huge congers living in the funnel but apparently have moved on, but it’s worth having a look at it anyway. Coming back down the stack and moving forward into the wreck, all the girders have collapsed inwards due to the wooden supports having rotted away. Move forward and descend off the end and you reach the bow where the winch is located, and some cool hatches that large crabs frequent.

Moving back down the wreck along the starboard side and back up over the forward section we usually investigate around the fallen beams. On our last dive Kerri and I enjoyed the company of 3 giant wrasse, we got really close to them and was an excellent experience. Descending into the twisted metal and moving towards the bow again I like to travel along the starboard walkway.

Just before the walkway on the right is the bath. It’s a fully intact steel bath filled with silt, shells, inhabited by large crabs and often large fish hide behind or under it. It’s really cool. If you brush away the silty layer around the bath you can still see the tiles, just make sure there aren’t too many other divers around as the vis will be destroyed.

It never ceases to amaze me how much more interesting things become when they’re under water. I have seen many baths in my life and have even been known to partake in a little bathing from time to time. I usually don’t pay the unit itself much attention. Stick it in the sea and let it rust for 80 years however and I can’t wait to get back to look at it.

Capstan
Back at the bow, the capstans are in the centre and there are a couple of hatches to take a look into. When wife-buddy and I get to this point we usually complete an air check then one of us leads off to have a look at something else at random. There are numerous other areas of the wreck of interest, my SAC rate and cylinder size usually determine what happens next. On twin 7’s I can get round the wreck once no problem then have another potter about for 10mins or so. On the twin 12’s I can do everything, the cold usually makes me leave before lack of gas.



EXIT

Once we’ve seen enough, run out of gas, or the cold beats us, wife-buddy and I head back up the rope nice and slow, not forgetting to check out all the cool spider crabs and various other bottom feeders that litter the swim back to shore. Following the rope gives a nice easy, slow ascent rate and we usually level out at 5m for a safety stop, or 3m if any deco is needed.

If at any point you come off the rope or lose it, follow a Westerly bearing to come in to shore. If for any reason a diver has to surface in open water I would highly recommend shooting an smb, as there can be boat traffic and we all know boaters are idiots and kill scuba divers for sport.

Exiting up the steps

Then it’s just a case of walking up the big steps, or around the mooring lines, back to the jeep, de-kit and head home via KFC.

Follow these rules and you are guaranteed a great dive.



Tips for diving The Alastor


  • Down the steps if you’re hard, around them if you’re a girl

  • Do not lift the rope or no one will see anything ever again.

  • Try not to hit the bottom or no one will see anything ever again.

  • Bring 2 lights, primary and back up.

  • Bring an smb in case you lose the line or have to surface in the middle of nowhere.

  • Do the research in the links below, it makes the dive more enjoyable.

  • Be aware of scuba murdering boaters. 

Links

Wreck Survey

Irish Wrecks Online

Divernet Key Attractions

1 comments:

  1. Name John Taylor .I dived The Alastor 30 years ago with the lisburn diving club,someone had set up a TV set and a chair and a porn mag on a chain? at the bottom of the drop line. The bath tub and toilet ,where all visible.The vis was not so good but loved diving it lots.There was a car not far from the wreck which we came across.Alway a good spot to get a few eating crabs.Once swam right out to shot line and relised i had left weight belt back at shore.lol I learned to dive with a guy called Step and Paul a wonder if they are still diving?

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.