Experience: Suitable for novice divers
Depth: Approx 10m at high tide
Marine life: Varied
Visibility: From June to September can be 8m
How to get there:
Leave the M11 at junction 9 and then merge with the A11. Follow the A11 up to Norwich and then travel round the outer ring road following signs for the A140 (Cromer). Shortly after passing Asda and B&Q you will arrive at the junction with the Cromer Road. The dive shop is located on this junction and has parking outside the front conservatory.
To access the wrecks continue up the A140 until you reach Cromer and then follow the A149 coast road west until you reach Cley (for The Vera) or Weybourne for the Rosalie.
The SS Rosalie was just one of the 206 ships sunk by Otto Steinbrinck, the most celebrated U-boat commander of WW1. During what was an otherwise uneventful voyage from the Tyne to San Francisco, the crew of 17 were unaware that their ship was to become the U–Boat Commander’s next victim. On the evening of the 10th of August 1915 as the ship neared Blakeney Buoy, German U–Boat UB 10 fired a torpedo which hit the port side of the ship; and then, amidst the commotion and under the cover of the sea, made good its escape. With the ship taking on water, the decision was made to beach the 120m long vessel at Weybourne in the hope that the damage could be repaired. She now sits in approximately 8 metres of water just off the shingle beach.
The SS Vera was on voyage from the Tyne to Italy with a cargo of coal, when on the 15th of November 1914 she collided with a Royal Navy minesweeper. Like the Rosalie, the quick thinking crew were able to beach the vessel before she surrendered to the sea and she now sits in shallow water within easy reach of the shore. Although both ships were eventually sold for salvage there is still plenty of wreckage for divers to explore.
Both dive sites have pay and display car parks. For the Rosalie park as near to the steps on the NW corner of the Weybourne beach car park as possible. Then, follow the beach west for 450m. At low tide small sections of the wreck are visible from the shore.
For the Vera, park your vehicle in the SE corner of the beach car park which is opposite the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitors centre on the A149 Coast Road and then follow the dirt track East for approximately 200m. Again, like the Rosalie you will see wreckage protruding from the surf at low tide.
It is possible to dive both the Rosalie and the Vera on the same day. Albeit that you will have a six hour surface interval between dives. After deciding which wreck will be your second dive of the day, swim out and place a surface marker buoy on it. This will make it much easier to find when it is completely submerged at high tide.
Both dives need to be carried out at slack tide as otherwise the current is too strong. The centre of slack is approximately 2 hours after low or high tide at Cromer. Visibility is better at slack high tide but the wrecks will be completely submerged making them difficult to find unless you have buoyed them.
If your first dive is to be the Rosalie, it is a bit of a hike to the entry point – somewhere between 450 and 500m – so best to take your kit to the water’s edge in stages. You will then have a surface swim of around 180m before you reach the protruding wreckage and make your descent.
If you decide to dive the Vera first, the walk to the entry point is around 200m and the surface swim out to the wreck is 120m, so you can kit up in the car park. Both dives are shallow, so a 10 litre tank will be sufficient for most people and easier to carry along the beach.
On both wrecks you will descend on or around the engine blocks. If you are diving on the Rosalie, the engine block stands roughly 8m proud of the seabed and is an ideal place for you to begin your exploration of the wreck. There are lots of nooks and crannies playing host to a multitude of creatures such as shrimps, velvet swimming crabs and pipefish. In the larger crevices, and hiding amongst the mangled metal, it’s possible that you will encounter more popular crustaceans such as lobsters or edible crabs. You can if you wish stay really shallow in a depth of 5m and head towards the bow of the ship; or, you may want to follow the contour of the open hull and the prop shaft towards the stern of the vessel, which sits in a depth of no more than 10m at high tide. However, bear in mind this is a big wreck; the distance between the engine block and the stern is approximately 60m, so you may not get to see all of it on the one dive. What will astound you as you navigate your way around the site is the sheer number of plumose anemones on this one wreck. On both wrecks you will only get a maximum of an hour before the tide starts to run again, so it may be best on the Rosalie to be near the bow towards the end of the dive, or on the Vera near the port side ribs. This way you will only be a short distance from the shore.
The wreck of the Vera is a very similar dive to that of the Rosalie, only smaller, closer to the shore and shallower. Sitting in a maximum depth of 8m at high tide you will again descend onto the engine block. Although scattered over a wide area, you will find that much of the wreck is lying parallel to the shore, and like the Rosalie is smothered in plumose anemones. To reach certain sections of the wreck it is necessary for you to pass over barren areas of sand. It is these areas, where if you look closely, you will find small flatfish.
Towards the stern of the Rosalie and hidden amongst the plumose anemones you will find an abundance of nudibranchs. Crystal sea slugs and violet slugs being the most flamboyant. This is an excellent dive site for the macro photographer. On the wreck of the Vera keep an eye out for porcelain crabs. If you are using a camera it may be wise to use a macro lens.
Christal Seas Scuba is a PADI 5Star IDC centre in Norwich, just a short distance from the two wrecks, and is owned and run by Chris and Polly Wake. Chris, a PADI Course Director and Polly, an IDC Staff instructor, started their business over decade ago. After years of dedication and hard work the fruits of their labour is visible for all to see. The centre has just about everything you could possibly want in a dive school. Equipment from a whole host of manufacturers adorn every inch of the shop walls. Behind the counter, cameras, strobes and housings highlight the couple’s passion for underwater photography. Along with their team of experienced Instructors they can offer a wide range of courses from beginner through to the more demanding professional and technical courses. They service and repair equipment, provide air and mixed gasses, arrange holidays and club events and hire equipment to divers wanting to experience UK diving for the very first time. If you require accommodation, just let them know and they can suggest some good local B&Bs and campsites. The dive centre also has its very own rib which can carry 10 divers and two members of crew. This heads out for regular trips to the many wrecks that lie further offshore and spaces can be booked by contacting the dive centre by telephoning the dive shop on 01603 485000, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or via their website: www.scuba4me.co.uk.
Sitting on the most easterly point of the British Isles the sites are at the mercy of the elements. With this in mind it is always best to contact the dive centre or the coastguard in advance for up to date weather conditions. In the event that there has been recent high winds, wait until there has been a period of calm weather before attempting to dive here.
Photos courtesy of Rob Spray and Seasearch