Tales of diving on the Bettolina di Sestri. From bow to stern, through the large spoked wheel. The kitchens, the place where time has stopped, the lodgings and the rudder, which still works.
Summary of previous episodes
“The fleet on the bottom” is the book that Claudio Grazioli wrote to help us learn about the wrecks of Sestri Levante and their history. Thanks to him we retraced the history of the Barge Jörn and the fictionalized story of her terrible sinking.
The dive on the Sestri barge
That phone call from Jin
At least a month ago, on a beautiful early autumn afternoon, I received a phone call. On the other side of the receiver was Gianluca Recita, Jin for his underwater friends. He is part of a large diving club and together with his members he wanted to organize two evenings live on Facebook to let their associates know two of the wrecks that lie in the bay of Sestri Levante: the Barge Jörn and the Cargo Armato.
His idea was born after reading Claudio’s book and, in the phone call, he asked me if it was possible to involve him in the two evenings.
Obviously Claudio loves sharing his discoveries and his ideas with other enthusiasts and therefore accepted with great pleasure the invitation for these two evenings and also for the following day dedicated to diving on these two wrecks.
Appointment for November 27th
The organization therefore provided for a day to be dedicated to diving on the Cargo Armed and on the Sestri Barge. Claudio Grazioli would have been the animator and the guide while the Massub Diving Portofino in Lavagna was the support diving.
But no one can do anything about it against Jupiter Pluvius. This is usually the rainy season and the week preceding the appointment was truly disastrous.
Rain, wind and storm surges advised the diving center to postpone the event, with all due respect to thirty divers who were already polishing the regulators and bi-cylinders for the occasion.
From the scrapbook
And then I draw from the album of memories and the inevitable story that Claudio has included in his book.
I remember a couple of dives on the Bettolina, in particular.
The first with Abyss Diving, many years ago now. It was September, usually a good month to do this dive.
On board the Ramagiò we left Rapallo on a beautiful sunny midweek day. Leading the troop was Giorgio with a small group of students from a technical course.
There was such visibility that as soon as I put my nose in the water you would frame the wreck resting on the sand.
The second one was a few years later, I think during the course to learn how to use the rEvo.
I was on board the Style Diving boat and Yme and Matteo were certainly with me.
We were less fortunate, in the sense that you began to see the wreck I went down about ten meters. And it was completely covered in a cloak of mucilage. Matteo sent me some frames of a beautiful video he made. Looking at it, the Barge looks like an abandoned vessel…
The metal wheel
It is magnificent when from a few meters deep you can already see the dark outline of the Sestri barge, lying on the sandy bottom and still in a navigation line oriented with the bow towards the ground.
Going down the top you reach the large metal wheel with eight spokes, placed in the center of the ship. It’s what’s left of the anti-aircraft gun pad. It was removed many years ago by the first who dived here. Maybe it still shows off in some living room or it has been forgotten in some cellar.
At this point you can choose where to start.
The bow and the bow hold
You can start with the squat and rounded bow, not very suitable for cutting waves. If you position yourself frontally, you can admire the entire shape of the hull covered by the open spirographs.
The port bow side is completely broken down and the hold is full of sacks, presumably of sand, which served as ballast when the ship was empty. As in this case, she was waiting for the order to enter the port to load.
The engine room and the kitchen
After the second hold you arrive at the engine room and then at the kitchen. Here time seems to have stopped on the day of its sinking. A saucepan is still resting on the stove top. Next to the kitchen there are still two small charcoal pits with the pieces of charcoal on the bottom. The attack took place at lunchtime and almost certainly the four sailors on board were preparing something to eat.
Another interesting area is the stern, with the crew quarters and above them a metal structure on which there was a second position for the machine gun. It was reached via a ladder. This metal structure was a paradise for those who loved to see how the sea is capable of colonizing everything, including iron. Here, a fantastic colony of jewel anemones had developed on the steps of this ladder.
And then, at the lowest point, the propeller and the rudder, still fully functional to the point that it can still be rotated, very carefully, left and right.
Unfortunately, today the aft part of the wreck has completely collapsed on itself. The supporting skeleton, corroded by salt and currents, did not withstand the violent storm of 28 October 2018, when waves over ten meters high caused devastating damage to the Tigullio.
That’s why I wanted to go back, to see the changes. To see if the mucilage had disappeared and if the impact of the Barge from above, on beautiful sunny days, continues to be so exciting.