MT Haven was a VLCC (very large crude carrier),which In 1991, while loaded with 144,000 tonnes (1 million barrels) of crude oil, exploded, caught fire and sank off the coast of Genoa, Italy, killing six Cypriot crew and flooding the Mediterranean with up to 50,000 tonnes of crude oil. It broke in two and sank after burning for three days, and for the next 12 years the Mediterranean coast of Italy and France was polluted, especially around Genoa and southern France”
I am lucky enough to know a big warm hearted handsome bear of an Italian named Luca Zanzotta, the legendary king of the Portofino seas and owner of IL Grande Blu dive centre. “Come dive the MT Haven with me” he said up in Scapa Flow. So I went and did just that 😀
A plan was hatched and eventually Karon, Laura and I arranged to meet out in Italy and spend a few days wreck diving with Luca off the coast of Portofino. Culminating with a big bucket list dive on the MT Haven.
Portofino is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Admittedly I am a man who prefers to rough it on mountain tops and under bushes before I will stay in a hotel but I do know a beautiful part of the world when I see it and Porto is just that, postcard perfect in every way and home to the most opulent yachts I have ever seen. Marrying up a dive trip with a destination like this was to be special indeed.
So first week in June I flew to Milan before driving South to Genoa and onto Lucas home near Portofino . Finding Lucas place was a mission in itself, sat high on a hillside with the most amazing view it required a drive up what must be the skinniest, steepest and windiest road in Italy. Built for donkeys I said 😀 I made the trip up and down each day holding my breath every time, calling on my Scottish cattle pass experience to see me through. Although to be honest the worst part of Italian driving became Karons persistent moaning but enough said about that as I am trying hard to forget 😀 😀
Lucas top class dive centre is built into a cliff, sat in a beautiful cove and home to air, nitrox and trimix diving. It is a treasure trove of first-rate equipment and top class divers. You could not want for more ! All gases are blended by Luca himself in-house and a hard boat and Rhib was made available to us. This was to be a perfect base and over the next 5 days Luca showed us some of his favourite wrecks, slowly getting us in shape for the big MT Haven dive.
My favourite wreck (besides the Haven obviously) was sat at 55 metres and had BIG guns !!! 😀 you know I loves the big guns 😀 😀 It was a submarine chaser, the KT UJ 2216 wreck. A fabulous dive and our first with Max, an ex Italian-army tech instructor who proved himself to be an absolute legend and superb diver to boot.
Diving can be hard work and it is highly equipment intensive but every dive was worth the time and effort and every single hour I spent on the boats I experienced something fantastic and always of outstanding beauty. Above and below the sea my eyes were treated to one amazing sight after another that left me constantly agog.
Looking out to sea at sunset is one of my favourite pleasures in life and one of the greatestwonders of this world. Portofino had an eye opening sunset waiting for me every single night. Oh and did I mention the yachts ! yes there were some nice yachts. just a few , actually loads !!
Some of the yachts moored in and around Portofino were huge shiny floating works of immaculate art and probably worth loads more than a Picasso. But the boat we had come to see wasn’t floating nor was it shiny ! it was sat on the ocean floor 80m down….. It was called the MT Haven…………..
Finally it was Haven day and with our dive plans established and the Rhib ready we made an early start on a long sea journey speeding over wave after wave to the wrecks position. It took a while but no matter as I really enjoyed the journey to the wreck, flying along the beautiful coast off Portofino, then round the headland to follow the coastline of Genoa. Huge ships abounded all along this busy port. One super tanker after another , an awesome sight indeed. Soon we were in position and above the wreck. Karon and I were diving with Max and Cami. Luca would dive with Johannes using the scooters to attempt to explore the hole left by the explosion that sank this mighty beast.
After a long and scrutinous equipment check it was finally time to drop backwards from the Rhib and sink down to the biggest single object short of a sky-scraper that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being next to .. The Haven was massive !! Looming out the blue , gargantuan in size, eerily imposing yet truly a spectacle and with excellent visibility we could see the sheer enormity of it disappearing before our eyes into the depths. Fucking WOW !! WOW ! WOW !!
Its size was enough to make even the boldest divers feel like minuscule flies on an elephants backside just floating next to it. Try to Imagine Astronauts floating around a huge space station in some crazy sci-fi movie and your just about understanding what we were feeling. As we dived deeper I starting to feel slightly more narked than usual, was it the depth or just the existential feeling I was having being there ? Who knows but we had to keep our wits about us. With our very tight schedule this was one ship that needed us to follow our plan to the exact detail ..
Max was as always sharp as a tack and had dropped us right down to above the main deck so we could look along it as far as we could see, it was scary yet exciting but we couldn’t hang around looking for long.
As our plan outlined we spent a brief time looking along the deck at our maximum depth before ascending, following the walkways and stair cases for navigation deck at a time and slowly we found our way to the entrance of the main control room where we would enter the wreck in an easy penetration. I just couldn’t stop myself from looking down though, as we gained height deck after deck it was just crazy , seriously it was jaw dropping the sheer size of it all. Soon we had found the control room where we made an easy penetration before finally leaving the ship.
Sadly and all to quickly it was time to ascend and start our decompression procedure , nearly 45 mins of decompression needed to be taken. Man! I hate those long stops but I had much to think about and they went relatively quickly. After a very long run-time we finally surfaced and made for the boat. Fuck yeah I thought !! I had really saw something amazing this time !
My day wasn’t finished there though , Luca had one final treat in store and on the way home we stopped off at the cove that holds the famous and original Christ of the Abyss , it sits in front of the Abbey of San Fruttuoso “in the silence of deep sea, there is a mystic figure with arms upraised in a sign of invocation, a large bronze statue of Christ, sunk at remembrance of those who lost their lives in the sea” . A spot of free-diving was to be had and we swam down to say hello to old JC. Quite a sight he was to, sat down there on his lonesome waiting to greet us. Soon after we were home and that night we dined and we celebrated , some celebrated too much. Lets not go there 😀 ….
The next day had an early morning frantic run around to drop Laura at the railway station as she was flying home to London direct from Pisa. Thankfully later was a bit more relaxing and was spent on the paddle boards , heading out to my beautiful cove, yes mine !! I claim it, fight you for it 😀 We swam and blew some time before heading back to Lucas to say goodbye to everyone and all to soon headed back to Milan for the flight home……….
My utmost thanks to Luca and his team , their hospitality and skill making the trip so “perfezionare” See you soon salty sea dogs …………….