Freediving the Wreck of Fishing Trawler, Lady Cheryl

Port Phillip Bay, Victoria

Freediving the wreck of the Lady Cheryl is an exciting moment. There’s something peculiar about freediving around a vessel that is underwater, where it shouldn’t be.

The Lady Cheryl is a former commercial fishing trawler that came to grief on the night of March 23, 2012. According to reports, seas were high with swell and waves around 6m high. The vessel set off at night intending to head out into Bass Strait through the Port Phillip Heads.

At some point though in the heavy seas and high winds, the vessel struck submerged rocks or ran aground and a huge gaping hole tore open on the starboard side. The 27-meter fishing trawler stayed afloat for some time and later sank near Point Nepean. It now rests in around 10m deep water in the high flow currents just inside the Port Phillip Heads. Whilst the vessel sank and met with a watery demise, all 6 crew were rescued by Water Police.

Freediving the Lady Cheryl Wreck

Sitting in such a precarious position near the Port Phillip Heads, the wreck of the Lady Cheryl can only be dived in certain conditions. It is a lucky day when the tides, time, water visibility and surface conditions conspire to afford us a few moments to dive the site.

Subject to strong currents, tidal flows and waves, the Lady Cheryl is fortunate in a way because it now supports a really healthy little marine ecosystem. We’ve watched over the years as the vegetation and fish have grown abundant at the site.

Sitting in around 10m depth, the wreck can be seen from about 3-4m below the surface. The trawler superstructure is no longer in place, however the remnants of the fishing gear and effects of the crew can be clearly seen. Items that you wouldn’t expect to see some four years later are still in place, such as a flannel shirt and desktop cooling fan.

Freediving the wreck requires high caution as protrusions of twisted metal and broken railings create points of sharp contact and ways to become tethered unexpectedly. It’s definitely an experienced freediver site and not for beginners. Surge, current and unexpected waves are also a high danger.

At that right times and with the right levels of skill and experience, it’s a fascinating site. Large mature Sweep swim freely about the place. Scalyfin hover just under the exposed decks. Sizeable Blue-Throat Wrasse cruise alongside the kelp growing from the ship’s beams. Moving about the outsides of the wreck (wreck non-penetration freedive excursions only) the size of the gaping hole in the starboard side is unbelievable. The hatches and rear deck give subtle hints of the previous working life of this local fishing trawler.

Keen to freedive the wreck of the Lady Cheryl? Freedivers holding a Level 1 certification from a recognised training agency may join our freediving excursions aboard Kavorca. If you’re not yet certified, please join a PADI Freediver Basic course and begin your core training towards becoming a level one certified PADI Freediver.

Please enjoy a few images of our freedive tours to the wreck of the Lady Cheryl. All images in this post taken using our trusty Nikon AW130 Waterproof Camera.

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