With Lockdown restrictions easing, 6 divers ventured to St Andrews Lake, keen to get back underwater as soon as possible. The weather was fantastic for the return to diving, turning out to be the warmest March day in over 50 years!
The divers assembled at the lake for a socially distanced meet and greet, with smiles all round as we realized the joy of being able to speak to people in real life, no longer on the other side of a screen. The plan for the day was a mixture of check dives and sports diver training.
With the kit being stowed away for an overly long winter, preparation for the first dive took longer than usual, with an array of tools used to tighten various parts of the kit that had somehow managed to work their way loose. But finally, we were back under the water.
Good, if a bit chilly, first dives were had all round. A leaky seal was a good learning for one of the team, and a successful dive with a SMB, allowed Mark to tick off a Sports Diver open water lesson.
Lessons learned, the second dive was much more efficient, with another set of check dives and Navigation/DSMB practice as the Sports Diver lesson.
With beaming faces, we packed up the kit (after a bit of time taken to enjoy the sun) satisfied we had achieved our objectives for the day, and left the lake even more psyched for the summer ahead!
Credit – Charles (trip organiser)
It was a last minute dash for Michal to join us for the weekend as a space became available at the last moment (Friday afternoon) and he had only 1 hour to finish work and pack up all his gear ready to get a lift down with Neil who kindly took a small detour. I suspect he had the dive gear packed all ready to go!
Once we had all made it down to the luxury caravans at Bovisand Lodge and after a night listening to the wind howl, we motored out of Bovisand harbour at a very leisurely 10am with fairly calm seas.
First up was the HMS Scylla, now absolutely covered in ife – Tim and Michal stumbled across a John Dory at the bow, and the rest of us enjoyed the pretty good vis along with lots of fish. A hot drink and a pasty later, we were back in on the James Eagan Layne – one of the best dives in the UK – with lots of friendly Tompot Blennies, the occasional Congel Eel and crabs.
On our return, suspected tuna were spotted in the distance which turned out to actually be a school of common dolphins. We followed them and watched them jumping and swimming around the boat to everyone’s total delight – definitely the highlight of the trip!
A small mention has to be made of the cylinder incident that happened as the boat was being unloaded on Saturday evening when the slope of the harbour wall meant that a carefully laid down cylinder managed to roll around 90 degrees off the harbour wall and into 2m of water!! The salvage price was 4 cans of Guinness (bargin!) and the not amused owner was reunited with it fairly well undamaged the next morning.
That evening, we continued the fish theme at Rockfish enjoying hake, mussels and the veggie burger along with the (allegedly but hard to get hold of) unlimited chips. We all turned in at a boringly sensible hour for a Saturday night as we had ropes off at 07:30 the next morning.
The trip out to the Persier was a bit bumpy and some divers got completely wet before we had even arrived at the site – thank goodness for drysuits! There was a bit of a current running, and not everyone managed to find the wreck but appetites were whetted for this fantastic wreck – it’s top of the list for the next trip accompanied by Nitrox to make more of the dive.
Final dive was on the Mewstone for a chilled out pootle around the ledges (formed by an ancient riverbed) looking out for the many crayfish hiding in the cracks. There were also a lot of spider crabs around, having not been eaten by the French this year due to lockdown.
As soon as we got back, the next trip was booked in for May 2021 – fingers crossed we can have a full boat and a lot more time underwater.
Diving & Dive planning in Porthkerris, Cornwall is as easy as it can possibly be. The dive centre is on the beach for hiring equipment and air fills; the shore dive has a reputation as one of the best in the UK; the two dive hard boats are moored just off shore where a beach cafe resides and the accommodation for divers is just up the hill. The only issue is probably the distance to Cornwall (arriving in darkness and travelling down ridiculously narrow country lanes was interesting) and the Covid regulations which limited the numbers on dive boats and in the accommodation.
The whole weekend proved to be quite relaxed, mirroring the general atmosphere down there and the nice weather we had. Even Dave our skipper had the air of a chilled out beach surfer about him.
Most of us hadn’t done too much diving this season so I think we had all forgotten just how heavy all the kit was, especially when having to add the usual few kilos to compensate for the salt water. We didn’t need to take our equipment far to the waiting boat but over the rocky beach it felt a bit like walking on a travolator in the opposite direction.
The sea off Porthkerris is a mixture of reefs and wrecks, the former responsible for the latter. Even a kilometre off the coast the ‘Manacles’ (a number of sharp reefs both just above and below the water) have snagged many ships heading to Falmouth or Southampton.
We dived the Mohegan (29m) and the Volnay (20m) both of which were marked by giant boilers. The visibility wasn’t great (maybe 3-4 metres) but there was plenty of wreckage left. We dived a reef called Carn Du. Think it should be Carn Dubh’ but maybe that’s my Irish language bias. Saw a lot of marine life including one huge crayfish (photo below).
On our last day we had a change of scene and dived the Helford River. We were dropped in the mouth of the river and due to the tides we had a gentle drift out into the sea passing lots of spider & hermit crabs, cuttlefish and even a resting thornback ray. We had heard great things about this dive and the dive centre noted that it was their most popular dives, but I think another reef such as the ‘Pinnacle’ might have been more interesting (next time).
There is a walkable pub in nearby Porthallow but over this weekend I think we all enjoyed the self catering more, mainly complements to Pradeep and Toni in the kitchen and John’s prowess finding scallops on the river dive.
COVID restrictions have made club trip organizing slightly more complicated than usual. Determined to get a weekend of diving in, 8 divers set off down to Weymouth, arriving at the comfortable hotel Aqua on Friday evening.
Restrictions on the number of divers allowed on hard boats meant changes to the original plan, resulting in the group splitting into two groups of four with alternating plans.
The Saturday boat diving group had an early 4.30 start, needing to arrive at the Weychieftain for 5am ropes off. The first dive of the day was the Aeolian Sky, a bucket list dive on the colossal freighter. Sailing past the numerous ghost cruise ships that are now docked in the bay, just outside of Weymouth harbor needs to be seen to be believed! Decent viz made for a very enjoyable dive, starting at the superstructure and heading towards the bow. No Deco time was against us, but it is a dive where hours could be spent exploring the wreck.
After a relaxing surface interval, a shallower dive on the black hawk bow provided the perfect accompaniment to the first dive, with great viz and plenty of life. A successful morning diving and back in time for lunch.
Meanwhile the other group had headed over to Chesil beach for a days shore diving. The weather was on our side, with flat calm seas and fantastic viz.
Two great dives were had, with lots of marine life, including lobsters, crabs, pipe fish and many cuttlefish, with a bit of time to relax on the beach in between.
Saturday evening was spent having well earnt food and drinks at the Cove Inn, looking out to sea.
Sunday brought an exact reverse of the previous days plan, with the shore diving group hopping on the Weychiefain for dives on the Aeolian Sky and Black Hawk bow (we didn’t want anyone to miss out!) and the other group shore diving Chesil beach.
A great time was had by all, fantastic to have great diving and some social time with the club.
Thanks to all the divers on the trip for their flexibility with the plans and to Richard & Sue of the Weychieftain for being accommodating as always.