Plymouth Bound!

Six divers, one partner and a dog headed headed down to Plymouth at the end of last month thanks to the Covid-19 lock down easing. Jon Phelps has kindly provided the following long, but entertaining write up of their antics…

Friday 24th July morning, bright and early your narrator got up, checked his kit, loaded his car and drove the short distance to his buddy for the weekend Chairman Len.

After loading the car with his kit and discussing what delights we had in our packed lunch we started a journey down to Devon….

The sun was out, it was a nice day, the traffic was light and we were on our way….. Our fellow divers Mark & Ian had set off earlier we later found out. My antiquated sat-nav was trying to divert me anywhere but the route we knew.

Chairman Len – Patiently Waiting for hid dinner!

Otherwise the drive down was fairly uneventful, apart from the bottleneck at Stonehenge. We pondered the alternatives to the ancient monument. A tunnel underneath, a flyover? Knock it down and build a tower block? – Ban the tourists, what would the Druids do?  But before we knew it we got through and we were soon motoring down the section of the M5, then the Devon Expressway, the hillside of trees you see southbound  looks magnificent I thought.

A phone call from Ian to announce they were there came through, a call to Dougie to next.  We were almost at Aquanauts.  Unloaded the kit, a short drive to the Kynance Hotel.

Kynance B&B

Chairman Len went in to book us in. he was greeted by ‘Basil Fawlty’ pay upfront, paperwork done, temperature taken, all masked up (I have a shocking pink one)

We were allocated a room in the Retreat – ground floor, basic and comfortable. But the lack of TV remote control and not enough tea and coffee was disappointing. We freshened up, then headed for the Barbican. Masks in hand, going to meet Ian & Mark…or batman ‘n’ robin.

We sat outside a nice pub. The others turned up, Jason, Leanne and Richard, then on our way to the posh fish ‘n’ chips’……

The next morning we arose early. Had a breakfast in our room. Bacon roll, cuppa tea.  Headed down to the harbour, loaded the boat.

No Outkast this year – She was faulty.  However, Aquanauts Plymouth who organised our dives introduced us to Pete Fergus & Son. The boat called Venture, smaller and not as well equipped.  There were no hot drinks and no pasties this trip. Yours truly, absent minded pinched a seasick pill from Jason as he boarded the boat.  The sun was warm.  After a safety brief, we headed out of the harbour, through the lock, and on our way. The waters were choppy, the skies had broken cloud.  We motored on…The James Egan Lane was our destination, or the Scylla. Both good wrecks, the seas were crashing over the breakwater, it was high water. Once out the swells got worse. Both of those wreck were rejected, we headed to the Poulmic, a wreck I didn’t know. It wasn’t so rough there.

Venture

Time to get kitted up – zip myself up. Hold on, plug that in, hold on, check the air, put my arm through that, weight belt, fins, hold on.  Ian my buddy was almost ready and he clambered over to me to assist. I felt queasy, Spray washed over me. I held on, I went green.  Your narrator almost ready to jump in, shook his hand, no dive, Go with Len! I shouted over the noise of the engine, the wind and the swell.  In a flash Ian seemed to skip over me, ‘I’m with you!’ He points at Len and Jason, ‘we goes as a three!’  In a few moments, they were all gone, under the sea.  I spent most of the time leaning over the edge of the boat, I was ill, holding onto my glasses. I didn’t want to lose them!!  The rain came down, it was windy, I was sick, Chris Fergus, the assistant gave me water. I wasn’t good company.

Luckily Jason had this to say for the dive I bailed –

 ‘First dive of the day, actually my first sea dive of the year. The weather was sunny – the sea was not calm, so we decided to dive on the famous Poulmic wreck – I hadn’t heard of it. With the high excitement and anticipation Jon blew his upper gasket and bailed out of the dive. Poor fellow, shame he missed it… Luckily for Ian, he joined Len and myself.

Le Poulmic

Wow!  The first impression after jumping in was the viz – about 10 metres and it was warm (not surprising with all that sunshine up top!) Following Skipper Pete’s shot down it was spot on. Sadly, the Poulmic wreck is now a collection of horizontal plates of steel littered on a reef. With the good viz it was an easy threesome dive but the best bits were the hiding spots the Polemic provided for Conger eels and awesome spider crabs’

After what seemed like ages I saw a SMB pop up – I shouted Diver UP!!! Venture was manuovered to do the first pick up, another SMB stood proud above the waves. Another pair were picked up.

By all accounts the sea was OK at depth, the wreck was nice. Mark recalls diving it ‘back in the day – when he was just a lad.  There was sea life, I can’t recall everything the intrepid underwater explorers said, but if I described the Kraken, it would not have been far off the mark.

Venture headed back to port, there was no chance we would stay out here any longer than we needed to. The team tucked into their lunch. I was still unwell. When asked what I would have had. ‘I don’t fancy my Curry sandwich’ was my reply.  They all chuckled at my distress.  I sat there, will my woolly hat pulled down over my head, the rain or spray came lashing across my face. I remember Ch. Len looking at me as I got more sodden. There wasn’t much shelter.

Venture headed towards the Fort. That’s what we decided to dive. I declined again.  Ian, Leanne & Mark dropped over the side, to the sea bottom.  Again, I sat there, I was no company to Chairman Len and 300Bar Jason who both did not dive.

Plymouth Fort Image: Penny Cross

The 3 stooges must have got dizzy going around the Fort, they were down for almost an hour.  When they surfaced they all said what a good dive it was, the viz was great and there was lots to see, sea life and all kinds of rubbish discarded by generations people over the years. The currents encircled the fort which made it a challenge I believe. The Fort was built during the Napoleonic Wars, Ian was fascinated by the construction of it.  Yours truly was cold but feeling slightly better.  The short trip back to the harbour was swift, once back, dressed and warm. We got off the boat. My mission was to find a chemist.  A cuppa tea first in the pub, we all went our separate ways.  I walked into town, found the chemist and headed back to the hotel…..No TV remote, not even a fresh cuppa tea. I felt better. I called the reception, they replaced the TV, topped up the tea and milk.  I ate my curry sarnie. My equilibrium was restored.  I was ready for the next days’ diving! 

Covid Ready? (Ed – Or new type of vomit bag?)

That evening we headed to a seafood restaurant Rockfish – It was recommended – Seafood Linguine, a few glasses of red wine. Very civilised. Refreshed and replenished with good conversation. A good nights’ sleep was needed for Sunday, fingers crossed the weather will be better.  I took my medicine and drifted away, after draping the duvet over Chairman Len who was half on/off the bed. Watching Chelsea must be boring if it makes him fall asleep sitting up!!

Sunday morning, it was warm. The sun was out. Thank goodness.  The boat already loaded, after our breakfast rolls we headed out, straight out to the James Egan Laine. I felt great.  Ch. Len and yours truly were the last to drop into the sea and go down the line.  Like a dolphin Len found the shot and quick as a flash he lifted it up, ready for the skipper to retrieve.  We were off. The viz was great. We drifted through the superstructure of the American liberty ship sunk in WW2. There were shoals of fish here and there, large hulks of metal, encrusted with limpets. I looked under the rusting plates that would have been the sides of the ship, seeking a conga ell. I didn’t see any.  We saw Mark & Leanne, the sea was peaceful down there, and I monitored my air, as too did Chairman Len. I was relaxed, me, the sea, the shipwreck. Len pointed out a lobster. I drifted under some heavy metal as Len drifted over, as he launched the SMB. We soon were together and on our assent. We were very soon on the surface and Venture was there ready to pick us up.

James Egan Laine

Once aboard us all discussed the dive. Leanne mentioned all the names of creatures I forgot, Mark spotted a ‘crocodile fish’ big eyes and teeth! I felt good. Ready for the next dive.  After our surface interval we decided to head into a cove and dive a reef called Piers Cellars.  We dropped into the sea, and straight down to the sea bed, the viz was again super, we drifted gently in a grid pattern, making sure we didn’t go too far off course, checking the compass.

Spider Crab

The kelp was vibrant purple, it swayed gently in the swell. There was lots of sea life, starfish, crabs and a cuttlefish whizzed past as Chairman Len did a good impersonation. I turned around and saw a large disc like creature not too far away, I alerted Len with wild circular movements with my arms. I was excited. A sunfish I thought. It had soon disappeared into the gloom before I had my camera pointed at it.  Chairman Len looked at me unimpressed, we carried on the gentle drift.  The seabed was like a slate type of rock, upturned slates and pieces could be broken off.  I spotted a bright spider crab and decided to chase it down. It finally got away after I got I a picture.  Lots of little fish and more crabs, Chairman Len indicated he was getting cold. We started our assent to the surface. The sea was clear. I wasn’t cold. I was drifting upwards, I glanced down. On the seabed below I could see Leanne inflate her SMB with Mark. Len pointed at something behind me.  A large Moon Jelly fish was almost on my shoulder, I took a photo. We surfaced soon after. Back to the safety of the boat. The days diving was done.  We were soon in the harbour, fully dressed and unloading Venture.

Compass Jelly Fish

It was a change having a different Skipper – Pete Fergus, an experienced former Commercial Diver, BSAC trained, First Class, originally from BSAC Club no. 15 Hull.  His son, Chris a HGV driver, and an occasional diver.  They joined us in the cider barn, distanced apart for a cider or two.  Pete was a very knowledgeable fellow, softly spoken, he has lost his dad to Covid. He shared some pictures of him recovering large ingots of copper from a wreck on the east coast.  He spent a lot of time at sea, I think he was in the forces too. And now a writer. He gave us all a novel, based around diving in Cornwall. A good read he says (well, he would say that!

Five Divers Plus Me Taking the Photo!

We said goodbye to Leanne, Richard & Jason who all went on their way back home that night.

The four remaining dudes had the evening ahead of us. We headed into a pub to watch the football, different games, and different screens.

 – Ian later suggested an interesting pub. We headed there, The Dolphin, full old fishermen and someone had a mouth organ. After a few beers here, a few beers there. The evening soon was full of conversation about the club and diving, where next shall we go?  This year was a lean one. What was important was that Chairman Len was clocking up his dives, over 1900 logged now, in recent years, plenty with yours truly.

We were soon in a Curry House Eastern Eye , and not before too long we were back in the hotel…fast asleep….

Monday – Home time! We had a full English breakfast, seated in the restaurant of the Kynance.  Soon loaded the car and homeward bound.  A stop at an American Diner Mattia Diner.  Ian, was ahead of us, by a long way. I think his van is rocket fuelled. A nice drive home, Len fell asleep from time to time.

But,where shall we go next…?????

Mattia Diner on the way home