Well, not them exactly, more the British Army sappers who kindly agreed to sink club member Chris Drewett’s boat Sophia.
Chris provided me with a bit of background to Sophia.
“We brought her [the boat] 10 years ago for £5,500 she was 23 years old and already had a lot of work carried out on her, but needed more. We have taken her out on the Thames many times and even went to Windsor and had dinner on the river there…she always got us back home, but often after some “on hand repairs” along the way. We even took her out fishing a few times on the south cost.
I have spent a small fortune on her and could probably have brought a new one. I loved her but repairs where turning out to be needed after every trip.
So needing room for my next project on the driveway [converting a van into a camper van] a decision had to be made so I offered her to Vobster as one of the attractions that people can go dive, which they kindly accepted and organised for a contingent of local sappers from the British Army to come sink her.
So in a sense I have solved the problem of space out the front of the house and I still get to see her using my other passion – Diving. It’s a win win for me!
May she live in the lake for many years to come!”
Chris Drewett, 2021
Sophia went down next to the car at Marker Bouy 22, so why not check her out…you never know you might find some treasure on her that Captain Drewett may have left aboard.
Below are some photos of the day kindly taken by club member David Nicholson.
“I love ginger nuts,” as I innocently proceeded to share a packet of biscuits. “I’m sure you do!” came the reply…took me 30 seconds, but eventually realised that this pretty much set the tone and banter of the day.
Seriously though, this day of diving was an absolute belter!
Not only was it great to be back out diving as a club, but the weather and the sea – wow, we lucked out – a great day for it.
Although not so lucky was the 5am start many of of us had to make sure we got down and onto the pier with our cars and heavy diving kit before it was filled up and this would have meant parking in the neighbouring council car park and lugging our kit that much further.
The days diving was organised by Lucy; a new member to the club this year, but has been a BSAC diver for number of years with other clubs. And this was her big day to show Craig, our club Diving Officer, whether she could manage and organise a club dive in order to finish her Dive Leader qualification. The main criteria, at least for me was that we all came back alive. But more on whether Lucy managed us successfully and passed her quals later.
Lucy gave us a full brief, making sure we filled out all the proper paperwork for next of kin, diving logs, who is diving together as a buddy pair etc… and answering any questions we had.
Today was going to be two boat dives, followed by a shore dive under the Pier at Swanage.
Diving with Divers Down, whose diver shop and operations are based on the pier, our first dive was the Kyarra, about 2 miles out from Swanage and sits at 30m on the seabed with the wreck rising to 24m.
Being so close to Swanage it didn’t take Pete, owner of Divers Down and skipper, that long to get us over the fixed shot lined on the Kyarra’s bow.
Due to the nature of tides and especially as we were diving a neap tide we were on time according to tide tables for the slack water, but Mother Nature still wasn’t ready, as the buoy attached to the shot line was still below the surface. This meant that the tide was still running and if we were to attempt to dive the Kyarra we would stand the chance of being pulled off the wreck assuming we could have held on and pulled our way down the shot line in the first place.
Pete said during his boat briefing that he expected that this would happen, so we had to wait kitted up for 10 minutes and then a little bit more, but eventually the shout came, it would be a bit of a tide pulling us on the shot line as we went down, but we could manage it.
The SS Kyarra was a 7,000 tonne Australian ocean going liner, built in 1903, and measured 126m from bow to stern and 16m across. She was carrying 2,600 tones of general cargo, mail, hospital supplies and medical staff who were going to pick up 1,000 wounded Australian wounded soldiers. She did have a 4.7in gun on her stern and that may have been the reason UB-57 sunk her on the 26 May 1918 use a torpedo to her Port side. Six crew members were killed.
Due to the nature of her cargo many artefacts continue to be found, especially after storms uncover and break the wreck up further – champagne and wine bottles, perfume bottles, silk yarns, champagne, silver purses, pocket watches and supposedly somewhere gold watches.
The viz (visibility) was about 10m, lots of nooks and crannies to find crabs, fish and a few glass bottle tops that were brought up by other divers on our boat. Some of the group managed to make it from the bow to the stern and then let the prevailing current bring them back to the bow before ascending. She’s a big ship and I felt that I had seen only a half of her before I had to come back up. I did manage to find her boilers and fin in amongst some of her massive iron beams and collapsed holds. I am definitely going to have to go back on a nitrox mix next time to explore more! (It was my first dive on this wreck by the way).
Kingston and Elmbridge BSAC part owns the wreck of the Kyarra (along with former members of the club who formed the Kyarra Salvage Association) after K&E members Ron Blake and his wife Linden found it in July 1967. Jason one of our club members came prepared on the day to clean up a plaque the club put up on the pier to remember those lost. More on that later.
Once all safely aboard a quick trip back to Swanage harbour for some lunch and pick up a further club member to join us on a drift dive off the Peveril Ledges.
Peveril Ledges are just off to the south west of Swanage’s natural harbour, across the headland known as…surprise surprise, Peveril Point, in Durlston Bay. The idea of this and any drift dive is to use the tidal flow to propel divers along above the seabed to see what they can find. Once divers are dropped in they race across the ledges taking in all the rich sea life and beauty, while “flying by” at around 3.5 knots and can, if the tide is really fast, end up shooting out into Swanage bay area where they are then picked up. The depth on this dive was about 20m but due to the undulating nature of the ledges we were up and down between 13.5m and 20m on our dive.
To make life easy for Captain Pete to keep an eye on us, we all jumped in together so we drifted roughly in the same area. The boat continued to travel along at the same speed as us divers, giving him and the mate enough time to make a cup of tea and put their feet up before picking us up in the bay (see story below – photo and story taken from Swanage Pier).
To make things even easier for the skipper, divers will deploy a DSMB or Delayed Surface Marker Buoy, once they reach the bottom. A DSMB is a long bright red sausage looking inflatable tube that is attached via a long string to a reel that is held onto by a diver. Once deployed the DSMB floats upright on the surface of the sea due to the weight of the diver to help the skipper see where all the divers are.
It was my turn to put up a DSMB for my buddy and I when we got to the bottom, once deployed we could focus on whatever came in front and to the sides of us as we flew by; spider crabs, fish, tube worms, (their “fronds” or fan tails used to filter food as water flows over them disappear like a shot down their holes as you go near to touch them – they are more beautiful and fun than the name suggests), rock formations and so many amazing creatures and habitats.
The only thing that didn’t get away from me towards the end of the dive were scallops. Not as many as at Portland on previous trips, but when you get your eye in you can quickly pick them up off the floor and into your keep bag. At the end of our 65 minute dive we came back up with some kid’s diving mask lost at sea and a few scallops that I ate the very next day, pan fried with some butter and salt and a piece of bread the very next day. Yum.
Once everyone was back onboard we returned to port once again and fully disembarked this time. A few of the group needed to return home, whilst others decided for a quieter time on the pier with a bottle of Brasso (more on that later).
We were met by Thomas and Sarah two newly qualified divers who have just joined the club for their first sea dive under the pier. Although not a deep dive, there is so much life to be seen. It was a bit murky after nearly a full days worth of diving by other groups, but still a good 6m vis. The dive lasted about 40 minutes and both Thomas and Sarah did well with all there was to take in as well as trying to keep trim and all the new noises of boats passing overhead and strange looking creatures.
While some of us were under the pier Jason was up on top polishing a plaque that Kingston and Elmbridge put up in memory of those lives lost in 1918 aboard her as part of the clubs 50th anniversary. It’s not in the easiest place to polish and was harder than expected to clean it up. Salt water and storms have weathered it. If you are interested in finding the plaque yourself while visiting you need to go all the way along the pier to the end to just where there are steps going up and down to the upper and lower decks.
So did Lucy passed? Of course she did! Well done Lucy! Lucy ran the day so well, at times it was like herding cats as our cars were positioned all over the pier entrance and some people can just talk and talk to strangers and other divers (wonder who that could be…).
To celebrate, those who didn’t need to rush home went off to the Ship Pub for a few beers, followed by eating fish and chips out of paper while sitting on the harbour wall watching the sun go down. Bliss!
Brian Millar writes about the Kingston And Elmbridge Club Trip to Lundy in June 2021.
Lundy always makes an entrance. Sometimes it looms out of the mist like some magical island out of a storybook. Sometimes it shimmers in the heat haze like a mirage. Sometimes you just bang your head on it while you’re looking at a seal. This was the club’s second visit to the island, and it didn’t disappoint. We dived with Wild Frontier on their brand-new boat which picked us up from Ilfracombe and zipped us down the Bristol Channel where we picked up a few dolphins who played in the bow wave.
There was almost a flat calm both days, and it was perfect speedo and bikini weather, but alas, we are UK divers so we sweltered on deck in the mini-saunas of our dry suits until we jumped into the blissfully cool water.
Our first dive was in a cove with those Chuckle Brothers of the sea, the seals. Seals love to play games, though I found that on the first dive they were mainly playing hide and seek with an emphasis on the hiding bit. They seemed to want to hang out with Danny and Debbie, who got some amazing pictures – maybe they spotted Debbie’s camera. Everybody wants to be an influencer now.
In the afternoon we dived the MV Robert, a 1970s freighter that is still very intact. The Robert is a terrific wreck, an easy dive in about 25m maximum depth, covered in plumose anemones, candy-striped flatworms and nudibranchs, with lots of conger eels lurking in the pipework.
On Saturday evening some of us had a sensibly-socially-distanced curry in Ilfracombe, while others had fish and chips on the beach. This year it’s nice just to get out with friends anywhere, great food and a setting that wasn’t Southwest London was a bonus. Another highlight of Ilfracombe is the local BSAC who were brilliant about doing all our fills and whose facilities have left Jason with a serious case of compressor envy.
We began Sunday with more seals, including some really small pups whose mothers didn’t seem to mind them hanging out with strangers. You got a real sense of the diversity of life on Lundy; we were divebombed by oystercatchers that look like penguins that learned how to fly, and a big bird of prey circled above us on the updrafts. One day we really must go ashore. In the afternoon we dived the Carmine Filomena, an Italian steam-powered cargo ship that ran aground east of Rat Island. The wreck is only in about 10m, but is an absolute garden of waving kelp and shoals of wrasse and pollack. I love the rusty stuff, my buddy Emma loves the squidgy things, so we were both delighted.
Thanks to Debbie for organising and re-organising such a brilliant trip during a pandemic, and to Ilfracombe BSAC for filling so many cylinders on one of the hottest days of the year. Now we just have to buy Jason a bank like theirs…
Sign up sheets for next years trip will be available in the club from 5 August.
We mourn the loss of our good friend and club mate Paul Feakes who has sadly passed away following a long illness
Paul was a diver’s diver, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, technical and vastly experienced as well as being a lovely, modest man. He did his best to dive every week and would happily set off to dive a new wreck somewhere in the UK or overseas. Paul was a founding member of Eden Divers, BSAC #1689 based in Edenbridge, Kent, where he inspired and encouraged everyone from novices to instructors to improve and learn on every dive. He was also a long time member of Kingston & Elmbridge, BSAC #17 where he held the position of Diving Officer. Dive trips with Paul were always fun, he enjoyed a good laugh and loved the banter and discussions following a dive. It helped that he had a wicked, dry sense of humour and we will never forget his smiles when we discussed dives or choosing wrecks to dive. Over the course of a long diving career, Paul had pretty much dived everything. He was the go to person to talk to when planning a trip or just needing advice on diving a particular wreck or buying equipment. He understood people and had a knack of pairing divers together, which more often than not resulted in the creation of new and long lasting friendships along the way. Paul was never happier than when he was in the water, imparting his knowledge and experience in his calm, and assured way.
When you dived with Paul you knew you were in very safe hands!
Words by Alex Kennedy, friend and club member
A Selection of Memories of Paul from Club Members
Paul will be remembered as a fountain of diving knowledge and a person you could get the best advice from on all subjects. He was a great pleasure to dive with and will be sadly missed at the club and on the boats. I always knew who to contact for any diving advice, he had many years experience and was a great diving officer.
I felt honoured and pleased to go to his funeral and to represent our club, it was held at the Bluebell Cemetery, Old London Road, Halstead, Kent on the 03 June 21. Within Covid rules it was well attended by mainly many of his old diving friends, with his sister Sue and partner Carol and relatives.
We as a club gave a monetary donation to Hospice on the Weald nursing home where he spent his last few days. Everybody spoke very highly of Paul, as a gentleman, wealth of diving knowledge, who always had time to help or explain any diving problems to those around him at the club, on the boat or on the diving trips.
He was a credit to our club and the other clubs he was involved in and I was very proud to be able to say a final farewell to him.
Len Hards, Chairman
Paul was a great diver, and brilliant company on the surface too!
He [Paul] was on my first sea dive in 20 years with Richard (at Richard’s request I gleaned – who was more nervous than me! )
Paul was cool as a cucumber as I sank, I think Shirley was nearby too, and stayed by my side as I adjusted myself to the surroundings my mask flooded, adjusting the buoyancy in a unfamiliar drysuit.
He was by my side throughout, the viz was great, Black Hawk I think and as I went up the line, he reassuring and attentive.
We both worked for BT, we had that in common and we would often chat online about this and that and shared the odd photo and had the same dog breed. He has a Ruby King Charles Cav.
He had done over 40 years in BT, man and boy, based in Kent I think he was mainly telephone systems maintenance before going into Customer Service Management. He stayed on after his time to complete projects, his last was delivering a new network to the Post Office.
Tony and I are so sorry to hear the sad news about Paul, fabulous guy wealth of knowledge and experience in the diving world, will be greatly missed.
Elaine & Tony
Alan and I will miss him terribly.
Jacqui and Alan
Paul was a kind and softly spoken man, who was very knowledgable on all things diving and life in general when you asked him for advice. As Diving Officer he helped me to analyse where I had gone wrong, or had a “learning experience”, on a dive. He was never judgemental, eager to help me and encourage me to keep going. We had a great Red Sea as a club with him in 2017. I will miss Paul.
On Thursday 26 November, 33 members and committee of Kingston and Elmbridge BSAC joined together on Zoom to host the club’s first, and hopefully only, on-line AGM.
Nothing, not even COVID-19, stands in the way of a Club Secretary running the club’s Annual General Meeting!
The evening went surprisingly well and free from technical issues. The raising of hands feature in Zoom was used by the tellers to count votes on agenda items that required it. And the chat box was used for any questions people wanted to ask during a particular agenda item or officers report, with the tellers watching to raise the question or ask the member to unmute and clarify more – it kept everything ship shape and running smoothly. More importantly everyone felt that their points were openly discussed and there was transparency in the voting.
There were some notable changes in Committee members. Dave T, our long standing boats officer stepped down to be replaced by James W. Dave has done a lot with keeping Sea King, our RIB in Newhaven, in good condition and is the font of all knowledge on dive sites and operating the RIB out of Newhaven. No pressure there then James 😉
We also thank Ian A for his again notable time as Bar Manager and appreciate all the work he has put in to making sure the bar is well stocked and supporting Eileen who comes without fail to help run the bar on a Thursday night. Ian’s role will now be held by Jon P. A BIG responsibility to make sure the beer/cider/wine/soft drinks keep flowing Jon 🙂
And finally, but not least is to say thank you and goodbye to Paul F from the role of Diving Officer (but not the club)! Paul has done a wonderful job of keeping track of all the diving we have done over the years, giving the annual Diving Officers’ report at the AGM into the number of hours dived and any incidents or mishaps we can learn from.
Sadly we haven’t logged so many diving hours this year as a club, but on the positive the only incident we had was Mr M forgetting his drysuit on one of the few dive trips that went ahead….for which he ended up with the 2020 Wooden Spoon award (had to get that one in there)!
Paul will be succeeded by Craig D, who had already stepped in temporarily to help fill his rather large rock boots earlier this year, but who is now the club’s official 2020/21 Diving Officer (ed. wolf whistles).
Long time club member Ian organised a “Fantastic Weekend” of diving (16th – 18th October) down in Portland. Ian writes:
A group of seven of from Kingston and Elmbridge BSAC club met on Friday night for dinner at The Boat That Rocks which sits next to the harbour where the group would be heading out from in the morning.
We spent the night talking about what to expect of the diving over the weekend and being that it was October we weren’t expecting much in the way of vis or good seas.
However, we woke on Saturday morning to blue skies and calm seas, it was amazing! The Diving gods must have looked upon us favourably!
We cast off from Portland marina aboard Skindeeper and powered through the calm seas for 1 1/2 hours to our first wreck, that of HMS M2 a submarine. It’s a bit of a sad story, as I guess all wreck stories are, but this submarine was on routine exercises when it went down in 1932. The submarine had been adapted to hold a hanger on its main deck that a float plane could take off from when surfaced. “The accident was believed to be due to water entering the submarine through the hangar door, which had been opened to launch the aircraft shortly after surfacing.”
The M2 rests at 33m, which at that depth meant the waters were dark but the vis was between 4 to 5 m with lots of marine life as well at the wreck itself to see. It was a fantastic dive.
On our return trip we stopped by and dived the James Fennel and some other wreckage nearby, with still the same excellent vis of 4/5m. The James Fennell was an Admiralty Trawler, bound from Gibraltar for Portsmouth. In thick fog she ran aground at rocks below Blacknor. Fortunately all the crew were rescued after their shouts for help were herd by a local man. She currently sits 15-18m on the bottom where she finally rested after numerous salvage attempts.
Saturday night we went out to Lin & Ozzie’s bistro in Portland and had a great three course meal from curried soup to one of the biggest flatfish I’ve eaten with bottles of wine 🍷. At £40 per head you can’t whack it. 😉 [Ed. most of that would have been the wine bill!]
Sunday morning the sky’s a bit overcast, but flat seas allowed us to head out 2 hours to reach the HMS Saint Dunstan that sits at 29 m depth. The vis was again 4/5m and she was so full of sea life on it!
The Saint Dunstan was a bucket dredger but was converted during the first World War to be used as a mind sweeper. She was subsequently torpedoed by the Germans and sank. It was well worth the journey time out to the wreck!
Second dive was a drift dive just off the Portland Harbour Sea Wall looking for a few scallops which we got & which also turned into the fastest drift Dive I’ve ever done the viz was crap but my God was it fun.
I could of stayed down there all day 😆😆 once we got picked up about half a mile from the shore it was the usual get cleaned up and say our goodbyes!
However Len, Mark and I [Ian] could not leave without going for the usual Club curry so booked another nights stay & strolled into Weymouth The rest we can’t remember! 😉
Brian writes about the club’s trip out of Dover last weekend:
We had a plan!
The weather had a different plan!
The weather won…
We’d aimed to go searching for the remains of a Spitfire along the Kent coast, but a week of strong Westerlies put paid to that. Chris, the skipper of dive boat Maverick* and veteran of the Dover diving scene, did some calculations, recited some magic spells and decided the Pommerania would be our best bet as a plan B. *(Mutiny Diving – Facebook Page)
An ocean liner from the 1870s (Steam and Sail), it’s one of the classic dives in this part of the world, littered with spars and debris, providing hours of entertainment for fans of rust, rope and broken crockery. Six such fans, Debbie, Tom, Chris, Jonathan, Glenn and Brian set out in the crisp dawn into a bracing Force Four to explore it.
The wreck is truly enormous and atmospheric, broken superstructure looming out of the darkness, congers snaking through pipes, ribs disappearing into the sand. Who needs visibility when there’s so much stuff within a few meters of you?
Back on the boat, cylinders refilled with air and divers refilled with sausage rolls (and, in Tom’s case, the Greatest Pastie Cornwall Ever Made), we formulated plan B Part 2.
We couldn’t dive the Spitfire, but we could go looking for something a bit bigger: a B17 Flying Fortress, Miss Lollipop, which crashlanded in 1944 having been hit by flack over Dunkirk.
The sea was flatter, but the viz was down to fingertip level, and in spite of an hour’s careful searching in circles using lines, we didn’t find it. However, there were the remains of something far older; Chris brought up a wrought iron grappling hook that must have come from a ship sometime from the 17th to 18th Centuries – it certainly didn’t come from a WWII bomber. Still, it was good practise for when we get a window in the weather and finally get to search for that Spitfire engine.
This is the way UK diving works: you make a meticulous plan, the weather, waves and visibility conspire against you, you improvise and come up with something else. Go looking for a bomber, find something off a pirate ship. As long as there’s banter, tea and hot sausage rolls the rest is details.
Trip report by Debbie. Photos by Debbie, James & Nick
Organising your first club dive trip can be a little daunting but as a trainee dive leader this was something I felt ready to do.
At the dive show in 2019 I met a skipper based in Ilfracombe who took divers out to dive off the coast of Lundy. I did my research and decided that this was the perfect trip for me to organise as the dives were suitable for all levels of diver and it was different to other trips previously organised by the club. We agreed on a weekend and I made all the arrangements.
Unfortunately 2020 has not been a good year for diving and our trip was scheduled to happen during the travel restrictions. We decided to reschedule the trip and in order to be COVID compliant we had to find a new hotel where everyone could have their own room. After much planning and with the weather in our favour we finally set off, forgetting how busy the roads to the south west are in school summer holidays!
Despite this all 12 of us arrived at the dock early Saturday morning happy, excited and looking forward to diving. It took about an hour and a half to make the 13 mile crossing from Ilfracombe to Lundy Island, unfortunately the forecast rain made an appearance on our journey over to the island which stayed with us for most of the day.
On arrival at Lundy we were greeted by easterly winds which ruled out many of the dive sites. The skipper had warned that we would need to keep our dive plan flexible to cope with this, luckily the skipper found a sheltered spot in Jennie’s Cove.
We all got ready and jumped in the viz and section on marine life was amazing. We explored the reef for about 40 minutes with a maximum depth of 22 meters.
We all paused for lunch regrettably the sea conditions were too much for two of our divers including my daughter who decided that it was time to feed the fish!
The second dive site was the Knoll Pins we were greeted by a couple of cheeky looking seals on the surface. My daughter rallied around and jumped in with me and we spent over 50 minutes exploring the knoll pins going to a maximum depth of 15 meters. The seals made numerous appearances but were too busy to interact with us. Again there was an abundance of amazing marine life
That evening we all enjoyed a meal out followed by an early night so we were fresh for the next day’s diving. We met early at the dock of Sunday morning but we were down to 10 divers as the two who had struggled with seasickness decided to stay on dryland. This was a shame as the sea was much calmer and there were no dreaded easterly winds.
This made it possible to dive our first choice wreck the Robert. We arrived at the wreck on the low water slack and as we descended down the shot line we were greeted by an amazing intact wreck on her side absolutely full of life. We explored the wreck for 36 minutes descending to a maxim depth of 26 meters. We spotted numerous crabs, fish. lobster, eels and a hungry starfish eating a dead crab.
After a break for lunch our last dive was to be with the seals, the skipper positioned the boat so we could see all the seals resting on the rocks. The seals were vocal about the incoming tide and seamed grumpy about their resting place disappearing underwater.
My buddy and I jumped in and we spent over 70 minutes exploring the Threequarter Wall Bay and the Pins, at first we saw loads of seals and while they were watching us they didn’t interact with us. Other divers on the boat were luckier and the seals checked them out. Again the viz was amazing and the underwater marine life was stunning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.