As we’ve mentioned before one of our favourite skippers is Pete Fergus, who we book religiously every year for the Easter Beano. This year, in addition to Easter, we also made the trip down to sunny Plymouth for the August bank holiday weekend – and what an excellent decision it turned out to be!
On the Friday before the trip a few of us fancied shoe-horning in an extra dive, so Pete being the top bloke that he is said he’d take us out. I planned late leaves for most days over the weekend to allow for a little extra time on the pillow for those beer-weary heads. So, after a trouble-free drive down on the Thursday, a few “refreshments” (gin, lager and vino since you ask…) and a curry I woke up on Friday morning ready for our first dive of the weekend.
Pete was in his usual good form and we had the luxury of a 14 year old cabin-boy called James to take the piss out of too! After loading we headed out in the sun on a flat sea, turned west past the Scylla and JEL and carried on to the Rosehill. We arrived on site at about half eleven but there was a fishing boat there, after a quick chat we found out that they would only be there for about another half-hour, so we got our rods out and started a piss-poor attempt at catching mackerel (whilst putting the fear of God into our cabin-boy-James).
On jumping in the viz wasn’t all that and it didn’t get any better at depth. Unfortunately there is dredging work going on in Plymouth Sound and the crud that they dredge up is being dumped in Whitsand Bay. Still, we had about 3m and it wasn’t too dark, so and hour of mooching about trying not to kick any of the fan corals that cover the wreck was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a day when I should have been at work. Back on the boat we were greeted with hot pasties and other snacks and the usual banter from our happy-go-lucky northern skipper.
After a couple of hours of filthy innuendo from Paul C (mostly directed towards cabin-boy-James) and several cups of tea/Oxo we were ready to jump in on our second dive, the James Eagan Layne. This wreck is also sited in Whitsand Bay so the viz wasn’t any better than on the Rosehill, however, being the troopers that we are we made the best of it and managed to get another hour in. The James Eagan Layne has collapsed substantially since the diagram below was created and it won’t be too long before the wreck completely collapses on itself.
Friday night saw us in the Ganges again for more curry and more “refreshments” (gins and lagers since you ask…).
On Saturday morning the rest of the crew who had arrives on Friday night loaded up and we headed out to the Eddystone Lighthouse.
After about an hour and a half steam we arrived and Pete had the shot in on the southern side of the reef. The viz here looked a hell of a lot better and on descending we were greeted with something like 12-15m with lots of light. Life abounds this beautiful reef so it always makes for a good dive, there were jewel and plumose anemones everywhere along with rose and fan corals and bright yellow sponges. After 45 fantasitic minutes we surfaced for more banter, food and tea/Oxo whilst chugging back to the wreck og the Glen Strathallen. I didn’t do this one, but viz reports were poor.
Saturday night saw us (unsurprisingly) in the Ganges again for more curry and more “refreshments” (gins, lagers and red wine)…
Sunday was planned as an earlier day so we could get down to the wreck of the Maine. I think this is the best wreck dive in the 30m range available from Plymouth so we set off in a sloppy sea following the coast east to the wreck site, just off Bolt Head. Several boats were following us down so we didnt mess about getting kitted up and in the water.
As we rolled in I could see immediately that the viz was good, on the wreck it was around 10m and very light. The shot had landed midships, so we headed forward through the holds towards the bows. The nice thing about the Maine is that it’s very ship-shape and there is plenty of room to swim the length of the wreck inside. On getting to the bows we had a mooch about inside and turned to head aft, dropping back down into the holds again and following the wreck inside as far as the huge boilers. Ascending a little to deck level allowed us past the boilers to get to the engines which still stand proud and intact. Carrying on aft we were soon at the stern having a dig about for lobsters, at this point I decided to head back on my own at deck level towards the bows. I passed the shot line from another boat and there were still divers arriving on the wreck, I’d been in about 40mins at this point and as it was getting busy the viz was beginning to deteriorate so I decided to send up my blob when I got to the bows. Luckliy the first deep-stop on my computer was at 19m, exactly the depth of a crane on the bows, so I sat on there clearing the VR3 and got ready to send up the blob. A couple of mins later I was ready to carry on my ascent and do deco which all passed uneventfully. On surfacing it was still a rather messy sea and we were to be punching into it on the way back. We decided to put teas, Oxos and snacks on hold until we tied up in a little bay not far from the site of our second dive.
Post lunch we were just about ready for a dive so we got ready then headed out to the Persier, viz here was spectacular and made all the better as we were the only divers on site (the other boats were still on their surface interval). Everyone enjoyed the dive, but at 28m it was a little deeper than we normally do and most had to settle for a short dive due to lack of gas.
We left the Persier and the sea state really had picked up, Pete said to me it was a force 7 and it certainly felt like it. The boat was careering over the swell like a roller coaster, but super-skipper dealt with it as though it was no problem at all. We were all relieved to get back into the Sound, but we had a bit of bad news, the dive shop compressor was knackered so we’d have to use another shop – cue mad panic to sort out logistics of cars being in wrong places and shops not being open! Here we have to thank the guys at Aquanauts who came back into work from supping perfectly acceptable pints to fill our bottles – thanks guys, much appreciated.
After sorting the bottles etc we retired to the Yardarm for mixed grills, lager and gin.
Monday and it was our final day of diving. As most of the crew didn’t get long on the Persier and we knew there was viz there we went back for another look. The viz wasn’t quite as good as on Sunday as there were already a couple of boats on site, but was still excellent. Second dive was on the Mewstone gullies which, as usual, were absolutely covered in life.
On returning to the Mount Batten everyone seemed to agree that it had been an excellent weekend, a few of us stayed on Monday night and headed off to the Ganges for a curry, gin and lager. For a change…
Massive thanks to Pete for putting up with us, we can’t recommend him and his boat Venture enough, we look forward to seeing him again next year (Easter & August 2011).