Every year we at Croydon BSAC like to kick-start the diving season with a trip to Plymouth to (a) dive the spectacular wrecks and reefs and (b) annoy Pete Fergus, skipper of the excellent dive boat Venture. Here is a little write up of the 2011 trip, which turned out to be an absolute classic!
A week before the trip XC Weather was predicting 35 knot winds and a sloppy sea, to say I was disappointed was an understatement. However, as the week went on the forecast started looking better and better until we were looking at very light winds off the land, lots of sun and flat seas. I started to think this could be a special trip, could we get the viz too????
Thursday saw the team heading west with everyone having arrived in Plymouth by 10pm, just in time for a curry in The Ganges, which rather set the tone for the rest of the evening meals. Friday morning and there was a tiny bit of wind about, but nothing too bad so we headed out to dive the Scylla and James Egan Layne as a nice shallow kick-off. We’ve dived these wrecks many times before so I’ll not go into too much detail, suffice to say that the Scylla is now really starting to look like a “proper” wreck and that the JEL has collapsed noticeably, especially on the starboard side towards the bows. Viz was around 5-6m and very light which is much better than the last time we dived there when some dredging had been going on. Between dives we were kept entertained by James the Cabin Boy and kept fed by Pete the Skipper: Bovril, pies and mushy peas filled us up nicely. After a couple of drinks in the Mount Batten Centre we headed back to the digs for a freshen up before meeting in the Maritime Inn and heading off to The Ganges. Again.
Day 2, Saturday. After another night of curry and a few refreshments we were back on the pontoons loading up Venture. The plan was to head down to the Persier, another Plymouth classic which lies broken in 28m. The sea was flat-calm again and the sun burning, we were set for another very special day! The wreck always makes a good dive and is usually covered in life, this time was no exception. Pollack, bib and wrasse cloud the wreck and invert life covers most of the exposed metalwork. Viz was 8m+ and once again was very light. On the surface we were treated to chilli and fresh bread along with more banter and Bovril, after which most of the divers allowed themselves a quick snooze before we headed off for a second dive on the Mewstone Ledges. These gullies slope down from about 15m to 25m and are covered in life – sea fans, rose corals, wrasse, kelp, crabs and even a thornback ray were spotted. The sun was bright and several of the crew were already developing healthy tans, others were developing the “Swan Vesta” look (big read head and white body…). Saturday night saw us, predictably, in the Maritime Inn followed by a trip to The Ganges.
Day 3, Sunday. We departed Plymouth Sound in another mirror-calm sea and turned left to head east to the wreck of the Maine, which I think is probably the best 30m range wreck in the Plymouth area. She lies upright in about 35m of water and is usually blessed with good visibility due to her location in the very tidal area just off of Bolt Head. I was tasked with tying in the shot so jumped in whilst it was still running a bit, after 5mins of dragging myself down the line I reached the wreck to be greeted with 10m+ viz and no other divers! After sorting the shot I headed off inside the wreck over the huge boilers and past the engine towards the stern. The viz was excellent and swimming on through the holds made for an excellent dive. On reaching the stern I ascended to deck level to drop of the back to have a look at the rudder post, unfortunately the current was still running so I quickly made my way back to the shelter of the wreck. Swimming forward at deck level I soon reached the engine again and stopped for a rummage before heading on past the boilers and shot to the broken area of the wreck. The current was whipping through here, so after a quick 5 minutes of unsuccessful lobster hunting I carried on to the intact bow area. So far I have done about 30 minutes and it was at about his time I bumped into Rick – the first diver I had seen on the wreck. As I headed back towards the shot I started meeting the rest of the crew who all seemed to be enjoying their dives, after counting that everyone was down I untied the shot so Pete would be able to recover it easily and headed back towards the stern for another rummage. All too soon it was time to ascend to be met with a still sea and meatballs and crusty bread for lunch.
Second dive was the Glen Strathallen, a nice protected site just near the Shag Stone. Not one of my favourite dives, but the visibility was good and there was plenty of life about. All in all a very good day, there were plenty of very happy (and very sun burnt) faces about. After the usual Mount Batten drink / freshen up routine was performed we surprised ourselves by not going to the Maritime Inn and Ganges!!! We went for a nice meal in the Yard Arm instead, will wonders never cease????
Day 4, our final day. The Mount Batten Centre was considerably quieter on Monday than it had been the previous days, but the weather was still glorious and the seastate mirror-smooth – perfect conditions for a little jaunt to the Eddystone Lighthouse! After an hour and a half’s steam we were on site, unfortunately slack was at rubbish times so we were diving mid-tide but in the lee of the rocks. On chucking the shot in Pete had obviously called it right as there wasn’t any current at all – and the viz looked spectacular. I jumped in with Paul C and we headed down the rock face. Viz was 15m and the life amazing – jewel and plumose anemones, rose corals, sea fans, shoals of sand eels and mackerel as well as some tasty little critters like crabs and lobsters. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the dive and for me it was the highlight of the trip. Pete provided and other cracking lunch, curry this time (which was handy as we’d not been in the Ganges the night before) after which we headed back for another dive on the James Egan Layne. Viz was better this time at around 8m and it was a good end to the trip for most. A couple of the crew jumped in for a third dive in the sound to get a bag of scallops, before we all got unloaded and either headed home or stayed over for another Mount Batten / Maritime Inn / Ganges night.
A huge thanks to Pete the Skipper and James the Cabin Boy for making it such an excellent weekend – we’ve left one or two (!!!!) club leaflets scattered about on the boat just in case you get any other Londoners down there looking for a club.
For some more excellent underwater photos of the weekend have a look at Jason Street’s website (which is where all of the above are shamelessly stolen from).
UPDATE: A few surface shots below of us lot loafing about in the sun.