Plymouth weekend 29/30 January 2011

After our last weekend, 15/16th January, was cancelled due to the strong winds we jumped on the next spaces available on Top Gun. The 29/30th of January had two space so we grabbed them. The original trip was going to include the Coronation wreck but we didn’t have the required permission for this trip so it was going to be similar sites to our last trip just a couple of months ago.

We arrived at Mountbatten on a cold and windy Saturday morning, some divers had arrived a day earlier. The wind direction was going to restrict today’s sites to the Scylla and James Egan Layne, I didn’t mind as I had concentrated on photography on our dives on these two last time, this time I was going to record some video footage.

The HMS Scylla was sunk in 2004 as an artificial reef, it was a project by the National Marine Aquarium and partners. Since then thousands of divers have visited the wreck and life has been gradually taken hold. The divers have taken their toll on the wreck, the first was the helicopter hanger roof collapsing. We headed out towards the Scylla, everyone was feeling the cold but Ada supplied us with plenty of hot drinks. There were quite a few Closed Circuit Rebreather divers who were likely to stay down longer than the open circuit divers so we let them kit up first. We headed down the shot through 3-4m visibility to the wreck. We did a similar route to the last trip, down the starboard side, in and out of the wreck a few times and then under the stern. Up the stern and along the deck, around & into the bridge, in and out a few more times before heading back to the bow. Ruth was now feeling cold so she ascended while I headed back to the bridge area for a few more swim throughs’.

I came up after 50 minutes feeling cool but happy with the dive. Back on the surface it was feeling much colder, obviously as we were now wet and pre-chilled. I quickly changed my cylinder over for the next dive while another cup of tea arrived. A pasty for lunch and as much chocolate as one could consume.

The next dive was going to be the James Egan Layne. The JEL was a WWII liberty ship that sank in 1945 after being torpedoed by U1195. It ended up off Whitsand Bay in around 23m, it lies upright with the stern section broken off and lying about 15m away to the south west of the main wreckage. Ruth and three other divers were going to sit it out as they were feeling too cold, mainly due to the surface conditions. So the rest of us got ready, I rinsed my gloves under the hot water tap to get some movement back into my fingers. I was quite disappointed that my camera decided not to work, it was so cold the battery couldn’t work efficiently and wouldn’t stay on. So I just went for a swim around. I headed for the stern section as I’ve never spent too long there before. As I swam across the sand between the stern and the main part of the wreck I picked up three scallops. I then swam around the stern section a couple of times before heading back to the main wreckage. I swam along the starboard side for a little while picking up a couple more scallops before heading back towards the bow. As I rounded the bow I saw two CCR divers sending up their Delayed Surface Marker Buoy before I headed up to where the permanent buoys are usually attached. There was a large piece of steel plate hanging out to the side with some fresh looking tears around the hull. The beams that were previously used to tie the buoys to had gone, the winter storms had taken their toll. While looking around I found a nice sized lobster, which joined the scallops. After 45 minutes and feeling much warmer than when I entered the water, I sent up my DSMB.

We headed back to Mountbatten, valuables removed, dry suits put inside the cabin & cylinders ready to be taken for filling. The trip includes an evening meal and B&B at the Boringdon Arms just a short drive away. A hot shower was most welcome. Under suits were aired, cameras were charged and warmed up. The evening meal was very good and I’d recommend it to anyone. Live folk music in the bar wasn’t my choice so an early night it was. Breakfast at 8:00 for most of us, two divers had decided against diving as it was too cold on the Saturday and were having a lie in. Another two of the divers were only there for the Saturday so today there was only going to be eight on the boat.

We collected our cylinders and headed down to the boat. What a difference a day makes, no wind and no cloud. Our original idea was to dive the Rosehill but another boat was heading there so we headed the opposite direction and went to the Persier. The Persier was a cargo ship that sank in Bigbury Bay during 1945 after being torpedoed in around 30m. As we left port the sea was almost flat so Gary sped out to the site. We all dived in, almost together. As we descended we could see the visibility was looking good and it wasn’t long before we were on the wreck in around 30m. We headed along the wreck which is fairly flat but there was plenty to look at. We eventually came across the three boilers with the collapsed engine behind and then followed the prop-shaft to the stern. The prop-shaft tunnel used to be upright and you could swim through it but it was now broken and has fallen over. I picked up another lobster, unsure whether it was big enough to be legal but I could measure that at the surface. I also found one scallop on the edge of the wreck, that makes half a dozen, not good but a good starter. We swam around the steering quadrant at the stern and under a bit of wreckage then decided to ascend with just one minute of no-deco time left.

Another pasty lunch with more tea and chocolate. Two hours basking in the sunshine, we were all feeling quite warm for our last dive of the weekend.

Our second dive was going to be Hillsea Point, a sloping reef with a pinnacle at 5m. We made a free descent down to about 25m, swimming along & around the gullies and then gradually making our way up the reef. At 17m I looked up and I could clearly see the small ripples on the surface, the vis was that good. We saw plenty of life and enjoyed swimming along the gullies. It was a pity we couldn’t stay longer at the deeper part but we were only diving on air. There wasn’t too much kelp above 15m to spoil our view though.

Overall it was an excellent weekend. New friends, more video footage, Sundays weather was excellent, lots of food and drink, lobsters and scallops, what more could a diver ask for? Maybe a body warmer for my camera 🙂