By Mark Lewis

By Mark Lewis

21st July 2021

Promoted as our “Summer Sunshine” weekend, it seemed that the weather gods were on our side for the first of our long weekend visits to Porthkerris this year. Some 17 divers descended on the picturesque cove for a long weekend of fun in the sun. Some divers camping, while others preferring the cosiness of local accommodation options in St Keverne and Porthallow.

Friday 16th July

Some divers had already travelled down the previous day and spent Friday diving, either shore or on the Celtic Cat. For these divers and due to the long drive, they wanted to spend this extra day to extend the weekend from two to three days. While these divers were merrily finning around, the rest of the group made their way to the area.
Porthkerris Scuba Diving Summer Sunshine Weekend

Tonight’s rendezvous was at the White Hart at St Keverne. Popular with previous visits with the Friday evening quiz night. However during our visit last year and this time, the quiz is cancelled due to Covid restrictions. That aside, 15 diners were split over three tables for a relaxed evening of banter and chat.

 

Format

The format for this weekend was two groups of divers, running as a shuttle aboard the Celtic Cat. With Zophia now being able to make the weekend, this allowed 9 divers on group one and 8 divers on group two. Certainly more than ample space for everyone on board. Each group would load and return to shore after their diving. They would offload for any gas refills. Each group would make two dives per day.

Group One

  • Rick Bastin & Harry Bowden
  • Ian Gale & Gill Gale
  • Jim Boyd & Chris Smith
  • Robert Grześicki, Zofia Korta & Pelek

Group Two

  • Sue Eyres, Sally Ryde & Claire Winchcombe
  • Mark Lewis, Peter Eastland & Tom Ingram
  • Nick & Matt Carter

Saturday 17th July

With the sun shining and the air temperatures soaring, thoughts turned quickly as to when to kit up? While some placed their kit onto the Cat with their drysuits loose, others walked onto the Cat fully kitted as if it were a Celtic Kitten shuttle.
Group one’s dives that day were the SS Mohegan [+1898] and the  Spyridion Vagliano [+1890] in the morning, then the Carn Du Bastin reef in the afternoon. With the wrecks of the Mohegan and Spyridion in close proximity, some divers descended to one while others to the other.
Group two opted for the Vase Reef in the morning and the SS Epsilon [1917] in the afternoon. I won’t say much else about the Vase Reef other than I didn’t really want to see another sea urchin that weekend! However, let’s talk about the Epsilon as diving from the Cat, skipper Mike was happy to recommend and take us to a wreck site nor normally run as a shuttle on the Celtic Kitten.

SS Epsilon [1917]

Located in Falmouth Bay, the Epsilon was a Dutch streamship carrying maize from Buenos Ayres to Amsterdam. She was sunk on 31st January 1917 by hitting a magnetic mine laid from the German minelaying submarine UC-17 under the command of Ralph Wenninger.
What’s fascinating to me is that Ralph Wenninger went on to command Uboat UB-55 from July 1917, this U-Boat now sitting some 34m on an sandy seabed off Dover. UB-55 also sinking on 22nd April 1918 as hitting a mine. Between 15 and 20 men escaped from the sinking submarine, but only 8 were found alive by the British trawler Mate. One of the men died on the ship while being transported to Dover. Wenninger survived and went on to join the Luftwaffe on 1 March 1935 in WWII.
I have two fond memories of diving UB-55, being mesmerised by the experience of seeing the lights around conning tower and secondly seeing the port side propeller earlier this year. You can read about this here in our Dover U-Boat weekend.
Ralph Wenninger
Anyway and back to the Epsilon and in more modern times. Until recent years she was commonly referred to as a ‘dirty’ wreck, with huge clumps of net tangled with or lying all over the wreck. Over the last two years, in excess of two tons of fishing nets, pots and ropes have been recovered by Ghost Fishing UK, recycled or safely disposed of. The last ghost gear removed only last week (10th July 2021) removing the last medium to large pieces, leaving only deeply embedded remnants.

Dive Stats

  • Dive Date: 17th July 2021
  • Dive Time: 15.40pm
  • Cylinders: 2x12L Twinset
  • Dive Duration: 49m:00s
  • Max Depth: 23.00m
  • Ave Depth: 19.28m
  • Temp: 14degC
  • Visibility: 4-6m Hazy

Al Fresco BBQ

It’s now be a common custom that after the White Hart on a Friday night, that the group has a BBQ at the Porthkerris Cafe on the Saturday evening. This weekend was no difference. Some 19 divers and guests arrived for a relaxing evening as the dusk fell.
There was consensus earlier in the day that we would not collect scallops from the Helford River. As lovely the idea and how delicious the BBQ scallops may be, some bugger has to clean and prepare them. So, with no volunteers, it was down to Chris and Peter to catch some mackerel as an additional tasty culinary delight.
Chairman Jim At The BBQ
Grub's Up
Food was prepared by Alice at the Porthkerris Cafe at a price of £12.00 per head. For that we were supplied with all crockery, cutlery, sauces and condiments together with a meat feast of home made burgers, sausages, marinated chicken, bread baps and various salads. For the non-meat eaters, then a vegetarian option was available. Feedback from all was that the food was delicious and all cooked by our illustrious leader and chairman, Jim.

Sunday 18th July

Two dives again on Sunday, the hottest day of the year so far in 2021. Dive sites for group one was a scenic site called “Darren’s Crack” in the morning and back to the Spyridion in the afternoon. Group two opting for the Mohegan in the morning and after a little debate, SS Stanwood [1939] in the afternoon.

 

SS Stanwood [1939]

Having lapsed into a little deco during a cracking earlier dive onto the Mohegan, Peter and I has less gas than we would like for a second deeper dive. The original plan was the NG Petersen [1918] at 18 metres, but she was sitting underneath Boaty Mcboatface. The next option was the MV Caroni River [1940] but when we got to site, it was a little deeper than Skipper Mike had thought. Third time lucky and fully kitted, it was another 10 to 15 minute run time into the Carrick Roads estuary of the River Fal to the SS Stanwood.
Boaty Mcboatface
Boaty Mcboatface as seen from the Celtic Cat
On 10th December 1939 the Stanwood’s cargo of coal caught fire. The ship was scuttled in 12 metres of water in Carrick Roads in order to extinguish the fire, with intention of then raising her. Unfortunately she slipped into deeper waters, and the crew abandoned her with the loss of one man. Attempts to re-float her were unsuccessful although her cargo was recovered. Deemed a hazard to shipping the wreck was later broken up with explosives.
Diving the Stanwood was interesting to say the least. The water was bright, but an eerie haze of around 2-3m visibility. As the ship was dynamited as a shipping hazard, there has no physical structure. Think of a scene from a Scooby-Doo cartoon with an eerie mist with characters appearing from the gloom! It’s just a twisted junk yard of steel and discarded rubbish. An interesting dive yes, a pleasant dive, no. Old lobster pots, cans, bottles, plastic containers, hoses, and other discarded litter are spewed onto the silty seabed. Certainly not pleasant, though the abundance of mahoosive scallops was amazing to see. Obviously no trawling here and not many divers either. A cunning plan for a future dive perhaps?
Broken Crockery Fragments Can Still Be Found On The Mohegan
Broken Crockery Fragments From The Mohegan
A Lump Of Coal From The SS Stanwood
A Lump Of Coal From The SS Stanwood

Dive Stats

  • Dive Date: 18th July 2021
  • Dive Time: 15.29pm
  • Cylinders: 2x12L Twinset
  • Dive Duration: 35m:10s
  • Max Depth: 22.80m
  • Ave Depth: 16.23m
  • Temp: 15degC
  • Visibility: 2-3m Gloomy