Having seen lots of social media photos and videos of critters and squidgy stuff from Atlantic Scuba, our plan was to visit Falmouth in 2021. However, with Covid travel and social distancing restrictions in place, those weekends were aborted. So it was with great expectation that we welcomed a weekend of diving in Falmouth this past weekend.
Travel arrangements mandated that divers would arrive at different times during the Friday evening. Peter and Tom made plans to dive on the Friday night while the others arrived at their will.
Next to arrive was Bill and myself, both staying at B&B accommodations on Melvill Road, around a 15 minute walk away from the Church Street area of bars and restaurants.
I was staying at the The Red House Guest House, which I have to highly rate. As my booking was made during Covid, I opted for accommodation only. The en-suite bedroom was immaculate. All settled in, it was a short walk into town in the evening sunshine to meet up with Bill at The Grapes Alehouse and Kitchen. A little food and drink and a wee rum night cap at The Brig!
Saturday 14th May 2022
Ropes off time was 10.00am and having not dived from Mylor Yacht Harbour before, most divers arrived a little earlier than needed to get the lay. Instructions were to drop off kit near the boat lift and park in the public car park (Zone 1). Mark and Ruth arrived in good time and once introductions were made, we were able to load Moonshadow.
With Tom and Mandy Bryer not able to join us this weekend due to a last minute change of itinerary, we were left with just eight divers. Coded for 12 and charted for 10, there was plenty of room for us 8. Buddies for the weekend were Peter and Tom Ingram, Kris and Feranmi, Andrew and Bill, me and Alan.
Dive 1 : SS Hera [+1914]
The weather was clear skies and sunshine; the water flat calm and blue. With Peter asking the previous evening for a wreck as dive one, this being Alan’s first UK sea dive and Andrew being out of the salty stuff for the last few years, we opted for the wreck of the SV Hera [+1914] at around 14 metres.
Being Alan’s first UK sea dive, we plunged first. The dive brief was to descend the shot and investigate the skeletal remains of the bow, then turn west to follow the masts to a second wreckage area. If we found it, give a quick polish to the commemorative plaque. Visibility was a good 6m to 8m in ambient light at a maximum depth of 14 metres. Water temperature was 11degC, though it felt colder than that.
All safely back in board, Ruth offered all divers a hot drink selection of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. It was a slow chug back from Gull Rock towards the Carrick Roads estuary where we would plunge for dive two at the Octopus Garden. This is where many of the night dives are made and where the octopuses are seen.
But we had two casualties! First, Kris’s drysuit leaked and he was soaking. No way he was able to make dive two and Andrew ended up dropping the screw thingy from his Yoke first stage into the water. Figuring a way that Andrew could dive with some kit reconfiguration, both agreed to sit out the second dive. Feranmi would now buddy Bill.
Dive 2 : The Octopus Garden - The Bizzies
The dive brief for our second dive was again, a descent along the shot. We were told that if there was a current, it would be slight. As dive one and at the end of the dive, the plan was that Alan would deploy his DSMB for practice, allowing me to practice a free ascent (which I haven’t for a while). Taking video snippets along the way, Alan and I meandered along the reef on a slow drift. All very relaxed at a depth of 24 metres and a good 4 metre to 6 metre visibility. Agreeing with Alan before the weekend that we would dive on air, what fast became apparent was the diminishing NDL compared to dive one on the Hera. Around 20 minutes into the dive we spotted a lobster/crab pot with rope, obviously strung out with a bobber/buoy above, the rope raising at a 45 degree angle to the surface. Not wanting a snag, we swam underneath and away but only to find another; a short distance in the direction of the drift. Having experienced a snagged DSMB on a pot line in the past, the last thing we wanted was Alan snagging his and hence we swam vigorously at 90 degrees to the drift to get away from the pot ropes. It was then and around 26 minutes into the dive, my computer was showing an NDL of 2 minutes. Signalling to Alan, his computer was showing 3 minutes. Deploying his DSMB, we made a safe ascent to the surface.
Post dive review and Alan said he was more focused on gas consumption rather than NDL and it was a good reminder to keep an eye on both during the dive. Dive time was 36 minutes at 24 metres, 4 metre to 6 metre visibility and 11degC.
While others from the group returned to their accommodation to pretty themselves, Tom, Peter and I took all the cylinders back to Atlantic Scuba’s premises for refills. Ten 15’s and two twinsets took an hour or so to fill. But hell, a whopping 230 bar in each was worth the wait! Prices were a very reasonable £5.00 per cylinder (15L or 12L) air and £9.00 EAN32 so a tenner for twin 12’s.
A table had been reserved at Cribbs Caribbean Restaurant for the evening, sitting at 6.30pm which meant a rush for Tom, Peter and me. Nonetheless, everyone arrived on time and a pint of Red Stipe! Good food, good company and good times. Bill paid (that’s the table bill paid, not Bill paid the lot!) and a few of us headed back to The Grapes for a pint. With a few others falling for an early night, Alan, Bill and I opted for a small snifter at The Brig while making our way back to our accommodation.
Sunday 15th May
Now knowing procedures at Mylor, it was a later arrival for all. Offloading cylinders, it was less boat loading as all kit remained secure on board overnight. Today’s weather forecast was overcast with easterly winds, apparently not the best conditions. Out first target was the SS Epsilon, but with the swell from the easterly winds, it was back into Carrick Roads for the “East Narrows”.
Dive 3 : The East Narrows at Carrick Roads
The dive brief here was that the narrows was where the Carrick Roads estuary (you’ve guessed it) narrows before entering the sea. Marked to the west with a red lateral buoy and the east with a green lateral buoy, this was a ‘pick your depth’ dive. No shot on this one, a free descent to around 12 metres to drop to 22 metres and slow drift along the critter ridden seabed and marine life in the wall cracks; a photographer’s dream. If you want deeper, then continue west to 30 metres.
To end the dive, you would ascend into the Maerl Beds to deploy your DSMB to the east of the east green lateral buoy. Nice, as you can build more NDL as you ascend, again scouring the seabed for critters and scallops! Dive stats were a run time of 46 minutes to maximum depth 24 metres with 11degC and 3 metre to 4 metre visibility. Noticeable was the slight current, that turned direction in the dive and the downward current from the shore.
Dive 3 : Kat Wall at Carrick Roads
With the wind subsiding, we poked our head out of Carrick Roads for our second dive to be the Epsilon. Nah! Certainly doable in the swell, the consensus was about turn and back into the estuary for a scallop drift. Someone said “food” with the skipper suggesting Kat Wall. Supposedly a nice small wall for photographers, though drop deeper to find the scallop beds. We were told to descend the sort and head west. Kind of a problem here as I found my digital compass was not calibrated with east showing south and with memories of dive one with all sorts of voodoo on the compass rose, it was a nod to Alan to see if he had a compass? Nope! Confirming that we should head right from the sort, that’s exactly what we did.
There was certainly a strong current as we descended the shot. With snot in the water, my initial chuckle was “We’re in Dover!” Hand over hand we pulled down to 13 metres, signalling right and letting go at the same time, Alan and I immediately dropped to 21 metres. Dark and gloomy it was torch time and with a silty seabed, any disturbance kicked up a cloud. Challenging for sure and signalling if Alan was OK, we followed the drift and aborted the idea of fodder for the table. In 1 metre to 2 metre dark gloom, we bottomed out at 26 metres, flying over a rather benign seabed carpeted with all sorts of shells, the odd starfish and humping crabs! No photos on this dive. Dive time was 34 minutes to 26 metres with 1 metre to 2 metre visibility and no scallops!
Back on board it was a different story. Bags of scallops from other divers and tales of lighter conditions. Obviously Alan and I plopped a little too deep. I know this dive would have pushed my boundaries in my early days and indeed, those inhibitions still remain today. Thus the Big Kahunas award must go to Alan for this dive!