It had been a few years since we dived this part of the Cornish coast and the Easter Weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to dive some wrecks, reefs and to meet up with old friends.
We had stayed for the night at YHA Penzance, but this was just a pit stop before moving to the proper accommodation later. The Full English they provided did make us wish we were staying longer.
We based ourselves for the day at Lamorna Cove, a small village west of Penzance which boasts a small beach and a slipway to launch the boat. Once we had set the kit up and scrapped up enough money to feed the pay and display machine, we were ready to set off.
The first dive of the day was a short way out of the bay, we found a nice rocky outcrop. It had loads of life on it including dozens of sea cucumbers, some crabs and lobsters and a very nervous dog fish hiding in some kelp.
While we had been at the dive site the tide had gone out a little and the wind picked up slightly, all this contributed to de-kitting the boat in very choppy water. It took six people to hold the boat in vaguely one place and we only manged to flood Max twice.
Back on the beach we took advantage of the café where we consumed our first pasty of the trip.
Our second dive of the day was on the Bucks an outcropping of rocks a bit further around from where we were in the morning near Tater-du Lighthouse. We were able to explore the rocks and small gullies looking at the plethora of life including a bright blue and orange cuckoo wrasse. We were also set the task of looking for Ben’s computer as he had somehow dropped it getting into the boat on the previous wave. Unfortunately, we were unable to find it. So, if anyone would like a Yellow Suunto Zoop there is one available near the Bucks; although it will have accumulated some impressive deco stops by now.
After some impressive boat recovery – based on getting the boat on the trailer in between waves that were strong enough to pick up the trailer and throw it off the slipway – we went to our accommodation. We had two luxurious caravans/lodges 15-minute drive out of Penzance.
For our second day of diving we based ourselves out of Penzance harbour. We had been attracted by the calmness the harbour wall would provide when unloading and kitting up the boat. But we had picked a day when the sea was as calm as a millpond (it transpired some on the trip did not know what a millpond is; they then went on their own little voyage of discovery as they understood the full extent and breadth of this banal and overused analogy).
Our first dive was on the Alice Marie, this was a 2,181-ton French Steel Barque that sank in 1908, we were not greatly enthused by the guidebook’s description that after salvage work “almost nothing remains”. However, it proved to be a very enjoyable dive. The shot line leads straight onto the rudder which was providing shelter to a school of fish. There is very little left of the wreck but sitting on the sandy seabed you can make out perfectly the outline of the hull, bits of prop shaft and the bow. The entire wreck can be viewed on a single dive and is easy to understand the layout which is more than can be said of some UK wrecks which simply resemble a scrapyard.
Once we returned to Penzance, we found the big disadvantage of the harbour, that at low tide it was impossible for even Max with its very shallow draft to get around the harbour wall. We therefore had to walk the kit along the wall and across the sand bank. This was incredibly annoying, not the for the first or last time this weekend we were very irritated at the moon being in the wrong position at the wrong time.
Our second dive was on the Low Lee Ledges, this is also the site of a wreck, the Primrose which was carrying a cargo of coal before sinking in 1906. This was a very pretty dive site with wreckage providing a bit for everyone. The tall dramatic rock faces of Low Lee provide shelter for lots of life and during the dive we saw loads of crustaceans as well as wrasse.
Returning to Penzance we were able to easily de-kit the boat now the moon had realigned the water to a more favourable position and head back to the accommodation for what was the highlight of the trip: Peter’s Pub Quiz. Brian and Lorna, who were nearby diving with their Guildford Club (traitors) joined us for a couple of drinks. The quiz went well with all teams taking it far too seriously. While the scoring system was controversial, the prizes included (almost) a gallon of beer, a bottle of wine and CHOCOLATEY POPPETS!!! This seemed to placate the contestants.
This was our last full day diving and we based ourselves at Porthkerris Divers. This is a beach occupied almost entirely by divers, we had the boat launched by a tractor and we were away for our first dive of the day.
We dived the Volnay, which had been buoyed by Atlantic Scuba. On the wreck we saw the ship’s huge boilers and lots of hull plating. This wreck now shelters hundreds of fish and makes for a brilliant dive.
On the second dive we intended to dive the wreck of the N.G. Peterson. But the marks from our guidebook did not bring us anywhere near a wreck so we went to look for the Volnay again. But this then presented us with a problem that Atlantic Scuba had retrieved their buoy. So, we dropped our own buoy on what appeared to be a promising set of boilers on the sounder but after descending turned out to be a pile of rocks. That was the most interesting aspect of the dive.
For those on the second wave rather than wait for the boat which had taken a lot of time looking for wrecks decided to go on a shore dive from Porthkerris beach which was quite enjoyable. We manged to find a ‘wreck’, a very mangled outbound engine (we considered raising it and using it to replace Faff’s).
This was our last night on the trip, so we went out to eat at a Curry House in town. Despite an exhaustive search of the off-licence we unable to find any Buckfast.
We were going home after a brilliant trip but not before one last dive. We headed to Falmouth to dive the Carrick Roads in the mouth of the river Fall.
This is a dive that tends only to be used when it’s too rough to do sites further off land. But we saw a fair bit of life and was a good dive. The highlight was clipping the club dildo to Woz’s DSMB line when he was on his safety stop. Apparently watching a dildo spiral down towards you when you’re sitting at 6m is rather funny.
Once back at the marina we recovered the boat and went in search of pasties to finish the trip. Eating our pasties outside Trago Mills (the best shop in the world) we felt we had completed everything Cornwall had to offer.
It was a fantastic trip, helped by some spectacular weather. Thanks to everyone who came on the trip, helped with Boats, compressors and everything else. Looking forward to a return to Cornwall.
Trip Participants: Ross Brisk, Amanda Chang, Ed Chester, Peter Dix, Katie Eminson, Will Pimblett, Ben Prestwich, Tom Price, Madelaine Shine, Helen Terry, Rob Walker, Woz and Bruno
Written by Peter Dix