By Rob Salmon – Rob is a new member of the club and recently qualified as an Ocean diver.
Photos by Gareth Leyshon and Ruby Wood.
I’d been looking forward to the Plymouth dive trip since I booked onto it in February. This was my first ever dive trip as I’d only joined the club at the beginning of the year and despite Covid-19 I’d managed to complete my Ocean Diver training in the nick of time, ready to enjoy a full weekend of diving with my wife Ruby as my buddy. We were going to be spending our weekend with Gareth, Nicholas, John H, Richard, Leigh and Anna (with the rule of 6 taken into account when not diving).
On the week up to the trip things were a bit touch and go as the weather was getting worse, and increasingly windy, plus we’d been waiting to see if the new covid-19 restrictions would effect the numbers that were allowed to go on the trip. Thankfully the numbers were able to stay the same. Unfortunately a trip that had been booked for the Thursday-Friday by some of the other members was cancelled due to the bad weather. This made us more unsure if the trip would go ahead. Thankfully on the Friday morning we received a message on WhatsApp from Gareth the trip manager that it was going ahead, so off we set on our long journey south, arriving to a wet and choppy Fort Bovisand.
To our surprise we woke up on Saturday to a view of sunshine and a flat calm sea in Plymouth Sound. Our first dive was on the HMS Scylla. Danny the skipper gave us a great dive brief with all the relevant info. There were a few ‘boo-boos’ to start the day off. Leigh had forgotten to check the air in her twinset before departing from home, only to find that she didn’t have any! Thankfully she managed to partially top it up from the spare cylinder that she had. John and Richard jumped in first with Richard being slightly too under-weighted and needed Danny to sort him out! Ruby and myself were a bit too excited to get into the water and managed to jump in about 200m away from the shot, so Danny had to pick us up again and drop us next to the shot. It was great descending the shot-line onto the wreck, with it slowly appearing in front of us. We made our way along the starboard side of the wreck to the bow, where Ruby spotted a Conger out in the open on the deck. We went across to the port side and watched a John Dory casually swimming. Next we made our way to the front of the bow where there were plenty of deadmans fingers and pink fea Fans dotted around. We went back along the port side and ascended up to the wheelhouse, where I swam into it with Ruby behind me. I somehow missed a tompot blennie that Ruby was photographing literally right in front of me. We exited the wheelhouse into a large open area behind it with a large hole cut into the ceiling. It was about time to finish the dive so we ascended through the hole in the ceiling, and moved away from the wreck for Ruby to send up the DSMB. It was a great first wreck dive as the Scylla is still intact and has a number of areas where you can enter the wreck and swim from one side to the other.
The next dive was on the James Eagan Layne which is a liberty ship that was sunk by a U-boat torpedo in March 1945. Danny our skipper gave the detailed dive brief as before, but also mentioned that due to recent storms over the last 18 months some more of the ships structure had collapsed, especially around the bow. Although the wreck is very broken up this was a great dive. Unfortunately due to Leigh’s mishap earlier, she had to sit out the dive, so her buddy Anna went as a three with Gareth and Nicholas. There was life everywhere that we looked. We saw lots of tompot blennies that were more than happy to be photographed by Ruby (I even spotted some myself this time), as well as a few congers popping out of their hidey holes, alongside several curious wrasse and pollacks. The general structure of the wreck is also very impressive with the remaining structures overhead that are still fairly intact.
That was the first days diving done. On the way back to Fort Bovisand Danny spotted a pod of dolphins, which we ended up taking a greatly enjoyed detour to watch. We were with them for a while as they jumped out of the water then would suddenly disappear under the boat. Nicholas even created a short tune that he sang whenever they came close. Danny has a keen eye to say the least and also spotted a sunfish basking on the surface a little while after we departed from the dolphins.
Day 2 of the trip began with an interesting exit out of the harbour. The weather wasn’t as calm as the day before and as we were loading the boat the wind speed rapidly increased and made for a lot of swell in the harbour. The diving on the 2nd day was at two scenic sites to the east of Plymouth that Danny assured us would be in a more sheltered location. First we dived on Hilsea Point, which is a series of gullies going down to about 25m. Myself and Ruby had a fab time diving between the gullys, even if we were restricted to 20m. We saw plenty of spider crabs hidden in the cracks on the gully walls. We also saw a dogfish which was on the sand on the gully floor. John and Richard were diving below us and as they swam past it, it made a beeline up the gully giving us a very close and prolonged experience with it. There were so many sea cucumbers and some huge sea urchins covering the walls of the gullies. When we got to the surface we heard from Anna and Leigh that they spotted an Octopus not far from where we had passed them in the gullies. What a treat for them to see.
The last dive of the weekend was on part of the Erme river bed. Danny dropped us close to the edge of the wall that had been gouged by the river. We started out by descending the wall that goes down to about 25m to a sandy seabed. It was a little too deep for our pairing to go to the bottom, however the other buddy pairs were off and Gareth and Nicholas even saw (and photographed) a Thornback Ray and a Cuttlefish. There were loads of critters hiding in the cracks on the wall including some sizeable Crayfish, Lobsters and Spider Crabs, along with green jewel anemonies and even a few twin fan worms.
I had a great weekend with Discovery Divers Plymouth, Danny is a fab guy and a very knowledgeable skipper. I’m hoping that I’m able to return to Fort Bovisand next year for more diving as long as I can get myself a spot on one of the club trips for 2021!
Under normal circumstances we meet on Sunday nights at One Leisure St Ives (the St. Ives Recreation Centre), with theory lessons starting at 6:30PM and the pool is available exclusively for our training from 8:15PM. One Leisure St Ives Recreation Centre Westwood Road, St. Ives Cambs. PE27 6WU.
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