Photos by Ruby wood, Rob Salmon, Anna Rudd and Jon Chitty.
Back in June we planned our first trip down to Porthkerris on the Lizard in Cornwall. Having been furloughed from April-Sept 2020 I had a lot of time on my hands to look at places to go diving. Porthkerris was a place that really caught my eye, mainly due to the Manacles which are a set of pinnacles off the Lizard Peninsula. This meant that there are a lot of wrecks in the area which have fallen foul to this treacherous area. This was the first trip I had arranged so I was slightly unsure if I would be able to get enough members for it to go ahead. Thankfully lots of members put their names forward, with the trip filling up fairly fast.
The week prior to the trip myself and my wife Ruby had a few days holidaying in Falmouth, diving from the silver steps on Pendennis Point, and a boat dive with Atlantic scuba on the SS Volnay, which also happened to be our first dive from the Celtic Cat from Porthkerris. But I’ll come to that later.
Myself, Ruby and Luke arrived first at Porthkerris and managed to sneak in a cheeky shore dive before everyone else arrived in the evening. Lots of kelp was seen (although Ruby is adamant there was a lot of marine life), plus we even managed to navigate back onto the same beach! The facilities at Porthkerris are great with the air station, shop and cafe right on the beach. Further up a rather steep hill are the apartments, and even further up the hill is the log cabin where the majority of us were staying. On the Friday evening the majority of us enjoyed curry night with the Porthkerris beach cafe, it was delicious.
We had booked the larger boat the Celtic Cat which, under normal circumstances can take up to 12 divers but due to COVID it was limited to 6. We were 10 divers, so this meant we would have to dive in 2 waves. I think everyone was slightly apprehensive about the method of boarding the boat from the stony beach. This involved climbing fully kitted onto a mobile jetty which was manoeuvred by tractor, deep enough into the water to allow you to step onto the boat. Thankfully this was a great way to board the boat! The worst bit was the walk back up the beach after the dive.
The first dive of the day on Saturday was on the Volnay wreck. The Volnay was a cargo ship en route from Montreal to Plymouth via Barry. On the 14th December 1917 she hit a mine and attempted to beach in Porthallow Bay. We had a fairly relaxed morning with the first group going out at 09:55. And the second group going out at 11:25 (Myself and Ruby were in the second group). We descended the shot onto the boilers which were an impressive size, with lots of pink sea fans and dead man’s fingers. The vis was 2-4m and fairly dark. We swam South over the wreckage and onto a reef where there were several crayfish and some squat lobster hiding in the cracks. The dive was soon over and we were ascending up my DSMB line to be reunited pair by pair with happy divers.
The 2nd dive was on Raglan Reef which is a series of pinnacles that make up part of the Manacles rocks. We descended the shot again to see the pinnacles covered in colourful jewel anemones. Ruby noticed what she thought was a nudibranch, later with the help of Alex’s marine life identification book we discovered that it was a candy striped flat worm. All too soon the dive was over and we were ascending.
After a fab day of diving, we all headed to the pub for our evening meal. We’d booked 2 tables at The Five Pilchards Inn. The food was lovely and several (very loud) laughs were had about chocolate ‘chards’, so much so that we may have gotten a few glares from other diners.
Mike the skipper had asked if the first group to dive on Sunday wanted to go out a bit earlier so we could go to a site a bit further away and find some better vis. Of course we were happy to do this, and grateful for the suggestion. The first dive for us was on the Carmarthen, she was another cargo ship which sunk during WW2. She was torpedoed by a U-boat on the 26th of July 1917. Today my buddy was Luke, as we descended the shot we could see that the vis was looking good. The sea bed in this area was very sandy and reflecting a lot of the light. The vis must have been at least 10m. Again the boilers were the most prominent feature of the wreck standing about 5m proud of the sea bed. One of the boilers had a large hole in the side allowing you to see all the pipes that run through it. We made our way around the wreckage finding various pieces of torn up metal, and occasionally finding things such as a long piece of handrail and various cogs. We ended back on the boilers, as we ascended we could still see the boilers on our deep stop at about 10m. When Ruby and Anna surfaced, Ruby was smiling away. She’d finally seen a Nudibranch, but typically her camera battery was dying, so she only managed to get a quick shot!
The second dive on Sunday and the last of the weekend was on the Mohegan. The Mohegan was a 7000 ton, 482ft liner, which hit Vase or Penwin at her top speed of nearly 12 knots on the 14th of October, 1898. The impact tore off her massive steel rudder, which is still embedded in the Penwin. Unfortunately 106 people died. As the previous group had dived the Mohegan on slack the tide was running for our group. So we had to descent via a negative entry, this was my first time doing this, so I was slightly apprehensive. The descent was fine, apart from the fact that we ended up on some rocks at about 25m and east of the wreck. Thankfully Luke had listened to the dive brief from our skipper Mike and directed us West to where we hoped we’d find the wreck. Our first signs of wreckage were two bollards. We then followed the wreckage while somehow managing to fight the current and stay on the wreck, seeing parts of large chain and eventually getting to the boilers, which again were the largest part of the wreck standing about 8m proud of the seabed. I’d have loved more time to explore, but unfortunately it was time to ascend.
A few of us stayed the Sunday evening at Porthkerris as we couldn’t face the log drive home that evening. We enjoyed a lovely meal at the Three Tuns in St Keverne, by chance the memorial for the Mohegan was also in the churchyard right next to the pub. So after eating we went for a wander to find the memorial and pay our respects. All in all I think everyone had a great weekend. So much so that we’ve booked a 3 day trip for next year. Thanks to all at Porthkerris!